Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Circles that You Grind, in Darkmills of Your Mind

A post from May '06. But remember, each weekly reflux is edited for the first time, with bolus gagging inserted for the alert eater, so chew carefully!


It is fascinating that in the near future, this whole musical realm may be a ghost town. All the beauty of generations will still be there, but no one will be able to appreciate it. There are probably spiritual paths that have been similarly deserted. Portals closed forever, once opening into rich, elaborately carved realms of the soul. There the faithful would receive blessing and wisdom, but now only silence and dust reigns. Even the paths to the timeless may be lost in time. "Use it or lose it." --Magnus Itland

The best ideas are so deceptively simple -- for example, complexity theory -- that we can fail to properly appreciate them. As such, they must be repeatedly discovered, lest one continue mindlessly searching after truth. The lower mind -- I have problems with the word, but let’s just call it the ego -- doesn’t really care about truth per se. Insofar as its cognition is concerned, its function, as Sri Aurobindo noted, is to grind. Put anything in front of it -- a TV screen, a cereal box, or worse yet, a newspaper -- and it will simply grind away like a... like a grinding vacuum cleaner.

But in order to truly think productively, it is necessary to throw some timeless truth into the mixMaster. Perennial truth is like the yeast that allows the bread to rise, or the axis around which our mind orients itself and spirals upward. It is clearly of a different order than the limited truths available to our natural reason.

For example, when I get my taxes done, I try to remind my obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive accountant -- who clearly understands the dreary mathematical truth -- that there is a higher truth which he must always keep at the forefront of his mind: that my taxes are too high, regardless of what his unforgiving calculator says. "Steve, it's not all black-and-white. You and I must creatively work together, left brain and right, to find the true amount I owe to the wasteful and inefficient government."

Many people -- many very smart people -- spend their entire lives searching after truth, even after they’ve found it. For some reason, truth alone does not satisfy the ego. It enjoys the horizontal chase, not the vertical plumbing of its depths. But since ultimate truth is not found in the horizontal, predictable consequences arise for the vertically exiled ego in its dark journey Down a hollow to a cavern / Where the sun has never shone.

Because we all long for Truth. Human beings are intrinsically epistemophilic and are clearly as driven to acquire transcendental truth as they are to obtain food, sex, and slack. It is what makes us human. But if you foreclose the vertical, you will attempt to find ultimate truth in the horizontal, which is strictly impossible. You will simply create a “graven image,” a horizontal substitute for the real thing, such as materialism, behaviorism, scientism, leftism, atheism, etc.

For example, a person who describes himself as a “political junkie” is usually just that, someone who greedily partakes of the 24 hour “all you can eat” news buffet of buffoonery, which only results in mental bloating and spiritual flatulence.

Now, the mind literally metabolizes truth, both in its horizontal and vertical sense. The analogy with digestion is fairly exact, something emphasized by Bion. Our minds are first of all open systems that exchange information (and affect, which is a kind of subtle or gross information, depending) with the environment and with other minds. But believe it or not, there are mental anorexics, people who refuse to take anything in, since they value control over truth, and want to "be their own breast." This is actually one of the main impediments to growth in psychotherapy.

Even that word -- growth -- have you ever thought about what it implies about the mind? What exactly grows? What is it made of? Does it just get bigger? Or more differentiated? What does it need in order to grow? What are the vitamins and enzymes it requires? Are certain things toxic to it? Is the growth predictable and built in, like a biological organism? What and where does it grow into? In other words, does it have an edge? What’s on the other side of the edge? Can our minds objectively discern the difference between a mind that is “grown up” vs. one that is immature or stunted?

Psychotherapy -- and the possibility of mental/emotional growth in general -- cannot really begin until the mind has become an open system and the patient can “take in” the relationship with the therapist. For when our emotional or intellectual (not to say, spiritual) growth is blocked, it is almost always because we have become a closed system in some form or fashion. I believe it was Winnicott who said that in order to be cured, we must first cure ourselves of our own attempt at self-cure -- in other words, we must go from being a closed to an open system, with particular emphasis on openness to emotional truth in the case of psychoanalysis. In the case of spirituality, we must become an open system with you-know-who on the vertical plane.

But once we allow truth in, we must also chew, swallow, digest and metabolize, so that it may become woven into our very psychic substance. I think you can see the problem that arises if we are immersed in a world of falsehood, either partial or total -- say the horizontal world of the secular left or the reverse vertical world of Islamic totalitarianism. In those cases, our minds can be open systems, but what are they open to?

Again, the normal mind will hungrily take in whatever is around it, and it will even grow, after a fashion, in the same way that a palm tree might grow near the arctic or a pine tree at the equator. In the case of the mind, since it can’t get what it really needs, it will demand more of what it doesn’t need in order to make up the difference. But one is not enough and a hundred is too many when you partake of the satanic eucharist. Or so we have heard from Petey, the wise, the merciful!

This is why we have so many fools with Ph.D.s (in the case of the West) or demons with theological training (as in the Islamic world). Since Truth is either rejected (in the case of the former) or unavailable (in the case of the latter), these hungry ghosts end up with a very bad case of spiritual malnutrition. They know something is wrong. But their prescription is more of the same.

So you can spend your entire life in a bloodless and irony-poor acadanemic setting pursuing “women’s studies,” or “queer theory,” or “behavioral psychology,” or “analytic philosophy,” and never come into contact with Truth. Rather, you just bore tunnels within tunnels in the windmills of your mind.

In fact, the most important Truth -- the Truth that makes lesser truths possible -- is generally not even permitted on college campuses. Or at least it is never discussed openly, except perhaps in a substitiously cynical manner. This makes most conventional education a corrupting experience unless one has a bulwark of Truth within -- a preexistent, uncreated framework within which to “think” about lower things, not just intellectual things but aesthetic and moral things as well.

Otherwise, once your life's education is "complete," you'll sadly ask yourself -- but of course it will be too late -- Why did summer go so quickly? Was it something that I said?

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind
--The Windmills of Your Mind (Bergman/Legrand/Bergman)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Atheism and the Unrequited Love of Truth

I am often criticized by a certain kind of 'nadless "spiritual seeker" for my pugnaciousness (or absence of ambiguity), judgmentalism (or discernment), and anger (i.e., the anger I trigger in them, which they promptly project into me).

The truth is, truth is a kind of violence, in that it necessarily severs one thing from another, just like a surgical procedure, i.e., good from bad, true from false, and beautiful from ugly. This is why "the truth hurts," or at least why it hurts some people sometimes.

Put it this way: if you are a pathological liar -- say, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, or Al Sharpton -- the truth doesn't hurt at all. In fact, you don't even feel it. It bounces right off as if nothing ever happened. Lies are your weapon and your shield. If you aren't a pawn of satan, you might as well be. These fölcks don't believe truth because it is true but because it is convenient, which automatically converts truth to something contingent and therefore tainted with falsehood.

Importantly, this does not just apply to religious truth but to scientific truth. Consider the etymology of science, which comes from the Latin scindere, meaning "to cut." It is related to words such as scissors, schism, decision, and schizophrenic. This is the coontext of Jesus' assurance that I came not to send peace, but a sword. Please. Bush is nothing compared to Jesus' divisiveness, but I can certainly understand why the schizos of the left think otherwise.

Furthermore, this is one of the primary reasons people do not alter their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence, especially once tenure has been secured, as it is painful to do so (it's also one of the reasons I never really enjoyed being a psychotherapist, except with a certain kind of patient who is passionate about truth above all. With them, it's easy).

As I explained in the cOOnifesto, the word believe is etymologically related to belove, and any discerning person can see in an instant how even -- or especially -- supposedly secular people fall in love with ideas that cannot possibly be true. (At the moment, I'm thinking about dopey liberals such as Nancy Pelosi who are simultaneously concerned about global warming and the high price of gas; if you are worried about one, then you needn't worry about the other.) Reason has its own absence of reason that reason cannot comprehend, and if you don't understand how this works, you will likely end up believing patent nonsense, the reason being that Truth is supposed to be luminous and attractive, a fundamental Truth for which secularism cannot account because it's not countable.

In other words, human beings were not created to be pure "logic machines," like a Vulcan or a MENSA member who wonders why he's never kissed a girl, unlike Captain Kirk. The enterprise of logic alone cannot tell us when logic has arrived at a profound truth. Rather, this can only be determined by a higher form of discernment that is "aesthetic" through and through.

Again, this is the whole point of our gööd friend Gödel and his ironyclad theorems. The reason why the theorems are ironyclad is that Gödel employed logic to precisely and irrevocably set the limits of logic, which cannot disclose those platonic truths which humans can surely know but not prove -- or at least prove with mere logic. They can most certainly be proven in a manner appropriate to the realm from which they arise, so long as the person in question has sufficient intelligence and good will, or heart and mind (the former taking precedence over the latter in these eternal questings).

This is why it is impossible to prove the existence of God to people of bad will who aren't all that bright to begin with, and who simply want to believe in their own beloved truth, no matter how homely or unfaithful she is. For example, the classic ontological proofs of God are sufficient to convince a soul who is equipped to understand and believe (and therefore belove) them, and who is not inclined against them. This, of course, is one of the esoteric dimensions of faith, which is a deep intuition that our beloved Sophia could not be unfaithful to us.

Perhaps this is too abstract. Let's bring this luce talko down a couple of nachos, to something more audible. I am a big fan of what is called post-bop, avant-garde jazz, which was a movement that moved from about 1961 to 1970 or thereabouts (this is not to be confused with "free jazz," as it retains a more traditional structure, although it is right on the roiling cusp between structure and freedom, like this blog and like existence itself, which I believe is why I am so attracted to it). Some of the major artists of this genre include Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, and Sam Rivers, plus the last great Miles Davis quintet that featured Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams.

These names will mean nothing to most of you. And if you were to be exposed to their music, it is likely that they would mean even less, for this is challenging music, and most people do not wish to be challenged by music. They don't want to take the effort to "elevate" themselves to music; rather, they would prefer that music "descend" to them. I'm not even criticizing this, as music, like everything else, has different purposes for different people at different times. I myself don't listen exclusively to this kind of music. For example, yesterday I was blasting the Who Live at Leeds, which every person must now and then do for reasons too obvious to get into here. Needless to say, my delighted three year old -- both inner and outer -- understands the reason for Keith Moon.

Anyway, the point I am making is that although this music embodies a kind of higher beauty, the average person will probably be repelled by it, or at least they wouldn't feel any attraction to it. Indeed, this was initially the case with me. However, I continued listening to other forms of jazz that took me to the "edge" of the avant-garde, so I was gradually able to "conquer" and assimilate it.

But one of the ways I made the leap was through faith. That is, respected critics -- people who knew much more about jazz than I did, and whose taste I came to trust and rely upon -- raved about this music, so it gave me the faith that there really was a "there there," my initial impressions to the contrary notwithstanding. In short, in order to "penetrate" this harmonically dense music, I had to trust that these musical pinheads weren't just böllshitting me and faking the funk -- which certainly does happen with modern art, the recent Aliza Schvarts kerfuffle being a darchetypal example of same.

Also, once you come to trust a particular artist, you accept the idea that they are further along than you are, and that if you have faith in them, they won't let you down. This doesn't mean that they never fail, because they do. Indeed, this is one of the inevitable prices one pays for being "on the edge," as we were discussing a day or two ago. The cutting edge cuts both ways, so it is certainly possible for novelty to be false or trivial -- which, not to get ahead of ourselves, but for Raccoons goes to the question of why it is so important to remain within the confines of an orthodox tradition instead of simply "winging it" on one's own. In the case of avant-garde jazz, if you just compare Louis Armstrong to Freddie Huzbbard, it may be a bit of a jolt. But if you begin with Louis Armstrong in 1925, you can trace a sort of straight line of development that slowly unfolds and eventually leads there in a disorderly ordered manner.

Now, how does this relate to religion? Well, first of all, Raccoon spirituality, like avant-garde jazz, may sound jarring and dissonant to the non-initiate, which is no doubt why my readership is so small and always shrinking. I think it's about 60% of what it was a year ago, which means that I am obviously driving away more people than I am attracting, which is all to the good. I do not wish to be known, much less understood, by a large audience, for that would tell me that I must be on the wrong track, given the barren intellectual and spiritual conditions that obtain in the soul of mass man.

Does this mean we are elitist? I don't think so. In my case, I don't really see how I could be more down to earth or more of a regular guy, for the reality is, in order to penetrate the clouds, like a pyramid, you must have a very wide base, and like a skyscraper, a foundation that extends deep into the earth. No one suspects Peter Parker of being Spiderman, and even he struggles with the concept. Furthermore, there are times that he would prefer not to be, as it's a burden and a responsibility. Reminds me of something Van Morrison said about his "relentless need" to make music:

"Everything is a curse and a blessing," he argues with some vehemence. "There's two sides to everything in this life. Music is no different. Don't think I haven't tried to walk away from it all. I've made a few concerted efforts at walking away. But it's pointless. You have to understand that I don't choose the music; it chooses me. My love for the music is the core of it for me. Maybe there's people who do music for different reasons. Financial reasons or ego reasons. Maybe they can walk away from it. But I can't. Because my connection to the music can't be broken. This is a need. Let's be clear about this -- there is no föcking choice."

To conclude the jazz analogy, there are certain luminous pneumanauts whom I initially did not understand, men such as Schuon, Anonymous, Eckhart, or even a Son of men, for that martyr. Now I understand that they've been stealing into my thoughts and whistling my tune all along.

Kandinsky, Improvisation 31, Sea Battle... it figures

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Jihad is Not Just for Jihadis (5.11.12)

I've had very little time for any sustained reading, so I'm still making my way through the 1,100 page The Spiritual Ascent, a "compendium of the world's wisdom" organized into three main sections that mirror the universal stages of purification, illumination, and union, but with dozens of subsections. In a way, you could say it is fractally organized, in that each section is a part of the whole, even while the whole is in each part. Likewise, every day of our lives is a process of purification, illumination and union, at least if we are consciously aware of this once in a lifetome uppertunity to write our own wrungs on Jacob's ladder.

The book gets off to a very promising start, with the chapters on divine creation, the process of manifestation, man's primordial birthright, and similar felicitous topics. I suppose this is only fitting, being that the Creator's main excuse for the creation was that "it seemed like a good idea at the time," i.e., "God saw everything he had made, and indeed it was very good." But you know what they say about how the beast waylaid the plans of mousy men. Very soon the karmic wheels fell on the creation, ironically due to its crowing achievement and finishing klutz, Homo simian. What starts out in eternal paradise soon turns into a peeved barking lot of womentary maninfestations, right up to the present day.

This remands me to the clostudy of Finnegans Wake, which begins with a sentence about Adam and Eve ("riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay"), but by the third paragraph is into the Fall ("the fall of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all Christian minstrelsy"), and by the fourth paragraph is ringing in the full scale war of each against all ("arms apeal with larms, appalling. Killykillykilly: a toll, a toll").

Anyway, The Spiritual Ascent hits a bit of a rough patch with the chapters on illusion, sin, suffering, sacrifice, damnation, hell, and the like. Nevertheless, these sections do emphasize the existential stakes involved, as well as the fact that "purification" is somewhat analogous to the manner in which a diamond is made. Just take a lump of coal, put it through unimaginable fire and pressure in the middle of the earth, then chip and chisel away what is impure and unnecessary, and you've got a luminous little gem fit for eternity. What a bi-cosmic coincidence that the name diamond derives from the ancient Greek adamas and that most of them originate from Africa. Reminds me of the Johnny Cash song (written by Billy Joe Shaver):

I'm just an old chunk of coal
But I'm gonna be a diamond some day....
I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self
'Til I get rid of every single flaw
I'm gonna be the world's best friend

I just finished a couple of fascinating sections, Pilgrimage -- Descent Into Hell and Holy War. Speaking of odd coincidences, here's a weird one. After I finished my post yesterday -- which spontaneously floated on the themes of water, sailing vessels, and the soul's journey -- I picked up the book, opened to page 385 where I had left off, and read the following from the Rig Veda: As in a ship, convey us o'er the flood. Then the next passage, from the Epistle of Discretion, about how the soul is like a ship that "attaineth at the last to the land of stableness, and to the haven of health." In fact, the quote I placed at the very end of yesterday's post was only discovered immediately after it was written. Did you ever feel as if existence were just one big coonspiracy?

The section on Holy War is particularly interesting, as it emphasizes that jihad is not just for jihadis. Rather, there is Jewhad, Buhad, and Crusad, in both the interior and exterior senses, as well as above and below. Quite simply, war is not just inevitable but necessary, with roots extending deep into the very structure of the cosmos.

Conversely, it is pacifism that is not only unnecessary but highly narcissary to boot and bootlicker alike; sanctimonious pacifists are usually just people unaware of their viciousness and cruelty, like Jimmy Carter. Pacifism is essentially to surrender -- not just in war, but in the struggle of existence itself. For as written in Exodus, The Lord is a man of war; or in the words of Jesus: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword; or in the words of Krishna: Nothing is higher for a [member of the warrior caste] than a righteous war.

In his introduction to the subject of Holy War, Perry cites Guenon, who wrote that the essential reason for war -- legitimate war -- is "to end a dis-order and re-establish order; in other words, it is the unification of a multiplicity, by use of means which belong to the world of multiplicity itself.... War understood in this way, and not limited in an exclusively human sense, thus represents the cosmic process of the reintegration of the manifested into the principial unity." This reintegration necessarily involves destruction, as catabolism is to metabolism.

Guenon continues: "The purpose of war is the establishment of peace, for even in its most ordinary sense peace is really nothing else than order, equilibrium, or harmony, these three terms being nearly synonymous and all designating under slightly different aspects the reflection of unity in multiplicity itself.... Multiplicity is then in fact not really destroyed, but 'transformed'..."

In another sense, legitimate war is none other than justice, being that justice is really an "equilibrating function" which is "directed against those who disturb order and [has] as its object the restoration of order." The reason we catch and punish bad guys is ultimately to restore order -- to the community, to the wronged individual, within the disordered psyche of the perpetrator, and ultimately to the Cosmos itself. In fact, it is fair to say that the blood of the victims cries out from the earth so long as a single murderer draws breath.

I am immediately reminded of Thomas Barnett's theories of the "functioning core" and the "non-integrating gaps" of the world. For example, think of all the deep and complex world unity that resulted from World War II. Likewise, the ultimate purpose of the war in Iraq is obviously to try to integrate the dysfunctional Islamic world into the functioning core of the West, i.e., to create a higher world unity. There really is no other way. Hey, we didn't start it, but we certainly ought to finish it.

I am also reminded of the intrinsically heretical perversion of Black Liberation Theology, which so attracted the weak-minded and weaker-souled Obama: "Many have been asking what Liberation Theology is all about. Well, it is not very complicated! It is the simple belief that in the struggles of poor and oppressed people against their powerful and rich oppressors, God sides with the oppressed against the oppressors."

Thus, it precisely inverts the true meaning of holy war, in that it imagines that God sides only with "the poor" instead of the righteous, or that he is angry at the wealthy instead of the evil (we should say that the righteous side with God). We can be quite certain that God is very displeased with the Palestinians, who are poor but (and because) evil, as God is preoccupied with goodness, not wealth.

This is just the same cold and dark Marxism trying to steal a little warmth and light -- or heart and mind -- from Christianity. If Obama and Wright were not such jihasbeens, they would understand the true source of liberation, black or otherwise: The "great holy war" is the struggle of man against the enemies he carries within himself, that is to say, against all those elements in him which are contrary to order and unity. Thus, the "unity candidate" is anything but. We will become the ones we've been waiting for only once we become more like the One who's been waiting for us.

Many things must be done in correcting with a certain benevolent severity, even against their own wishes, men whose welfare rather than their wishes it is our duty to consult... --St. Augustine

To be continued....

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hail Mary, Full of Ideas!

For those of you who are not football fans, a "Hail Mary" is a desperate pass into the end zone, when your team is behind and the clock is winding down. The quarterback just heaves the ball up in the air and hopes for the best.

Speaking of Hail Marys, I've gotten into the habit of desperately tossing ideas into my posts, not necessarily knowing what they mean, but trusting that they mean something, and that some alert and nimble-fingered wide receptacle of a reader will catch them. This ensures that I am always on the edge of what I (don't) know. However, it can also mean that I am not only crossing over a line into the area of what I don't yet know, but into what is unknowable or even what is Raccoonically incorrect. I mean, assuming there is a cutting edge, then it must by definition cut both ways, into those things that are novel and true as well as those that are just trivial or false novelties, like Black Liberation Theology or Andrew Sullivan.

In the Raccoon nonderstanding, the more one truly knows, the more one doesn't know -- the latter of which is a very different thing from "the less one knows." Let me explain with an absurcular analogy.

If what we call reality is a sphere that contains all of our knowledge of whatever kind, the more genuine knowledge we possess, the more the sphere expands. But obviously, as the sphere expands, the surface area where it shades off into the unknown expands. Since the "unknown" is literally infinite and dwarfs the known, all our profane knowledge combined is just a drop in the bucket we'll kick way before it's ever full or even emptied. No matter how much of the unknown we colonize with human knowledge, it will only "grow" in size. (The infinite cannot literally grow, being that it is already infinite.)

As an example of a Hail Mary, just yesterday a cryptic thought spontaneously occurred to me which I tossed into the post: real thought is the essence of prayer, linking man with what is timeless and eternal.

What is this supposed to mean? Is it true? Yes, I'm pretty sure it's true, but I don't yet know why. Rather, there is simply a sense of certainty, a feeling that if I try to flesh it out, I will find that it is backed by the full faith and credit of forces greater than myself, forces that "sponsored" or provoked the thought to begin with. In other words, a thought is like a wave tossed up by the ocean. Or, put it this way: where there is a wave, you can assume there is an ocean in your notion somewhere.

As a brief aside, most of the things people call "thoughts" aren't actually proper thoughts at all. This may come as a shock to you, but most people have never had an original thought in their life, any more than they have made a witty comment. For example, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are presumably smart guys, but I challenge anyone to identify an original thought in their vacuous books. There is no question in my mind that Brak has more original thoughts than Barack, whose defunct economic and social ideas (to paraphrase Tom Sowell) come straight out of the 1960s, and whose discredited foreign policy ideas come out of the 1930s. Nothing novel there.

To extend the ocean analogy, these sorts of pseudo-thoughts are more like ripples on the surface caused by superficial atmospheric changes, like wind over the water. For example, I largely see the MSM as a sort of vast wind machine that blows over the waters and stirs things up so that no one is aware of the more enduring waves, let alone the tsunamis off in the distance. In addition, when the water is stirred up in this manner -- what I call "the daily tempest" or liberal hysteria of the hour -- few people have the calm detachment necessary to see through to the depths.

Also, just like the ocean, there are stable "currents" that persist through time. On the one hand, these can be analogous to structures rooted in timeless truth, such as the U.S. Constitution; or, they can be analogous to what Buddhists call "samskaras" or what a Raccoon calls mind parasites, just collective illusions and neuroses, like manmade global warming. Indeed, the whole psychic current of leftism has become a sort of fluid structure that is almost impossible to eradicate. Put up a barrier, and just like water, it goes around it and takes on a new form. Marxists become "progressives," or reds turn green. Progressivism is never rooted in proper thought; to the contrary, it is a thought system imposed upon reality , like painting the sky or tattooing a beautiful woman.

As an example of where "unconscious" thought can take you, the image just popped into my head of Jesus walking on the water. What does this have to do with anything? Again, we don't yet know, but it feels to me as if this is a potentially fruitful thought, and that it is not just arbitrary or all wet. In short, it requires faith on my part that I can complete the thought and reach the end zone. Here we go again: Hail Mary, full of great ideas!

Recall that while Jesus is off huddling by himself and meditating on his mountaintop, the disciples set sail aboard a tiny ship. What begins as a three hour tour -- a three hour tour -- turns into a fateful trip, as the weather starts getting rough and the tiny ship is tossed. Frankly, if not for the receptivity of the faithful crew, the Minnow would be lost -- the Minnow would be lost.

A voice is heard: It is I, Gilligan: be not afraid.

Who is I? According to Tomberg, it is the I AM; the act of walking on water speaks to the fact that I AM is "not the one borne, but the bearer, not the one led, but the leader, not the one supported but the support." And this act is paralleled in "the wonder of pure faith, unsupported by anything but inner certainty, which stands above the threatening sea of relativity and doubt, and goes its own way." In short, faith is what floats your boat on its watery trek from the terrestrial to the celestial shore, or from birth to Birth. It is what allows one to complete the eternal pass into the sacred end zone.

We were born before the wind / Also younger than the sun / Ere the bonnie boat was won, as we sailed into the mystic / Hark now hear the sailors cry / Smell the sea and feel the sky / Let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic --Van Morrison, Into the Mystic

True, we have to be here in this ocean in order to grow and evolve, but it's tempting to remain a land lubber and just hold onto terra firma. This is to remain a seed without water, a temptation that has a certain appeal, since to live without being sea'd is in a sense to remain in a state of infinite potential: so long as you are nothing, you are potentially anything and everything, just like an infant.

This is the appeal of the latest nothing, a titanic fissure of a man, a Barely Nobama, if that. Ah, the Mendacity of Hype. Now that he has become something, he's as guilty as the rest of us, and every bit as thoughtless. This dinghy is sinking fast.

Floating upstream alongside the ancient celestial trail, out from under the toilsome tablets of time, cast your I on the meager image below. So long. So short! Whoosh! There went your life, mate. Returning to the Oneself, borne again to the mysterious mamamatrix of our birthdeath, our winding binding river empties to the sea. --The Coonifesto

Rare indeed is this human birth. The human body is like a boat, the first and foremost use of which is to carry us across the ocean of life and death to the shore of immortality. The Guru is the skillful helmsman; divine grace is the favorable wind. If with such means as these man does not strive to cross the ocean of life and death, he is indeed spiritually dead. --Srimad Bhagavatam

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Soul of Obama and His Spiritual Housing Crisis (4.08.10)

Man is made in such a way that he is never fully actualized within the limits of his possibilities except with the help of constraints, otherwise he would be perfect; where there is no brake there is exaggeration and unconsciousness. --F. Schuon

One of the intrinsic problems of leftism is that it confuses an absence of constraints with freedom, when the only real freedom is precisely a result of thinking, feeling, willing and even "being" within what I believe are God-given constraints. For example, just as it isn't possible to "think mathematically" in the absence of mathematical equations, or to play music in the absence of harmony, melody, and rhythm, it is not possible to "think spiritually" in the absence of authentic and timeless religious forms. These are the boundary conditions that vault one's thought into a higher vertical space which is anterior to us, even while we "co-create" it -- again, somewhat analogous to musical improvisation. Real thought is the essence of prayer, linking man with what is timeless and eternal.

To put it another way, the purpose of religious forms -- one of them, anyway -- is to allow us to think spiritually, and to do so in a productive way. One of the reasons why the "new age" is so empty and ultimately unfruitful is that it tries to make up its own spiritual language, which amounts to thinking without constraints or playing music with no harmonic or melodic structure. Certain self-styled "independent gurus" fall into this category, and this is the primary reason why their work dies with them, since it does not arise out of any eternal tradition. They end up trying to invent their own tradition, which is analogous to the musician trying to invent music itself.

I remember Bob Dylan saying something similar with regard to his artistic development. He said something to the effect that he didn't understand how young musicians can think they'll produce anything of enduring value by simply imitating contemporary sounds, instead of immersing themselves in an authentic tradition.

In Dylan's case, one of the keys to his greatness was that he surrendered and submitted himself to the American folk tradition, as if it were a religion. Which, in a way it was and is. That is, just as authentic religious revelations descend from "above" and are invented by "no one" and "everyone," a genuine folk tradition arises from "below," in the collective experience of mankind. This is what gives it its resonant mythological power, a power that no one person could have "invented."

Only once he had immersed himself in the folk tradition could Dylan then "legitimately" branch of into "freer" directions; but even so, I believe he would be the first to acknowledge that he is still working with timeless materials within a traditional framework. He is not truly an "innovator" in the way we usually think of that word. To the contrary, he is a strict traditionalist, out of which comes both his power and authority. One other important point is that this approach ensures that music is not merely made for egoic or narcissistic reasons, but out of love -- love and respect for the tradition that is higher and greater than oneself. So much music is vile because it does violence the traditions out of which it arose.

If one truly immerses oneself in a tradition and is guided by love, an alchemical transformation occurs within the soul. In this process, the lower self "dissolves," so to speak, allowing one to graft onto or merge with the tradition in a seamless way. The reason why this can occur is that a legitimate tradition embodies what is permanent within the self (in both its celestial and terrestrial aspects), so it is not really a discovery but a deep recollection of one's true being.

This, by the way, is one of the things that is so troubling about Obama. It is not so much that he is the spiritual disciple of an ignorant and vile madman, but that he has surrendered himself to a tradition that is not a legitimate one at all, but one that is wholly -- or largely -- manmade. Any spiritually attuned person can listen to Jeremiah Wright and know this in an instant. That he is not radiating divine qualities is patently obvious. He has no dignity, no nobility, no sobriety; rather, he is "wild," intoxicated, uncontained, and decentered. At best, he mimics certain qualities such as divine wrath and judgment, as well as a genuine fake charisma that emanates from his fascinatingly unbound mind parasites, as opposed to any celestial "gift." All demagogues have this toxic gift that resonates in the susceptible. One thinks of Bill Clinton.

A person of genuine spiritual attainment will radiate from the calm center, and be an image of the "motionless mover." Think, for example, of the recent visit of the Pope, and contrast his dignified bearing -- simultaneously humble and majestic -- with the circus freakery of a Jeremiah Wright. He is all periphery and no center; he has no spiritual center and therefore no intellectual center, hence, the wild conspiracy theories, which are both "systematic" and incoherent, just like any clinical paranoid who is invincible in his certainty of the impossible. He has quite literally substituted paranoia for metanoia, in that he orients himself around projected illusions instead of "turning around" and calmly orienting himself toward and around the peace and tranquility of the One.

As a commenter mentioned yesterday, this is not religion but Marxism, Marxism being the archetypal inversion of religion precisely. As I have mentioned on many occasions, this is my principal objection to the psychospiritual left, as it inverts the cosmic order, so that everything is quite literally backward and upside down. Mixed with religion, it becomes a particularly potent and destructive force, even demonic in the strict sense of the term.

Now, why is this important? Because a religion is where one's soul finds its rest. It is where one feels spiritually "at home." As such, if one finds one's home in a false religion, one is ipso facto a false self. To put it another way, if one finds one's truth in lies, then one is living a lie -- or worse yet, one is a Lie.

But why would someone "fall in love" with religious lies and liars? Good question. It could just be because it is convenient to do so, or congenial with what one already wishes to believe. Thus, a person who has already committed himself to neo-Marxism finds his soul's rest in the tawdry "liberation theology" of a Jeremiah Wright, which is not theology and certainly not liberating.

Is this what has happened with Obama? Unfortunately, we just don't know, and that's the problem. Is Obama just cynical and calculating? Spiritually blind and tone deaf? Not too bright underneath his smooth veneer? In any case, his attraction to this buffoon Wright speaks to some sort of flaw which is quite deep, and which reveals a fundamentally dis-ordered soul. Spiritually speaking, people lied, Obama died.

We all have flaws. But hopefully we do not glorify them and give them a divine imprimatur. It's like a sex addict joining a polygamous church, or Jeffrey Dahmer converting to the Aztec religion.

If Obama felt he needed to join a black church in order to gain some sort of "street credibility," it certainly wouldn't have been difficult to find a mainstream one. I happen to believe that the black church at its best represents an authentic sub-tradition, as it is the spontaneous merging of the gospel with an oppressed people with their own unique heritage. There is so much truth and beauty in the black church, e.g., gospel music. Why get involved with this perverse and parasitic version of it?

If we give Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not a malicious person, then we are left with the option that he is simply a man with no identity in search of one. Such a centerless man will grope around for his center at the periphery, and feel at home there, just as secular leftist losers feel at home with fellow outcasts (i.e., people who do not know their caste) and sociopaths, blindly wandering from sensation to sensation in a kind of false eternity.

Interestingly, you will notice that Obama appears to be everything Wright is not -- calm, centered, dignified, even aristocratic. These are all fine qualities so long as they are both genuine and spiritually grounded.

But again, one wonders how genuine they can be if Obama is so deeply attracted to someone who embodies their opposite. Imagine the contradiction. It's analogous to a sober scientist being a secret devotee of palm reading, or a classical conductor enjoying Britney Spears in his spare time, or a Raccoon who spends $1,000 for a weekend seminar with Deepak Chopra or Tony Robbins.

More generally, I detest religious people who make religion look foolish or evil. There are few greater sins. Maybe none, for it is the one sin that negates all the others.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On the Cosmic Meaning of Race

I guess it's hard to avoid the big kerfuffle of the day, which is Jeremiah Wright's speech before the NAACP over the weekend, in which he claimed that "black brains" have a different neurological structure than "white brains," so that cultural differences would be rooted in our hardware, not our software, so to speak. (Here is a link to the video.) Ironically, this is what got the authors of The Bell Curve in so much trouble a decade ago, for it is strictly forbidden to entertain the idea that race could involve any "essential" differences as opposed to "accidental" ones.

Now, there is no question that Jeremiah Wright is a lunatic, a racist, and a hate-monger, but that's beside the point, for truth -- if it is truth -- cannot be sullied by its vehicle. 2 + 2 = 4 is no less true even if it comes out of the deranged mouth of a Keith Olbermann. But let's look at this in a detached and disinterested way, and see if there's any truth to it.

This subject is truly the "third rail" of academia, so I will no doubt say something offensive in what follows -- or, at the very least, something that will be willfully misunderstood. On the one hand, we're all supposed to be obsessed with race and racial differences, and yet, deny that they have any intrinsic basis. If you are a politically correct leftist, you must simultaneously believe that race is "everything" and yet "nothing." It is of the utmost importance in judging people, and yet, of no importance at all. To believe there are racial differences is to automatically brand oneself a nazi, even if one is positively disposed to the differences. It's a very confusing message. Remember the Seinfeld episode, in which Jerry proclaimed that he loved Asian women? Elaine responded, "that's so racist!," and a bewildered Jerry asked words to the effect of, "how can it be racist? I said I love them."

As an example of how ideology shapes scientific perception -- or what the scientist is "permitted" to believe, and even perceive -- it has long been assumed in anthropological circles that race is entirely contingent and superficial. We are all descended from the same small band of Homo sapiens from as recently as 70,000 years ago, and that's just too short a time in evolutionary terms to result in any real changes to the human genotype. On this assumption, all human beings are genetically no different than a human being from 70,000 years ago. I am hardly the first to observe that this stance is largely an institutional reaction to the monstrosities of the racial theories of the 20th century and to the legacy of Western slavery.

The most recent scientific evidence suggests that the idea that evolution ceased 70,000 years ago is simply untrue. Awhile back I posted on Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors (Wade is a science writer for the New York Times, no less), and he says that there is no question that significant genetic changes have taken place within just a few generations as a result of certain human groups being isolated from one another.

I don't recall all of the details, but I do recall Wade's example of the Ashkenazi Jews, whom he said rapidly developed higher IQs because they were prevented from working in most fields as a result of European anti-Semitism. In short, Jews could mostly find work in "disreputable" fields that required a certain kind of more abstract mental ability as opposed to "honest labor." But Jews got the last laugh, as they were genetically selected for higher IQs in a very short span of time. If this is true, it would explain why Ashkenazi Jews continue to have a significantly higher IQs than the average. (That's not me talking, but Wade summarizing the scientific evidence.)

Another relevant book along these lines is Richard Nisbett's The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why. The Publishers Weekly review says the book

"may mark the beginning of a new front in the science wars. Nisbett, an eminent psychologist..., contends that 'human cognition is not everywhere the same' -- that those brought up in Western and East Asian cultures think differently from one another in scientifically measurable ways.... Westerners tend to inculcate individualism and choice..., while East Asians are oriented toward group relations and obligations ('the tall poppy is cut down' remains a popular Chinese aphorism). Next, Nisbett presents his actual experiments and data, [which] seem to show East Asians [to be] measurably more holistic in their perceptions (taking in whole scenes rather than a few stand-out objects). Westerners, or those brought up in Northern European and Anglo-Saxon-descended cultures, have a 'tunnel-vision perceptual style' that focuses much more on identifying what's prominent in certain scenes and remembering it."

Now, I am not a big fan of IQ testing as a measure of general intelligence, and I believe that any average human being is equipped to comprehend absolute truth; conversely, a high IQ in no way correlates with conformity to truth, much less to creativity. If anything, the opposite is true. After a certain cut-off point, a high IQ is associated with less creativity, not to mention a narcissistic pride that results in idiosyncratic deviations from truth, which are no more than an egoic and thoroughly disposable "song of myself." Conformity to truth requires a humility that is too often lacking in the intellectually grandiose.

We needn't look further than leftist academia to appreciate the truism that a certain kind of one-dimensional high intelligence more often than not correlates with systematic nonsense, not truth. For example, college educated people vote overwhelmingly Republican, while people who have attended graduate school (business or economics excepted, of course) vote overwhelmingly Democrat. This doesn't surprise me in the least, as the problem of over-education is actually much more harmful than the problem of under-education. The latter group causes relatively few societal problems compared to the former. This is why William F. Buckley famously quipped that he would prefer to be governed by the first 100 names in the Boston telephone book than the Harvard faculty, and why he was correct. It truly takes an over-educated buffoon to believe most of the nonsense that comes out of academia.

You can only be a racist if you believe that race is unvaryingly rooted in genetics, and that certain groups are unavoidably superior and therefore inferior. But again, what if different groups are just different, but not in any pejorative sense? Or, what if each group has its strengths and weakness, so that it is once again not a matter of "either/or" but "both/and"? Just as the human being is not male or female, but the complementarity of male/female, what if the archetypal Man is all of the races harmoniously combined? What if we really should cherish the differences rather than use them as a battering ram for leftist grievance-mongering and victimization?

The most up-to-date research on intelligence indicates what should be a truism, that intelligence is not only not a general construct (or not only), but that it has many relatively independent "modules." For example, one can obviously be a musical genius but a political dolt. Too many painful examples come to mind. Likewise, one can be a scientific genius, like Einstein, and be a philosophical mediocrity and political nuisance. Or, one can be a religious genius and be a scientific kook. One can have rhetorical skills, like Obama, which conceal an intellect that is mediocre, or poor rhetorical skills, like President Bush, and have a superior IQ.

Now, I don't happen to believe that race is genetic -- or only genetic (everything is by definition genetic in some sense, so it's a tautology). Furthermore, one of the most critical points to bear in mind is that intelligence is on a Bell curve anyway, so that each group actually contains all of the human potential, just in a different mixture. Yes, the vast majority of immortal jazz musicians were black, and I believe only could have been black. And yet there have been some white jazz musicians that also achieved aesthetic perfection, e.g., Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Art Pepper.

As Schuon observed -- and Schuon is a person who not only loved racial differences, but truly cherished them -- "If racism is to be rejected, so is an anti-racism which errs in the opposite direction by attributing racial difference to merely accidental causes and which seeks to reduce to nothing these differences by talking about blood-groups, or in other words by mixing up things situated on different levels." To put it another way, nothing as precious and valuable as these differences could be a result of mere genetic shuffling. Thus the differences between, say, Taosim and Christianity, which really do involve different "inflections" of the one truth, even though -- at least according to Schuon -- they are each "complete."

What we call "race" must be a combination of genetics, culture, archetypal essences, and individuality. So it is impossible in principle to reduce someone to his race, even if we can discuss it in general terms. Furthermore, it seems to be something we can't help noticing, even if we needn't attach any negative connotations to it. For example, my son's best friends are a Japanese boy; a Chinese-American girl; an African-American adoptee of a white couple; and a boy and girl of a mixed Caucasian/African American couple. We assumed that Tristan would grow up not noticing race, but the other night we were watching a Dodger game, with the Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on the mound. Tristan happily exclaimed, "he looks like KK!," his little Japanese friend.

One of the reasons I am so disoriented by the left, is that by the 1970s, like any good liberal, I had been naive enough to believe that Americans really were "beyond race." I was raised to believe that it was of no importance, and I didn't even know any liberals who believed otherwise. It seems to me that only with the OJ trial was the mask ripped off, and the full extent of the horror of invidious leftist race obsessions became apparent. That's when it dawned on me with great force that these people are not like me. Not African-Americans. The left. And that is much deeper than any mere racial difference. Let's put it this way: I am a different race than Jeremiah Wright, but the same one as Thomas Sowell. But I wish I were the same race as Bobby Bland or Van Morrison....

To be continued....