Ego Trip, Stumble, and Fall
If there are sins and deadly sins, then there must be something about the latter that is more than a mere act or behavior. Being that they are spiritually fatal, we can continue to "act," even if we are the last to realize we're dead.
The deeper meaning of sin is separation from the Divine plane. Naturally, if we are separated from this plane, we will mindlessly reflect this state in most all of our inward attitudes or outward acts -- just as if we truly love someone, certain behaviors will follow naturally.
The essence of sin is an inversion. The world is turned upside down and inside out, so that we forget the Absolute and the Infinite. Esoterically understood, forgetting is associated with sleeping, and sleeping with death. Thus, in order to restore the world and ourselves, we must remember, wake up, arise and be reborn. For just as there is horizontal recollection -- our conventional memory of the past -- there is “vertical recollection” of the above. And it is literally a re-membering, both because we are dismembered and alienated from vital parts of ourselves if we are exiled in the horizontal, but also because there is such a shock of recognition and familiarity when we encounter and re-collect the primordial Truths that are anterior to us.
Think about it for a moment. Some people stumble upon this blog and have no idea what I’m writing about. They either disagree with me, or accuse me of being oblique or secretive, or suggest that I am some sort of con man instead of a coonman, or accuse readers of being a bunch of bobbleheaded cultists disagreeably nodding off in agreement. It’s not so much that they don’t know what I’m talking about. Rather, they cannot remember what I’m talking about. It would be just as if I were to say to them, “remember when you were born, the doctor pulling you out, slapping your butt, and then slapping yo' mama 'cause yo' ass be so ugly?” “No, I don’t remember anything like that. You’re lying.”
Other people -- a few hundred of them anyway -- know exactly what I’m talking about. And if not exactly, then they have a sort of dim recollection. And as they continue reading and strengthening their vertical memory, more and more of my writing begins to make perfect nonsense. I think if you were to go back and read the comments of any number of readers from over the months, you would see a rather detailed diary of their vertical recollection gradually coming back “on line” and becoming more sharp and detailed. Yes, on the one hand, it is an acquisition of knowledge. But that’s only the content. The actual process is one of recollection and seeing, not with the mind but with the intelligence itself: cOOnvision. You can see the transition as certain commenters become O->(k) teachers in their own write.
This, by the way, is how the gospel story spread so rapidly through the Roman Empire. First of all, the story was not particularly appealing to those sophisticated “sinners” who had no contact with the vertical, with the exception of paying occasional tribute to some godlike human projections of their own making. Nor does the story have any attraction to intellectual elites, either then or now, whose minds are filled to the brim with the latest horizontal fascions. They remember only the dead past, not the living future.
But the story somehow made immediate sense to two categories of people: those who were “poor in spirit,” with uncluttered minds and innocent hearts. But also to the super-sophisticated, those geniuses like a Gregory of Nyssa, or Augustine, or Denys the Areopagite, who had taken horizontal thought as far as it could go, and then beyond the horizon of knowability to the deeper realm of the unKnowable (unKnowing being a higher and deeper form of knowing).
For me, of course, these are the most interesting cases. For unlike the purely secular intellectual, they do not place an arbitrary limit on thought and declare their own little ideas Supreme, like a child. Rather, they continue pushing through until achieving “vertical liftoff,” as in the case of an Eliot, Chesterton, Lewis, and so many others. Thought can lead to what is beyond it, but only for those who are both daring and humble (not to mention intelligent enough to pull it off; frankly, most of our secular priesthood are hopelessly middlebrow intellectual worker bees who know what they know, and that’s all they know). Far from being brave and independent thinkers, they cravenly "worship what is widely worshipped," in the words of Berlinski. Suffice it to say, they can tell us "nothing of interest about the human soul." And yet, their pride convinces them that they are somehow equipped "to face realities the rest of us cannot bear to contemplate." I'll believe that when Hitchens can bear to face reality sober.
And if that isn't obvious, just read the comments of any of our trolls, who are a never ending source of shallow darkness, which can masquerade as a sort of false mysticism, when it's really just mysterbation. Real mysticism is a beam of intense darkness that is most receptive to the divine light, but that's the subject for another post.
In fact, this postmodern relativizing of the intellect automatically leads to a spirit of pride, and with it, rebellion. And pride, don’t you know, is said to be the most egregious of the sins. We can see why this must be so, because forgetting the Absolute combines, in Schuon’s formulation, a “centrifugal passion” with an “egoistic hardening.” In other words, our consciousness is dispersed from the center to the periphery, but tumorangs back to us in the form of a cancerous attitude of the heart -- it is a “being” prior to this or that “doing” or “not doing.” And this is why it is so deadly: we then become not just a “sinner,” but we rekaputulate the entire foundation and basis of sin. This is a state of what I call complete I-AMnesia of the vertical, or the Absolute.
It is not so much that pride “inflates the ego.” Rather, the more insidious effect is that it not only limits and undermines the intelligence, but ultimately destroys it, while at the same time propping up a surface mechanism analogous to the Wizard of Oz: pay no attention to that little ego twirling the knobs and dials under a curtain of maya.
Pride is also the very thing that prevents a person from losing that which could save him. It takes many forms and harbors many rationalizations, for example, cynicism or extreme skepticism. The cynic, according to Schuon, believes that “sincerity consists in exhibiting shortcomings and passions and that to hide them is to be a hypocrite; they do not master themselves and still less do they seek to transcend themselves; and the fact that they take their faults for a virtue is the clear proof of their pride.”
On the other hand, the hypocrite confuses true virtue -- which is a state of being -- with mere outwardly virtuous attitudes or displays; he believes that “the appearances of faith suffice for faith itself.” The problem is not that they manifest virtue, but “in believing that the manifestation is virtue itself and, above all, in aping virtue in the hope of being admired: this is pride, because it is individualism and ostentation. Pride is to overestimate oneself and to underestimate others; and this is what the cynic does just as much as the hypocrite, in a blatant or a subtle way as the case may be.” Again, no one is more proud of his intellect -- but with less reason to be -- than the strict Darwinist.
In both cases, the outward and horizontal ego displaces the vertical spirit and the inner light, thereby misappropriating “what belongs to the spiritual soul.” Nature abhors a vacuum, while Spirit requires one. If God does not fill our existential void, then pride (among other things) necessarily rushes in to take its place. After all, it is what came before the fall -- it is what the ego tripped & felon. It was ineveateapple.
Where then the proper place for self-confidence as opposed to its faux substitutes, pride and the dreaded self-esteem? Self-confidence is faith that we can succeed and achieve a deiform excellence that transcends us, while self-esteem is the self-satisfied attitude that we already have. Confidence results from perfecting one’s God-given talents, while pride results from inflating and overestimating their value, and then claiming them for our own.
Ultimately, when we forget that we have fallen, there is no way to reverse course and rise back up. The loss of transcendence brings with it many howling consequences, too many dogs to catalogue here. Suffice it say that if your culture or sub-culture is foolish enough to deny the antecedent reality of Truth, Love and Beauty, it will generate an abundance of obligatory falsehood, artistic ugliness, moral relativism, and the many varieties of counterfeit love. Then again, tenure has its rewards. As does secular sainthoodlum.
Other vices attach themselves to evil, that evil may be accomplished; pride alone attaches itself to good, that good may perish. --Saint Augustine
Don't be such a big shot. When God's on the line, take the call: