On Keeping Body and Soul Together While Treasuring Your Eccentricity
Let the truth of Brahman be taught only to those who are devoted to him, and who are pure in heart. --Mundaka Upanishad
“You shall not commit adultery.” Like the other commandments, this one has an outward, exoteric meaning as well as an inner, esoteric one. After all, adultery is related to adulterate, which means to corrupt, debase, or make impure by the addition of a foreign or inferior substance. In this case, we are talking specifically about the intrinsic purity of the soul, and avoiding activities that corrupt it.
This commandment goes directly to the heart of the mysterious bond between body and soul, that which distinguishes us from the beasts. In Meditations on the Tarot, our Unknown Friend writes that “the power of mutual love unites soul and body. Life, which consists of the union of soul and body, is the marriage of soul and body. For this reason the commandment: ‘You shall not commit adultery’ follows from the commandment: ‘You shall not murder.’ For adultery is essentially a form of killing -- of separating soul and body, whose union is the archetype of marriage.”
Jewish tradition regards the bond between Israel and YHVH as a marriage covenant; likewise the covenant between Christ and the church, or the mystical union between the soul and Jesus, or Shiva and Shakti.
Soul and body form a harmonious union, and the separation of the two in any sphere of activity is a kind of murder, since the higher life is not possible without their union. When we talk about the culture of death, we are really talking about the soulless culture, because so much of our culture has become spiritually barren and soulless. As such, it is both inhuman and antihuman.
In adhering to the soul in all we do, we remain “faithful” to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Conversely, if we transfer our loyalty to that which corrupts us, we will soon discover that it clings to us as much as we adhere it it. The death culture begets death. If we are "in" that culture, it is soon in us. Then there's no escape, since the inscape is blocked.
As we have mentioned before, depth is a dimension of soul, so that achieving depth is a pathway toward recognition of the soul’s existence. In the absence of soul, the world has no depth -- everything is of equal importance, or else simply has the importance our feelings, our genes, or our cultural programming attach to it.
This is why the postmodern strategy of deconstruction is not just bad philosophy. Rather it is murder, specifically, soul murder. And this is why, to paraphrase Richard Weaver, all attacks on religion inevitably result in attacks on the mind itself. Deconstruction is “intellectual crack,” as someone once put it. Likewise philosophical Darwinism. It is pure murder of the human being and the obliteration of his cosmic station and environment.
In fact, any kind of radical skepticism represents nothing more than (in words of Schuon) an "esoterism of stupidity": the lower mind’s ability to doubt anything is elevated to the central truth of our existence. It is the worst kind of soul betrayal, because it operates under cover of a counterfeit pursuit of truth, while simultaneously destroying its very possibility.
Perhaps it should be emphasized that this commandment does not imply some sort of dry, austere, or anti-pleasure approach to life. Quite the opposite. In fact, in Jewish tradition, it is said that the first thing God will ask upon your death is why you didn't partake of all the permitted pleasures He so generously bestowed for your enjoyment.
The point is that existence is embodied, but not only embodied. There are two false paths; one is the descending path into hedonism, distraction, and other various soulless activities. But the other false path is the purely ascending one: going up the sacred mountain with the soul, but leaving the body behind.
This is a persistent message of both Judaism and Christianity. Both, in different ways, stress the embodied nature of existence, and the problem of how to sanctify our lives by re-membering the soul in everything we do.
But clearly, if one stands back and looks at the historical situation from the widest possible vantage point, we can see a problem. Because the Judeo-Christian tradition regards the world as real and worthy of our attention, it can lead to an exteriorizing tendency that ends up severing soul and body.
On the other hand, if we look at the philosophies of the east, they have tended to regard the world as illusory, or as maya, unworthy of being taken seriously. Historically they have made the opposite mistake of becoming too interior: “Brahman alone is real.” Thus, Buddhism and Hinduism have a bit of an interiority complex.
I do believe that the evolutionary task of our age is to bring these two extremes back together -- to fully reconcile soul and body and achieve the Life Divine in a monkey body. In truth, it is merely a matter of emphasis, for there is no question that this is at the heart of the uncorrupted Christian message: body and soul in a higher union.
Likewise, although Sri Aurobindo is responsible for correcting Shankara's overemphasis transcending maya, he too was simply going back to the original message of the Upanishads: “To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation,” says the Isha Upanishad. Rather, “Those who combine action and meditation cross the sea of death through action and enter immortality." This again takes place through the sacred union of soul and body, spirit and matter, male and female, mamamaya and papurusha (for those who know their punskrit).
I once had a psychotic patient who took one look at my name -- Godwin -- and blurted out, “Godwin -- is that like a combination of God and Darwin?” I thought about it for a moment and knew that he was right, for while he might have been crazy, he wasn't stupid. Because the whole bloody point of the living Raccoon philosophy is to marry Adam and Evolution in such a way that they live happily ever after, both aspiring to the same nonlocal goal 'til death do us part.
“Thou shalt not steal.” Why not? As always, the left has found a fruit loophole in this commandment by questioning its premise, i.e., the existence of private property. For one way to eliminate theft is to eliminate or at least question the legitimacy of private property -- which naturally ends with one big thief called “the government.” When liberals talk about "tax cuts for the rich," or "windfall profits," what they really mean is that no one has the right to interfere with their monopoly on theft.
Property, according to Richard Pipes, is “the key to the emergence of political and legal institutions that guarantee liberty.” Look at most anyplace in the world where there is an absence of liberty, and you will find weak property rights.
Liberals -- classical liberals, anyway, not the misnamed leftist kind -- have always understood that property is much more than property. Rather, it is the cornerstone of freedom, its very enabler and protector. And underneath property is the use of legitimate violence to protect said property. For if ever there were “sacred violence,” it is the violence that ensures the protection of property, for without property, humans cannot become fully human and thereby know the sacred. To a leftist, nothing can actually be sacred except false idols such as "diversity," or "social justice," or whatever else is convenient to achieve their worldly aims
For one thing, property is simply a free expression of “what people want,” and to a large extent, what you want is who you are, for better or worse. Therefore, property is an extension of the person. I once read a description of this by the outstanding psychoanalyst and writer, Christopher Bollas, who notes that the self can never be perceived directly, only indirectly, largely through its use of objects:
“Perhaps we need a new point of view in clinical psychoanalysis, close to a form of person anthropology. We would pay acute attention to all the objects selected by a patient and note the use made of each object. The literature, films, and music a person selects would be as valued a part of the fieldwork as the dream.” In so doing, we may “track the footsteps of the true self.”
As I have mentioned before, if I go to someone’s home, there are two things I am most curious about: the books and music it contains. And the medicine cabinet. Likewise, I should think that after I am gone, a psychoanalytic fieldworker would be able to construct a fairly accurate representation of me by merely rifling through my library. A name whose person escapes me referred to reading as “the mystery school of individuation.”
Just consider the odd assortment of books in my sidebar [that used to be there, anyway; the present list is slightly more uniform]. I am quite sure that no one else on the planet has a matching list. There may not be another person in history who has read and assimilated those particular books. I am not saying that to boast, only to emphasize the amazingly unique alchemy of choices we all embody when given the opportunity to freely exercise those choices. As Petey once said, “freedom is eccentricity lived,” and he has a point. Remember the Raccoon credo: if you're not eccentric, you're wrong.
At the very least, freedom is individuality lived, and it is very difficult to live out your individuality without a range of choices before you. Paradoxically, you can only become who you are in the context of liberty. Therefore, culture can only become what it is supposed to be in that same context. And this is again why we so strenuously bobject to the illiberal left, which is necessarily antihuman in elevating multiculturalism over the individual.
In a properly functioning human environment, culture will embody the exteriorization of the soul, while the soul will be assisted on its journey by the interiorization of culture. But to interiorize the culture of death is to.... Well, to paraphrase someone, "nature makes no provision for the death of the soul." Never wonder why the left abounds with so many gangrenous souls, since the "spiritual capillaries" that are supposed to nourish the soul have become completely sclerotic and blocked, so their minds become a dead tissue of lies.
I realize it’s politically incorrect to say this, so that's reason enough to say it. But in the course of my work, I have had the opportunity to evaluate many people from second and third world cultures, and what always impresses me about them is their essential sameness. Their life stories are all remarkably similar, almost as if they were the same person.
And in a way they are, for they were not brought up in a cultural (or economic) space in which they could articulate their own unique metaphysical dream. Instead, their life is dreamt by the collective, either vertically by a ruling class or horizontally by their dopey culture (which psychologists are supposed to "respect," on pain of being called a racist, or imperialist, or Republican). What Bollas calls the person’s “destiny drive” -- the spiritual drive to become oneself -- has been almost entirely squelched. They do not live in a space of infinite possibilities, only a sort of invariant and unchanging now, projected backward and forward and giving the illusion of an actual history.
Pipes notes that “while property in some form is possible without liberty, the contrary is inconceivable.” And this is one thing that again frightens us about the illiberal left, for as we have said many times, if you scratch a leftist, he will probably sue you. But underneath the scratch, you will discover a conviction that your property doesn’t really belong to you, but to the collective. It is simply a variation of the bald-faced assertion that “private property is public theft,” itself the absolute inversion of the seventh commandment.
Our most precious property is, of course, our own body-mind. However, it is amazing how late in history this idea emerged. For example, the Islamic beasts we are fighting have no such notion. In their cultures, your body and mind belong to the religious authorities, and only they can dictate what you can and cannot do with them. For example, a woman’s body is not her own. She has no choices (or only a narrow range of choices established by others) of how to express it, how to adorn it, and with whom she may share it. (Memo to trolls -- please don’t even bother. The moral issue behind the abortion debate is not whether a woman has a right to do whatever she pleases with her own body, but whether she has that right over another’s body. That’s the whole point.)
Slavery was still legal in parts of the Arab world as late as the 1960’s, and widespread virtual slavery still exists today. This is the penultimate theft (murder being ultimate), the theft of a human soul. But that is hardly the only sort of soul-theft that goes on in the Islamic world. Again, the idea that children are autonomous beings with their own inherent rights and dignity is a very late historical development that has yet to appear in most human cultures. Rather, children are “owned” by their parents, which is a great barrier to psychohistorical evolution. As a parent, your job is to create a space for your child’s true self to emerge, not to enforce your version of whom your child is and what he should become. It goes without saying that this does not exclude boundaries, discipline, and values, but the point of these is to facilitate true spiritual freedom, not to suppress it.
Most religions conceive of a mythical Golden Age, an edenic past in which there was no private property. Likewise, they may speculate about a hereafter in which there is no need for private property because there is no lack of anything. But in between, in our embodied state, there is a me and therefore a mine, a you and a yours. And just as the development of individualism is facilitated by property, property benefits from the arrangement as well. That is, most people do not take proper care of things that do not belong to them. As they say, no one ever took it upon himself to wash a rental car. Likewise, “primitive people are prone mindlessly to exterminate animals and destroy forests, to the extent that they are physically able, without any thought of the future” (Pipes). There is an obvious reason why the most affluent countries with the strongest property rights also have the best environmental records.
Similarly, only when is master of oneself will one feel compelled to make improvements. Here again, we see the left undermining this fundamental assumption, with disastrous consequences. For the entire basis of leftist victimology is that you are not sovereign over yourself and are not responsible for your destiny. Rather, the doctrine of victimology maintains that your life is really directed by others. If you are a woman, you are controlled by men. If you are black, you are controlled by racist whites. If you are gay, you are controlled by “homophobes.” If you are a Democrat, you are controlled by Karl Rove.
In each case, personal agency is undermined and replaced by a collective that, in the long run, will further erode the liberty it claims to advance. Racial quotas simply displace the ceiling further down the road. For example, a recent study proved that easing the standards for admitting blacks to law school simply results in black lawyers with dead-end careers in which they never make partner. The fundamental difference between a leftist and conservative comes down to collective identity (and therefore victim) politics vs. individual (and therefore agent over one's destiny) politics. So it's humans vs. ants, really.
There are many “social justice” or “liberation theology” Christians who maintain that Jesus was a sort of proto-communist, what with his counsel to give to the poor. But there is an infinite moral distinction between voluntary renunciation of one’s wealth and government seizure and redistribution of one’s wealth. Just as one must first be a man before becoming a gentleman, one must first have sovereignty over one’s property before choosing to give it away. And as a matter of fact, statistics demonstrate that there is an inverse relationship between high taxes and charitable giving. Those states with the lowest taxes give the most, while those with the highest taxes -- ”liberal” places such as Massachusetts -- give the least. There is a reason why America is the most generous nation the world has ever known, both in terms of blood and treasure.
And there is also a reason why, say, China, has no qualms whatsoever about stealing billions of dollars per year in American intellectual property, for they now want the benefits of private property without the sacred duty to protect it. For a Marxist, private property is again public theft, so when they steal American music, DVDs, and computer programs, they’re just doing what comes naturally to them: “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine as well.”
Well, I can see that I’ve run out of time before I could come up with any snappy ending. Let’s just say this: in order to create a properly functioning society and a spiritually balanced person, “thou shalt not steal” (i.e., private property is sacrosanct) must be reconciled with “thou shalt not covet” (property isn't everything). We'll get to that one in a couple days, assuming I can steal the time that I so enviously covet.