Saturday, October 04, 2008

Atheists and Other Whine Experts

I wish Lileks were a reader of this blog, because he would be so freaking envious that I got to see Monty Hall again last night. Yes, again. He's an old family friend (on my wife's side), so he's there at every family function. Looks amazing for 87. Last night I noticed for the first time how luxuriantly soft his hands are. Plus, you should see how he "floats" and shimmers into the room. I don't mean to brag, but he once took us to a Kings hockey game. He's Canadian, so he's a big fan. In fact, before Let's Make a Deal, he called hockey games on the radio. Did you know that Carol Merrill's son is minor league hockey player? That's the sort of thing that only Monty's intimates know about.

Well, today I have to attend one of those stupid all-day continuing education seminars. It's like losing a whole day of your life, or making a sacrifice to the gods of political correctness. It's one thing for medical doctors to keep up with the latest research. But psychologists? There's been nothing new in psychology since Genesis. Instead, the activists who have taken over the field merely publish fraudulent studies to prove this or that aspect of their leftist agenda in order to bring down western civilization.

Anyway. In honor of Bill Maher's new film, I'm republishing this old rant from two years ago.


I am not surprised that militant atheists have become just another angry victim group, because that is what they have always been, starting with Grandma O'Harebrain. Please bear in mind that I am specifically referring to the easily offended activist kind of atheist who wishes to aggressively rewrite history and efface the Judeo-Christian heritage of this country, not to the person who is really and truly just indifferent to God. I have no quarrel with the latter kind of atheist, nor should they with me. While our respective philosophies are no doubt bizarre to one another, I am fully cognizant of the fact that it takes all kinds to make a world, and that a good atheist will contribute much more to the world than a bad theist, so long as the atheist is in a culture that embodies theistic values. It’s a non-issue to me that there are good and decent atheists.

Nor do I have any problem whatsoever with agnostics. While I regard militant, or “positive” atheism as the commonest form of philosophical stupidity (i.e., the affirmation that God definitely does not exist, as opposed to mere disbelief in God), I would never say that of agnosticism. For one thing, in the absence of transrational and suprasensory sources of information, the mechanical application of profane reason more or less compels agnosticism. There is no way to exit the closed circle of logic with more logic, especially if your premises are all wrong.

There are several ways to end up being what I call an obligatory atheist. Like every other human capacity -- from math to music to hitting a baseball -- the ability to intuit the divine runs along a continuum. Frankly, there are a few people for whom the realm of the sacred really does seem to be a closed book, but I actually focus a lot of my writing on trying to give these good folks a hand up, a way to "get" religion. I would guess that a larger percentage of atheists have been traumatized or repulsed by a dysfunctional version of religion they were exposed to as a child. They are the ones who naturally get more angry, obnoxious and militant. Or, sometimes they are just bitter about other things, and channel their bitterness through anti-religious sentiments.

Another large segment of the atheist population consists of the “not smart enough” who are nevertheless extremely proud of their intellect. This in itself is a contradiction, for they have great faith in the intellect’s ability to know reality, and yet, place an arbitrary limit on what the intellect may know. The placement of this limit is not a result of logic or reason. It is actually more of a religious inclination, for it is an absolute statement about what the human mind may or may not know. And once you are in the realm of the absolute, you are reflecting one of the two irreducible modalities (along with the infinite) of the Divine.

I do not know the first thing about wine. And yet, I know that I do not know, and I also know full well that there are enologists who do know what I don’t. In fact, I am one hundred percent certain both of my ignorance and of their expertise in this area. But since I am ignorant, how do I know this? Among other reasons, I know it because it would be absurd to deny the testimony of thousands of enologists who have trained themselves to make subtle discriminations in the realm of wine. If I were to object and tell them that they are fooling themselves and that there is no empirical proof that one wine is any better than another, they would properly regard me as a gustatory moron.

While numbers obviously aren’t everything (except for the materialist), needless to say, the numbers are on my side, in that billions of human beings have personally experienced the Divine, whereas atheism is an absurdity that makes no sense to all but a few cranks and misfits. More importantly, there are any number spiritual geniuses who have left maps of the domain of spirit that are every bit as subtle and detailed as the maps of science. I have independently verified these maps, so I know to my satisfaction that the territory they describe is ontologically real.

One atheist yesterday took me to task for “trashing” atheism because I hadn’t personally experienced it, but that is categorically false. There was a time that I was an atheist -- a much more effective one, I might add, than our scientistic jester -- but I eventually found its philosophical foundation to be utterly lacking. When I wrote yesterday that positive atheism was naively self-contradictory at every turn, I meant that literally, not as an insult. Most bad metaphysics can be dismissed with a single insurmountable sentence or two, and atheism is no exception. To declare that it is absolutely true that only relative truth exists is nonsensical. But to declare that absolute truth exists is to make a statement so pregnant with metaphysical implications that it alone can lead one out of the abyss of atheism.

One commenter proclaimed yesterday that “I am an Atheist because the universe makes perfect sense to me without putting God in the equation. You say God is easily provable. That is horse manure. There is absolutely no evidence God exists. God is nothing but a manmade idea in order to give one hope for meaning and even everlasting life.”

He dismisses all religion as an “invisible myth that you cling on to. In fact, I now have as much justification that there is an invisible man living under my bed, as there is a God. In other words, I have no reason to believe in either, as no evidence exists that either God or the invisible man under my bed exists.”

How does one respond to such invincible ignorance? “There is no evidence that God exists.” Of course there is evidence. It's just that he is either unfamiliar with the evidence, incapable of understanding the arguments (for no demonstration can convince everyone, least of all the spiritually inadequate), or has chosen to reject or ignore it, which he is naturally free to do. As for the statement that religious belief is an “invisible myth,” the reverse is true: it is only possible to cling to the invisible myth of atheistic materialism in a hermetically sealed environment of fellow fervent believers who are similarly innocent of any direct encounter with transcendent reality. They are free to insist that “all wines are identical,” just as I am free to dismiss them as possessing barbarous palates.

Again, atheism is a purely substitious postmodern mythology. It has nothing to do with an intellectually honest assessment of the evidence, but is simply an assumption dressed up as a conclusion. On the other hand, my theistic belief is based, among other things, on personal experience that I would no more doubt than I would doubt the fact that my eyes see or that I love my child.

One of the reasons I wrote my book is to assist people whose very intelligence may ironically -- ironic because intelligence is a reflection of the Divine Mind-- pose a barrier to religiosity. As a result of mindless repetition, secularists have made significant inroads to the undermining of rational religious belief, which will have catastrophic consequences for the future evolution of mankind, which we can already see with regard to spiritually exhausted old Europe. For a person who is alienated from his own soul and intellect is like a disabled person with missing limbs, except that he doesn’t know it. Better yet, he is like a leper, in the sense that lepers suffer from nerve damage that causes them to be unaware of when they are injuring themselves. To the extent that one is unaware of one’s soul, one will engage in more or less spiritually self-injurious behavior. (No different, really, than the neurotic patient who suffers because he is ignorant of his unconscious motivations.)

As Schuon has noted, the effectiveness of one’s “thinking about God” -- that is, thinking metaphysically -- always depends upon two factors, neither of which falls strictly within the realm of rationalism. First, there is the depth, breadth and profundity of the intelligence involved. Obviously there are plenty of "smart" mediocrities walking around. College campuses abound with them. But they are hardly profound, deep, or wise thinkers. For example, there are presumably thousands of musicologists with Ph.D.s, but who would pretend that their words are remotely as deep or profound as one of Beethoven’s late string quartets? There are many books on poetry, but only one Shakespeare.

The second thing that limits the mere rationalist is an arbitrary restriction on what is taken as evidence. The rationalist limits himself to empirical phenomena (or something reducible to it). But this limitation is not something that can be justified by reason. Rather, it is a pre-logical, a priori assumption.

The religious metaphysician is not hindered in this manner. He does not arbitrarily stop at the external senses, but considers other sources of information, most notably, divine revelation, the testimony of the saints and sages, one’s own personal experience, and the existence of the human subject, or Imago Dei, itself. The rationalist merely defines these things out of existence, and as a result, is unable to reason about God at all. Or we can say that his reasoning will be limited to mundane facts of common experience, not to that which transcends them. They will simply project onto God their own limited understanding, like a two-dimensional circle pronouncing on the nonexistence of spheres. Of course spheres do not exist for such a square. They can prove it with ironclad logic.

This is what happens when reason detaches itself from the intellect, which is the realm of pure, unencumbered intelligence and contemplation. Properly understood, reason is a tool of the intellect, not vice versa. Something is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true. The rationalist confuses truth with method.

One of the monumental lies of our age is that the intelligence is somehow limited, so that the realm of ultimate issues must be left to faith alone. Who said that intelligence is limited? If so, how do we know that that statement is not equally relative and limited? Who said that human beings are intelligent enough to pronounce on the limitations of intelligence? Either intelligence is in principle unlimited, or else it is arbitrary, relative, and illusory, incapable of saying anything with certitude. But the shallow contemporary thinker wants it both ways: the omnipotent ability to know where to place an absolute line between what is knowable and what is not.

But reason is not autonomous, and cannot reason without data being supplied from elsewhere. As Schuon writes, “Just as it is impossible to reason about a country of which one has no knowledge, so also it is impossible to reason about suprasensory realities without drawing upon the data which pertain to them, and which are supplied, on the one hand, by Revelation and traditional symbolism, and, on the other, by intellective contemplation, when the latter is within reach of the intelligence. The chief reproach to be leveled against modern philosophy and science is that they venture directly or indirectly on to planes which are beyond their compass, and that they operate without regard to indispensable data...”

Bottom line: I would not presume to get into an argument with Van Gogh about what he saw with his eyes. I’d rather just enjoy the depth of his vision. But if you don’t believe in depth of artistic or spiritual vision, then a Van Gogh is no better than a Thomas Kinkade purchased on QVC, and atheism is just as profound as the Upanishads.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Remystifying the World and Finding Your Center of Levity

Ah, remama when you was older than abraham and young as a babe’s I AM and the world was fresh anew, when heaven touched the earth and angels whispered their secrets through the wind, rivers, mountains and stars? I do. Who could forget?

But as we adapt to our baffling new conditions and lose our innocence, the world is increasingly demystified and we become subject to the brutal “reign of quantity” inside the prismhearse of the senses -- or the senses prolonged into mental space, i.e., materialism. Much of spiritual growth involves the reversal of this process, or what I call the remystification of the world. For if you're not amazed, you're just wrong.

As we dissipate outward, we gain a new "center of gravity" and lose the old center of levity. Returning to this eurhythmic center of groovity is the goal of life, or the final coonsummation. To put it another way -- Perry's way, to be precise -- God is always present. It is man who is absent. Which is why we say on our celestial birthday -- which is every day: Come in, open His presence, and report for karmic duty.

As we fall down & out, life at the center is exchanged for life at the periphery; or, we are booted from the spacious interior to the cramped and contracted exterior. Schuon compares it to being trapped below a sheet of ice: “Mistaking the ice that imprisons us for Reality, we do not acknowledge what it excludes and experience no desire for deliverance; we try to compel the ice to be happiness.”

As such, we inhabit an alien world built from the bottom up rather than the top down; or again, the outside in instead of inside out. But since this barren world contains no real or final Truth, it cannot satisfy the exiled soul, which begins its endless quest for greater thrills and excitement to fill the void. No wonder so many would-be humans Rage Against the Machine; the problem is they rage further down and out, where only one last barrier remains: blasphemy and destruction.

The Vital Beings are the ones who do not wish to recover their humanness and who are fully at home in this fallen world. Breaking up through the ice would involve surpassing themselves, the one thing the vital man is loath to do. For he loves -- or lusts after -- the world with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind -- which is precisely to lack heart, soul and mind, or at least to deny their provenance. It is to be “born again from below," and therefore die to the Real.

Father Rose wrote his piece on nihilism in the late fifties, prior to the vast explosion in crime caused by lenient liberal social policies and a forgiving attitude toward evil. His words proved to be quite prescient: “Crime in most previous ages had been a localized phenomenon and had apparent and comprehensible causes in the human passions of greed, lust, envy, jealousy, and the like; never has there been anything more than a faint prefiguration of the crime that has become typical of our own century, crime for which the only name is one the avant-garde today is fond of using in another Nihilist context: ‘absurd.’”

That is an excellent point, for the absurd sadism of so many of our crimes mirrors the absurdity of an art that celebrates ugliness or “authenticity” and an educational system that promulgates the lie that ultimate truth and absolute morality do not exist. When your elites spend several generations creating an absurd world, don’t be surprised if you end up with absurd people and meaningless crimes, because existence itself becomes a sort of crime against Being.

I remember studying film noir back in film school. The professor divided it into several sub-genres that evolved -- or devolved -- over the years, and which seemed to reflect the societal degeneration of which Father Rose speaks. I won’t get into a whole dissertation here, but early film noir such as Double Indemnity depicts a man who is pulled down into circumstances beyond his control due either to bad luck or some identifiable motive such as greed or lust. But in late film noir, the entire world has become corrupt, both the criminals and law enforcement. In fact, every human institution has become corrupt. In such a world, the antihero or outlaw becomes the hero with whom we identify. The corruption extends even into the family, which becomes a breeding ground for psychopaths, as in White Heat (starring James Cagney) or The Godfather. In these films, evil merely fights evil, so we inevitably find ourselves identifying with evil. There is no “good.” There are only bad people and worse ones, i.e., hypocrites.

In the Real world, Spirit is substance, matter is accident. Spirit precedes matter, the latter of which is the final precipitate of God’s involution into time and space. A corresponding world of the senses arises, but this shifting and "centerless" realm is hardly the world of reality. Rather, the uncorrupted intellect-in-the-heart (which is our own true center) knows objective reality as the Spirit, which can only be here and now, where eternity descends into time. Thus, "To transcend time is to live in the moment and to transcend space is to dwell in the center" (Perry).

As mentioned in a previous post, a counter-religious movement gained steam in the 1950’s, led by the “Beats,” by confused psychoanalysts such as N.O. Brown, and by narcissists such as Timothy Leary and Alan Watts. Just as N.O. Brown wrote that repression was the essence of pathology and that we would live in a sort of eden if we would merely express our lower instincts in an unmediated way, the new age teachers created bastardized forms of Zen and Taoism to exalt “spontaneity” and “naturalism” so as to obscure the deeper desire to stay high and sleep with coeds under a veneer of spiritualism. (Rose was actually a student of Watts at the Academy of Asian Arts in San Francisco in 1955, but soon saw through him and moved on to more serious pursuits. I do give Watts credit for that, as he did at least serve as a pointer and pique an interest in the "real thing" in some of his readers.)

The human being has an animal nature which is not by definition beneath him. It only becomes so “when man renounces his humanity and fails to humanize what he shares with the animals” (Schuon). To humanize is to spiritualize, which is to “open the natural to the supernatural whence it proceeds ontologically.” In other words, this hardly represents repression, but a recovery and actualization of our true being. If anything, the uninhibited and shameless vital man represses and denies his humanness, for one can just as easily repress what is higher as what is lower. There is a "vital center" that is located vertically, and is subject to increased "subtilization."

The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas writes of the "erotics of being," which refers to that blissful sensation of expressing oneself deeply -- or from the deepest part of oneself -- and being understood, center to center. Frankly, this is why I blog. You know, textual intercourse.

Just as sexuality, in order to be properly human, must be spiritualized, Schuon agrees that intellectual (i.e., spiritual) knowledge has an ecstatic dimension to it, if for no other reason than it is known with the heart (or mind in the heart, the “location” of the higher mind): “There is a spiritualization of sexuality just as there is, conversely, an animalization of intelligence [what we are calling the vital mind]; in the first case, what can be the occasion of a fall becomes a means of elevation; in the second case, intelligence is dehumanized and gives rise to materialism, even existentialism, hence to ‘thinking’ which is human only in its mode and of which the content is properly subhuman.”

But then, these subhuman philosophies become the justification to fall further into vital animality. Postmodern philosophies use the spirit to deny the spirit, leaving us with a wholly horizontal wasteland of matter and instinct. This intellectual operation is a complete success, even though the patient -- the human qua human -- does not survive it. A new kind of infrahuman is born, forgetful of his fall and “at ease in a world that presents itself as an end in itself, and which exempts man from the effort of transcending himself” -- which is to have shunned and bypassed our reason for being here.

The fall is nearly complete. But not before we drag this whole despiritualized existentialada down with us, which we will do tomorrow in discussing the final stage of the nihilist dialectic: destruction.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Center Right and the Peripheral Left

As mankind falls from plane to plane, we can see how realist man opens the door to vital man, for as Peggy Lee sang in one of the most world weary and cynical lyrics of all time,

If that's all there is my friends,
then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

If this is all there is, then let's have a ball. There is an age when doing so is appropriate, probably somewhat inevitable. You don’t want to prematurely disillusion a child’s innocent vitality and joyful engagement with the world. They’ll become disillusioned soon enough. If not, they will become pathetic, as they fall into the vital as a means of escape from boredem, meaninglessness, and the emptiness in the heart of one who has severed their contact with the divine planes.

Note that there is an infinite distinction between disillusionment and cynicism, for the former is to be painfully free of comforting illusions, while the latter is often to secretly long for them. I am quite sure Obama has the cynic vote locked up, demonstrating the credulousness in the heart of the cynic.

I can tell in an instant if I am dealing with a vital man, but it happens on such an intuitive level that I’ve never really put words to it. But the more you develop spiritually, the more you will recognize a gulf between yourself and this kind of person, because they will live out of a very different "center" than you do. In fact, they don't have a true center, more of a coagulated residue of the periphery. I hate to be so abstract.... How to explain....

A lot of it has to do with depth. For a two-dimensional person living in flatland, they can have no true depth. If you imagine a plane with a ball rolling over it, there will be no natural "place of rest." Rather, any resting place will be arbitrary. This is why, if you scratch the surface of these people, you will find either a kind of scattered and nonsensical world view, or else an artificially dense and hardened one that is impervious to reality (in its vertical sense). It is only a caricature of true interior coherence.

But if you add the dimension of depth, then you will see peaks and valleys in the landscape. I think of revelation as a deep valley in the mindscape, where the soul may find its genuine rest -- which is synonymous with finding our center and achieving a kind of paradoxically "dynamic serenity." You are all familiar with that feeling of when the cosmic tumblers line up and the soul snaps into place. The key, of course, is to follow that rabbit hole all the way down (or up and out), for it is at once "containing" and yet infinite and liberating.

I was just reading something along these lines in Perry's On Awakening & Remembering. When you think about it, the idea of the "center" is quite mysterious, and yet, we all implicitly recognize its existence.

In fact, human beings are the center of the creation, if considered vertically. In other words, in the scientistic view, there can be no center. But if you add the third dimension of developmental "height," then cosmic evolution results precisely in increased complexity and centration (or unity within diversity), until such a point is reached that a being emerges who can mirror the whole of creation. That would be us.

Thus, in a certain way, you could see the human being as a kind of central "point," out of which creation is projected or spreads out like a cone. We are "full" of the cosmos; which is why the cosmos is finite, while man's consciousness is infinite. The gross proceeds from the subtle. There are more potential songs, poems and paintings than there are stars in the sky.

Now that I think about it, the culture war -- of which the current political battle is just a reflection -- is really a cosmic battle over where the center is located. For leftist man there is no divine-human center. Rather, it is displaced to the collective, which creates only the false center of "opinion." But the essence of conservatism -- what we wish to conserve -- is man's transcendental center. The point of life is to live out of this center, and then pass it along to the next generation.

My generation, the boomers, declared war on this center, as they imagined that liberation would be found outside it, at the periphery. This resulted in a mass movement of radical subjectivity, or an independent herd of false centers, AKA, cosmic narcissism.

But as Perry points out, "Without the notion of the center, space and time lead to man's downfall -- space by scattering man's vital substance into a thousandfold variety of individual pursuits, and time by implacably dismantling everything he undertakes." "Liberated" from the Absolute, man is condemned to the relative, and therefore ultimate meaninglessness. The rest is just commentary, i.e., existentialism, scientism, Darwinism, deconstruction, masturbatory obamanism etc. His ascendence represents the consummation of nothing. If he makes you want to vomit, it's because he has reached the ralph nadir of American politics.

The coordinates of the center are located in the dimensions of truth, beauty, and virtue, as deployed and developed in the individual. This was the original purpose of a liberal education -- to dilate the being and allow these energies to enter and nourish the soul. But thanks the left, we have descended from the liberal uni-versity to the leftist di-versity, which encloses and deadens the soul in its petty world of grievance, radical subjectivity, and elaboration of this or that trivial detail at the expense of the whole. The entire dreary exercise is intrinsically materialistic and vitalistic, and results in the soul's gradual asphyxiation. As Perry explains,

"What is habitually concrete or real for man now is no longer the principle or the essence, but the materiality of the world which provides him with a dense or even an inverted sense of objectivity. And therefore, by a kind of vengefully compensatory reflex against the suffocation resulting in this opacity of reference points, subjectivity has parallely assumed an omnipotence whereby individual opinion becomes the de facto authority on all issues."

While the center is fluid and "alive," the periphery is associated with density and putrefaction. Note, for example, the invincible metaphysical density of our scientistic jester, which he will again demonstrate to us today. In its own weird way it is important, because it confirms everything we are discussing here.

It is as if leftist man first reduces the world to materiality, which in turn amplifies his most primitive way of knowing the world, which then ushers in his most base manner of living, i.e., Vital Man -- or a man not even worthy of his own manhood, for he refuses to ascend to it, or live up to himself. Reality recedes from him like a dream, and he dwells instead in the fantasy land of vital materialism. He will then spend his life on a fool's errand, searching for his missing parts where they can never be found. At best, he can experience fleeting pleasures, which give a pseudo-sense of the infinite while they are occurring. He never thinks of tracing them up to their source.

Incidentally, it does not matter whether a person is outwardly “religious,” because there are plenty of vital types who get involved in religion -- and not just exoteric religion. Even creepier are the vital beings who get involved in esoteric religion, for then you start to touch on the demonic -- the odious Deepak Chopra being a quintessential example.

Father Rose agrees that the fall into vitalism is at the heart of the reverse utopias of the left, which immamentize Christian hope and try to create a “vital heaven” on earth. For if higher truth is eclipsed as a result of “realism,” then leftism results from the flight from despair that such an erroneous and subhuman metaphysic entails.

Bear in mind that the spiritual impulse remains (as it must), but now it is no longer guided by traditional channels. It becomes “unhinged” so to speak. As Father Rose points out, “there is no form of Vitalism that is not naturalistic,” which again goes to the many pseudo-religions that are an expression of vitalism.

Here again, if you are remotely sensitive, you will notice this with regard to most “new age” spirituality, which is vital to the core, a cauldron of subjective fantasies, a “rootless eclecticism” of half-understood fragments, earth worship, narcissistic "realizationism," and sometimes frank satanism (even if unwitting). In reality, these pseudo-religions are “a cancer born of nihilism.” Again, Obama has their vote locked up, for the last thing a new-ager will endorse is reality.

Oops. Flat out of deep time. To be continued...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Darwinian Monkeys and the Plunge into Matter (11.15.11)

Continuing from yesterday’s post, we are tracing the dialectic of nihilism in the postmodern world through the stages of liberalism --> realism --> vitalism --> nihilistic destruction, as outlined by the heavy metal Orthodox Father Seraphim Rose. I wouldn't recommend Rose if you prefer easy listening, MOR, pop theology. He always cranks it up to 11.

Yesterday I mentioned in a comment that the Tyler Cycle reminded me of the Wheel of Fortune Card in Meditations on the Tarot. What did I mean by this? I don't know. Let's find out.

In case you can't make out the action in the card, Unknown Friend (UF) writes that it consists of "three figures in animal form of which two (the monkey and the dog) turn with the wheel, whilst the third (the sphinx) is beyond the movement of the wheel; he is seated on a platform above the wheel." One way to look at it is to imagine that the dog is a troll while the monkey is Dupree -- or is it the other way around? Either way, the sphinx is Petey in Upper Tonga, laughing at both of them.

UF continues: "The monkey descends in order to rise again; the dog rises in order to descend again." Without the sphinx above, the wheel "evokes the idea of a vain and absurd game." Which indeed life is in the absence of the transcendent "higher third" of which we have spoken in the past. The existence of this higher third is without a doubt the most shocking feature of this cosmos, and renders any form of materialism utterly moot. The conquest and colonization of this transcendent position is the true vocation of man, but obviously the vast majority of men prefer the dog and monkey show, as it informs every page of nocturnal metahistory:

The fall of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy.... Dimb! He stottered from the latter. Damb! he was a dud. Dumb!.... Phall if you but will, rise you must.... And even if Humpty shell fall frumpty times as awkward again, there'll be iggs for the brekkers come to mournhim.... --Finnegans Wake

UF goes on to enunciate the orthodox Raccoon position, noting that there are two cosmic movements that will determine whether your life will be a wheel of misfortune or a merry gOround: "The one is based on the idea of the Fall, i.e., degeneration and descent from above below." Importantly -- and this is a coonerstone of the whole edifarce, so listen up -- "According to this class of ideas" -- which, of course, is from the vertical perspective -- "it is not the monkey who is the ancestor of man, but rather, on the contrary, it is man who is the ancestor of the monkey," the latter of which "is a degenerate and degraded descendent." After all, if there is evolution, then by definition there is devolution.

If you have difficulty with this cooncept, just remember the self-evident fact that, just as God is not in the cosmos, but rather, vice versa, man is not in the world. Rather, the world is essentially -- or a priori -- in the human soul. It's all here, baby, just waiting to be discovered -- even atheism (but only in the devolving movement from man to monkey).

"The other class of ideas comprises the idea of evolution, i.e., progress transforming from below above. According to this category of ideas, it is the most primitive entity -- from the point of view of consciousness as well as biological structure -- which is the origin of all beings," and "which is their common ancestor."

So the Wheel of Fortune depicts a quasi-human entity who is on the way down. In contrast, the sphinx "represents the plane and stage of being from which the monkey is moving and towards which the dog is approaching." Now, "Does not the monkey lend itself marvelously to serve as a symbol of the animalization which is effected at the expense of the Angelic and human elements of the prototype being?"

Yes, of course. Man is poised between the two extremes of existence, the spiritual and the material. We are drawn by vertical memoirs of the former and pulled by passions for the latter. Schuon has written that man is "condemned to the absolute," but I prefer to think of it as having a passion for wholeness and a gnostalgia for eternity. The one is aspiration, the other inspiration, or exhalation and inhalation. Our very breath is the rhythm of eternity.

An insurmountable problem with reductionistic Darwinism is that it only deals with half the circle, which ignores "the ultimate as well as the effective cause of the whole process of evolution," without which it is unintelligible (to the awakened intellect, not to tenured primates who are falling up the academic ladder). Darwinism will always be unintelligible in so far as it "refuses to accept the other half of the circle, that of involution."

Understood esoterically, evolution is the mystery of "Fall, perdition, redemption and salvation." As such, you must understand that that Darwinism really is fully intelligible to people such as our scientistic jester, which he never tires of reminding us. Please believe him. He is a passenger of evolution, not a witness, for to witness it is to have transcended it -- i.e., to have realized the full circle in the flesh. But of course it is an open circle, so that it constitutes the spiraling ontological and temporal structure of being. Which is why I noted in my book -- from which I earned $59.93 last year -- thank you very much freeloaders on this blog -- that one must pent and repent as necessary, or something to that effect.

Now back to the dialectics of nihilism. Let us stipulate that religion deals with absolute truth, or at least purports to do so. In the end, in the absence of absolute truth, the only option left open to one is nihilism, because nihilism is simply the doctrine of relativity drawn out to its logical conclusion. An honest nihilist such as Nietzsche realizes this: “God is dead and therefore man becomes God and everything is possible.” In the final analysis, the existence of God is the only thing that prevents honest human beings from inevitably coming to Nietzsche’s stark conclusion: “I am God and all is permitted.” Nietzsche also knew full well that once the appeal to absolute truth is vitiated, raw power comes in to fill the void.

As a brief aside, we are all aware of how terrified the left is of religious Christians. I was thinking about this yesterday, and it occurred to me that this speaks volumes about the nihilistic temperament. For to be truly religious is to be humble, to be humble is to pray, and to pray is to think on one’s knees. While I am not literally on my knees as I type these posts, I can assure you that I am figuratively. But this is the one thing you cannot imagine a leftist doing. Can you picture a truly arrogant nihilist of the left -- say, Randi Rhodes or Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann -- ever humbling themselves before God prior to a show and asking for the light of truth and the ability to express it? Of course not. Otherwise they wouldn't conduct themselves the way they do. The essence of being fallen is the pride that comes with one’s (fantasized) independence from God.

Scientific or logical truth is always relative truth. Thanks to Gödel, we know that there is no system of logic that can fully account for itself, or that can be both consistent and complete. Rather, completeness is always purchased at the price of consistency, while a rigidly consistent system will be woefully incomplete -- say, a consistent program of materialism or determinism. Such a philosophy will leave most of reality -- including the most interesting parts -- outside its purview. This is why Marxism is such an inadequate theory. In explaining everything, it explains nothing. But at least it’s rigidly consistent, like Darwinism.

But if there is no absolute there is only the relative, incoherent though that philosophy may be (for the existence of relativity, or degrees of being, proves the absolute, since the relative can only be assessed and judged -- or even perceived -- in light of the absolute). In the face of the the absolute we are easily able to judge various cultures on the basis of their proximity to the ideal. But once we have destroyed the absolute and descended into relativity, then what necessarily follows is multiculturalism, moral relativism, deconstruction, “perception is reality,” etc. All cultures become equally cherished, with the exception of the culture that believes some cultures are better. All truths are privileged with the exception of Truth itself. Belief in Truth itself is "authoritarian" or "fascist."

In the relative world of nihilism, I am necessarily all. The world literally revolves around me, since my truth is absolute. The ultimate questions have no answers except for those I might provide. This is why leftist academia has become so corrupt, for how can it not be “corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth?” “It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance” (Rose).

The emptiness of relativism evokes the next stage in the nihilist dialectic, realism. This is an entirely new kind of vulgar realism, for, prior to modernity, it had referred to any philosophy which affirmed the self-evident reality of transcendental categories such as truth, love, and beauty. In short. it testified to the reality of the vertical. But this new type of debased realism entirely excluded the vertical, and affirmed that only the horizontal realm was real -- that is, the material, external, and quantifiable world. In one fallen swoop, a philosophy of unreality became the paradigmatic lens through which mankind was now to view the world.

My book begins with a quote from Richard Weaver: “The modernistic searcher after meaning may be likened to a man furiously beating the earth and imagining that the finer he pulverizes it, the nearer he will get to the riddle of existence. But no synthesizing truths lie in that direction. It is in the opposite direction that the path must be followed.” Nevertheless, it is in this downward direction that our fall inevitably takes us.

Here philosophy is officially replaced by modern misosophy: hatred of wisdom. It is a childishly naive ideology that confuses what is most obvious with what is most true and what is most fundamental with what is most real. The cosmos is officially turned upside-down and inside-out, bizarrely elevating insentient matter to the the ultimate. This is certainly intellectual nihilism, but we have a ways to go before we hit bottom, which we will proceed to do in my next two posts.

As Father Rose writes, “Worship of fact is by no means the love of truth; it is, as we have already suggested, parody. It is the presumption of the fragment to replace the whole; it is the proud attempt to build a Tower of Babel, a collection of facts, to reach to the heights of truth and wisdom from below. But truth is only attained by bowing down and accepting what is received from above. All the pretended ‘humility’ of Realist scholars and scientists... cannot conceal the pride of their collective usurpation of the throne of God...”

Such an individual “becomes a fanatical devotee of the only reality that is obvious to the spiritually blind: this world.” Human beings are reduced to races or classes, spiritual love to animal sex, higher needs to lower desires, while the earth is elevated to Goddess, the dramatic to the significant, the celebrity to the important. If there is only this world, I’m going to get mine and have a good time. A new kind of human monster is born, and takes his place a bit lower than the beasts. It is Vital Man, whom we shall discuss in the next post.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Descent of Liberalism: Free Falling Isn't Free

This is an extremely busy week, so I barely have time to post. Therefore I may have to rewordgitate some old material. Among other things, I have to rapidly complete my bi-annual continuing education, which I always leave until the last minute. Time once again to be re-indoctrinated into the wonderful world of cultural competence and transgendered sensitivity.

I've been meaning to comment on a comment made by Kepler Sings about a month ago, about the devolution of the Democrat party, as measured by the deterioration of their presidential candidates over the past 75 years. With the ascendance of Obama, the rot is nearly complete, as he will represent the first outright leftist president in our nation's history.

Kepler noted that "If we start from Roosevelt you first have people that wanted security and comfort during the great depression. They decidedly looked to a father figure in Franklin D. Roosevelt. But as the secular humanists take over the educational systems and begin to feed their pupae the same mono-diet, you get Kennedy."

Despite his obvious deficiencies, Roosevelt was at least still a man. Not only was his wartime leadership exemplary, but I cut him some slack economically, because macroeconomics simply wasn't as well understood at the time. True, his instincts were all wrong. Still, it's like blaming an 18th century doctor for applying leeeches, when that was simply the state of medicine at the time.

Kepler continues: "Now, Kennedy is the raffish cad of an older brother." He is not so much a father figure as a sort of glamorous Hollywood type. He represents the inauguration of the television age, as image begins to displace reality. Kepler writes that with Kennedy, "Liberals are not looking so much for an authority, but the beginning of the anti-authority, presaging the teenage rebellion years."

Then, "the seventies bring McGovern, and full blown rebellion... ahh, blessed adolescent indulgence and liberation!" This is followed by the appallingly weak Carter, by which time "liberals have now learned to disguise their liberalism, much as those that refuse to grow up must strive to disguise their Peter Pan dreams of perpetual childhood. Give it the folksy peanut-farmer latex coat."

Then on to Clinton, the undisguised adolescent, and now Obama, who doesn't even seem adolescent to me, just nothing. Not only is he of indeterminate developmental age, but of ambiguous "gender" as well. He has a pseudo-adult mind that can only recycle half-understood slogans he learned in college, and he seems devoid of any manly virtues at all. Like Clinton, he can only imitate them.

But of course, there is no such thing as nothing, only a faux nothing into which demonic energies rush in to fill the void. Which reminds me of a Woody Allen film, in which he is laying on the analyst's couch and says that he's feeling a void inside. The analysts asks, "what kind of void?" Allen responds, "an empty void."

So, just what kind of nothing is nObama and the idiolatry he embodies?

In order to answer this question, let's return to jesterjeer, when I did a series of posts on the psychophysics of falling and the dialectics of nihilism.

One’s political philosophy, whether one acknowledges it or not, is going to depend upon one’s conception of human nature. And if your conception of human nature is wrong, then your philosophy is going to be warped and your system of governance is going to be dysfunctional. I believe leftism is rooted in a naive and faulty conception of human nature, which is why it does not work and can never work. It is not just wrong, but a cosmic error. It is literally an insult to existence.

A while back, Dennis Prager noted that socialist countries are in the process of dying precisely because, within a couple of generations, they produce a new kind of man: indolent, dependent upon the government, spiritually empty, essentially nihilistic. Eventually a tipping point will be reached in which there will not be enough productive people to support the unproductive ones, and that will be the end of Europe as we know it. Note that phrase, a new kind of man, as it is an important point. Genuine religion also produces a "new kind of man." For example, in Colossians 3:9, Paul speaks of putting off "the old man with his deeds" for "the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him."

Now, not only is your political philosophy dependent upon your explicit -- or more likely, implicit -- conception of human nature, but once in place, your philosophy will produce radically different kinds of human beings. We don’t have to look very far to see how this has played out in the United States, for example, with respect to all of the Oh, Great! Society programs that had the cumulative effect of taking a wrecking ball to the black family, leaving it much worse off than before government got involved. One of the last great liberals, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, saw this coming in the 1960s, writing about the “tangle of pathology” that afflicted urban culture. In fact, the liberal meme of “blaming the victim” was first applied to Moynihan.

One of the central divides in the culture war is the question of whether or not mankind is “fallen.” Actually that’s not quite right, because for at least half the country, the whole idea of mankind being “fallen” is precisely nonsense. To the extent that they give a moment’s thought to the question, it is only to mock and dismiss it. Modern secularists are way too sophisticated to ever believe in such crude mythology. What they forget is that mythology is not about events of the past that never occurred, but archetypal structures of the present from which man can only pretend to escape -- or to ignore at the expense of his humanness, precisely.

We all understand that revelation contains timeless wisdom and objective metaphysics that must be “unpacked.” This can only be done through a combination of preparation and grace. No amount of study or of intelligence alone will help you finally “get” religion in the absence of grace. In fact, “getting it” is a fine example of the operation of grace. In this sense, the uncreated intellect -- that part of our being that may know divine truth -- is itself a supernaturally natural revelation of God (as Schuon has expressed it). In other words, understanding God is proof of God. "Truth cannot be told so as to be understood and not believed" (Blake).

There are so many different ways to consider the question of our fallenness. Before he became Father Seraphim Rose (1934-1981), Eugene Rose began work on a book that he never finished, entitled The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God. He completed only one chapter, on what he called “stages of the nihilist dialectic” (later published under the title Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age), tracing modern man’s fall into the abyss of liberal nihilism. Because in the end, that is what the culture war is really about: objective truth vs. nihilism, subjectivism, and hollow cynicism, which all amount to the same thing.

Rose saw our descent as happening in four stages that he called 1) liberalism, 2) realism, 3) vitalism, and 4) destruction. The first of these, liberalism, is already a sort of “passive nihilism,” because it opens the door to everything that follows -- it is a “breeding ground of the more advanced stages of nihilism.” Why is that? Partly because, under the guise of “tolerance,” liberalism slowly begins to distance itself from, and no longer take seriously, the very ideas and traditions that made liberalism possible. In fact, here is a useful little graph that I stole from American Digest, called the Tyler Cycle -- very similar to our Gods-->Kings-->Men-->Clowns-->Chaos post of the other day:

Look at the rhetorical chasm between the great classical liberal thinkers who founded America and the petty, small-minded leftist liberals who rule today.

“We hold these truth to be self-evident.” That phrase alone would be evidence enough to deny tenure to an aspiring political scientist or philosopher. It gets worse. In the Declaration of Independence, God is explicitly named four times: he is the One who has endowed human beings with unalienable rights that no government may trespass; he is the author of the laws of nature (meaning that our intelligent founders took “intelligent design” for granted); he is the “Supreme Judge of the World” and therefore the source of our objective morality (i.e., the founders were not modern liberal moral relativists); and he is “Divine Providence," the source and end of all our worldly activities.

This kind of intemperate language would never be tolerated by today’s liberals. God? Judgment? Absolute truth? Intelligent design? Objective morality? Reliance upon God? These white European males who founded America were theofascists, just like President Bush.

It's not just leftists, as most human beings do not actually crave liberty, so leftism is really a kind of default setting on our human nature, which must be transcended. As a matter of fact, history will demonstrate the opposite -- that human beings by and large find liberty to be repellant, and much prefer security. This is the difference between classical liberals and modern liberals, and it is also the difference between Europe and America. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says that the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. True enough. But what about all those places where the Spirit isn’t? There you will neither find liberty nor the desire for it. You will find the superficially opposite poles of slavery and license, which amount to the same thing as they pertain to the soul.

The modern liberal, in his descent into nihilism, values security over liberty, equality over freedom, “truths” over Truth. FDR, that patron saint of modern liberalism, unveiled a host of new “self-evident truths” that had somehow eluded our founders in a famous speech.

Roosevelt argued for a new definition of "security," that is, "economic security, social security, moral security." Classical liberalism, which had always been associated with negative liberties -- i.e., the right to be left alone by the government -- was to be replaced by a new vision of positive liberty that now forms the essence of modern liberalism. It is no longer real liberty, because now it is dispensed by the state and no longer abides in the individual. The government's job was now to even keep us free of fear, and “Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want." But since “want” is literally infinite, this sets up the need for a government that is infinite in its powers. For as the adage goes, any time the government does something for you, it does something to you. Since it now proposes to do everything for you...

Look at the current economic crisis. Liberals wanted to do something for people who could not qualify for home loans. Now comes part 2, in which they decide this week what to do to the rest of us.

In effectuating this new promise of security to all American citizens, Roosevelt argued for a new tax policy "which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate." Unreasonable profits. Obviously we are still having that debate today, only under Obama's guise of "economic justice." What is an unreasonable profit, and why is it unreasonable? Here you see how the anti-libertarian, pseudo-religious language of Marxism has insinuated itself into our discourse, further accelerating the Fall of liberal man: we "cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people -- whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth -- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.”

Sunstein continues: “At that point, the speech became spectacularly ambitious. Roosevelt looked back, not entirely approvingly, to the framing of the Constitution. At its inception, the nation had protected ‘certain inalienable political rights -- among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures'.... But over time, those rights had proved inadequate, as ‘we have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.’”

Comes now Leftist Man with a new revelation and a new Bill of Rights:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation.

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home.

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

The right to a good education.

Sounds good doesn’t it? No, better than good. It sounds positively utopian! Because now, with my new Economic Bill of Rights in hand, my absence of responsibility and my victimhood are complete. The Government owes me a meaningful, well-paying job, fairness, a house, free medical care, an absence of fear, and full protection from my own bad decisions throughout life!

Obviously, many people want that new deal. But it is the quintessence of a Faustian bargain, in which you have traded God for government. You are now Horizontal Man. You have fallen all the way down.

Wait, that’s not quite right. We still have three more stages to go before man’s degeneracy is complete. To be continued.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bill Maher: Bad Theologian, Worse Comedian

Seelambs! Is a prophet without honor in his own homily? Lesson! My yokes are easy, my words enlight.

So Bill Maher thinks religion is ridiculous, or worthy of ridicule. Which is no doubt true of some religions -- e.g., Scientology, or Obama's insane Trinity United Church, or global warming -- and some religious followers.

But if I were so inclined, I could easily produce a documentary -- after all, I did attend film school -- in which I conduct man-on-the street interviews of Hollywood celebrities, MSM journalists, and tenured dullards, and make them look even more foolish (since they have so much further to fall, at least in their own eyes) by innocently quizzing them about the actual metaphysical principles embodied in authentic revelation.

For example, I might ask Bill Maher to explain his position on the ontological arguments for God, or I might ask a philosophical bonehead such as Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris to elaborate on the metacosmic significance of truth-bearing primates. But why bother? What would be the point, except to demonstrate that spiritually untutored people are cosmically stupid and that man's fallen nature is irrevocable in the absence of grace? That's not funny, it's just pathetic.

If you go to the official website for the film, it it prominently linked to a site called, which features hilariously subtle satire such as the following:

"Christianity began in the year 0001; coincidentally, the same year a carpenter’s wife named Mary had gotten mysteriously knocked up. Figuring that he could be worse off than taking sloppy seconds to the Creator, Joseph hung around until the birth of her baby, whom she named Jesus.

"Joseph seemingly raised Jesus as his own son, mostly for the baby shower gifts that were bestowed upon the family (you should never look gift frankincense in the mouth), and tried to teach him the family trade. While Jesus never showed much of an aptitude for nailing pieces of wood together, he eventually found that he was quite good other things, like healing the sick, walking on water, and changing water into wine –- all of which made for good back-up careers, and entertaining party tricks."

I give wide latitude to blasphemy, so long as it is actually funny. However, if you strike at a king you must kill him; and if you make a joke about God, it had better kill. The ultimate comedic challenge is to make God laugh, which is the inner meaning of the sacred "guffaw-ha!" experience of higher coonology. If instead God just kind of stares at you in stony silence, or gives you one of those awkward courtesy chuckles, you've missed the mark. Big time. You had better give up while you're ahead. Don't test his mercy, like Tom Arnold.

So God has no fundamental opposition to a film that ridicules bad religion. Why would he? For one thing, we only know about bad religion because good religion exists. Obviously God has a highly developed sense of humor. We know this because we are created in his image, and this is the source of our otherwise inexplicable sense of humor. Not for nothing are human and humor etymologically related, at least in my imagination. But in knowing this, we must maintain dantengly high standards for our divine comedy, for the same reason that, in knowing that beauty and truth flow from the Creator, we do our best to maintain some quality control over the realms they embody.

For example, the infamous Piss Christ is not merely blasphemous. Rather, even worse, it is just bad and heavy-handed art. It is a sin against beauty, which is what specifically constitutes its blasphemy. Nothing that ugly could be intrinsically true, just as nothing as substantially beautiful as Christianity could be essentially false. A gifted scientist will also implicitly realize the indivisible relationship between truth and beauty, for it is one of those things that simply "must be," given the conditions of existence.

Divine substance, spiritual essence, intrinsic truth -- these are the things that religion is here to convey. But so too is great art. It is not here to memorialize contingency and ugliness, since they can well take care of themselves, and have no need of artists to remind us that they exist. We don't need the art of Yoko Ono to remind us that her ass is a hideous thing to behold, any more than we need Bill Maher to remind us that the dreary architecture of his soul* makes Yoko's ass look like Grace Kelly. Rather, the artist specifically swims against that infrahuman tide, toward the metacosmic source of beauty, just as the true philosopher resists the pull of falsehood and the genuine comedian resists the temptation of facile mockery. (*TW: Becker & Fagen.)

Again, Bill Maher is mocking the ultimate principle. But in so doing, he is being intellectually -- and worse yet, comedically -- dishonest. If you're going to take on God, you don't do it by interviewing morons just to show us how smugly self-satisfied you are. We know that already. Bring us your A-game. Take on some spiritual adults. I'll debate Maher any time, any day, so long as it is in print. That way he will have to prove that he can even construct a philosophically coherent sentence before moving on to bigger things, let alone the Biggest Thing. In this regard, if you check out his writing at huffpo, you will see that it is nearly as appallingly stupid as their other religious expert, the apparently brain-damaged Deepak Chopra's.

Bill Maher would never take up this challenge, because his greatest fear is of looking like the idiot that he unconsciously knows himself to be. His entire persona seems to be a narcissistic false self erected to conceal something else. Generally speaking, in psychoanalytic terms, contempt binds one to an object one secretly idealizes and longs for, so that his contempt for God and religion may well be just the visible side of some sort of deep disappointment or resentment. Don't get me wrong -- there is such a thing a righteous contempt. But that is the province of righteous men, a category from which Maher is a priori excluded.

If I were going to joke about Mr. Jehoviality or kid the keter, I would want it to be appropriately hyperdimensional and holographic, in conformity to its object, certainly not Bill Maher's comedic equivalent of Carrot Top making fun of Gallagher. Perhaps something like this sein language:

Unknown origin prior to time and space, fount of all being, unborn thus undying, beginning and end of all impossibility, empty plenum and inexhaustible void. Who is? I AM. A wake. A lone. Hallow, noumena!

Or, In etherworlds: Once upon a timaeus, One's up in a timeless without a second to spore and noplace to bang anyway. The abbasolute first day, before eve or any other middling relativities. Only himsoph with nowhere to bewrong, hovering over the waters without a kenosis. Vishnu were here, but just His lux, God only knows only God, and frankly, ishvara monotheotonous -- no one beside him, no nous, same old shunyada yada yada.... 'Elo, him, what samadhi you? Stop deidreaming and gita life, bodhi! Make sefiromthing of yoursaleph! (I don't have time to provide links to what all these things mean. If in doubt, just check out the footnoetics.)

Etc. Look, it made me laugh, and I like to think it gave God a chuckle. But more importantly, my agent got the jokes -- and thereby became my agent -- which is probably the only reason you and I are here sharing this moment. Had that not happened, the Cosmos would never have come into being. Badda bing, badda BANG!

In this regard, I was obviously influenced by Joyce, whose Finnegans Wake is filled with clever jokes about God. But in order to make these kinds of transdimensional jokes, you really have to know what you're talking about, and Joyce was trained as a Jesuit. While he may have left the faith, it clearly never left him, and it always informed his thinking. Indeed, it is precisely why he could think so deeply about things. To paraphrase his alter-ego, Stephen Dedalus, why on earth would one leave a coherent absurdity for an incoherent one?

For example, Finnegans Wake is deeply informed by the recurring cycle of fall and rebirth, or death and resurrection, on nearly every page, presented in a linguistically hyperdense but bawdily humorous manner, such as Comeday morm and, O, you're vine! Sendday's eve and, ah, you're vinegar! Hahahaha, Mister Funn, you're going to be fined again! In this one line you have a hint of the humor to come (Comeday), with the sweet wine of youth turning to the sour vinegar of age, or fun turning to fall, or Eve being the agent of man's fall, or the circular O of the resurrection, in which once again you're vine.

That is how you make fun of religion, my friends, in such a way that to get the punch line is to understand God. Suffice it to say that Bill Maher has neither the comedic nor intellectual chops to pull that off.