On Cultivating the Gene for Transcending Your Genes
As mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm in the midst of reading a relatively new and state-of-the-art book on human origins entitled Before the Dawn.
The book is full new factual information, which is always good. However, it is written from the perspective of a primitive New York Timesman (the author is a NYT science reporter), so that all of the facts are implausibly skewhorned into a bland and predictable materialistic paradigm. Therefore, there's a bit of inherent frustration in reading the book, because the writer is an unquestioned devotee of the Darwinian faith, so no matter what anomalies he discovers or mysteries he unearths, the simplistic a priori explanation is always the same: it's all genetics.
As always, all-powerful "randomness" is the omnipotent God-of-the-saps for the metaphysically blind. It explains everything, therefore, nothing. It is a perfect example of what I wrote the other day about the "demystification of the world," and the cardiomyopia that results. You know, hardening of he categories. Matherosclerosis.
But that's okay. Facts are facts, no matter how the simple devotees of scientistic magic or canard-carrying queeglings may try to spin them.
It reminds me of what an inebriated but wise friend of mine once said in the midst of enjoying a certain spirited musical performance in the American negro tradition: "If you're not dancing, you're wrong!" This is how I feel about the cosmos: if you're not in awe, you're just wrong. The world is charged with the grandeur of God (Hopkins). And if you intentionally try to eliminate the awe and the grandeur, well, you're like one of those Saudi pleasure-police who arrest people for having fun just because they've long since forgotten how.
Now, even in reading just the first few pages of this book, I can well understand how a traditionally religious person might regard the entire Darwinian enterprise (in its needlessly reductionistic bonehead form) as intrinsically luciferian, and toss the book aside.
But this is something the Raccoon should never do, for our perspective is both wider and deeper -- not to say, higher -- than that of mere science. Fitting science into a religious metaphysic should pose no difficulty whatsoever, or it's not much of a religion, is it? If science can't fit comfortably into a modest mansion or even double-wide trailer home of the Creator, what kind of God is that?
Two of my favorite pneumanauts were at bloggerheads on this issue. Frithjof Schuon had no use for evolution and rejected it outright. But Sri Aurobindo had no problem at all with it, perhaps even going too far in the opposite direction (as was true of Hegel). In his case, he had a very different personal history than Schuon, which no doubt accounts for their divergent outlooks. In the case of Schuon, he was a deeply alienated European who could not find spiritual sustenance in the decadent environment of 1920's Europe, and therefore looked to the East (including Eastern Christianity, Vedanta and Sufism).
In the case of Aurobindo, he was from exactly the sort of traditional culture that Schuon idealized (India), but received a marvelous education in the West, at Cambridge. This put Aurobindo in the rather unique position (at that time, anyway) of seeing how the decadence of India actually obscured the perennial message at the heart of the Vedanta. He knew that India needed to move forward, not backward, in order to actualize its spiritual destiny and manifest its inner potential. You might say that he saw how India needed to become more Westernized -- i.e., more focused on the material plane -- while the West needed to become more "interior" to balance its relentless exteriorizing dynamic.
This is exactly how I see it. I believe our conquest of the the external frontier must be followed by an exploration and colonization of the interior horizon. It is truly the "final frontier": vertical globalization.
And as a matter of fact, this is exactly what has been going on in the West -- albeit in fits and starts and with a lot of wrong turns -- since the time of the closing of the American frontier in the late 19th century. Just at that point, there was an "interior turn" throughout the West. We see this in art, literature, music, psychoanalysis, and the sudden interest in mysticism, theosophy and the occult (recall that Toots Mondello founded the Bensonhurst Raccoons around this time). Afterwards, the evolution of this inward turn was disrupted by cataclysmic world-historical events, including World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and Toots' incarceration.
Thus, it is no coincidence that we began to see this interiorizing impulse reappear as if from nowhere in the late '50s and '60s, but people such as Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley were just a continuation of what had really gotten underway with the American transcendentalists such as Emerson. Obviously, Emerson can still be read with great profit today, as many of his observations were quite prophetic and remain entirely fresh and contemporary, to say the least. Indeed, viewed from a cosmic-historical standpoint, Emerson is hardly "in the past." He is just yesterday. Or perhaps just up ahead.
The whole new age movement, which emerged out of 1960s style pagan spirituality, represents a false and intrinsically wrong turn in our evolution. It takes certain truths and distorts them, dabbling in things that are not necessarily harmful "from above" but "from below."
In other words, most of the new age blathering that goes by the name of "integralism" is nothing more than a co-opting of half-understood spiritual ideas for the purposes of narcissistic inflation (i.e., the lower seizing the higher instead of being transformed by it). These various approaches are spiritually vacuous to the Raccoon because they are generally detached from any timeless revelation and any true source of grace, without which one can only turn around in circles and exalt the self in compensation. "Followers" are required in order to create a space in which infantile omnipotence is projected onto the master, which then creates a belowback of pseudo-grace. This is the trick of the new age careerists. A normal person would be nauseated by such adulation.
My fellow 'Coons, do you think for one second that Dear Leader couldn't do this if he were possessed of a black heart? Naturally I could not do it with you, because you would see through me and flee in the opposite direction with vomit bags billowing in the wind. But I know full well that I am equipped with the minimum amount of charisma (I mean, more than Deepak!) -- if not the requisite sociopathy and narcissism (far less than Deepak) -- to open my little window in the New Age Traveling Salivation Show and promise things I cannot deliver -- to fleece all the Nobodies who want a relationship with an idealized Somebody in order to not feel like the former.
But the Somebody also needs to surround himself with Nobodies in order to not feel like the latter, which is what he actually is. As you may have noticed, only Somebodies are allowed to be Raccoons. Very substantial Somebodies, not fragile Nobodies. Needless to say, I have no desire to surround myself with Nobodies. Many people come here for the spiritual Somebody-ish comments of readers, not just my posts.
Back to the point of this post. Before the Dawn broadly confirms a number of important points discussed in chapter 3 of One Cosmos, Psychogenesis. Instead of looking just at the archeological evidence, Before the Dawn discusses all of the new research made possible by the Human Genome Project. The data can be studied in all kinds of clever and innovative ways in order to deduce various conclusions about our origins.
The book confirms the fact that there is a vast difference between "anatomically modern" and "behaviorally modern" human beings, the former of which appear as early as 200,000 years ago. And yet, truly human behavior does not emerge until as recently as 45,000 years ago. And it emerged quite suddenly, in such a way that it defies any traditional Darwinan explanation.
In fact, many traditional paleo-anthropologists reject the sudden emergence of our humanness, but only because their religion (strict Darwinism) makes it impossible. Therefore, they argue that the transition must have been gradual, even though this is not what the archaeological evidence shows. What do you call someone who maintains a belief system despite contrary evidence? I forget.
Anyway, genetics comes to the rescue, because the author of Before the Dawn says that Darwinian evolution must be able to occur much more rapidly than any of us had previously realized. Therefore, whether the transition from ape to human was slow or sudden, it's all good. Darwinism explains it.
What do you call a philosophy that is so elastic that it accounts for opposite scenarios? "I was for the gradual descent of man before I was against it." "Global cooling is a result of global warming."
You will never hear it come out of my mouth that genes are unimportant things. However, the author makes the point that our DNA is 99% identical to that of a chimpanzee. Oddly, he uses this statistic to emphasize the importance of genes, when to me it would appear to highlight just the opposite. I say this because a moment's reflection will reveal to you that the ontological gulf between a human being and any animal is actually infinite -- as infinite as the gap between truth and its countless alternatives.
Put it this way: how would you characterize the distance between an animal, whose every behavior is genetically determined, and a being who has transcended his genetic program to such an extent that he is able to pick and choose those aspects of it that he would prefer to ignore?
Again, being that he is a primitive New York Timesman, the author doesn't give any serious thought to religion, but dismisses it with a passing observation buried in a sentence to the effect that it was selected (of course) by our genes "as a means of social cohesion." If so, one can only wonder how he and all of his fellow Homo crapians among the secular left managed to escape this gene's influence?
Again, he seems to be arguing that genes are all-important, but not so important that you can't simply ignore them if you wish. In fact, you can even have contempt for your own genetic religious proclivities (projected onto others, of course), which is a rather odd thing. Ever heard of a chimp who had contempt for his banana?