Monday, May 25, 2009

On Remembering our Heroic and Selfless Witnesses to the Transcendent

Memorial Day -- like any holy-day -- is not a remembrance of things past, but of things present; or, a recollection of people and events of the past for the purpose of re-membering and reuniting ourselves with the eternal. It is a remembrance of things surpassed -- or of the fixed stars that transcend and illuminate our lives below, and without which we would surely lose our way.

Specifically, it is an occasion for vertical recollection of a divine archetype that is present now -- can only be present now -- but requires the substance of ritual in order to vividly apprehend and "renew" it. On a holy-day, time "collapses," so we draw closer to the archetype and to the celestial realm where it abides; for example, on any given Christmas, one is "closer" to the birth of Christ than someone was on a random July day in 500AD.

We remember our heroes because they illuminate the eternal realm of the heroic, a realm that we must treasure and venerate if we are to survive as a culture. Not only is the hero a transcendent archetype, but he is only heroic because he has risked all in defense of another permanent archetype -- truth, liberty, beauty, the good, etc. Obviously one is not a hero if one gives one's life to falsehood or tyranny, no matter how "selfless" (e.g., Islamists).

In the absence of this objectively true formulation, neither the hero nor his sacrifice make any sense at all. They are foolish, rash, even absurd. This is why to "deconstruct," say, George Washington, is not just an attack on the father of our country, but on fatherhood, heroism, strength, courage, truth, liberty, and the realm of the transcendent in general (i.e., the Real) from which they all flow.

Last year Will left a lengthy comment that touches on many of the things I wanted to write about this morning:

"So I was thinking, in what way is Memorial Day larger than it is -- as all spiritual ceremonies truly are? Well, as has been pointed out here, it's obvious that Memorial Day is a day for celebrating, honoring, remembering what heroism really means -- courageous self-sacrifice in the name of higher ideals and principles, which are, to be sure, spiritual ideals and principles. So in one sense, our fallen military heroes are symbolic of this ideal. They are the most vivid, the most tangible representation of this ideal that we have before us. There are others, of course, who likewise are vivid, in-the-flesh symbols of this spiritual ideal: police, firefighters, the anonymous citizen who rises to the heroic occasion and is so publicly honored. There is no hero, however, quite as vivid, quite so symbolic of self-sacrificing virtue, as the military hero.

"The great wonder of it, of course, is that our fallen heroes are not paintings, statues, images -- they were and are human. They are us. And still they are symbols, ideals in the flesh -- destiny selected them to serve this role. That role is to remind us that we all are potential self-sacrificing heroes, that we all are of divine essence. Somehow, on some level, we must realize this, otherwise we wouldn't have a day for honoring our fallen heroes.

"The other day Bob alluded to the some of the symbolic threads in the Wizard of Oz. I have long seen WoO as a tale of a journey into the Realm of Divine Archetypes wherein we (through Dorothy) see ourselves, and others, in our real, divine essence. In her eyes, her Kansas friends and acquaintances became Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man -- became, in effect, their true selves, all on a heroic quest to reclaim their spiritual birthright. In Kansas, they were just dusty average Joes. In the Higher Realm, they were their real selves, knights, heroes.

"Most of us are Kansans. We do not have a symbolic public role to play. And yet there are countless souls who commit unseen (by the public) acts of tremendous self-sacrifice and heroism, whose deeds will never be acknowledged -- in some cases, not by a single other -- in this world. Our military heroes remind us that such heroism is possible. The secular attempt to 'deconstruct' military heroism is no less than an attempt to sever us from our Oz, our spiritual reality. We need daily reminders that we are on the yellow brick road of our personal heroic quest. And we need to remind ourselves that, though our personal acts of heroism may never be acclaimed in this life, we will, in the fullness of time, be acknowledged as the heroes we imagine ourselves to be."

*****

I am also reminded of a couple of particularly resonant lines in a piece by Vanderleun, Small Flags: "These days we resent, it seems, having [cemeteries] fill at all, clinging to our tiny lives with a passion that passes all understanding; clinging to our large liberty with the belief that all payments on such a loan will be interest-free and deferred for at least 100 years."

Elsewhere he writes, "It is not, of course, that the size of the sacrifice has been reduced. That remains the largest gift one free man may give to the country that sustained him. It is instead the regard of the country for whom the sacrifices were made that has gotten smaller, eroded by the self-love that the secular celebrate above all other values" (emphasis mine).

*****

Vanderleun touches on several themes that could be expanded into entire posts: the pathetic clinging to our vertically exiled lives; the earthly passion that defies understanding because it denies transcendence; the selfish notion that liberty is free; that death in defense of a spiritual ideal is the greatest gift one man can give another; and that self-love is the polar opposite of true love and sacrifice, and that which causes the country to contract vertically even as it might "expand" in every other way.

Sacred, sacrament, and sacrifice are all etymologically linked; all are derived from sacer, or to the holy and mysterious. This itself is instructive, for holy, of course, implies wholeness, and wholeness is indeed a portal to mystery, just as "partness" is a perpetual riddle that necessarily shades off into the absurd.

For example, a psychotic person lives in a bizarre world of forcibly disconnected objects and experiences that he cannot synthesize into unity, or wholeness. Often he will defensively superimpose a false unity in the form of paranoid delusions. Paranoia is "a false wholeness," but it is never far from the nameless dread that sponsors it. It makes "perfect sense," but in a manner that is always brittle, persecutory, and painful.

A couple of days ago I noted the truism that leftist thought -- even more than being ruled by emotion -- is primarily iconic. Or, one might say that the leftist simply has very passionate feelings about his icons, which he mistakes for "thoughts."

You can see this same phenomenon in our recent atheist visitors, who are also (ironically, but not really) ruled by overpowering feelings about their own sacred icons, such as "Ida," or "genome," or Darwin. Point out where they are wrong, and they hysterically accuse you of calling them animals and depriving them of the humanity which they deprive themselves. Rational they are not.

Or, at the very least, the more sober among them prove the adage that there is a form of madness that consists of losing everything with the exception of one's reason, or that there are incredibly intelligent ways of being stupid -- reductionistic and logically self-refuting Darwinism being one of them. Materialism is a gateway ideology to things far lower, for man cannot remain long in a static state between the attractors from above and below. Rather, he will tend in one direction of the other. Truth is a sword that cuts the world right down the middle.

A disturbing number of our fellow citizens not only believe that Islamic terrorists are not engaged in a global war against Western civilization (or "civilization," for short), but that the United States government itself engineered 9-11, or that the war on terror is really being waged to enrich George Bush and his friends. Obviously there can be no heroes in such a world, only scoundrels and dupes. If this were true, then the Keith Olbermanns of the world would be correct that the men who defend our country are just hired assassins, or as evil as any other terrorist, and it would be immoral to honor them.

Yes, the left is insane, but exactly kind of insanity is this? How have they become so detached from reality?

It has to do with the specific reality from which they have become detached. As another fine example of the shallowness and naivete of atheist thought, one of them writes that

"Millions and millions of people died in Russia and China under communist governments -- and those governments were both secular and atheistic, right? So weren't all of those people killed in the name of atheism and secularism? No. Atheism itself isn't a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness."

This looks like a banal statement -- which it unavoidably is -- and yet, it is quite sinister in its implications, and illuminates all of Vanderleun's points mentioned above. First, atheism is petty and unworthy of man, being that it is immensely beneath the scope of his intellect. No one would give his life to defend it, since it is the substance of meaninglessness, precisely. Why sacrifice one's life for the principle that there are no transcendent principles worth dying for?

The least of atheism's baleful effects is that it automatically makes the hero a fool because there is nothing worth defending. The more catastrophic effect is that it leaves the field open to evil-doers who are openly hostile to the transcendent principles that animate our uniquely decent and beautiful civilization.

This is why you see an Old Europe that is supine before the barbarians in its midst who wish to destroy it. Socialism has nothing to do with "generosity" or selflessness; rather, it is the quintessence of selfishness, and diminishes a man down to the conviction that his animal needs should be provided for by someone else. The only thing that can rouse his passion is a threat to his entitlements. If only the Islamists were to threaten their 12 weeks of paid vacation, then they might be taken seriously by socialist EUnuchs.

This is also why, as Venderleun writes, the habits of automatic treason have become just another fashionable denigration of the country that has made their liberty to believe the worst of it not only possible but popular. This is the complete and utter cynicism that results from destroying the reality of the vertical and clinging to one's puny life with a passion that preempts and vanquishes any deep understanding of it.

For just as wholeness, the One, is associated with the peace that passes understanding, the exile from this real human world into the bizarre and fragmented world of the secular left brings not so much the passion that passes understanding, but the passion that cannot comprehend itself because it has no vector or direction beyond its own flat and cramped existence.

In fact, nothing can be understood in the absence of that which it is converging upon, which reveals its meaning. To systematically deny the vertical is to obliterate the very possibility of meaning and truth, which is obvious; however, it is also to destroy the hero and that transcendent reality for which he is willing to sacrifice his life. It is to deny the love of which there is no greater, i.e., the love that motivates a man to lay down his life for another.

Of the sacred, Schuon writes that it is in the first place "attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred."

Again, the message is sacred and holy because it is transcendent and relates to knowledge of the whole.

Therefore, the sacred also represents "the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving; dignity is essentially an expression of it, for in dignity too the center manifests outwardly; the heart is revealed in gestures. The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity." (Never wonder at the profound lack of diginity of the left, for it is intrinsic and inevitable.)

Another way of saying it is that the sacred relates to the world as "the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion. The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful qualities; moreover any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions. Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator" (Schuon).

Which brings us back to Will's riff on the Wizard of Oz. On the one hand, the United States, more than any other nation, is flat and dusty old unassuming Kansas. But at the same time, it is Oz, the vertical and shining Emerald City on a hill. We must never forget either fact, one of them Real, the other merely real.

Nor can we forget the very real Kansans who gave their lives to bring us closer to that Reality. In order to honor them, we must never do anything to change this into a country that would be unworthy of their sacrifice -- indeed, one they would scarcely recognize. That's the deal in a vertical democracy in which its fallen heroes, of all people, still have a say. We must be their voice and their witness, always. And if you can't be grateful on this day, at least have the decency to be ashamed of yourself.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Stone Age Economics of the Left: Who Would Jesus Bail Out?

Here's one from two years back...

Susannah asks what my take is "on ostensibly religious left-wingers" and "how they come by their horizontality?" This is a complex issue, in part because the world is so very different today than it was 2000 years ago or even 100 years ago. One of the reasons human beings have always had difficulty understanding economics is that they are exceedingly temporo-centric, and do not appreciate the much larger trends at any given time. They see the weather but not the climate.

But one of the things that never changes is the hysteria of the left. The hysteria results from the conflation of existential and economic realities. In other words, when it comes to existence, there is always something to bitch about. But if you shift this to the plane of economics, then you can imagine that otherwise insoluble existential problems are susceptible to an economic solution.

For example, you can give "free college" to everyone, but this won't alter the fact that 50% of human beings are of below average intelligence. In fact, you'll only end up diluting education, so that if someone wants to be educated, they will have to do so outside of college. With the exception of the hard sciences, we're pretty much at that point now. Once college is universal, it becomes worthless. And if Obama has his way, the same thing will occur in medicine: everyone will be entitled to their government-rationed portion of mediocre healthcare.

Now, when Marx was writing his critique of industrial capitalism in the mid 19th century, living standards were finally rising after hundreds, and even thousands, of years of stagnation. Workers were just finally rising above subsistence levels and beginning to be able to purchase necessities and eventually luxuries that would have been completely unavailable to them in the past. Pockets of Slack were starting to break out everywhere, instead of just being available to the upper-upper classes.

In short, the means of creating unlimited wealth weren't really stumbled upon by human beings until the rise of industrial capitalism. Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to the magical combination of individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law (both to enforce contracts and ensure transparency). And then get the hell out of the way.

And even then, it took several hundred more years to tame the "boom or bust" cycle [d'oh!], to the point that people no longer expect economic recessions, much less, depressions. It is now as if people imagine that unlimited economic growth and prosperity are the norm instead of an extraordinary deviation from the past. And with that, a sense of entitlement is nurtured, which in turn is rooted in what the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called constitutional (i.e., inborn) envy.

As we have discussed before, I believe envy must have had some evolutionary utility, or else it wouldn't have survived the process of natural selection. Since 99% of human evolution took place in small bands of hunter-gatherers, my view is that envy must have ultimately served the purpose of group cohesiveness.

Human beings couldn't possibly have survived as individuals, but only as part of a tightly bonded group. Therefore, anything that promoted the fitness of the group is likely to have been strongly reinforced. In a small group, it would have obviously been detrimental for one member to horde all of the resources, so we might say that envy is a mechanism that is actually selected by evolution in order to maintain our intrinsic communism.

In other words, communism is our default state (as seen in our immediate families), whereas certain traits and habits of mind associated with capitalism must be learned, among them, trust of the stranger, the tamping down of envy, delayed gratification -- and with it, a focus on the future instead of the present -- and an understanding that economic exchange isn't a zero-sum game.

Back when I was writing my book and trying to assimilate as much world history as I could in a short period of time, one of the more provocative books I came across was one called From Plato to Nato: The Idea of the West and its Opponents. Gress believes that we have been misled by scholars who, because they live in the abstract world of thought, overvalue ideas in general, but especially their own. As such, they came up with the idea of the "grand narrative" of Western history extending back to its roots in ancient Greece, a narrative based upon ideas instead of human behavior.

But Gress believes that such critical developments as liberty, democracy, and the free market weren't so much ideas as behaviors that people lived out and only later reflected upon, in the manner, say, of Adam Smith, or America's founders. In other words, no one invented capitalism, or liberty, or democracy, and that's the point. These things had to first be lived and experienced in order to be valued in an abstract manner.

I think we can understand Gress's point in analyzing the difficulty of transplanting "the idea of freedom" to the Middle East. Frankly -- and this is a little alarming to contemplate -- you can't just unproblematically transplant such an idea, because it is a value rooted in centuries of collective experience. I remember Dennis Prager discussing this on his radio program, and it came as a bit of a jolt to me. Like President Bush, I had had it in my mind that the desire for liberty was a universal human wish, something built into us. Therefore, all you have to do is "give" it to people, and that will be that.

Quite the opposite. Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value, and I think you can see how this is critical to understanding the motivations -- or shall we say, the deep structure -- of leftism. Classical liberals wonder why leftists don't value freedom, but they shouldn't.

Rather, the question is why we do value it, because it is an obvious aberration in the human race. Most humans value security over liberty, predictability over change, conformity over individuality, and authority over self-rule. So when we see that leftists devalue freedom and (spontaneous) progress but exalt centralized authority and comformity, we shouldn't be the least bit surprised, for it is true of most rank-and-foul humans. Political correctness, statism, micromanagement of our lives -- these are all the natural consequences of a dread of liberty.

To finish up with Prager's thought, he noted that it was God who wanted humans to have freedom, not humans. For the vast majority of human beings, liberty is not a particularly important value, much less the most important one. They would just as soon barter it away for security, as they have done in western Europe.

Once one understands this, then much about the left begins to make sense. In Europe, we can see how the welfare state puts in place a system of incentives that creates a new kind of enfeebled man, but that's not exactly correct. In reality, it simply reveals man for what he is -- a lazy, frightened, selfish, superstitious, pleasure-loving, and lowdown rascal. Leftism aims low and always reaches its target.

Only liberty unleashes the genuine possibility of man, and reveals what man can be, as an alternative to the unimpressive specter of what he is. Leftist man is like a human being, only worse.

Much of this is laid out quite succinctly by Robert Sirico in the latest edition of the Hillsdale College Imprimis. Sirico points out that leftism wasn't always the anti-progressive, anti-human movement it has become. Rather, it began with relatively good intentions, especially if we bear in mind that the means of creating wealth were not at all well understood at the time (in the same way that physicians weren't trying to harm patients by prescribing leeches for every problem). As such, the early socialists naively thought that socialism could achieve what capitalism could not:

"The core of the old socialist hope was a mass prosperity that would free all people from the burden of laboring for others and place them in a position to pursue higher ends, such as art and philosophy, in a conflict-free society."

But there was the problem of human temporo-centrism alluded to above: "The Marxist prediction of a revolution that would bring about this good society rested on the assumption that the condition of the working classes would grow ever worse under capitalism. But by the early twentieth century it was clear that this assumption was completely wrong. Indeed, the reverse was occurring: As wealth grew through capitalist means, the standard of living of all was improving."

That should have been the end of socialism, but it wasn't. And that is precisely when it transitioned from something that could at least be defended on rational or humanitarian grounds to a substitute religion. And again, it is specifically not a new religion, but a resurrection of mankind's default religion.

Leftism is actually the abstract articulation of the "economic psychology" of Stone Age man. There is nothing new about it, which is why we see so much "born again paganism" associated with it -- the cult of the body, the exaltation of the senses, barbaric art forms, the vapid mystagogy of the "new age," the Obamessiah, etc.

What was truly new and progressive was all of the dynamic change wrought by the unfettered free market:

"Historians now realize that even in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, workers were becoming better off. Prices were falling, incomes rising, health and sanitation improving, diets becoming more varied, and working conditions constantly improving. The new wealth generated by capitalism dramatically lengthened life spans and decreased child mortality rates. The new jobs being created in industry paid more than most people could make in agriculture. Housing conditions improved. The new heroes of society came from the middle class as business owners and industrialists displaced the nobility and gentry in the cultural hierarchy."

In light of everything that had gone before, this was truly a miracle. But one of the less flattering characteristics of human beings is that there is no gift so miraculous, no grace so bountiful, that they cannot take it for granted. As such, another trait of the leftist -- as we all know -- is the conspicuous absence of gratitude, for gratitude is another spiritual value that doesn't come naturally to human beings (hence the need for it to be a Commandment). In one sense it must be cultivated, but in another sense it is a spiritual reward, since it frees one from the painful constitutional envy that motivates the leftist -- the ouch they can't stop screeching about. Even when they have run out of other people's money.

Put it this way: from a world-historical standpoint, the "glass" of wealth is exponentially larger than it was 50 or 100 or 1000 years ago, and it is growing all the time. But no matter how big it gets, the leftist is condemned to seeing it as half full and obsessing over the fact that someone else has more. Thus,

"In the midst of all this change, many people seemed only to observe an increase in the number of the poor. In a paradoxical way, this too was a sign of social progress, since so many of these unfortunate people might have been dead in past ages. But the deaths of the past were unseen and forgotten, whereas current poverty was omnipresent. Meanwhile, as economic development expanded in the nineteenth century, there was a dramatic growth of a middle class that now had access to consumer goods once available only to kings -- not to mention plenty of new goods being created by the engine of capitalism."

Needless to say -- at least for a classical liberal -- "The poor didn’t get poorer because the rich were getting richer (a familiar socialist refrain even today) as the socialists had predicted. Instead, the underlying reality was that capitalism had created the first societies in history in which living standards were rising in all sectors of society. In a sense, free market capitalism was coming closest to realizing what Marx himself had imagined: 'the all round development of individuals' in which 'the productive forces will also have increased' and 'the springs of social wealth will flow more freely.'"

Oh well. At least when the Messiah of Mediocrity has finished destroying the engine of economic progress and imposing his idea of "fairness," there will be no one left to envy.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Crackpots and Cracked Pots: Transforming Mental Illness into Political Power for Fun and Profit!

Here's one from the waybarack machine. However, don't be surprised if I put up a new post later, since I woke up in a scribblin' mood, perhaps because of the added slack of the holiday. It's still early here. Much depends upon how long the boy sleeps....

Update: instead of writing a new post, I added a lot of new material to this one....

Other compacts are engraved in tables and pillars, but those with wives are inserted in children. --Pythagoras

Our founders, being that they were deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian principles, had no illusions about the desirability of political "unity." To the contrary, they set up the Constitution in such a way that it would be practically impossible to achieve -- or impose, is more like it -- unity, what with the separation of political power into competing branches of government. Naturally, this doesn't preclude synthesis, which is another thing entirely, i.e., e pluribus unum.

As it pertains to contemporary politics, you might say that the left is the pro-"static unity" faction, while the right is the pro-"dynamic synthesis" faction (which in turn is why the left shades off into fascism, while conservatism -- not the GOP, mind you -- is the last bastion of American liberalism).

This can be seen quite clearly in the dangerous lust for "unity" that we are told drives the Obama campaign. I don't know about Obama's handlers -- who I assume are just as cynical and calculating as any political hacks -- but with his followers it is a different matter. Being that "the hypnotized never lie," I suppose we should take them at their word that they are not being disingenuous, and that they actually believe the loony things Obama says. They actually believe the dream.

A few years back, a study came out about the damaging psychological consequences of divorce for children. Now, as a psychologist, I can assure you that almost all psychological research that emanates from academia is not even wrong. Rather, it is thoroughly politicized with leftist assumptions dressed up as conclusions. As a result, there is no truly free inquiry; rather, certain politically, academically, and sexually correct conclusions are mandated, while others are forbidden, so the whole exercise is mostly an anti-intellectual farce.

But this study made a subtle point about the lasting consequences of divorce. But even more importantly, it comports with common sense. That is, the child who grows up in a broken home will be deprived of the living experience of a harmonious synthesis at its deepest level, which derives from the union of male and female.

Obviously, marriage is an organic synthesis -- especially as it transforms through time -- not a mechanical union (although it certainly can be; there is no guarantee that someone from an "intact" home will know the type of higher unity we are discussing). The point is that the psyche of the child of divorce can be "fractured" in ways both subtle and enduring.

But of course, if you have no idea of the cosmic implications of male and female -- which is the case in academia -- then you will have no way to even think about this problem. It will result in symptoms with no cause. And then, because there is no cause, the symptoms will be normalized. When you do this, you are not doing the victim any favor. It is another example of the idiot compassion of contemporary liberalism, which wants everyone to be "normal" in the absence of normality.

As we have discussed before, early psychoanalysis focused exclusively on the "content" of the mind, consistent with its roots in the naive mechanistic positivism of the late 19th century. All bad philosophies presuppose what they need to explain, and in this regard, psychoanalysts didn't even think about the psychological container, only the content, i.e., "id," "ego," and "superego." When one does this, one inevitably slips in a false notion of the mind, as if it is a sort of unproblematic "bag" with various contents. To "cure" someone, all we have to do is get rid of the "bad" content -- like removing a tumor.

But beginning in about the 1960s there was much more of an appreciation of the priority of the container over the content, especially for more serious forms of mental illness, e.g., what are called "personality disorders," which are enduring forms of maladaptive thought, emotion, and behavior. These lifelong conditions are to be distinguished from the "neuroses," which are more easily conceptualized in terms of "bad content," so to speak (or conflict between one part of the mind and another). But even then, if you scratch the surface of most neurotics, you will find issues of "containment" to which the neurosis is a sort of adaptation.

One way to think about it is that neuroses are more or less "horizontal," whereas personality disorders are more "vertical," extending down much more deeply into the psyche.

I hope this isn't too pedantic. In my book, I talk about "mind parasites." When you think about these, the image of a discrete foreign invader no doubt comes to mind. But the deepest mind parasites -- excluding purely genetic and biochemical things like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder -- are much more analogous to autoimmune disorders, in that they are not so much the content as the context.

Just as an autoimmune disorder attacks the body's own tissue, a person with a "bad container," so to speak, attacks his own mental content. However, he can also project the content into other people and attack it that way, as do, for example, the insane Bush haters; to see a rabid Keith Olbermann is to see this externalized intrapsychic process quite vividly. One of the reasons he is so disturbing to a normal person, is that he inducts everyone around him into his personal psychodrama. A normal person instinctively knows how to deal with such a freak: don't make eye contact, and back away slowly.

This is what people with personality disorders do: they simply cannot keep their mental illness to themselves. They must act out, or they will implode from their lack of containment.

In turn, this is why it is always such an uphill battle for the normals of the world. We have no compulsion to act out and impose our psychological problems upon others, whereas this is essence of leftism. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the ranks of the left are -- and always have been -- filled with so many crazies. When you hear that someone is a left wing "activist," I would say that there is a better than 50% chance that their "activism" is simply a masked personality disorder: "activism" = acting out.

In other words, people with personality disorders act out their conflicts instead of thinking about them; once they can think about them, they are freed of the compulsion to act them out. But this is very difficult, since it requires painful introspection, which is precisely what the liberal cannot do.

That is, the liberal usually locates the problem outside of himself (hence the belief that he is a victim), whereas the conservative usually locates the problem within himself. If my life isn't working, I know that it's my fault. And this is certainly the way I will raise my child, for this is the ultimate empowerment and liberation. For it places the locus of control within oneself, not in the vague societal forces imagined by the professional victim.

Now, one of the odd things about human beings is that we do not come into this world with any kind of adequate container. This is a remarkable point, and one that is fraught with consequences, both good and bad. No other animal needs to be "contained." Rather, they are driven by instinct, which you might say defines the "outer limits" of their consciousness. No animal is terrified of infinity. No animal worries about death, or the end of being.

But man, being that he is in the image of the creator, is born into "infinity," so to speak. I shouldn't even say "so to speak," because I am being quite literal. The purpose of containment is ultimately to "translate" infinity into time, which is none other than to think. Which in turn is why real thinking is a "transformation in O," or O-->(k). But there are many counterfeit forms of thinking, and most of them ultimately have to do with various issues of containment.

Let's take an obvious example. As Lee Harris has written, the jihadi doesn't become a jihadi because there is any realistic hope of creating a unified Islamic caliphate worse than death. Rather, the reason he becomes a jihadi is to take part in this intoxicating fantasy. To believe the narrative is to be transformed by it, so the real motivation is strictly personal, just projected onto the world-historical stage. And to imagine, as does Obama, that they will give up this life-transforming narrative if he is nice to them, is just the height of stupidity, or narcissism, or naivete, or all three.

In so many ways, leftism shares this same dynamic, in that it always promises things that by definition it can never deliver. We know this ahead of time. But that's not the point. The point is to believe and to be transformed by the belief. But it's not a genuine transformation, just a temporary diminution of symptoms. This is why the left is such an odd grab-bag of losers, perverts, crackpots, ideologues, dimwits, and evil geniuses. (This book looks like a promising exploration of these themes; just ordered it. UPDATE: really good book.)

Let's take a recent example. Last week [now last year] a single judge on the California Supreme Court (being that it was a 4-3 decision) decided not only to redefine the accepted meaning of marriage, but to impose this idiosyncratic definition on 35 million others. This is something that even Californians do not want, but it doesn't matter. "Unity" has been imposed from on high by a single fascist judge. And as is true of all forms of fascist unity, it actually undermines the possibility of real synthesis, being that it attacks the very institution that makes it possible at the deepest level, i.e., the union of male and female.

This kind of leftist judicial pathology presupposes a materialistic paradigm. Atheists talk a good game, but if you could be magically transformed into an actual materialist, you would die either of horror or boredom. To actually be consigned to materialism would instantly drain the world of its spiritual content and context, leaving a sort of barren landscape with no intrinsic meaning whatsoever. It sounds paradoxical, but it would be a kind "infinite finitude" from which there would be no vertical escape. It would be a kind of living spiritual death which you can scarcely imagine, unless you have attended a major university, for it is the death of the human imagination, and with it, our "spiritualizing" faculty.

Now, Obama is the product of an alcoholic, deadbeat, bigamist father and a hippy flake of a mother. Is such a person automatically consigned to a leftist hell in search of the Lost Unity? No, of course not. That would be a gross over-simplification. To cite just one example, God's grace is real, and can help deliver one from a fractured state.

D'oh!

What did Obama do? He went and joined a deeply pathological church that repeated the trauma of his childhood, so two wrongs made a Wright! Paranoid, delusional, spiritually fractured, riven by projection, and driven by the chimera of "black unity." Of course he wants Unity, for he wants to clean up after the mess his parents made. But he is the mess, and now he's trying to cure himself by making a mess of the country.

Marriage between man and woman is not an end in itself but a divinely ordained arrangement for the purposes of receiving the grace that will transform both parties. A dysfunctional marriage is one in which no spiritual transformation takes place -- it is spiritually "stillborn," so to speak, or "infertile" no matter how many children it produces -- like a Kennedy marriage.

This is why, strictly speaking, there can be no "secular" marriage. Or put it this way: to the extent that your marriage is only a secular affair, I do not see how or why it could transcend the state of essentially being -- as Glen Campbell sang -- "shackled by forgotten words and bonds and the ink stains that have dried upon some line." Anything short of spiritual union involves using the other person in one way or another. It merely creates the conditions for narcissism rather than its transcendence, which is surely one reason why there are so many divorces. Marriage can never do for you what it was never intended to do, which is to make you "happy" or "fulfilled" in the material sense, at least not for long. No mere earthling can do that.
-The Sacred Diatribes of Petey

Friday, May 22, 2009

All the Cosmos is a Stage

I'm so pressed for time this morning, I'm considering not posting. But since we're dealing with the theo-drama, I guess the show must go on.

I suppose I've never discussed Balthasar's overall purpose in writing (and writing and writing) the Theo-Drama, so let me briefly begin with that. It is the second part of his trilogy of systematic theology dealing with the good, the true, and the beautiful. The Theo-Logic, which we had been discussing, has to do with the truth of the world and of God, while the Glory of the Lord, which we discussed prior to that, has to do with knowing God through the divine beauty, i.e., glory.

Naturally, each of the three transcendentals is always reflected in the others -- they can never be radically separated -- but the Theo-Drama has to do with the good, specifically, with God's action in the world. But this action is not merely random; rather, it is structured in the manner of the theatre, where "man attempts a kind of transcendence endeavoring both to observe and to judge his own truth, in virtue of a transformation... by which he tries to gain clarity about himself."

As far as I know, no one prior to Balthasar really noticed the richness of the analogy between theatre and divine action, for, according to professor I. M. Bookflap, his aim is nothing less than "to show how theology underlies it all, how all the elements of drama can be rendered fruitful for theology." And a big part of the reason why no one ever noticed the analogy before, is that throughout most of history, people regarded actors as more or less disreputable scumbags. Yes, just like today. We'll get into the reasons why later.

With that in mind, on with the show. And awaaay we go...

We still have some loyal opposition to the idea that the Christian revelation is unique and cannot be reconciled with other religious approaches. But it cannot be, for the same reason that Hamlet cannot be reconciled with hypnosis. For example, neither Vedanta nor Buddhism actually require any divine revelation at all, any action on God's part. Although the Upanishads are considered sruti, i.e., of divine origin, the fact of the matter is that they are actually a seer's catalogue of personal testimony of various sages who attained union with the ground of being, or Brahman. They are not God's own testimony about himself.

And although the Bhagavad Gita is presented in the form of a story, it is again not God's own story, but a retelling of the truths of the Upanishads in dramatic form. It is myth (in it's highest sense), not history. But Christianity is not myth; rather, it is history. Yes, it subsumes a lot of mythology, in that mythology is one of man's primary modes of theology in the absence of God's own revelation. Therefore, there are parts of the Old Testament that are quite obviously mythological.

You may have noticed that a lot of people who are antagonistic toward Christianity suggest that this only proves that Jesus was also a myth, when the point is that Jesus is the "fulfillment," or "post-figuration" of the myths. Myth is a result of man's groping around in the dark, trying to arrive at God's own story before he has fully revealed it.

Eastern religions can do without history, thank you. Indeed, as mentioned the other day, one of their purposes is specifically to exit history. But Christianity does not exit history. Rather, it uses history as the very means of its self-expression, or of God's self-telling.

You might say that what we call "history" takes place within or at the margins of the divine drama. I picture it like a huge river flowing from Genesis to Revelation, or alpha to omega, or from page 6 to page 266 of my book, with all sorts of eddies, lakes, creeks and crocks that spin off from the main source. To the extent that they imagine they are radically separate from the source, then they are radically false. For there is only one history and one truth, and human history is played out in the light of the divine history. (And please note that that history has already been fulfilled, but that man has yet to receive the memo; in short, it will require more history for man to understand that history has already been fulfilled, if he ever does.)

I am again so astoneaged by Balthasar's erudition, that he makes me feel like a freaking neanderthal. For not only was he a master of theology, philosophy, metaphysics, and mysticism, but it seems that he has literally seen and assimilated every play from antiquity to modernity.

I'm just going to go through my notes from page to page, and reflect upon whatever struck me.

HvB talks about how medieval mystery plays were like "cathedrals in time." This makes a lot of sense, not just because the vast majority of people were illiterate, but again because Christianity is susceptible to just such a dramatic rendering. But at the same time, there was this deep suspiciousness of actors, since it is equally evident that the play is not really real, and that the actor is a kind of accomplished liar.

In a footnote, HvB quotes someone who said that the actor "presents us directly with the ultimate mystery of human nature: i.e., that when we have entirely overcome ourselves and totally ceased being ourselves, we then find our true selves and begin for the first time to be ourselves." But the actor finds that it is so easy for him to be someone else, that there is the danger that he can go from inhabiting a role to the role inhabiting him.

For there is no humanness in the absence of role -- this being a full employment cosmos -- except that there are true roles and false ones. False roles bear on the problem of pathological narcissism, in which the person has merged with a false self, or "as if" personality. But the true role is voc-ation, in which one also finds one's true voice. "In fact, theatre owes its very existence substantially to man's need to recognize himself as playing a role. It continually delivers him from the sense of being trapped and from the temptation to regard existence as something closed upon itself. Through the theatre, man acquires the habit of looking for meaning at a higher and less obvious level" (HvB).

Now in drama, the ideas the author wishes to convey are seen in the action. Importantly, the gospels are not theo-drama, for the Bible is not the word of God; rather, it is words -- inspired words -- about the drama of the Word, as it passes through and shapes history. The real theo-drama is this clash of finite and infinite freedom, as the latter takes on flesh and enters the finite and bounded stage of history. Holy Scripture itself is worthless unless "in the Holy Spirit, it is constantly mediating between the drama beyond and the drama here" (HvB).

It's very strange and paradoxical when you think about it, for it is ultimately a case of the author entering his own play. In so doing, how much of his own freedom is he abdicating, and how much of the play is "unwritten" and left to be shaped by man's finite freedom as it intersects with the infinite freedom on the stage of history? Did the play have to turn out as it did? Or were there other options, based upon man's response? Were there alternate endings to the drama?

At the time the play was going on "in the flesh," no one understood what was happening. That only occurred later, with theological reflection. But as it turned out, God was inducting various actors into the theo-drama, as if people were leaving the audience and jumping onto the stage. You there, fisherman -- want to be in a play?

This is quite strange, for it's a bit like improvisational theatre. How much of, say, Peter's role was written, and how much did he improvise on the spot? Please note that we cannot say that it was pre-written without eliminating man's freedom, and therefore his role in the drama. Somehow the drama had to be both written and unwritten, with a lot of "space" for the actors to improvise.

Again, this is no static revelation, but a dynamic one that unfolds in time. Nor is it narrated. Yes, there is some kind of structure, but we cannot see the structure when the play is happening. Judas, Pilate, John the Baptist -- none of them have any idea of what's really going on. Time and again in reflecting upon this, I was reminded of the structure of dreaming, in which our internal Dreamer writes the dialogue, casts the roles, scouts the locations, builds the sets, etc. But from our standpoint inside the dream, it all seems to be unfolding spontaneously. We can't get outside the dream, and yet, some unKnown part of us must be outside it, since we wrote it!

Impossible blogging conditions. Ever been inducted into a four year-old's drama? Exit stage left.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Cosmic Who- and Whydunnit

It just occurred to me that I've come full circle. Or spiral, to be exact. That is, before entering graduate school in psychology, I had been in film school. And now, here I am, back studying drama. My film degree is finally bearing fruit!

Actually, the whole narrative is not as unlikely as you might think. I've mentioned before that I had a particular teacher in film school who proved to have a tremendous impact upon my life. Long story short, because of a couple of years spent analyzing character, motivation, plot, theme, author, etc., I ended up being better prepared for graduate school than the other students, most of whom had degrees in psychology. And you can well imagine how worthless an undergraduate degree in psychology is, especially when compared to a familiarity with the great writers. After all, most people are just trapped in their own lousy be-movie, written by an author of whom they are unconscious.

One of the reasons why great writers are great is because they are often accomplished psychologists, except that their psychological knowledge is implicit and expressed in terms of character and plot. But in point of fact, as mentioned yesterday, it is not as if "narrative" is simply something added to our humanness. Rather, it is very much analogous to culture, in the sense that a radically individual human being is absurd. Rather, we can only be individual because we are social.

You might say that culture is the "space" in which we dwell, whereas narrative is the "time" in which we live. Our particular narrative structures time and confers a sense of purpose, even if we're just kidding ourselves. For in the end, we all understand that any man-made narrative is a fairy tale, whether "spiritual" or "scientific." In the absence of God, there is no objectively true narrative, just a bunch of likely stories.

This should be an uncontroversial statement to both religious and secular alike. A Darwinian should be mature enough to realize that his glee over the discovery of Ida is no more or less rational than my glee over the Lakers pulling out that game over Denver on Tuesday night.

Indeed, the older I get, the more difficult it is to be a passionate fan, because I just can't give myself totally to the narrative that it matters. When I was younger, I lived and died with the Dodgers. Even after they were mathematically eliminated from the pennant race, I would still listen to every last game, as if hoping that they could somehow overcome the math. If someone had said to me at the time, "Bob, why are you taking this so seriously? It's just a game," I would have dismissed him as someone hopelessly "out of it."

(It is no coincidence that Mrs. G. was a huge sports fan. At the time we met, she would routinely watch six hours of football on Sunday. For me, she was like a beer commercial come to life, with all those models who stay slim by watching sports and guzzling beer with the guys.)

This reminds me. We were friends with a couple down the street. The husband was a typical sports fan, while the wife was an extreme spoilsport. She was nagging him to get off the couch for one reason or another, to which he responded with words to the effect of, "I can't right now. This is a really important game." The wife responded, What are you talking about? There's no such thing as an important game!

Suffice it to say that they are no longer married.

The point is, narrative is much more important than we might realize. For example, the dispute between metaphysical Darwinists and ID'ers is not at all a dispute of facts, but of narratives. I have no hesitation in accepting any fact discovered by science. It's just that I place the facts in the context of a very different narrative, in which consciousness is at the top, not bottom, of the cosmos.

And you will have noticed that Queeg, for example, never argues the facts. Rather, he simply accuses the other side of having a bad narrative, that is, creationism. I realize that some literal creationists exist, and I would agree that that is an inadequate narrative, not just for science, but more importantly, for religion. But Queeg clearly argues in bad faith by suggesting that anyone who does not accept the Darwinian narrative therefore believes the literal creationist narrative. That's just crazy.

The whole spectacle is ironic, again, because we know in advance that the Darwinian narrative is false, since it is only a manmade story superimposed on existence. In reality, human beings can no more understand "where they came from" than can a lizard. Again, isn't this obvious? There can be no whydunnit in the absence of the Who that dunnit. If nobody dunnit, then there is no reason for anything.

As mentioned yesterday, I both agree and disagree with Schuon and Aurobindo about the role of evolution in the cosmos. In short, the former dismisses it too lightly, whereas the latter elevates it to too high a place. For while I agree with Aurobindo that this is an evolving cosmos, I disagree with him that there will ever be a species "beyond man."

Rather, I agree with Schuon that man is, in his own way, "absolute." For once a being is capable of truth -- not to mention, beauty and virtue -- he cannot be surpassed. Truth cannot surpass itself. Nor can beauty. It is preposterous to think that more random shuffling of genes will result, say, in a better writer than Shakespeare, or a better composer than Bach, no matter how long the shuffling continues.

This again suggests that there is something quasi-absolute about the human station. Now, I have no problem with this idea, since I believe that human beings are in the image of the Creator. But here again, we must be careful not to "spatialize" the metaphor. That is, the Creator is outside time, whereas we are "inside" it. Therefore, our ultimate narrative is the story of how the image becomes more like the likeness. For the human being, this is the "meaning" of evolution, no matter how you cut it, i.e., scientifically or religiously.

For example, if the discovery of Ida brings us closer to the truth of ourselves, then that is the implicit "meta-story," isn't it? The Darwinist inverts the situation, as if Ida discovered us. But again, it is a truism: either we can explain natural selection, or natural selection explains us. And if the latter, then we would have no basis for believing it to be true.

We're getting a little far afield, but the point is again that the only narrative that can possibly be objectively true is God's narrative. And this is the very topic of the Theo-Drama. Outside that narrative, nothing is really true. In this regard, the existentialists are absolutely correct. Human existence is 100% absurd outside God's narrative.

Now, is it possible to have access to God's narrative? Yes, but only if he reveals it to us. To a certain extent we can discover hints and clues in nature that inevitably lead to the threshold of the Creator. But we cannot know the ultimate purpose of this Cosmo-Drama unless he shares it with us. Otherwise, we'd just be guessing. Is it because God really likes beetles? Or because he's playing a practical joke on the humans? Or because he just enjoys twiddling the knobs of the cosmic console to see what kind of universe will pop out?

We just don't know. Therefore, in the absence of God's revelation, I would agree 100% that there can be no philosophy higher than Plotinus in the West and Shankara in the East, for both men essentially conclude that all narratives are false, and that the only logical task for us is to realize this by ascending into the One, and making the maya go away.

But what if the Father descends into our little narrative, impregnating mamamaya and making her his own?

Then you've got yourselves a rip-roaring Cosmo-Drama. Why, it even has a prequel we now call the "Old Testament."

To be continued....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cosmo-Drama and the Reality of Time

Okay, Theo-Drama. Let me first clarify something that was said yesterday, because it goes to the heart of the matter. One anonymous commenter thought I was trashing non-dual mystics such as Sri Ramana Maharshi. However, one would really have to distort what I said to arrive at that conclusion. One would have to have an agenda -- a narrative even -- and be playing a role in a drama with me as bad guy.

Bear in mind that I said quite clearly that I was not using his example for the purposes of criticism but comparison. My only point is that his acosmic, impersonal, and ahistorical mystical view is not reconcilable with Christianity, as traditionalists apparently believe. In other words, in no way can we suggest that Christ was nothing more than a non-dual mystic, even the "highest" one; nor can we say that Ramana Maharshi was the only begotten son of God. The two points of view might both be worthwhile, but they cannot be said to convey the identical truth.

Yes, I disagree with Schuon on the equivalence of revelations. What can I say? I've said many times that Schuon wouldn't even like me, let alone agree with me, even though I absolutely hold him in the highest regard, our differences notwithstanding.

I am actually very interested in the reconciliation of Eastern and Western religions (cf. Henry LeSaux/Swami Abhishiktananda). After all, I am again not arguing Christianity from the inside out, but from the outside in. I am coming toward it from a neo-vedantic tradition. Or perhaps "tradition" is not the correct word, since Sri Aurobindo is another one of those people whom traditionalists find completely unacceptable. Schuon never mentions him by name, but you can tell when he's referring to him, because he always snarls when doing so. Same with Teilhard de Chardin. For Schuon, they might as well be Deepak.

And why do they find him unacceptable? For a number of reasons I won't bore you with, but I would say that the central one has to do with the reality of time. You could say that the traditionalists emphasize the reality of space over time; or, to the extent that they talk about time, they see it either as static or as winding down into the moral entropy and chaos of the End Times. In this scenario, man's best times are behind him, and history is pretty much all over except for the fight over who's the bigger victim.

Example?

Okay, here: "Time is but a spiroidal movement around a motionless Center" (Schuon). Is this true? Could be. But if so, a lot depends upon which way the spiral is moving, i.e., toward the center or away from it -- or "ascending" vs. "descending." For the Christian it is always doing both, and it is up to the individual to hitch a ride on one wave or the other, the centripetal force or the centrifugal farce.

Now, within the absolute, time and space must be unified; or, to put it another way, from our side of things, i.e., the relative, the Absolute breaks out into its two primary modes, time and space, which are "co-equal," the one being a reflection of the other. As Schuon writes, "to say Absolute is to say Infinite, the one being inconceivable without the other. We can symbolize the relation between these two aspects of Supreme Reality by the following images: in space, the absolute is the point, and the infinite is extension; in time, the absolute is the moment, and the infinite is duration."

Here again, this is not compatible with Christianity, the reason being that it leaves no place -- literally -- for Theo-Drama. In other words, if absolute time is a point, then nothing meaningful can "happen"; there is no "stage" upon which the drama can take place. And if time is just infinite duration, there can again be no drama. Rather, reality would be like one of Wagner's operas: endless waiting in order to discover that there was no point anyway.

I hope this is all clear. No disrespect is intended to my spiritual betters. It's just that, among other things, Christianity "divinizes" both time and history. Indeed, it wouldn't be going too far to say that Christianity transforms mere time into real history, the latter of which is a movement toward something instead of mere duration or decay. If time is not moving toward its own fulfillment, then it really is just a tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying a lifetime gig and adoring coeds.

"Ironically," even so-called progressives Christianize time, but they do so without Christ. For in their implicit metaphysics, time is also of the essence, except that it is only moving toward wholly immanent and material ends. They take the cosmos bequeathed to us by the Christian tradition and turn it upside down, precisely.

For example, the disgusting Deepak inhabits this bizarre, de-Christianized Christian cosmos, writing today that Obama promises us a "real" dawn whereas Ronald Reagan only gave us a "false" one. Deepak writes of how President Reagan hated women and trees, and wanted homosexuals to die.

I'm not going to go there. Let us just say that the Windy Hindi is anti-Christic to his rotten core, and leave it at that. What a hideously depraved man. I think I'm gonna hurl.

Now, one of the reasons Balthasar had to spend some 3,000 pages explicating the Christian theo-drama, is that the intrinsically dramatic nature of Christianity was apparently no longer evident to people, just as he had to spend some 4,000 pages on The Glory of the Lord, since the divine beauty was no longer obvious to folks. Rather, it seems that for many Christians, their faith is reduced to just that faith, but faith in what?

HvB notes that drama is one of our intrinsic ways of knowing the world. This is a strange fact, and too little remarked upon, but I certainly see it in my four year-old. That is, very much like our nightDreamer, human beings create and inhabit narratives from the moment they can think about reality. Therefore, the world of drama is not something "added to" our humanness, but is part of our very nature. HvB writes of how the child "translates its world of experience into theatrical terms, conceives things, reacts to them, in speech and in all forms of play."

Indeed, Future Leader is always playing various roles, through which he is simultaneously being himself. Only if something goes wrong in development does this become inverted, and the role starts playing us. But at this point in his development, one can clearly see how drama is central to his articulation of the self. When I put him to bed, I always tell him stories in which he is the main actor, whether he is a fireman, policeman, army man, or superhero. For him, these stories are literally a kind of food. They both nourish and structure his existence.

So, we cannot avoid narratives, no matter who we are. For example, the Darwinian, like Deepak, also lives in a bizarrely de-Christianized drama, as we witnessed yesterday. Try as they might, they simply cannot inhabit the boring world of metaphysical Darwinism, the reason being that it is literally humanly uninhabitable.

In other words, Darwinians unconsciously convert science into an exciting drama of "progress," when progress is precisely what Darwinism excludes. Rather, there is only change, and change is not drama. Imagine going to a film in which the characters and action merely change, but for no reason.

Again, this would be a kind of temporal analogue to the non-dual mystic who lives in a de-temporalized space, so to speak. For if time is mere change without purpose, then ultimately, nothing is really any different, or of any more value, than anything else.

In this regard, you can see that nihilism is a kind of "reverse mysticism." A Darwinian is not permitted to say that a man has more objective value than an amoeba. The "journey" from amoeba to man is just one inconceivably long string of accidents. Therefore, it is not really a journey at all. Rather, that's just a phony narrative we superimpose on the facts, simply because we would like reality to mean something.

But it means nothing, which again makes us wonder why Darwinians ware jumping for joy over the discovery of that fossil. Why joy? I don't get it. Who cares if there are eight wonders if the eighth wonder proves that wonder is completely pointless? Let's grant Darwinians their fantasy, and suppose that this fossil finally proves that human existence is meaningless. Why would that be a cause for glee instead of sadness?

Unless -- unless we are again dealing with an unconscious narrative that is a satanic inversion of the Christian narrative. Could it be that metaphysical Darwinians are parasites on the history they wish to destroy? Yes, of course.

A brief aside: one of the reasons I am able to embark upon this adventure in Christianity is that Sri Aurobindo cleared the way by converting the non-dual mysticism of advaita vedanta into an adventure in cosmic evolution, very much analogous to Christianity. Indeed, the best book on Aurobindo is called The Adventure of Consciousness, the point being that consciousness has a purpose and a vector. Aurobindo immediately saw the implications of Darwinism, but placed it in a much wider context of what we might well call Cosmo-Drama.

In turn, the B'ob came along and wrote a book called One Cosmos Under God, which endeavors to tell the entire story of the cosmos in four acts, plus an ainsoferable overchore and underture. But the point is, it is a story; it is a drama, a narrative, a bangography. It even begins with One's upin a timeless...

Indeed, you could say that it is the bedtime story I told myself before concluding the drama of the first half of my life, or that mysoph told to me, anyway. Only now I'm retelling it from a Christian standpoint. For 'tis atell that is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. And

If you are abcedminded to this claybook, what curios of signs in this allaphbed! Can you rede its world? It's the same told of all. --Finnegans Wake

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lifting the Curtain on the Cosmo-Drama

Anonymous asks a fair, if needlessly windy, question, a question we all need to ask ourselves, and which I have posted about in the past. The commenter isn't really anonymous, as he has been annoyingus for months if not years. Try to overlook his signature gasbaggery and appreciate the point:

Bob, in this post you are running somewhat of a fever of the brain.

Take a few deep breaths. Visualize the following:

All athiests, liztards, leftists, moonbats and their ilk have, by a divine wind, been given coonvision overnight.

You wake up, and the liberal media has turned coonish. Every person you meet speaks in the coon lingo to you.

A week goes by. You realize that a global conversion has taken place. Everyone is a coon, and a good one. Many you meet outcoon you; they are practically unintelligibly enlightened.

Each morning during this week you go to your computer to blog. What then will you write?

Explore your feelings as you sit ready to blog in front of of your keyboard in this newly converted world, ready to address a congretation that is 100% coonified and radically so.

How do you feel?


First of all, I would turn this around, and ask this person why he reads my blog day in, day out? Why doesn't he practice what he screeches, and stick to one of those post-historical new age gurus such as Eckhart Tolle, who only concern themselves with the Power of Now, but not all of the other powers, principalities, thrones, and dominions?

And it's not just the new age hucksters, hacksters, and wacksters who fall into this category. Rather, it equally applies to genuine non-dual mystics such as Ramana Maharshi. Ultimately it comes down to the difference between Eastern and Western spiritualities, for in the East, history is a part of maya, whereas for the West, history is specifically a theo-drama, to coon a term. For us, history is not to be escaped but bobtized.

Having said that, annoymyass has a valid point, which I have again made in the past, in reference to politics. How many times have I cautioned you that you must not become a "political junkie" whose inner life is structured around the drama of politics? For it doesn't take much introspection to realize that there is a certain type of person who actually craves the kind of vital passion that is generated by politics. They only pretend to be annoyed, because without it they wouldn't know what to do or how to think. It is truly an addiction. These people actually would be lost in the absence of this polarized structure that confers meaning upon their lives. (I also think of some lawyers who get a kick out of arguing every trivial point.)

First of all, if you are going to argue about politics, it must always be in the context of a higher truth of which politics is simply the expression. Once again I would cite Dennis Prager as a role model. I know of no other media person who always discusses politics in a much wider spiritual context. I have no use whatsoever for polemicists of either the right or the left.

For one thing, you cannot trust them, for they are carried away by passion, and are not in total service to truth. There are many conservatives with whom I might technically agree, but whom I would never rely upon to get accurate news and opinion. And the reason is again that these are the "junkie" types who are only in the game for the vital passion they derive from it.

As a rule, I do not write from that space. I am aware of it when I do, and guess what? It never fails: those particular posts immediately get recognized and linked to, and generate two or three times the traffic. Just do the math: if I produced one of those red-state meat posts every day for a month, how long would it take before I went from anonymity to some sort of odious cyberfame?

But what a hellish trap! Those of you who notice these things will have noticed that I always follow up one of those screeds with the usual abnormal fare, which drives away most new readers. It's like a test: less than one in a hundred might be capable of bridging those two worlds, the vital world of politics and the metaphysical world of religion.

Anyway, back to the question. First of all, it is an absurd hopeythetical, for it proffers a strict impossibility: that fallen man is no longer fallen. If it could happen, we would be in paradise, not in history. And since we are in paradise, there is nothing to be done except to live, love, read mysictal poetry, give thanks, listen to music, watch sports, and have a couple of beers. The Cosmo-Drama is officially over.

Now, if I were one of those new age gurus giving advice to all and sundry for a hefty fee, this would actually be one of my principle teachings. That is, beyond just unplugging from the grid through prayer or meditation, you must live a substantial portion of your life from this very space every day. We joke about slack, but there is a real truth to it.

Ultimately it involves the paradox of being in the world but not of the world. Please note that Christianity emphasizes both, and to overemphasize one over the other is what I would call an intrinsic cosmic heresy. In or out? Both.

Take again the example of Ramana Maharshi. He was no longer of the world. But nor was he any longer in the world. Check out some of his teachings, and you'll see what I mean.

Bear in mind that this is not for the purpose of unfair criticism -- we'll get to that later -- but merely for the purpose of accurately presenting this acosmic, impersonal, and ahistorical mystical view: everything is abolished with the exception of the metacosmic witness which all people supposedly share with each other and with the Divine.

Whatever its merits, such a view is absolutely irreconcilable with Christianity. One can admire Schuon's lifelong project of seeking the "transcendent unity of religions," but the fact of the martyr is that one cannot reconcile Ramana Maharshi and Christ unless one does violence to one or the other teaching. For if non-dual mysticism is the truth of the cosmos, then Christ is an unnecessary distraction on the way there. He too is a part of maya. He is only a "partial truth" rather than vertical Truth itself crashing into horizontal history. Likewise, Islam does not honor Christ or Christianity by calling the former a mere "prophet."

To put it another way, there is no Christianity without drama. It is fundamentally a story that takes place in time, and which has a beginning, middle and end. You can escape the story from "below" through profane politics and other dieversions, or you can exit from "above" through mystical escapism. But for the Christian, history itself is the thing that needs to be worked upon and transformed. And each of us is a "unit of history."

I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I believe this is the whole point of Balthasar's five volume Theo-Drama. First of all, it means that what we call "history" is a subset of a drama that is taking place within the Trinity, only "inverted" and exteriorized in time, so to speak. It is indeed a theo-drama in which we can either participate or refuse participation. It is "offered" to you, but participation is not compulsory.

Therefore, we must reflect upon and try to understand the nature of this drama, for it is the whole point of existence. Or, to put it another way, in the absence of this drama, then both materialists and Eastern religions are absolutely correct in insisting that history is meaningless and even absurd, and that there is nothing for us to do but awaken from nightmare and look at ourselves in the naughtmirror.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll take a stab at outlining some of the broad contours of our cosmo-drama.

[T]he model of the theatre is a more promising point of departure for a study of theo-drama than man's secular, social activity. For in the theatre man attempts a kind of transcendence, endeavoring both to observe and to judge his own truth, in virtue of a transformation -- through the dialectic of the concealing-revealing mask -- by which he tries to gain clarity about himself....

For God's revelation is not an object to be looked at: it is his action in and upon the world, and the world can only respond, and hence "understand," through action on its part.
--Balthasar

(BTW, I certainly wouldn't recommend the whole Theo-Drama to the average reader, but this book is supposedly a good summary.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Role to Die For in the Cosmic Drama

We're still slowly making our way through the Theo-Logic, which is, of course, the logic of God. And his logic is not our logic, so....

Actually, that's not quite correct. His logic is our logic, but ours is not his. That is to say, his logic transcends but includes our logic, analogous to how calculus transcends but includes simple mathematics.

For example, this is why many liberal fools imagine that it is morally inconsistent or hypocritical to be in favor of, say, capital punishment for murderers but against abortion, or to be against torture but in favor of harsh interrogation of terrorists: same act, different rules. Liberals think this means they have proven we are moral relativists, when we are the exact opposite. How can this be?

The real problem is that a liberal living in flatland is by definition someone who only knows moral math but not moral calculus. Schuon expressed it well when he said that a particular virtue is consciousness of a plane of reality. The more conscious one becomes of the plane, the less one has to think about how to convert it to a rule.

In fact, it is not at all difficult to find examples of how the ethical rule often clashes with the moral reality. Unfortunately, this leads people to reject the Absolute that is reflected through religion, but which can never be fully captured within religion, that is, within a finite formula. Rather, the formula is like language itself, which is supposed to be transparent to the meaning it conveys.

The same applies to moral rules -- say, the Ten Commandments. First of all, bear in mind that this is not something I would tell a child or a leftist, because it would just confuse him. For example, I'm not going to tell Future Leader that the rule against lying must be placed in the context of a total truth that we cannot know.

No. Just like learning a sport, he must start with the basics, otherwise I'll have a young Obama or Bill Clinton on my hands, men who use their intellectual gift to distort and maim the truth.

Better yet, it is like music. One must spend years internalizing those "rigid rules" of music -- scales, chords, and finger exercises -- before one becomes conscious of the plane from which music arises. You cannot start out by being a rule-breaker such as Thelonious Monk. It is only because he is a genius that he can hit a "wrong" note but resolve it in the context of a higher musical space. For the non-genius, the wrong note is just a clam -- an error. You could say that a Monk such as Thelonious comes not to abolish the musical law, but to fulfill it.

I suppose something is still rattling around in my subconscious. It was a comment by Scipio about Notre Dame perversely honoring Obama for "spitting in the face of God." In the comment, he mentioned that "The American Catholic Church has been in schism for decades. Weak, vacillating and corrupt priests and bishops had made it so. But they cannot at all affect the truth of her teachings. To abandon Catholicism is to abandon Reason itself."

I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I would presume this to mean the Reason of reason, the Truth of truth, the Goodness of the good, the Beauty of the beautiful, the Freedom of the free, the Love of love, the Justice of the just, and the Oneness of the harmony.

In each case, the former transcends but includes the latter, just as the Church transcends its flawed members, who can by definition never am-body the total truth entrusted to it. In fact, we have a special name for those who come closest to doing so: saints. And even then, not every moral saint is an "intellectual saint," so to speak. In other words, only one man ever reflected the totality of the higher planes within the lower. And this was because he didn't "have" truth but "was" Truth.

It is the denial of this implicit metaphysic that leads directly to relativism of all kinds, and from there straight to hell on earth. This is the hell that Obama speaks for and from.

To cite just the latest example, to say that he wants judges who are "empathic" is to say that he wants lawless judges. Which would be fine if the judge were "lawless" from above rather than below -- who can see, for example, that there is no "right to abortion" in the Constitution, despite what a bunch of Supreme Pettifuggers might think.

But as Bob Dylan said, "to live outside the law you must be honest," which automatically excludes the relativists of the left, since relativism is "dishonesty itself." It is the lie-made-true, which is naturally an impossibility. But they never stop trying.

The problem is, religion and secularism represent rival claims to totality, except that totality is precisely what the secularist denies up front.

I apologize for the ramble, but yesterday I was reviewing volume one of the Theo-Drama, which, in the final analysis, is all about the dialectic -- or drama -- between infinite and finite freedom.

The problem isn't that man is unfree, assuming that he is not living in literal slavery or attending a politically correct university. Rather, the problem is that man's freedom is not absolute but finite; it is constrained, for example, by death. As is the case with truth, our freedom is inexplicable in the absence of an absolute freedom that we can never possess, but which we can know about.

The question is -- and this is a question God must "ask himself" -- how can I overcome man's "no" without denying him the precious gift of freedom that I have granted him? You could say -- so to speak, of course -- that this is the question God must have pondered before coming up with the idea of the Incarnation.

Or, from our side of the divide, we could reverse engineer the Incarnation, or play metaphysical Jeopardy: A: The Incarnation. Q: How does God overcome man's rejection of Him without denying him his freedom?!

Now, to say "Yes" to the Incarnation is -- again, among other things -- a way for finite freedom to participate in absolute freedom, is it not? It is, to paraphrase Balthasar, to make the finite life of man co-extensive with the infinite life of God. Or, in more Raccoonish terms, it is to play a role in the eternal cosmic drama. To play this role is to simultaneously discover one's reason for being and the meaning of meaning.

I know that I am embedded in this cosmic drama, and it is without a doubt the epic of a lifetime. But what if one is a metaphysical Darwinian? Sure, there is "drama" there as well. The drama of passing along one's genes before being eaten. That's it. This is why I say that it is a "pornographic" world view, because it simultaneously shows "everything" while revealing nothing. It is the world unveiled of its hierarchical veils and forms, beneath which is.... bupkis, to quote Moses.

To paraphrase Balthasar again, you might say that God becomes what he isn't in order to kill it. He becomes "separate" from himself in order to finally end the separation.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with the task of appropriating and assimilating God in order to become something we could never be in the absence of his radical intervention: ourselves. Jesus is simultaneously God's "anthrop-ology" and man's theo-ology. But thanks to his "solution," they are now two sides of the same coin. But only if you cash in your chimp.

Ascent you a son, amen for a child's job! That's the New Man, we're just putting him on. --One Cosmos, the Home Version

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vandalizing History and Ransacking the Cathedral of Time

For the more one discovers of God, the more one finds one has to learn. Every step in advance is a return to the beginning, and we shall not really know him as he is, until we have returned to our beginning, and learned to know him both as the beginning and end of our journey. --Bede Griffiths, The Golden String

Several months ago, I came across this oddity that I tucked away for future use:

"Recently, the comedian and movie star Sinbad had to announce that he was not, in fact, dead of a heart attack at age 50, as his Wikipedia entry claimed. Somebody vandalized the page, claimed Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez."

Vandalized the page. This is a perfectly apt metaphor for the postmodern misuse of language, which culminates in the unholy quadrivelum of multiculturalism, moral relativism, tolerance and diversity. It also forms the basis of left-wing guru George "rhymes with" Lakoff's Orwellian theory of "reframing," which progressives employ to try to make their tasteless ideas even more palatable to the indiscriminate. And of course, the horizontal barbarism of deconstruction is the quintessence of the nihilistic ransacking of history by Pomo sapiens, or "tenured ape."

Now, when we refer to intelligence, we are ultimately talking about meaning. And when we refer to meaning, we are ultimately talking about the human phenomenon. No, not this or that finite human life, but the entire meaning of an anthropocentric cosmos that was once (supposedly) lifeless and unconscious but has awakened to its own hidden meaning in the form of the human subject.

This mysterious subjective center has appeared "out of nowhere" and cannot -- nor will it ever -- be explained on any purely naturalistic grounds. But at the same time, the human center will not always be here. The cosmic I only fully opened around 40,000 years ago, and it will close again at some point in the future, one way or the other. The cosmos, let alone our solar system, will not always be fit for life, even if Sheryl Crow uses no toilet paper whatsoever on her private jet.

Therefore, all meaning must be placed in the larger context of the meaning of meaning, or the Human Phenomenon. In the words of theologian Thomas Torrance,

"The fact that the universe expanded in such a way that the emergence of conscious mind in it is an essential property of the universe, must surely mean that we cannot give an adequate account of the universe in its astonishing structure and harmony without taking into account, that is, without including conscious mind as an essential factor in our scientific equations.... Without man, nature is dumb, but it is man's part to give it word: to be its mouth through which the whole universe gives voice to the glory and majesty of the living God."

Any philosophy that falls short of this is simply vandalism, not to mention blarney, since it has the effect of reducing the reality of our cosmic situation to rubble, or blarney rubble. All Stone Age varieties of materialism fall into this category, as they begin their exploration by turning the cosmos upside down and inside out in order to try to understand it.

And any philosophical understanding that flows from such a backward approach begins with inversion but ends in perversion. I say this because the cosmos itself is an expression of the Human Phenomenon, not vice versa. Any true humanist understands -- either explicitly or implicitly -- that reality is a result of the irreducible hypostatic union of subject and object in the human person. The cosmos is actually an "outgrowth" of this fundamental reality, which is why we can affirm the truism that man is the measure of all things, with the exception of that which takes the measure of man, which is to say, God, or the Absolute. To put it another way, if existence were meaningless, man couldn't know it.

Man cannot be properly defined in the absence of knowledge of what a human life is for. Again, man is not simply a bit of discrete matter with easily proscribed spatial boundaries. Rather, a human life is something that can only unfold and express its wholeness -- and therefore its identity -- in time. But our movement in time is not simply arbitrary -- or, at least it should not be. Rather, it is guided by a telos, so that there is something that man -- both individually and collectively -- ought to become. As such, it is possible to waste our lives and fail to become human.

Human beings are not matter and they are not God. If we were matter, we could not evolve, and if we were God, there would be no need to. But in reducing himself to matter, the secularist covertly elevates himself to God, since nothing is higher or lower than anything else -- thus, with a single metaphysical error, the humanist makes a God -- and an ass -- a goddass -- of himself. You will have noticed that this is one of the contradictions at the heart of both scientism and leftism, and which ramifies into countless other clumsy errors too countless to count on every left thumb.

Both beyond and within the Human Phenomenon is the God Phenomenon. We call this latter business revelation, which includes the Incarnation. But in reality, the human phenomenon is itself a revelation and an incarnation. Specifically, the intellect -- no, not the puny intellect of the secular intellectual, but the nous, or intellect properly so-called -- is revelation "subjectivized," just as scripture is the intellect, or Word, objectivized (to paraphrase Schuon). So if one affirms that scripture is the "word of God," it is another way of saying that the intellect through which scripture is understood is also the word of God. They are like two halves of a whole.

But not exactly. Rather, the first and last Word of God -- the Alpha and Omega -- would have to be the hypostatic union of those two words in the human person. Again, the Human Phenomenon is ultimately the unification of the cosmic Subject and Object, and its highest expression -- at least from the human side of the Divine-human divide -- is what is called in the Orthodox Christian tradition theosis. [A point of metaphysical order: obviously this is only possible if God has first "taken on" human nature; we could never accomplish this on our own.]

Thus, theosis is the ultimate meaning of cosmic evolution, a subset of which is the biological evolution that the Darwinians, in their metaphysical blindness, attempt to reduce to random genetic copying errors. Here again, while I do not believe that "intelligent design" should be taught as science -- since it obviously transcends science -- to teach natural selection as metaphysical truth represents the most crude sort of intellectual barbarism imaginable.

Science is simply one of the diverse possibilities of intelligence as such. If, like the Darwinian vandals, we ransack the cosmos and turn it upside down, we place ourselves in the absurd position of using our intelligence to prove that it doesn't actually exist.

In other words, either natural selection explains our intelligence, or our intelligence explains natural selection. You can't have it both ways. Likewise, either intelligence explains the big bang, or the big bang explains intelligence. In reality, no matter how far "back" we search, we find only more divine-human intelligence, the radiance of which is the beauty, truth, and harmony of the mathematical equations governing the physical world.

But even then, "govern" is not quite right, since the big bang is in reality a backward projection of the Human Phenomenon, and without which it would be inconceivable. The equations governing the big bang are not the meaning of existence; rather, human beings are the meaning of those equations. The meaning of anything is not found in its constituent parts; reducing something to its constituent parts is how one destroys meaning, precisely. Rather, meaning is only discovered by understanding what the parts are pointing toward and converging upon.

This brings us back around to the ironically named "progressive" movement, ironic because it excludes the very possibility of progress. Progress, to the extent that it exists -- and it does, in a certain very proscribed manner -- can only be understood in light of the Absolute. Otherwise, how do you measure it? Easy. For the toxic asshat of the left, you simply "make something up." You create some admittedly arbitrary standard out of thin air, and then determine whether or not reality comports with your fantasy of how things should be. And since reality never comports with our fantasies, the leftist is given license to "radically transform" (to put it euphemistically) the present reality.

But in the end, the progressive is hoisted on his own petarded philosophy, which insists that there is no ultimate meaning or truth anyway. Which is why progressivism is such a shallow politico-intellectual game of spiritually stunted adultolescents.

Real progress occurs when the human phenomenon inches closer toward its nonlocal goal, which is to say, its theomorphic center. One of the most dramatic leaps in human progress occurred with the founding of America, and we can see how this is opposed on all sides by forces of darkness that would undo or arrest its further advance -- including the Islamists, leftists, progressives, scientific materialists, metaphysical Darwinians, and other cosmic vandals.

As I wrote in the Coonifesto, the end is always here, because the end of the Human Phenomenon occurs any time one of its individual expressions passes from fragmented multiplicity to true unity-in-diversity, in a neverunending process. This is the cosmic Omcoming we all seek.

Meaning is the golden thread which leads us ever-upward, beyond the subjective horizon, through to the foundation and destiny of the world. This is where the divine substance returns to itsource and one of God's mirrorcles offers the creation back to himSelf in an act of Divine Thanksgiving. This is the cosmic eucharist, the consecration of existence, the wholly communion of a part so ptee doing deuty for the holos. It is not a nothing but a transformational plenitude where the human subject is perpetually transfigured at the crossroads of the vertical and horizontal.

Sinbad lives!

The intellect knows through its very substance all that is capable of being known and, like the blood flowing through even the tiniest arteries of the body, it traverses all the egos of which the universe is woven and opens out “vertically” on the Infinite. In other words: the intellective center of man, which is in practice subconscious, has knowledge, not only of God, but also of man’s nature and his destiny; and this enables us to present Revelation as a “supernaturally natural” manifestation of that which the human species knows, in its virtual and submerged omniscience, both about itself and about God. --Schuon