Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Touching God

The book we've been focusing on for the past few weeks -- Cosmic Liturgy -- is 400 pages long, and we're only up to page 80. I'd like to move things along if possible. Then again, what's the rush? After all, if it took Christianity 600 years to arrive at this synthesis, surely we can spend 600 posts on it.

I don't know if we need to dwell too long on Maximus' apophaticism, because this is something the average 'Coon already understands so well. He sounds very much like Schuon when he points out that God's "immanent name" is Being, while his "transcendent name" -- which, of course, can only be unSaid -- is Not-being (Schuon would say beyond being). The latter is a kind of "ray of darkness," not because of the absence of light, but because of the surfeit. It's too much light for us to see, so it can look like darkness until one's I adapts.

Put another way, we can know of God's existence but not his essence. And we know his existence by his energies, energies that we know could not have arisen from "nature."

Maximus writes that "as a consequence of his existence beyond being, he is more properly spoken of in terms of not-being." I don't know about you, but since human beings are in the image of the creator, I think of this in the same way I think of another human being.

That is, no matter how close you get to another human being, they nevertheless remain completely inaccessible in terms of a first hand knowledge of their essence. Rather, all you can know of them is their energies -- speech, movement, facial expressions. The latter all accompany the essence but are only analogues, not the real thing.

The miracle, really, is how unproblematic it is (for the healthy person, anyway) to "know" the essence of the other. What I mean is that human beings are able to share their essence with each other in such a way that they don't even know they're completely alone and trapped inside their neurology.

And it is a miracle, which I define as anything that comes about as a result of vertical causation. When two human beings are "together," it's not like a couple of objects brushing up against one another. Rather, we are intrinsically intersubjective -- in my opinion because God is. Again, the Trinity is the very essence of intersubjectivity, and cannot really be understood in any other way.

This is how we might understand certain paradoxical statements, such as "God goes forth out of himself and remains within himself." I mean, this is what I am doing at this very moment. With this post, I am "going out of myself," propagating my energies out into the world. And yet, I obviously haven't left my own head. I haven't actually moved at all. The really weird part is that so many of you are able to intuit my essence through these energies. For others, such as goddinpotty, the energies merely bounce off of them.

One of the most important psychoanalytic theorists was a fellow named R. D. Fairbairn, a brilliant man who helped psychoanalysis move from a one person inter-objective model to a two person intersubjective one. I don't want to get too pedantic here, but for Fairbairn, the essence of psychopathology lies in how well the person can manage their intersubjectivity. The project is intrinsically hazardous, because we obviously cannot do so without the assistance of other human beings, especially the Mother.

Think of our consciousness as a kind of infinite abyss. We are born into this abyss with no points of reference, nothing to hold on to, no way to convert it to "thought." In order to be a successful parent, you must be able to reach way down into the infinite subjectivity of your baby and help them form a map of reality. Conversely, it is easy enough to deny their subjective depth by treating them as an object.

Over the past four years, I've been able to spend a fair amount of time around parents who do this to their children, and it always makes me wince, because they are laying down barriers for the child's self-exploration and self-knowing. Yes, it can be regained later, but usually it is not (Fairbairn called it the "schizoid position"). I believe this is why so many people are so boring. Seriously, how many real live wires do you meet in a year? You know, people around whom you feel more alive, more free, more creative. Most people have the opposite effect.

This is something I noticed even -- or perhaps especially -- as a child. Why did so many grown-ups appear so dead, while others were so full of life? This is one of the reasons why I instinctively recoil from most leftists, as they are every bit as tedious as our current troll. What is political correctness but a kind of soul-crushing parental wet blanket that forecloses various avenues of thought, and therefore being?

Fairbairn pointed out that for the infant, the non-responsive parent cannot be understood in terms of an "absence." Rather, it is understood as the presence of something bad, i.e., a "bad object." This object is unconsciously internalized by the child, and forms the basis of what I call mind parasites.

A mind parasite is actually an "object relation" that consists of three parts: the subject, the object, and the affective link between them. Furthermore, because of the symmetrical logic of the unconscious, the person can at different times identify with either pole of the relation. This is something I see virtually every day in my practice. I could give examples, but I think you get the picture. It is why the liberal victim is always a bully, and vice versa.

The point is, what we call "reality" is actually a vast intersubjective space. And your ability to think deeply about it will partly depend upon the depth of your own intersubjective space. This space has no limits. Rather, any limits are only in your head. Thus, for example, to say that "God doesn't exist," is not a statement about God, but about one's own intersubjective space, which is unable to breach the walls of its own self-imposed limits.

But it's not just a religious problem. Many people are unable to truly love. Why? Because they are closed off from the intersubjective ground without which love could not exist.

Most of us have experienced this state, for example, if you have ever been truly depressed. "Sadness" is only an effect of depression. In my opinion, the real basis of it is a kind of exile into a hellish domain that loses its intersubjective depth. One can neither reach "in" nor "out." Nor can anyone else reach in. A friend of mine is going through this at the moment, and I'm doing what I can to help her through it, because one of the most bewildering aspects of depression is that one loses all of the familiar signposts that only exist in intersubjective space -- passions, hobbies, interests, etc. Without this passionate engagement with the world, there is only a kind of dis-oriented living death.

Hmm, how did we get here?

Oh yes, the intersubjective nature of God. How can one person have a vivid, passionate and life-affirming relationship with God, while for another, God doesn't even exist?

I guess at this point that's kind of a rhetorical question. I know that my four year-old already has a passionate relationship with God, even though I do nothing to impose any kind of top-down dogma on him. Rather, I help him name and explore his own spontaneous awareness of God. And as you parents out there know, it's just about the sweetest, purest thing you can possibly imagine. It cannot fail to render one misty with the old unshed, as my man Jeeves would say.

Why is that? Because, to paraphrase UnKnown Friend, tears signify "contact" between one plane of consciousness and another. It's literally touching.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When Infants Attack! On Reality and its Adversaries

I only have time for a speed post, if that. But my day doesn't feel complete if I don't write something. For me, it's more than just blah-blah-blogging. It's my primary verticalisthenic exercise.

Oddly, having a readership is important, even though this is primarily between me and O. I haven't formulated the exact dynamics of it, but there must be some sort of trinitarian aspect to it. In the absence of community, the verticalisthenics might devolve into a kind of binary narcissism. The sharing is intrinsic to the experience. It must be given away immediately. Or inflicted, depending upon where you stand.

It is also interesting that I have devoted readers for whom I do not write and who cannot benefit from my writing, since it either doesn't penetrate them or bounces off their opaque psychic substance -- for which they then blame me. You will have noticed that our trolls are always angry and even bitter. It's odd. They habitually seek me out in order to misunderstand my message so they can nurture their misplaced anger toward me. A psychologist would call this "madness."

I am always drawn to light and to depth, irrespective of the source. It's like a cold animal being drawn toward heat. As I've mentioned before, doing so can pretty much constitute the Raccoon path. Just follow the light and the depth and let the rest take care of itself. To a large extent you can't do anything else anyway, any more than you can make your muscles bigger by thinking about them. Rather, in the latter case, all you can do is engage in the conditions that will allow your muscles to grow. In short, you just lift weights and the muscles will automatically grow without you having to think about them.

Truly, spiritual growth is something that happens while you're busy doing other things, mainly just living. But living in a certain way. Once you turn around and orient yourself to O, then everything becomes an occasion for growth. But the growth is "microscopic," so to speak, until a certain threshold is reached, somewhat like filling a cup with water. The cup is either filling up or overflowing, even though you haven't changed your behavior. One day you just notice water all over the floor.

Schuon writes that the Christian way is essentially a "way of Grace," i.e., (↓). However, (↓) has an "outer" aspect and an inner one; the former is much more general, propagating itself "in the largest measure possible" -- even, I might add, to those who are not aware of its operation. If God's grace were to stop for one second, we would be reduced to animals. Atheists should be careful what they wish for, because in the absence of grace, everyone would look like Bill Maher, or Keith Olbermann, or goddinpotty -- and that's on a good day!

In other words, even a disreputable lowlife such as Bill Maher is the unwitting recipient of a kind of "residual grace" that infuses Christendom. In his own perverse way, he does care about truth and decency, except that in his inverted world the good becomes bad and Truth becomes the lie. If your world is fundamentally inverted, extra effort will only result in taking one further from the Source. Is this not obvious?

This is why there is no necessary relationship between intelligence and wisdom, and often an inverse one. If intelligence is not in service to a Truth that is anterior to it, you end up with -- obviously examples abound, but let's say Paul Krugman. One can assume Krugman has a higher than average IQ, but it is in such total service to an a priori Lie, that the result is indistinguishable from severe mental illness.

No, I am not attempting to diagnose an individual from a distance without examining him. But if I were treating such an individual, naturally I would not fail to notice his distortion of reality. Such distortion may superficially appear "passive" -- as if he has simply overlooked something -- when it is usually quite active, the result of an unconscious "attack on linking," as Bion called it. Such attacks are actually quite ferocious, but since they are unconscious, the person doesn't realize the extent of their rage. Picture a dog violently shaking something in its jaws. It's like that.

And why are they so enraged? Again, we can only speak in generalities, but it usually has something to do with the failure of reality to comport with infantile fantasy. Naturally this is something with which we all have to deal, and to which we must all reconcile ourselves. We all harbor "traces of omnipotence" resulting from our primary identification with the Great Mother. No matter who you are, irrespective of time or place, this is the land from which all humans have journeyed -- either successfully or not.

Infantile omnipotence is only given up reluctantly (even while there is a parallel drive toward autonomy and individuation). All perceptive parents are aware of this. I certainly see it in my four year-old, and it's a fascinating thing to behold. One of the important tasks of parenthood is to ease this transition, to not make it too abrupt on the one hand, or to overly indulge the child on the other hand. This is what the great psychoanalytic theorist D.W. Winnicott called "good enough parenting." The child must be "let down easy," so to speak. Err on one side and the child is traumatized by reality; err on the other side and he will be unable to face it.

The consequences of failure to properly individuate are increasingly well understood, not just by attachment theorists (who primarily rely upon infant-mother observation), but by developmental neuro-psychoanalysts such as Alan Schore (difficult) or Dan Siegel (easy).

I realize this will sound disingenuous to some, but I'm really not trying to "pathologize" my ideological adversaries. Rather, as I have discussed in the past, I'm simply operating from a developmental model that has a certain idea of what constitutes a healthy human being. Not only will certain systems facilitate or retard human development, but people will generally attempt to construct a system that reflects their level of development. This is why we say that "cultural space" is the instantiation of developmental time.

We just have two irreconcilable visions of the source and destiny of Man, that's all. Bygones!

Oops. Out of time. good DAY!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Liberal Fascism and Omniscient Stupidity

A random post from two years ago. As always, I've edited it, applied some of its insights to current historical tragedies and farces, and tossed in some fresh insultainment.

You might say that this verticalisthenic exercise of revisiting my past allows me hold a conversation with myself, almost like dream interpretation, in which one mode of consciousness dwells in another for the benefit of both. In this case, I'm trying to learn something from the old Bob, even while gently correcting his errors.

One of the enduring defects of leftist thought is that it habitually tries to change the world before it has understood the world -- which is one more reason why it is so cute that they refer to themselves as the "reality based community." Children and leftists say the darndest things!

For the left, politics comes down to one after another failed experiment against reality -- economic reality, historical reality, psychosexual reality, geopolitical reality, and spiritual reality, to name a few. (Speaking of which, this book, Economics Does Not Lie, is highly recommended. Bottom line: it doesn't. I'd love to say more, but I left the book at the office. Virtually every page brims with insights that every free citizen -- in order to become or remain free -- needs to know. But since leftists control education, the last thing they want citizens to know about is the science of economics. Rather, they need you to be innumerate in order to exert economic control over you and thereby expand the god of the State.)

When you think about it, at least half of our "lived freedom" comes in the form of economic activity. Therefore, to engage in economic activity without understanding how economics works is like.... engaging in some activity without understanding how it works. Notice how eager leftist are to, say, educate children about homosexual activity, when so few of us will ever engage in such activity. I'm trying to think back.... No, I've never put any of that stuff they taught me about homosexuality into practice.

Anyway, this compulsion -- and it is a compulsion -- to radically change the world before understanding it has been true ever since Marx, who believed that philosophy had theretofore regarded its task as interpreting the world, whereas its real mission and duty was to transform it. Allied with this cavalier attitude toward understanding reality is an equally ironic "progressivism" that has no stable ground and no transcendent purpose, and therefore easily becomes an arbitrary, anti-human tyranny whose elites march us forward directly into the past.

Look at the current healthcare debate. In America, we have developed the finest healthcare system in the world. How did we do it? Mainly by getting out of the way. In a way, we cannot understand how it happened, because that's how the free market works. As Hayek taught us, there is a near infinite amount of information dispersed throughout the market, which no government and certainly no person could ever grasp, and which is why the "fatal conceit" of top-down leftist economics never works in practice.

But does that stop the statists of the left from wanting to appropriate 17% of the economy? Of course not. They intend to instantly transform the medical system without having a clue as to how and why it has developed the way it has. Think about it. Something that evolved over hundreds of years, and yet, they want us to toss it all aside in favor of a bill that no one has even read yet! Madness.

Part of the madness is based on the idea that people have a "right" to healthcare. But how can one have a right to something that doesn't exist until someone produces it? I'm a doctor. No, not the kind that can tell a perfect stranger to take off her clothes. But you can bet that the left will try to get mental health treatment into universal coverage. What this means is that American citizens will be "entitled" to my labor. It's a right! But how is this different from me being a slave of the state?

When this post first appeared two years ago, I reviewed a laughable Report From Yearly Kos: The Intersection of Science and Progressive Values. In it, the author caricatures science, as if it could possibly arbitrate moral and political issues that intrinsically lie outside its strictly limited purview. See of you can detect the giant epistemological hole the left creates in order for them to slip in the fascism:

"[I]t has fallen to those of us who oppose the direction the country has been heading to simultaneously champion a way of thinking that would have averted so many blunders and disasters: empirical thinking. Scientific thinking. Critical thinking."

This is always the mode of the left: 1) create crisis. 2) insert "experts."

"... [N]ow more than ever before, we're finally waking up to the fact that the practices of science themselves encode a set of values -- a way of approaching the world, understanding it, and acting within it. At its core, it's a world view that is humble about what we know and don't know, flexible about what we do and don't decide to do, and open about admitting past mistakes and listening to contrary opinion. In short, it's the utter opposite of Bush's stubborn, inflexible, unwavering certainty about everything."

Yes, as that fascist President Bush said, "I don't want people who disagree with my takeover of the economy to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way, and I want my fellow patriots to turn their names into the state so they can be properly dealt with."

Ah, humility. Flexibility. Openness to admitting past mistakes. Will the left now humbly admit that their grandiose "war on poverty" has failed, and that, trillions of dollars later, they have no exit strategy for this senseless quagmire? Will they finally concede that economic principles are universal, and that their porkulus bill did nothing to stimulate the economy? Will they acknowledge that the surge in Iraq worked? Will they admit that none of the predictions of the global warming cult are panning out? Will they admit that it's August in southern California, and I'm a little cold right now?

Here is a fine example of the deep scientific humility of the progressive mind. The author opened the panel by "airing some lessons" from his new book, which explores "the scientific relationship between hurricanes and global warming." Hmm, just what is that scientific relationship? Well, it "remains murky and incompletely understood," another way of saying that there is no known scientific relationship.

But that forms no barrier to the leftist, who believes in... science! And... progress! And, most importantly, that manmade global warming causes hurricanes, whatever the evidence shows. Therefore, the absence of proof "hardly means that we ought to throw up our hands and ignore the subject, or simply wait for more research to come in. On the contrary, we have quite a lot at stake." As such, "we have every right to be worried that storms might be getting worse, and ought to move now to better protect ourselves against them."

Remember Marx's dictum about changing the world -- if he were a meteorologist, he might have said, "everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it!"

So let's get this straight. Science is a humble exercise in which we employ empirical thinking and listen to contrary opinion. But in this case, we can't wait for research to come in! There's too much at stake! We must ignore contrary opinion! We have every right to be worried that storms might be getting worse, even though they're not! We must move now to better protect ourselves against them! (I wonder if the author would be gracious enough to allow President Bush this attitude vis-à-vis the far more compelling evidence for Saddam's WMD?)

What lesson does the author draw from his stated need to urgently act on his scientific ignorance? This

"highlights a fundamental truth about most science policy issues: the inescapable fact of both science and reality is that we never know everything, and never will. Yet this pervasive state of uncertainty hardly lessens the moral imperative to take whatever it is that we do know and use it to improve our lives..."

That pretty much sums up the attitude of the left, whether we're talking about global warming or radically transforming the healthcare system: omniscient stupidity. It reminds me of Bion's three characteristics of the psychotic mind: 1) omnipotence, 2) stupidity, and 3) curiosity. Not healthy curiosity, mind you, but a kind of bovine curiosity about things that are perfectly settled and no sane person would question.

If this man's morality is grounded in empirical thought, how does he arrive at an urgent moral imperative based upon murky evidence? Shouldn't it be a murky moral imperative, or moral murkiness? To suggest that we have an urgent moral imperative to act on our scientific ignorance is again about as good a summary of the leftist mindset as you could imagine, for it combines a radical cynicism that destroys traditional values, with an insane moral passion.

Another speaker at Yearly Kos spoke of the distinction between "mundane ignorance" and "virulent ignorance," the latter of which is "the willful disregard for contrary knowledge and opinion in favor of a set of dubious 'facts' that are the result of ideology and indoctrination." Ahem.

The above statement about the limits of science also conflates science and theology. Yes, it is an inescapable fact that "we never know everything, and never will," but that is not the purpose of science. Of course science can never "know everything." As Schuon writes, it is not problematic for science to study a "fragmentary field within the limits of its competence." Problems only arise when "it claims to be in a position to attain to total knowledge" and "ventures conclusions in fields accessible only to a supra-sensible and truly intellective wisdom, the existence of which it refuses on principle to admit."

By definition, science cannot know the Ultimate Real because "it replaces the universal Substance by matter alone, either by denying the universal Principle or reducing it to matter or to some kind of pseudo-absolute from which all transcendence has been eliminated." They forget that information is vertically anterior to matter, and that mind is anterior to information.

Science, properly understood, is an inherently conservative (i.e., classically liberal, not leftist) endeavor. It operates under the metaphysical assumption that there is a hidden order in the cosmos that may be uniquely disclosed to the human intellect, but it proceeds cautiously, builds on its past, respects its own traditions, and is slow to accept radical innovation in the absence of extraordinary proof. But secular progressives are never truly scientific, let alone humble. Rather, they nearly always adhere to the pseudo-philosophy of scientism, which conflates what may be known by the scientific method with the totality of what may be known. And as Schuon points out, scientism redounds to

"a totalitarian rationalism that eliminates both Revelation and Intellect, and at the same time a totalitarian materialism that ignores the metaphysical relativity -- and therewith also the impermanence -- of matter and of the world. It does not know that the supra-sensible, situated as it is beyond space and time, is the concrete principle of the world, and that it is consequently also at the origin of that contingent and changeable coagulation we call 'matter.' A science that is called 'exact' is in fact an 'intelligence without wisdom,' just as post-scholastic philosophy is inversely a 'wisdom without intelligence.'”

The radical change promised to us by liberal fascists is rooted in intelligence without wisdom. If that.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Ill Logic of the Left

Do you need to know the whole story? Why not. This old post came to my attention this morning because it generated some automated comments that I had to delete. The title of the post looked interesting -- Marriage Counseling Between Islamists and the Left -- so I reread it. It had potential but needed some work, so I have endeavored here to flesh it out.

In The Symmetry of God, Bomford cites a typical but fascinating example of how the symmetrical logic of the deep unconscious mind applies to three-term propositions. Up to now, we have been discussing the symmetry of two-term propositions, for example, how it is that the left can turn a quintessential patriot such as General Petraeus into a traitor, while transforming their own treasonous beliefs and actions into patriotism.

In terms of conventional, aristotelean logic, this makes no sense -- as indeed so little of the leftist project makes sense. For example, when they dissent, it is the highest form of patriotism; when conservatives do, it is nazism. How can this be? Are they just cynical and calculating? Or is there something deeper going on?

Human beings are not "logic machines." Or, to be precise, there are at least two distinctly different forms of logic that govern thought: the machine-like asymmetrical logic of the conscious mind and the very unmachine-like symmetrical logic of the unconscious (and I believe supraconscious) mind. One of the most important points to bear in mind is that we might believe a person to be illogical, when they are in fact obeying a different form of logic: symmetrical logic (as elucidated by the brilliant Chilean psychoanalyst and logician Ignacio Matte Blanco).

Indeed, this was one of Freud's central insights, that the sick person was actually logical in his own way. One of purposes of therapy is to expose the unconscious logic that is causing pain or dysfunction.

But it is also critical not to automatically "pathologize" all symmetrical logic, as many scientistic, atheistic, or rationalist types do, for without it, we would not be human. Rather, we would be hyper-rational Vulcans with no "emotional intelligence," no interior understanding of things, no ability to comprehend God, religion or art, and no ability to love or create.

In reality, our "humanness" takes place in the transcendent "higher third" that unifies symmetrical and asymmetrical logic. The more "harmonious" this marriage, the more healthy the person. You might say that it gives depth to asymmetrical logic and height to symmetrical logic. Love, play, creativity, and worship would all be impossible without it.

To take an example ripped from this morning's headlines, it is obviously kooky for the left to regard citizens who don't want the state to take over their healthcare as "fascists." For one thing, logically speaking, anyone who wants a smaller and less intrusive government is the polar opposite of a fascist.

But in the unconscious mind, where symmetrical logic rules the night, it is the work of an instant to convert terms to their opposite. This is how we may understand what makes the leftist tick: whatever he accuses others of, is what he is unconsciously guilty of. Thus, when he says, "you are astroturfing," he means "I am astroturfing." When he says "American citizens are behaving like fascists," he means "we and our union thugs are behaving like fascists." When he says "you are a racist," he means "I am preoccupied with race and cannot see beyond it." Etc.

This is nothing new. The left does the same thing with criminals. It makes no sense to a psychologically healthy person, but to an unhealthy person, liberal victimhood is psychologically empowering, because at least it allows the self-proclaimed victim to externalize their subjugation while secretly being responsible for it. Consciously they look like masochists, but unconsciously they have internalized a sadistic part that positively glories in the abuse. This is why self-proclaimed leftist victims are always such bullies. But because they are victims, they can consciously deny their aggression. Who's a bigger bully than Keith Olbermann?

This is also why, for example, Al Sharpton panicked at the idea of Henry Gates and Sgt. Crowley getting along. If there is no hostility between the races, then Sharpton is not only out of business, but he is stuck with his own internal sadist, with no one to project it into. The left must keep racial discord alive. One cannot be opposed to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor because she is an idiot and a leftist hack, but because she is "Latina." One cannot think that Obama is a socialist joker. Rather, one must be racist.

A leftist can be a typical loser whose failure is entirely self-generated. But proclaiming oneself victim means never having to say I'm a sorry-ass excuse of a human being. Perfect! You oppress yourself all the way to secular godhood, for the victim is the sacred liberal icon who justifies all of their intrusive and oppressive policies. In the liberal world, you are not innocent until proven guilty, you are guilty unless granted victim status, and then you are never guilty.

The victim is the "cause" of the victimizing state that will pretend to rescue him. Thus, in its own self-interest, the state must produce more victims to prop it up. In terms of the present debate, if we are all victims of evil insurance companies, then we need to be rescued by the state. But once the rubicon of socialized medicine is crossed, then we will have fundamentally altered our relation to the state. We will have become a nation of dependent serfs, not free citizens. We really will have become victims.

Things can get a bit more complicated in a three-term proposition. Bomford uses the example of a social worker intervening in a case of domestic violence. Outwardly, it looks straightforward enough: the social worker is rescuing a victim (usually a woman) from a persecutor (usually a man).

However, as Bomford writes, each of the parties may unconsciously experience the intervention as a persecution of the actual persecutor, a bullying of the bully, or "a new persecution from which the apparent persecutor has to be rescued by the victim." In other words, the rescuer (the social worker) becomes the persecutor of the persecutor (the man, who is now her victim), and the victim (the woman) mobilizes her unconscious defenses to become the rescuer of her own persecutor. Both she and her abuser will now see the social worker as the persecutory threat to their dysfunctional relationship.

This pattern is so commonplace, and yet, seems to defy logic. However, it makes perfect sense if you understand that people commonly marry disowned and projected parts of their own psyche. Therefore, in this case, the masochistic woman is married to her inner sadist. If she leaves him, or if he is punished by the law, then her own internal sadist will attack her, resulting in unbearably profound guilt and depression.

But it gets even more complicated. For example, many people are drawn to social work (and to the helping professions in general) because of an unconscious sense of victimization that they try to spuriously heal by projecting into others. This is why these fields (including my own field of psychology) are so overrun by leftist do-gooders with rescue fantasies. The leftist feels victimized by anyone or anything that arouses their tendency to feel victimized. Thus, in the above scenario, on a deep unconscious level the real abuser -- the persecutor -- becomes a sort of rescuer who rescues the social worker from her feelings of victimization, allowing a temporary discharge of victim feelings.

Again, think of the typical leftist activist who is "rescued" from an otherwise meaningless life by entertaining persecutory fantasies of global warming, or "income disparity," or "male oppression," or "racial profiling," or what have you. This explains why the leftist clings to his persecutor long after the persecution has stopped. The left cannot "let go" of George Bush, any more than the radical feminist can let go of her symbolic "rapist" or the Islamist can let go of his Jew hatred, for these are the organizing principles of their own rage and hostility. Six months ago I predicted that the left would be unable to let go of George Bush. I was right. They cannot let go because "he" (their fantasy) is a vital part of them.

Later in the book, Bomford considers the three term proposition of God, Jesus, and man from this angle. Consciously, it is said that Jesus died to atone for man's sins against God. Good enough.

But since Jesus is all man and all God, one possible unconscious conclusion (among many) would be that Jesus (God) died for God's sins against man. This thought is "not permitted" consciously, but it would certainly make sense to the unconscious -- i.e., that the "reconciliation" between God and man works both ways. I am quite sure that this is an example of how the richness of religious symbolism reaches way down into regions of the mind which bypass the conscious awareness of the ego.

Remember, in the deep unconscious, there is no rigid distinction between fantasy and reality. Let's say human beings have an issue with their creator. Let's say they are angry at the existential mess they're in, and that they secretly do blame God for this unfair and unjust world. But you can't express this anger directly, any more than the child can express his homicidal rage toward the parent without fear of retaliation.

In the Christianized unconscious, there may well be the perception that God has "atoned" for this mess by suffering and dying for man, thus balancing the scales, so that we may relate to God in an unambivalent manner. We are purged of our anger toward God. He's paid the debt in full.

I'm not saying that this is the case, mind you. This has to do with man's unconscious perception, not with God per se. Imagine someone from another planet, trying to understand people who wear a little tortured man around their neck. What, are these people sadists?

As a matter of fact, yes. But some of us are forgiven.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Let's Give a Big Hand to God!

More speedposting. I'll skip any formalities and dive right in. As I mentioned in a previous post, I need a new symbol for something Maximus repeatedly discusses. I can't find exactly what I'm looking for, but ♽ comes the closest. Think of it as a spiraling arrow that is perpetually flowing in, out, and up. We shall call it the Circus Maximus.

Also, one reviewer mentioned that she thought my pneumaticons, or Holy Symbols, were a bit cold and clinical. Therefore, in order to warm and "humanize" them, instead of (↓) and (↑), in this post I will use ☝and☟.

With regard to the cosmic synthesis discussed yesterday, how is it that two "things" can be unified when one of them is so perfect that it transcends any worldly notion of perfection, while the other is intrinsically imperfect and belongs to another realm entirely? This is where ☟ comes in. As Balthasar writes, "Grace perfects nature in its innermost core only because it is not itself nature."

So there is something "in" nature that is not "of" nature. In fact, this should qualify as a truism, even for atheists, but as Dennis Prager always says, we live in the "age of stupidity," so we have materialists who insist that materialism is true, thereby rendering it false to no one who really exists anyway.

I think Maximus does an admirable job of clearing up the grace vs. effort paradox that still needlessly divides Christians to this day. I will insert symbols as necessary. He says that "we are not permitted to say that grace alone ☟ brings about, in the saints, insight into the divine mysteries without any contribution from their natural capacity to receive knowledge ☝."

If not for this handy dynamic interplay of ☝and☟, "we would have to assume that the holy prophets could not receive and comprehend the enlightenment that the Holy Spirit bestowed on them." In other words and symbols, they obviously did not arrive at their understanding through the application of any natural capacity alone ☝, without any ☟at all. But nor is it a case of pure ☟, with no human mediation at all.

You may disagree, but I think that Maximus is absolutely correct when he says that "the grace of the Holy Spirit does not bring about wisdom in the saints without the receptivity (o) of their intelligence (¶)," and "does not give knowledge without their ability to grasp the Word." However, at the same time, man cannot attain to this perfection "by his own natural powers ☝, without the divine power that provides them as gifts ☟."

Obviously, ☟ takes priority over ☝, for without it, nothing is possible. Therefore, we would say that it is a necessary condition, or "condition without which." In contrast, ☝ is a sufficient condition, or "condition with which." In the final analysis, ☝is a product of ☟ (for the reverse could never be true), but that is a topic for a different post. The point here is that we encounter God in this transitional space between ☝and☟.

In a way, you could understand it as the difference between, say, language and inspiration in the production of art. Two people can have an equivalent vocabulary and understanding of grammar, but there is an x-factor without which language cannot be "lit up" from the inside. Obviously it is the same with music.

This also explains how and why the ☟ always contains more than we can know. If it were only a product of ☝, then it would always be "continuous" with what we already know.

But there is always that extra something that requires time in order to unpack. This is why we say that for the mystic, his reach perpetually exceeds his grasp, while for the atheist, his grasp always dismembers his reach. He is capable of so much more, but in disabling ☝ he forecloses ☟.

Thus, as Maximus says, "All the saints show this when, after receiving their revelations ☟, they try to clarify for themselves the meaning of what has been revealed." And the ability to clarify this meaning varies greatly in individuals -- which is why Maximus is not Deepak.

You might say that it is a two-step process, in that God reveals to us, and then we must reveal it further to ourselves. Or, you could say that we have to remain open to ☟, as further revelation pours forth from the revelation. First the flash of lightning; then the rolling thunder. Badda bing; badda bang. Ho!

But in any event, "the grace of the Holy Spirit never destroys the capabilities of nature." Rather, the opposite: it perfects them by making them "mature and strong enough once again to function in a natural way" and leading them "upward toward insight into the divine." Again, ☝☟ is the way to glow.

To summarize, "what the Holy Spirit is trying [trying] to accomplish in us is a true knowledge of things," but it cannot do this without man's co-upperaton ☝. "The Holy Spirit accomplishes in the saints the ability to understand mysteries, but not without the exercise of their natural abilities or without their seeking and careful searching after knowledge ☝."

"And if the saints have searched and sought, they surely were aided in their quest by the grace of the Spirit ☟, who spurred on their theoretical and practical reason to study and investigate these things ☝."

It all goes down in the sinaiptic gap:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

On the Cosmic Possibility of Divine Synthesis

Yesterday we spoke of the universality of the Christian message, a universality that can be distorted as a result of certain "particular" misinterpretations cut off from the wholeness of integral truth.

I see that Maximus had the same cooncerns, for as Balthasar writes -- this is somewhat of a mouthful, so chew it carefully -- the intrinsically correct christological formulation expands "into a fundamental law of metaphysics. Illuminated by the highest level of theological synthesis -- the union of God and world in Christ -- Maximus searches out the traces of the developmental principles, of the conditions of possibility of this synthesis, and in the process discovers the formal structure of all created being, even the formal structure of the relationship between the absolute and the contingent" (emphasis mine).

In other words, prior to the actual synthesis of God and world in Christ, there must be the ontological possibility of this synthesis. It's not just "magic," like, say, radical Darwinism, which incoherently rests on principles that render itself impossible.

This "possibility of synthesis" is always present, which is what Augustine meant when he made the wise crack about how "the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist." It existed as potential, a potential that was actualized in Jesus.

What is the nature of this cosmic potential for divinization and synthesis? Maximus is surely on the right track when he writes of a "universal presence... unrecognizably binding all things together, yet dwelling in each being in a different way; this presence holds the individual parts of the whole together, in itself and in each other, unconfused and inseparable, and allows them, through this very relationship of creative unity, to live more for each other than for themselves."

In other words, this principle of wholeness is also a necessary condition of love. You might say that love is the intimate and spontaneous recognition of this love, and as Leonard Cohen sang last night, "love's the only engine of survival." "Partness" sundered from wholeness is death itself -- or worse than death, since it is "living death." But love is synthesis and union.

Also, freedom is only located in the whole, so freedom is obviously related to love. To say that hateful people are not free is a truism.

But even more basically, as a therapist, one of my underlying tasks is to help the person achieve a more unified self -- that is, to actualize more of their latent wholeness and assimilate their missing parts into a coherent Self. And as we become more whole, viola!, we become, as Freud said, more capable of "love, work, and play," or let us say intimacy, creativity, productivity, and transparency. Each of these categories only subsists because of the prior cosmic wholeness.

Now, in my book of the same name, you may recall the handy pneumaticons of (•) and •••(•)•••. That latter symbol stands for the mind that is riven by quasi-autonomous mind parasites with agendas all their own. As we know, the word "health" is etymologically related to "wholeness." Both physically and emotionally, we are in the condition of health when we are in a state of dynamic and harmoniously integrated wholeness.

In fact, this is also true of our intellect. This is why we can truly say that there are "healthy" and "unhealthy" philosophies (which will in turn be related to their creativity, generativity, productivity, and, of course, love). Unhealthy philosophies not only produce hate, but emanate from hate, in that they divide us along various fault lines such as race, class, and gender. Truly, leftism is "the hate that hate produced."

But you will have noticed that it must always masquerade as love. That is just a given. However, it is always a counterfeit love, since the state cannot love you. Or, like nature, it loves you ruthlessly. The state itself becomes a kind of quasi-autonomous being that replaces God. This was precisely the mission of Hegel's philosophy, which trickles down from his mountaintop into the various creeks and crocks of Marxism in all its varieties.

As Doctor Zero writes, "We’re tired of checking the papers each day, to see which group of us has been targeted as enemies of the State. We’re growing impatient waiting for the Democrats to come up with ideas that don’t require their supporters to hate someone. We’ve had our fill of 'progressives' who act as if we’re living in 1909, and none of their diseased policies have ever been tried before."

Wholeness can never be imposed from the top down, only discovered from within. To again cite the prophet Cohen, "give me Christ or give me Hiroshima." In the end, those are the only two options. God can create genuine GM parts, because the God-made parts are unified in him.

But when man tries to do this, he ends up a kind of black god who simply blows things to smithereens. Think of the hateful Iranians, or Palestinians, or North Koreans, who live in self-imposed and stagnant isolation. There is no possibility of wholeness in those cultures, only its counterfeit in the form of top-down totalitarian statism.

In the case of Iran, one wonders if this has to do with the nature of Islam, for in Islam there is God and there is man, but no Christ to unify them. Yes, I understand that Sufis such as Schuon see things differently, but he is hardly representative of Islam "on the ground," since virtually every Muslim country is a dungeon of the human soul.

Back to Maximus. The wholeness that dwells in our particularity is the source of our freedom, not to mention our dignity and nobility. At the same time, it is the source of our ability to love, which cannot be greedily acquired, but recognizes and unifies intrinsic differences. In other words, love must "let it be" by honoring the beautiful differences that constitute the world. Thus, love involves a paradoxical combination of calm "indifference or openness toward the constituent parts" -- you could say (o) and (---) -- and an active "affirmation of their difference."

Balthasar adds that "the difference between creatures is a feature of their perfection." It's not a bug, it's a feature! It only becomes a bug if you fail to realize the prior unity that makes the differences possible. We need to appreciate the differences, knowing that they "reflect God's beauty more perfectly in their very nonidentity than a unitary world could do." Differences are "particular perfections," but perfection only stands in relation to the Absolute.

Let's see if we can dumb this down a bit. Perhaps an example will help. Yesterday evening Mrs. G. took the boy to the park. I was walking the dog, and made a surprise visit to the park. Off in the distance, my son recognized me. His face lights up, he drops what he's doing, he runs toward me, and joyfully cries, "Daddy!" before leaping into my arms.

How to describe such a precious moment, the sudden ingression of eternity into time? You can't, not really. But it was always there in potential, just waiting to be actualized. If the potential weren't there, then we would just be like a couple of autonomous billiard balls colliding into one another, with no possibility of the interior union which is pure Life, Love and Joy.

This is what I beleaf I was d'lightfully photosynthesizing on p. 259, where it is written,

Let's blake for a vision: ah, remama when she satya down in a crystal daze, grazing in the grass, loose & lazy beneath a diamond sky with both hands waving free, rumblin', bumblin', stumblin', we Could... Go... All... The... Way! Into the blisstic mystic, no you or I, nor reason wise, a boundless sea of flaming light, bright blazing fire and ecstatic cinder, Shiva, me tinders, count the stars in your eyes!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Relative Truth and Absolute Nonsense

This is a pure speed post, since I woke up late and am short on time. It may or may not be coherent, but it is an honest deal -- 45 minutes of theology in 45 minutes, warts and all.

So there's no misunderstanding, when I say that "we are all Christians now," I'm just trying to be annoying to non-believers. I'm certainly not trying to alienate our Jewish friends.

Rather, I mean it in Augustine's venerable sense that "that which is known as the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist." It was with us "from the beginning of the human race until the time when Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity." I'm just drawing out the metalogical implications of Augustine's insight, and applying it to past, present and future.

You could equally just say that "all truth comes from Christ," which is what Schuon believed, despite the fact that he was a practicing Sufi. For example, Schuon writes that when we say In the beginning was the Word, "obviously what is meant is not a temporal origin, but a principial priority, that of divine Order, to which the universal Intellect -- the Word -- pertains, while nonetheless being linked to cosmic Manifestation, of which it is the center both transcendent and immanent."

In fact, one of the dangers of dogma miscoonscrewed is that it can cause the Christian message to lose its universality. And when it loses its universality, it loses its appeal to the intellect, since the intellect is what knows universals, precisely (the senses know nothing of universals).

This again touches on the issue of heresy, and of the balance that is required in order to preserve the efficacy of dogma in embodying and "delivering" Truth to man and vice versa. Dogma can never be absolute but can only point to the Absolute. And to be honest, for a variety of reasons, I don't think any purely exoteric dogma can do this, as it inevitably has certain inconsistencies that "offend" the intellect (but do not pose a problem, say, for the bhakti), and which can only be resolved on the esoteric plane.

By the way, we could equally say the same of science. I have no problem with scientific dogma, as science cannot get by without it. But when they start to reify their methodological abstractions and insist upon the literal truth of things that cannot be so, then they are every bit as opaque as the religious fundamentalist who insists that the world is 6,000 years old or that we should always "turn the other cheek" and thereby allow monsters to rule the earth.

For example, Darwinism is fine as method, but to insist that the human soul could have arisen from random material processes is just loony. Likewise, to suggest that creation "started" with the Big Bang is nonsense. The Big Bang is simply as far as the laws of physics can be applied. It hardly means that there was -- is -- nothing outside them. Indeed, if there weren't something that transcends physics, I couldn't be typing this sentence and you couldn't understand it.

One of the benefits of Christianity is that many aspects of it "make no sense" upon superficial consideration. Therefore, one is left with two choices; one, just accept the whole thing without reservation, or two, work at seeing the wholeness beneath the apparent divergences and loose ends.

The latter is what we call "verticalisthenics." It is simply what the intellect "does," whether we are talking about matter or spirit, heaven or earth, vertical or horizontal. The scientist sees an apple fall and the earth revolve around the sun, and knows that these two shockingly diverse phenomena are governed by the same underlying law.

Just so, the Christian knows that the same "law" of kenosis that "governs" God's relationship to the cosmos governs our relationship to God; just as God selflessly gives the creation to us, we must selflessly give it back.

Schuon notes that any normal human being can conceive of the Absolute, whether secular or religious. However, in both cases, the person may lack the intellectual firepower to do anything more than simply posit it, as opposed to knowing it on the interior plane.

For example, we know that the radical Darwinian is an obnoxious absolutist. And yet, there is nothing in his theory that allows a completely contingent being to know anything of the Absolute. Therefore, a middlebrow scientific dabbler such as Queeg is no different whatsoever from a kind of incoherent religious absolutist who insists that the world sits on the back of a giant tortoise, but refuses to reason beyond that. The Darwinist places an arbitrary limit on his knowledge, at the same time that he can't account for it to begin with.

As Schuon points out, "unity" is perhaps the simplest aspect of Divinity, something that humans are able to conceive and know of as part of their standard equipment, in the same way that a frog knows about flies. This is why we can say that just as the frog was made to know insects, man was made to know God.

Or, as Schuon has said, what we call instinct in animals is their intelligence, while what we call intellect in man is our instinct. Thus, we have an "instinct" for divinity -- an instinct that can take on diverse -- and perverse -- forms.

Another thing that the Darwinian fails to consider is the limits of reason. Who said that reason alone may reveal the origins of the human being, let alone the nature of the Absolute? If reason revealed it, I would like to know how, for reason can ultimately only operate on the material that has been furnished by non-logical (not necessarily illogical) sources.

Thus, as Schuon points out, "the rational point of view," "when applied to transcendent truths, cannot but reveal its own inadequacy." In short, it is not rational or reasonable to suppose that reason has no limits. Or, to put it another way, it is completely rational to to believe that our reason is in service to an absolute Truth that is anterior to it and wishes to be known.

We call this absolute truth the Word. And if you are not a dimbulb, you just know that it shines in the dark but that the darknous doesn't comprehend it wattsoever.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

We Are All Christians Now

Continuing with yesterday's post, Maximus affirms one of those old metaphysical truths-that-cannot-not-be, that multiplicity is "in the product" while unity is "in the source." In order to avoid further insulting our exquisitely sensitive atheist readers, let's just say that the source of this a priori cosmic unity is a mystery, and call it O. Obviously O "exists"; or, to be perfectly accurate, it is the ground or source of existence.

Let's find out how it all works, shall we?!

In order to talk about this mystery at all, we must borrow terms from existence, so we can mislead ourselves if we're not careful. To put it simply, we exist. O does not. So it's a bit like describing the sound of purple. It can be done, but only through higher mythsemantics. In order to cross the phoenix line, our powers of deception must be cleansed. As we always say, your seenill grammar and gravidad may not be malapropriate for these laughty revelations.

The problem is, our trolls -- who stand in for fallen mankind -- basically confuse what they are capable of understanding with what it is possible to understand. In other words, they are children.

Since God is the source of unity, and we exist within time, then you might say that reality is the formation and dissolution of multiplicity within God. Existence is a kind of emanation and return to God. This is what we call the "adventure of consciousness."

Looked at in a certain way -- my way, to be exact -- existence itself is a kind of alienation from God, and religion is the healing of that alienation. (Some of these ideas flirt with the gnaughty kind of gnosticism, but if you stay with me, I think you'll find that it's all kosher; as we've discussed in the past, it's not so much that heresies are absolutely false, but that they either overemphasize one element or exclude another, thereby causing a fatal imbalance within integral Truth. For example, there is obvious partial truth in pantheism, or emanationism, or even polytheism; or you could simply say that God is everything but that everything is not God.)

In order for existence to exist, there must be time and space. Time and space are the primary modes of existence, so that we are really talking about synonymous terms. Thus, God is not an object in space, which is why we do not say that he "exists."

Now, objects that exist are not radically autonomous in any way, shape or form. Even without getting into religious metaphysics, this is proved by modern physics, which shows material reality to consist of nonlocal energy (see my book for the exciting details; offer may not apply in Berkeley). In this view, everything is not just a part of everything else, but everything is within everything else. All "objects" are ultimately members of one another, if that's not too disgusting to contemplate.

Truly, we are all -- animate and inanimate alike -- members of the same species, the species of Existence. And if we didn't share membership in this species, then nothing would work, to put it mildly. We couldn't know anything, especially other minds. This is why I mentioned yesterday that even atheists are Christians, as they surely partake of this primordial cosmic unity, just like everyone else. Opposing God is like opposing gravity. You can do it, but only because gravity exists.

One of the mysteries of humanness -- a mystery that Darwinism will never be able to explain, since "explanation" would be impossible without it -- is this intersubjective openness through which we are members of one another. This would be the basis of my critique of neo-Marxist leftism on the one hand, and radical libertarianism on the other, for both begin with a faulty metaphysic. You might say that leftism reduces us to the the collective wave, while libertarianism reduces us to the autonomous particle.

But wave and particle are just ways to think about a reality that transcends both categories. In reality, as Balthasar writes, creatures "can only be open to each other through their transcendental identity in the unity of God."

Our common identity is a kind of negative one, in that first and foremost we are not God, even while we participate in God. However, it is also a "positive identity," in that "the one Creator keeps [creatures] in being, one might say, through his relationship to them." It's like my child. Yes, he exists as an autonomous subject. But he wouldn't exist very long without us "sponsoring" or underwriting his existence.

As someone mentioned the other day, it is possible to misunderstand the idea of God as "father." We do not begin with terrestrial fatherhood and project that into the heavens; rather, vice versa. To understand God is to begin to understand the true archetype of worldly fatherhood. I have many fathers, but only because they reflect the one Father. And of course, only because there is one Father can we all be brothers. If there is no Father, then we are all just animals fighting over the scraps. Blah blah blah liberal fascism Darwinism Queeg Deepak >insert standard diatribe here<.

So, we do not start our analysis with "existence," since we know that existence has a source. This is the unbridgeable abyss that divides mankind: there are those who begin with existence, and those who begin with essence. For the Marxist in all his ghastly varieties -- whatever you care to call him -- existence precedes essence. This does not so much eliminate God as elevate man to a false god, or into samskary monsters.

But the theist begins with essence, and if you are capable of thinking, then you realize that essence belongs to God. In other words, essence is clearly "supernatural," even while being immanent in nature. In fact, it is a kind of first hand implicit knowledge of God, for whenever we know an essence -- including our own essence -- we are participating in the Divine Mind.

Again, this is why it is so unproblematic for man to be able to "see through" nature, or to know universals, or to love the essence of another, or to produce beautiful art, or to comprehend the meaning of a poem, or to understand where this post is coming from. None of these things would be remotely possible in the absence of God, because each is a result of everything being unified in God, but dispersed, as it were, through the prismhouse of existence. All colors are only varieties of the colorless light.

Looked at in this way, we can see that consciousness itself is one -- must be one -- but that, in our case, it is refracted through the lens of a bipedal primate. This is why there are gradations of consciousness within man, ranging from the supramental saint, to the veritable trousered ape, on down to the MSNBC host. Only because there is unity is this diversity possible. Eliminate the unity, then a Maximus is no better than a Maher and the supramental is no better than the Olbermental. Relativity -- including relative stupidity -- only exists in light of the absolute.

Everything is nonlocally "linked together" in God. In a way, it's like the foreground and background of a picture. We focus on the foreground, but only because there is the "invisible" background from which it emerges. Thus, you could say that God must be "invisible" in order for existence to be visible. He is the Silence out of which the Music arises. Here is how Maximus describes it:

"God draws up all the things that are naturally distinct from each other and binds them to himself as their cause, their origin and goal.... No being can permanently isolate itself through its own particularity or through the drive of its nature toward some other end; rather, everything remains, in its very being, bound without confusion to everything else, through the single, enduring relationship of all to their one and only source.... For as the parts come to be from the whole, so created things come to be from their cause and are recognized in its light."

This is the "paradox of a synthesis that unites creatures by distinguishing them and distinguishes them by uniting them -- a paradox that can be found throughout the whole edifice of the universe..." (Balthasar).

One Cosmos Under God. Where else could it be?

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Grand Synthesis of Christ

As always, I don't yet know what this post is going to be about. But I do like the title, because above all else, Christ represents the unification of all reality. In fact, technically speaking, you don't even have to be explicitly Christian to believe this. Rather, you must only have faith in the principle of unity. Thus, looked at in this way, even atheists are closet Christians (it is no coincidence that most of them live in Christendom). They can call this principle of unity whatever they want, but they couldn't call anything anything if reality weren't already infused with it. Conceiving itself would be inconceivable, thinking unthinkable, knowing unknowable.

Again, it is a little shocking to realize that it took some 600 years for human beings to fully "get it" -- to arrive at a theology that was equal to the trans-linguistic event of the Incarnation.

Obviously, Jesus left a lot of loose ends. He didn't reduce anything to a written formula. Truly, he was an event first and foremost. And it is critical that we describe that event as accurately as possible, even while not confusing the event with the words.

I'm not enough of a scholar to know, but if Balthasar is correct, then Maximus was the first to survey all of the previous partial descriptions, all of the various doctrinal disputes "that had torn the Church apart for centuries," and resolve them into "a final, conclusive synthesis." For truly, if Christ is the "principle of unity," then it is simply a scandal that man cannot reflect this unity in his theology and within his own being.

And if this christological formulation is correct, then it should apply to all reality, not just "church politics," so to speak. Indeed, Balthasar asks why this formulation cannot, "seen in its deepest implications, also serve as the right model for the world?" It's just that it took a number of centuries to work out all of the implications, to dot every ʘ and criss every Cross.

Remember, the early Christians were not confused by our contemporary division between a secular world and a "supernatural" world. Rather, for them, there was just the one world. Which is why they had no problem taking the best of Greek thought and blending it with Christianity -- not in order to reduce Christianity to worldly thought, but to elevate Greek thought to a truly meta-cosmic status.

Thus, for Maximus, a synthetic understanding of Christ applied to the diverse "structures of being," or what Wilber calls the "spectrum of consciousness": "All things for him had become organic parts of ever-more-comprehensive syntheses, had become themselves syntheses pointing to the final synthesis of Christ, which explained them all." Seen in this light, a Hegel -- who came over 1000 years later -- is simply "a secularized derivative of biblical theology."

Which, if you're following me, is precisely how we end up with the upside-down theology of leftism, which is first and foremost a political religion. As we know, Marx "turned Hegel on his head." But as you may not know, he also turned Hegel inside-out, resulting in a "materialization" of Christian metaphysics.

In this diabolical formulation, the Kingdom of Heaven is immamentaized, and we will all live on Sugar Candy Mountain when the Obamessianic state forces us to be equal -- not equal in the eyes of God, but equal in the eyes of Marxist bean counters. "Administered equality" is just another name for tyranny. Just ask the lion who was forced to eat grass to make him equal to the sheep. Choking smokers don't you know the Joker taxes you? (Ho ho ho, he he he, ha ha ha, see how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snide. I'm crying.)

Now, it is critical to bear in mind the distinction between Jesus -- the Word made flesh -- and the "pre-incarnate Word," i.e., Logos, which always was and is. Clearly, the Logos was accessible to a Plato or Socrates or Lao Tsu. It's just that it was an abstract principle instead of a concrete one. It never occurred to anyone that this principle could take on human form.

Indeed, this would have been considered a kind of insult to the Principle. Rather, for neo-Platonists such as Plotinus, the task of this life was to leave our humanness behind and ascend to the Principle. It necessarily involved an element not just of world denial, but of world detestation.

Remember Porphyry's famous description of Plotinus, that he "had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry of something 'higher and intelligible' which was the 'truer part of genuine Being.' This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike."

Maximus did not fall for this gnostic (in the gnaughty sense of the word) duality of spirit and flesh. Rather, for him, "the natural law, the written law, and the law of Christ are one and the same." For in the final analysis -- or synthesis -- we are talking about the unification of horizontal and vertical, however you conceptualize them (and you cannot be human without conceptualizing them in some manner, for man is precisely the being who equally inhabits, or manifests, the vertical and horizontal worlds).

Thus, "for Maximus, the reality of this synthesis is best conceived by the image of a right angle, in which two lines meet" (emphasis mine). This is a synthesis of "sensible reality and mind, of earth and heaven... of nature and idea" (Maximus). It is also the synthesis of "theoretical and practical reason, of wisdom and prudence, of contemplation and action, of knowledge and virtue, of immediate vision and faith."

In each case, the "whole" is not a product of the synthesis; rather, it is the prior reality, which bears within itself "the unmixed difference of the parts that make it up." Yes, unconfused but inseparable. This mystery "of the presence of a whole in its parts, from whose synthesis it comes to be, is not, for Maximus, simply the object of disinterested contemplation." Rather, for him "it is the direct way to God." For if the Logos became man, we must then ask ourselves, "by virtue of what principle?"

Probably a good place to stop for today. But the whole thing reminds me of another synthesis, Aurobindo's Synthesis of Yoga, in which he writes that

"In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodized effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos."

Sounds difficult, but don't worry, for my yoga is easy, my burden light.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Why on Earth is Man on Earth?

I was going through the arkive, deleting a few things that weren't worthy of eternity, when I stumbled upon this one, which I think deserves a second shot at inclusion in the Blog of Life.

I remember back in film school, one of my professors mentioned that when they remake a film, it's almost always one that was already a classic and cannot be improved upon. Instead, why not remake a noble failure that had a lot of missed potential? In this case, I have meditated upon what I previously wrote line-by-line, and altered it accordingly, based upon up-to-the-minute dispatches from just over the vertical horizon.

What is man that the electron should be mindful of him! --E. Becker

In Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, he goes into the inglorious history of the left's attempts to pathologize its enemies (e.g., the embarrassing Frankfurter school of bitesized intellectual wieners). This is something that was practiced in the Soviet Union, just as it is done today in left wing university psychology departments. It is one of the ways they enforce political correctness, by pathologizing anyone who, say, believes that the government should not force us to discrminate based upon race.

But in order to even begin discussing the question of psychological health -- and its relationship to politics, if there is any -- one must first determine what the mind was designed to do. Everything is based upon this initial determination, so if you get it wrong, your entire intellectual edifice will be built upon pounding sand. You simply must know what a human being is "for," or your understanding of politics, history, economics, law, and other disciplines will be fatally flawed.

Another way of saying it is that we must first understand what on earth man is on earth for. For there really are only two choices, which come down to nihilism or pleromism (to coin a word), existentialism or essentialism, relativism or Absolutism. Humans are either an ultimately worthless cosmic aberration, or the very peophole through which the Absolute may contemplate itself. The bloody stakes are that rare, which is why the debate is so meaty.

All leftists, following Marx, believe that "existence precedes essence." Leftism in all its forms is based on man being "nothing," which is why the leftist believes that the god-state may manipulate him into being something less than a man.

For the secular humanist, human beings can be nothing more than a late-model beast -- a recent arrival to the cosmic manifestival with a few interesting tricks programmed into us by father Darwin. But for the religionist, man carries a trace of the origin and center of the cosmos within his very being, so that what a human being truly is is the key to fathoming the implacable mystery of the cosmos itself. Again, these views are absolutely irreconcilable (which is one way we know of the Absolute).

To back up a bit, we cannot begin to discuss this question without bearing in mind the importance of complementarity, as discussed a few posts back. Man lives within various dialectical tensions that cannot be resolved, the most important of these being the celestial and terrestrial, or vertical and horizontal. In turn, each of these contains within it various tensions and relations that cannot be resolved, so long as we exist on the relative plane -- which we must do on pain of not existing at all. "Health" lies in the dynamic equilibrium between various complementary opposites.

With a few exceptions, psychology mainly deals with horizontal health, whereas religion addresses what we might call “vertical health,” so this is one of the first confusions that will arise in any attempt to deal with man in wholly material terms. If your metapsychology reduces man to mere horizontality, then your psychological model will necessarily be incapable of producing real health or wholeness in a wider (and higher) sense.

Let’s begin with the horizontal, because that will be the easiest to comprehend. Within the horizontal, there are several complementarities that have to be balanced in order to be healthy and happy. These would include the poles of narcissism (or individualism) <---> social-ism, conscious <---> unconscious, and thought <---> feeling (or head and heart).

Regarding the complementarity that distinguishes between our individuation and the more primordial “groupishness” out of which it must be won, the first thing you will notice is that most cultures throughout most of human history have failed to resolve this in a healthy way. Perhaps this is understandable, because as mentioned a few days ago, man was a group animal long before human groups began producing true “individuals.”

In my book, I discuss this “interior revolution” that only began on a widespread scale in around the 17th century (and only in the Christian West, mind you). What we call the modern self -- something that seems so self-evident to us -- was not the norm prior to that, any more than wealth was. Obviously, man is born stupid and poor, both individually and collectively.

Probably the most (excessively) thorough documentation of this is in Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self. By 1700 or so, he writes, “something recognizably like the modern self is is in the process of constitution.... Thought and feeling -- the psychological -- are now confined to minds. This follows our disengagement from the world, its ‘disenchantment’....”

Here you can see that this process of historical individuation almost exactly parallels the personal individuation that is described in the latest models of psychological development. These models track what is called the separation-individuation process, as we grow from our primary merger with the mother toward our unique identity. In the past couple of decades there has been a tremendous amount of research that confirms the importance of early attachment and bonding to the outcome of this process, probably most ably summarized for the lay person in Dan Siegel’s The Developing Mind.

For any psychoanalytically informed psychologist, this is where it all goes down, for there are any number of things that can go wrong on the way from dyadic merger with the Great Mother to that little island of the self that will stand out from the ocean of conscious being.

We’re covering a lot of ground here, so it’s impossible to go into a great deal of detail, but my best psychoanalytic teacher summed things up when he said that the unhealthy person wants to go from twoness back to primitive oneness, whereas the healthy person wants to go from lonely oneness to intimate twoness.

In other words, the unhealthy person has not resolved the issues of separation and individuation and cannot tolerate his or her separateness (“twoness”). Therefore, they seek to maintain or recapture primitive merger (“oneness”) with another person or with the group at large, in order to ward off separation anxiety and abandonment depression. All people can exhibit this regressive tendency under stress, but there are many cultures that entirely revolve around it. What you call “blessed solitude,” they would call a lonely and frightening hell. And what they call “family” or “community,” you would call psychic suffocation. The kinship (not to mention gynephobic) structure of the Islamic world is not just "another way to be human," but a major barrier in becoming a fully actualized human.

In my work in forensic psychology, I have had the opportunity to evaluate people from cultures all over the planet, and one of the first things that jumps out is how differently various cultures resolve the issue of separation and individuation. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but it is quite clear to me that with many cultures, you will not so much be dealing with an individual as a type. It is as if they all have the identical life story, the same values, the same parents, the same knowledge base, the same goals, the same way of looking at the world.

Now, an academically correct anthropologist would say that there is no developmental axis in culture -- that all cultures are equally beautiful and worthwhile, and that there is no objective measure of cultural health or pathology. Indeed, they might even make the idiotic charge of racism against people who believe otherwise, even though we are specifically dealing with psychology, not race. (Which is odd anyway, for what if one belongs to a racist culture? Isn't it wrong to judge the culture?)

But I maintain that the health or pathology of a culture can be evaluated in terms of how effectively it allows people to pass through the separation-individuation process and become themselves. Because in a primitive culture, you will have no opportunity to become who you truly are. Differences are not tolerated, or will be persecuted so as to maintain conformity -- somewhat like our stage of adolescence, which produces such abject conformity, or those tattooed leftist rebels who all look and sound the same.

To a very real extent, you can see this issue reflected in different political ideologies. For example, you will often hear leftists accuse conservatives (i.e., classical liberals) of being self-interested. Exactly! If you value the self, then you are going to value the system that most effectively nurtures it and allows it to develop. And without a doubt, the system that most effectively accomplishes this is the system of ordered liberty enunciated by America’s founders.

Likewise, as discussed a couple of days ago, the psychospiritual left has always been uncomfortable with the idea of “rugged individualism,” of competition, of winners and losers. You might think that this clashes with their extreme selfishness and pseudo-individualism -- e.g., the art world. But an astute observer can know in a glance that this primitivism is neither art nor an expression of the higher self. Beethoven’s fifth symphony is the expression of a unique self. On the other hand, most modern art is just “poopy diapers,” which, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all... no, check me on that... there are definitely degrees of disgusting diaperdom. In any event, while this pseudo-art may resemble extreme individualism, it is thoroughly typal. I only have to see one Robert Maplethorpe photo to know that some things shouldn't be seen at all.

Remember a couple of posts back, I discussed the manner in which envy-fueled egalitarianism was natural to primitive mankind, and that, to quote Cassell, “to have an intuitive grasp of economics, you might just need to take a step or two up the evolutionary ladder." Precisely. Here you can see why I would dismiss a study out of hand if it equated emotional health with what I see as primitive regression, and pathology with what I regard as the system that best allows for true psychological growth.

Now, leftists will no doubt argue that liberty is a dangerous invitation to selfishness and greed. Our system simply unleashes the beast in man, and must be countered by a huge “maternal” government upon whose teat we may all suckle for comfort and security. But this is foolishness. For narcissism is not a healthy outcome of the separation-individuation process. Rather, it is specifically one of the many things that can go awry with attachment and bonding, leading to a caricature of true selfhood. Narcissism is always a caricature of individuation.

In short, leftists confuse a system that allows for narcissists with a system that creates them. But the narcissist is created mainly as a result of the conditions of childhood, conditions that the leftist is generally blind to -- for the same reason he is blind to, say, the conditions that produce the quite evident pathology of black culture. The leftist will reflexively say that the problems of black America are rooted in poverty, even though this is demonstrably false, because those many blacks who rise above the pathology of black culture do as well economically as any other group. It is a matter of healthy values, not race or poverty. Likewise, if you transferred Palestinian values to Israel, it would produce a barbaric and infrafuman swamp of depravity in less than one generation.

But with regard to what that great liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the "tangle of pathology " of black culture, the leftist will see a “victim of selfishness” instead of the sine qua non of selfishness, for it is difficult to imagine a more selfish and narcissistic act than bringing a child into the world without benefit of marriage and a father, just because you want someone to love you unconditionally for the first time in your life. But once the baby is born, it is too late to realize that he or she is about the last person in the world who is going to love you unconditionally. So you will end up creating yet another generation of damaged narcissists who have foundered on the rocks of attachment and bonding.

And if you are a leftist, you create special university departments for such damaged individuals, and give them tenure instead of psychotherapy.

To be continued...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

If You Find Yourself in a Sabbath Hole, Keep Digging

Let's see if we can't complete a post. Its length will depend upon when the boy wakes up. It's sort of like a game: find your way to ultimate reality before the ticking timebomb goes off!

Come to think of it, just like life.

But it's shabbat, so there's no pressure. We won't force things. We'll just let the cosmos come to us.

Indeed, that is the whole point, to relux and call it a deity. To quote myself, "Esoterically speaking, the sabbath refers to the OMnipresent 'hole' in creation that allows for (↓) and (↑) to enter and leave the 'kingdom of man.'" The point is to turn away from the world's "nihilocracy of urgent nonsense" and toward what is "behind," "above," or "beyond." As such, it is a time of vertical recollection, of time dilation, and of gnostalgia for paradise. It is a "memoir of the future."

Or you could say that it is a day to catch up with your verticalisthenic exercises, or O-->(n). I see that Maximus is right with us, as Balthasar informs us that he was quite concerned with "the 'realization' of theoretical knowledge," or what a Raccoon calls the distinction between (k) and (n). He also talks about the inner peace that counters those jarring worldly energies "that cloud or weigh down or tear apart the mind, in order to rob it of its freedom and self-possession."

In my book, I symbolize this attitude or stance as (---) and (o). You could say "calmness" and "openness," but it's obviously more than that, as it has an intrinsically sacred quality.

As Balthasar writes, "This calm is also [the] mode of entry into the mystery of God, which stands beyond the world. Only the spirit that has become pure and simple can encounter the transcendent One; the soul that has fully emptied itself, that has 'no song to sing,' becomes the place of revelation, the abode of the infinite God."

Ah, perfect: "Right through the middle" of our "hierarchically ordered universe cuts -- straight as an arrow -- the Alexandrian way of ascending from the sensible to the intellectual and ultimately to the divine world" (emphasis mine). For Maximus, this is the very axis of the world -- which it most assuredly is. Looked at in a certain way -- whether you are theist or atheist -- it is all we ever know, all we ever encounter directly, which is to say, "our" own consciousness.

This is surely not solipsism. Rather, it is the Darwinists and other materialists who are the crude solipsists, for they confuse their simplistic abstractions with the Real, which is always radically other, and certainly more than what a glorified ape can entertain in its head. The problem with atheists is that they don't know what they don't know, which, like dark matter and energy, is some 90% of reality.

I distinctly remember when I first began the systematic practice of (---) and (o). It was 1982. I was still working in the supermarket, attending graduate school for my masters degree, and living in a single apartment. I began studying yoga with a certain Yogi Raj, every Tuesday night I believe it was. I think my brain neurology was finally beginning to settle down on its own after an extended adolescence. Prior to that, I don't think I would have been capable of any kind of interior journey.

Anyway, I had all of the usual worldly troubles and worries at the time. But I decided that just once a week, while in the yoga class, I would completely forget about the world. Rather, all there was was the now, and it was up to me to mine out of it whatever I could. If I couldn't get anything out of it, then it was my fault, not the fault of the world. I decided that paradise was just a few microns away, but that I nevertheless had to make the first move. It wasn't going to come to me.

So that was the seed. Afterwards it just got a little out of hand, and here we are. In fact, I also distinctly remember when it began to "take," so to speak, both in thought and in action. You know it is "working" when you begin having thoughts and making connections that you couldn't before, and when this shift in attitude begins to manifest in behavior. Sri Aurobindo describes this as the "psychic being" coming to the "front" of the personality, as if you are now operating around a new axis. In Christian terms, it would simply be the perpetual event-process of metanoia, and the discovery and strengthening of the nous.

And of course, this is a new axis (¶), which in turn relates to the world axis alluded to above. As discussed in my book, (¶) is to O as (•) is to Ø. This is when you rediscover that human beings really are the "center" of the cosmos, just as God is the "center" of the meta-cosmos. And those two centers come together -- or reveal their prior unity -- in ʘ.

But Maximus is quite cautious as to the precise meaning of ʘ, and you might say that this is what all of the Christological debates were about. There are many intrinsically heretical ways to understand ʘ, and which lead to all sorts of problems -- e.g., relativism, fascism, totalitarianism, and other pathologies of the left. Indeed, you might even say that leftism itself is the "left hand path to god," for above all else it is a political religion, or a fully "horizontalized verticality." It is certainly where a Deepak Chopra is coming from, which is why his brand of spirituality results in such sinister nonsense and evil.

A key point to bear in mind is that ʘ is not "a 'mixture' of divinity and humanity," like a union "of two fluids blending with each other." In fact, this kind of indiscriminate mixture of essences is "far from the most perfect and intimate kind of union." Rather, it is "a reciprocal indwelling of two distinct poles of being." That little dot in the middle is "everything," including the essence of love, which requires two (actually, three, the lover, beloved, and the love that passes between them).

Balthasar: "Love, which is the highest level of union, only takes root in the growing independence of the lovers; the union between God and the world reveals, in the very nearness it creates between these two poles of being, the ever-greater difference between created being and the essentially incomparable God." This is "the mystery of a polarity that can never be seen in anything like a final vision," but is instead perpetually ascending toward, and being drawn into, the divine ground.

In short, we do not confuse God's aseity with the hole in our ground.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Healing Liberalism Through Apparatchiks Anonymous

One of the most salient characteristics of the Left is that it is peculiarly incapable of learning. In my lifetime, it has been ridiculously wrong about virtually everything, but it is as if facts and reality don’t matter.

The same people who successfully curtailed nuclear power in America are now insisting that we must be “energy independent.” The same people who argued that Reagan’s tax breaks would destroy the economy enjoyed a quarter century of economic growth. The same Democrat party that accommodated southern and northern racists for decades continues to argue that race is all-important and that government should be engaged in the task of dividing people by race and gender and giving special privileges to some groups. And of course, the international left is now the main repository and champion of mankind’s most ancient and vile prejudice, anti-Semitism.

One of the greatest conceits of the Left is that they are “intellectually curious,” “open-minded,” or “reality based,” when it would be difficult to find minds more parochial, narrow-minded, and hermetically self-enclosed people than those responsible for the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, or NPR, or CNN, or virtually any MSM outlet.

Why are they stuck? In my view, this is not a psychopathology but a pneumapathology -- a disease of the soul. Since leftism is a faux religion, they really need something closer to cult deprogramming. This is why conventional psychology is powerless to explain it or to do anything about it.

In a way, it is analogous to addiction, another problem of the soul that psychology is generally powerless to remedy. I don’t know if it’s the same way now, but when I was in graduate school, I was even taught that it would be unethical to try to treat alcoholism with psychotherapy alone. By far the most successful approach is the 12 step program, undoubtedly because it addresses the underlying soul pathology at the heart of addiction.

Perhaps we need a 12 step program for leftists, Apparatchiks Anonymous.

1. We admitted we were powerless over the intoxicating dreams of socialism, and that our lives and governments had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a power far greater than our own omnipotent little egoic fantasies of total control could restore us to the true classical liberalism of the Founders.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the Creator and Guarantor of our Liberty.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the well-intentioned failures and frank evils of socialism.

5. We admitted to the Creator of our Liberty, to ourselves, and in a live phone call to C-SPAN, the exact nature of socialism’s wrongs.

6. We were entirely ready to have the Creator of Our Liberty remove all these defects of ideology.

7. We humbly asked Him to cancel our subscription to the Times.

8. We made a list of all races, genders, and classes our government programs had harmed, and became willing to make amends by leaving them the fuck alone.

9. We made direct amends to such people by switching parties.

10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were again tempted to abuse ideology for the purposes of blotting out reality, promptly admitted it.

11. We sought through prayer, meditation, and reading the Constitution, to improve our conscious contact with the Source of our Liberty, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Leftists, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.