Wednesday, September 02, 2009

On Knowing How We Know Bill Maher is an Imbecile

Let's get back on track with Schuon's discussion of the proofs of God. Perhaps we should stipulate at the outset that just because something exists, you can't necessarily prove it to some or even most people. Not only does every proof demand a "subjective qualification," but part of the qualification is moral, not just intellectual.

It is hard to prove anything to a fundamentally dishonest man, or to a man who is not in love with Truth. A sociopath believes in nothing but his own power to deceive in order to get what he wants. A corollary of this is that the man who reduces truth to power is well on the way to sociopathy. One thinks of Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama.

You cannot prove to socialists that the free market is superior to a centrally planned economy, thus proving that one must first be willing to be humbly convicted by truth. You cannot prove to a committed leftist that racial quotas are not only unconstitutional but harmful to their intended beneficiary. You cannot prove to a barking moonbat that President Bush did not "lie us into war," or to a multiculturalist that some cultures are more beautiful and decent than others.

I once tried that last one over lunch at a psychology convention. During the break, about a dozen of us were sitting at a table. Everyone was sharing a little about themselves (we were all strangers), so I started innocently witnessing some Raccoon mysteries and slackraments, and the reaction was swift, sharp, and girlish. The feman next to me actually got up, petulantly threw his napkin down on his chair, and said, "I don't have to listen to this!"

Okay, okay. Sorry. He sat back down, and the meal continued in a kind of awkward silence punctuated by inane chitchat. The power of political correctness. (A reader sent me a link the other day, documenting the extraordinary disparity in political Love Offerings from psychologists and psychiatrists. It's as bad as you'd expect. Not a single conservative on the list.)

I just began reading Bernard Lonergan's Insight, so soon I should be able to report back to you on what is occurring when a man is thinking -- not just about God, but about anything, i.e., "what is happening when we are knowing" and "what is known when that is happening."

It's really quite mysterious if you stop to think about it. Plato grappled with the question of how it is possible to recognize a truth we do not know, unless we somehow already implicitly know it. Really, knowing anything is a freaking miracle. It doesn't really add to, or detract from, the essential miracle to say that we can know God. You have to be pretty unimaginative to imagine otherwise.

This is what Schuon is referring to when he says that "Skepticism and bitterness have nothing spontaneous about them; they are the result of a supersaturated and deviant culture." A Bill Maher comes to mind, since he is a fine example of someone who is skeptical and bitter as a way to signal his self-satisfied belief in his own intelligence to others.

This is a profoundly narcissistic exercise, because the cynic cannot "build" anything, only undermine and destroy. He can only sneer at the work of other men, while affecting an attitude of pseudo-sophistication. Such a man -- just like a child -- has no earthly idea of what he is attacking, because he would never attempt to do so if he did (to say the least). One doesn't destroy what is precious unless one is ignorant or insane. (By the way, Bill Whittle does a fine job of carving up Maher in this video.)

Again, a rational proof of God is only understood to the extent that it transmits a bit of the "substance" of God in the proof. In other words, it is not just the proof itself, but an additional x-factor that is conveyed in the proof. Really, the proof merely clears a space and creates a gap where a kind of electrical "arc" can occur. I'm sure you all know what I mean. Again, we're just trying to understand what's happening when it happens.

What we call the "mystical experience" is simply first-hand knowledge of God. It is actually much more communicable than people realize, but even if it weren't, "there is nonetheless no justification for concluding that it must be false simply because it is incommunicable." Again, that would be pure sophistry of the Maharian type.

As we've discussed before, the radical can destroy in a day -- a moment! -- what it took centuries to build. Thus, a Bill Mahar sets himself in opposition to "the unanimous witness of the sages and saints -- throughout the world and down the ages."

In order to maintain such a preposterous view, one must be so deeply contemptuous of mankind, that it is impossible to understand how mankind could ever produce someone as great as Bill Maher. Do you see the problem? It's like trying to account for a dog that one day starts using toilet paper instead of licking its butt, pardon the French.

Only the man who has understood the mystical experience can begin to appreciate what a neanderthal such as Bill Maher wishes to throw away. For in the end, he wishes to do away with man as such, that is, the archetypal man that conditions us from above, and toward which our life is a journey. As Schuon writes, "there is no comparison between the intellectual and moral worth of the greatest contemplatives and the absurdity that their illusion would imply were it nothing but that." Meister Eckhart or Bill Maher. Shankara or Sean Penn. Tough choice.

Schuon goes on to say that this kind of hermetically sealed ignorance would lead us to believe that "no proof of anything is possible since every argument can be invalidated verbally by some sort of sophistry." In short, it is a reduction of integral truth to what the most common and vulgar minds are capable of understanding.

Housekeeping note: probably no posts for the next few days. It's the end of summer Labor Day reslackification.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Riding the Cosmic Treadmill to Nowhere while Gorging on the Rotten Fruit of Statism

New reader RS likes what he's hearing so far. For, unlike my competitors, my evolutionary cosmic vision offers a treadmill that actually goes somewhere. Or, you could say that it is a rat race you can actually win, or an eternal Groundhog Day in which you are forever trapped in the same happy ending. Or, you could just say that it is an ascending spiral.

Again, nihilsim or theism, absolutism or relativism. If everything reduces to matter, then things are very FUBAR, and nothing's gonna be okay. Conversely, if everything is God, then it's all gonna work out. No, we don't know exactly how or when, but that's were faith comes in, for once you have determined that God cannot not be, then it's usually not too long before you also discover that he cannot not be Good, passing appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

That being the case, then there is no real ontological basis for worry, despair, whining, etc. I mean, you are still free to indulge in them, but they certainly give no added value. Unless one is a leftist, in which case they become one's primary mode of being, as they are the deathline to the state. The squeaky constituency gets the pork.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons I don't do a great deal of psychotherapy anymore. In order to be an effective therapist, one must have empathy. But I have quite literally lost my ability to empathize with most human problems. You just have no idea of the sorts of peripheral things the rank-and-foul worry about. Perhaps you do, since you no doubt have relatives. Their lives are entirely beside the point.

But most people live in a world of trivia and drama. There is no real movement (except downward), only agitation. What their trivial pursuits rob from them in terms of depth, the drama confers in terms of intensity, or affect. Thus, it's very much like TV, which I described in my book as "a nihilocracy of urgent nonsense." That's the other kind of treadmill -- the kind that goes nowhere fast.

Again, there is only one adventure, the Adventure of Consciousness. Either you are on this adventure, or you are not. I have no real problem with the grazing multitude of unadventurous cosmic placemarkers. The worst offenders are the people who displace the spiritual adventure to the political plane. They cause most of the mischief in the world, whether in Iran or in the United States. Here again, this is where the political religion of Islamism converges with the political religion of leftism.

In reading this excellent new book on Reagan's presidency, I've really come to appreciate the near impossibility of a "conservative revolution." Make no mistake: there was no "conservative revolution" in the 1980s. Rather, there was only a Reagan revolution.

Among other sources, Reagan's diaries show the extent to which he had to do battle with Republicans just as much as Democrats. Quite often, he stood alone amidst all the abuse hurled at him from the Democrat media-academic complex plus members of own party -- even his own cabinet! There was quite literally no distinction between his American critics and Soviet propaganda (often the Soviets got their talking points from the American left, as do Islamists today).

It's just very, very difficult to promise people nothing but their God-given liberty. First of all, people who love liberty rarely get involved with politics. Rather, politics attracts people who are interested in power. And a person who is primarily interested in power is most likely going to be a lost soul at best. Such a person "finds" himself through the exercise of power, in the same way that any mentally and spiritually unbalanced person does. That is, they get an emotional charge that confers a temporary sense of meaning.

But this is transient and must be reenacted again and again. I was reading the other day that over the course of his diabolical career, Ted Kennedy was responsible for helping to pass something like 5,000 laws (I think that was the figure -- correct me if I'm wrong). Some of them were no doubt helpful, but I'm guessing that the vast majority may be likened to endless links in burdensome chain we all must drag around for the sake of the state. With the forging of each of those links, Ted Kennedy no doubt felt good about himself. To our everlasting detriment.

Yes, this does all return to the subject of the proofs of God, for the ontological bifurcation alluded to above -- i.e., theism or nihilism -- results in very different fruits. Kennedy's lifetime achievement reduces to the rotten fruit of statism, the religion of nihilists. For such an upside-down person, "Essence turns back toward form, Substance toward accident, the Center toward the periphery, Life toward death" (Schuon). Of course Kennedy was the very embodiment and bellowing spokeshole of the Culture of Death.

But for the properly oriented person, it's the opposite movement: "the Inward vivifies the outward and resurrects the kernels of which we are composed -- products on the one hand of creation, secondarily, of our own attitudes and actions." Here again, vertical and horizontal causation: we are the products, yes, of God, but also of our own choices. And the more our choices are constrained by the false god of the state, the more we handicap God, for we are less free to do good.