Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Argue With Yourself, If You Must

Moving on to #2 on Oldbob's dogmatic list of barking points against Christianity. In addition to making me cringe, this one reminds me of Bacon's wise crack that "a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

It also reminds me of one of Schopenhauer's central insights, that most men simply stop asking "why" at an arbitrary point, and then call it their "philosophy." My four year-old knows better than that, as he never stops asking why. Yesterday he asked me why we couldn't just paint the grass green instead of getting new sod.

But for tenured children, their philosophistry tends to breed a kind of aggressive defensiveness, because deep (really, it's not so deep, but we'll let it pass) down they know that their ideology is inadequate, since it isn't truly grounded in Reason. In my opinion, this is what makes leftists, Darwinists, global warmists, etc., so contemptuously hyper-aggressive and intolerant of dissent. You know, "if you disagree with Al Gore, you, sir, are worse than Hitler," or "if you see some problems with Darwinism, you secretly wish to impose a fascist theology."

I've noticed that this is the primary mode of argument of all the regular idiotiorialists of the New York Times -- FriedmanDowdKrugmanRich, et al -- who would never lower themselves to the level of actually engaging a conservative argument instead of simply hurling abuse.

Look at how Deepak Chopra characterizes Sarah Palin. Note that he cites no evidence for his kooky beliefs. Rather, since conservatives are self-evidently evil in the religion of leftism, evidence is beside the point. Thus, "Behind [Palin's] beauty-pageant smile lurk[s] the shadow, the dark side of human nature." Really? That's a pretty bold statement. Exactly what is that supposed to mean? Could you define your terms and cite an example?

"Her tactic of appealing to the worst impulses of the electorate had a long history in the Republican Party. Indeed, Palin inherited the selfish, mean-spirited values of another politician with a gleaming smile, Ronald Reagan."

This qualifies as pure hate speech -- a term I hate, but it is what it is. It is certainly not based on anything resembling fact, logic, evidence, or even reality. For example, just ask the millions of people in Eastern Europe if they think Ronald Reagan was a selfish and mean-spirited embodiment of the dark side of human nature. "Oh, sure. Worse than Stalin. And he was so mean to our kind overlord, the USSR, calling them evil and all that."

The term projection -- i.e., the defense mechanism of seeing one's own traits in others -- tends to be thrown out too casually, but what can you say about this gem from Deepak: "I hope the left will take a deep breath and stop treating Palin like a diabolical force."

Er, okay. You mean like seeing her has the embodiment of human evil?

Was Oldbob ever as dark and demented as Deepak Chopra? No. He never took himself that seriously. Truly, his number one priority was having fun. He was a frivolous popinjay, more to be pitied than censured.

I'm not sure where he came up with the next argument. Possibly from Bertrand Russell, who provides one of the finest examples of how genius and wisdom have no necessary relationship whatsoever. More often than not, genius is hijacked by narcissistic mind parasites; like politics, academia tends to be "show business for the unattractive."

At any rate, Oldbob claims that the apostles believed that the Second Coming would occur in their lifetimes, and since it didn't, the whole theological house of cards falls. But the apostles no doubt believed a lot of erroneous things, as they were only gradually instructed and transformed in the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, you might even say that human error is the default setting for the closed system of our animal nature. Only when something breaks in from the outside can we begin to see things as they are. So I don't assign any weight at all to this meager argument. After all, the truth doesn't become false just because you once misunderstood it.

Oldbob then brings up the question of everlasting punishment, which he calls a "doctrine of cruelty" full of "vindictive fury," which "outrages the most ordinary notions of justice and mercy."

Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. But you will notice that atheists generally pick from the most literal of a variety of interpretations in order to vent their own abuse. I personally don't give any thought to medieval notions of hell. Undoubtedly they were valid in their day, as they addressed themselves to the mentality of the time.

In fact, I don't even give much thought to the afterlife, since it's inconceivable anyway. I see Christianity as a doctrine that teaches us how best to live in this world, not some other world. And since there can be no good in the absence of the Sovereign Good, simple logic dictates that a good Creator cannot be unjust. Thus, I have a kind of faith that we will all get what we deserve in the court of cosmic justice, but I don't bother thinking about it beyond that. Virtue is its own reward anyway. I don't need threats or rewards to obey the Law, any more than I need threats to adore truth or love beauty. It comes to me supernaturally.

Next, one of the oldest untruisms in the atheist ploybook, "either God cannot abolish evil, or he will not; if he cannot, then he is not all-powerful; if he will not, then he is not all good."

There are so many ways to approach this question. First of all, in a nihilistic universe of random Darwinian change, what cries out for explanation is not evil, ugliness, hatred and deception, but decency, truth, beauty, and love. Either the latter are ontological realities, or they are nothing. There's no in between, no matter how atheists try to spin it. And even the ability to distinguish between good and evil implies freedom and transcendence.

But more generally, religious metaphysics -- at least Judeo-Christian metaphysics -- begins (literally, for it is the first sentence in Bible) with the idea that there is a Creator and a created, and that these two are very different realities. It would be easy enough for God to abolish evil, if reality were "only God" -- i.e., if there were no creation.

But the world is not God, and we are not in heaven. Or, to be precise, the world is God, but God is not the world. As a result, there are ontological "degrees of distance" from God, and this is sufficient to account for evil. Again, free will is exercised in that vertical space between good and evil. To eliminate evil, one would obviously have to eliminate free will with it.

Which, of course, the left routinely does as part of its project to destroy the foundation Western civilization. Most recently we all saw how the Islamic terrorist at Fort Hood was instantly transformed into a victim of our own so-called aggression against Muslims. For the leftist, only white heterosexual males have free will, not blacks, Muslims, feminists, Palestinians, etc., or any other victim of those of us who do possess free will.

to be continued.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oldbob vs. Newbob: Let's Rumble!

Okay, on to this debate with a ghost from my past. Perhaps I should begin with a little context. This piece I wrote about how to argue with door-to-door Christians was only intended to be half-serious. At the time, I was mainly just trying to be both clever and amusing. Therefore, much of the language is a tad over-the-top. I never actually said most of these things to anyone, nor would I have.

And again, I obviously know things about this Oldbob that he doesn't know about me, so I have an overwhelming advantage in this debate. After all, in response to each of the arguments, I might simply hold up my hand and calmly say, "just wait. You'll eventually get it if you really want to know. But at this point in your life, for whatever reason, you really don't want to know. Which is fine with me. Just like Muslims, I would never force my views on anyone."

I'm just free associating here, but another point occurs to me, which is that Oldbob obviously represents a bobstacle I had to overcome in order to make my way back to Newbob; as the poet said, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. So in that sense, Oldbob might have a valuable lesson to teach, as we all tend to overvalue or generalize what works for us. In other words, since Oldbob is the threshold guardian I had to get past -- the existential knot I had to undo -- perhaps much of my writing is already addressed to him. Do you see what I mean? Maybe he is the internal doubter, the eternal cynic, who insists that my writing satisfy the intellect, not just the emotions, as so much theology tends to do.

If that is the case, then you can see how a "defect" can actually be a spur to improve oneself. Only if the mechanism is wrenched from its context and reified does it really become something dysfunctional -- a mind parasite -- so that the door of perception becomes unhinged. Really, this isn't that much different from how the conscience works, is it? The conscience is always there, standing above us, observing and judging everything we do.

In psychoanalysis, there is a concept called the "corrupt superego," which is essentially a dysfunctional conscience -- one that unjustly punishes certain thoughts and behaviors, while being blind to others. Indeed, you might say that it is a literal "blind spot" in the conscience. The point is that we all have a conscience (true sociopaths excepted), except that it often becomes dysfunctional by rewarding the bad and punishing the good.

The Islamists are a good example of this. In reading the indispensable The Looming Tower, bin Laden is credibly depicted as a profoundly spiritual, ascetic, incorruptible, even "saintly," sort of man. The problem is, his version of sanctity involves cruelly murdering anyone and everyone who doesn't share his version of "purity." Unlike the sociopath, who murders because he lacks a conscience, most Islamists murder because of it. And the long and bloody history of Islam -- not to mention numerous passages in the Koran -- fully justifies their moral pathology.

Anyway, back to Oldbob. The title of the piece is Bob's Revised and Updated Tips for the Enhancement of Front Porch Forensics and Shopping Mall Dialectic with Proselytizing Pinheads -- sort of a mirror image of Ann Coulter's How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). It is trying to be provocative. I don't even know that I was an actual atheist at the time. My recollection is that I just enjoyed making fun of people I considered dorks.

Also -- at risk of getting blogged down in more autobobography than you ever wanted to read -- perhaps it should be noted that this polemic was written when my intellect was first coming "on line." Prior to the age of 25 or so, I was nobody's idea of a thinking -- or even rational! -- animal.

Rather, I was a man of action: drinking beer, partying, drinking beer, listening to music, drinking beer, hanging out with my fellow ne'er do wells, drinking beer, and attending college mainly as an excuse to perpetuate this lifestyle. I hadn't the slightest interest in school, nor in college. I never read a serious book until I was maybe 24 or 25, but even when I did start reading, it was almost all the fashionable nonsense of the tenured. It certainly would never have occurred to me to read anything "conservative." I shared the sneering contempt that elites hold to this day, that conservatism and Christianity are a priori nonsense, unworthy of serious consideration.

Therefore, it cannot be emphasized enough that I was leading with my prejudices -- just as, say, the liberal leads with the prejudice that anyone who doesn't want socialism is motivated by racism. So really, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding, all of these "arguments" of Oldbob are simply rooted in prejudice; they are conclusions dressed up as arguments for the purpose of amusement and confirming my own intellectual superiority. Again, no different from the way liberals operate today.

The first "argument" asks my interlocutor why he is darkening my door (I'll delete the gratuitous expletives), since we both know that Christ said "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor."

Really, this one is too easy. Christ obviously said many things, sometimes intended as generalities, other times intended primarily for the person or group to whom he is speaking, some things meant literally, others figuratively. But even more generally, revelation can only be understood in its totality. Any moron or trial lawyer can take an isolated fragment of truth in order to prove what he wants. And I suppose in this case, Oldbob wants to "prove" that any Christian who doesn't live like a dirty hobo is a hypocrite.

Let's look at the overall context of that passage. What is it saying? First of all, this wealthy man has come to Jesus, asking for advice about the spiritual life -- about how to attain to eternity. It is here that Jesus famously asks Why do you call Me good?, and says that No one is good but One, that is, God. So straight away, Jesus is emphasizing the intrinsic "impossibility" of the task -- a task man is incapable of without divine assistance. Man alone cannot make himself worthy of eternal life.

The man then mentions that he follows the commandments, but as we all know, this is neither here nor there if it is done mechanically, in the absence of a conversion in the heart. He tells Jesus that it's just not working for him. You know, I'm doing all the right things, but nothing is happening.

It is at this point that Jesus -- having seen into the man's heart -- drops the rhetorical bomb on him. "Okay, let's test your real commitment to God. I think you love your possessions more than you love the Truth. But Buddy, if that's the case, you're not fooling God, only yourself." The real point is not the "giving away," but the re-ordering of one's priorities -- the following, the surrender, the self-sacrifice. It is really about loosening one's grip on the horizontal in order to be reborn in the vertical.

If He were speaking to Oldbob and his particular issue, he might say, "If you want to get anywhere, Einstein, start by giving all your stupid books to the poor and tenured. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a genius like you to enter the Kingdom of God."

I probably should have burned most of those books, but I ended up giving them to the local library.

Oops! Out of time. To be continued....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Epic Debate with an Immature Atheist Assoul

I don't usually like to engage these people -- for it just encourages them -- but a couple of days ago I received a letter from an unhinged atheist. It contains two pages of single spaced text, with fifteen arguments against God in general and Christianity in particular.

It's actually from someone I used to know. In fact, we were once quite intimate, and shared a lot of good times. However, I hadn't given him much thought in a number of years, and for all I knew, the man was dead.

The letter is from me.

It seems that my brother was clearing out his dusty archives, and found this ancient screed among his treasures. I'm not sure when this demented memento was written, but it's pre-computer, since it was done on a typewriter.

I thought it might be fun to engage in a dialogue with this inappropriately confident metaphysical yahoo, by publishing his rant word for word, and then giving my response. How often does one have the opportunity to do battle with an original sincarnation of onesoaf?

One can only do so if one has actually changed, and changed dramatically ("to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often"). There has to be a pretty dramatic rupture or maybe even rapture, not just an evolution of one's views. After all, a linear evolution is easy to explain, if only because of the maturity that occurs with time and experience.

But in this case, I'm dealing with a jackass-of-all-tirades who holds views that are not just the polar opposite of mine. For that implies a simplistic linear map of psychic space, like the continuum of left and right. The problem is that the spiritual and worldly are not on a horizontal continuum; rather, as we discussed a number of weeks ago, they are on a vertical continuum.

Furthermore, this spiritual continuum extends above and below the empirical ego, so that few materialists are merely "a-spiritual." Rather, for reasons that we will discuss in more detail below, the a-spiritual tends to (and justifies) the anti-spiritual, just as the amoral soon enough ushers in the immoral, and the a-soul becomes the assoul. If man is not creatively ascending, he is usually frantically descending (cf. the three gunas, specifically, the unchecked tamasic quality of darkness, obscurity, delusion and ignorance).

Man being what he is, the staunchest atheist is nevertheless going to be situated somewhere on the very vertical plane he denies, since it is and must be prior to the horizontal plane to which the materialist has artificially confined himself. Here again, this is one of the intrinsic difficulties in debunking an atheist, for in order to do so, one must descend to their crude level of bunk, since they deny up front what they claim to disprove with their tin-eared reason.

But as we have said many times, reason cannot furnish its own material on which to operate. Rather, that involves a vertical act of judgment. Which is why one must be very cautious with that first philosophical booby step, for if not, one will be stepping into an abyss, or sacred cowpie, that will naturally be conflated with reality. In the absence of light, the darkness looks like a wall, and a tangled web can feel like a footbridge.

We get the occasional atheist troll who complains about my dismissive treatment of them, but I certainly don't treat them any worse than the alterbob who composed this rant, whom I thought I had killed and buried in an appropriately shallow grave. If nothing else, Oldbob shows that Newbob is completely familiar with all of the typtopical atheist sophistries, since he once believed them. Truly, there's nothing new under the sonofabitch. You could even say that Oldbob was just like Hitchens, minus the charm and drunkenness. No, wait. Just not that drunk.

The point is, I am at an advantage over Oldbob, since I know how he turned out. I know that his arguments, once so passionately held, are now as meaningful to him as, say, Teletubbies is to my son, now that he's moved on to Sponge Bob.

That may sound like a stretch, but it really isn't. At each developmental stage, we require external models in order to actualize the latent potential within us. If we do not have access to the appropriate external model, then it is likely that our development will stall at that stage.

Ken Wilber -- I think it was Wilber -- has discussed this idea, that the "interior collective" of culture only allows for a certain level of development, but no higher. Of note, it will tend to punish not only the people who fail to achieve that level, but also those who surpass it. Basically, the elites will attempt to delegitimize anyone who calls their ossified maps and mythic narratives into question (cf. Sarah Palin).

In fact, what did the Master say? A prophet is not without honor save in his own country.

Let's move on to the letter.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Cosmic Corso & Recorso: Tones for Joan's Bones

Thanks to music, we are able to behold time. --Zuckerkandl

[T]he deeper teaching of music concerns the nature not of 'psyche' but of 'cosmos.' --Zuckerkandl

Our personality is precisely that: the continuous melody of our inner life. --Bergson

I just wanted to wrap up this series of posts about music, because I want to move on to a couple of other topics, hopefully starting tomorrow. For this reason, it may have a bit of a rushed feel, but I need to finish this performance and go on to the next gig.

For reasons that should be bobvious, the following passage by Zuckerkandl caught my attention. It is a continuation of the idea that in a melody, one tone recalls the past and anticipates the future, handing it off to the next one:

"In the course of this motion, then, the departing becomes a returning. The direction of the motion at the beginning appears changed into its opposite at the end. Is it possible to determine a point at which the reversal takes place, at which 'away from' becomes 'toward'?"

In my book, I put forth the idea that there exist nonlocal "attractors" in the phase space of the human psyche. In fact, in the final analysis, you could say that man is suspended roughly halfway between two Great Attractors. You can call them "spirit and matter" or "being and non-being" or "heaven and earth" or "slack and conspiracy," but again, I prefer the more abstract and unsaturated symbols, which I unname O and Ø.

Faith is an absolute prerequisite when one is circling in the obit of the Ø attractor, and in the absence of faith, one will remain stuck there, cash to ash and lust to dust. But with patient surrender, a point is reached whereby faith is slowly transformed, either to knowledge, or love, or virtue, or being.

Afterwards faith is still required, as one must continuously "empty oneself" in order for the endless process to continue. It's just that now one is "moving toward" instead of "away from" -- like a rocket that has escaped the earth's gravitational pull. At some point the ascent from earth becomes a descent to the moon, and "motion and gravity point in the same direction."

Now, you might think that the point of the spiritual life is to escape Ø in order to flee toward O, so to speak. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that this purely ascending approach is one way of doing it, but I think it is only a half measure. Beware of spiritual mentors who only teach you how to fly but not to land.

Rather, the point is to come "full circle" back round to Ø, which then becomes infused and revivified, so to speak, with O. Darkness and death are resurrected in the Light of the return. This is how we can say that our end is in our beginning, and vice versa, and how we can thereby know the place for the first time. The Poet was not merely being poetic, but noetic.

The octave -- the completion of the scale -- is simultaneously an arrival and a return, like the prodigal son. Various paradoxes of physics -- "wherever we go, we return; start and goal are one and the same; all paths travel back to their own beginning -- are in the world of tone, simple statements of fact."

Now, just as the melody represents the reality of immaterial horizontal wholeness, the chord, or harmony in general, is only possible because of our ability to transparently grasp its transcendent vertical wholeness. Again, the melody is in time, the harmony in space.

As Zuckerkandl desribes it, "the basic chord," "the holy chord of our music, is the triad, the conjoint of three tones arranged in a definite pitch pattern."

Here I am reminded of the vocal harmonies of the Byrds, in which Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark would generally double each other, but David Crosby would provide the real harmony by moving around from note to note within that frame, altering its center of gravity and creating a kind of ascending and descending vertical motion. At one moment he might take the lower note, but then move to the higher note, giving the passage a dynamic and soaring quality.

This is very different from the distressing experience Ms. Joan had the other day in being subjected to new age musical pap while undergoing a much deserved massage. As she put it, the masseuse "had a CD of so-called music that was only one long sustained note with buzzing and tinkling bells all around it. It created the opposite of peace and tranquility in my Spirit, and told me volumes about her own. I couldn't explain to her in words what was wrong, but now I know that I was experiencing the nihilistic 'music' of nothingness. This confirms to me also, that eternal nothingness is not bliss. It is madness."

That is exactly how Zuckerkandl describes it: a "filling of the gaps between tone and tone, a sirenlike glissading up and down, does not produce the most perfect musical motion but no musical experience at all; it produces mere noise." Hardly the appropriate Tones For Joan's Bones.

The next series of posts will further explicate this idea of a vertical approach to spirituality, in which the individual harmonizes with the ultimate Other, vs. O-bliterating one's own melody within it.

Heavenly harmonies:

More harmonic goodness:

One more:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life Begins at Two

I don't like to get all self-referential this early in the morning, but in my book I present the idea that humanness could never have emerged merely as a result of a big brain. Rather, it could -- and can -- only occur as a result of individuals being linked up in the transitional space between them. Thus, you could say that the large brain was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. The sufficient condition was the invention of the neurologically incomplete and helpless infant (and this is leaving aside the essential factor of the final cause, the nonlocal archetype of man as such). (This, by the way, is one of the reasons why I don't believe intelligent life exists elsewhere -- the evolutionary neck is just too freakishly narrow.)

Interestingly, it is the same with music. "A tone," according to Zuckerkandl, is not yet music." Rather, "music actually begins when a second tone has followed the first." Therefore, strictly speaking, "the smallest particle of music, then, the musical atom, is not properly the tone but the connection of the tone with the tone, the interval." So really, it's a kind of threeness: tone 1, tone 2, and the link between them. Presumably, any living thing with ears can hear a tone. But only humans can link tone to tone in a meaningful way.

Like life itself, music is "ordered motion," a "complex kinetic organism." Not only can we perceive its motion, but its direction. Even children can discern "the rise and fall of the tones in musical space." In other words, they can distinguish "high" notes from "low" ones. Which is interesting, because no one looks at violet and sees that it is "higher" than red; nor could you create visual music by presenting successive beams of light vibrating at different frequencies. For that matter, no one would say "that the fourth floor of a house was sharper than the third, the first flatter then the second" (Zuckerkandl).

In music, high notes, such as those played by the flute, are often associated with gaity, with spring, with frivolity, with angels and fairies and similarly fruity things. Is this just culturally conditioned? Would it be possible to use the flute to express deep gravity, like the voice of God? I doubt it; not for nothing is Barney's last name Fife. However, it can obviously communicate an aspect of God, which is no doubt why Krishna is never far from his flute. A quick google search reveals the following:

"Flute is the oldest musical instrument known to mankind.... the flute is very close to Nature and sounds very melodious when played in an atmosphere surrounded by Nature.... For example, if you take a short flute to mountains or a thick forest and then play, the echo of the sound bouncing back either from the leaves of the trees or from the mountains is simply very delightful. Every flute player in such circumstances receives a celestial experience. Nature actually talks back to you."

Back to the twoness -- or threeness -- of music. Like time, music "moves forward," even while retaining and remembering the past. The reason why music is possible is that one tone recalls the previous one and "anticipates" the next; there is a curious lack of fulfillment present to each tone, as it "completes itself" by handing over the melody to its neighbor. Again, very strange when you stop to think about it: "No musical tone is sufficient unto itself; and as each musical tone points beyond itself, reaches, as it were, a hand to the next, so we too, as these hands reach out, listen tensely and expectantly for each next tone."

Therefore, to be "in" music is a phenomenologically complex state, for one cannot merely be in the moment and hear what it is all about; rather, "to be auditively in the time now sounding means, then, to always be ahead of it too, on the way to the next tone." I suppose it's no different than understanding speech. In so doing, we don't recognize the fact that listening only to the individual words will not reveal the meaning of what the speaker is saying. Rather, we must simultaneously listen to and beyond them.

Seriously, it's amazing that unambiguous meaning can be transmitted from mind to mind, except in the case of purely objective information. In order to accomplish this feat, I must have a meaning in mind, reverse engineer it by selecting the individual words to convey it without distortion and with all subtlety in tact, and then hope that the hearer will take those words and reassemble them to arrive at the same complex meaning.

To cite one obvious example of how communication can go awry, I can't think of a single troll who understands my actual meaning before attacking it. Instead, they use my words to construct a monstrous chimera of their own making, and then attack the trollucination.

Along these lines, at American Digest a commenter remarked that "Science is much harder then religion, because religion doesn't have a lot of really hard math." Actually, it's the opposite. Science, especially the closer it gets to math, is an example of information that can be conveyed from head to head in a very unproblematic, undistorted manner -- which is the very reason why it results in such a philosophically simplistic world, a world far too simple for the human mind to exist in it.

In contrast, the truths, say, of Shakespeare, are far more complex and subtle. Who would be foolish enough to compare the intellect of Shakespeare to the typical worker bee scientist? Among other things, Shakespeare, although writing 400 years ago without benefit of modern science, tapped into deep human truths that will always be true. Unlike science, they are not subject to fashion or to revocation by a tenure-seeking mediocrity.

In Our Culture, What's Left of It, there is a chapter entitled Why Shakespeare Is for All Time. Scientists tell us that there is no such thing as "essences," including such fanciful notions as "self" or "human nature." Fortunately, Shakespeare knows nothing of that postmodern nonsense, but "is interested in the essentials of human nature, not the accidentals of human history."

And there is surely a reason why one can pass through our elite universities without ever encountering Shakespeare, but learning all kinds of multicultural nonsense about lesbian poets and post-colonial authors of color.

For, among other things, Shakespeare undercuts the first principle of the left by destroying "the utopian illusion that social arrangements can be made so perfect that men will no longer have to be good." He knows that human nature is inclined toward the temptation to evil, which "will always make a mockery of attempts at perfection based upon manipulation of the environment." Instead, "prevention of evil" will always "require personal self-control and the conscious limitation of appetites" (Dalrymple).

In contrast, one could master everything there is to know about natural selection, but it would reveal no wisdom whatsoever: "Statistics will not lead us to enlightenment about ourselves, any more than elucidation of the human genome will render Shakespeare redundant. Those who think that an understanding of the double helix is the same as an understanding of ourselves are not only prey to an illusion but are stunting themselves as human beings, condemning themselves not to an advance of self-understanding, but to a positive retrogression" (Dalrymple).

This is an example of how the melody of man can be played backward to reveal a hidden satanic message.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Listening to History: The Testimony of Music

If music is meaningful -- if it wordlessly says something about reality -- what does it say, and can we translate it to mere speech?

Here we are not so much concerned with what this or that performance conveys, but with what music as such tells us. And according to Zuckerkandl, music transmits fundamental truths about time, space, and motion, which are only the fabric of reality. As I said somewhere in my book -- here it is, p. 44, quoting the Z man:

"The knowledge of space that hand and eye possess is exactly matched by their ignorance of time.... A true image of time must be an image for the ear, an audible image, an image made of tones.... Thanks to music, we are able to behold time."

That right there is an earful: behold time. Everyone knows how difficult it is to say what time "is," because as soon as we begin to look at it, it slips through our grubby fingers. Indeed, it is one of those fundamentals, like consciousness, that defy verbal description. We cannot describe time or consciousness because we are "in" them, and could never be outside of them. It would be like a fish trying to describe the ocean, or a member of the MSM trying to look at liberalism.

But if Zuckerkandl is correct, music is a way to stand "above" time while still being in it. That is, music is a meaningful organization of time, an "ordered motion" which serially reveals its meaning as we listen, like a kind of rotating object.

Hold it right there -- "ordered motion?" Surely music doesn't "move" in the conventional sense of the term. We don't have to follow it around the room in order to keep up with it. In this regard, it "moves" and "flows" in the same way the mind does, like a con-versation (literally, "flowing together") that wends its way to its nonlocal "point." What are we talking about right now? Frankly, we don't yet know. All we know is that we're in the process of arriving there. Don't you feel the cool breeze blowing along your neocortex?

This very much reminds me of the "fundamental rule" in psychoanalysis, which is free association. The purpose of free association is to liberate the right brain from the tyranny of the left, so that we can stop making sense for a while -- superficial sense, that is. The left brain always has a ready store of excuses, cover stories, alibis, personal myths, and other "time binding" structures. It is the spinmeister extraordinaire.

And that's what any narrative is, a time binder, a way to contain and organize time. Consider that idea for a moment: just as we require structures to bind space -- for example, our home -- we also need structures to enclose us in time. Think of all the shoddy and substandard temporal shacks people live in to keep the hostile elements out of their little myths!

The Islamist myth is quintessential in this regard. By the way, I read The Looming Tower last week, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is the best book of which I am aware of the whole history of Islamism, which is even more bizarre and bloodthirsty than you may think. It is interesting that the Islamists especially detest any form of western music. But the Islamist myth is like a kind of insane opera that binds all of history into one dramatic arc.

This kind of insane monomythology also afflicts the left. In his Our Culture, What's Left of It, Dalrymple writes of the "various branches (feminist, gay, and so on) of academic resentment studies, in which history is nothing but the backward projection of current grievances, real or imagined, used to justify and inflame resentment."

Such individuals are not living in time; rather, they are living in an "eternal now" of resentment which is then widened out to encompass the past and future. This is the basis of Obama's never-ending World Apology Tour, as if his personal shame is a reliable source of information about America.

Note that "the object of such historiography is to disconnect everyone from a real sense of a living past and a living culture." The point of these leftist monomyths is to oust us from the deep vertical narrative that unites us, so that "people find themselves cut off from the past as a matter of deliberate policy." As the cultural left has made its long march through the institutions, it has waged a brazen campaign against our past, enforced by the dehumanizing newspeak of political correctness. In the end, "nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."

To bring this back around to the original point, any enforced political dystopia must be rooted in a kind of existential amusia, in which one has lost (or is prevented from exercising) the ability to detect the rhythm, melody, and harmony of history.

In his outstanding Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, Jourdain talks about how the greatest works of music parallel the greatest scientific achievements: "In all branches of cognitive endeavor, our highest praise is reserved for works that build the deepest hierarchies. When these works are scientific theories, they explain the world more comprehensively than lesser ones." They aren't like, say, metaphysical Darwinism, which simplistically and fanatically eliminates so many other vital truths of man -- without which man is no longer even man, so that the theory cannot be said to actually explain him as he truly is. Man must be eliminated in order to save the theory.

The kind of cognitive synthesis we are describing is very much analogous to the uniquely horizontal basis of western music, through which many different instruments and musical lines are harmonized and brought together in a moment of listening. It takes a capacious musical mind to compose a work capable of unifying so many diverse strands, both in time and space. Such works "show us relations far deeper than we are normally able to perceive," and reach far "across time to encompass the deepest relations." And interestingly, "harmony became elaborate in Western music at about the same time that perspective was introduced into painting during the Renaissance."

And wouldn't you know it, "it turns out that the left ear, which channels primarily to the right brain, displays clear superiority" in "making sense of melodies." Which is why the harmelody of the cosmos can only be heard through a great imaginative synthesis of its many voices, passages, and movements.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

On the Musicalization of Thought: Do You Hear What I Hear?

I want to focus on the question of what music signifies. As Zuckerkandl reminds us, musical meaning is unlike any other kind of meaning, since it doesn't refer to anything else but the music to which it refers. Think about that one for a moment. The meaning of meaning is that one thing can refer to another. If it only refers to itself, that usually means that it is meaningless -- a tautology.

But the existence of music suggests that some types of meaning are intrinsic. They do not have to point to anything beyond themselves in order to be meaningful. Still, this is very weird, and needs to be reflected upon in order to be fully appreciated.

Zuckerkandl writes that "the word and its meaning are independent things. Here is the word -- a complex of sounds or signs; there is what it means. The two are separable; each exists by itself, the word without the thing, the thing without the word." This no doubt contributes to our common sense, default dualistic view of the world -- of thoughts and of things. What could be more obvious than the existence of these two very different worlds?

But again, the existence of music is a direct challenge, both to dualism and to any attempt to collapse one side of the dualism into the other -- to either reduce information to matter, on the one hand, or matter to idea, on the other. In other words, music doesn't fit into either a materialistic or an idealistic metaphysic, for "when meaning sounds in a musical tone, a nonphysical force intangibly radiates from its physical conveyor."

Clearly, "the musical significance in the tone is of a nonmaterial nature." However, unlike the word -- which points to something else -- the significance of the tone cannot be separated from itself: "The acoustical event and its musical meaning are in no sense two independent phenomena, existing by themselves. They cannot be imagined separate." Oddly, "tones must themselves create what they mean" by "pointing into themselves." It seems to me that this "inward pointing" is the key.

Zuckerkandl only touches on the potential religious significance of this mystery. For example, he writes that "we find a similar kind of 'being in' in the religious symbol. The symbol is the representation of a supernatural -- that is, physically indemonstrable -- force in a material form."

One immediately thinks of icons, which are a kind of transparent membrane through which divine energies flow back and forth -- or in and out, down and up. We can look "in" toward the divine, while the divine radiates out toward us. Transfered to the plane of music, you could say that the icon is simultaneously speaker and microphone, a two-way vibrating membrane, depending upon which way you look at it.

You could even say that the icon -- or host, for that matter -- is not a symbol, but an unsymbol, that is, an existential reality that nevertheless isn't merely what it is. It points, but like music, it points further into itself. Zuckerkandl seems to understand this connection: "The religious symbol is not a sign that merely indicates the divine being to the believer" -- again, in the manner that a word refers to a thing.

Rather, "the deity is directly present in the symbol, is one with it, and is also directly beheld in the symbol by the believer." The symbol doesn't cause one to have a "thought" of God; rather, it provokes a kind of merger with him, in the same way one merges with music. When we listen to music, we become one with it. If we can't "get into" the music, then we haven't really heard it at all. Rather, we have only bounced off its exterior -- or vice versa.

Thus, just as music reveals immaterial forces, so too does the religious symbol manifest transcendent forces in a material medium. And just as the tune deaf individual hears the notes but not the melody, the spiritually autistic soul sees the religious symbol, but not the forces it embodies and radiates. Zuckerkandl: "Do normal eyes suffice to see the god in the symbol? The believer sees him; the unbeliever sees nothing -- who is right? The believer himself says that the unbeliever can see nothing there. What does disbelief prove against belief?"

Note that in order to get deeply into a musical performance, it is not a matter of "belief." It is, however, a matter of faith, especially for challenging music that doesn't condescend to meet us where we are. For example, it took me many years of "practice" to (literally) "get into" modern jazz, and to hear what it was all about. In this regard, faith was an absolute prerequisite, in that I had to have faith that people with better ears than mine weren't lying, and that there really was a there there, even if it sounded like chaos to the uninitiated.

But through patient faith, I eventually found my way "in" to the music. Thus, I do not say that I "believe" in modern jazz. Rather, I would say that I now have access to the immaterial existential reality it conveys. If some musical philistine tells me that there really isn't anything there, what can I say to him? It's not as if you could use any kind of scientific instrument to prove to him that the musical reality actually exists.

That this reality is "not physically in the tones, that no instrument would register [its] presence, is no argument against [its] existence." Rather, "to him who opens himself without reservations to symbols, their meaning will gradually become clear of itself."

Bottom line -- or cadenza: "Because music exists, the tangible and visible cannot be the whole of the given world. The intangible and invisible is itself part of the world, something we encounter, something to which we respond."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting Into the Melody of Existence

Zuckerkandl discusses some of the interesting philosophical -- and I would say theological -- problems raised by the existence of melodies. After all, what is a melody? A melody is a succession of tones. However, a cat scampering over a piano keyboard will produce a series of tones, but that's not a melody. Unless it's one very hep cat.

So why are some series of tones meaningful, while others are not? It's a tricky question, because meaning usually involves one thing that stands for and symbolizes another; there is the signifier (the symbol or word) and that which it signifies (the object, concept, activity, etc.).

But melodies don't refer to anything but themselves. Yes, there is programmatic music intended to evoke preconceived ideas and emotions, but that is the exception. The greatest music is completely abstract, and has no external referent.

Zuckerkandl writes that "when we hear a melody, we hear things that have no counterpart in physical nature." This is again why music occupies that third area, the mysterious transitional space alluded to in the previous post. A single tone -- or the cat running across the keyboard -- is not a musical phenomenon, but merely an acoustical one. Does this imply that music is therefore "unreal," like an auditory hallucination? Perhaps, so long as we agree with Terence McKenna that there exist true hallucinations.

What is it that converts the tone into a note, and the note into a melody? I would suggest that it is the same cosmic force that converts an atom into a molecule, molecule into a cell, and a cell into a body. As discussed somewhere in the Coonifesto, one of the problems with philosophical Darwinism is that it presupposes a very particular kind of cosmos, one in which wholeness is built into its very fabric. Neither music nor natural selection would be possible in any other kind of world.

But ironically, Darwinists nevertheless promulgate a very different kind of cosmos, one in which cats running around on keyboards will eventually produce the works of Bach. As a result, there is an infinite and unbridgeable gap -- literally -- between matter and life, to say nothing of life and mind. There is simply no plausible explanation for how a universe of logical atomism -- of distinct notes wholly external to one another -- could every have snapped to attention and begun reflecting upon itself and singing the Sounds of Science.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand tenured maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

Again, as explained in my book, wholeness implies both interiority and meaning. It implies the latter by virtue of the fact that the parts may participate in a higher entity which is their meaning. And it implies the former for the simple reason that meaning of any kind can only take place in an interior. But again, this meaning is not merely an eccentric and wholly private hallucination (although it certainly can be). Rather, it takes place in the transitional space between world and neurology, where truth, beauty, and virtue enter the world.

The point is that a melody is a whole through which the individual note derives its meaning. The note is only meaningful in the context of the melody. Nor does a random succession of tones make a melody, as with the cat. When we perceive a melody, we are perceiving none other than "wholeness in action." Just as we can perceive static wholeness in space -- say, an animal or building -- we are also able to perceive wholeness in time. Thus, we see how intimately related to music are history, biography, and narratives of any kind.

Zuckerkandl writes that "such a thing as 'mere matter' does not exist in music; its very material is permeated with relation to wholeness." In music, "we hear the promise of a whole that it bears within itself."
The promise of a whole. What does that remind me of? (No, not the promise of a-holes; that's a different subject.)

Oh yes. Religion -- and the faith required to "hear" what it discloses if only you sharpen your ears. For "in the outer world there are forces active whose activity transcends the physical, and at least one of our senses is an organ capable of directly perceiving nonphysical occurrences."

Again, the existence of music cannot be understood in dualistic terms, i.e., physical and psychic. Rather, Zuckerkandl speaks of the "external psychic," but one could just as well say "interior material," for both are ineluctable properties of cosmic wholeness. But "so greatly is our thinking under the spell of the two-worlds schema!" As a result, philosophical explanations swing from the one to the other, even while the explanations -- and music -- can only occur in the transitional third. This is why solid matter is "transparent" to mind, which can "see" and "hear" what is going on "inside" of it.

"In." That might be the most mysterious little word in our entire vocabulary, even more mysterious than being, or AM. For science posits a world of pure exteriority, an IT IS, as it were. The problem is how the IT IS ever results in the I AM, which requires something being "inside" the IT IS. But how do we get in?

Many of us don't. Perhaps you've noticed that one of the most painful aspects of depression is that it prevents one from "getting into" things. It is as if the world is reduced to its IT aspect, with no meaning or depth, i.e., interiority.

Stupidity (e.g., materialism, neo-Marxism, Obamism) results in the same thing, which is why it is so depressing to be around spiritually opaque and dense people who are exiled from the deep interiority of the cosmos, or just living in a collective hallucination. Religion is all about disclosing and reconnecting with this interiority, of "being in." This being in is the tonal center of both man and cosmos, from where all the best melodies arise and return.

Here's a swingin' little loony coon for you:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Eternal Harmelody of Adams

It is an existentialist cliché that modern man is "exiled in time," since he has lost his mooring in the eternal. But this cannot be quite correct, unless we forget what time is.

For time is not a successive appearance of independent "nows," or "points of time." Rather, it is a serial unfolding of past--> present--> future, in which the past anticipates the future and the future recalls and retains the past. Again, one cannot understand time -- or history -- by isolating a single point of it, any more than one can understand a melody by hearing one of its notes.

But since postmodern secular man is not in real time, where is he? Good question. I would suggest that he is in the same place existentially as is the contemporary pop music listener aesthetically, which is to say, "nowhere." I have no idea what's in the Top Thirty these days, but I'm pretty sure you won't find much beauty.

Now, if time is indeed a melody -- or, to be precise, if music is the image of time -- then we should expect time to have all of the same fundamental qualities as music, which include melody (the horizontal component), harmony (the vertical component), and rhythm (the repetitive, containing, or "boundary giving" component).

Modern man doesn't lack for rhythm, except that the beat is either jagged and inhuman on the one hand -- dragging him along by the ear with it -- or as boring as a nine-to-five-to sixty five to the grave necronome on the other.

Nor does he lack for melody, except that the melodies are either trite and sacharrine, or overly "free," verging on not being melodies at all, just a succession of notes with no internal consistency.

What man really lacks of the time element is harmony, and it is harmony that lends music its richness and its depth. Now, transferred to the human plane, to what could harmony be the analogue?

The first thing that comes to mind is tradition, especially the deep tradition of the orthodox revelations, through which man resonates at the same frequency as millions of other living souls, past, present and future. Ultimately one resonates with the first man and the last, or Adam and Christ. Compare this to metaphysical Darwinism, in which one resonates only with an animal and ultimately material past.

In other words, in the case of the Judeo-Christian stream, the harmonic tradition extends back to the dawn of man as we know him -- but really, to the (vertical) origin of the cosmos. To say in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, is analogous to the da-da-da-DUMMM that enunciates Beethoven's fifth and keeps coming 'round until it is resolved.

Thus, when we harmonize with this tradition, we are still our own note or chord, so to speak, except that it is given a kind of infinite meaning by being situated in the vast cosmic Symphony of Man. Here again, ritual, prayer, meditation -- these are all specific ways of adding a voice to the celestial choir of temporal resonance.

Now, the beat -- the rhythm -- is exceptionally important in these meters. As alluded to above, meter involves repetition, containment, and boundaries. Without it, we could not "think" musically, since it would involve one endless display of novelty, with no breaks (i.e., boundaries) or patterns. A beat is like a unit of time that allows us to think about it.

Transfered to the human plane, this means that we live in various natural rhythms, i.e., the day, season, year, developmental stage, etc. This is how we can say that all Sundays -- or Christmases, or Springs, or Weddings, or Adolescences -- are the same, and yet different. Thanks to rhythm, we have retention with variation. And of course, we can all add in our own groovy little syncopations in order to make life swing. Now that I haven't been blogging every day, I've noticed how the whole thing depended on being locked into a certain rhythm. I'm guessing that most creative people find this to be true, at least if the creativity is to last.

Time is motion, or movement. This is why the ears in general and music in particular are so ideally suited to disclose it. Interestingly, Zuckerkandl observes that "A God enthroned beyond time in timeless eternity would have to renounce music," because "temporal omnipresence would make the revelation of audible beauty impossible."

Imagine what temporal omnipresence would be like: you would hear all the notes of, say, a Mozart symphony, except all played simultaneously instead of in succession. Just one eternally cacophonous OMMMMMMMMMMMM going out and returning to itself. In fact, there wouldn't even be enough time for OM, just OOOOOOOOOOOOOO..... Or O. And O would literally have no content.

But -- and we will have more to say about this later -- if God is not one but three (or three-in-one), then this has definite implications for the Cosmic Symphony, for it means that there is an intrinsic time element in the Godhead. After all, no matter how you play it, it takes some kind of time for the Father to give birth to the Son, even if it's a timeless time. I don't intend to start an argument, but it can't be literal timelessness, or it could never "happen." And this is the position of non-dualism, that "nothing happens" in God. Rather, there is no time, no individual self, no nothing, just a static eternity, compared to which everything else -- including notions of Trinity or personal God -- are illusion.

The Christian God is clearly not monistic, i.e., a "simple one." But nor is reality dualistic, i.e., God and creation. Rather, a key point, both for man and music, is that God is trimporphic. That being the case, perhaps the trimorphism of music can tell us something about the interior of God.

And when we say "interior," we mean this literally. Again, as Zuckerkandl notes, the eyes reveal the exterior of things, while the ears reveal the interior. Remember, a mere tone can be situated in the external world, but a melody cannot be. But nor is the melody simply on the side of neurology, since the tune-deaf person hears the identical notes, but not the melody.

Therefore, melody -- which is the meaning of the notes -- is the quintessential example of something that occurs only in the mysterious transitional space, the psychic third where everything -- everything -- meaningful actually takes place.

Indeed, one cannot even say that the the most stubborn external fact exists in the absence of this transitional space, for without it, we wouldn't even know what was important. Rather, everything would be of equal importance, which is another way of saying that there would be no facts. To say "fact" is to say "value" is to connect the dots is to sing a melody, however insipid or profound. And suffice it to say that the left specializes in destroying harmony and insisting that all melodies are arbitrary.

To be continued....

Monday, November 09, 2009

If a Cosmos Bangs in the Void and Nobody Hears it, Does it Make a Sound?

How is music even possible?


I said, HOW IS MUSIC EVEN POSSIBLE?! What, are you deaf?

"What must the world be like, what must I be like, if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur? How must I consider the world, how must I consider myself, if I am to understand the reality of music?"

Good questions. They were asked by Victor Zuckerkandl in his cult classic, Sound and Symbol: Music and the External World. Unfortunately, the cult consists only of me, so it seems that no one took Zuckerkandl's ideas and riffed with them. I briefly touched on them in my book of the sane gnome (see page 44-45), but this is another one of those motifs that could have been a symphony in itself. I needed to change keys and move on.

But with my new found slack, I've been revisiting the book. Referring back to the previous post, what if the ears provide a better account of the nature of reality than do the eyes? This would certainly be consistent with Judeo-Christian metaphysics: in the beginning was the Word, not the brightly colored object.

But the Word is only heard by those with ears to hear. Seeing is different. In order to see, all you have to do is open your eyes, and the image forces itself upon you. Remember what happened in the Garden: eating from the tree of good and evil results in the eyes being opened. What were they before?

I would say that before that, the ears were dominant over the eyes. This is how it was possible to have such an intimate relationship with the Creator. Again, the ears do not divide the world in a dualistic sense, as that which we hear is not exactly outside, nor is it inside; rather, as we shall explain in more detail in a subsequent post -- hearing -- or, more specifically, music -- uniquely occurs in the mysterious transitional space between matter and neurology. It can by no means be located in just one or the other (for example, a tune-deaf person hears the identical notes, but not the melody).

Zuckerkandl discusses the interesting differences between the blind and the deaf. Upon superficial consideration, one would think that the blind person would feel more cut off from the world, and have more reason to be irritable, paranoid, and distrustful. "Yet it is not the blind man who shows the typical reaction of the prisoner, the man spied upon, who must always be on his guard; it is the deaf man, whose most important organ of connection with the world has remained unimpaired" (Zuckerkandl).

During my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, my supervisor was a blind man. He was the sweetest and most gentle, not to mention, perceptive, soul you could imagine. But you may have noticed that when people start to lose their hearing, they often become sullen or cranky. Often they deny that it's happening, and blame the world. How come movies these days are so damn quiet! Why does everyone mumble!

For the blind man, "other modes of connection with the world are revealed to him, modes that are otherwise overshadowed by the dominance of the eye -- as if, in the realms with which he thus comes into contact, man were less alone, better provided for, more at home, than in the world of visible things to which the deaf man is directed and to which an element of foreignness always clings."

Now interestingly, there was a time, not so very long ago, that man was blind half the time. It was called night. I don't think we appreciate -- in fact, I'm sure we don't -- the psychological effects of having light at night; not just a little candle, mind you, but the complete conquest of darkness. The total blackness of night is almost inconceivable to us today, and with it, a host of mysteries to which we only gain entrance by facing and living with the darkness. No wonder early humans worshiped the sun, and readily "saw" the connection between light and thought (likewise the feminine moon, which is to unconscious as the male sun is to conscious).

What did human beings do back then in the dark of the night? Well, for one thing, they huddled around the campfire and told stories. As I have mentioned before, there are many things that only make sense at 2:00 AM, in total silence and darkness. Just because they don't make sense at 2:00 PM hardly means that they don't make sense. Think of some of the epic stories of the Bible -- floods, giants, talking serpents, etc. If these aren't engaged with the imagination -- which only comes out at night, or by somehow suppressing and "endarkening" the dominant, light-filled left brain -- then they won't reveal their secrets.

Furthermore, there are some stories we tell by day that make no sense whatsoever in the darkness of night -- for example, Darwinian fairy tales, or silly myths about whole universes suddenly banging into being out of nothing and for no reason. Such things are easy to believe for someone who doesn't know that reality extends beyond the securely enclosed firmament of egoic consciousness. It's like imagining that the world is encircled by the sky, just because we see it by day. At night, the comforting sky recedes into the infinite darkness, and we are confronted by the billions of things concealed by daylight and tenure.

Could it be that "man attains the inwardness of life by hearing and its outwardness by seeing?" (Zuckerkandl). Hmm, let me listen to that question for awhile...


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Friday, November 06, 2009

The Cosmic Symphony

This post has been sitting around unfinished on my desk. It's part of a much larger project that investigates the possibility that we love and need music because it discloses important insights (or insounds) into the nature of reality. Dedicated to the memory of Ximese.

To what point must we enlarge our thought so that it shall be in proportion to the phenomenon? --Schelling

The problem with the various -isms ,-ologies, and ismologies of our day is that they are simply not in proportion to the phenomena they seek to explain. Rather, in every case, they make the phenomena go away by subsuming it into a system out of which it could never have arisen to begin with. As a result, man has a total explanation of the cosmos, but at the price of eliminating himself from it. It seems that no one asks what kind of cosmos must this be in order for truth -- and a being capable of knowing it -- to exist in it.

In other words, let us say that Darwinism as commonly understood by tenured vulgarians is "true." This immediately creates a host of problems for the theory, for now one has to explain how it is possible for truth to be known, given the impossibly narrow constraints of natural selection. For to know truth is to adapt oneself to the timeless, so to speak, whereas natural selection is strictly an ephemeral adequation to a changing environment. How can that which only changes know that which never does?

Traditionally, we have a word for "the thing that never changes." We call it God. Unfortunately, this word has become detached from what was once extremely experience-bound, so that it is often an empty abstraction (or alternatively, a saturated concretion) -- especially for those who "do not believe" in God. In the end, it is not a matter of belief or disbelief; rather, it is -- and must be -- a matter of experience, to which we only subsequently give the name "God" (even those who wrote the scriptures had to simultaneously have the experience; I don't think they were just glorified stenographers).

The experience must be of something that is "other"; and yet, there must be a part of us that is capable of conforming itself to this object. In other words, humans can only know what they are capable of knowing, and they either can or cannot know this transcendental object.

If they cannot know it, then this hardly resolves the problem. Rather, then you have to explain what all those people were experiencing when they thought they were experiencing God, including many of the most brilliant and accomplished minds in human history. It will not do to simply say it was "nothing." At the very least, you would have to concede that it was something, just not "God." It's like saying, "I thought I was in love, but it turned out I wasn't." Just because things turned out that way, it doesn't mean that the object of your affections didn't really exist. You just thought that she was something she wasn't.

Let's think about this transcendental Object. For human beings, since vision is our dominant sense, when we consider the word "object" we probably imagine something material, like a pen, or a cup, or a hat. But this can be misleading, for there are also "aural objects," most notably, musical objects consisting of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Note the first difference between a visual and an aural object; the former exists all at once in space, while the latter unfolds serially in time. Specifically, a melody is a kind of "musical object" that is "nothing" at any instant. That is, to hear just the note in isolation is to kill the melody -- like looking at a letter in isolation from the word, or a word in isolation from the sentence. An individual note is not just "nothing" -- i.e., neutral -- but a kind of lie if it was really meant to be part of a melody or harmony.

Now, human beings exist in time. I think we can all agree on that. But this is not just the physical time of pure duration, as it is for a stone or an aerosmith. Rather, we live in developmental time, in which we constantly change and grow, and yet, retain our "selves." A helpless infant who stayed a helpless infant would not be an occasion for hope and joy, but a tragedy and a nuisance.

As time passes and the infant reaches various developmental milestones, he unfolds like a flower. The adult could hardly be more different than the infant if looked at in isolation, like an object in space. But we are always, from infancy to adulthood, an arrow aimed beyond our present state to a future self we cannot know until we arrive there. To grow is to coherently unfold in time, not merely expand in space.

Along these lines, please note that it may be as artificial an exercise to separate the first living thing from the last man as it would be to separate the fetus from the baby. Who said that things are really as separate as they appear to our eyes? Who said that the future doesn't disclose the meaning of the past? Indeed, how could it not?

The critical point to bear in mind for those with ears to hear, is that man is not an object but a melody -- or rather, a complex musical object with a deep continuity extending back to the womb and before (and above). In the absence of this deep continuity, we could never have become the melody. Every man was once a helpless baby, and if he hadn't been, he could never have become a man. What this means is that man is not just melody -- which exists in time -- but harmony -- which exists in space.

Think, for example, of a chord, which consists of two or more notes played simultaneously. It is a truism that the childhood experience that we do not consciously remember is stored away in the "unconscious." But the unconscious is not "past." Rather, it is very much present, as one of its principle characteristics is timelessness.

Thus, if you want to understand the proper relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds, it is very much like two notes that must be harmonized. To the extent that they become "dissonant," this will result in what we call "symptoms," which are unconscious emotions or behaviors that clash with our conscious will, and cause pain or dysfunction.

Please note that symptoms are not unambiguously negative, as they can and do carry vital messages about ourselves which we need to understand and integrate. Not only that, but they can serve as important reminders that we are not yet "complete," and that we are ignoring something to which we need to pay attention. To cite one example, the atheist's obsession with God is a kind of painful reminder that God is absent in his life -- or present in an inverted manner.

But when the conscious and unconscious minds are harmonized, this leads to a new depth of experience that could never occur with just one or the other. In fact, it is very much analogous to one of those "magic eye" pictures which leap out of the page, or even like our two eyes which create the perception of depth owing to their having slightly different vertices.

Or, it's like a chord that is much more interesting to the ear than the bare note. I've always loved vocal harmony, e.g., the Beach Boys. I guess they remind me of the celestial harmelody of the Song Supreme. No wonder Brian Wilson called one of his greatest works, Smile, a "teenage symphony to God."

Our Prayer, from the original Smile:

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Up to Bismarck

Yesterday I received the sad news that a member of our lodge has suddenly and unexpectedly died. We knew her as Ximese, but her real name was Kathy, age 53. I don't want to speculate, but from the description of her friend, Todd, it sure sounds like swine flu, although I suppose thousands of people die from the regular flu as well every year. Todd says there will be an autopsy.

I'm sure Todd -- or Kathy -- wouldn't mind my passing along the following: "She really loved your book, that you had a website, and fell in love with the regulars. It was always what was going on at OC every day, she would always tell me about what happened, what was said, if Van had done something amusing, if Ben was ok, etc. You were her family in a way, as she found you when God took away her alcoholism -- literally took it. I was there.

"She had heard a sermon by (the sometimes infamous) Dr. Gene Scott about Abraham, 'Lift up now thine eyes, from the place where you are...' He was using this to say that God deals with you where you stand, not where you or anyone thinks you should be. She told me, she was in her bedroom (around 10 pm) and had the DTs, and looked up at her ceiling and asked God to help her.

"He did. She never touched it again, never wanted to, and had no desire. Period. She has been dry ever since. So, she found your book about then, and then the site, and helped out at a local Church's 'Celebrate Recovery' program, to help people realize there was more to 'recovery' than just the old rehab stuff from reworked AA."

Todd passed along this photo:

That would be her owner, Beaky, on the right. Todd says Kathy is radiating her take the f*#%ing picture look. You know, her usual look (she did not suffer trolls gladly).

Here is some more biographical info from Todd: "Her family was in the diplomatic service, and she grew up in Argentina and Paraguay. She spoke fluent Argentine Spanish, and also Japanese. She was an international student at University of the Pacific in Stockton CA, and did a home stay in Japan.

"She was a black belt in Aikido, and had worked her way from being receptionist to VP in charge of operations for a large debt management organization.

"She loved to cook, was a voracious reader, and also an online researcher. Although she read many sites -- Ace of Spades, The People's Cube, Big Fur Hat, etc. -- One Cosmos was her home."

I don't remember when Ximese found home, but it was a case of instant re-cognition. She is the archetypal person for whom I'm always writing, and without whom I could not write -- the one who whacks their furhead in d'light and exclaims, finally! Where has this been all my life!

But the feeling is always mutual -- where have you been all my life! -- since the teaching is just what goes on in the space between two people who recognize it and resonate at the same frequency. It's a vibrating triad, not a static monad or dyad, since it's two people in love with a common third that comes into view between them. It's how we can (implicitly) know each other without having to undergo the formality of (explicitly) knowing each other. Just innocent spirits at play in the fields of the word, like children learning to speak, only of higher things.

Kathy's comments are part of the permanent arkive, so that in a hundred years, unborn Coons will speak with reverence and awe of her legendary troll-bashing. Sure, she liked soccer, but nobody's perfect.

Tonight at Be'er O'clock, let us raise a glass and remurmur our bright Ximese twinkle, Kathy, and give her a proper zendoff to Bismarck, secure in the knowledge that she is slackfully kicking it with Toots and the boys.

.... a drop embraced by the sea held within the drop....

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Loose Thread

The Endless Thread, part II. Please sign our geistbook.

And don't forget to nominate One Cosmos for Best Religious Blog starting November 3. We need to extend our streak to three years for not Best Religious Blog. Keep the joke alive!

The 2009 Weblog Awards

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

... the endless thread...

(∞ ↓ 10.10.05 → 10.23.09 ↑ ∞)