Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Godlessness: Opiate of the Tenured

I don't yet have an overarching grasp of The Theological Origins of Modernity -- at this point, it's still grasping me -- so perhaps if I just go through it chapter by chapter, a higher vision will emerge. At times the book is a little repetitive, and it's also somewhat non-linear -- almost like a collection of independent chapters. Plus, being a scholar and all, Gillespie seems reluctant to just come out and express rash and reckless conclusions in the manner I would.

That's the good thing about blogging. You can just come right out and say it, without all the scholarly apparatus. This is not to criticize Gillespie. This is to explain why I couldn't last five minutes in academia.

The amazon product description says that Gillespie exposes "the religious roots of our ostensibly godless age," and reveals "that modernity is much less secular than conventional wisdom suggests. Taking as his starting point the collapse of the medieval world, Gillespie argues that from the very beginning moderns sought not to eliminate religion but to support a new view of religion and its place in human life. He goes on to explore the ideas of such figures as William of Ockham, Petrarch, Erasmus, Luther, Descartes, and Hobbes, showing that modernity is best understood as a series of attempts to formulate a new and coherent metaphysics or theology."

I suppose that, for self-evident reasons, this would be considered a controversial assertion in academia -- that so-called secular intellectuals are implicitly religious (or, to be more precise, steeped in myth), but just in denial about it. It would be analogous to attending a Catholic seminary and writing a dissertation arguing that Christianity is actually the collective displacement of a massive Freudian father complex. Probably wouldn't go down too well with the faculty.

Gilliespie writes that "modernity in the broadest sense was a series of attempts to answer the fundamental questions that arose out of the nominalist revolution." This metaphysical revolution -- which we will describe forthwith -- is really what cracked the cosmic egg half a millennium ago and overturned the order of the world, sinny side up. As a matter of fact, this is precisely the argument Richard Weaver made in his classic Ideas Have Consequences, first published over fifty years ago.

If Gillespie is correct, we are still dealing with the reverberations of this metaphysical revolution today. Again, nothing has been resolved since Humpty Dumpty fell from the medieval wall. Rather, it's as if every thinker picks up a small piece of the shell and tries to reconstruct a whole egg out of it.

But it cannot be accomplished with any secular philosophy. For reasons that will be obvious once we get into them, such a project is foredoomed. Some thinkers responded to the crisis by assembling a new overarching metaphysic that did not exclude Spirit -- most notably, Hegel -- but which crumbled as a result of their own in-built contractions.

Marx, of course, tried to resurrect Hegel by turning him upside down and banishing Spirit. This gave birth to the illiberal psychospiritual left that persists to this day. Crockroaches that they are, they are nearly impossible to eradicate, since they have learned to live in darkness and can survive by eating virtually anything, even such toxic food as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, or Paul Krugman -- things that would kill an otherwise healthy person who hadn't built up the antibodies over the decades.

Perhaps I should say up front that I think the process is a bit more complicated and multidimensional than how Gillespie (or Weaver) describes it. This is one of the problems with being a mere intellectual; that is, one is susceptible to giving far more weight to ideas than they warrant. But the psychoanalyst in me tends to see ideas as mere "cover stories" for much deeper processes. These processes are largely irrational.

However, I must immediately emphasize that they are irrational in both a positive and negative sense. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that they can be "irrational" or "a-rational," meaning that they can fail to ascend to reason, or that they can transcend it from above. The realm of spirit, for example, is arational, in that it obviously descends from a transrational plane. To try to capture it with mere reason is to severely maim it, and to have no earthly idea of the legitimate bounds of reason. For example, the idea of "homosexual marriage" is not only irrational, which would be bad enough; more importantly, it is anti-transrational.

So, exactly what was this "nominalist revolution"? To make a very long story short, it simply has to do with the question of the reality of transcendentals, or universals. (BTW, there is an excellent overview of the controversy -- and how to resolve it -- in Letter IX of MOTT, The Hermit.) For the medieval scholastics, culminating in Aquinas, universals were ultimately real, while for the nominalist insurgency, they were considered mere names (immediately you see the seeds of deconstruction, which attacks universals -- and therefore Truth -- with a neo-barbaric vengeance).

Seems like a mundane enough academic squabble, doesn't it? Well, no. This is the wedge that plunges right down the center of Christendom, and cleaves Western man to this day (of note, Eastern Christendom bypassed -- or rather, transcended -- this problem, as they never developed a rational theology, only a mystical theology).

Now, the God of the scholastics could be approached with reason. That being the case, the divine realm was ordered, hierarchical, and subject to man's comprehension (up to a point). But the nominalists swept this entire order aside, which had the perhaps unintended consequence of radically changing the character of God.

For one of the implications of nominalism is that God cannot be constrained by reason, which is to compromise his divine omnipotence. God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to such an extent that he actually becomes far more distant and fearsome -- an object of pure awe instead of understanding (here we see an ironic similarity between the Protestant and Islamic God, more on which tomorrow). Indeed, to pretend to understand God becomes a kind of blasphemy in the nominalist view. (Here again, notice how this anti-intellectual stance persists to this day, hence, the deep distrust of the Way of the Raccoon, from both left and right.)

I need to wrap it up here, as I have to get ready for work. But let me just lay out a preluminary schematic that I think summarizes the problem. Medieval man lived in a purely vertical world, or a "sacred space," so to speak, in which the most mundane activities resonated with eternity. Among other things, the nominalist revolution exiled man from this space, and plunged him into horizontal time.

Now, time can be progressive and evolutionary, or it can be regressive and decadent. For awhile, it seemed as if the nominalists had the upper hand, as modernity appeared to be "progressing" in a virtually limitless way in the 19th century. It truly appeared as if science and reason had liberated man from his own pathologies.

But then came the calamities of World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, and all the other modern nightmares of the 20th century, so that the very assumptions of modernity came into question. This then split the stream in two ways, one way leading back to tradition, the other way "forward" into postmodernism. Again, one of the things we will be discussing is the possibility of a third way to heal the wounds of history -- the Raccoon way of improvisational orthoparadoxical bohemian classical liberal neo-traditionalism.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Did We Get Here? Interpreting the Myth of Modernity

We're going to be discussing Michael Gillespie's The Theological Origins of Modernity, which I just finished yesterday. It's so full of implications, that I'm having difficulty wrapping my mind around it. Perhaps I should just begin with a synopsis, and then go from there.

Nah. Let's begin with some autobobographical novelgazing, so the focus stays where it should, on me. At the time I began writing my book, it was in response to the nagging question, how did I get here? In order to provide anything like an adequate response to that question, one must approach it from a multitude of angles and dimensions, from the strictly scientific to the theological, from the genetic to the psychological, from the historical to the the anthropological, from the biological to the linguistic, and much, much more.

If we fail to take this multiply-indisciplined approach, we end up treating ourselves as children by simply mouthing one of officially sanctioned myths of the day, whether of science or religion, it really doesn't matter. I mean, if you are intellectually satisfied by the idea that your existence is explained by "selfish genes," you shouldn't ridicule people who believe they were created directly by God, because both are more myth than reality. In the former case, one reduces an extremely complex and multifactorial process to efficient causation, while in the latter, one reduces it to formal causation, but both are inappropriately deterministic and exclude way too much reality.

I would agree that God is our formal (and final) cause. But an awful lot of things happen between us and God, both on an individual and collective basis, everything from the parents one is stuck with to the culture and historical epoch one is born into. Yes, Mozart's soul was "created by God." But does anyone believe his life would have been similar had he been born into a time or place that didn't have pianos, harmonic musical structure, and a sophisticated technique of musical notation? Yes, Einstein was a genius, but what if he had been born before calculus had been discovered?

So there is an obvious tension -- and paradox -- between who we are and how we get that way. But much of the paradox comes down to the fact that we are necessarily situated in time, which means, among other things, history, developmental maturation, progress (and decay), etc.

You might say that Gillespie's book takes a magnifying glass to an insufficiently understood transition in our collective development -- the transition from premodernity to modernity. As soon as you think about it, it's very strange, so it's no wonder that most people simply gloss over it. Really, it's as mysterious as the questions of how an embryo becomes a human being, how monkeys came to inhabit a linguistic world, or how a Stone Age baby becomes a proper human being. And in order to adequately answer any of these questions, one must again approach it from a multitude of vectors, both horizontal and vertical.

Consider also the fact that the transition from premodernity to modernity was one of the bloodiest -- if not the bloodiest -- in the grim history of humanity. Indeed, it is still taking place now, for this is what is going on between us and the Islamists, who are specifically in revolt against modernity and all it implies. To suggest, as do liberals, that this is about poor Muslims wanting what we want, is as absurd as suggesting that the crazed religious wars that engulfed Christendom between the early fifteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries were really about food.

A violent psychic rupture took place at the transition between premodernity and modernity, and one of the questions we will be exploring is whether it could have turned out differently, and whether we can ever recover the path that wasn't taken with the great schism between Catholicism and Protestantism -- the latter of which in turn led to the desiccated secular fundamentalism that now dominates culture.

One of the most fascinating chapters in the book discusses the Coonish men -- people like Petrarch and Ficino -- who proposed a "third way" that might have avoided much of the mind-boggling violence and bloodshed of the religious wars, but these voices were easily drowned out by the louder and more passionate voices and interests.

For what they were proposing was a Christian humanism (not Christian humanism, which soon devolves to mere secular humanism), that in my view was easily capacious enough to reconcile human individuality with divine sovereignty, while preserving the traditional spheres of nature, man and God. In such an approach, it is quite easy to reconcile science and God, immanent and transcendent. But if you reject it, you end up where we are today, with a secularized science that is absurdly incomplete and incapable of an intellectually or spiritually satisfying account of man, in opposition to a willfully obtuse fundamentalism that thinks it must reject many of the central findings of science and blessings of modernity in order to preserve itself.

In many ways, the transition from premodernity to modernity reminds me of the transition from childhood to adolescence. Yes, you can draw a straight line from child to adult, but how misleading that is! Collectively speaking, we are analogous to pseudo-mature adults who remember nothing of the extraordinary turbulence and rebellion that took place during our adolescence. But why did it take place? What was really going on beneath the surface? And have we really resolved anything, or have we simply repressed the conflict, banished it to the historical unconscious, so to speak?

Gillespie implies that we have, for one of the principal characteristics of modern man is the idea that he is autochthonous -- self-born and self-made, so to speak, a product of pure reason standing above the insanity of history, purged of religious myth and superstition. But Gillespie easily dispatches this simplistic belief system, showing that it is very much rooted in one of the theological streams that opened up in the transition to modernity. For it transparently partakes of divine omnipotence, only absurdly displaced into secular science. In contrast, the followers of Luther preserved divine omnipotence, but at the cost of denying all of the secondary but nevertheless real causes explored by natural science.

Here again, this is the wedge that violently split the medieval synthesis down the middle, and we are still very definitely dealing with its implications today. For nothing has been resolved (unless, of course, you are one of the virtually dozens who have read my book). But one of the most eye-opening revelations of Gillespie's book was again the fact that there were a handful of Raccoons around at the time, trying their best to avoid the holocaust that occurred when the medieval synthesis fractured and unleashed hell on earth.

People talk about how secular ideologies were responsible for the death of some 100 million people in the 20th century, and that is entirely true. However, around here we value intellectual honesty above all else, so we have to consider that awful figure relative to the total population. And the religious wars of sixteenth and seventeenth centuries "were conducted with a fervor and brutality that were not seen again until our own times. Indeed, the ferocity of the combatants may have even exceeded our own, for almost all the killing took place at close quarters, often in hand-to-hand combat, and thus without the emotionally insulating distance that modern technologies make possible" (Gillespie). The extent of the slaughter and cruelty is indeed literally inconceivable, just as with the nazis or the Islamists.

I don't want to dwell on examples of the atrocities, but they were the norm, not the exception. The bottom line is that "by conservative estimates, the wars claimed the lives of 10 percent in England, 15 percent in France, 30 percent in Germany, and more than 50 percent in Bohemia." By way of contrast, "European dead in World War II exceeded 10 percent of the population only in Germany and the USSR. Within our experience, only the Holocaust and the killing fields of Cambodia can begin to rival the levels of destruction that characterized the Wars of Religion" (Gillespie; but I also wonder about the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians, which was a Holocaust in its own right).

But what was really going on here? What we want to do is put collective man on the analytic couch, so to speak, and try to uncover the real issues. For his cover story is analogous to the individual patient who comes in for therapy. In the beginning, he'll relate his "story" to the therapist, which is nothing more than the personal myth he has constructed for himself. But one of the reasons he is in emotional pain is that the myth excludes too much reality, so that he must disassemble it, venture down into the unconscious, and assemble a new and more encompassing myth that colonizes more of the Real.

This will be the ultimate purpose in our ongoing discussion of The Theological Origins of Modernity.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Obama's Secret to Governing: The Burning Bush That Is Never Consumed

Woke up way too late for a new post, but this article from AP, Obama's buck-stopping goes only so far, reminded me of something I wrote after Obama was elected in 2008 -- specifically, that the left's hallucinatory hatred of President Bush had become such a reified organizing fantasy for them, that they would be unable to let go of it and move on to the difficult task of dealing with reality. When even the AP notices something, you know that it can no longer be denied.

As the article says, Obama claims that "the buck stops with me," but "nearly a year into office, President Barack Obama is still blaming a lot of the nation's troubles -- the economy, terrorism, health care -- on George W. Bush. Over and over, Obama keeps reminding Americans of the mess he inherited and all he's doing to fix it."

I didn't pay that much attention to politics in the 1980s, so I could be wrong about this, but I don't recall a single instance of President Reagan blaming Jimmy Carter for the economic troubles he inherited after he was elected (let alone, after he became president), even though those troubles were significantly worse than today's. Remember, Reagan inherited an economy that had been a mess since the late 1960s, and mainstream economists were at a loss to explain how to put an end to the combination of high unemployment, skyrocketing interest rates, and uncontrollable inflation that was destroying wealth and savings, plus taking back any middle class gains as a result of bracket creep.

But instead of blaming Carter, Reagan forged ahead with his new ideas. Yes, they were a shock to the economic system, but look what transpired thereafter: twenty five years of unprecedented economic growth. And no one is proposing (well, maybe Paul Krugman) that we revert to pre-Reagan economic policies, such as a growth-stifling 78% marginal tax rate.

Anyway, here are some excerpts from the previous post:

According to psychohistorian Lloyd deMause, “Most of what is in history books is stark raving mad -- the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane.” He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different “group fantasies” which are designed not primarily to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties. For example, the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear -- witch hunts, senseless wars, racial scapegoating. But so long as one can detach from the madness and survey the contemporary psycho-political scene with even-hovering attention, one can see it just as clearly in the present.

For example, our war on Islamic terror is being waged against fantasists who reject what we know as reality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very inception, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti-Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal.

The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the “mood of the country,” which mostly consists of “gut feelings” that have varying degrees of connection to actual conditions, and more to do with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.

Remember, the bulk of the population is not thinking logically, so it doesn’t matter how many cognitively mature individuals there are at the margins of a poll. That the economic downturn was largely caused by Democrat regulation is inconsequential. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression for years. Had he not decided to defy precedent and run for a third term, he would have been judged an abject failure, as he would have left office in the midst of his own self-induced, double-dip depression.

Likewise, job one for Obama will be to forge and sustain a unifying fantasy, not to deal with reality. This is one of the reasons the left will be unable to let go of President Bush, because they desperately need him as a "poison container" in order to keep the toxins out of Obama (more on which below). This is a somewhat unique situation, because it means that the Democrats in effect will want us to have two fantasy leaders, which reminds me of how the infant splits the world into a good and bad breast.

A national opinion poll doesn’t necessarily provide objective information about actual circumstances, but certainly tells us how it “feels” to be part of a historical group at a particular time. Furthermore, deMause turns the presidential “approval rating” on its head. He doesn’t believe that it actually measures approval so much as disapproval about how effectively or ineffectively a leader is “containing” the public’s anxiety. Negative passions are much more influential, which is why truly happy people have little impact on politics, since it would never occur to them that a politician is responsible for their personal happiness. But unhappy people find all sorts of illusory reasons to explain their unhappiness, including politics. (And we all know that leftists tend to be unhappy, if only because it is quite difficult to be happy if the reasons for happiness or unhappiness are projected into the all-powerful State; in other words, the locus of control is situated outside the self.)

Just as the large group is mainly driven by fantasy, it is primarily looking for a leader who can reassure it about the world and diminish its anxiety. In this regard, it is a mistake to think of the leader as an oedipal (ages 4 to 6) parent; the process is much more primitive, involving the need for preverbal and pre-oedipal (before the age of three) projection and containment, which is in turn much more "psychotic" and fantasy laden, since it escapes the reach of language. Using this method, one would not say that President Bush has, say, a 25% approval rating, but a 75% “toxicity” rating. Meanwhile, Obama has what, a 12% toxicity rating? As soon as he actually does something, he will begin to accumulate toxins, and this number will rise. [Conveniently, Rasmussen actually takes this approach, measuring "passion" in both directions; thus, today 43% strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing.]

It is fascinating to note that as the left became so unhinged in their fantasies about President Bush, they came to imagine that he actually did fight back in the most dangerous and extreme ways -- that he didn't tolerate dissent, that he questioned people’s patriotism, that he destroyed our civil rights, that he punished ideological enemies, that he defecated on the Constitution (you can read that projection with braille!).

deMause notes that people who are stripped of important group fantasies will feel like they are going crazy -- just as primitive groups who are suddenly “decultured” of the myths that have served to organize their cognitive/emotional world. This is why the left has not been comforted by Obama's ascension, but is as nutty as ever. The reason for this is that the hard left is ultimately motivated by hatred (and its derivatives, such as envy and contempt), so losing their primary totemic object of hatred is profoundly disorienting.

It is fair to say that the left has been dealing with this sort of primitive anxiety since the 1980’s, as their various political fantasies have been discredited one by one. But just like a religious group that predicts the second coming, the majority of leftists simply dig in their heels when their predictions prove false. This shows the extent to which outward political ideology often rests on a deeper structure of irrational fantasy that is nearly impossible to eradicate. I think it also explains all of the manic and irrational giddiness we are seeing in the media, as their fantasies are restored.

And now we come to the future. deMause outlines a four-part process that the fantasy leader undergoes in relation to the group. At first the group will see him as unrealistically strong, magically able to unify the group and keep enemies at bay. Certainly we saw this in the months after 9-11, when President Bush was so popular. Again, his popularity had little to do with the actual merits of his policies, but with the public’s need to feel safe, and the feeling that Bush would protect them. Obviously, this is where Obama is, except that the omnipotent fantasies of strength surrounding him are unusually grandiose and primitive.

Stage two is the “cracking” stage, when the feelings of magical nurturing begin to deteriorate, so that the public’s mood begins to feel unstable and dangerous. The leader begins to be experienced as weak, unable to control events. Here again, when this happens, look for the left to frantically attempt to re-project all of this into President Bush, in order to perpetuate the fantasy. [I believe that we are now hovering at this phase, which is why Obama sounded more like Dick Cheney during his speech the other day, finally acknowledging that we are a nation at war. In other words, he's trying to project Cheneyesque strength to counter his own transparent weakness. -- GB]

Stage three, “collapse,” occurs when the public begins to feel that the fantasy leader is helpless to prevent catastrophe -- when the group’s anxiety has become unhinged and uncontained. This brings on pure rage and free-floating paranoid fantasies of death and destruction. Thus, in the case of President Bush, he was unrealistically blamed and vilified for all sorts of things outside his control -- hurricane Katrina, rising gas prices, "global warming," the Democrat-fueled housing bubble, etc. At this stage, the fantasy leader is seen as weak and vulnerable, which triggers a wave of near homicidal anxiety that aims to purify the group by ritual slaying of the divine king, identical to what took place in the most primitive tribes.

Obama doesn't seem prone to locate our enemies externally, where they actually exist, i.e., in Islam. But every theology needs a satan. Again, for this reason, I think the fantasists of the left will be unable to "let go" of President Bush, since he has become so vital to their psychic equilibrium.

[Although Sarah Palin also works as a poison container for many on the left, to such an extent that the fate of democracy is in her wicked hands.]

The credo of the left: To Project and Deceive

Friday, January 08, 2010

Scamalot and the Obaminable Snowjob

While I have prevailed in my courageous battle against manflu, I slept too late to prove it with a new post. Therefore I'll do the next best thing, which is a repost of the sequel to yesterday's offering. My point in reviscerating these old eviscerations is to see how well they hold up in light of Obama's holdup of the country.

And of course, we also want to check in on the changing contours of the psychic waveform produced by infantile fantasy crashing on the rocks of the reality principle. Given the level of hysterical fantasy projected into Obama, we knew the country was going to be in for a screwed awakening, as this Nobody from Nowhere underwent the formality of actually existing. But I'm pretty sure that only wideawake godballs with 20/∞ cʘʘnvision knew it would be this bad.

*****

I really was never any more than what I was -- a folk musician who gazed into the gray mist with tear-blinded eyes and made up songs that floated in a luminous haze. Now it had blown up in my face and was hanging over me. I wasn't a preacher performing miracles. It would have driven anybody mad. --Bob Dylan

Let's meditate for awhile on the political implications of the Devil card with our UnKnown Friend.

First of all, one must understand that, whatever else you may think of him, the being known as Satan is a source of inspiration; to be in-spired is to receive spirit, and it should go without saying that to merely be "spiritual" is neither here nor there, since there are good and evil spirits. After all, Deepak is spiritual. Marianne Williamson is spiritual. Osama bin Laden is definitely spiritual.

Thus, this demonic counter-inspiration is still a kind of inspiration. In fact, very much so. To avoid premature saturation, let's just call it (-i). Most of us, assuming we weren't permanently damaged by higher education, can recognize (i) when we see it, but many people confuse (i) and (-i), with catastrophic results.

For example, America's founders were quite obviously animated by genuine (i). The reactionary counter-revolutionaries -- i.e., the proglodyte left -- are always more or less animated by (-i). Regardless of what they say, they specifically want to arrest and undo our founding, which revolves around liberty converging upon the nonlocal attractor of the Judeo-Christian God (i.e., e pluribus unum, or freedom converging upon the One, or Sovereign Good). Obviously, the Founders did not envision a radically secularized and demoralized populace converging upon an omnipotent state. Leave that to the radical French revolutionaries to deicide. And therefore genocide.

The campaign of John Edwards, for example, was an exercise in pure (-i). How then did it differ from Obama's campaign? I would say that the Edwards campaign was equally driven by (+H) -- i.e., open class warfare and unhinged primitive envy -- whereas Obama's campaign was imbued with a meretricious (-L) -- that is, a shallow caricature of the higher unity produced by genuine love. Obama, like all men of the left, wishes to enforce unity from on high, which is just another name for tyranny. The bribes, the 2:00 AM weekend votes, the secret meetings -- this is the unity of thieves and criminals.

Thus, there is always deep well of (H) under the (-L), but the obamaniacs are able to split off and deny the (H) by bathing in the (-L). To see this, all you have to do is criticize Obama, which signals to the somnolent zombies that you are not a member of their social trance, which then triggers the anger that is analogous to being rudely awakened from a deep sleep at 3:00AM.

Along these lines, reader Mike M. left an astute comment yesterday:

"This swooning Obama-worship of someone who seems to be an empty suit is bizarre and curious. Note how it follows the irrational demonization of the current POTUS now seen as a figure of such mythic evil that he, George Bush, is held to have deliberately murdered thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11 as a pretext for immoral imperialist war. This is a view which is resolutely held by graduates of our most prestigious universities! That such an event would have no historical precedent and that such a purported crime would exceed the ruthless cynical evil of the purported Nazi burning of the Reichstag cannot be without meaning....

"Given the powerful projection, scapegoating and displacement poured into the demonization of George W. Bush, could it be that this Obamessiah persona is a necessary counter to the fabricated evil Bush-Hitler figure, and the powerful divisive hysteria and paranoia which has accompanied the demonization of George Bush -- sort of virtual particle and anti-particles emerging from a spiritual vacuum?"

Yes. That is exactly what I am trying to say. Genuine (L) is convergent upon wholeness, truth, beauty, light, harmony, and freedom. It is never reactive, but active. On the other hand, the Obama-love (-L) is almost wholly reactive, as it exists side by side with the (H) from which it is derived.

Come to think of it, I saw a fine example of this in the latest lunacy from the Windy Hindi. He writes that "I am far more worried about an invisible epidemic than I am about H1N1. I'm referring to the spread of distrust that has become contagion beyond all reasonable boundaries.... [W]hen mistrust becomes the actual, avowed basis for politics, healthy skepticism has turned malignant. Right now, the political credo has shifted from 'I don't trust your position on the issues' to 'I don't trust who you are and everybody like you.' We would be ashamed to apply such an attitude to people of color, although it was common enough in the past."

But them, without irony or shame, Deepak malignantly characterizes those who oppose socialized medicine as not "so much a dissenting minority as a faction that wants to destroy the Democrats. This is bad faith in action. It has no interest in finding the right answer to a sore dilemma. Its ambition is merely to discredit, vilify, and cast the seeds of toxic mistrust." Feel the Love!

A spiritually normal person is unnerved by the kind of hysterical adulation (-L) being directed at Obama. You cannot help wondering about the impoverished state of his soul, and how it must be a pathological mirror-image of what is being projected into him -- like an unconscious lock that corresponds perfectly to the projected key. Such a man -- as was true of Clinton -- seeks his own center in the periphery of the idealizing rabble, so to speak. It couldn't be more different from a man with an immutable axis and incorruptible center to which people are "magnetized," such as Ronald Reagan.

I read somewhere yesterday -- can't think of the source at the moment -- that Reagan and Obama are mirror images, in the sense that Reagan spent decades dissenting from the foolish liberal orthodoxies and pieties believed by the intellectual elite, while Obama couldn't be more cravenly conformist in his beliefs. He seems to have indiscriminately swallowed leftism whole without ever questioning its faulty assumptions, let alone baleful effects. He's certainly the most provincial and conformist president in my lifetime.

If mother love is like the open circle that is both infinite and enveloping (and potentially suffocating), father love is like the absolute point or axis. The circle must come first (i.e., the ineffable background subject of being), followed by the point, which forms the center (and which will in turn extend "vertically" to the celestial Father, of whom our earthly father is just an authorized deputy).

A man without a father (or father energy, which can come from other sources) is generally a man without a center. He will be either a weakling, or a weak man imitating a strong man (the belligerent Sean Penn or Keith Olbermann or Nameless Troll type).

In addition to seeking his center in the adulation of others, it is also possible for the weak man to fabricate it in a kind of centerless, manic energy -- again, Clinton comes to mind. He is bubbling over with scattered hysterical thought devoid of any coherence or consistency. He is most focussed when he is focused on the adulation of the crowd, which provides him with a faux center and a temporary integration (and also keeps shame and guilt at bay). But it's an addiction, which is why he can't leave politics alone, but also why he has no enduring political principles.

There is a fascinating chapter in Dylan's autobiography, in which he discusses at length the horror of being idealized in the manner he was back in the 1960s. Again, our society has become so narcissistic, that not only is such a bizarre situation seen as normative, but it is something that people actively seek (i.e., the cult of celebrity). People want to be famous and adulated, but obviously for all the wrong reasons. There are few good reasons to be famous. Which is why, as Dennis Prager says, most famous people are utterly insignificant, while most significant people aren't famous.

I am also reminded of something Schuon said, that the spiritually normal man does things because they please God, not for the horizontal affirmation of others. He made a related comment about the purpose of secular humanism, which is "to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible." Look at Obama, whose whole economic platform involves making himself useful to the takers against the makers. And once there are more takers than makers, i.e., people dependent upon the state, we may have reached the point of no return. Thus the rush to ram through the ill-considered health care bill, in order to turn all citizens into serfs with his signature.

One can't help wondering if Obama's absence of a father is a critical element here. It is interesting, is it not, that he identifies with his "blackness," even though his father was an utterly useless abandoning-irresponsible-alcoholic-bigamist-Marxist? If a boy is not initiated by the love of a virtuous man, then he will remain left behind in the murky, oceanic, intoxicating, boundary-less realm of mother love, which is as different from father-love as wave is to particle or music to architecture.

Please bear in mind that I am in no way denigrating mother love. Indeed, in watching Mrs. G. interact with Future Leader over the past four years, I am more in awe of it than ever. However, I am equally aware (as is Mrs. G) that if this love weren't tempered by father love, we could have a real monster on our hands.

Awhile back Hoarhey made an insightful comment to the effect that the country wasn't prepared to cope with another fatherless president working out his issues on the national stage. In fact, it is probably no coincidence that in Clinton, the country chose a feminized, mother-bound man as president after the conclusion of the Cold War, since father had done his job and was therefore felt to be no longer necessary. But now, in a time of hot war, were Americans naive enough -- or in such denial -- to think that we could cow our enemies with sufficient mother love?

Yes. We. Were.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jiminy Cricket, the Revolution Will Not Be Televised!


Yoinked from Lucianne. Meanwhile, let me determine if I have sufficient mojo to come up with an actual post today. Probably not. "Forcing the slack" is a contradiction in terms, like "compulsive spontaneity."

*****

What the heck. We haven't had an antichrist update in awhile, have we? This is a repost of something I originally propheseen comin' two years ago, by which time the dreary contours of Obama's soul were coming into focus -- all of us, if you bend over and hear what I'm saying. In short, we are now living in the future of which this post was a shadow. Or, to be precise, it was more the case of a shadowy future casting its darkness into the present for any gnocturnal b'atman to see. So let's see if we knew more about Obama than Obama knows about America, shall we?

****

Will brought up a very important point in a comment yesterday. It was in response to my questions, "What great world-historical events are invisible to the jaded elites of the present? What great vertical energies (↓) are entering the world today, undetected by a spiritually oblivious moonstream media?" Will's reflections on this are worth reproducing in full:

"There is a danger here, I think, given that this might be the age when 'Spirit pours out on all flesh,' i.e., the vertical energies actually do become, in a way, more visible, more tangible, even to the oblivious MSM.

"The danger is this: the influx of vertical energies for the most part cannot find suitable spiritual anchoring, do not result in a growth of spiritual insight and wisdom, but rather the vertical energies might be suborned by the horizontal in an entirely unwholesome way.

"An example: hypothetically speaking, let's say... oh, let's say, some political candidate who's running for... oh, let's say, for president of the United States... Let's say this candidate uses the influx of vertical energy in such a way that it does not invest him with any particular wisdom -- in fact, this candidate mouths and apparently believes in the same old amorphous lefty platitudes. Only... this candidate seems invested with a peculiar type of charisma that has citizens from coast to coast virtually swooning in some orgasmystical ecstasy... no one's higher intellect is sharpened, only their *feelings* are set on fire by this candidate in some peculiar way...

"Well, as was said re: the days when the Spirit pours out on all flesh, one must be very careful not to fall for false messiahs and whatnot... meanwhile, there are those who indeed are spiritually anchoring the vertical energy influx and are doing so invisibly and with a certain amount of travail, as is necessary at this time."

***

First of all, let's get this out of the way at the outset. Are we calling Obama the antichrist?

Yes, of course.

Nah, just kidding. Let's just say an unwitting vehicle of the antichristic principle, which anyone can be at one time or another. Please, let's be mature, and discuss this in terms of abstract cosmic principles, without getting polemical or personal. No need to demonize someone just because he's an instrument of satan. Besides, he's just the vehicle, not the driver. The surfer, not the wave.

Now, what do we mean by "antichrist?" I would say that, as Christ is Word-made-flesh, the realm of the antichristic would analogously represent the "lower principle" made flesh -- the instantiation, as it were, of the energies of the Fall.

So first of all, to go along with our analysis, one must believe that man is in some sense a fallen being with a built-in -- or at least inevitable -- design flaw. You certainly needn't be a fanatic about it, since this comports with common sense and with virtually infinite historical examples.

You have only to know that "something ain't right" with the earthlings, however you wish to conceptualize it. Being aware of this principle is one of our greatest inoculations against utopian leftist schemes to perfect mankind, which always result in unanticipated cosmic belowback, or "hell on earth."

Secondly, you would have to believe that it is possible for the energies responsible for the Fall to be personified -- or, let us say, both focused and dispersed like a beam of darkness through the concavity or convexations of man's heart. As Christ is a blinding light, antichrist would be, oh, a hollow darkness.

Thus, to those who live in spiritual darkness, it would appear as a false light -- as, say, a single match is brighter than the sun in an enclosed room, cut off from the real source of light. And the hollowness would be mistaken for fulness as a result of its receptiveness to primitive projection. Thus, a spiritually normal person sees Obama as unusually empty while others project all sorts of wonderful things into him -- intelligence, wisdom, sophistication, prudence, courage, temperance, etc.

The Serpent -- to paraphrase our best Unknown Friend -- sssymbolizes advanced intelligence ("the most cunning of the beasts") turned wholly toward the horizontal. Thus, it is a perversion of man's intellect, as it represents a self-sufficient naturalism and total (small r) realism that betrays -- literally, for it turns against it in rebellion -- the vertical source of human intelligence. As such, we would expect one aspect of the antichristic to be high intelligence combined with extraordinary vapidity, at least for those with spiritual discernment.

But this cannot merely be the philosophical vapidity of the doctrinaire atheist or scientistic materialist or ideological Darwinian, or it could never gain traction in the human heart, which always hungers for Spirit, even (or especially) if it is the false and meretricious kind (otherwise, Balthasar or Schuon would sell more books than Deepak or Marianne Williamson).

Rather, it would have to come cloaked in some sort of seductive or hypnotic faux verticality. It would indeed have to be charismatic and charming, bearing in mind the root meaning of former, which is "divine gift," and of the latter, which is "incantation" or "magic spell."

A spiritually normal person would be alarmed and even deeply creeped out if he possessed this kind of influence over others. At the very least, it would be an occasion for the deepest humility, combined with concern over the precarious state of the spiritually famished souls under his influence.

Most people, if they knew the implications, would not want this power, because they would know that they are neither worthy of it nor competent to deal with it, any more than they are competent to perform brain surgery. But a person with narcissistic issues will be too intoxicated by the feelings of adulation to care about the souls with whom he is toying. They are just props, part of his psychic furniture.

This power is a serious responsibility and is not to be taken lightly. The spiritually normal person knows that this charis is only on loan to him (or courses through him locally from a nonlocal source), and that he is not free to use it as he will. At the very least, one could not purposely lie to those who place their trust in you, let alone on the grand scale committed by Obama.

Rather, one is only free to use this power if it is aligned with its vertical source and with vertical principles, i.e., Truth, Love, Beauty, and Unity (not relativism, idiot compassion, aesthetic barbarism, and fractious pseudo-diversity).

There is something coming through the charismatic, not from him, and as soon as one realizes this, it is an occasion, yes, for gratitude, but also fear and trembling. It is analogous to the power to send men to die for their country, only on the vertical plane. It is the ability to inspire selfless martyrs, but for what purpose? Our satanic Islamist enemies are clearly selfless idealists under the influence of charismatic leaders. So what?

Our Unknown Friend asks the questions, "Can one produce artificially intellectual, moral or spiritual inspiration? Can the lungs produce the air which they need for respiration?" No, of course not: "the very process of breathing teaches the laws of obedience, poverty, and chastity, i.e. it is a lesson (by analogy) of grace. Conscious breathing in of the reality of grace is Christian Hatha-yoga. Christian Hatha-yoga is the vertical breathing of prayer and benediction -- or, in other words, one opens oneself to grace (↓) and receives it."

Unknown Friend goes on to say that the antichristic represents "the ideal of biological and historical evolution without grace." This is a key idea, for what is a progressive? A progressive is someone who believes fervently in progress while fanatically denying its possibility, since progress can only be measured in light of permanent truths and transcendent ideals. Absent the transcendent, there is only horizontal power.

The antichrist "is the ultimate product of this evolution without grace and is not an entity created by God," since divine creation is always a vertical act or descent. Yes, all things ultimately "come from God," in the same sense that all light comes from the sun, but think of all the infernal uses to which man may put the light, darkling! For the light falls on the righteous and tenured alike.

Now, in this circular dialectic, Obama is ultimately a creator of those who created him. Unknown friend writes that, just as there are spiritual beings who reveal themselves "from above," there are what he calls egregores, which are "engendered artificially [and collectively] from below."

Thus, "as powerful as they may be," they "have only an ephemeral existence," the duration of which "depends entirely on galvanising nourishment on the part of their creators." [As Obama's projected power begins to fade and the illusion is punctured, we'll see more and more of his former supporters publicly asking, "what was I thinking?" in empowering this intellectual cypher. The answer is, "you weren't. You were fantasizing." Of course, others -- the true believers -- will "dig in."]

As such, the really frightening thing about these kinds of amorphous demagogues is that they are given life and nourished by the rabble they nourish and to whom they give life, in a spiritually barren cycle. The result is either spiritual asphyxiation or starvation, or probably both. And starved and suffocating men are capable of anything. [So in terms of the future psychic weather, look for a kind of blinding "psychic frenzy" from the left, much of which will be carried out in the dark.]

Ultimately, the antichrist is the shadow of the totality of mankind, as Jesus was the immanent shadow, so to speak, of the transcendent Divine Principle. The antichrist represents all that man is, and can be in the absence of divine grace. It is he who transported Jesus to the highest earthly mountain "and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" and said to him All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.

The secular extremist or fanatical progressive worships his own creation, and in so doing, gives birth to the antiword. Materially, it results in a lefthound Tower of Babel (i.e, the all-powerful state), whereas spiritually it results in a gelatinous tower of leftist babble (i.e., the vacuous but seductive demagogue who will lead the people in the direction of their most base impulses and envious desires).

Again, please bear in mind that we are simply discussing abstract meta-cosmic principles. The events depicted in this post are fictitious. Any similarity to any biologically living or spiritually dead person is merely coincidental.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Crown of Creation: On the Cosmic Necessity of Man

Under these oppressive rhinoviral circumsneezes, I'm not even going to try. So here's an innerattuning flashslack from a few hundred posts ago, fourtofived with six essential vertamins and 70% more bobservations.

Today's invOcation:

Human destiny is to hear and respond to God's speech in creation and thus, as the principium in the created universe, to draw all things back to their ultimate source. --Bernard McGinn

Back to our free associations on Self and Spirit. Just remember, these associations are going to be exceptionally free, and you get what you pray for.

Bolton begins with the perennial idea that mankind is the mediator between God and nature, or creator and creation. He is -- and this is me talkin' at ya now -- a third term that vertically links all degrees of creation, from matter to life to mind to spirit. Therefore, human beings are surely creatures, but they cannot only be creatures, since we transcend our creaturehood even while being rooted in it.

As such, transcendence is an irreducible cosmic category that pretty much blows Darwin out of the water, gosh! I say this because the principles of Darwinism cannot even be articulated without simultaneously transcending them. Or, once articulated, they falsify themselves -- like the old story of the scientistic cretin insisting that contingent cretins cannot know truth.

Now, our transcendence of nature would be an inexplicable absurdity, not to mention a bizarre nuisance, if it were not connected to, and explained by, its own source, which is "above" not below. In other words, we cannot begin our metaphysics with human consciousness somehow "hovering over the face of the waters," like God in Genesis. That's just stupid.

Let me rephrase that for added oomphasis: how can one naively begin philosophizing before accounting for the consciousness that is capable of philosophizing? For it is either contingent and therefore incapable of truth; or capable of truth and no longer contingent. To know truth is to know the necessary, or absolute. But since only like may know like, there must be something in man that shares in the being of this absoluteness.

You could say that in man there is a union of two natures that produces a third thing.

At this point I am going to ask you to use your feeble imagination, since I don't know how to reproduce the images in the book. [Update: I think I'll use that image from the other day, which I think is actually more accurate, since it depicts the "holographic middle" -- the interference pattern produced by the ascending and descending waves -- where human consciousness lives.]

Just imagine a triangle, with the base at the bottom and apex at the top. At the top is the divine-human archetype, or the Creator if you like. This bifurcates into the two points at the horizontal base of the triangle, which are male and female. In turn, the union of male and female produces a fourth thing. Thus, draw another triangle, this one the inverse of the above, with the apex now at the bottom (i.e., the nadir). If you're still with me, God should be at the top and the baby at the bottom.

As I wrote in my book, the neurologically incomplete baby is not just the hinge of cosmic evolution, but the very point of entry for our humanness, the narrow pain in the neck through which we must all pass on the way to maturity.

As such, we have a novel way of understanding Bolton's observation that "the fourth element (the nadir) is in a sense a recapitulation of the first (the apex) on a lower level, which also has some bearing on the meaning of childhood in relation to God."

For the baby -- the divine child, as it were -- is indeed a sort of earthly analogue of God, in that he knows no boundaries, is innocent and "omnipotent," and embodies a kind of infinite potential. I don't think it is any coincidence whatsoever that the baby Jesus is so central to Christian iconography. For God to become man, he had to first become infant, for infancy is the quintessence of, and gateway to, humanness.

Another way of considering the same triangle is to place God at the top, only now bifurcating into providence (or destiny) and fate, or perhaps freedom (or chance) and necessity. Once again, place a second triangle below, with man representing the union of fate and providence.

Here again, this encapsulates the irreducible irony, as it were, of the human condition, which makes us simultaneously apes and/or gods, so to speak (Darwinians get this right, but in a metaphysically garbled manner, since the ape is vertically descended from man).

How could one not laugh at the human predicament? Once again, we see that the man below is an earthly analogue of God above. Man is the "cosmic baby," with all that implies. Like a baby, we are born with a kind of infinite potential (relatively speaking) that we may or may not fulfill. And to fulfill it, we must indeed "imitate the Creator," more on which below.

Either way, we must somehow reconcile fate and providence. As mentioned yesterday, "the stars incline, but do not compel." However, as our the Minister of Doctrinal Enforcement reminded us, they do indeed compel in the absence of insight or self-understanding.

In short, as we discussed at length a couple of weeks ago, fate is precisely what interferes with our destiny. Or, to put it colloquially, if you remain on your present path, you're liable to end up where you're headed. Which could very well be a waste of a perfectly good cosmos. So if you see a fork in the transdimensional road, by all means take it.

Now, Bolton makes the interesting observation that Adam and Eve are created on the sixth and final day of creation, after the rest of the creatures (which, when you think about it, is entirely consistent with an evolutionary worldview, only in a higher Octave). As such, "on this basis, the human being can be taken to be resultant of divine action and the created natural order as a whole." Human beings are last because they are first; or first because they are last.

In any event, the point is that humans, and only humans, recapitulate the whole of creation within their very substance, which you might say is "two creatures" in one being. We are simultaneously fully animal and man, with two distinct wills with which we must grapple and try to reconcile. I forget the words they use, but Jewish metaphysics articulates this truth very precisely.

Which may well be why Freud came up with the idea of id and superego to talk about the lower and higher selves. "Id" is simply the German word for "it." We are all inhabited by the It, are we not? Usually, a mind parasite is a kind of unholy union of the It and a purloined piece of our subjectivity. Come to think of it, you could draw another triangle on that basis, which is why our mind parasites become the equivalent of "unconscious gods," if you will, or even if you don't. That is, they have wills of their own.

Bolton notes that the lower realm (remember, human beings necessarily embody all realms) "represents the life of instinct which attaches to the body, ruled by pleasure and pain, because its higher possibilities depend on its participation in those of the soul." In short, we must baptize the It (or make it kosher, I suppose).

Now, you could say that man was and is a cosmic necessity, in the sense that only he binds the higher and lower, and there is no such thing as an incomplete hierarchy. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it: "Unless there was such a being as man, comprising both archetypal and material reality at once, Providence and Fate (or nature) would have no means of relating to one another." Man's primary vocation is therefore "bridge builder," or "universal pontifex," "so long as it is understood that this function is a potentiality in need of realization."

In short, no man, no cosmos.

Where does this leave Christ?

I know, I know! Pick me!

Yes Dr. Bolton?

"[T]he mediation of Christ as Redeemer is both the prototype of man's cosmic mediation, as well as being the revealed basis of salvation."

It is in the cosmos of natural kinds that the fulness of the Being of the world must needs unfold and manifest itself, and man is the being in which this fulness becomes fulfilled and comes into its own. This is precisely the reason why God's absolute fulness of Being can choose man as the being and the vessel in which to reveal his own inner fulness to the world. --Hans Urs von Balthasar

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

On Blowing Up the Temple in Order to Save It

I'm recovering from a cold this morning, so it would be taxing the Gagdad constitution were I to attempt a new post. In searching through the arkive, I tried to find an old one that was neither too good nor too bad, but something I could work with in order to get it up to speed. This one seemed to have some untapped potential, some hidden innerstices where I could inject some new thoughts....

As I have mentioned before -- not merely for autobobographical reasons, but to illuminate a principle -- I didn't move through the educational ranks in the usual way. I couldn't have been less interested in school until I was maybe 23 years of age, after returning to college subsequent to spending two years on a blue collar job, a job I happily held until obtaining my Ph.D. in 1988, 12 years in all. I had to leave the supermarket at that time, because I couldn't bear the thought of the manager broadcasting over the intercom, "Dr. Godwin to checkstand three."

I was initially a business major, but only by default. Since my only interest in being there was to defer adult employment for as long as possible before bowing to its inevitability, a degree in business seemed vague enough that it would be a ticket to the adult world when the day came for me to reluctantly turn myself in to the Conspiracy and "grow up."

I won't review all of the subsequent events. The point is, I came to the academic world as an outsider in every way. As a result, I never came to learn the ways and customs of this world -- its dogmas, unwritten rules, its conventional wisdom, its many preconceptions. I also came to it without ambition, agenda, or commercial motive, only sincerity and curiosity.

But a person with no ambition and no agenda is always a threat to the establishment. Bear in mind that when I say this, I am not trying to elevate myself to some sort of romantic "outlaw" figure; rather, I am speaking purely generically of certain principles that apply to any established institution or culture.

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion spoke of it in terms of what he called the "establishment" and the "messiah." The establishment -- by virtue of being one -- eventually becomes sclerotic, predictable, and rule-bound, and loses contact with the original impulse that brought it onto being. Eventually it serves only its own interest, which is to go on being and to grow in power.

This occurs in politics, in business, in the labor movement, and even in intimate relationships. I am certainly not excluding the GOP from this process; to the contrary, that is its whole problem -- that it is mainly composed of a bunch of weak-willed, unprincipled, and self-interested cowards and mediocrities whose only "conservatism" involves conserving their own power.

On the micro end of the spectrum, a marriage can become stale and predictable, with the two partners taking on utterly predictable roles that then seem to dictate and "contain" them. It is as if they are no longer free, but living within psychic grooves that guide every thought and action. Reality -- O -- is slowly eclipsed, often, ironically, because we cannot tolerate the disturbing intimacy and openness of contact with O. In these cases, love doesn't die, but is killed by mind parasites that cannot tolerate intimacy because it undermines their own power over the psyche.

Sound abstract? It isn't, not by a long shot. I'm thinking of a patient who failed to bond with his parents, and then carried on a sexual relationship with another boy between the ages of 7 and 13. This became his primary attachment to the interpersonal world. But there was no real human contact between them except the sex. Aside from that, hardly word passed between them. Thus, his model for relating to the human world was almost "hydraulic" in nature, split off from any feelings of warmth, tenderness, or intimacy.

As an adult, he was never able to have a meaningful relationship of any kind. His only outlet consisted of anonymous sexual encounters every week or two. Although he was able to work, away from work he lived in a little "sanctuary" as he called it, safely cut off from the demands of the world. He would venture out of this shell only in order to work or to engage in the anonymous sexual encounters.

Consciously, this lifestyle was simply his "preference," but he also had enough insight to know that he was actually terrified to step outside the narrow boundaries of the little world he had created for himself. Such a person generally thinks they are "protecting" themselves from being hurt by others.

But more often than not, they are protecting the other from themselves, specifically, from a kind of devouring love that is primitive and violent in its intensity. That is, if his true infantile needs were to be expressed in a relationship -- remember, they were fixated at the earliest stage -- they would experience overwhelming anxiety about what would be unleashed from the unconscious chains. The key point is that they unconsciously identify love with danger and destruction, so they end up "protecting" others from their love, not their hate.

Now that I'm on the topic, Bion also wrote about how the child functions as the messiah to the couple. The couple wishes for a messiah to "save" it, and places this hope into the child. Thus, the poorest people in the most abject circumstances nevertheless greet the arrival of a new child with hope and joy. The infant is a sort of psycho-spiritual poultrice that draws us out of ourselves and puts us in touch with the infinite. As I expressed it in my book, they give us "a touch of infanity." They are a means of escape from ourselves, back to ourselves, in that, in order to properly relate to an infant, you must get in touch with your own unconscious infanity. This can be both liberating and/or dreadful, depending upon one's personal biography.

This is interesting, for it shows the dialectical nature of our humanness, which always revolves around the axis of knowledge and infinite mystery -- or O and (k). The reason I place the parentheses around (k) is to evoke this idea of containment and of tentativeness. Whatever little bit of (k) we possess, in the end, it is like two little parentheses in eternity.

Or, imagine standing in the ocean and cupping your hands together, measuring the water between them. As we win a bit more (k) from the formless infinite, the distance between our hands increases. But as compared to the ocean, our (k) is but a drop. And it is always preliminary, on pain of being dysfunctional. In other words, the moment knowledge becomes saturated, it no longer performs the function of gaining more knowledge. It cannot be used as a stepping stone to vault one further into O. Rather, it is simply "dead" from the psychic point of view, like a dusty old book taking up space on your shelves.

In formulating his model of the mind, one of Bion's central goals was to forge, as he called it, a "language of achievement." In short, he wanted to create a way to "think about thinking" that would spur creative advance into O, rather than merely being some sort of dry academic theory that one could memorize once and for all. This is why I say that Bion was not only one of the greatest psychoanalysts who ever lived, but one of the world's greatest mystic-philosophers, even though few people outside a certain subspecialty of psychoanalysis even know his name. Perhaps others have touched on the problems he addressed, but I just haven't heard of them.

Because Bion's is a "language of achievement" -- he is literally attemting to simultaneously formulate and demonstrate his ideas -- different people come away from his writings with quite different conceptions. In other words, Bion does not so much "teach" as "provoke."

In my case, I felt that I had understood him perfectly, and yet, when I began reading the secondary literature, I soon realized that others did not necessarily share my understanding, or what Bion called "vertex." The vertex is the point at which an axis meets a surface, in this case, the point at which our (k) intersects O. Thus, in the end, you cannot be a Bionian. Rather, you can only become yourself through an encounter with his writing. And if this or that aspect of my writing accomplices anycrime like the same thing for this or that Raccoon, then this masked pandit will have achieved his purpose.

I am reminded of something that Dr. Grotstein once wrote. He mentioned that he had gone to hear Bion lecture for the first time. Now, from his side of things, Bion never spoke from prepared notes. Rather, he spoke "from O," as it were, meaning that each lecture was an adventure, a sort of fishing expedition in the formless infinite ocean. Let's just see what we can pull out!

Grotstein said that he came away from the lecture not only understanding little of what Bion had said, but even being a bit perplexed and annoyed. However, before he went to sleep, he furiously jotted down ideas for about five papers he was to eventually write. That is the language of achievement. It doesn't so much place content into your mind as little "depth charges" that generatively blast away at the existing framework. It doesn't so much generate "secondary literature" but a new primary literature, something like, oh, I don't know, this.

Now, perhaps it won't surprise you to know that at this very moment, I am attempting to "write from O," as I always do. I have almost no idea what I have written so far, nor do I have much of an idea of what's over the verbal horizon. I'm just "following the music," as a jazzman might say. Does that sound strange? Most readers of blogs don't read very carefully, but for those of you who do, we are holding heads together in this very moment, unknowing where any of this is going to lead -- indeed, if it is going to lead anywhere. In the language of King Crimson, it may simply end in a "train wreck," which is the price one must pay for trying to collectively improvise within O. For if there is to be achievment, there must be the possibiliy of failure.

Bion called this open and expectant attitude "faith." Once again, as with "messiah" and "establishment," he is not using the word in any conventional "saturated" way, but in the most abstract way possible. Faith is simply a prerequisite for any generative encounter with O.

Can you see why? If we come to O with too many preconceptions, we will merely be taking a plunge into the known, not the unknown. We specifically want to win a bit of (k) from O, not superimpose (k) over it. When we do the latter, we are more or less in the conventional world that extends from caveman to tenureman. Obviously, there is nothing unavidably retarded with the latter world. Far from it. It only becomes so when it eclipses O, as in the case of scientism, or materialism, or atheism, or Marxism, or Darwinism, which all superimpose an abstract and dead model over the living O.

And please, I am not suggesting that only ideologies I reject can eclipse O. Far from it. Religion, which is all about the language of achievement, can obviously become as dead, saturated, and "contained" as anything else, mere "churchianity." For example, it is no insult to Judaism to say that Jesus arrived at a time when it had -- apparently, since I'm sure there's another side to the story -- become overly saturated and rule-bound, in the same way that Buddha reanimated Hinduism from the outside.

In fact, to set aside any possible charges of anti-Semitism, let us just say that the dialectic between Jesus and the "scribes and Pharisees" is there to teach us a more general lesson about the relationship between establishment and messiah, or spirit and letter. The same principle applies to both new and used testaments. A Jew can appreciate the underlying lesson no less than a Christian, for it is obviously possible to reduce the infinite Torah to some manmade dogma, when the whole point of Torah is to have a generative and living encounter between the word of God and the soul of man.

Torah is a language of achievment par excellence. Oy vey, just consider the many possible interpretations of Genesis, each no less correct than the others so long as it has been genuinely realized and not merely "learned." The other day I was at the park, when I saw what looked like a rabbi and his teenage son sitting at a picnic table, poring over a Bible together. I intentionally sidled over to try to eavesdrop on the conversation, for I imagined them wrestling with the text, father encountering the finite infinity of Torah again for the first time through the eyes of his son -- the messiah!

Now, it is equally clear to me that Jesus nearly always spoke the language of achievement. Think about it for a moment. So sophisticated was he that he fully understood the paradox that if he had spoken unambiguously of O, he would be misunderstood. Therefore, he spoke mainly in paradoxables that serve the purpose of vaulting the mind out of its habitual grooves. Thus he was also a messiah in the more terrestrial Bionian sense of saving ourselves from ourselves and providing us with a fruitful language to talk and think about O. Yes, his words are "folly to the Greeks" -- which they must be if they are to elude the hyper-rational Greek patrol that polices our interior and tries to contain the Mystery with mere (small-r) reason.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Leftist Culture of Death: In the Beginning is the Surd

Have you ever wondered why Democrats are the Party of Death? Just what are the first principles of the unprincipled? What animates the insentient?

Now, when I say this -- and this should be obvious -- by no means am I castigating all Democrats, most of whom are no doubt fine people, just confused, uninformed, frightened, seduced, reactionary, bought off, apathetic, fearful of change, or mired in habits of thought that were formed in college and haven't changed one bit since.

We're talking about the true believers, who only constitute maybe 30% of the party, and (to the credit of decent Democrats) have to actually lie about who they are and what they believe in order to get the other 70% to go along with the program.

I can guarantee you that the majority of Democrats are not actually in favor of, say, destroying the Boy Scouts through legal harassment, or banning the ROTC from college campuses, or partial birth abortion, or state control of medicine, or Miranda rights for terrorists, or prosecuting the men and women who play rough with terrorists in order to keep us safe. These are all abominations, and if the majority of Democrats actually favored them, we'd probably be past the point of no return.

The point is, progressivism in its most virulent and pathological form is always a religion. For example, another one of the most prominent religious hucksters of the left is Marianne Williamson, who is on par with Deepak in terms of spiritual stupidity and corruption. She is upset because Obama is not yet governing as a one hundred percent Marxist, as if that is possible given the constraints mentioned above, i.e., that most Democrats would not be happy to know Obama's true agenda. Therefore, it must be enacted with stealth and deceit, protected by a bodyguard of media liars and bouncers.

After all, Obama is not being constrained by Republicans, as Williamson suggests. Democrats control all three branches of government, and can literally do whatever pleases them, including even fundamentally unconstitutional things such as socialized medicine. Indeed, their satanic judicial philosophy conveniently allows them to interpret the Constitution as meaning whatever they need it to mean in order to achieve their statist goals.

In order for the left to succeed, it must necessarily mask its first principle -- that it is the party of Death -- and affirm the opposite. Therefore, Williamson says that her first political principle is derived from "the immense unnecessary suffering in the world." She says to herself, "Wow, it's sad about all that pain people are going through. Let's try to assuage it."

First of all, it's not "let's try to assuage it." Rather, it's "let's you try to assuage it by the government taking enough of your money." The left always talks about the "social contract," but it's not a contract if the other party says to me, "your signature or your freedom. Your choice."

Nor does Williams consider the fact that the majority of human pain is self-inflicted, either due to personal issues or simply the nature of fallen man. To imagine that we could ever eliminate the suffering to which man is heir -- and much of which is actually necessary in order to grow -- is to live as a child. And since suffering can never actually be eradicated, it is to grant infinite power to the state to keep trying. It's like giving the state a mandate to end romantic heartbreak.

And of course, the religious abstractions of the left prevent them from seeing all of the faceless victims of their war on poverty, i.e., the poor. One cannot imagine them ever trying to tally the cost of the broken homes, the urban blight, the criminality, the murder, rape and violence that all skyrocketed when the federal government decided that it knew how to end poverty without causing catastrophic unintended consequences. As it stands, Obama is creating more poor and dependent people as fast as he can, and yet Williamson isn't satisfied. What more can he do?

The empty promises of the left are rooted in false premises about reality, most especially, materialism and relativism. When I say that their first philosophical move is to turn the cosmos upside down, I mean this quite literally.

But after they do so, they quickly adapt to the world they have created, so that it appears "real" to them (very much like the glasses that turn the field of vision upside down; within a matter of weeks, the brain adapts, and the person has no difficulty making their way through the world. But remove the distorting glasses, and they will again be disoriented.)

Now, if matter is ultimate, then relativism necessarily follows, since materialism undermines the very possibility of truth. Please note what necessarily follows from the initial premise: life is actually death; consciousness is actually matter; love is only lust (or some kind of deceptive power game); form is substance; democracy is truth; quality is quantity; existence is nothing; and creation itself is just our bad luck.

And creation is bad in the absence of a creator. How could it not be? This has been addressed ad nauseam (literally) in the existentialist literature of the 20th century, so there is no need for me to press the point. If there is no God, then will and appetite are supreme, and life is a horror.

This is the real reason the left affirms a right to die but not a right to life. They reject the right to life because they hate (or at least devalue) life, while they perversely oppose capital punishment because they are (necessarily) fearful of death.

For when you invert the cosmos, your new absolute is grim death. Death is the only certainty. Furthermore, it is a meaningless death, therefore something to be avoided at all costs -- including the cost of a meaningful life, since there can be no meaning anyway. Therefore, life becomes the avoidance of death at all costs, but for no reason at all. In short, Death rules. Thus, the leftist would always prefer to live on his knees than die on his feet.

For the secular leftist, God does not exist and man is him. But again, in the absence of the true God, man can only be a god of death -- and not just material death. Rather, since the god of death denies the soul, it results in the elimination of the individual, thus the dreary uniformity of the left, enforced by the intellectual brutality of political correctness. Manhood is exchanged for tenure, and ideology becomes the opiate that confers a sound sleep. Ideology is not just the study of idiots. Then again, perhaps it is.

Since the left inverts the cosmos, it becomes "bottomless" -- in other words, the infinitude of God is transformed into the existential groundlessness of the left. This is why, for example, to hear Charles Johnson or Andrew Sullivan or Keith Olbermann opine on just about anything is to hear the cosmic void "thinking out loud." This is not intellectual but intellectualism, i.e., the replacement of true ideas and principles with mere abstractions. That the abstractions are stupid and dehumanizing is beside the point. It is actually Death speaking. And if the secular left is correct, Death owns you.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Very Impotent Spiritual Message

A Sunday Sermon to start the new year off in the right key:

Bolton writes that "dualism would appear to be an intellectual image of the cosmic order." I would prefer a term such as "generative complementarity," which is to be distinguished from a static dualism by virtue of the fact that the former is capable of evolving into the "higher third," thus converting existence from the closed circle to the open spiral, or.... what's the term, Jeeves? Yes, an asymptotic gyre. (On second thought, let's call it a dual gyrescape.)

In most cases, the stubborn dualism we try to eliminate is a complementarity we need to illuminate. Of course, that is not always the case, for one side of a duality can be a negation, rather than complement, of the other; for example, leftism is the negation of classical liberalism, not its complement, much less any kind of "progressive" integration. Similarly, feminism ends up creating masculinized women and feminized men, and is the death of the dynamic tension that.... that.... Let's just let Frank describe it:

How little we know / how much to discover / what chemical forces flow / from lover to lover / How little we understand / what touches of that tingle / that sudden explosion / when two tingles intermingle

Indeed. That is an example of the electricity that flows with true complementarity. But we all know that relationships can descend into an alternatively static or agitated dualism, the former like kissing your sister, the latter like being married to Tiger Woods:

The broken dates, the endless waits / the lovely loving and the hateful hates / the conversation with the flying plates / I wish I were in love again / Believe me sir, I much prefer / the classic battle of a him and her / I don't like quiet and I wish I were / in love again

Yes, who among us hasn't had the conversation with the flying plates? Isn't that why the trolls come here? They're not here to con-verse, which means to "flow together." Rather, they are here to stir up contro-versy, which means to "flow against" in their characteristic unerotic -- to say nothing of unDude -- manner. Our devoted anonymous troll cannot help getting his jollies by throwing around the plate in his head.

The very possibility of knowledge hinges on the generative dualism of phenomena and noumenon. To "know" means to shorten the distance, or close the gap, between appearances and reality. (As we shall see later, the reverse is true for "spiritual progress," in that the closer one draws to God, the more one appreciates the distance.) It seems that Truth bifurcates into these two realms, which it must do on pain of having no creation at all. Paradoxically -- but not really -- you could say that existence itself is the first "fall," since it is a descent from the Principle. But don't sweat it. Eternity is still in love with the productions of time. Eternity might even say of time, can't live with it, and can't love without it.

Obviously, it is impossible for us to imagine what the cosmos looks like "with no one there." The possibility of knowledge presupposes not just a knower, but a particular point of view, a "separation of the subjective and objective components of perception" (Bolton).

But this split is not a pernicious one, nor can science ever heal it. Rather, I agree with Polanyi that the separation of subject and object creates a generative transitional space in which our understanding may evolve into deeper and more comprehensive syntheses of reality. Thus, the practice of science can be seen as a kind of shadow of infinite truth, except that, unlike mysticism, it can never reach the goal unless it first escapes the gaol of matter.

As Bolton says, dualism "enables us to go abroad while staying at home. All that is 'out there' is at the same time 'in here,'" meaning that science is simultaneously a deepening of the objective and subjective horizons -- so long as one doesn't regard the external world in the naive manner of the simple materialist or bonehead Darwinian. As we always say, consciousness reveals more about Darwinism than Darwinism will ever reveal about consciousness. If you remember this, you can accept any findings of Darwinism without being captured in its pneumacognitive net.

Bolton agrees that representation "commits us to the idea of a Representer, and this is what is normally identified with the soul." Furthermore -- and this is a key point -- "for the soul, the body and the whole physical world which the body belongs to, appear as content. While the body is essentially something contained, the soul is essentially a container of phenomena." As such, the "complete I" includes "the world-containing and world-representing soul," and "the world, as it appears from one's own unique point of view, is in a real sense a part of one's identity" (emphasis mine).

This makes perfect nonsense to me, because we all know how dramatically different the world appears when we are depressed, or in love, or an atheist, or floating upstream on a current of (↑). Each of these conditions allows one to "see" realities that might otherwise be foreclosed. For example, I do not deny that atheism discloses something about reality, just as does depression or schizophrenia. If nothing else, they teach us that we always transcend the content of experience, for when we return to normal, we see that we had been living with blinders on, which is another way of being dead.

One thing we must be aware of is the ubiquitous societal pressure to see and experience the world in materialistic terms, which is to die to God for the sake of the world, rather than vice versa. Balthasar:

"[N]aked matter remains an indigestible symbol of fear and anguish. Since nothing else remains, and yet something must be embraced, twentieth-century man is urged to enter this impossible marriage with matter, a union which finally spoils man's taste for love. But man cannot bear to live with the object of his impotence, that which remains permanently unmastered. He must either deny it or conceal it in the silence of death."

God gives himself to man as far as that is possible, and it is only possible to the extent that the individual being is a world-containing entity with endless extension described above.... In short, there must be some common measure between the recipient and the received. When the human state is seen in this light, it will not be difficult to proceed to the idea of man as God's mediator in the world. --Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit

Then again, as Saint Teresa of Ávila might have said of the Groom, So long as you kiss me / and the world around us shatters / How little it matters / how little we know.



*****

First images of the new pack member:


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Obama and End-Stage Metastatic Liberalism

With his trademark smug stupidity, Barack Obama affirmed the following absolute truth in his The Audacity of Hope: "Implicit in [the Constitution's] structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or 'ism,' any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course...."

Where to even begin? In a single stroke of blind ignorance (or is it malevolence?) that only a tenured barbarian could believe, Obama transmogrifies the most important conservative political document in history into a monstrous recipe for perpetual revolution that would appall the men who risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in defense of principles that were and are absolute, timeless, and universal, precisely.

And if these principles are not conserved, mankind is finished -- or at least Man as such is. There will always be room for the little human beastlings who cash in their manhood for the soul-grinding security offered by the swaddling state, and hop around like Nietzsche's fleas at the end of history.

This is how it begins -- and ends. That is, the decadent myth of liberalism is ultimately rooted in a crude relativism that reduces truth to opinion, and therefore exalts cosmic stupidity above all. The bang of Marx ends in the whimp of Obama. Or at least Obama's bong gives off a whiff of Marx.

Once this is accomplished, there is no longer any ground for permanent truth, nor any way to arbitrate between competing truth claims. Therefore, raw power rushes in to fill the vacuum. It's as simple as that. The irony is that so many "sophisticated" liberals supported Obama for his "brains," when they were actually ratifying his muscle. The Chicago Way is not about thinking. It is about shoving and bullying -- the Ferragamo boot on the neck. It is the politics of the mid-brain, not the frontal lobes.

It is also necessarily about "action" rather than reflection, and action quickly reduces to "change," or just agitation. But since Obama has already assured us that there are no permanent truths, this is change that necessarily "goes nowhere," for where is there to go in a meaningless and truth-free world? Like purely Darwinian change, it's all horizontal, not vertical. One place is no different than any other. Legs, fins, wings, wheels, what's the difference? It's the journey that matters, the bracing sensation of a dog with its head out the car window.

But real liberalism -- i.e., conservatism -- situates the American journey in a much wider context of divine revelation, or universal history. For we recognize that there is actually only one story, and that it is (among other things) the story of liberty. But obviously not the liberty of the left, since they detach it from the truth, beauty, and virtue -- the permanent things -- without which it is just another name for confusion, disorientation, blundering along in the dark. Being lost is hardly the same as being free, although it can feel like it for awhile, at least until the provisions run out.

The contemporary liberal violently severs the ombiblical cord that connects us to the past and future generations who share our journey, and to whom we owe a measure of our allegiance.

For mankind is not just unified in space, but in time -- which is why hundreds of thousands of men and women who gave their life for America -- the real and permanent America that is the champion of universal truth in this benighted world -- weep for what Obama is doing to the country they loved. We know this because we are connected to them. The contemptuous liberal cannot know it, for in his world, the person who risks his life for this hopelessly flawed country is either a dupe or a moron or psychopath with violent tendencies and imperialistic designs.

The difference between a conservative and a liberal is that the former loves America, while the latter loves some abstract idea of what America should be in his Marxian fantasies. This is why they want to punish the men and women who kept us safe since 2001, while giving the benefit of every doubt to the terrorists who seek to destroy us. It is quite obvious where their sympathies lie.

To reject the sacred truths that uphold reality and course through the arteries of existence is not only a kind of desecration of the dead, it is also an auto-lobotomy, for it is to sever oneself from the collective wisdom and experience of mankind -- as if the tiny stock of blinkered opinions and provincial attitudes Obama absorbed while floating amongst the tenured can in any way compete with Madison, or Tocqueville, or Adam Smith.

Truly, it's like going through life with vital organs amputated, except that these are organs of intellect and spirit, or psyche and soul. These organs are designed to know truth, not to replace it with the intemperate follies and fashions the day.

Russell Kirk notes that decadence "amounts to the loss of an end, an object." Obama openly and explicitly severs America from its spiritual end, its telos, its reason for being. We will either continue to decay and deteriorate with bat-faced liberals leading the way down into darkness, or be reborn in the light of our original mandate and purpose, forged and fought for by men both wiser and braver than the hollow poseur who occupies the White House, and sanctioned by heaven.

*****

Radiant Stupidity or Cosmic Narcissism?:



A slightly more soothing image of the backyard of the slackatoreum this fine morning (click to enlarge):