Saturday, January 16, 2010

On Why the Secret Had to Protect Itself

I don't blame any Raccoon for going underground in the 16th century, where we've remained ever since. Nor do I blame anyone at the time for turning away from religion and wanting no part of it.

For example, "In 1572, seventy thousand French Huguenots were slaughtered in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre," after which Pope Gregory XIII was "delighted to receive the head of the slain Huguenot leader Coligny in a box..." (Gillespie).

But "lest anyone imagine that the barbarity was one-sided," when Cromwell invaded an Irish town in 1649, his army killed virtually every last person. "They burned alive all those who had taken refuge in the St. Mary's Cathedral, butchered the women hiding in the vaults beneath it, used Irish children as human shields, hunted down and killed every priest, and sold thirty surviving defenders into slavery" (ibid.).

And that's just a very small sampling of the savagery. Of course, it's all too easy to simply blame religion for the atrocities, since no one at the time was irreligious, and religion was thoroughly entangled with culture, language, ethnicity, customs, power and politics. Furthermore, whenever someone engages in genocide, I think it's fair to say that it is never for the stated reason. Rather, there are unconscious motivations of which the actor knows nothing.

To put it another way, nothing as deeply irrational as genocide could occur as a result of purely rational motivations that one can take at face value. For example, the Nazis didn't merely wish to kill Jews, but wanted to degrade, humiliate, and thoroughly dehumanize them, so that the whole bloody project was imbued with an obvious component of sadism. But no Nazis, to my knowledge, publicly announced that "we're doing this because we secretly get a thrill out of degrading people and watching them suffer." Nor did those who engaged in the religious wars.

Nor do leftists, for that matter, imagine that their conscious desire to "help" people is covertly motivated by a contemptuous desire for power over them. Very few people wake up in the morning with the conscious idea of doing bad and harming people. Which is one of the reasons it is naive in the extreme for leftists to constantly announce their belief that conservatives actually do wish to consciously harm people.

You will have noticed that they never take us at our word that we really do think that high taxes are bad for the economy, that collectivism and statism are inconsistent with American values, or that racial quotas are bad for blacks. I would actually have more respect for leftists if they first said, "look, I know you're a good person, that racism is repugnant to you, and that you don't mean to harm blacks. But your opposition to racial quotas is so irrational, that it must be concealing some unconscious conflict about race." Because consciously, I am a passionate negrophile of the first rank -- and not just the light skinned ones with a Harry Reid dialect.

Anyway, back to those Raccoons who were forced underground during the religious wars, just when it was starting to look like there might be a little opening for them to come out of the closet and be accepted by society.

A Raccoon is a big believer in free will, without which truth, virtue and beauty cannot exist. If we are not free to discover truth, then we are like machines. Again, as we have mentioned in the past, it is really quite simple: truth is what man must know; virtue is what he must do; and beauty is what he must love and create. Of course, it doesn't end there. For just as truth is the virtue of the intellect, virtue is beauty of soul. And beauty is the splendor of truth. Etc.

But again, for Luther, all of this ancient retro-futuristic Raccoon wisdom goes out the window, since the nominalistic God "was responsible for everything. Thus, neither he nor anyone else could either gain or lose salvation, because faith alone saved and faith came only through grace. Luther's soteriology or doctrine of salvation thus rested on the omnipotence of divine will and the powerlessness of human will." Luther maintained that there was no such thing as contingency, which for him was a kind of maya, or illusion. In reality, God is in control of everything, again, just as in Islam.

Now, I don't think this is an "illegitimate" spiritual approach, at least for a certain type of aspirant. It's just that there are very different types of people, and one approach is not going to be attractive or effective for another. One cannot deny that this more totalitarian approach is compatible with some temperaments, and that it gives them comfort to believe that they have no control over reality and that God is fully responsible for everything that happens.

But I cannot emphasize enough that this is not a universal teaching, but a peripheral one. It is a upaya, or "skillful means," and if it works for you, far be it from me to talk you out of it (which is why I compared it to Zen). It's just that I have no idea why you are interested in this blog, because I certainly haven't the slightest interest in your metaphysic (no offense -- I just don't).

And just why you would argue with me is a bit of a mystery anyway, since if God controls everything, I don't have the free will to accept or reject your argument anyway, nor you mine (and I'm not arguing anyway, just sharing a vision).

Again, we firmly believe in man's dignity and therefore his free will; and we reject the belief that God is directly responsible for what we see as the evil in the world. Evil is not just an illusion, or "a part of God's plan." We are here to fight evil.

More to the point, I could never respect a God who is less moral than I. Again, no offense. It's just the way Raccoons are built. Look, I realize that Raccoon theology will never be popular. If I thought otherwise, I'd write more books instead of just speaking to the scattered brotherhood of the invisible lodge.

Let's get back to those 14th and 15th century Raccoons, such as Petrarch, who tried to forge a middle way to resolve what eventually became the religious wars. According to Gillespie, "he offered a a new vision of how to live to a Christian world caught in the tremendous spiritual crisis brought about by the nominalist revolution and the cataclysmic events of the fourteenth century...."

One thing that makes Petrarch a Raccoon is his concern for the indivdual and the world, which makes his a primarily descending path. For we do not wish to escape the world into God, but to divinize the world through God's energies refracted through his pneumacosmic junior partner, man. No, we do not believe in worldly perfection, but we do believe that things can be improved, and that much of the outcome is in our hands. We matter. Indeed, matter matters.

Remember, the idea of the true "individual" only emerged in the late middle ages. As such, it was a new existential/ontological "problem." And with the emergence of the individual also came the "discovery" of the world as something more than just a divine symbol that could be understood through analogy.

In short, the individual and modern science co-arise, and with them, democracy, human rights, free markets, and other blessings of modernity. But of course, to the strict traditionalist (e.g., Schuon or Guenon), these are not blessings but curses. (To be perfectly accurate, in my view they are both, depending on the vertical station of the soul involved with them.)

Petrarch's ontology begins with a new appreciation of the unique individual. And he "was able to make this vision concrete and attractive by displaying to the public his own inner life as well as those of an astonishing array of ancient personalities...."

This has two main effects. First, "this inward journey led to the unexplored territory of a self filled with passions and desires that were no longer something mundane and unspiritual that had to be extirpated or constrained but that were instead a reflection of each person's individuality and that consequently deserved to be expressed, cultivated, and enjoyed."

The Raccoon would say that man now had an interest in exploring and colonizing his own psychic space, instead of simply repressing it, blindly acting it out, or living one's life as a collective "type." Now, can this go too far into narcissism, eccentricity, and glorification of the self, cut off from its spiritual archetype? Of course! But we'll get to that later. Remember, at this point in history, the whole project was still tied to Christianity, not divorced from it.

Secondly, Petrarch disclosed a "relevant past filled with courageous and high-minded individuals" who were worthy of emulation. And these two strands were connected, for by learning from these great personages of the past, "one could begin to understand how to give shape to one's own individuality," but not for its own sake. Rather, it was a way of combining piety, nobility, and individuality. And at the very least, you should be grateful that this was precisely the attitude of America's founders, even if you believe they were theologically misguided.

This is certainly how it has worked for me. Man is built for reverence, but of course, it all depends upon who and what one reveres, for the reverence creates a kind of sympathetic bond through which there is a real and genuinely transformative psychic contact, for both good or ill. But we're running out of time, so we'll continue tomorrow, slack willing.

(All quoted material from The Theological Origins of Modernity )


walt said...

And it came to pass that Amazon profited from The B'ob's exposition of the book....

Your explaining the contents in relation to Raccoonism makes it all extra-pertinent! I wonder if the book will live up to your explanation.

Warren said...

Educational post. I was not familiar with Petrarch.

>> Nor do I blame anyone for rejecting religion entirely and wanting no part of it, based upon what was going on at the time.

Nor do I, really - except to note that the same persons are usually leftists who have little or no problem giving their tacit approval to various modern secular totalitarianisms which, for sheer bloodshed and atrocity, make all the religious wars of the past look like a day at the beach. So I would strongly question the sincerity of their reason for rejecting religion, to say the least.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm pretty sure that as a percentage of the population, the bloodshed of the religious wars exceeds modern secular totalitarianisms. Not to mention the fact that premodern people were limited by technology in how many they could kill.

Gagdad Bob said...

But again, a key point is that "religious" wars have all kinds of irreligious motivations, just as secular ideologies are faux religions, for human nature is what it is.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me who thinks Bob is the best Sumaritan going?
By his own admission he never help one of his patients and now we know why. He doesn't have a contemptous bone in his body! Only those who "desire for power over them" would attempt such evil act.

Today, pres Obama, former pres Clinton and Bush have committed grave error by anouncing they will be working behind the scenes for Haiti in her grave need for help long after the media leaves.

Walter said...

Shut up, Donny. You're out of your element. You're like a child who wanders in in the middle of a movie and thinks he knows what it's about.

Kurt said...

After a long dry spell the rains come, just as I was abandoning hope. Hope in me that is, not in thee. Thanks for soldiering on, amigo. You (and He..) are being heard.

Anonymous said...

As one of your critics (aka "trolls"), let me say that your recent series of posts has been both interesting and largely free of the vicious and nonsensical attacks on the left that tend to mar your work. This is good!

As for the idea that "leftists...constantly announce their belief that conservatives actually do wish consciously to harm people", it is obviously true that they do, leftists don't need to announce it. They want to harm their enemies; who doesn't? I recall Scipio (of the now defunct blog) announcing that he wanted to "shove a sword into the guts" of every leftist. He was extreme, but he was quite admired around here. Neoconservatives love war and force as an instrument of foreign policy; this too is harming people (for their own good, of course).

I suppose your main point is true -- conservatives don't wake up in the morning wanting to do evil, and neither do leftists, nor religious fanatics -- probably nobody does, even Hitler. Yet evil happens.

I'm a leftist interested in understanding the workings of the conservative mind; that's one reason I hang around here. From my perspective conservatism seems to be driven by fear and authoritarianism, but I recognize that that's too reductive, partly because I can see similarly stupid reductions coming from the opposite side, such as your theory that leftists are "covertly motivated by a contemptuous desire for power over people." People are complex; they have all sorts of conscious and unconscious motivations, and everyone has the capacity to do evil.

Warren said...

>> I'm pretty sure that as a percentage of the population, the bloodshed of the religious wars exceeds modern secular totalitarianisms.

If you compare the "religious" wars to something like World War II (as you did in an earlier post), then that's probably true. I was thinking more in terms of the wars that modern secular totalitarianisms have waged against their own populations - about 20-25% dead in both Russia and China, about 40-50% dead in Cambodia, about 75% dead among European Jewry, etc.

But hey, whatever. Doesn't change my point in any event.

Warren said...

>> They want to harm their enemies; who doesn't?

This is probably a bit more revealing than you intended. Nice to know that you wish everyone here harm.

Speaking for myself, I don't want to harm anyone at all, including my enemies. I merely don't want them to have power over me.

Lynn said...

Alvin Plantinga takes a lot of heat for insisting that redeemed man (in his glorified spiritual body) will continue to have "libertarian free will".

I tend to agree with him, however. No ... I DO agree with him. :)

Warren said...

>> I'm a leftist interested in understanding the workings of the conservative mind; that's one reason I hang around here.

Doesn't seem to be helping you.

Gagdad Bob said...


I think in some sense, all wars can be considered religious. For example, our own war for independence was rooted in different religious frameworks, since our side held that liberty was a gift of the Creator, while the other side believed in the divine right of kings. Likewise, WWII was overwhelmingly fought by Christians against virulently anti-Christian pagans.

Anonymous said...

Bob wrote:

"Look, I realize that Raccoon theology will never be popular."

I'm not sure what Raccoon theolosgy IS, exaclty. To me it seems like a hybrid of Christianity and Aurobindonism, with yet other elements thrown in.

Overall, it his hard to pin down Raccoonism as a discreet entity, because it is so fuzzily blended in with pre-existing ideas.

The word Slack with a capital "S" comes up alot, and this may be the central or the unique item in Raccoonism, as it were, that which defines it best.

I would like a disciple or disciples, not the head honcho, to define/discuss Slack with me; Van would do, or Julie, or RC, or NB, et al. Someone who's been around for awhile.

About me: you can call me Stepmonster. Everyone else does.

Petey said...

The Slack that can be named is not the true Slack, but it is related to leisure (in the classic sense), contemplation, intellection, interior spaciousness, and freedom from both external persecutors (i.e., the conspiracy) and interior mind parasites. It is, as Toots Mondello put it, to "relux in the hammock of time, which stretches between alpha and omega."

Aquila said...

Stepmonster/Anonymous 11:21:00 AM,

Regarding slack, this site will set you straight...or at least bend you into a new position.

Van said...

"A Raccoon is a big believer in free will, without which truth, virtue and beauty cannot exist. If we are not free to discover truth, then we are like machines. Again, as we have mentioned in the past, it is really quite simple: truth is what man must know; virtue is what he must do; and beauty is what he must love and create. Of course, it doesn't end there. For just as truth is the virtue of the intellect, virtue is beauty of soul. And beauty is the splendor of truth. Etc. "

Yes, and so it continues, a never ending weave of integrations, ever more intricate, ever more beautiful.

And from it's opposite follows a continuous process of disintegrations, and which must eventually come to a violent ending in nihil. If you do not accept free will, you reject it... and inevitably must do so forcibly.

What the leftist of either matter or spirit fails to get, is that no matter how they may flatter themselves with the thought that they seek only to 'do good', once you've chosen the side of determinism, the assertion that all decisions are made from the outside, then they've no other means of action or influence, but that of Power... by their very principle, people don't choose - they have no free will - they can only be pushed.

Whether it be by nudge, punch, bullet or nuke, it is by power all the same.

And ugly is it's name.

Susannah said...

"...but not for its own sake." Yes, I was thinking along the lines of your ending paragraph when I read this. The Greatest Commandment sheds light on this.

I'm going back to read previous posts I've missed and discussing with hubs before commenting on Luther's theology. Meanwhile, I'll just say I'm with you on the free will issue.

Warren said...

>> I think in some sense, all wars can be considered religious.

Good point, I agree completely.

Anonymous said...


Your take (and Gillespie's) on Luther makes a lot of sense; having been raised in the Lutheran church, I recall the scent of authoritarianism that lingered, and later, learning of his anti-Semitic writing, it confirmed my decision having left and then returning to Christianity, to look elsewhere.... I would be interested if you will bring your discussion up to the 18th century, what your view of John Wesley is, who staunchly opposed the pre-destinarians and upheld freedom as essential to faith. For a good discussion of his view and this theological issue, see:

Anonymous said...

This is Stepmonster again.

Input by Pety, Aquila, and obliquely by Van ( I'm not sure if you were talking about slack in your discussion of free-will versus determinism but it seems so)was a start but not enough to really grok what slack is all about.

Would like to read more.

So far, my understanding of slack is that it is a condition of mind: an interior spaciousness untainted by outside interference or internal turmoil.

The consequence is the thoughts and actions of the slack person will come from a place different from conventionally motivated actions.

Beyond that, I don't see where it goes.

The anti-doctrine of slack bears a passing resemblance to the Shamatha meditation espoused by the Sakyong Mipham. See "windhorse" on google.

This of course not all there is to Racoonism, which is a dualist not a monist line of thought.

What I am after is the quintessential "flavor" of Racoonism, as it were, that specific spice that sets it apart from its kindred philosophies.

If there is such a flavor. I would like to hear from some of the newer contributors such as Warren, Susannah, Walt, and the various anonymous dissenters that come here.

Anonymous said...

Heh, windhorse.

Warren said...

>> If there is such a flavor.

There is. Coons are a little gamey, but quite tasty, especially with a little mustard.

john said...

I, also, want to know more re Raccoon thought, and am reading old posts, and re-considering ideas from several decades of inquiry: Frazier, Ram Dass, John Fowles {¨The Tree¨}, Robinson {¨Born in Blood¨} - see more @

The following is from
The Writer's Almanac < * a daily offering frm G Keillor:
"On this day 429 years ago, the English Parliament outlawed Roman Catholicism. This 1581 statute stated that it was an "act to retain the Queen's Majesty's subjects in their obedience" and made it high treason to "reconcile anyone or to be reconciled to 'the Romish religion.'" It forbade people to go to Mass; persons breaking the law were subject to fines and as well as a year in jail. An English man or woman could avoid these troubles by renouncing the Pope and joining the Anglican Church. Most of the English martyrs in the Catholic Church come from the time of Elizabeth's reign."

Thank you all.
Recommended fiction: "An Instance of the Finger Post."

hoarhey said...

What's Beaglehole been up to?

walt said...

How is a Raccoon, deeply imbued with Cosmic Slack, like a sycamore tree?

Well . . .

The Sycamore, or "Shikma" in Hebrew is an ancient tree, native to Egypt and Israel, and mentioned six times in the Bible and frequently in Egyptian folklore. The tree and its fruit have numerous medicinal attributes.

1. A Sycamore can grow in the desert where almost no other tree can grow: Even under desert conditions, the Sycamore maintains a handsome stature and thrives.

2. Sycamores bear an abundance of fruit, even in the desert: It's literally miraculous how Sycamores yield an abundance of small figs not once, but several times a year.

3. Sycamores are impervious to shifting sands. Sometimes, the Negev Desert winds cause a shifting of entire dunes, uprooting the sagebrush, the brushweed, and the other desert flora. The stiffest sandstorms, desert winds, and shifting sands don't affect the Sycamore, because it sends its deep, mighty, and far reaching roots deep into the sand - sometimes hundreds of meters - all the way down to the water table.

Mizz E said...

After reading this brief review of the film, The BOOK of Eli, at 6:45PM, the Cowboy and I took our seats at 7:40. It is sublime; it is essential Raccoon viewing.

Van said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van said...

This cosmic guru stuff is much harder than it looks.

Van said...

Stepmonster, my, that is quite a name... I can certainly see why you would be in quest of Slack.

Hmm... how best to answer... well, let's get a general description, and then a demonstration, and see if we can help you get a grip(!) on Slack.

There are three aspects of Slackness that are important to account for, that being that,
1. You don't seek after Slack, you experience it.
2. You experience Slack when what you are doing, you are doing for it's own sake, rather than for a utilitarian purpose. What Aristotle, Aquinas and Joseph Pieper had a lot to say about in regards to Leisure. When you go to work, you do so in order to produce what you need to in order to do something else, that's utilitarian, and not slack. When you engage in pursuits that bring you into contact with the good, the beautiful and the true - whether that be higher philosophy, music, etc, you do so not in order to achieve something else, status points or whatever, you do so for the experience of engaging with the good, the beautiful and the true - they are their own reward.

3. The other aspect of Slack, is a matter of conforming to reality - and I don't mean that in a proactive, pushing manner, or through deliberate effort you somehow make yourself conform to the shape of things, like stuffing baggage into a trunk; but instead, that because of who you are, what you believe, you are already in conformance with - those principles which are true... you aren't swimming against the tide of truth and reality trying to get to some determined destination, but are floating with their current.

Let me give you an example to illustrate that last point:

Lets say that we want to determine who is the Slackiest Raccoon of them all, I'd propose that we submit such a question to the principles inherent in the very structure of this One Cosmos, so as to reveal and perceive the Truth of the matter... and quite by coincidence, I handily have just such a method for irrefutably revealing that momentous answer.

First we need a list of the slackiest to select from, and I'll provide this fair and balanced list from which to choose, in no apparent order, and as they come to mind,

1. Gagdad Bob
2. Petey
3. Will
4. Walt
5. Julie
6. USS Ben
7. Hoarhey
8. Ricky Raccoon
9. Van
10. Toots Mondello, Col. Beaglehole & Dame Edith (being incorporeal, they can easily share the title)

... I could go on, but I think 10 is enough for demonstration purposes.

Ok, here we go.
1 - Pick a number which resonates best for you and which lies on a scale from 1 through 9.
2 - Multiply that number by 3
3 - Add the cosmically important number of 3 to your number.
4 - Multiply that sum by 3.
5 - The result at this point should contain two digits, add those digits together, and see what the cosmos has revealed your answer to be as to who on our list above is truly the Slackiest Raccoon of them all... and I thank you for your support.

Now that's Slack.


Good grief, who'd a thunk copy & paste would be so difficult... the ultimate illustration of the folly of pursuing slack.

phil g said...

"And just why you would argue with me is a bit of a mystery anyway, since if God controls everything, I don't have the free will to accept or reject your argument anyway, nor you mine..."

After listening to the pastor of a 'reformed' church, Presbyterian, halfheartedly try to take us through the twisted logic and tortured proof of predestination it dawned on me, if we all sitting here are part of the elect and you are either saved or not depending on God alone, then why do we need to be sitting here in this church, why bother with mission work.

The next week I visited a Catholic church and realized, that although brought up in a fundamentalist church that somehow had the secret knowledge to interpret the Bible literally more correctly than the other biblical literalists, I was really a Catholic all this time and further Bob has helped me realize that not only am I Catholic but a Raccoon Catholic.

Thanks Bob!!!

Van said...

OT and haven't had a chance to read the post yet, but thought I'd draw some attention to this, Constitutional Townhall, being put on by Hillsdale College and featuring Matthew Spalding, author of "We still hold these truths...", a webcast scheduled for Jan 30th.

Back later.

Van said...

Crud. Wrong day.