The Inadvertent Wisdom of Christopher Hitchens
I'm still stuck on the idea of intellectual heresy, and I wish more people understood and appreciated what I was talking about, especially the people whose asses I would like to kick. This has nothing to do with content, for example, science vs. religion.
Rather, this is a truly universal problem that cuts across all disciplines. In my opinion, it is the central cause of man's betrayal of himself, and undoubtedly the primary infirmity of the tenured. Some of these intellectual heresies only wound the person who commits them, while others are death to the intellect, and therefore aggravated cluelesside.
At the very least, the intellectual heretic participates in his own astral abortion. But the real miscarriage occurs if one is a teacher or in a position of influence, whereby one participates in mass murder, or at least attempted murder. In other words, since the soul is the form of the body, to commit soul murder is to destroy what is essential in the human being. When young people with skulls full of mush are the victims, then we're talking about mind-fucking, and therefore intellectual pederasty with intent to commit skulbuggery.
The other day I heard Christopher Hitchens on the Michael Medved show promoting his new autofelltatiography, and there is no question that this is an "intelligent" man. Nevertheless in five minutes he commits enough intellectual heresies to render his own intelligence impotent. He is so full of an externalizing pride and passion that he seems incapable of genuine self-understanding. He is also a vulgar and blustering intellectual bully, which is not wholly beside the point, since truth -- and the truth lover -- attracts. Truth, like goodness (or the Light it is), simultaneously radiates and enraptures; it does not "harden" and compress upon itself, thereby giving no Light. Which is why a Raccoon does not argue truth, only offer it.
For example, let us suppose that his gradual evolution from a man of the hard left -- a committed Trotskyist and true Useful Idiot -- represents some kind of evolution, or "growth." Exactly what has grown? Is he more intelligent today than he was then? Doubtful, if only because of the alcoholic toll on his brain cells. Is he wiser? I don't see how "wisdom" would be permitted in his narrow world view, for it immediately implies transcendence and therefore common cause with traditions and people whom he despises.
In other words, there is no "wisdom tradition" on the left. To the contrary, the left can only remain the left through a systematic blindness to mankind's accumulated and revealed wisdom. The left is and must not only be ahistorical, but irreligious, irrational, and dismissive of anthropology (in the sense of apprehending the transcendent and universal archetype that defines man).
Schuon writes that wisdom involves a combination of intelligence and character, and is ideally "represented by gnosis, which a priori is set on the restoration of the primordial perfection of man." So if Hitchens is a better man than he was 40 or 50 years ago, he is closer to that absolute perfection that makes possible the relative degrees of improvement.
In other words, in the absence of an implicit absolute standard, there can be no real "improvement" of any kind, only meaningless lateral change, or at best, better "adaptation" to the environment (and even then, only for the purposes of sexual reproduction).
Schuon further notes that wisdom "consists not only in knowing truths and being able to communicate them, but also in the sage’s capacity to recognize the most subtle limitations or hazards of human nature."
In other words, wisdom, in order to be wisdom, must recognize man's aboriginal infirmity, or risk committing the intellectual heresy of omniscience. Ironically, this is something the traditionalist is always mindful of, whereas the secular man regards it as a fable or fairy tale, which has the practical effect of collapsing the vertical and conflating man and God.
To put it another way, Hitchens obviously believes that man is not only capable of knowledge (and therefore truth), but even the ultimate knowledge that permits him to absolutely deny the Creator. Thus, in his own weird way, he insists that man's intellect is indeed an adeqation (or mirror) not only to reality, but ultimate reality. If man is uniquely capable of pronouncing on ultimate reality, what does that make him? Certainly not a Darwinian beast!
Schuon asks, "whence comes this demigod who accuses, and whence his power to accuse?" For "if the accuser himself is right, this must mean that man is not so bad and that there exists within him a capacity for adequation" (emphasis mine).
Which is precisely the Raccoon's missionary position: that the human intellect is an adequation to reality, not a passive reflection of the Darwinian environment, nor a mirror of the "material world," whatever that could mean in the so-called "mind" of a materialist.
Hitchens' views on religion are not only wrong but absurd, and the only way he can maintain them is through his snarling contempt for religious doctrines that are even more stupid than his own (and fortunately for Hitchens, there is never a shortage of those, any more than there is a shortage of political, artistic, or cultural stupidity).
There is nothing in Hitchens' metaphysic that would permit "a sudden burst of intellectual and moral objectivity [to] come about in a merely biological and quantitative development" (Schuon). Rather, if man is capable of objectivity and adequation, it could not be explained by the radical contingency of atoms in the void or genes on the make.
There is so much more one could say about Hitchens' crippling infirmity, but this is obviously not about him; rather, it is about mankind and its proneness to intellectual heresy. For the fact that man's intellect is indeed an adequation to the Absolute -- something with which Hitchens, in his hubris, implicitly maintains -- then this is a "refutation of the ideologies of doubt" and cynicism. Rather, "if a man is able to doubt, it is because there is certainty," just as "the very notion of illusion proves that man has access to reality" (Schuon).
No mere animal could have the trajectory of Hitchens' life, at the end of which it reflects upon itself and thinks, "boy, I had a melon full of illusions 40 years ago, but now I finally know reality and the truth of my species!" Animals can only deviate from their archetype, not spend their life evolving toward it and becoming wiser.