Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Absolutist Philosophy and Totalist Necrophilia

Yesterday I touched on a point that I had intended to expand upon, but -- look, a squirrel! -- got distracted and never fleshed it out.

Sometimes a topic is so large, that I can't just tackle it head on. Rather, it requires repeated approaches from various angles in order to metabolize it. The explanation can't really be linear, because -- to use a visual image -- the object of study is more like a pulsating, centrifugal center with rays extending outward. Trying to describe that center is difficult, because as soon as you latch onto one ray, it shoots you back out toward the periphery. But this is the only way to "think" about it, because to "be" at the center is to no longer think but to repose -- to relux and call it a deity.

Nevertheless, if you ride one of those centrifugal rays outward, they do partake of being, for the same reason that a ray of sunlight on earth is really not distinct from the Sun itself -- it is of the same substance. And, of course, you can always follow one of those rays back to the Sun -- which is why the traditional proofs of God are effective for the mind capable of tracking knowing back up to its source in Being, or (n) to O.

Anyway, I wanted to get into the question of why this debate about Darwinism is so important. I'm not concerned about the science, which will take care of itself. Just in case it's not obvious, I am much more concerned about the cultural, spiritual, and psychopolitical effects of Darwinism-as-religion, i.e., a totalistic explanation of man's origins, being, and destiny. For example, even if some fundamentalist denies the scientific reality of micro-evolution, his body still believes in it, so long as he takes antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective even for literal creationists.

A Raccoon is first and foremost an absolutist. Perhaps we need to come up with a better word, since this one seems to be tainted by certain unwelcome associations, but it is the key to the whole existentialada, i.e., that the Absolute exists and that it is prior to us.

Therefore, no human being has the right to pose as the Absolute, which automatically has certain psycho-political implications -- for example, in the words of our founders, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights. Under the terms of Darwinism, such a statement is unalloyed nonsense, because there is no "Creator" and no "rights" that are unalienable.

Thus, metaphysical Darwinism has its own kind of absolutism, but I think a better word is "totalism," which has the intended association with "totalitarian." It is a total explanation that is anything but liberating, if for no other reason than it renders spiritual freedom an illusion. Or, you could say that it can only be total at the cost of excising what is most dear to us -- eg., freedom, truth, unity, etc.

Now, what would be the difference between absolutism and totalitarianism? I don't think I want to get too deeply into that question because it's just too vast a subject, but it is beautifully addressed in one of my perennial raccoomendations, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, by William Gairdner.

A key point is that the Absolute does not deny our freedom, but is its first and last guarantor. Once you understand this, then you should immediately understand the danger of the left, which again replaces the Absolute with own totalistic and coercive orthodoxy. As indicated in the book's description,

"Current dogma holds that all cultures and moral values are conditional, nothing human is innate.... Challenging this position, Gairdner argues that relativism is not only logically and morally self-defeating but that progress in scientific and intellectual disciplines has actually strengthened the case for absolutes, universals, and constants of nature and human nature.

"Gairdner refutes the popular belief in cultural relativism by showing that there are hundreds of well-established cross-cultural 'human universals'. He then discusses the many universals found in physics -- as well as Einstein's personal regret at how his work was misinterpreted by the public's eagerness to promote relativism. Gairdner also gives a lively account of the many universals of human biology, including the controversial topic of universal gender differences or 'brain sex'.

"He then looks at universal concepts of both natural and international law, and ends by discussing language theory. He shows how philosophers from Nietzsche to Derrida have misused linguistic concepts to justify their relativism, even though a sustained and successful effort by serious scientists and philosophers of language has revealed myriad universals of human language, ranging from language acquisition, to word-order, to 'Universal Grammar'."

So, one of the "paradoxes" (not really, since it makes perfect sense) is that liberal relativism leads to the false absolute that in turn paves the way for totalitarianism in all its guises (eg., political correctness, speech codes, government regulation of "corporate" speech, the monomania of multiculturalism, cultural marxism masquerading as "diversity," the harsh intolerance of the tolerance mongers, etc.).

Here is one thing that puzzles me about our trolls. Let's stipulate that I am indeed a dangerous, deluded, and obnoxious assoul. That being the case, why on earth would you want there to be any possibility of someone like me micromanaging your life? Because it is for the very reason that I regard you as a dangerous, deluded and obnoxious assoul that I don't want you or anyone else micromanaging mine. Is that really so outrageous? After all, this is certainly what America's founders believed. Why don't we arrange a political system so that, say, neither a Keith Olbermann nor a Sarah Palin could have too much power over us?

As Dennis Prager often discusses, the history of the left is the history of the totalitarian temptation. And the reason the temptation exists is because the centralized power of the state is there for the taking, and gravity takes care of the rest. Again, the American political system was designed in order to prevent this from happening. It did not anticipate an Andrew Jackson, FDR, or Obama, who all diminished individual liberty at the price of increased personal power.

Another problem with philosophical Darwinism is that it is not really about life -- which it does not even pretend to understand -- but Death. Death becomes the absolute, the great shaper of mankind. Again, natural selection doesn't produce anything "positive" per se; rather, it only produces random copying errors, and Death selects the lucky winners. Everything, no matter how sublime, is to be explained in this manner: error + death.

Love? That only exists because humans who didn't have the illusion of love died off and didn't pass their genes on to the next generation. But the same literally applies to any human capability or accomplishment, which in the end is just a tribute to the grim efficiency of Death. One doesn't thank God or anyone else for one's life. Rather, it is only thanks to the ruthless economy of Death.

For the absolutist, it is the other way around. We locate Mind, Life, and Spirit at the top. Furthermore, the only reason evolution in our view is possible is because of the prior involution of these things, so that, for example, mathematics is discovery, truth is recollection, and spirituality is a recovery of Self. We do not believe that matter can possibly be the absolute, for if it is, then so too are death, falsehood, illusion, disintegration, confusion, instinct, will, and chaos.

For the absolutist, each of these things -- death, falsehood, illusion, et al -- is no less a reality. However, in our system they take on a relative reality, in the same manner that catabolism and anabolism are complementary sides of metabolism. Yes, bodily tissue breaks down in order for life to continue, but that is not the purpose of your life. Nor is stupidity the purpose of intelligence, at least outside liberal academia.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Fractured Fairy Tale of Darwinian Evolution

Realism, n., an accurate representation of human nature, as seen by toads. --Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Or blind lizards, as the case may be.

As we have discussed in the past, the irony is that evolution is strictly impossible if one accepts the materialistic presuppositions of metaphysical Darwinism.

Again, the idea of evolution was around long prior to Darwin, and in fact, in the first five editions of The Origin of Species, he didn't even mention the word. Rather, he only slipped it into the sixth edition in 1872, apparently hoping that no one would notice that he was 1) redefining the plain definition of a word, in order to 2) take his theory well beyond science, and into the world of religion and metaphysics.

It is this novel fantasy of evolution-without-divinity that is so insane and destructive, not the mere science of natural selection, with which we have no problems at all. Only after Darwin was the word "evolution" widely imposed on his theory, a word that had previously referred to the idea that things unfold or "evolve" toward their prototype, like acorn to oak tree.

Thus, in point of fact, "Nothing is less like Darwin's doctrine than the idea that new species should already be present in their ancestors, from which they only have to evolve in the course of time."

As Gilson points out, when Darwin inserted the word "evolution" into later editions of the Origin, he was purloining a term "already in use to signify something completely different from what he himself had in mind," i.e., "the inverse movement of in-volution, the un-rolling of the in-rolled, the de-velopment of the en-veloped."

One might say that Darwin's thinking devolved (in terms of philosophical sophistication) as he came to be increasingly dominated by his theory: "The more one comes to know Darwin, the more one is persuaded that, from the day when he conceived the idea of transformation of species, he felt charged with the scientific mission of revealing to men a truth which was in his eyes indubitable; but this scientific truth was at the same time the reverse of a religious certitude which he himself had lost. The antireligious always has a bit of the religious in it" (Gilson).

The reason for the latter well-documented phenomenon is that the person who has lost his faith in reality has an inner need to "proselytize" and convert others in order to not feel alone in his cosmic meaninglessness. This is the work of mind parasites. You might say that the kryptonite of mind parasites is that they must always induct others into their fantasy in order to go on being. They have no energy of their own, but must be "fed" by certain types of relationships with projected parts of the psyche -- even if the relationships are frustrating, self-defeating, and growth-stifling.

This is the only way to account for the obnoxious proselytizing energy of the materialists, for if the psyche is just an illusory byproduct of matter, why should they of all animals care what others think? In contrast, if truth exists, human beings naturally wish to radiate it to others, in imitation of their Creator. That's my position: I love truth, and just get a joy out of sharing it with other folks. But I fail to see how materialism can account for truth, love, and a passionate love of truth that has no immediate relevance whatsoever to genetic survival.

As Cardinal Schönborn points out in his foreword to Gilson's From Aristotle to Darwin & Back Again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species and Evolution, "reductionist accounts of evolution" are only "the visible parts of an intellectual iceberg," so that "the issues that lie under the surface of the current evolution debate are ultimately far larger and more important."

That is, in case it's not obvious, our contemporary zeitgeistberg goes much deeper than the often unedifying debates about intelligent design, or creationism, or separation of church and state, for ultimately it has to do with the preservation of man qua man, and the very possibility of truly human civilization.

Clearly, an unprecedented amount of change has occurred over the past three or four centuries. But change is obviously not synonymous with progress. And it is an absurdity to suggest that conservatives are somehow "opposed" to change.

Rather, what the conservative specifically wishes to conserve are the tried-and-true mechanisms that lead to progressive change, not just change for the sake of changing. Every conservative should know that a complex and dynamic system only preserves itself through change, and only changes through preservation (think of your body).

Something unique and unprecedented in human history occurred with the American founding. Somehow, Americans stumbled upon the very means to unleash human potential through liberty, individual initiative, free markets and representative democracy, to become the unrivaled economic, scientific, and political leader of the world. How did they do it?

I just recently read What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, and there is an instructive passage about the American intellectual consensus of the early 19th century, at the very time we began our ass-kicking world-historical ascent (and bear in mind that this is a secular scholar with no religious agenda whatsoever):

"As this chapter is written in the early twenty-first century, the hypothesis that the universe reflects intelligent design has provoked a bitter debate in the United States. How very different was the intellectual world of the early nineteenth century! Then, virtually everyone believed in intelligent design. Faith in the rational design of the universe underlay the worldview of the Enlightenment, shared by Isaac Newton, John Locke, and the American Founding Fathers....

"The commonly used expression 'the book of nature' referred to the universal practice of viewing nature as a revelation of God's power and wisdom. Christians were fond of saying that they accepted two divine revelations: the Bible and the book of nature." (Raccoons, of course, accept three, including the mirrorcle of the human subject.)

Howe goes on to say that the belief that nature revealed the divine power and wisdom "constituted one of the principal motivations for scientific activity in the early republic, along with national pride, the hope for useful applications, and the joy of science itself.... The perceived harmony between religion and science worked to their mutual advantage with the public" (emphasis mine).

So, the very roots of America's scientific dominance reflect precisely what we were saying yesterday about the balance and harmony of idealism/rationalism and empiricism, and the relevance of that balance to the progress of science. Do I wish to conserve this harmony? Indeed I do -- not in order to prevent the further evolution of human potential, but to make it possible! Perhaps the radical materialists have failed to notice that it has only been with the ascent of secular fundamentalism and the stranglehold of liberals on our public schools that America's educational decline commenced.

To be continued....

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Speed-Blogging at the Edge of the Subjective Horizon: We Are All Christians Now

An experiment in speed-blogging: 30 minutes of blogging in 30 minutes....

As Jaki points out, science can only be successful and self-sustaining if it steers a middle course between empiricism and idealism. If it hews too closely to the former, one ultimately ends up with mere sensationalism, with no way to collate the sensations. For if the world is empirical, one of the things it excludes is thought, which is not only not empirical, but cannot be explained with recourse to any purely empirical approach -- as if brain and mind are the same thing.

As we've discussed on a number of occasions, Christianity bridges empiricism and idealism in a most audacious manner, by positing the God-man who is Word-made-flesh; but one could just as easily say idea-made-empirical, universal-made-particular, or center-made-periphery.

This is our first principle, and we all know -- thank Godel -- that first principles cannot be proved within their own system, so to say that God became man should be no more outrageous a metaphysical presupposition than anyone else's first principle -- the difference, of course, being that ours works.

For example, what is the first principle of ideological Darwinism? And let's be completely fair here. What is the unprovable principle upon which their whole pseudo-intellectual edifice is built? It is that all of the biological diversity we see, all of it, both external/objective and interior/subjective -- the latter of which reduces to the former -- is a strictly random process based on genetic copying errors. Could it be true? I suppose it could be, but we could never know it, because it would mean that epistemology -- what we can know -- reduces to zoology -- what kind of animal we are.

For this reason, I don't think ideological Darwinism even qualifies as true science as outlined above -- that is, steering a middle course between empiricism and idealism. And ironically, the problem is not that it errs on the side of empiricism, for there is very little empirical support for Darwinism -- e.g., millions of transitional species in the fossil record, or any evidence whatsoever of one species transforming into another. There just isn't.

The problem is that it is too idealistic a theory, too deductive. It does not end, but begins with the idea of natural selection, and on that basis becomes unfalsifiable because it is their first principle. It can't be proved any more than you can empirically prove that man is in the image of the Creator.

However, you can determine whether Darwinism "works," which it does, to a certain extent, especially in terms of micro-evolution, which is beyond doubt. And I don't see any reason to doubt that it provides a piece of the evolutionary puzzle, but to insist that it is the only piece? Madness. And literally so, for to insist that man is an animal like any other is to insist that there are no human norms, which is madness defined.

Let's suppose that Darwin really did have a brilliant new insight that solved the enigma of man once and for all. But as Jaki points out, "there is no such thing as a logical method of having a new thought." In other words, if we honor Darwin, there is no reason to do so, since humans are just logic machines, and if it hadn't been Darwin, it would have been some other machine who cracked the case.

For just as in evolution itself, there are no "leaps" in logic. Rather, it's all very linear and orderly. There is no ontological gap between an ape and a man, but a radical continuity. So for an intellectually consistent Darwinist, the discovery of natural selection can be of no more value than the ape's discovery that if you wash the dirt off yams in the ocean, they taste better. There is not, and cannot be, any "higher" or "lower." We can have our preferences, but that's all they are.

As Jaki points out, "discovery is the soul of science." But can a merely rational man truly make a discovery? One thing you have to constantly remind patients -- especially the educated ones -- is that "buddy, that's not thinking, that's just logic." Anyone who convinces themselves that thinking may be reduced to logic is -- well, for one thing, they'd be extremely tedious to be around. But it also creates a kind of radical leveling, as if there is no difference between an Einstein and a typical worker bee scientist.

It seems that Darwinists and other crude materialists never stop to ask themselves the question, "What must the cosmos be like in order for me to know anything?" For Jaki emphasizes the point that all science is ultimately cosmology.

In other words, to make any scientific statement is to make a statement about the cosmos in its totality. For the vast majority of scientists, they never bother to explicate their cosmology, so it's all unarticulated and in the background. But if they were to articulate it, they'd soon discover that it is unworkable and self-refuting at every turn.

However, I again insist that there is nothing self-refuting or unworkable in the principle that, thanks to the Christ-principle, or Word-made-flesh, human beings are potentially the link between the One and the many, Spirit and matter, God and cosmos, universal and particular.

Just because science cannot account for a truth hardly means that the truth is not true. But I say that scientists, without being aware of it, actually do unconsciously hold all of the Christian principles alluded to above. The problem is that, in their hubris, they imagine that a cosmic exception has been made for them, and that they alone can have a godlike understanding that transcends their own limiting paradigm.

Thus, Darwin did not believe that his ability to know truth was limited by natural selection, any more than Freud thought that his ability to understand unconscious motivation was was limited by his own unconscious motivation. So we end up with Darwin and his spiritually and metaphysically retarded heirs, who devote (an interesting word) their lives to the purpose of proving that the world is purposeless, freely insisting that free will is an illusion, and absurdly affirming that only their opinion has the unique privilege of transcending their own paradigm and therefore being true.

And no apologies for the word "retarded." Look it up. It is meant literally, not as an insult.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Scientistic Buddhaflaw Correcting

Our omninameable troll asked if Buddhism could support the scientific enterprise, now that it's conveniently up and running thanks to Christianity. The answer is a qualified "yes," in the sense that, once your body is grown, you can survive on gummy bears and RC cola.

One thing I like about Jaki -- and which no doubt limited his appeal to the 'nadless wimps of political correctness -- is that he was a pretty obnoxious guy (in a righteously ringtailed way). He always renders to his ideological opponents the swift kick in the ass of which they are so desperately in need. Here's how he expressed it:

"One need not be a Buddhist to be a good historian of Buddhist thought and culture, but nothing can dispense the historian from a thorough effort to understand what it means for a Buddhist to be a Buddhist and to achieve things by virtue of that Buddhism. The theistic contribution to science and to history, and the Christian concreteness of that theism, demand no less in the way of scholarly treatment and integrity" (emphasis mine).

In contrast, those Buddhists who truly believed and practiced Buddhism arrived at bupkis (which is the yiddish rendering of the shunyada-yada-yada of "the Void"). There's no insult in saying this. It's just a fact. It's no more an insult than, say, reminding people that the only Palestinian contribution to the world is the suicide belt.

So I suppose one can always be a Western make-believe Buddhist and practice at the margins of science, but only if one ignores metaphysical consistency and rejects those parts of Buddhism that clash with a scientific worldview -- most notably, the absence of a Creator.

Again, the underlying unity of the cosmos results from the fact that "the ways of God are simplicity itself, for in God will and mind are fused in the simplest unity." Science did not develop in the Buddhist world because it could not develop in the Buddhist world. It can only graft itself onto an already developed Western science, and only then at the cost of ignoring some of its own most cherished assumptions.

Ultimately, the same barriers that prevent the apprehension of the Creator put up roadblocks to the development of science. One loses the unifying bridge that connects change to change, and instead apprehends only perpetual change from which the only escape is into the void of shunyata.

In other words, the only thing that doesn't change is the meaninglessness of it all. But "the existence of God becomes possible, nay, well-nigh inevitable to any lover of consistency." Conversely, "an epistemology that obstructs the ways to God also blocks the advance on the road to science."

The main point is that there is no reason whatsoever for the present postmodern and anti-Christian fragmentation of our worldview into religion, the arts, science, and dozens if not hundreds of scientific specialties and subspecialties with no way to reconcile them. After all, the unity is there. The unity is a fact, even if science is powerless to explain the fact.

As mentioned in my book, the simple reality of the matter is that all levels, dimensions, and modes of reality are seamlessly harmonized in the human being in such a manner that science cannot, and will never, account for it, for it is the prior condition that makes the very practice of science (and the existence of scientists) possible -- e.g., the completely unreasonable harmony between a human mind that was supposedly selected for eating and mating being capable of peering into the deepest and most hidden mathematical recesses of the cosmos.

Unfortunately, some people are just incapable of spiritual wonderment, which is not a banal "absence of explanation," but the positive intuition of a deeper -- nay, the deepest -- level of explanation. It is not (-k) but (+n). The same goes for mystery, sanctity, holiness, innocence, and, of course, slack. To suggest that these are "unreal" only because they are inaccessible to the cold and grasping hands of the scientistic materialist is the height of naivete. And no, you can't measure naivete with a slide rule either. But there it is.

The unwashed horde of the tenured likes to pretend that someone like Galileo was somehow opposed to the Christian God, when the opposite is true:

"Little if any effort is made, for instance, to recall the role played in Galileo's scientific methodology by his repeated endorsements of the naturalness of perceiving the existence of God from the study of the book of nature. Much the same silent treatment is given to Galileo's view of the human mind as a most excellent and most special product of the Creator."

Whoomp!, there it is in all its metaphysical clarity and simplicity: there is a Creator, and he is revealed in the book of nature, but only to beings who are themselves mirrorcles of the Divine Mind.

Alternative explanations are not only too silly to take seriously, but more importantly, reactionary to the core. Their real interest is in perversely denying a Creator but profiting from all the benefits of having one -- benefits like a rational and unitary cosmos, a transcendent reality that is uniquely disclosed to the mind of man, evolutionary progress, a scientific ethic that disinterestedly seeks truth, and much more.

Friday, February 05, 2010

You Must Have a Whole In Your Head!

Yes, you must.

For among other things, science would be impossible if not for the whole in your head. This nonlocal whole is what guides and sponsors "the metaphysical quest for the reality of God," which -- like it or not -- is "the only support of that universal intelligibility which alone can satisfy man's inquiring mind and provide a solid basis for his actions."

In the absence of this whole, science becomes an ad hoc enterprise, a pile of debris with no unifying center, no genuine coherence, and no ultimate aim. It becomes all bricks with no mortar, an arch with no keystone, the Beatles with no Ringo.

I'm just going to flip through the book we're discussing, and note some of the things that arrested my attention.

Again, as mentioned yesterday, if it doesn't take off and become self-sustaining, it isn't science: "the invention and the progress of science are of one and the same nature." The phases of its progress "are but the replay of the original invention, a sequence of similar insights, and perhaps of efforts more or less equal."

Thus, "if the ancient Hindus and Chinese made no progress in astronomy, it was only because they did not invent it." To be sure, they had some of the elements of science, e.g., close observation of celestial phenomena, but other ingrained assumptions prevented the emergence of true science. The difference is as dramatic as that between a live baby and a stillbirth. Both are "infants," but only one goes on to grow and mature.

For Jaki, it is "not deism but Christian theism that served as a principal factor helping the scientific enterprise reach self-sustaining maturity." He gets into the metaphysical assumptions of cultures where science was stillborn, one of which is belief in cyclical time and eternal recurrence.

For example, in Hinduism there is the "treadmill of the yugas," which is clearly inconsistent with the irreversible time of the Christian West. Likewise, the ancient Greeks could not reconcile change and permanence: "if there was only change and nothing permanent," then "any explanation became meaningless." And "if change was only apparent," then "explanation was unnecessary."

Even -- or perhaps especially -- Plato developed the "dichotomy between a perfect world of ideas and a shadowy realm of matter," which placed science on the latter side, i.e., the study of derivative and deceptive shadows dancing on the walls of the cave. Aristotle followed by placing an ontological division between terrestrial and celestial matter, which again fails to apprehend the radical wholeness and unity that undergirds all of creation.

Jaki points out how common it is for even -- or again, perhaps especially! -- the man of genius to "be blinded by the logic of his initial presuppositions." Get those presuppositions wrong, and everything you build upon those assumptions will be wrong, regardless of your intellectual candlepower.

To jump ahead a bit, Jaki shows with example after example that a functional science must steer a middle course between a naive empiricism and dreamy idealism. This is why, ultimately, a science that denies either the vertical or the horizontal breaks down into metaphysical incoherence. To build a house you need bricks and mortar and effort and a blueprint.

So "science failed to become an open-ended avenue in the great ancient cultures just as their quest for the ultimate in intelligibility, which is the quest for God, failed to go convincingly beyond man's own self..."

In other words, in Eastern religions, the ultimate in intelligibility is the interior self, which, in a way, makes them very much compatible with the Kantianism that radically split the western world between noumena and phenomena. If reality and intelligibility are within, why waste one's life studying the ceaseless changes of maya-matter? Doing so only deepens the illusion and attachment to what has no reality, precisely.

All of this changes if the phenomenal world is not just an accidental byproduct of Brahman, but the intentional creation of a rational Creator who wishes to be known. Yes, the world is still contingent, but the contingency is shot through with intelligibility, not just deception and mystification.

Thus, Aquinas could affirm the Raccoon principle that "all knowing beings implicitly know God in any and every thing they know." If you really know what knowledge is, you know that it could only be anchored in the permanent, the absolute, and the eternal. Otherwise it is opinion, precisely, in a world where only opinion is possible. And to have "faith in opinion" makes no sense at all.

A second principle is of the utmost importance, and this is the very idea of a universe, for anyone who says "universe" says "God." No one has ever seen this thing called "universe," and no one ever will. Rather, it is the assumption of an internally related "totality of contingent but rationally coherent beings."

At every turn, the combination of contingency and intelligibility serves "as a pointer to an ultimate in intelligibility," which is ultimately "outside" the universe of space and time, and yet, mysteriously accessible to man's intellect. In the absence of this intimate connection, there is no reason in the world to believe that our knowledge is "true." Therefore, there is no objective knowledge at all. Rather, the world is just one big elite university humanities department.

Until the end of his life, Darwin was haunted by a particular thought, and well he should have been, for it is the logical corollary of his incoherent and nihilistic system: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?

The question answers itself, but only in someone with a modicum of philosophical consistency and intellectual honesty.

To be continued....

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Road of Science and the Ways to God

Only have time for a very brief post....

Well, the bad news is that I've lost the Kabbalah thread, so we'll have to get back to it later. The good news is that I just finished Stanley Jaki's The Road of Science and the Ways to God, and I'd like to spend a post or two on that. It was originally presented as the Gifford Lectures for 1975 and 1976. In case you don't know, these lectures were established at the bequest a certain Lord Gifford in order to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term -- in other words, the knowledge of God."

In the course of writing my book, I read a number of the previous Gifford Lectures, since they are highly relevant to what I was trying to do. Let's see... from the list on the wiki page, I see that I read Josiah Royce, Alfred North Whitehead, Arthur Eddington, Werner Heisenberg, Michael Polanyi, Reinhold Niebuhr, Christopher Dawson, Arnold Toynbee, John Eccles, John Polkinghorne, Holmes Rolston, Charles Taylor, Richard Swinburne, Keith Ward, and Ian Barbour. They are all quite rigorous, nothing remotely like the wooly-headed blather you see in the typical new-age "quantum whatever" books, on the one hand, or in the self-satisfied middlebrow fare of the village atheist crowd, on the other.

Along those lines, this probably wouldn't be the best book to introduce yourself to Jaki's thought. It's quite dense and technical, with well over 100 pages of footnotes. A better recommendation would be his intellectual autobiography, A Mind's Matter, or another synthesis of his thought, Means to Message: A Treatise on Truth.

For those who don't know, Jaki was both a Catholic priest and a professor of physics. Here's a brief synopsis from the wiki page:

"After completing undergraduate training in philosophy, theology and mathematics, Father Jaki gained doctorates in theology and in physics.... He also did post-doctoral research in Philosophy of Science at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Princeton University and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Father Jaki authored more than two dozen books on the relation between modern science and orthodox Christianity.... Jaki was also among the first to claim that Gödel's incompleteness theorem is relevant for theories of everything in theoretical physics. Gödel's theorem states that any mathematical theory that includes certain basic facts of number theory (and is computably enumerable, i.e. whose formulas can be explicitly listed) will be either incomplete or inconsistent. Since any 'theory of everything' will certainly be consistent, it must be either incomplete or unable to prove basic facts about the integers."

In The Road of Science, Jaki endeavors to prove beyond doubt that science developed (which is obvious), and only could have developed (a more subtle point), in the Christian West. At the same time, he shows that the road of science and the way to God are anything but incompatible. Rather, they go hand in hand; in a rightly ordered mind, the one should facilitate the other.

We joke around a lot about our uneducable trolls, or the idiocy of vacuous demagogues like Charles the Queeg, but seriously, the reality of the situation is 180 degrees from the latter's childishly dogmatic and authoritarian view, for science can only function with a background of certain distinct metaphysical assumptions, which are Christian to the core. Sever science from this core, and you immediately end up with an incoherent metaphysic that can never be made "whole," and has all sorts of unintended consequences -- not just for science, but more critically, for the soul of man, for man cannot properly function without a rational and rightly oriented faith in reality.

Even the most confused atheist must acknowledge that science was developed by Christian men, and that their Christianity was not "peripheral" but central to the pursuit. To point out that the order of the cosmos could only have come from a transcendental source does not repel a normal person from science. Rather, it only make them more fascinated by it. Conversely, if scientism tells us that we inhabit a meaningless cosmos with no possibility of objective truth or morality, then this is hardly a spur for normal people to take an interest in it beyond the technological goodies it makes possible.

Jaki writes that there is but "a single intellectual avenue forming both the road of science and the ways to God." It is an indisputable fact that "Science found its only viable birth within a cultural matrix permeated by a firm conviction about the mind's ability to find in the realm of things and persons a pointer to their Creator."

Furthermore, even if the individual scientist is unaware of the fact, "all great creative advances of science have been made in terms of an epistemology germane to that conviction" about the intelligibility of the cosmos and the mind's ability to disclose it. Thus, "wherever that epistemology was resisted with vigorous consistency, the pursuit of science invariably appears to have been deprived of its solid foundation."

Pseudo-intellectuals and anti-Christian bigots will no doubt bring up ancient Greece, or China, or the early Muslim world, but that is indeed the point. It's not that difficult to "discover" reality. The hard part is sustaining the discovery. The essential point is that to truly discover science is to simultaneously discover its self-sustaining nature. It doesn't just mysteriously stop, as it did in those non-Christian cultures.

For to discover science is to discover discovery and to unleash progress. In other words, the mark of true science is a kind of inevitable, self-sustaining progress in scientific knowledge. But for a host of reasons, people are by and large fearful of change, so science (not to mention its close cousin, the free market) has been strangled in its crib. Nothing causes as much radical change as science and free markets, which is why the left opposes both.

And please bear in mind that when I say this, I am referring to science proper, not to the narrow scientism of a Queeg, which is a reactionary metaphysic that can only be embraced by someone who has overt contempt for the truth in all its fullness; for "Scientism is never a genuine reverence for science but a harnessing of science for a nonscientific purpose. Since that purpose is fixed, science can only serve it by remaining fixed, namely, by remaining in its supposedly final stage," and then "taking that final stage to be free of metaphysics."

But God -- thank God -- always takes d'light in shattering our little human containers, because you have to break a few eggheads to make a cosmic omelette.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Descent of Homo Slackiens

As I've mentioned before, I am a simple man with simple needs. Way back in high school -- after graduating high school, to be precise -- when it came time to chart the course of the pathless Gagdad path, I reduced it all to two non-negotiable demands.

First, I needed to somehow support myself without ever working on a full time basis, since I knew even back then that my real interplanetary cosmonautical mission would never be remunerative. I don't know why I was so confident about it, but even when I had no skills, no prospects, and no future, I was quite certain that I was having more fun than the people who did have those things.

In other words, I noticed that the people who tried to purchase slack with money ended up having less slack, because it took so much time and energy to acquire the money. In truth, these people weren't really in it for the slack, but for other things such as power, prestige, vital excitement, attention, etc. More often than not, they're just running away from their own mind parasites, which are what actually create the barrier between O and (•).

Very few people are truly motivated by slack, and willing to risk all in order to acquire it. Which is one more reason why I do not recommend my path to anyone, since you had better be certain at the outset that you are willing to risk all -- that you are truly on fire for O, and that no earthly consolation can make up for its loss. I don't want to be responsible for the people who realize too late that they are really motivated by the usual mundane human desires.

I might add that one cannot really "acquire" slack, since it is our prior condition. Thus, if we set up all sorts of elaborate means to acquire slack, it can end up leaving us slackless. Many people say they want slack, but they truly wouldn't know what to do with it if they had it. They would instantaneously become bored, or depressed, or persecuted, or adrift.

Secondly, I never wanted to have to use an alarm clock. I was so traumatized by the drudgery of high school and the tyranny of dragging myself out of bed each morning for such a meaningless endeavor, that I vowed never to perpetuate the exercise once I was out of high school.

This is just a roundabout way of saying that I slept in this morning, and that it's too late for a new post. However, due to the mirrorcle of cooncidence, the first old post that I grabbed from two years back actually touches on the above. So here it is:

Be quiet and know that I am God. --Psalms 46:10 (New Life Version)

SHUT UP! SIT DOWN! (Ben Stern Version)

Our God says, "Calm down, and learn that I am God!" (Contemporary English Version)

Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. (John, Album 7, Track 14)

Be still, and know that I am God. (New International Version)

Own a still, and it's much easier to do that. (Cousin Dupree's Version)

Cease striving and know that I am God. (New American Standard)

Have Slack and know that I AM. (Dobbs Version)

Rishi does it. Take your shoes off & set a spell. Relux & call it a deity. Disbeaware we disappear (who hesychasts is lost). (Petey's OM Version)

Next up in the arkive is this one, originally called Weekend Sermon: Advanced Leisure Studies. At the time I started the blog, I was writing mostly about politics, as do other Uncle Fromms such as Dr. Sanity and Shrinkwrapped. I guess I was reluctant to let 'er rip, spiritually speaking, because I didn't know if there would be any audience for the Way of the Coon, and whether the introduction of overt spirituality would alienate my already tiny audience. Which it eventually did. The blue meat is always more popular to the red man.

So I floated the idea of writing about spiritual matters once a week, just to mix things up a bit. There were only a few comments, most of which were mine, so that wasn't very encouraging. However, one commenter -- oddly, I don't recall him ever commenting again -- lavished the highest possible praise, writing,

Sir, I believe you are a Christian Subgenius.

Well. This humble Bob does not expect to be compared to the One True Bob or to his fraudulent but eternal Church, which offers the following formulation:


In truth, Raccoons do not deviate far from this template, as our spiritual program of evolving toward the Infinite Slack of the transcendent I AM cannot be separated from our worldly struggle against flatland leftist conspiracy dupes who are all about diminishing and stealing our spiritual, intellectual, political, and financial Slack. Not to mention the false prophets of the New Age, such as Deepak Chopra and his oily ilk.

Anyway, this was my first overtly "spiritual" post, in which I attempted to perform a Bobectomy on my own ego in real time while engaging in spontaneous (for it can only be spontaneous) O-->(n). But I don't think I fell headwrong and heartlong into that method on a day-to-deity basis until around six months later, in the spring of 2006.


The Advanced Leisure Studies below the title of this blog [not there anymore] is not a gag. In fact, there is nothing more serious and important than leisure. The Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote a classic little book on the topic, noting that the very possibility of culture rests on a foundation of leisure -- a sphere of activity that is entirely detached from our immediate wants and needs, free from practical or political considerations -- free from the tyranny of the horizontal.

For leisure is the gateway to the timeless, to the Vertical Church of Perpetual Slack -- that is, if you are able to slow down your thoughts long enough to locate one of the little springs dotting the landscape of your mind, pleasantly bubbling down from above. If your religion is working for you, it is because it has helped you tap into one of these springs.

In his book, Pieper points out that the word for leisure in Greek is skole, and in Latin, scola, both meaning "school." Therefore, leisure, properly understood, is a school, an unhurried realm where some sort of learning takes place; a mystery school, as it were.

Leisure gives access to the unmoved mover within, the still point of the turning mind, the sabbit hole we may enter, not by grasping and struggling, but by opening and receiving. It doesn't mean not doing anything. Rather, it means reliberately doing nothing, even in the midst of doing something -- returning to the pregnant Nothing from whence you came, even now. It is to quiet the mind, withdraw from the world, and open oneSelf to energies that do not emanate from time, but from the timeless.

The external world forces us to dance to its jagged rhythms, but here, at the center, is the leisurely rhythm of eternity, against which thoughts are like passing birds. In fact, this is all you need know in order to unKnow what we're talking about:

Body Like Mountain
Mind Like Sky
Thoughts Like Clouds

As memory reflects the past, silence is like a mirror that reflects and makes present the above, whether it is called heaven, brahman, tao, nirvana, moksha, the One. With all due respect, merely believing in God is a weak substitute. Better to know God, because that is how he ex-ists, that is "stands out" from his otherwise hidden ground. Only humans can manifest the unmanifest God.

The book of Genesis tells the story of our fall. It may be interpreted in many ways, but one way is to see it as a fall away from the timeless, vertical dimension of spontaneous communion with the Creator and the enjoyment of Boundless Slack, into the horizontal world of sweat, toil, pain and frenzied activity. Interestingly, even the Creator, after six days of activity, stood back, relaxed, and just enjoyed the show. From what they say, it was good. Like him, we must occasionally relux and call it a deity.

Science searches for the horizontal beginning of the cosmos. That beginning is located at the outskirts of the material world, where we may trace the faint exhalations of the Big Bong.

Spirituality searches in the opposite direction for the vertical center and source of the cosmos, which is located deep within each person, slightly to the north. It may be thought of as the "I" that is to "AM" as Life is to Matter. It is what makes Being come alive. It is what makes you a light-filled Lumin Being instead of the ssslithery ssslackless kind that keeps messing up the Garden, Homo serpentine.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Religious Realities and Scientistic Fantasies

Things still haven't settled back down to normal in the Gagdad household, so I've randomly selected a post from two years ago that looked like it might need some work to get it up to speed. In it, I was trying to say something important, but it's kind of a subtle and counter-intuitive idea that can easily be misunderstood. So let's clean it up and see if it makes more sense this time.

To tip you off up front, it has to do with the paradoxical idea that a robust imagination must precede the intellect if you want to become a fully functioning human. Conversely, the modern notion that we could ever describe the universe without imagination is, ironically, a naive and simplistic fantasy.

A fundamental problem for human beings is that magic, iMAGInation, and illusion are actually their "default" state, while reality and disillusion are only learned (which is why science appeared so late in history, and only in the Judeo-Christian West). This is a subtle argument, so please pay attention. It's one of the keys to the Enigma of Man, who is ultimately responsible for imagining all of reality, so that if his imagination is undeveloped or misused, he will fail in his gnocturnal O-mission and miss the whole point of being here in this dreamscape. It's a huge responsibility, but someone's gotta do it.

Just remember, we are speaking in great generalities, which is always the case in metaphysics, which involves the most general statements one may make about reality. You may even think of what I am about to say as a "modern fable" about our psychic origins, a fruitful myth of psychogenesis. So just judge it by its fruitfulness, i.e., its suitability for intellection.

Because human beings are born in a neurologically immature, completely helpless state, we are steeped in illusion and fantasy while our brain and nervous system are being assembled. Early experience is "hardwired" in, so that the substrate of the human mind is built on the illusion that we are not really helpless and powerless, but that our painful and frightening needs will be magically alleviated through our wishes and desires. No one is as (potentially) powerful as an infant, since an infant is omnipotent.

For example, we are cold, lonely and hungry. We cry. Suddenly we are swooped up, carressed, comforted, and spoken to in a soothing manner. Nourishment appears out of nowhere, converting painful stomach contractions into pleasant fullness, while at the same time we are bathed in the radiance of a soft, enveloping, benign universe we will eventually know as "mother." But at this point it doesn't have a name, since we obviously don't even possess language yet. It just is. It is the psychic ground from which the (m)other will only gradually emerge.

Given what Winnicott called "good-enough mothering," we will gradually become “disillusioned” from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that our feelings are urgently important to other people, that life is fair, that it is possible for all our needs to be magically taken care of -- that it is possible for heaven to exist on earth. Under ideal circumstances, we will first have the edenic experience described above, only to be gradually awakened from it in a non-traumatic way, as the reality principle seeps in little by little. A conservative is born!

For a variety of reasons, other children will never experience this blissful paradise, experience it only sporadically and unreliably, or be traumatically banished by the premature impingement of reality (which is usually a result of a failure of parental empathy, which in turn is likely rooted in their own infantile trauma; it is difficult to give to others what one has never experienced).

For such individuals, there will always be a painfully nostalgic, pre-articulate longing for what they missed, the infantile utopia in which frustration does not exist and desire is instantly converted to satisfaction. A few of these individuals will be lucky enough to obtain lifetime tenure at a major university, but the rest must deal with an unyielding world that does not and cannot mirror our unresolved infantile needs, for they are literally "infinite" and without boundaries.

I think this underlying template of infantile illusion has a lot to do with false beliefs. Not merely false in the sense of “untrue,” because no one can know everything, and it is not possible to get through life without holding some beliefs for which there is no proof or which will later be proven wrong. Plus, healthy fantasy plays a vital role in the ability to imagine and engage with the Real. What I am talking about is not so much false beliefs as what might be called “motivated stupidity.” These are beliefs that are not only untrue, but could not possibly be true, and yet, are embraced just as fervently as any truth. You might call this the realm of "lower vertical fantasy."

In fact, one of the giveaways that we are dealing with motivated stupidity is that the false belief is held onto more fervently than a demonstrably true belief. Someone who thinks something is true is generally more than willing to submit the truth to scrutiny and to allow reality (i.e., the Real, not to be confused merely with the exterior world, the fallacy of scientism) to arbitrate. But when a belief rooted in motivated stupidity is challenged, it raises the psychological hackles of the individual, triggering a cascade of easily observable defense mechanisms: projection, denial, splitting, rage, etc.

I think the problem of motivated stupidity especially afflicts contemporary liberalism. President Bush is not Hitler. He is not, as Cindy Sheehan said, "the biggest terrorist in the world." The war in Iraq is not being waged for the purpose of enriching his "wealthy friends." "Global warming" did not cause hurricaine Katrina (in fact, global temperature has been unchanged since 2001). President Bush is not a racist. Unlike liberals, he doesn't hate Condi Rice or Clarence Thomas just because they're black. Contrary to what John Edwards says, there are not 200,000 veterans living under bridges that are crumbling on them. Women don't earn "87 cents on the dollar," more jobs are created than lost as a result of global trade, third world poverty is not caused by our wealth, and the environment is getting better, not worse.

True, we are in a crisis, but as always, it is a crisis of stupidity.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, it is much more difficult to do battle with a weak mind than a strong one. You understand their assumptions but they don't understand yours, so you inevitably end up on their level and thus on their home court. Plus, weak thinkers embrace their false ideas in a manner disquietingly similar to religious groups who predict the second coming, or the arrival of space ships, or the Cubs winning the World Series, but who do not modify their beliefs when the event fails to come about. In fact, it is a well-known observation that a few of the disappointed may depart from such a group, while the majority only become more thoroughly entrenched in their belief system, defending it all the more stridently. No matter what happens, attendance never dwindles at Wrigley Field, and liberals believe in Keynesian economics.

What this obviously means -- obvious to a Raccoon, anyway -- is that the primary purpose of worldly beliefs is not necessarily to comprehend reality. Rather, secular ideologies are superimposed on a deeper ground of emotional need for comfort, predictability, and meaning. There is a deep emotional need for the world to make sense, even if the explanation actually makes no sense outside its own closed cognitive circle. This is why people throughout history have believed such systematic nonsense. (This also touches on the critical importance of a revealed belief system, but I won't get into that at the moment.)

(I wish I had time to get into details, but Thomas Sowell's wonderful new book, Intellectuals and Society, just eviscerates the pervasive fantasies that uphold leftist thought. I wish someone would drop several thousand copies from helicopters over each of our elite universities -- preferably the hardcover edition, so they could inflict maximum damage.)

What sets humans apart from the animals is not just our ability to know reality, but our even more striking ability to not know it -- to create patently erroneous systems of thought that we then inhabit, and which actually compromise our survival prospects or reduce the quality of life (cf. Sick Societies, by Edgerton). No lion ever entertained the idea that it might be healthier to live on grasses rather than flesh. Penguins don’t decide to live near the equator, where it isn’t so cold. Only human beings can hold ideas that are completely illogical and self-defeating, since only human beings are desperately in need of an ideology, or "mental-emotional environment," to organize the external world and their internal experience, irrespective of whether it is actually functional or true. One way or another, false beliefs are the crock-in-trade of the clinical psychologist. Virtually all patients are in pain because of false beliefs.

In fact, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the majority of beliefs human beings have held about the world down through history have been false, usually ridiculously so. For example, just consider medicine. Until the early 20th century, the average visit to a doctor was likely to leave one in worse shape, not better. But useless or harmful treatments helped people cope with their otherwise intolerable anxiety, and were obviously psychologically preferable to the frightening truth: that no one actually knew why you were sick or how to cure you.

Last night, while watching parts of the Democratic debate, I wasn't just struck by the vacuity of the combatants, but equally importantly, the low intellectual level of the MSM questioners. In all of these debates, nearly all of the questions come framed in wacky leftist assumptions, as if they are just natural to the human condition instead of a perverse aberration. Why doesn't someone ask, "where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government is permitted to run healthcare?," or "on what grounds do you think it is permissible for the government to steal people's money at gunpoint in order to fund your collectivist fantasies?"

So there is something about human beings that makes them uniquely susceptible to bad ideas. Therefore, it would appear to be axiomatic that there must be something about bad ideas that is paradoxically adaptive. But adaptive to what? Clearly, they are adaptive to internal reality, to the emotional needs and anxieties of the person who holds them. Leftists don't really want Bush to be Hitler. They need him to be. Desperately. As uncomfortable as it is, it is far preferable to being left alone with their own internal infantile anxieties, with nowhere to project them. The internal world is just as real and enduring as the external. Thus, it will be interesting to see what they do with their hallucinatory hatred should a Democrat win the White House. Suffice it to say, it won't just go away, since that's not how mind parasites operate.

In fact -- and this should go without saying, but it doesn't -- the internal world is ultimately the source of the external world, since, if we remove the human subject, there is no world at all. Unless we deeply understand the nature of this human subject -- both vertically and horizontally -- including its genesis, its potential pathologies, and its ultimate purpose, we will end up not knowing where we came from, why we're here, or how to get where we are supposed to go; in short, our origins, our present being, and our cosmic destiny.

These are questions that genuine religion is here to answer. Or, to put it another way, manmade fantasies that try to answer these questions end up becoming false religions.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lost & Found Cosmic American Soul

*No post today.* All hell broke loose with the excitement of Mrs. G.'s return last night. Wanda got a bad case of the zoomies and almost tore off a footpad in the backyard. Lotta blood. Had to take her to the animal ER for stitches, and then she couldn't get used to the victorian collar, so she was softly whimpering much of the night, making it hard to sleep. However, we're having an interesting little discussion on the metaphysics of Dark Knight at the end of the previous post, so feel free to join in...


I like to think I know my Cosmic American music, but somehow the great Bettye LaVette had escaped my attention. I picked up a used CD of hers the other day, and was blown away. She's been around since the early 1960s, but didn't finally break through and achieve a modicum of success until the 2000s. Check it out:

Here's a more recent clip of her performing The Who's Love Reign O'er Me before a reverent Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry. Not exactly her style of music, but the look on their faces is priceless:

Another good one:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Everything You Wanted to Know About Kabbalah But Were Afraid to Ask

Mrs. G. doesn't actually depart until tomorrow morning, so here we are. With luck, we'll have time for another post.

Remember "Ezekiel," the raving Jewish sage from a couple of posts back? He says that there are "seven interlinked wonders" that Kabbalah conveys to the sincere seeker, the first of which is "a vision of the infinite One," the Ain Sof, and with it, the "ineffable mystery of how Creation came to be."

In a way, it's analogous to the distinction between science and philosophy of science. The former just tells you what happened, while the latter ascends to a higher meta-level and tries to account for why things happen -- or how all the happenings fit together into a larger framework.

Just so, revelation tells us what happened -- e.g., In the beginning God created -- but the Kabbalah gets into the how of it all. You could say that in the absence of the how, the human imagination is reduced to thinking that it all takes place through some kind of supernatural magic, which is one reason so many garden-variety intellectuals reject religion. While the magical worldview was sufficient for a premodern mentality, it doesn't necessarily speak to the scientistic masses or tenured barbarians.

But since imagination is precisely what so many of them lack -- or at least never develop in its higher sense -- they seem to struggle with the leap from magical thinking to metamagical thinking, the result being that they spend their lives spinning around in their little circles. Non-tenured America is in the process of rediscovering what it's like to be governed by one of these insular little circle jerks, and isn't happy about it.

For me, the Sefirot of the Kabbalah evokes the vision of the One pouring its energies down into creation like one of those Japanese pinball machines. You see, that's the Ain Sof at the top, about to drop the Ball of God into time and history. The first sefirah -- which is the top, the center, and the origin of it all -- is called Keter, or Crown.

And just to re-remind the reader, I won't pretend that any of what follows is strictly kosher by any means -- this is just me and my imagination reflecting on the images and concepts.

Anyway, the Keter is the top of the cosmic hierarchy. Once you accept the fact that the cosmos is indeed hierarchically organized (which you must do in order to accept any facts at all), then it is the work of a moment to understand that there is no hierarchy in the absence of a toppermost of the poppermost. No top, no bottom.

Which is in turn why final causation trumps the other three types of causation. In the absence of final causation, truly, nothing would work. There could be no progress, no evolution, no movement toward truth, no organization, no distinction, just the toxic horizontal goo of our debased trolls, which is the crock upon they build their church.

Humans -- specifically the psychospiritual left -- can try to throw out hierarchy with a pitchfork, but it always comes back with a vengeance (and usually in a pathological manner, e.g., the oppressively hierarchical coercion of political correctness, which is just the dark side of their phony "tolerance"). This is because man is the cosmic pontifex, the one vertical link that cuts through all the degrees of being, from matter to spirit -- or, as the Kabbalah would have it, from the Keter at the top down to the Malkhut at the bottom (and don't conflate "bottom" with "inferior" in any colloquial sense).

Now interestingly, the nonlocal vertical axis of creation extends straight from Keter to Malkhut, or from Crown to Kingdom. The latter also happens to be the divine feminine, which immediately evokes the Hindu idea of the play (or lila) of shiva and shakti, or purusha and prakriti.

In a more Western sense it evokes God and Mary, or the transcendent "seed" (or Word) implanted into the womb of matter (and please recall that matter is etymologically related to mater and matrix, the latter of which is defined as "an environment or material in which something develops").

Now, the crown also evokes the primordial or archetypal man, who is called Adam Qadmon, and who is to be distinguished from the terrestrial Adam. The way I sees it, when Adam fell, he fell from Adam Qadman, precisely. Which is why the fall is not absolutely fatal, because it obviously did no damage to the celestial prototype that is outside time and history.

Oh yes. One of the practical purposes of Kabbalah, if you will, is the "divine marriage" of Keter and Malkhut, which are again cosmic male and female. In turn, their union gives birth to various "children" that we will discuss in later posts. But let's just stipulate at this point that the command to "be fruitful and multiply" has a plain exoteric meaning, but it also conveys this esoteric point about the spiritual fruitfulness of the divine union.

Here is how Matt describes Malkhut, the divine feminine: "She is the secret of the possible, receiving the flow of emanation from above and engendering the myriad varieties of life below." The union of this above and below "is the goal of spiritual life.... Human marriage symbolizes and actualizes divine marriage," which achieves its deepest union and harmony in what Petey calls the Friday night sabootycall: "Sabbath eve is the weekly celebration of the cosmic wedding and the ideal time for human lovers to unite" (Matt).

I'll leave you with a provocative little quote by the great Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, from his classic Thirteen Petaled Rose:

The whole order of relations among the various worlds may be conceived in images of intimate engagement, a kind of sexual contact between one world and another, between one level of being and another.

Or, as Petey put it, A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Discovering the Old World and Rediscovering the New

The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. Even if just for a moment every now and then each day. For it is the only way to begin. --Lawrence Kushner, Honey From the Rock

Not sure if there will be any posting for a few days. Mrs. G. is going to be visiting her ailing father in Florida, so Future Leader will be remanded to my care for the duration. Between picking up pizza three times a day and letting him outside to pee, I don't think I'll have the time.

Someone asked yesterday if I can give a full racoomendation to this extremely condensed version of the Zohar that we've been discussing. I'm not yet sure. But if you're looking for a good introduction to Jewish mysticism in general, you can't do better than Lawrence Kushner, including works such as The River of Light or Honey From the Rock.

In my admittedly limited experience, the majority of books on Kabbalah tend to be either very scholarly and not written by mystical practitioners, or else they are of the vulgar new-age variety. I am quite sure there are exceptions, but I'm just not familiar enough with the terrain. Perhaps Gandalin can help us. I can say that in his suggested readings, Daniel Matt agrees that Honey From the Rock is "quite simply the easiest introduction to Jewish mysticism you can read."

And I wouldn't say "easy" in terms of being facile or simplistic. It's just that Kushner has a gift for vividly expressing the inexpressible and using words to say what mere words can't say. In reading his works, I was struck by the similarity to Meister Eckhart, not just in substance, but style and tone. And of course, one of Eckhart's main influences was Moses Maimonides, whom he held in the highest esteem and cited often.

So there is a dimension in which all of this comes together. However, I don't like to express it exactly in the manner Schuon does, because it can come off sounding a little too schematic when it's really more of a... I don't know, an "adventure in God." Kushner agrees that religions can "become ossified," so that "holy encounters" become "hopelessly encrusted by centuries of mindless repetition." The Light, of course, is still there, but buried beneath the leaves of custom and habit. "And for this reason every spiritual discovery is but a rediscovery."

That may be a good way of expressing it, because not everyone is an adventurer, and there's nothing wrong with that. Some people prefer to settle down in the mapped out and well lit territory -- to ski on the groomed slopes. A few extreme seekers prefer to venture into the ungroomed areas, but this is inherently risky, because you're plunging into the bewilderness.

In any event, the whole innerprize is much more analogous to a painting that we ourselves have to paint than a pneumagraph we can receive from someone else's darkroom.

Also, if you are to survive here, you will have to obtain your own food, and know what to eat and what to avoid. But this is where we can find a drop of spiritual nourishment in "something as mundane as a rock": "And so we eat a little and are satisfied and go on our way" for another day (Kushner).

The point is, on this adventure, there is no supply line back to the base, nor can you take many provisions with you. Rather, you must locate the essential vertimins every day, enough to get you from one day to the next. More generally, you must not only discover, but "discover the way to discover." For the discovery of discovery is the state of unknowing that precedes the knowledge -- or the hunger that precedes the food. Why eat, you'll only get hungry again? Why learn when you'll only be ignorant again? That's why.

In fact, I'm looking at Honey From the Rock right now, and the first chapter is called "The Wilderness of Preparation." Even before that, in the introduction, he expresses ideas that tell you right away that this man is a full-blooded Raccoon. For example,

"It is to begin with, all inside us. But because we are all miniature versions of the universe, it is also found far beyond." (Note right away that he strikes the correct balance between God's radical transcendence and immanence.) "And because we are all biologically and spiritually part of the first man, the place preceded us. And because we all carry within us the genotype and vision of the last man, the place foretold us."

Inside, outside, first man, last man, alpha and omega, "becoming" the self that always was and will be -- as I said, this man is a son of Toots and brother under the pelt.

Note also what Kushner says about the location of the adventure being anterior to our entrance into it: "We have all known it since before we were conceived," "so do not be confused if sometimes the place seems as real as your house or as illusory as your happiness." He notes that there is the explicit Torah that is written with black letters on white paper. But there is a hole other Torah -- and a vaster one -- in the spaces between the letters. This is again a primary locution of our off-road bewilderness adventure.

Kushner also emphasizes that the ultimate meaning of scripture is that it is your narrative. It is not just about what happened "once upon a time," but what happens every time. Again, as we mentioned yesterday, the only thing that keeps you from realizing it is a failure to take the plunge. If Moses "had your definition of spiritual, he would have remained an Egyptian too. Never entered the wilderness. For you see, we are the stories." If you want your old new self back, you first have to go to the lost & found.

About this bewilderness, the wild godhead -- it is not merely a "place" but "a way of being. A place that demands being open to the flow of life around you.... Your preconceptions cannot protect you. Your logic cannot promise you the future. Your guilt can no longer place you safely in the past." You're on your own, baby! Just like me and Future Leader, except without the pizza.

If you think you know what you will find,
Then you will find nothing.
If you expect nothing,
Then you will always be surprised.
And able to bless the One who creates the world anew each morning
--Lawrence Kushner

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Stoking the Divine Fire and Blowing Smoke

In giving it some thought, there are some other barriers to comprehending the Kabbalah, perhaps the biggest one being the insularity of Judaism, which is there for a reason. Recall what we said the other day about "blending," and its significance to Jewish metaphysics. For a non-Jew to poke his head behind the veil and presume to understand the highest and deepest secrets of Judaism requires a kind of breathtaking presumptuousness. I guess the technical term would be chutzpah.

When you think about the taboos against mixing this and that -- e.g., meat and milk -- part of this has to do with evoking vertical recollection of the original separation. I'm pretty sure it's not just meant to be a mechanical act, but that it has multiple layers of meaning. But this is why, for example, cross-dressing would be a "sin" in Judaism, because it represents an indiscriminate mixing and undoing of the supernatural separation that God has ordained. It certainly has absolutely nothing to do with repression or prudery; to the contrary, robust sexual polarity is a key to maintaining sexual passion.

Likewise opposition to the redefinition of marriage. Another key idea in Judaism is that the unit of mankind is not man or woman, but man and woman: maleandfemale he created them. Note that the unit is not the blending of male and female, but the personal transformation that results from their dialectical play. Yes, a man's feminine side -- his anima -- is developed through this process, but a man cannot bypass or hasten the process by wearing dresses, playing with dolls, or voting Democrat.

The ultimate intent of the Law is to prolong the vertical into the horizontal by imbuing various otherwise mundane activities with the recollection of God. It's not intended to be oppressive but liberating -- liberty from bondage being another central motif of Judaism.

Indeed, when it merely becomes law emptied of spirit, I'm pretty sure something has gone wrong. I have an elderly relative by marriage who maintains a rigidly kosher home, but who couldn't be more of a cold and heartless witch. In her case, I think religious ritual has been thoroughly highjacked by mind parasites from below, so that it is merely OCD by another name. It is simply a way to manage her abundant aggression and consequent unconscious guilt.

Furthermore, mechanical discharge of the Law does not facilitate ascent through recollection, but like any other compulsion, keeps her where she is in an endless loop. It is a magical way to "undo" what the mind parasites have done.

Please note that the same thing can occur, for example, in Catholicism, when a person misuses the sacraments in order to remain the same, not to change. If they are not transformative, then something is not working as it should be -- probably due to a lack of sincerity, or a being who is riven by mind-parasites with competing agendas, about which the person has no conscious awareness.

More generally, the Raccoon view would be that the ultimate purpose of any religious ritual is to invoke, activate, and "invite" the Grace (↓). Obviously we do not create the grace, but can only try to live in such a way that we get out of its way. This dovetails with what we were discussing last week about man's role in the cosmic economy. I would put it this way: we cannot save ourselves, but we can certainly condemn ourselves (in a manner of speaking).

Now, I could very well be talking out of my yarmulke here, and if so, I will be pleased for Gandalin to smite me. I have no problem with that. I admittedly have no authority to belowviate on these elevated matters, except for the questionable authority Toots Mondello has vested in me and every other dues-paying Raccoon. The Raccoon is obviously a generalist, not a specialist. Much of what he does will appear to the uninitiated to be "blending," but it actually isn't, since it is operating from "above" not "below."

In other words, whether rightly or wrongly, we cannot help ourselves from examining the underlying principles by which a religious proposition is true (similar to how science reduces multiplicity to unity). This path is not for everyone, and in fact, it may well be for no one but me, since, while I can't help being me, you presumably can.

But assuming that I am animated by pneumacosmic principle, then the same principle should be active in at least a few others. I would certainly never attempt to proselytize my views to outsiders, as I well understand why they would be offended or indifferent. Thus, I preach only to the coonverted -- to those who, when they read my words, have that distinct sense that they are not so much learning anything new as recalling who they have always been.

Again, I have no illusions that this path is for everyone. Our Oly slackraments no doubt appear loose and lazy to outsiders, but I can assure them that it is much easier than it looks, since nothing is easier than being oneself. The hard part is becoming oneself.

One of Schuon's closest friends, Leo Schaya, wrote a book on the Kabbalah that is closer to the universalist perspective we have in mind. Of course Raccoons have our differences with the Traditionalists, but I think we can nevertheless draw some useful insights from this study. For example, Uncle Leo says that the ultimate purpose of Kabbalah is "spiritual contemplation, pure inspiration, or 'intellectual intuition.'" It endeavors to "rise above the plane of phenomena" through a plunge into the depths of the soul.

I suppose the main point is that Kabbalah can only maintain its universality by preserving its particularity -- in the same way that a man is only a "real man" to the extent that he is an individual man. One does not "become a man" by blending into some indistinct archetype, but by filling out the content of the archetype from below.

Thus, by becoming a true individual, one becomes a "mode of the infinite." In contrast, the "false individualism" of narcissism renders one a mode of the finite -- or death incarnate -- since one is severed from the source of the person, which is the metacosmic Person. It is the difference between being a mere eccentric and a true esocentric, to coin a word.

The book we are discussing begins with a foreword that tells the story of a meeting with an elderly Jewish sage who seems to be in a perpetual state of ecstatic raving about the Kabbalah. I think it's fair to say that it has become "operative" in him, and is doing what it is supposed to do -- which is to say, the Tree of Life beleafing in abundance. Again, it should not be a matter of memorizing dry or mechanical knowledge, but should facilitate a flow of vertical recollection on the soul-plane.

This man -- whom the author calls "Ezekiel" -- says that the purpose of life is "to know and experience God like a fire in the core of the core of your heart." In other words -- actually, the same words in a different order -- the idea is for your heart to be on fire with the experience of God. Then it's just a matter of properly stoking the fire and blowing a lot of smoke.

More holy smoke tomorrow....

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Ainsoferable Hodache

I've studied Kabbalah before, but I always end up getting bogged down in the alien nomenclature. Oy, would Nathan Birnbaum have been as popular if he hadn't changed his name to George Burns? Or Benjamin Kubelsky if he hadn't become Jack Benny? Someone needs to anglicize some of these terms.

So I only get so far before I can't tell my Keter from my Binah, my head from my Hod. But this book is different. Zohar, zo good, anyway. It's very crisp and concise, and leaves enough space for me to insert my own misunderstanding.

After all, the author, Daniel Matt, is in the process of translating the entire Zohar, which is an esoteric commentary on the Torah. At this point he's up to five volumes and some 3,000 pages, with more to come. I mean, the first two volumes only take you halfway through Genesis, so it's a herculean task.

Why is the Zohar important? We'll get to that later. In Matt's introduction, he points out that the Sefer ha-Zohar (its full name) -- which is the masterpiece of Jewish mysticism -- "emerged mysteriously in Spain toward the end of the thirteenth century." There is a deep connection between Kabbalah and Hermeticism, and in fact, some people (mistakenly) thought that they were the actual source of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The idea is that Moses, who was raised an Egyptian, would have been deeply familiar with the Egyptian esotericsm of Hermes, which he incorporated into the Torah. In turn, the Zohar is a kind of mystical decoding of original hermetic message.

But in reality, the hermetica can only be traced back to the first few centuries AD, and the Zohar again appears in the 13th -- which is not to say that there couldn't have been an oral tradition prior to that. But in any event, I am not so much interested in the provenance or timing, only the truth it contains and discloses. I mean, our Constitution could have been given to us by aliens for all I care. All I know is that it's the finest political document ever produced by the divine-human partnership.

And don't forget, in the pre-scientific world, people had a very different conception of time. For one thing, it was much more qualitative, not quantitative. When someone wanted to convey the depth and seriousness of an idea, they did so by affirming its antiquity.

Thus, for example, although it turned out that Denys the Areopagite was not a contemporary of the apostle John, that hardly detracts from the brilliance of his writings. Back then, things like novelty and progress were not considered selling points. Indeed, they were pejorative. If you had said to Denys, "that's so old-fashioned," he'd say "why, thank you." And if you said, "well, that's a new way of looking at things," he'd probably have slapped your camel.

Anyway, this book I'm working on is quite concise and unsaturated. One interesting way that it forms a bridge between Judaism and Christianity is that, instead of the radical monotheism of the former, it maps out the interior of God, so to speak, which has some commonalty with the Christian Trinity, which in turn serves as a sort of bridge between us and the otherwise radical unknowability of God.

In other words, just as the Trinity tells us something about the intimate interior life of the godhead, Kabbalah purportedly reveals some other hidden dimensions that serve as the timelessly-temporal blueprint of creation. Just as there is a platonic mathematical physics that serves as the deep structure of the physical world, you might say that the Zohar reveals the deep structure -- the metaphysics -- of the immaterial world.

A key point is that this blueprint is only intended to be a clueprint for the higher imagination. Indeed, if you think of the abstract symbols I used in my book to map the spiritual adventure, it's somewhat like that. It is very much a case of "the secret protecting itself," so that it won't mean much to the uninitiated. Even if you memorized every word of it, it wouldn't mean that you had understood any of it.

Now, none of this is intended to subvert the plain meaning of the Bible. It's just that Scripture is a holographic text with multiple layers of meaning, from the literal, to the allegorical, to the symbolic, to the moral, metaphysical and mystical. None of these cancel out or deny the others. Indeed, you must forget about your aristotelian logic, in which A is always A. Rather, you must adopt the dream-logic of the symmetrical unconscious, in which A can simultaneously be A and not-A. Think of how everything in your dreams appears multiple, and yet, it is all you -- not just starring you, but produced, written, and directed by you.

So if Scripture is ultimately a holographic vertical memo from the Self to the self, so to speak, it must have at least as many dimensions as we do. We are not linear machines, so there is simply no way that Scripture can be a sort of linear instruction manual and do us any kind of justice. If you take that approach, you end up being as simple-minded as the ideological Darwinians, whose theory purchases radical consistency at the cost of a preposterous incompleteness.

Thus, as Matt reminds us, "On a deeper level, the text of the Bible is simply the starting point, a springboard for the imagination." To cite one very basic example, when God advises Abraham to "go to the land that I will show you," this also refers to the interior landscape inside us all: "Go to yourself, search deep within and thereby discover the divine."

Another example, this one more esoteric: as we all know, the first words of the Bible are In the beginning God created... But if one trancelights the words in their precise order, the Zohar suggests that they have a very different connotation: With beginning It created God.

Now, what is "It"? It is simply the top or center of it all, the Ain Sof, which you might think of as the hidden godhead or the unpronouncable name. (Ain Sof comes from Ayin, or Nothingness.)

Some Christian mystics call it "nothing," but this is not to be confused with the shunyata of Buddhism, for it is not literally nothing (or emptiness), just beyond our ability to contain it. It is the apophatic God we can't think about, in contrast to the cataphatic God we can. You might think of it as the ultimate O, from which everything intelligible flows -- even the intelligible God to whom we can "relate."

For those who get the jokes, there is quite a bit of Kabbalah in the Cosmogenesis section of my book. As a matter of fact, the Zohar itself is full of puns, wordplay, and neologisms. As always, the best cosmedians are Jewish -- for example, Albert Einstein.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who's At Fault For the Fault Between the Fantasy and Reality of Obama?

I think I'll repost another antichrist update from last year, just because it pisses off our irony-poor trolls. But the main purpose of this verticalisthenic exercise is to gauge the accuracy of our cʘʘnvision one or two years on.

One thing that interests me -- and confirms the idea that group fantasies are very much real -- is that suddenly everyone is seeing Obama in the way we saw him from the first moment we laid three eyes on him. How can this be? Has Obama changed? Hardly. Then how to account for the distance between who Obama actually is and what people imagined he was?

One annoying reader keeps chiding me for using psychology to understand this gulf, but what is one supposed to use, physics? To the extent that there is a subjective abyss between the way things are and the way a person thinks they are, that's my bag, baby.

Here is a sample what people are only now seeing in Obama, even though there is "nothing new" here for the Raccoon:

"... [I]n this White House, there is no there there. It's all smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, held together with glib talk, Chicago politics and an audacious sense of entitlement. At the center is a young and talented celebrity whose worldview, we now know, is an incoherent jumble of poses and big-government instincts. His self-aggrandizing ambition exceeds his ability by so much that he is making a mess of everything he touches.

"He never advances a practical idea. Every proposal overreaches and comes wrapped in ideology and a claim of moral superiority. He doesn't listen to anybody who doesn't agree with him. After his first year on the job, America is sliding backwards, into grave danger at home and around the world. So much so that I now believe either of his rivals, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, would have made a better, more reliable and more trustworthy president."

I might add that I am not engaging in any kind of "vicious attack" on anyone. For one thing, I'm talking about generally good people who have been captured by an ideology. And if you could actually see me instead of projecting all sorts of hostility into my words, you'd see that I am as calm and dispassionate as a person can be.

The plain fact of the matter is that psychology alone cannot account for the distance between fantasy and reality, not when it is this great. The XVth card of the tarot, The Devil, introduces us "to the secrets of the electrical fire and the intoxication of counter-inspiration."

But before proceeding further, let us take to heart the warning of our Unknown Friend (UF), who cautions us that "One can grasp profoundly, i.e. intuitively, only that which one loves. Love is the vital element of profound knowledge, intuitive knowledge." If you have ever wondered why true evil -- nazi evil, Islamist evil -- is so impenetrable, it is because the normal person obviously cannot love evil: "Evil is therefore unknowable in its essence. One can understand it only at a distance, as an observer of its phenomenology."

I suppose another way of saying it is that (in linguistic terms) "evil" is a signifier with no coherent signified, being that true evil represents a genuine absence -- an absence or deprivation of the Good. As such, the essence of evil is that it has no essence. It is slippery, shape-shifting, mercurial... You know what it's like to argue with it.

In turn, this is why evil is truly a "bottomless pit." It is not actually infinite, since only the Absolute can be infinite. It does, however, tend toward its own kind of "false" or "bad" infinite (in the Hegelian sense), which is why man can only rise so high but can fall and fall without ever hitting bottom, as proved by Keith Olbermann. I suppose the physics of black holes might provide a handy way to think about this negative infinity. This would be easier -- and less spiritually dangerous -- than trying to imagine, say, the bottomless darkness of the Berkeley City Council.

UF goes on to say that in comparison to the luminous worlds of the celestial hierarchy, the world of evil is more "like a luxuriant jungle, where you can certainly, if necessary, distinguish hundreds and thousands of particular plants, but where you can never attain to a clear view of the totality."

Do you know what he means? I do. It's what makes it so difficult to argue with politically deranged people, who, when you cut off one limb of their argument, just grow another. It's like a collection with no center or ordering principle, just a blob or agglomeration -- which is the opposite of the Life principle, i.e., that which organizes, unifies, and synthesizes. Dynamic wholeness is the essence of Life, which means that evil and death must be related to dispersal and fragmentation. Thus, "the world of evil is a chaotic world -- at least, such as it presents itself to the observer." (You will also have noticed that true science is impossible for such a person, because they cannot see the totality, only a collection of parts.)

Vertically speaking, order is "up," while chaos is down (although, there is a kind of paradoxical "static chaos" at the very bottom). No surprise there. In Genesis, God's first act is simply to separate. Without separation there is only the formless void of primordial chaos. If you don't understand the holiness and the sacredness of divine separation, then you don't understand anything. Yes, this separation, or duality, can be transcended, but only from above, never from below. Better to live in Holy duality than to obliterate divinely ordained distinctions out of a self-deluded belief in bogus transcendence, which is what the "new age" is all about.

As is leftism, which might just as well be called "down syndrome," being that it is rooted in the anti-divine principle of blending. For the left, In the Beginning was Order. Now, let us gleefully tear it down and blend darkness with light, the upper waters with the lower waters!

Examples are too numerous to mention, but one would have to include the obliteration of sexual differences, the trivialization of generational differences, the effacement of the distinction between knowledge and wisdom, the attack on private property, and the judicial activism which blurs the plain meaning of the Constitution; not to mention the conflation of transcendence and immanence, the satanic confusion of moral relativism, the abysmal fall into multiculturalism, and the obsession with the redistribution rather than creation of wealth. All of these trends are evil to the core, despite the paradoxical absence of a core. Again, evil is essentially without essence. It is perpetually going from nowhere to nothing, while enjoying the... what's the word, Jeeves? Yes, the frisson of the fall.

Now, just as the right kind of obedience is freedom -- for example, fidelity to Truth -- the wrong kind of freedom is slavery. According to UF, one of the subtexts of the Devil card is that of slavery, in that it depicts a man and woman bound by the neck to a much larger androgynous entity.

Interestingly, just as the union of male and female can create the miracle of a baby to raise (and who shall in turn raise them up in mysterious ways!), it seems that a false blending of their essences can engender another kind of being that shall lower them, so to speak. As UF explains, the card has to do with "the generation of demons and of the power that they have over those who generate them. It is the Arcanum of creation of artificial beings and of the slavery into which the creator can fall -- becoming a slave of his own creation." (For example, consider how Tiger Woods is a slave of this false blending.)

Let's pause here for a moment. In this regard, I can remember the precise moment when I crossed over that line from leftist back to liberal (i.e., conservative); or, to put it another way, when it was no longer possible to be on the left. I simply asked myself, "who is responsible for my existential unhappiness?" I won't go into all of the details, as that would take us down a lengthy deitour. But the point is, I realized that I was a slave of my own creation -- for example, an evil creation I called "Ronald Reagan." Of course, my creation had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual Ronald Reagan. Rather -- and this is critical -- not only was it my creation, but it was me. Just as in a dream, I was persecuted by my own elaborate production -- like the spider who lives in a web spun from its own substance.

I was reminded of this again last night in reading the liner notes to the new edition of Donald Fagen's excellent Nightfly Trilogy (nothing I'm about to say detracts from the music). As much as I appreciate Steely Dan (Becker & Fagen), like most people of their generation, their jaded cynicism does not extend to their own default moonbattery, which sits there like a kind of unexamined Holy Writ. Which it is. It is the genesis myth of the Baby Boom generation -- the idea that the evil is Out There in the Nixonian uncool ones who are oppressing us. (And which is why they imagined that the Cool One would save the planet.)

I know exactly what Fagen means when he reflects that "to a weekend hippie in the '60s," political paranoia "seemed kind of exciting." Indeed, for me, this was the appeal of a Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn -- that they provided a kind of secret gnostic knowledge, an alternative conspiracy theory that explained everything -- why the world is so off-kilter and out of joint, and more to the point, why I was so unfulfilled. Ronald Reagan hates me!

It's one thing to think this way in the '60s. But it is rather pathetic to still think it in one's 60s, as Fagen apparently does. He's still haunted by his self-generated demons -- i.e., mind parasites -- which have now appropriated the host, as suggested in the liner notes of the dark and dystopian world of Morph the Cat, released in 2006 (especially when compared to the idealism and optimism of Nightfly). As he writes,

"Paranoia just wasn't fun anymore in the age of al Qaeda." But not because of al Qaeda! Rather, he speaks disparagingly of Republicans taking over his city (New York) at the 2002 convention, and ends his notes with the following warning: "If you see some folks who believe that spirits and ghosts and hell actually exist and they're really sure about it and they're comin' your way -- RUN!"

I couldn't agree more -- run away from those who believe in vague spirits called "change," ghosts called "Bush" or "Cheney," or the hell of Gitmo.