Saturday, March 20, 2010

Preaching to the Perverted

Just a few more random observations about Ruden's Paul Among the People. Most of them have to do with the very different cultural context in which Paul was operating. A multiculturalist he was not.

For example, when Paul rails against things like sorcery and witchcraft, eliminate from your mind innocuous images of earth-worshiping radical feminist lesbian wiccans dancing around naked in the forest (and get that erotic image out of your mind; see picture at right-->). Although undoubtedly kooky or disturbing, going after Shirley Maclaine or Jean Houston is not really what Paul had in mind.

Rather, witchcraft and sorcery had entirely different connotations in a Greco-Roman context. Ruden cites the example of Horace's image "of a small boy buried up to his neck and left to starve to death while staring at food, so that his liver and bone marrow, which must now be imbued with his frenzied longing, could serve as a love charm." You know, that kind of thing.

To see a closer approximation of the context, we would have to travel to Haiti or to Africa, where violent witchcraft is still common, for example, witch doctors "who kill people, especially children, for their genitalia and other body parts, which are believed to be love and money charms" (Ruden).

Also, if Ruden is correct, then much of the puritanical, anti-pleasure reputation of Christianity is rooted in a huge misunderstanding. She points out that Paul is indeed the original authority for all puritanism. The only problem is that his condemnations of certain activities must again be understood in the proper cultural context. For example, when he forbids "carousing" or "revellings," he isn't talking about having some harmless fun and blowing off a little steam.

Rather, Ruden points out that Paul was likely talking about something with which his audience would have been very familiar, the drunken and destructive komos. Imagine someone understandably condemning Chicago Bulls fans for rioting and setting fire to their city, but taking that to mean that one should never celebrate if one's team wins a championship. A komos "was a late-night, very drunken sometimes violent postparty parade," and "which could even end in kidnapping and rape."

And when Paul councils things like meekness and long-suffering, he is certainly not talking about being a wimp. Rather, it is almost impossible for us to imagine how impulsive people were in the past, and how quickly emotion led to violent action, with no space in between. I discussed this a bit in my book, and Ruden confirms everything written there. As she says, things would "often go from strong emotion straight to violence." Today one occasionally sees a patient or father-in-law with this particular problem, but one must imagine an entire culture composed of such people.

Ruden notes that "Hatred and revenge were not marginal or shameful for the ancient Greeks and Romans, but matters of routine and pride. A person who simply forgave an injury was held to be feeble and a coward," for "How could he protect his family and friends?" Likewise, "when there was political rivalry, someone always ended up getting plundered, exiled, or killed." That is human nature in the raw, and that is what Paul was fighting against.

The ancients projected these same violent attributes into their "self-centered and merciless gods," which in turn sanctioned their behavior -- similar to how the violent Mohammed is taken as the ideal man for Muslims, thus sanctioning their own violent jihad.

Again, the reason why the Christian message was so appealing to people is that it offered them a way out of the awful human conditions that had prevailed from time immemorial, or "since the Fall," if you like. In my book I suggest that the problems began when man became self-conscious and had to adapt to the strange new condition of having thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Every baby that comes into the world must repeat this journey, i.e., learn to regulate and master these things. But there was a historical time when virtually no one had this capacity. (This was also the central thesis of Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.)

Perhaps I should also emphasize that this problem of impulsivity (or what I call "brake failure") has hardly been mastered by contemporary man, for it is the stock in trade of the clinical psychologist. Almost all patients are struggling with some form of impulsivity, whether it is anger, or sexuality, or food, or alcohol, or video games, or stalking my blog. Furthermore, the more primitive the person, the more impulsive -- or, the more "holes" in the personality structure, where impulses "leak out," outside conscious control.

Indeed, as the B'atman once said, the liberal is someone who exalts in self-expression and outsources self-control to the state -- for example, "I refuse to take care of my health, so you must do it for me."

Interestingly, when Paul uses the word "faith," he is doing so in an unprecedented way. Ruden says that "Before Christianity, neither the Greeks nor the Romans seem ever to have used the concept in what we could call a spiritual sense." Rather, for them, it was much more analogous to what we would call "protection," or having someone to watch one's back. For pagan polytheists, it was analogous to having faith in one's fellow gang members to strike back if one is punked by a rival gang.

Sexuality in the Greco-Roman world was probably even more twisted than you might imagine. First, it took human beings in general a very long time before they could tolerate the ambivalence of expressing both loving and sexual feelings toward the same object. Here again, this is something the psychologist deals with on a daily basis, because millions of contemporary individuals still struggle with this dilemma which no premodern man seems to have mastered. (I might add that it is really not until around the 12th century, I believe it was, that we see the full flowering of romantic love in the Western world.)

Ruden points out that household slaves "were less respected as outlets for bodily functions than were the household toilets," and that one of the sanctioned roles "of slave boys was anal sex with free adults." And make no mistake, this was a sadistic act, just as many psychoanalysts believe that contemporary male homosexuality is often an expression of sadistic impulses. Whatever the case may be, it certainly wasn't caused by "genes": "The Greeks and Romans thought that the active partner in homosexual intercourse used, humiliated, and physically and morally damaged the passive one," and that "the satisfaction needed to be violent, not erotic."

Some psychoanalysts theorize that compulsive male homosexuality has to do with the need to magically incorporate the masculine essence of the object through the sex act. Interestingly, this is what the ancients believed: "a real man needed to transform an at least potentially active and powerful creature into a weak and inferior one." I don't know if this is true, but I also read somewhere that victorious armies would sodomize their vanquished opponents before killing them outright, first "stealing" their masculine essence via the back door. (I am also reminded of how Mike Tyson would taunt opponents by boasting that he would make them his "bitch.")

Well, that's it for today....

Friday, March 19, 2010

When in Rome, Don't Do As the Romans

It just occurred to me that the ideas and values Paul was preaching would not have been all that shocking to the Jews (the whole messiah business notwithstanding), only to the gentiles. But that's sort of the point, in that it wasn't until 49 or 50 that Paul "received from the leaders of the new sect the authority to evangelize non-Jews" (Ruden).

And sect it was -- of Judaism. As Ruden reminds us, the members of this sect were not yet calling themselves "Christians." Indeed, the term actually "started as a taunt, perhaps best translated as 'the hyped-up fans/political mob of the Anointed One" (probably said with hushed sarcasm, the way Rush says the hhhh-Rrreverend-a--Jackssson-ahhh).

Yesterday Tigtog asked the question of whether or not Jesus was literate, which of course he was. He now wants to know if the disciples were literate, for which I suppose there is no direct evidence. But since they were Jewish, there is a good chance they were. Breiner, in his Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse Through the Ages and Today, writes that in the ancient world, "teaching sons was incumbent on all Jews. Though the primary concern for education was for the son, it was considered a mitzvah (good deed) if daughters were educated as well."

Breiner maintains -- and I can't vouch for his scholarship, but he cites plenty of references -- that "By the second Diaspora every Jewish male could read and write and understand the law," so that the Hebrews were "the first people in the history of mankind whose male population was 100% literate."

But that's ultimately here nor there in the case of Jesus, since Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 that the resurrected Jesus was seen by some 500 brethren, so, who at the time would have thought that writing down what they had witnessed was better evidence than having witnessed it? In the same passage, Paul says that the witnesses are beginning to die off, and he himself would be dead within a decade.

Therefore, perhaps it is no coincidence that this is when some bright follower raised his hand and said, "er, maybe we ought to write this stuff down, before the Romans kill us all?" The situation was undoubtedly made more urgent by the persecutions that began in 64 AD, when Nero decided to blame Christians for that big ol' fire. That greatly thinned the herd of direct witnesses, so that is when it became necessary to get it all down in writing. Just a guess.

At any rate... Say, where were we? Oh yes, preaching to the gentiles. In the past, I have posted about the vast differences between the Jews vs. the other peoples of antiquity -- especially the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It was over three years ago, so perhaps we'd better review, since there's no need for me to reinvent this wheel of karma:

Breiner devotes a chapter to the striking differences between the ancient Hebrews and some of their contemporaries with regard to the treatment of women and children. I have no doubt that the treatment of women and children is the leading edge of psychohistorical evolution, and that a culture can only develop as far as its treatment of women and children will allow.

To put it another way, the more evolved the culture, the more women and children will be valued (as women and children, I might add, thus excluding radical feminism as a philosophy that particularly values either). This variable, more than anything else, explains why the Muslim world is at the bottom of the evolutionary heap, and conversely, why the Jews have thrived everywhere they have landed, despite the most adverse circumstances.

Just look at Israel, which is persecuted by virtually everyone except the U.S. [update -- now including the U.S.], vs. the Arab world, which is persecuted by no one except themselves -- and yet, fantasizes that 15 million Jews are somehow controlling and holding down a billion or so Muslims. Madness! But if you think madness is a deviation rather than the norm, I don't see how you can understand anything of history, which is absolutely littered with similarly insane mind parasites.

It is almost impossible for us to imagine the barbarity of the ancient world -- very similar to how contemporary liberals find it impossible to comprehend the evil savagery of the Islamists with whom we are in a mortal struggle, so they instead fill the moral vacuum by fantasizing that George Bush or Dick Cheney are evil (for if your moral compass is so broken that you cannot recognize evil, you will hate something that is not evil, which is why the left is at war with so much that is good, e.g., the Boy Scouts, the ROTC, "traditional" marriage [which is to say, marriage], racial equality, school vouchers, our healthcare system, etc.).

In all other ancient lands, the abuse of women and children, including infanticide, was common. Breiner notes, for example, that On, the King of the Swedes, sacrificed nine of his ten sons in the belief that it would prolong his life. Think about it. It was if the entire ancient world consisted of Palestinians who think that murdering children will lead to their own salvation.

Surely it is no coincidence, therefore, that the story of the Jews as a people begins with the motif of child sacrifice. The story of Abraham and Isaac allows us to assume that, up to that time, the ancient Hebrews were just as barbaric as any other ancient people. This biblical story preserves one of the truly shocking and unexpected “right turns” in human history -- when something caused us to empathize with the sacrificial victim and lay down the knife. Not that it wasn’t a struggle afterwards. The Bible chronicles many instances of backsliding and regression, which gives it even more of a ring of authenticity. The struggle against absuing children was (and is) very real.

But the benefits were obvious. For the first time in history, Jews were also able to intuit the one God. Not only that, but he was a just and loving God. Other primitive peoples lived in the psychological fragmentation of polytheism. In my opinion, they did not know God because they could not know God. Early childhood trauma leads to what is called “borderline personality structure,” in which the mind is subject to vertical splitting and the inability to maintain psychological unity and coherence. Therefore, primitive polytheism was actually an indirect measure of child abuse and the psychological fragmentation and projection that occur as a consequence.

Note as well that the gods of ancient Greece and Rome were arbitrary, selfish, and narcissistic, and even got a kick out of lording it over the little humans. They were suspiciously simlar to abusive and uncaring parents. It would never have occurred to anyone that they were either lovable or loving. A psychospiritual breakthrough was required in order for that to happen.

I see a direct relationship between the Hebrews' increased empathy toward children and the new sense of having an intimate relationship with a benevolent God who took a deep and abiding interest in them, instead of having to live in fear of a multitude of arbitrary and self-absorbed gods.

Again, we are not comparing the ancient Hebrews to modern peoples but to their own contemporaries in the ancient world, and by that standard, they were mohels ahead of the package. Marriage began to be viewed as a sacred institution composed of two individuals who were in the image and likeness of God.

Here again, this cannot be separated from issues of developmental psychology. One will not be capable of a stable and loving marriage so long as one lives with the psychological fragmentation produced by vertical splitting. It is no coincidence that the “one loving God” was discovered at roughly the same time that it became possible to conceive of a monogamous, loving, companionate marriage between two equals.

Breiner notes (and Ruden confirms this) that the women of ancient Greece were essentially slaves. A wife’s function was to “look after the household and produce children -- preferably boys.” While courtesans -- who were used for pleasure rather than procreation -- could be educated, wives were illiterate.

Similar to Islamic societies today, the ancient Greeks “viewed men as sane and stable while women were considered mad, hysterical, and possibly dangerous and destructive to men.” Furthermore, “a woman’s freedom was severely restricted” and she was without power. “A man could sell his daughter or sister into concubinage if he wished.” Children of concubines were simply “aborted, killed or sold into slavery.”

At the time of Pericles in the late 5th century BC, out of a population of 400,000, only 14,240 people had full civil rights. The rest were women, children, slaves of varying degrees. Unwanted and "imperfect" children were simply exposed on a mountainside to die. “In all the Greek cities except Thebes the father had the right to kill his child at birth without question. In all cities except Athens the father could sell his children to slave dealers.” Female infanticide was the norm. Like China today, very few families raised more than one daughter. Even then, girls were given inferior food and no education.

Breiner feels that the revulsion towards women was at the basis of Greek male homosexuality. Can you think of a better explanation? The fashionable modern idea -- a fine example of leftist anti-scientific magical thinking, by the way -- is that homosexuality is purely “genetic” and not subject to environmental influences. If so, how does one account for the prevalence of Ancient Greek homosexuality? “It was considered quite proper for the young men of Athens to engage sexually with older men, and most did.” “Merchants would import handsome boys to be sold to the highest bidder”; these boys would “be first used as concubines and later as slaves.” (Ruden goes into more detail of the true horror of male pederasty in the ancient world; it makes NAMBLA look humane.)

Breiner speculates that “homosexual pederasty was so universal in Greek society” because it was “a means of ‘rescuing’ the male child from the perceived dangers of women...” “Boy brothels flourished in every city and a child prostitute could be rented, even at the height of Athenian culture... A freeborn child might see his father having sexual relations with a child his own age who was a slave."

In this context, the evolution of so-called "homophobia" by the ancient Hebrews was clearly an advance, not a regression, as it particularly benefitted women and children. Here again, Ruden says much the same thing vis-a-vis Paul's condemnation of homosexuality. At the time, there was no such thing as a homosexuality that wasn't cruel, aggressive, sadistic, and exploitative. Love had nothing to do with it.

I don’t even have time to get into the pervasive human and animal sacrifice. “Human life was considered so short and cheap that there was little concern about killing. When a town was captured the men were automatically killed or sold into slavery and the women were taken as concubines or slaves.” Traits such as “gentleness, kindness, industry, honesty, and integrity were scorned as effeminate and inferior.”

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Obviously, human beings were desperately in need of a vertical intervention to save them from the hell on earth they had created. All of us continue to benefit everyday from that little sliver of light that miraculously opened up in a world of infrahuman darkness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Putting the Apostle Paul In His Place

Not much time this morning, but I'd like to spend it discussing this important new book, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, by Sarah Ruden.

In contrast to a destructive postmodern deconstruction of Paul, this is more of a constructive reconstruction, in that it attempts to interpret Paul's words in the way they would have been heard and understood in the almost inconceivably different time and place he wrote and spoke them.

Ironically, one of the main reasons we have difficulty appreciating the vast cultural differences is due to Paul's extraordinary success in transforming them. As Ruden points out, "more than anyone else, Paul created the Western individual human being, unconditionally precious to God and therefore entitled to the consideration of other human beings.... No other intellect contributed as much to making us who we are." Theist and atheist alike are beneficiaries of this profound transformation of values.

We have to begin by imagining a society that was every bit as cruel and barbarous as, say, the Palestinians or Islamists, to understand the context in which Paul spoke -- and, just as importantly, to appreciate the fantastic and even revolutionary appeal of the message he was spreading.

In our time, we can misinterpret Paul's words as punitive and restrictive, whereas those who heard them would have been struck first and foremost by the novelty of his liberating message of love, equality and dignity.

This itself is a critical point, because it goes a long way toward explaining how and why the Christian message took off like wildfire and spread so rapidly. "In fact, the compassionate community was there at the beginning, and its founder was Paul of Tarsus." It wasn't just the "good news" of the resurrection. After all, pagan peoples had been familiar with mythic stories of resurrected gods from time immemorial, but that didn't make their lives and communities any less cruel.

Rather, there was something uniquely alluring about the actual communities that were being created out of this new revelation -- mostly how they were ordered around love instead of the usual violence, depravity, exploitation, and cruelty of the ancient world.

The pagan polytheistic world "deified materialism in the form of idolatry," and "deified violence and exploitation through the belief that these were the ways the gods operated. Paul fought this ideology and all its manifestations. Rather than repressing women, slaves, or homosexuals, he made -- for his time -- progressive rules for the inclusion of all of them in the Christian community..."

Yes, Paul was a progressive in the truest sense of the word, because he was instrumental in the vertical progress of mankind at large. In contrast, contemporary "progressiveism" is a reversion to the very pagan materialism that Paul ultimately gave his life to end.

No wonder we see such a resurgence of neo-paganism on the left: idolatry, body mutilation, child sacrifice, new age witchcraft, earth worship, sexual license, the cult of the body, exaltation of the state (and its messianic leader), cult leaders with light streaming from their butt, etc.

It seems to me that the book understates its own importance, since, if the author is correct, then not only have many Christians been misinterpreting Paul for hundreds of years, but whole sects and even cultures are rooted in this misunderstanding. Furthermore, on the other side of the equation, there is no question that many people have rejected Christianity because its most important proselytizer appears to them to be a bit of an irascible, sanctimonious, authoritarian, and intolerant hothead.

JWM coined the term "Jesus willies" for people who are made uncomfortable by the moronic way Christianity is often presented to the public. But it might be more accurate to call them the "Paul willies," since he is the one most responsible for creating the thing we actually call Christianity.

In my book, I tried to get into a bit of psychohistory, in order to demonstrate the progress mankind has made (at least at its leading edge) in vanquishing its mind parasites (see Chapter 3.4 Adapting to Mindedness: Why the Past is So Tense). This is without a doubt the weakest part of the book, since it would have required a whole book to do justice to the subject. In pp. 157-162 I cover the ancient world, but again, how could one possibly do justice to such a vast subject?

Fortunately -- to paraphrase Bo Diddley -- I don't have to do stuff like that, because I got scholars like Ruden doin' it for me. While I tried to show what Greek and Roman culture were actually like beneath the veneer of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the rest of those luminaries, Ruden goes into more detail about just how alien to us these cultures were.

Their values were antithetical to ours, and again, this is the audience to whom Paul was preaching. Truly, his death at the hands of the state was inevitable, just as you wouldn't be long for the world in the Palestinian terrortories if you began preaching a message of love and tolerance toward Jews, or at a major American university if you preached that their racial obsessions are evil.

In addition to being violent and exploitative, the ancient world was frankly a depressing and meaningless place, especially if one was not a freeborn member of the ruling class. Most people were slaves or at least under some degree of servility, and slaves had no rights at all. Truly, they were not persons, but objects to be used in any way the owner saw fit.

Children were devalued as well. Pederasty and child prostitution were rampant, and no one gave it a second thought as to whether these practices were "moral." Likewise, what we know of as romantic love simply wasn't a value for the ancients. Indeed, Ruden shows that it was regarded as a kind of weak and shameful madness that was to be shunned and avoided.

To be continued....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Healing the Wounds and Wounding the Heels of History

When the inferior reader hears of O, he only laughs at it; it would not be O if he did not laugh at it, for its blinding superabundance of Light is taken for darkness. --Lao Tzu, D'oh! Te Troll

Our ideological adversaries are not living in reality. Indeed, that is what makes them our adversaries. People who don't live in reality necessarily become bitter, frustrated, resentful, and aggressive, especially toward those who do live in reality. They think that by attacking reality and those who live in it, they can somehow transform their unreality into reality, but of course it never works. Reality always has the last word.

Since I once worked in a mental hospital, I saw up close how this process plays out in deranged individuals. But the most helpful things I learned during my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital were that, 1) Charlie Parker once slept here, and 2) the most disturbed people are not qualitatively different from the Normals, only quantitatively different.

In other words, in the decompensated psychotic person, one is able to "see" unconscious processes that are more hidden in the non-psychotic. In fact, "decompensation" refers to the breakdown of psychological defense mechanisms that keep primitive unconscious material and processes at bay; analogously, think of what would happen if your skin began to break down. Defense mechanisms are very much like a semipermeable membrane between the ego and lower vertical, just as your skin keeps your insides in and the outside out. (And you might also say that religious metaphysics keeps the upside up and the downside down.)

Changing or possibly grinding gears for the moment, Walter Russell Mead writes that everyone in the Anglo-American world, whether secular or religious, is within the Abrahamic tradition, which is one of the things that sets us apart from unsuccessful cultures. Abrahamic religion "holds that history has a shape and a purpose: a beginning, a middle, and an end."

In the Abrahamic tradition, history is "the name for a period in the human story in which certain problems need to be solved. History in this sense is not synonomous with the full term of human existence. History is a period and a process through which humanity solves (or is given a solution to) certain sets of problems before moving on to the next and higher stage in its existence."

Abrahamic ideologies "largely see the human story as consisting of three stages: prehistory, history, and posthistory." Seen in this context, history "is not just the passage of time" -- indeed, Abrahamic peoples are intrinsically "historical" and never really see time in this meaningless, ahistorical way. Rather, history involves "the accomplishment of a task. Something is wrong with the world; the world has been wounded. History is the process by which what is wrong is set right, what is broken mended. History may look chaotic and meaningless, but everything that happens is ultimately part of the healing process..."

Now, the main difference between Abrahamic religion and Abrahamic atheism or materialism is that the latter regards the former as just a stage on the way to the atheist's superior "post human" knowledge and insight, while the religionist would regard the atheist as existing at a sort of right angle to the stream of historical development, paddling around in a shallow and irrelevant little self-created eddy. He is like a drop critiquing the ocean of which he is a part, and imagining himself superior to it. But in any case, the atheist cannot help thinking that existence and history have a purpose, thus the fervent attempts to evangelize their posthuman (in reality infrahuman) faith to the faithless faithful.

For example, our obsessive-compulsive troll -- like the Camarillo psychotic -- reflects this tendency writ large, in that he cannot stop himself from trying to convert us to his mode of darkness in order to convince himself that darkness is light. Such a fruitless enterprise is doomed from the start, being that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness comprehends it not, but that doesn't stop darkness from trying. Indeed, darkness is an inevitable byproduct of the Light, so where there is self-giving Light there is envious darkness. The process is entirely reactionary, a consequence of the cosmic nescience at the vertical periphery of creation.

In the words of Schuon, such a person regards his own "extrinsic explanations as essential factors of truth," objectifying what is only subjective and dragging truth "down into the depths into which it has itself fallen." The whole enterprise is absurd, since "one cannot enclose the universe within 'human subjectivity' while at the same time allowing for a point of view beyond this subjectivity..." Man is either a fragment of the Absolute or he is nothing. A part apart from the whole isn't even a part, just a nothing.

We can all agree that something is wrong with the world. In the absence of time, we could never set it right, so history is indeed an opportunity to mend what is broken and participate in what Jews call tikkun olam, the "repair" or "perfecting" of the world. In Raccoon parlance we refer to this ultimate Adventure of Consciousness as "Cosmotheosis," or the divinization or sanctification of the lower world (i.e., Thy will be done, down here as it is up there), which can only be accompliced through human co-creators, since only we have vertical freedom of movement toward Light and Truth.

In other words, we are the "lens" through which the white light of the Absolute deigns to undergo the adventure of color, each of which is a beautiful fragment, so to speak, of the pure Light. If we could not suffer pain, falsehood, and color, we could not suffer joy, Truth, and Light. This is why human existence is such a guilty pleasure. O, felix culpa!

Mead writes that secular modernism "is the youngest member of the family of Abraham." With the exception of a personal God, it "faithfully reproduces the most important pieces of the Abrahamic paradigm," and believes that its version of the faith will prevail in the end. Secularists still "adopt the core structure of the Abrahamic idea of history to tell their own stories of the world." (Mead goes into considerably more detail in defense of this thesis, but to a Raccoon it is soph-evident. Once a Raccoon "gets it" he moves on.)

The other "master narrative" of our time is the sudden flowering of human potential of the last several centuries. As Mead writes, "nothing in humanity's past prepared it for change this dramatic in so many fields over such an extended period of time." Because we are a relatively young species and exist within the heart of this ongoing explosion, it is difficult for us to see it.

But don't worry -- Petey sees it just fine. He would disagree with Mead as to when the noospheric explosion (i.e., psychogenesis) commenced, situating it instead about 35-40,000 years ago, when merely genetic proto-humans suddenly and inexplicably began exhibiting distinct signs of humanness, such as the fully realized artistic images on the underground cave walls of Europe. While the explosion continued afterwards, we couldn't see it because it was happening so slowly, just as we can't see the Big Bang happening, even though we're right here in the center of this rapidly expanding cosmos.

What happened with modernity is that we became aware of the exploding noosphere, since time suddenly "sped up," but mainly in the Anglo-American world. With the arrival of science, democracy, the rule of law, and free market capitalism, for the first time "history became a real presence in human lives" (Mead).

For example, the Muslim world is still stagnating back in that earlier time, so that to them, we are aliens from the future bearing weird and often threatening gifts such as computers, airplanes, antibiotics, and Victoria's Secret catalogues. While they eagerly accept most of these gifts -- i.e., bin Laden is never far from his computer or frilly underthings -- they would like to pull the future back into the past, when none of these gifts existed, but still keep most of the gifts. Thus, they are not just premodern, but pre-ironic.

As for the left, they simply want to force us all into a weird, anti-human future which cannot exist except in the form of a projection of fantasy. They are post-ironic.

Mead writes that "Marx is to progressivism what Thomas Aquinas is to Catholicism," in that he explicated "the fullest and most systematic expression" of the secular leftist myth that still animates them today, even (or perhaps especially) if only unconsciously. The less sophisticated the leftist, e.g., our obsessive-compulsive troll, the more he is an unconscious disciple of Marx.

Again, Marxism shares elements of the deep structure of Abrahamic religion, including a romantic "garden of innocence" (i.e., the classless society of early humans), the fall into oppression, exploitation, and class warfare, Marx's revelation of the true laws of history, and the culmination of "the establishment of a higher, final way of life that fully meets human goals and needs," i.e., the triumph of the working class. Thus, Marx didn't so much turn Hegel as Abraham on his head.

But having turned Abraham on his head, leftists also turned Brahman, or reality, upside down. For under the reign of the left, the roots of the cosmic tree are situated below, begaialed and mayared in the muddle of matter. Having literally transplanted the tree of life into sterile soil, they accomplished a feat of clay, deluminating the light in one fallen swoop, subverting That which makes man Man, and embracing the fantasy that they could build a new and improved reality "from the bottom up," absurdly beginning with matter. They could force their vision on a recalcitrant mankind in the same way one can mold matter or Nancy Pelosi can whip her craven band of chestless men into submission.

In short, in order to do this most effectively, a large and coercive state is required to do the molding and speed history along toward its appointed utopia. Needless to say, there is a big difference between forcing time and being pulled or lured by the eschaton.

Mead writes we are faced with the eternal choice of the Glorious Revolution and its descendent, the American Revolution and its vertical empire of liberty; or the French Revolution and all its deformed, envious, dysfunctional, unproductive, vindictive, and tenured descendants. Our cosmic duty, as it were, is to preserve the radical spiritual revolution of America's founding seers, as we heal the wounds and wound the heels that time and history have made and made possible.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unhinged Skepticism and the Supreme Value of Nothing

Although the atheist believes he knows the reasons for his devout atheism, he actually has no idea that he is naively immersed in a discredited metaphysic that he simply "assumes," and therefore requires no defense. For him, it's just "common sense." Which in a way it is, since it is stuck down in the animal, infrahuman senses, far below the realm where intellection roams free.

In the materialist view, it is incumbent upon believers to prove to him the existence of God -- even though he is the one making the extraordinary claim, given the relatively tiny number of doctrinaire atheists who exist and who, for whatever reason, are unable to apprehend the spiritual dimension. The average person obviously doesn't have this deformity, even if he cannot articulate why with reasons that could satisfy the eccentric cognitive needs of the atheist.

Polanyi felt that the contemporary madness of postmodernity began with the idea of a complete and perfect objectivism, which is supposed to be the ideal of science and of all reliable knowledge in general: "All personal and subjective elements came to be regarded as disturbances to the attainment of this perfect objectivity. Every effort therefore had to be made to eliminate them."

It was as if Nature spoke directly and unamibuously to us, and that all we had to do was disinterestedly listen to her without any preconceptions -- as if there really could be knowledge at the level of the senses, divorced from the imaginative synthesis that takes place in mind of the creative knower.

This ideal, which may at times be appropriate for certain limited, very simple operations, eventually insinuated itself into most fields of knowledge. But this epistemological revolution had ontological and anthropological consequences, as it served to undermine traditional authority and create a kind of hyper-individualism operating outside the domain of any legitimate (i.e., vertical) authority.

This irrationally rational revolt reached a kind of peak in the late 1960s, when the supposedly "rational" rejection of religion in particular and tradition in general facilitated an absurd leap into what amounted to a childish, romantic irrationalism. Since there is no legitimate authority, each person then becomes a law unto himself: do your own thing, and all that.

For example, marriage is better then living together? Prove it. A fetus is a human being? Prove it. Beethoven is better than rap? Prove it. Heterosexuality is preferable to homosexuality? Prove it. Men and women are fundamentally different? Prove it. One is obligated to tell the truth? Prove it. America is exceptional? Prove it. Etc., etc. In each case, the moral truth is accessible to human beings, but not through the application of mere reason. Leftist always demand "studies" to prove the existence of those realities to which they are blind.

This kind of simultaneously omnipotent and nihilistic style of thought eventually overcame continental Europe (e.g., communism, fascism, nazism, socialism, deconstruction, multiculturalism, moral relativism, etc.), but not the Anglo-American sphere, where there was "an alogical [not illogical] reluctance to pursue the accepted philosophic premises to their ultimate conclusions" (for example, Darwinians should be thankful that no one takes Darwinism serious enough to follow it through to its ultimate grisly conclusion). In turn, this reluctance was rooted in "the distinctive religious character of Anglo-American liberalism" (or what is now confusingly called conservatism, as distinguished from our illiberal leftism which went the way of the Europeans).

On the European continent, there were no such restraints against unalloyed skepticism. Rather, "the movement there was antireligious from the start.... When a feudal society, dominated by religious authority, was attacked by radical skepticism, there emerged a liberalism unprotected by either a religious or civic tradition against destruction by a logical extension of the philosophic skepticism to which it owed its origin." In short, in old Europe, universal standards of reason could not be reconciled with their radical skepticism, whereas Anglo-American liberalism maintained a balance between reason and tradition.

This dichotomy is still present today in the vast differences between conservatism (i.e., traditional liberalism) and liberalism (i.e., illiberal leftism). Leftism continues to be riddled with contradictions that are rooted in its initial philosophical error. For example, one of their rock-bottom beliefs is that there is no rational or universal way to arbitrate between the values of one culture or nation and another. Therefore, it is wrong to stand in the way of any nation that wishes to realize its powers, say Iran, or Cuba, or Venezuela. But when America exercises its power, there is universal condemnation from the left. How can this be?

Once again it has to do with the unhinged morality of the left. Being that their disordered skepticism bars them from the spiritual dimension, they are unable to reliably distinguish between good and evil -- i.e., for them, these are simply arbitrary categories. Reduced to flatland materialism, they instead divide the world into visible, empirical categories such as "haves" and "have-nots."

As such, leftists conceive a material explanation onto which they graft their unhinged moral passion. They do the same thing with other material categories, such as race, gender and "sexual orientation." As such, all of the moral energy which, in a spiritually normal person, is reserved for distinguishing between good and evil, decent and indecent, is ruthlessly, and even sadistically, applied to these meaningless substitute categories.

This explains the grotesque and perverse moral passion of the left, for example, the condemnation of the Duke lacrosse team by dozens of leftist professors and a liberal media who do not see good and evil, only "white and black." And they still haven't apologized, since the "narrative" or template they imposed on the situation is their pseudo-absolute, and cannot be falsified. Likewise, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the left obviously cannot see the moral gulf between Israel and her barbarous enemies.

In old Europe, "the replacement of moral ideals by philosophically less vulnerable, because more basically animal, objectives was carried out in all seriousness. Human appetites and human passions were actually substituted for reason and for the ideals of man in this framework of thought." "Begun in the name of reason, they ended by reducing reason to a caricature of itself: to a mere rationalization of conclusions predetermined by desire and eventually to be secured and held by force.... If thought and reason are nothing by themselves, if they are only the effects of social causes, then it is meaningless to demand that they be set free."

Slavery is freedom, lies are truth, ugliness is beauty, amorality is morality, man is an animal, and animal passion is virtue.

A civilization not in contact with the Real will eventually perish. As it should. To put it another way, dying on the vine is a possibility, but dying off the Vine is a certainty. Supernatural selection is severe but just.

*All quotes taken from Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama Hates Me!

"Rights that are defensive for an isolated individual become aggressive for a collectivity," as Schuon once put it. With the left's unprecedented power-grab and in-your-face smackdown of our freedom this week, we are seeing this adage play out in real time. I don't think I've ever felt so bullied by my own government. Look at these new t-shirts the DNC is selling -->

Well, technically, I suppose I always felt that way back when I was a moron of the left. I even had one of those t-shirts that said "Reagan Hates Me," but it was more the fashionable pretend-persecution of those who have never known the real thing. Even the truly committed leftist only projects his own hostility or existential unhappiness into politics, and then feels persecuted by his projections. The leftist exists in chronic state of intrapsychic persecution, or he wouldn't be a leftist, he'd be happy and free.

There is individual health, collective health, and what we might call cosmic health, which has to do with how adequately we are aligned with the vertical. I would like to discuss some ideas that are absolutely critical to the evolutionary health and well being of the cosmos, and follow quite naturally from the nonlocal principles that (vertically) structure reality.

As we have discussed before, leftism is by definition a perpetual rebellion against these principles -- against the Real. Thus, it is de facto the maninfestation of a spiritual illness, often, but not always, rooted in a psychological one. It amounts to a cynical and worldly suspiciousness that excludes any real explanations, "since these in their turn fall under the same law of suspicion, which drags everything down and which is the end of truth" (Schuon).

Radical skepticism (cf. the French Revolution) poisons everything and then kills you last. But even if it doesn't kill you directly, it leaves you in a humanly uninhabitable world, since it is devoid of the higher truths that nourish the soul (again, the soul, no less than the body, requires a certain kind of environment in order to flourish).

Continuing with our discussion of Michael Polanyi, one puzzling thing he noticed was that intellectuals were not only responsible (obviously) for the most destructive ideas and ruthless political movements of the 20th century, but that they enthusiastically embraced them despite the fact that these ideas, if implemented, would spell the end of their own intellectual class. That is, the very ideas leftists hold most dear undermine the liberal ideal of freedom of inquiry guided by the pursuit of truth. Today this is a truism, but how did we get to this point, in which our intellectual class is so spiritually sick?

Prosch writes that "It was the intellectuals of [the last] century themselves who played the largest part in destroying those very things that they needed and that were already theirs. Such operative perversity as this must lead one to suspect the operator's mental health, a mind blind to that which it wants and needs." Indeed, a mind which "proceeds on a path toward its own destruction, may surely be suspected of suffering from obsessions that are pushing it to such nonadaptive behavior."

As we shall see, Polanyi's analysis explains why the cognitive and spiritual pathology of political correctness emanates from the left, and could only emanate from the left, despite the fact that it makes a farce of their vaunted ideal of "academic freedom." And it is the very definition of pathology, since it causes great damage to the mind and soul of the person afflicted with it.

Führermore, once this authoritarian virus has taken over whole institutions -- i.e., leftist academia, Hollywood, the MSM, the State Department -- it becomes a truly dangerous pathogen that systematically infects those who pass through its environment (again, unless they have a very robust spiritual immune system rooted in the Real).

We see the same thing occurring with Islamic fascism, which is not -- as leftists cluelessly, but necessarily, believe -- a result of poverty, but of affluence. It is rooted in the ideas of intellectuals, who then -- just as leftists do in the West -- try to demagogically and/or violently propagate their ideas to the ignorant masses to explain their existential misery.

The only thing that has kept America (its better half, not its bitter half) immune from this process is its strong foundation in an alternative metaphysic, which we call the Judeo-Christian tradition. Likewise, the reason why continental Europe fell to the viral seduction of leftism is that it had already gravely weakened its own (super)natural defense mechanism to it.

Prosch has an interesting explanation for this. That is, in continental Europe, their political liberation was inseparable from their religious liberation -- which was in reality a "liberation" from religion, not for it.

However, in Protestant England and America, the break from religious oppression had already been effected, so that political liberation was not conflated with a rebellion against God. Thus, the Founders were able to formulate the ideal of distinct domains of church and state, not for the purpose of ending religion's influence, but strengthening it.

Conversely, in Europe, their separation of the two spheres inevitably led to the destruction of religion and the deification of the state. No properly religious person could ever deify the state, which is why leftist statism is excluded for the spiritually attuned but just about mandatory for the spiritually blind (objectivists and contemporary libertarians represent insignificant and ultimately self-refuting exceptions to this rule).

Being a scientist, Polanyi noticed a connection between the ideals of logical positivism and the nihilism of the left. Even today, despite the fact that positivism has been so thoroughly discredited, it remains a kind of tacit metaphysic for both scientists and for much of the educated public.

In other words, there is a widespread assumption that "only scienctific theories [are] capable of verification (i.e., proof), and that moral or ethical or political or religious ideals and principles [are] essentially unprovable, mere matters of emotional preference."

But Polanyi saw that there was a deep relationship between the very possibility of science and certain metaphysical ideals and principles "that not only could not be proved, but could not even be made wholly explicit." And just because the ideals which underlie science could not be proved, it hardly meant that they were unworthy of belief (Gödel again).

This tacit acceptance of positivism ramifies in interesting ways. On the one hand, there is the scientific worker bee who supposedly only believes what his experimental data tell him. But this is indeed a cold, dead, airless, and ultimately infrahuman spiritual environment into which the passion for nihilism rushes to fill the void. In this regard, it seems that human nature abhors a vacuum, and therefore fills the vacuum with a void -- the nihilistic void of the secular left.

Now it is surely noteworthy that the only organized opposition to liberty comes from the intellectual left, who supposedly hold their own liberty -- e.g., "academic freedom" -- to be sacred. How could someone who would instinctively rebel at the idea of a centralized and top-down "planned culture," embrace the idea of a centralized, planned economy?

Good question!

As Prosch writes, "much of the dissatisfaction with the present order of the economy came from intellectuals, from people not under these immediate threats and whose professional life would derive little benefit from scrapping the system. Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy."

And a planned economy eventually devolves to a planned culture, something which is quite evident. That is, the more left the country, the more laws must exist to constrain and control the people, exterior laws which displace the interior law written in the heart of man (to say nothing of the financial burden that converts us all from free citizens to indentured serfs); or, as Dennis Prager says, "the bigger the State, the smaller the citizen."

Yes, but what are the exact dynamics of this irrational leftist nihilism, and what caused its adherents to reject the liberal foundations of the Christian West?

To be continued... Meanwhile, repeat after me: Rights that are defensive for an isolated individual become aggressive for a leftist collectivity in charge of the media, academia, and all three branches of government.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Give Us Your Victims, Your Losers, Your Addled Misfits Longing To Be Serfs

Woke up an hour later this morning, so I just grabbed this old Bobastic rant from a few years ago... Re-read meat for the base!

Excellent piece over at American Thinker on Global Warming as Pathological Science. It's not just about global warming, but about the left's constant hijacking of science for politico-religious ends.

Which is why it is so ironic that leftists are always so hysterical about a few Christians who believe the universe was created in 144 hours 6000 years ago, when they themselves are responsible for almost all of the wholesale misappropriation of science for magical ends, global warming just being the most visible and risible example.

Ultimately, depending upon which way you look at the evidence, science can either support or not support the existence of a Creator. But either way, it has no effect on the actual conduct of science, so long as it is guided by one question: what is true? It shouldn't even need to be said that the glorious history of western science proves beyond doubt that theism is no barrier whatsoever to great leaps of scientific insight. Conversely, if the cosmos really were a kind of linear machine, genuine insight would be impossible.

I'm sure there are exceptions, but I know of no believer who doesn't believe that God, by definition, wishes for us to know the Truth about reality. Indeed, if God did not exist, then neither could Truth and certainly not knowers of Truth. It's ridiculous to have to even to say this, for a God who wanted to hide the epistemological ball from us would hardly be a God worthy of paying attention to. That's not God, that's a mind parasite (mind parasites thrive on falsehood; it is both their substance and their agenda).

This problem of the left hijacking science was recognized by my favorite philosopher, Michael Polanyi, as early as the mid-1940s. I just started reading another book on him yesterday, and so far it is the best introduction I've found. I can't give it an unqualified endorsement until I finish it, but if it keeps up this pace, it will definitely be a foundational raccoomendation.

The question is, why is pathological science not only inevitable on the left, but intrinsic to it? The short and cryptic answer is that leftism itself is essentially a minus religion (-R) deeply rooted in minus knowledge (-K) about a reality that does not and cannot ultimately exist, Ø. Allow me to explain.

In a minute. But let me first cite some examples from Lewis' article at American Thinker. He writes that "When the scientific establishment starts to peddle fraud, we get corrupt science. The Boomer Left came to power in the 1970s harboring a real hatred toward science. They called it 'post-modernism,' and 'deconstructionism' -- and we saw all kinds of damage as a result," including systematic nonsense about the dangers of heterosexual AIDS, DDT, and second hand smoke, lies about civilian casualties in Iraq, and destructive theories about bilingual education, to which I might add outrageous lies about the reality of sexual differences, about the damaging psychological effects of daycare, about the importance of fatherhood, and about the causes of homosexuality. I could go on, but you get the point. Let's not even get into their wacky economic theories.

Lewis writes that all this modern scientific fraud is "especially weird because the Left claims to be all in favor of science. Marxism itself was a scientific fraud, of course. In 1848 Marx and Engels claimed to have a 'scientific' theory of history. They predicted that communism would first arise in England, because it was the most advanced capitalist nation. (Not.) They predicted that centralized planning would work. (Not.) They predicted that the peasants and workers would dedicate their lives to the Socialist State, and stop caring about themselves and their families. (Not.) They predicted that sovietization would lead to greater economic performance. (Not.) And then, when seventy years of Soviet, Chinese, Eastern European, and North Korean history showed Marx's predictions to be wrong, wrong and wrong again, they still claimed to be 'scientific.' That's pathological science -- fraud masquerading as science."

As alluded to above, Polanyi noticed all of this going on by the mid-1940s, and was puzzled by it. Perhaps it should be noted that he had a unique resume, in that he started out as a medical doctor but later became a professor of physical chemistry, with many important papers to his credit, only to later become a philosopher. His last scientific paper appeared in 1949, but he had already begun dabbling in philosophy by the mid-1930s, mostly in what we would now call economics (being Austro-Hungarian, he was very much influenced by luminaries such as Hayek and von Mises, and early on formed a deep understanding of the critical importance of liberty, non-linearity, spontaneous order, and open systems, to both science and economic development -- he is a classical liberal par excellence).

Polanyi didn't turn full time to philosophy until the 1950s, and his magnum opus, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, wasn't published until 1958, by which time he was already 67 years of age. I must have discovered him in the early 1980s, and agree with Prosch's assessment that

"no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities [emphasis mine]; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties."

And although Polanyi's writings are free of any overt religiosity, I find that they most adequately support my view of a universe that is both absolute and evolving, as it must be if it is to be separate from the Eternal and situated in time; to be precise, it is evolving toward an Absolute that is orthoparadoxically both its origin and its destiny, alpha and omega (more on which below).

I believe Polanyi provides the best framework for an enthusiastic and unambiguous embrace of both science and traditional religion -- which is why the essence of our approach is what we might call "Integral Neo-Traditionalism," or something along those lines.

In turn, you might say that Polanyi is the unfortunate philosophical "wedge" between me and Schuon, who had no use whatsoever for modernity. In my view, Polanyi saves modernity from itself -- hence the subtitle of his book, Toward a Post-Critical Philosophy. To put it another way, Schuon felt there was no way out of our modern mess but back -- i.e., pure traditionalism -- whereas I believe Polanyi shows us the way forward, out of the darkness of postmodernity -- but not if we abandon tradition.

Perhaps it was because of his medical training that Polanyi began with a diagnosis of the modern world, which he regarded as more or less psycho-spiritually sick. Now, in my view, man has always been sick, consistent with our primordial calamity back in the archetypal, vertical garden. But Polanyi noticed that the world seemed to be sick in new and unprecedented ways. Fleeing the coming European apocalypse of the 1930s can provoke such thoughts.

One thing Polanyi noticed is that modern man tends to externalize the source of his own illness, which is, of course, a specialty of the left. Dennis Prager has mentioned that perhaps the greatest divide between left and right is found in the religious education he received as a child. As a result of it, he internalized the message that, to the extent that he has problems in life, they are overwhelmingly self-generated. We are the source of our own problems. Which is one of the most liberating things about America -- that you have the possibility of failure, without which there is not the possibility of success. It reminds me of a wise crack of Bion: if you cannot suffer pain, you cannot suffer pleasure.

The awesome gift-curse of self-blame has never been widely available in the non-Western, non-liberal world, where one cannot rise or fall based on one's own values, priorities, gifts, and dedication. But it is surely available here in America, where it is a wonderfully bracing thing to be able to proclaim, "my life is f*cked up, and it ain't nobody's fault but mine" -- something which a leftist can never, ever say, since he is always a victim of someone else. Look at Obama -- he wants to blow up the best healthcare system in the world because some Americans refuse to purchase healthcare insurance (most of the uninsured are affluent or just young and stupid).

Statistics bear out this truth again and again, that in America, you are free to succeed or fail, based upon your beliefs and concrete behaviors. The fact that we have losers is what makes us great! You cannot eliminate the losers, only drag down the winners. Do we really want to cater to the losers, as they do in socialist Europe, and as a result have perpetual 10%+ unemployment, stagnant economies, and growth-stifling taxes?

The left reverses the liberating truth and disempowers its victims by teaching us that our problems are not our responsibility. Rather, we've been screwed! It's a conspiracy! The race cards are stacked against you, the dice are loaded, and it's not your fault! The left will cite different reasons for your failure, based upon the political needs of the day, but the main point is that you are a victim and that it's not your fault. But mainly, they want you to turn over your power to the left, in exchange for their taking care of you.

As such, this represents an overturning of the principial order of the cosmos, the sanctioning of soul-corroding envy, and the denial of liberty. Mankind isn't fallen at all. That's just religious dopium to keep you down! No, earthly perfection is possible if we just eliminate freedom and impose our agenda on you poor slobs!

Don't worry -- nine out of ten leftist economystics agree that success only makes you miserable anyway.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Speaking In and Of Reality

Science has a lot of answers. Duh! But only to very narrow and specific questions. If you ask the wrong question, for example, "Why are truth and beauty so intimately related?", or "what happens after you die?", you get no answer at all. Worse, some questions just generate paradox, such as, "what was before the Big Bang?", or "how can the same Darwinism that supposedly explains man be explained by man?"

Now, here's the deal: various sciences abstract from the meaning of being as a whole, which is only possible because truth emanates from being -- which is itself a timeless truth which we may know with certainty on pain of the impossibility of knowing anything at all. But science alone can never explain the existence of the truth-bearing scientist, any more than you can give birth to yourself or kiss your elbow.

Or, let us just say that our encounter with being begins with the dual mystery of a cosmos that is intelligible to intelligence. In fact, this complementarity reduces to the single word cosmos, which simply means order. The cosmos is "the order of the whole," but that one word presumes both the intelligence and intelligibility, the one making no sense without the other. Furthermore, the intelligence and intelligibility point beyond themselves in two directions, to the Divine mind and the intellect, or God and man, or just O and (¶).

Sciences develop diverse and technical languages to convey the truth of Being to our intelligence -- for example, the language of quantum mechanics or the hyper-sophisticated coding of the human genome. But again, these languages aren't Being itself. The map is not the territory. The human genome project is not alive, you can't make a cosmos out of mathematics, and you certainly can't give a robot a human soul by programming it with psychoanalytic theory.

Being just is; or as the biggest wag of them all put it: don't kid the keter, I Am that I AM. We can describe it any way we like, but our description can never exhaust the infinite ocean of Being. It perpetually flows into our little vessel of human knowing without being diminished one iota.

Oldtomers will pardon the brief review, because otherwise, new catecoonemates will have no idea what we're talking about. But in the wholly Bobble, I use the symbol "O" to stand for the infinite and unknowable ground of ultimate reality from which our existence is derived, the latter being like a spark thrown from a central fire. You are a spark in the dark responsible for that nasty business in the park, but that is a subject for a different post.

O itself can never be known as it is. On the one hand, we can know "about" it, which I call (k), which refers to all of our profane, everyday knowledge up to and including the highest reaches of science. We can also know in O, so to speak, which I call (n). "Speaking in O" accounts for a number of human modes, such as poetry, intuition, prophecy, and cosmo-American soul music.

Now, we can most definitely experience the energies of O -- its warmth and light, or love and gnosis -- directly. In fact, we can know many things about O, just as I can know many things about you. But I can never know you in the same way you know yourself in an unmediated way, from the inside. Only you can have this kind of "inside information" about yourself.

Thus, observational or inductive science proceeds in the "upward" direction of (k)-->O, while logico-deductive science proceeds in the "downward" direction of O-->(k). Again, (k) is the realm of everyday dualistic knowledge about O. This knowledge may be known objectively and passed like an object from mind to mind, or from the tenured to their young victims.

For example, the theory of natural selection is (k) about the ultimate unknowable mystery of the living O. It is not to be confused with O itself. For surely, O is alive, and yet, it can hardly be reduced to a biological object, which is only a distant effect, not a cause. Life comes from Life, just as love comes from Love and truth from Truth.

At risk of pointing out the obvious, the theory of natural selection cannot tell you how O evolved to the point that it could hypothesize and know a truth about itself, any more than musical notation can account for the existence of music.

Music is completely unperturbed by all the efforts to capture and contain it. All the music that has been produced in the history of the world has not yet made a dent in it. We will never "run out" of music. Although rap comes close.

No, music will continue to flow on forever, just as will language. Language will never explain the ceaseless creativity of language. It just flows and flows and flows, regardless of your theory or system or particular language. It is truly a mirror of the infinite, since it is one of the primary modes of O. Remember, "the Word" was with O from the beginning, and the beginning is always now: Yes, When He prepared the heavens, I was there. When He drew a circle on the face of the deep.... I was beside Him as a master craftsman (Proverbs 8:27).

Science must console itself with (k), which is fine. Obviously, (k) has its place so long as we exist, as we must, in the "separative illusion" of the relative world. Indeed, since most cultures revolve around (-k), I am eternally grateful that I won the cosmic lottery and live in a time and place that mostly honors (k). For any method of science is correct, on its own level, to the extent that it submits to O and allows itself to be molded and determined by the limited object or domain it is attempting to describe.

But for most of history -- and in much of the contemporary world -- this direction is reversed, and reality is determined and molded by (k), which automatically converts it to (-k). For example, Islamists are rooted in a pernicious (-n), which never touched O to begin with. (Obama's hateful Trinity Church is another fine example of (-n), or "lies about God.")

Worse yet, when (k) replaces O, one then lives in the parallel loooniverse of -O, or what I call ø, which is where so much of standard issue leftism can be situated. Whenever you deny O, you will simply replace it with ø, and fall from essence to existence. Instead of being "condemned to the absolute" -- as a self-aware man must be -- you are just plain condemned.

In fact, you may even elevate yourself to O, as do so many secular fundamentalist lunafanatics. They do this in both trivial and profound ways, from dictating how the infinitely complex systems of the economy or weather should be "governed," to making it against the law to discuss O in public schools.

We in the West suffer from a different problem than the one that afflicts so much of the (-n) Islamic world (mostly the unsufirabble parts). Unfortunately, our culture does more than honor (k). Rather, it elevates it to the highest. The secular world tries to eradicate O and replace it with mere (k), which automatically places one in an abstract, substitute, and counterfeit world at least one degree removed from reality.

Religions, properly understood, attempt to restore our primordial relationship to O. Fundamentally, they contemplate the holy and manifest mystery of Being by trying to enter it directly -- not talk about it but from within it. And when they do talk about the mystery, it is not in the manner of (k)-->O (or at least it shouldn't be). Rather, the direction is reversed, and it is O-->(n).

Again, (n) is not to be confused with (k). To take just one obvious example, it would be a grave error to reduce the words of Jesus to mere (k). Rather, Jesus spoke in almost pure (n). Indeed, you will note that Jesus used no technical terms at all.

Obviously, specialized (k) can be quite technical. Most of it is well over -- or under -- your head. But (n) is often quite homespun and plain -- even rustic -- sounding. The Tao Te Ching, for example, also contains no technical terms at all. Nor do the Upanishads or the Talmud. Nor, for that matter, did most of the great philosophers of history employ any technical language: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Schopenhauer, Bob Dobbs. Only when (k) started to become conflated with O did we see this great confusion in philosophy, a confusion that pervades the contemporary academic world.

In fact, sad to say, most contemporary philosophy has detached itself entirely from O. It now consists of nothing more than (k) about (k), which, suffice it to say, is merely (-k) as it pertains to metaphysics, the latter of which being the science of the Real.

If revelation is an objective manifestation of O, the intellect as such is its subjective manifestation, the one mirroring the other (for scripture is not only addressed to the awakened intellect [nous], but cannot be understood without one).

The scientistic middleworld of (k ) --> O is a barren one that is unfit for human hobbitation. Being spontaneously gives itself to us, but in order to appreciate that, we must adopt an attitude of receptiveness, or what I call (o). If we do not maintain this receptive attitude, the world cannot open up and give of itself from within -- from Within to within. Can I get a withinness?! Amen!

Although the way of the jnani is not the way of the bhakti, being that it is primarily the path of Knowledge, there is considerable overlap, in that it is nevertheless a love relationship. For it is phil of the beautiful Sophia, a passionate longing for Truth and Reality, the one an eternal reflection of the other.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Secrets of Successful Farming: Good Seed, Deadly Pesticide, and Lots of Miracle Grow

People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him. -- Swami Abhishiktananda

All that is true, by whosoever spoken, is from the Holy Ghost. --St. Ambrose

In his Christ the Eternal Tao, Hieromonk Damascene -- an Orthodox Christian monk -- makes the claim that today we "are given much more than those who were born before Christ, for while pre-Christian prophets and sages were united with the Tao after their death, we have the potential of experiencing a foretaste of that eternal union during our earthly life. During his life on earth, Christ gave special means -- physical 'channels' of immaterial, Uncreated Teh -- by which to help effect this union." Teh refers to the uncreated power of ultimate reality, or what we might call the "energies" of O, or (↓).

Yes, the Christian message is universal, but every revelation has an exoteric side and an esoteric side -- an outer teaching and an inner teaching, a primarily informational component and a more transformational component (although, as we shall see, the two can only be artificially separated, for this complementarity is analogous to the body and soul that constitute the living person).

Even so, the inner teaching is surrounded on all sides by no-nonsense cherubim with flaming swords who prevent flaming assouls from barging in without the proper protocol. Rather, only those with sincere humility and childlike innocence know the passWord: amen for a child's job!

And while no one is sufficiently childlike to place themselves above dogma, I agree with Abhishiktananda, who wrote, "let us not confuse the vessel with the treasure it contains.... as long as man attempts to seize and hold God in his words and concepts, he is embracing a mere idol." Thus, "in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal." (The book on Swami Abhishiktananda comes with Petey's imprimatur, in that it is 90% Coon-friendly.)

In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables to the multitude, the implication being that he doesn't speak that way to them. "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.... I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

Of course, everything Jesus said was provocative, layered with multiple meanings, and well worth pondering. But it would appear that the exoteric teaching -- the parables -- are there to instruct those who can discern their meaning. But they are also vague and ambiguous enough to serve as a sort of protective barrier over the esoteric side -- like the shell of a seed that surrounds and protects the kernel.

In fact, after the above comment, Jesus proceeds directly to a parable involving a seed. When this seed is planted in "good ground," it "indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt 13:23). And although he is being "figurative," he is also being quite literal, is he not? But the uninitiated will have no earthly idea -- or only an earthly idea --what he is talking about. At best, they can imagine what it is, and pretend that this is an adequate replacement for the experience of "harvesting" all that fruity goodness.

In Mark 4:33, it says the same thing: "And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.... And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples." This in itself has an inner meaning, for who is a disciple? And what does it mean to be alone with Jesus? Also, note that the limiting factor is within the disciple, i.e., "as they were able to hear it." This means that the disciple must expand his inner horizon in order to make himself adequate to the fullness of what is being transmitted. You must stretch your mental ligaments, not contract them. Limber up and my yoga's easy.

Exoteric teaching works from the outside in. But esoteric teaching works from the inside out. Clearly, this is where the third person of the trinity comes in, the "helper" promised by Jesus. There is no way to reconcile this helpful uncreated energy with anything found on this side of nature. It is intrinsically esoteric -- an important point, for otherwise it sounds as if one is talking about some kind of arbitrary magic. But aligning oneself with this force is one of the principle aims of the Christian life, because with it "all things are possible." Possible, mind you, not necessary. It's not like some kind of machine.

Hieromonk Damascene quotes a number of eminent authorities on this matter, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, who says that when Christ assures us that "The Kindom of Heaven is within you," he is "referring precisely to this seed of the Grace of the Holy Spirit implanted in the human soul."

Of course, we would all like to purchase a luxury corps at pentecost, but there's no such thing as a free launch. For it is like a treasure hidden in a field: "In order to acquire it, one must sell all that one has, buy the field, and then patiently and diligently dig."

As we have said before, it's all about farming; if aligning oneself with the Holy Spirit is the principle aim of the Christian life, "digging" into ourselves is the principle method -- turning the soil, planting the good seed, exposing oneself to sufficient light on a daily basis, irrigating with the waters of life, keeping the weeds and parasites out, nurturing the immature saplings, and especially, watching over the field.

For, according to Hieromonk Damascene, "we still carry within ourselves the inclination and habit to return to our former condition." It is a law of embodied existence that, no matter what, we still fall downward 32 feet per second per second. It seems that the narcissistic lower self digs itself so much, that it creates its own existential hole and then jumps in and keeps right on digging.

Another way of expressing it is to say that there is an inevitable circularity, or "curvature" to our worldly existence. That is, if we make an initial step in the right direction, that is not enough. Without a second step, a third step, a fourth step, etc., a certain inertia will set in that returns us to the place we started.

This cosmic inertia -- in Vedanta it is called tamas -- is a force that must be constantly countered. In order to alter its inevitable course, it must be acted upon by a force external to it. Repeatedly. This is why being "born again" just once will not cut it. Rather, one must pent and repent as necessary.

Hieromonk Damascene calls this "continuous metanoia." In order to achieve it, the ancient Christian ascetics developed the idea of "watchfulness," which involves "a state of inner vigilance, attention and sobriety." This kind of "inner attention" has very obvious parallels with raja yoga and Buddhist mindfulness meditation, although there are also important differences that need to be respected.

Jesus did not just say "pray." Rather, he said to watch and pray. It's easy. First watch. Then pray while watching.

Watching what?

Hieromonk Damascene quotes one of the greatest authorities, St. John Climacus. In his The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he wrote, "Close the door of your cell to the body, the door of your tongue to speech, and your inner gate to evil spirits. Ascend into a watchtower -- if you know how to -- and observe how and when and whence, and in what numbers and what form, the robbers try to break in and steal your grapes.... Guarding against evil thoughts is one thing, keeping watch over the spirit [nous] is another. The latter... is far more difficult to attain. Where thieves see royal weapons at the ready they do not attack the palace lightly. Similarly, spiritual robbers do not lightly try to plunder the person who has enshrined prayer within his heart."

Hieromonk Damascene eliborates on this point, writing that watchfulness involves pulling our awareness "back into an objective state of observant mind, thus keeping watch over [the] spirit or 'higher mind'." In essence, it is a reversal of our primordial fall -- our worldward descent into distraction, fragmentation, and dissipation -- or, alternatively, congealing, thickening, and hardening. "Attention" and "distraction" are antonymous. In the words of Christ, our eye must again become "single," so that the "whole body will be full of light."

Man is a microcosm, and only by opening up in a man the foundation of his being can the Spirit transform and spiritualize the cosmos to its depths. --Swami Abhishiktananda

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lovely Lies and the Forces of Spiritual & Material Poverty

We live in a world of forces; and not just physical forces, but mental forces, emotional forces, spiritual forces, and even economic forces.

For example, with regard to the latter, American Digest displayed a quote from the Adam Smith Institute to the effect that there are no causes of poverty, being that poverty is obviously our natural condition. There are no wealthy animals. Rather, poverty

"is the rest state, that which happens when you don't do anything. If you want to experience poverty, just do nothing and it will come. To ask what causes poverty is like asking what causes cold in the universe; it is the absence of energy. Similarly poverty is the absence of wealth. For most of humanity's existence on this planet, poverty has been the norm, the natural condition."

For example, if my father hadn't forced me to get a job when I was eighteen, I'd still be idly daydreaming in my childhood bedroom. Oh, wait. I am idly daydreaming in my childhood bedroom. Never mind. Still, I bought this house from my mother, fair and square.

Poverty just is. It doesn't become an actual force until the left takes over and begins to magically create poverty with bad ideas. There are no wealthy animals, and human wealth only began to exist on a widespread scale in the past couple of hundred years.

There are forces that result in wealth, such as human creativity, initiative, vision, risk, prudence, etc: "We should ask what are the causes of wealth and try to recreate and reproduce them. When you ask the wrong question, 'What causes poverty,' you end up with wrong answers.... Instead of trying to take wealth away from rich people and redistribute it, we should be seeking to implement the conditions in which as many people as possible can join in the wealth-creating process for themselves." Thus, the first law of wealth is "get off your ass." The second is "get the state off your ass."

Conversely, one of the greatest forces of poverty -- and the most potent force which the left pulls out of its arse 'n all -- is envy. Which is why the left has no interest in the forces that create wealth, only the forces that redistribute it under the auspices of envy.

In the mental realm, truth is a force. In fact, it is without question the most important force. Some people -- mostly aging hippies and addle-brained youths, who represent the two main constituencies of the left, wacktivists and hedonists -- will tell you that love (or compassion) is the most important force, but love is a derivative of Truth, not vice versa. I do not worship "the God of love" unless he is first the God of Truth, for who besides a leftist would worship the lovely and seductive lies of a Marx or Obama?

As our dear Mr. Gnosis All has written, "God is 'Light' before He is 'Heat,' if it may be so expressed; gnosis 'precedes' love, or rather, love 'follows' gnosis, since the latter includes love after its own fashion...."

Schuon goes on to explain that "one can love something false, without love ceasing to be what it is; but one cannot 'know' the false in a similar way, that is to say knowledge cannot be under illusion as to its object without ceasing to be what it is; error always implies a privation of knowledge, whereas sin does not imply a privation of will."

Although the lie -- being a privation -- has no "absolute" existence, it does represent a potent "counter-force" on the horizontal plane. In fact, if you think about it for even a moment, the Lie has possibly had an even greater impact and influence on the world than truth -- hence the parable of the Garden, which places the ontological lie at the center of the human dilemma.

Truth is always embattled on all sides, just as light is by definition surrounded by darkness. Only by positing a fundamental inclination in humans can you explain their constant attraction to the Lie. And the bigger the Lie, the harder they fall (cf. the fractured lie of the Obamessiah which now has the left hurtling back to the ground).

You'd think it would be uncontroversial to utter a simple truth, but you'd be wrong, wouldn't you? I am reminded of Obama's shamelessly opportunistic and manipulative "dialogue about race," when the whole reason we cannot say anything useful or productive about race is that the left will brand you a racist if you do. It seems that to carry Truth is to pick up a cross and paint a target on one's back, as one fellow put it.

Animals cannot lie. While they can have certain naturally selected mechanisms of deception, they certainly cannot consciously live a lie. But living a lie is in the normal course of events for human beings. Someone said that language was given to man so as to conceal his thoughts.

Interestingly, this problem is also fully recognized in scripture, as the very first conversation recorded in the Bible is a tissue of lies. The serpent lies to the woman, the woman transmits the lie to the man, the man lies about it to God, and then a rebellious angel leaks the scandal to the New York Times.

The very emergence of self-consciousness seems to be inseparable from lying. For how could it not be? Once we have an interior and an exterior (a self and a persona), the two can grow so far apart that our existence can shade off into the lie (which is one of the reasons actors have always been viewed with suspicion, since they are so adept at pretending to be what they are not).

So lying is absolutely fundamental to human existence. The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a sophisticated epistemology -- which you cannot say three times in rapid succession -- showing how a vital lie is at the basis of most all forms of psychopathology (at least those that aren't mainly genetic and/or biochemical). Once the lie is in place, it causes the psyche to enter a sort of parallel universe, for it constructs itself on the foundations of that initial falsehood.

A mind parasite is essentially an internalized lie that takes on a pseudo-life of its own. I believe the term is an accurate one, for it is meant to convey the idea that a vital lie that lodges itself in the psyche is not static, but avails itself of the marvelously elaborate machinery of the mind. Therefore, it can easily justify itself, elaborate itself, gang up on the truth, intimidate healthier parts of the psyche. It's like a dictator who uses legitimate means to come to power, but then corruptly uses all of the levers of power to stay there and eliminate opponents.

Now, those in thrall to the Lie are by definition slaves. While they may enjoy a subjective sense of freedom, the freedom is an illusion, since it does not converge on the truth that dilates being and liberates the self. In fact, they have forfeited their freedom and are attached to a monstrous demon that they have generated out of their own psychic substance, in the same way that a spider weaves a web out of its own butt.

Think of a vivid example that is readily at hand -- the Islamists. Is it not obvious that they are absolutely enslaved by artificial beings of their own creation? And that they want everyone else to be enslaved by the same demon? Does this not demonstrate the insane power of demons?

There are personal mind parasites and collective mind parasites. Many cultures revolve entirely around monstrous entities that have been engendered by whole communities, such as the Aztec.

Here again, it would be wrong to say that the Aztec had a "bloodthirsty god" -- rather, it clearly had them. Thousands upon thousands of human beings sacrificed to satisfy this god's appetite for human blood, elaborate mechanisms set up to supply fresh bodies, the heart of the sacrificial victim cut out by the officiating priest who would himself take a bite out of it while it was still beating. A whole society of Jeffrey Dahmers trying desperately to allay anxiety by vampirically ingesting the life force of others. The Islamists are just the latest maninfestation of this gruesome religion. But you undoubtedly know some people in your own life who do the same thing -- hungry ghosts who vampirically feed on the spirit or blog of others. Here comes one now! Hello, 'Nonyman.

In all times and in all places, human beings have looked for ways to objectify and worship their self-created demons. This is preferable to having them run around loose in one's own psyche. Take again the example of the Islamist. How would one even begin to tell him: "you have a persecutory entity inside of you that your life revolves around. You have placed it outside of yourself so as to make your life bearable, for it conceals a truth that is too painful to endure."

To a large extent, this dynamic is at the heart of more mundane politics as well. For those who do not experience George Bush as a demon, it is almost impossible to understand those who do, any more than we can really understand the motivations of the Aztec. The collective mind parasite has a grammar and logic all its own, inaccessible to all but initiates into the Lie.

You don't actually want to get that close to an intoxicating Lie of that magnitude. It's not safe. Better to observe it from a respectful distance. Otherwise, you will find yourself pulled down into a false world of counter-lying rather than simple truth. You cannot create an artificial "good demon,” which is what secular leftists are trying to do when they aren't creating bad ones. Those who criticize my "negativity" toward the left probably think I am engaging in the former -- heatedly countering the lie -- when I am calmly engaged in the latter -- simply affirming the truth that Is and has always been. This is the inner meaning of "resist not evil." Resist it in the wrong way, and you come into its orbit.

For as our Unknown Friend points out, a demon operates through a combination of will and imagination. You may think of perverse will as the male principle and perverse imagination as the female principle. Together they beget the demon child that then controls the parents, taking over both will and imagination. Consider how so much art and tenured nonsense are nothing more than the elaboration of the perverse imagination -- ideological superstructures giving cover to lies of various magnitude. Think of how much "activism" is simply the sadistic will of a corrupt superego that mistakes moralism for morality.

This is the inner meaning of "you shall not make for yourself a graven image," for Truth is a living thing, a precious Being that cannot be reduced to the idolatrous systems of men, especially corrupted monkeymen who do not honor Truth to begin with and cannot distinguish it from a banana. Most modern and postmodern ideologies and philosophies are opiates of elites too sophisticated for such powerful pneumaceuticals as principial Truth.

And this is the inner meaning of "honor your father and mother”: not rebelling against received truth and tradition in a reactionary, adolescent manner, especially before you are even mature enough to understand what it all means. But those who flee from Truth will always exist in one form or another. Which is why "the poor will always be with you."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Take Charge of Your Delusions with the One Cosmos Wisdom Tool!

When philosophy uses reason to resolve a doubt, this proves precisely that its starting point is a doubt which it is striving to overcome, whereas... the starting point of a metaphysical formulation is always something intellectually evident or certain, which is communicated, to those able to receive it, by symbolical or dialectical means designed to awaken in them the latent knowledge which they bear unconsciously and 'eternally' within them. --F. Schuon

A recent uninvited guest in the Casa del B'ob once again proved the soundness of Schuon's rule of metaphysical formulations and the impossibility of communicating them to those unable to receive them. The Mysteries aren't intended to be vulgarized and dispensed to any yahoo with an open hand and empty head, and they certainly weren't meant to be eagerly groped and pawed over by the grubby fingers of new age barbarians who reduce the most sublime knowledge to its ego (or worse) level equivalent.

Now, history is littered with caricatures of spirit. But so too is the present. I have in my hand a typical example in the form of a catalog I received in the mail a couple of days ago from company called Sounds True. I bring this up not just for valid purposes of mockery and ridicule, but to emphasize that there is actually great spiritual danger in treating these matters so lightly. For example:

The Mandala Healing Kit: Spark Your Sacred Geometry (for people who can't spark euclidean geometry). Loveland: Music For Dreaming and Awakening (dreaming or awakening? Make up your mind!). The Advanced Manifestation Program: Upgrade the Way You Think -- And Live (disclaimer: upgrade only works if you start off really stupid). Take Charge of Your Life at The Quantum Level (since you obviously can't deal with reality on this level). Explore Non-Ordinary Reality with the Wisdom Tool of the Shaman (step one: bend over to receive the Wisdom Tool).

The hucksters who propagate this debased nonsense have nothing whatsoever to do with authentic spirituality. They are poseurs, flatterers, con men and unCoonmen pretending to be as dense as their followers so their followers can strive to feel as clever as they are. But as always, the counterfeit of any kind relies on the existence of the genuine article, even while causing its devaluation. Gresham's law doesn't only apply to economics.

A real teacher is more likely to drive you away than to make outrageous promises and ask for your money. This is why it is best to work within an established religious framework. If I should ever receive a celestial mandate to become a World Teacher and solicit donations and love offerings, don't worry. I'll let you know.

Sure, the traditional path is less glamorous, like indexing instead of trying to find some exotic or risky way to beat the stock market. Yes, there are some people who can do that, and there are some spiritual practitioners who are able to operate outside the lines. But doing so requires an abundance of caution -- not less discipline, but more. As Bob Dylan sang, to live outside the law, you must be honest. You must know your own limitations, because Reality will eventually bring you to heel.

Ronald Reagan once said that "the solutions are simple, but not simplistic." As a matter of fact, simple is hard. Complexity is easy. Most people are very complex, especially the clever ones, since their mind parasites are by definition as intelligent as they are. Their intelligence just gives them more skill at pulling the wool over the eyes of their host and avoiding detection.

People are full of unconscious wormholes, psychic envelopes, secret lives, hidden compulsions, ulterior motives, and auto-hypnotic agendas. While they may appear deep, their complexity tends to conceal their essential shallowness. For mysticism is nothing more than the art of living with one's whole being -- body, mind, and spirit -- at a deeper level.

Macarius, a fourth century church father, discusses the problem of mind parasites weaving their way into the unconscious in a most vivid and arresting manner: "When the prince of wickedness and his angels burrow there, and make paths and thoroughfares there, on which the powers of Satan walk into your mind and thoughts, are you not in hell, a tomb, a sepulcher, a dead man towards God?"

Well? The essential point is that the wicked one doesn't just walk in uninvited. He's not a barbarian, but a man of taste and restraint. He is a flatterer, a seducer, a charmer. One must give off signals that he is welcome -- that he won't be turned away at the door.

Before we can enter the pneumatosphere, we must begin by clearly recognizing the fragmented, dispersed (or hardened) and fallen situation in which we find ourselves, and sincerely wish to turn it around. Everything else depends upon this first recognition, for this is the "gap" through which grace enters (interesting point today at American Thinker about how leftists are always looking for a replacement for original sin, most recently, man's Environmental Badness).

To re-cognize this gap is to realize, as written by Gregory Nazianzen, that we are "an animal en route to another native land," "halfway between greatness and nothingness." Call it repentance, metanoia, or just plain disgust, but it is the beginning of the process of reorienting our life around an altogether different center of gravity. We begin to detach from the local ego (and all its compulsive reactions) and objectively observe our thoughts and emotions, which is the opening salvo of spiritual warfare. It is to formally declare war on the forces in your psyche that pull you down and drag you out, from the depth to the surface, from the center to the periphery, from life to death.

Denys the Areopagite wrote that "the higher we ascend, the more our words are straitened by the fact that what we understand is seen more and more altogether in a unifying and simplifying way." As "reason ascends from the lower to the transcendent, the more it ascends the more it is contracted, and when it has completely ascended it will become completely speechless, and be totally united with the Inexpressible." From lower complexity to higher simplicity. True science - -including spiritual science -- is the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

Have you ever met -- I'm sure you have -- a simple, straightforward person with no agenda? Someone who is honest, transparent, and grounded, who doesn't change from day to day, depending on their mood?

Achieving this is actually an important part of the preluminary spadework of spiritual practice. You might say that it is both alpha and omega, because it is both cause and outcome.

To put it another way, it begins as an efficient cause but eventually becomes a final cause. You begin by pushing, but eventually you will feel yourself pulled (and not only that, for you will then discover that your pushing was really His pulling). What might be called the "spiritual dynamic" involves a combination of our own ceaseless efforts and the recognition that our unaided efforts will get us nowhere. As Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, "without God's grace we can do nothing; but without our voluntary cooperation God will do nothing." Or, to put it in the most simple form possible: (↓) and (↑).

Here's one for you to ponder. Basil the Great, a fourth century church father, said "A mind which is not dispersed among external things, returns to itself, and from itself ascends to God by an unerring path." Was it not Matthew who wrote, "if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light"? Yes, if thine "I" be single, many felicitous things follow. Somehow, verticality is a function of centration, of getting all of your I's on the same page -- for the psyche contains many things that are unworthy of, and incompatible with, the divine purity. Consign them to the purifying fire now, or be burned later.

Just to show you how much overlap there is over the vertical horizon, I will leave you with a couple of quotes from Sri Aurobindo that have a universal application (and this is never with the intention of steering westerners toward yoga, but the more important point of demonstrating to westerners that there is no need to leave their own tradition for what they believe to be a more sophisticated "psychospiritual technology"): "What we are now, or rather what we perceive as ourselves and so call, is only an ignorant partial and superficial formulation of our nature. It is not our whole self; it is not even our real self; it is a little representative personality.... There is a secret soul in us that is our true person.... to unveil that soul and that self is one of the most important movements of Yoga."

The lower mind consists mostly of "a complex mass of mental, nervous, and physical habits held together by a few ruling ideas, desires and associations -- an amalgam of many small self-repeating forces with a few major vibrations." A person fixated at this level "respects what belongs to the domain of mind mostly for its utility for the support, comfort, use, satisfaction and entertainment of his phsyical and sensational existence." He regards the higher as "a superfluous but pleasant luxury of imaginations, feelings and thought-abstractions, not as inner realities...."

But, paralleling what Gregory Nazianzen said above, "Mind is a passage, not a culmination": "Destiny in the rigid sense applies only to the outer being so long as it lives in the Ignorance.... But as soon as one enters the path of spiritual life, this old predetermined destiny begins to recede. There comes in a new factor, the Divine Grace, the help of a higher Divine Force other than the force of Karma.... It is here that the hostile forces playing on the weaknesses of the past nature strive to prevent the rapidity of the progress and to postpone the fulfillment."

In short, while the initial task is to turn from complexity to simplicity, from fragmentation to unity, there are forces within us that naturally wish to preserve their prerogatives and maintain the status quo. Hence the need for spiritual warfare -- for inner vigilance, for watchfulness, for facing oneself, for separating from those things that separate us from spirit, for building the Inner Citadel and abiding in that silent slackatorium with the beautiful area rug that really pulls the room together. And there the dude shall abide.

One commences with a method, but the work is taken up by a Grace from above, from That to which one aspires or an irruption of the infinitudes of the Spirit. --Sri Aurobindo