Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Good Day In Hell

A brief, dashed off blast. I have no idea whether any of this is strictly orthodox, so go easy. Most of it is from beyond (or possibly beneath) my praygrade, so I'm not to blame.

It seems that most Christians proceed directly from Good Friday to the even gooder Sunday, forgetting all about Holy Saturday. But not Balthasar, who felt that Holy Saturday was the Master key to the metacosmic meaning of the Incarnation, for it is the missing link between Crucifixion and Resurrection, dis-memberment and re-union.

For when the Word became flesh, he didn't just became a man, nor did he become only mankind. Rather, because man contains within him all the vertical degrees of existence, Christ also became existence as such, in all its diverse modes and possibilities, both manifest and hidden, gross and subtle, local and nonlocal.

It is said that Christ is the second Adam who done undid what the first done did. That being the case, it was necessary to get to the very "bottom" of existence, both horizontally and vertically. If he hadn't done that, then the situation would have been analogous -- in a manner of speaking, of course -- to taking an antibiotic for only a few days instead of the full course. In such a case, there is a danger that the infection will just hide out or mutate and return in an even more virulent form. Rather, you have to take the full course in order to kill every last trace of the parasite in your whole system.

Balthasar's views on this subject are apparently controversial, but for me, they necessarily follow from the very nature and purpose of the Incarnation. For if the purpose of the Incarnation is to heal man's alienation from God by taking it on and reversing it, then Christ must again follow this alienation all the way down to the roots, which would include not just terrestrial abandonment, but the post-biological abandonment of hell; or, one might say both temporal and eternal forsakenness.

If you imagine the Logos dropping into time and history, this descent was "arrested," so to speak, for the 33 years Jesus assumed the human form and walked the earth. But then, at the point of death, with no physical form to support him, he continued his vertical plunge to the very bottom of all cosmic possibility, into the darkest nescience at the extreme periphery of being, where it shades off into the hopeless and helpless non-being of hell.

Picture the sun, then imagine one of its rays striking the earth. But remove the earth, and the ray goes on and on, gradually diminishing in strength until it becomes undetectable and merges with the Dark. Only then can Darkness itself be subsumed into the saving grace of the cosmic theo-drama.

Or, to turn it around, in the absence of this total descent into darkness, it is as if there is an autonomous, far corner of the cosmos, a misspelled underword existing outside the circle of the Trinity.

To say with the Fathers that "God became man so that man might become God," is equally to affirm that God incarnates in the cosmos so that the cosmos itself might be sanctified and divinized: cosmotheosis, the reinstatement of the primordial unity of existence.

Time itself as we know it must go into suspension on Holy Saturday. It is not as if there is an unbroken linear thread between Crucifixion and Resurrection, but a true hiatus, or ontological fissure, in which not just Jesus, but the cosmos itself is abandoned and in ruins.

Why? "Because only in this way can God display the divine freedom to embrace completely what is not divine, and thus display what divinity completely, triumphantly, and unalterably is. God's 'hiding' of God in the dereliction of the Cross and the silence of Holy Saturday is in fact the definitive revelation" (in Oakes; emphasis mine).

Another way of saying it is that the transcendent became immanent so that the immanent might become transcendent. The source of transcendence is beyond the created order, and the latter can no more "contain" it than a circle can contain a sphere. It is as if the transcendent God plunges to the limits of immanent godlessness, paradoxically assuming what is not God into God. God in-corporates his own negation, so to speak.

For better or worse, I take seriously our theomorphic clueprint, i.e., that we are created in God's image. Therefore, the best analogy I can think of at the moment is a psychoanalytic one -- of the person plunging into the darkness of his own unconscious recesses in order to shine a light on his own subversive mind parasites and save them from their self-sufficient activity beyond the reach of the central self.

In fact, there is frankly nothing new in psychoanalysis per se; rather, it was simply a secularization of the spiritual adventure that had always been known by the great mystics, cf. Dante and his journey to the ends of hell prior to the ascent to paradise (or quintessentially in the Dark Night of St. John of the Cross).

"The emptiness of Holy Saturday is precisely the fullness, the actual fullness, of God.... God must be such as to make it possible for divine life to be victorious simply by 'sustaining' itself in hell.... God is God in or even as what is other than God (a dead man, a lost soul)." And "if we are serious in regarding God as intrinsically loving, this otherness must be something to do with divine love" (ibid).

The creation is not God, just as your child is not you. In abandoning himself to his own creation, it is as if God pours out his life for the sake of his children. For you will only know infinite love when you are aware of your love for an infinitely precious object, and equally know that this victorious love is stronger than death.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Diagnosis and Treatment of Secular Man

I believe Christianity -- or, the Judeo-Christian stream -- strikes an ideal balance between immanence and transcendence, thereby providing this life with intrinsic meaning, while not pretending that it is sufficient unto itself to confer any ultimate meaning.

Again, it is axiomatic that if man, history, and the cosmos do not point beyond themselves to a transcendent end -- to something outside themselves -- they cannot be meaningful, period.

Really, there are no degrees of meaning; rather, there is either meaning or meaninglessness (similar to there being only nihilism or theism, with nothing in between; or, more precisely, prolongations of either more nihilism or theism in between). Or, put it this way: unless meaning is anchored in Meaning, then all of the little meanings we come up with are just fleeting shadows we invent to pretend that life is more significant than it is.

This also goes to the meaning of the personal self. Why does it exist? Science, of course, cannot answer this question, for the same reason that it cannot legitimately answer any "why" question. For science -- even leaving aside the ideological reductionism and materialism that results in the deformity of scientism -- is a closed system. It absurdly posits a universe that is sufficient unto itself to explain itself and everything in it (and I use the word "absurd" in a literal sense, not as a term of abuse; I'll get to the abuse later.).

While this anti-philosophy obviously appeals to a certain kind of desiccated soul who is either not metaphysically sophisticated or in rebellion against God, it is the quintessence of a mirage. Trying to ground the metaphysical basis for such an impoverished view is about as fruitful as looking for the end of a rainbow. For both phenomena have only to do with a transient illusion that emerges due to certain concatenation of eyes, light, and vapor (or man, tenure, and gas).

As we have mentioned before, Eastern religions tend to err on the side of transcendence, devaluing this life as maya. To back up a bit, any religion begins with a diagnosis of man as such (doctrine), followed by a prescription, or kind of pneumatherapy (method): like medicine, it's Dx --> Rx --> Tx.

Buddhism, for example, diagnoses man as living in illusion, the biggest illusion of them all being that the personal self actually exists. Thus, its therapy involves "waking up" to this prior fact ("Buddha" roughly means "awakened"). Strictly speaking, its method of therapy does not result in the "attainment" of anything, only the recognition of what is, which is shunyada yada yada, or nothing but the ceaseless, passing play of empty phenomena.

In the absence of revelation, this is as far as religion can aspire. In other words, there is natural religion and transnatural religion; or, religions of ascent and religions of descent.

In the West we also have our religions of ascent, most notably the neo-Platonic tradition that reaches its perfect expression in Plotinus. Please note that this method (or cosmo-therapy) involves no grace, or (↓), only our own (↑). It does work, but at the expense of obliterating the personal self and rendering its hopes and dreams so much vain strutting and striving on the cosmic stage. Nor does the One care about us in any personal way.

What if scientism were a religion? What would be its diagnosis, or doctrine? And its method, or therapy? I suppose its diagnosis would be analogous to Buddhism, in that it affirms that you are living in illusion -- for example the illusion that you are more than your genes, that life is more than a statistically rare agglomeration of matter, or that human existence has any purpose beyond perpetuating itself (which is no purpose at all).

And what would be its therapy? I suppose attending one of its seminaries and assimilating this teaching from the priesthood of physicists and biologists. "Salvation" would be liberation from the error of religion, or really, from any kind of transcendent meaning or purpose in general. Once you recognize that life is just a meaningless competition of selfish genes, you have received the secular gnosis.

However, in any real religion there is recognition of the truth, followed by its gradual assimilation, i.e., conforming one's being to it (hence the need for ongoing "therapy," i.e., spiritual practice). It's one thing to recognize, say, Darwinism, but what would it mean to truly assimilate its truth (illumination), purge one's being of error (purification), and to live in conformity with it (unification)?

In order to do that, you would have to leave behind all traces of illusory human meaning, and see through the various stratagems produced by selfish genes. For example, you would have to recognize that romantic love is just an illusion created for the purposes of getting one's genes into the next generation. In this context, homosexuality would have to be the ultimate his & heresy, but marriage of any kind would be for sentimental fools.

Anyway, we were about to get into a discussion of the order of the mind, which itself is an interesting word, order. For the cosmos is not just ordered (obviously), but hierarchically ordered, in such way that man is confronted with various intelligible and relatively autonomous "orders."

For example, there is the order of physics, the order of biology, the order of mind -- everywhere we look, order. Why? And what is the relationship between, say, the order of the cosmos and the order of the soul? Scientism would insist that there is no such relationship, and that any supposed order of the soul is just another illusion that ultimately reduces to the order of matter.

But any religious tradition holds the opposite view, that man is both microcosm and mediator, and that there is an intimate relationship between the micro- and macrocosm: as above, so below. And ironically, the pursuit of genuine science began with this assumption, but has gradually severed itself from its own lofty roots.

But make no mistake: any tenured primate who pretends to understand reality is implicitly affirming that man the microcosm is uniquely capable of conforming his understanding to the macrocosm -- that the two are somehow one in the act of knowing that bridges them.

More generally, he is affirming that man is capable of adequating himself to ultimate reality, which is precisely what a Raccoon believes -- and which is why I don't understand the charges of "arrogance," "absolutism," or "absurd self-confidence." Those charges aren't rational. Rather, they are just what happens when someone who thought his was the only religion encounters another people with a different religion.

Out of time. To be continued....

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Meaning of It All

Much as I try to hide it, our eagle-eyed troll -- who veritably brims with rudimentary intelligence -- just noticed the other day that I have been influenced by this fellow named Schuon. After quickly googling a paragraph of Schuon, he concluded that his malign influence must account for my stupidity, narrowness of mind, absolutism, opposition to science (sic), rejection of modernity (sic), hostility to reason (sic), and absurd self-confidence.

As I have mentioned before, I am quite certain that Schuon wouldn't have been pleased to be associated with the likes of me, because as much as I regard him as a peerless sage and probable saint, the feeling would not by any means have been mutual (not that it should have been).

To the contrary, even before getting into the questionable content, Schuon would have been appalled at my breezy style of metaphysical comedy -- not to mention my freewheeling jazz age theological improvisations in the manner of unschooled American negro musicians -- which he would have no doubt regarded as vulgar and lacking in sobriety (unaware, of course, that comedy is much more difficult than drama, but we'll let it go).

Also, it is hard to envision Schuon allowing one of these infernal blogging machines into his house, but impossible to imagine him permitting open comments so as to expose the perennial wisdom to the grubby likes of anonymous, who cannot help sullying anything that proceeds from his ghastly piehole. Schuon took seriously the parable of pearls and pigs in a way the blogger cannot.

Like Schuon, I try not to draw attention to myself, but nevertheless, if you put yourself out there in any way, the darkness will find you. I'll bet you anything that Schuon had his share of wackos who pestered him with letters and even showed up at his doorstep. At least by blogging, one can keep the crazies at a safe distance and just ridicule them. And if the trolls insist on coming back, it's their problem, not mine. It certainly can't harm the truth they can't touch anyway. Plus, they are an endless source of good-natured comedy.

As I have mentioned before, I have some fundamental disagreements with Schuon in several key areas, including the value of science, the meaning of modernity, the actual conditions in which most premodern men lived (e.g., illiteracy, famine, plague, oppression, unpleasant rashes, bad smells, et al), the relative utility of psychoanalysis, his placement of metaphysics over revelation, the providential role of the United States, his idealization of American Indian culture (and "primordial culture" in general, what with its psychotic levels of violence, not to mention human sacrifice), and the contributions of people like Teilhard and Aurobindo, who tried to reconcile evolution and Spirit (not to suggest that I fully agree with those two either).

And again, even though I have my disagreements with Schuon, I would never dream of placing myself on the same plane as him. Analogously, even though it is easy enough to disagree with Isaac Newton, it would be absurd to place oneself on his level of genius. A schoolboy can know about the theory of relativity, but that hardly makes him more brilliant than Newton.

I think much of my divergence from Schuon has to do with temperament and with culture. Again, he was a man of extreme sobriety. But also, I can't help thinking that my Americanism has much to do with the differences -- and beneath that, a metaphysic that was essentially Vedantin rather than Christian.

In America we value -- and even hold sacred -- certain things that Schuon would have regarded as peripheral at best, diabolical at worst. And perhaps the most important of these is the value of the unique individual. He often rails against individualism as one of the worst features of modernity. I happen to agree, but it very much depends upon the way one looks at it.

There is no question that the individual self as we know it is a modern phenomenon that only emerged on a widespread scale several hundred years ago (cf. Taylor's magisterial Sources of the Self for every last pedantic detail). Now, the question is, was this a good -- and even providential -- thing, or a kind of going off the rails into error, disorder, rebellion, hedonism, nihilism, and Obamism?

Yes. And no. Another modern development Schuon hated -- psychoanalysis -- explains the difference. This is not the place to go into all of the details, but modern psychoanalysis (which I take to be any version that is rooted in neurodevelopmental attachment theory) converges on the health or pathology of the modern self alluded to above. In short, it is not the self that is to be rejected outright, only pathological versions of it (cf. Dr. Sanity's Encouraging a Culture of Narcissism).

Which leads directly to the next topic discussed in Schall's The Order of Things, the order of mind. For it is only possible to say that a particular self is pathological if the self as such has a function, or a proper end. A self that fails to achieve this end is in a state of pathology, no different than a heart that has no rhythm or a pituitary that won't ptoo.

Now, because of its pervasive flatland materialism, the West tends to collapse all of the orders above biology into one murky mess (indeed, sometimes even reducing it all to biology, as the evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists do).

But in reality, there are several fundamental domains that we must keep separate, including spirit, soul, ego, and mind. Even religion -- especially exoteric religion -- tends to collapse spirit and soul into one entity, which severely limits its explanatory power (similar to how they collapse God and Godhead).

When we talk about the culture war, we are really talking about the irreconcilable differences between theists and nihilists. In the end, you are either one or the other, and if you don't realize it, it is only because you cannot be intellectually honest with yourself and draw out the ultimate implications of your metaphysic. But as we have mentioned in the past, there is a strange convergence of Vedanta and nihilism, since both again devalue the infinite value of the individual, i.e., the soul.

When we say "soul," exactly what are we talking about besides Aretha, Brother Ray, and Al Green? I see it as a sort of "condensation" or "crystalization" that results from the descent and infusion of Spirit into matter (and I believe this would be consistent with the Kabbalistic view, e.g., The Thirteen Petalled Rose). First of all, please note that this involves the descent of a higher dimensional reality into a lower one, so that the lower one can never actually "contain" the higher -- and which is why the light "leaks" from every pore of the illuminated soul.

This is a good place to stop before we get into the purpose of the soul, which converges on the purpose of existence. For one thing a Raccoon believes is that the world is worthy of our being in it, and that we are worthy of having been put here. In short, there is an ultimate purpose to our doing time here in time -- or no purpose at all. In the absence of a transcendent goal, existence is just a fleeting gaol.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Degrade and Conquer

[T]he major alternative to God in the modern world can be conceived, and often has been conceived, as a political order. Such an order claims complete independence of any natural or divine influence in its judgment about what is to be done in the political order, which looks to nothing higher than itself. This deformed regime then claims to be able by itself to make men happy in this world, which, in its own way, is itself a divine claim. --James Schall

Back to the topic at hand, the relationship between the order of the soul (the interior individual) and the order of the state (the exterior social). Again, these reflections are sponsored by Schall's The Order of Things. I should add that I take full responsibility for the post, and that any errors are entirely his.

When we talk about the use of force, again, it is only legitimate when it is a tool of order, or when "it represents an effort to keep order within the polity against those forces that would cause disorder." Furthermore, force only becomes necessary when ordered reason -- i.e., persuasion -- won't do the trick. And even if one's reasoning is perfect, human beings aren't. As often as not, their passions blind them to reason, so that coercion becomes necessary.

One of the true miracles of the human situation is that we have discovered a way to convert men's passions into common goods that benefit us all, i.e., the free market. Merely as a result of men doing what they do, the pool of wealth grows without limits. Conservatives don't see a problem with this, and would like to let the pool continue growing. But the left says, "that's enough. Let's stop now and divvy up the booty, which was stolen by Anglocentric racist homophobes anyway."

Thus, as some honest Democrats have acknowledged after the fact, Obamacare is hardly about improving what is already the finest healthcare in the world, but merely a Trojan Horse for the purposes of income redistribution. Obviously, the billions in new taxes it generates will be poured straight down into the general sump hole, where they will be used to sustain our bloated government and forestall its bankruptcy for another week or two.

Again, the market is a natural way to transform what moralists regard as "bad" impulses without in any way controlling them. No government entity has to force me to engage in economic transactions I think will benefit me. But third parties who run the state have their own ideas of what constitutes the good, so that they feel morally entitled to interfere with my free choices.

It is critical to bear in mind that a state that employs force to punish goodness or create disorder is intrinsically illegitimate (although there are obviously degrees of illegitimacy). And every state will engage in some activities that are not legitimate, but that doesn't mean that the entire state lacks legitimacy. Rather, the whole purpose of political philosophy is to understand the conditions of the ideally just state, even though the reality can never absolutely conform with the ideal, if only because man is everywhere man.

Schall points out that there are two kinds of happiness, one of which is "political," the other having to do with man's proper end. Clearly the two are related, because it can be very difficult, if not impossible, for a man to achieve his true end in the wrong kind of polity. To take an extreme example, imagine the difficulty of actualizing one's true potential and "becoming oneself" in the old Soviet Union -- or in any totalitarian regime that tells you what a man is and what his life is for.

Clearly, such a view was antithetical to the vision of America's founders, who were not just political philosophers, but more importantly, moral philosophers. America was conceived in liberty, which for them meant ordered liberty rooted in right reason accessible to any uncorrupted man.

What is the end of man? Schall writes that "Political happiness is its own natural good, while at the same time it is ordered to the good of contemplation. Contemplation [or what we call cʘʘntemplation] itself is ordered to what is ultimately worth contemplating, for its own sake."

Here again, this converges on the true meaning of liberal, in that we are most free (or slackful) when we are free to contemplate and enjoy the absolute in all its diverse modes, e.g., love, truth, beauty, friendship, creativity, unity. For men, it is this "useless" knowledge that is the most useful, for it is precisely what elevates our lives and makes them worth living. It is what makes us human instead of a just another pleasure-seeking animal, and implies the "full blossoming, inasmuch as that is possible, of the human being in all his mortal potential."

An alternative to this is the warped progressive ontology which sees man as a material means to a material end conceived by third parties. Thus their devaluation of liberty and a consequent preoccupation with economic, not spiritual, equality. This is one of the master keys toward understanding the disordered soul of the true leftist, for he literally doesn't see what we see, and obsesses over things we don't think about -- for example, that some citizens in a free society will have more stuff than others. My son, for example, has many more toys and clothes than I have. But I'm not jealous of him, since I have some invisible and infinitely precious things of which he has no awareness (or rather, they have me).

You might say that Job One of the left is to first despiritualize man. And once a man has been materialized, it is child's play to convince him that the state can make him happy -- or that the reasons for his unhappiness are exterior to himself.

This is truly a diabolical inversion, for it is not only absurd, but it also systematically prevents a man from understanding and actualizing his transcendent purpose. The true conservative knows that we must "prevent politics from being something other than it is. We do not want politics claiming to provide a transcendent happiness that is beyond its nature." For when the political order "places itself between the human being and his end, it violates the most precious purpose of its own existence..." (Schall)

Indeed, as the Pope has said, the loss of transcendence provokes the flight to utopia -- for example, our new utopian healthcare system, soon to be followed by our utopian climate-control system. These follow on the heels of the left's utopian educational system, along with the utopian poverty-control system they implemented in the 1960s. Thus, as anyone can see, our nation is very close to actual political utopia. Two more years of Obama, and we should be there.

But why are people angrily rejecting Obama's imposition of liberal utopia? Is it ingratitude? Racism? An outmoded belief that the Constitution means what it says? Bitter clinging to one's own ideas of the transcendent good?

Jesus and Socrates, two of the archetypal fountainheads of Western civilization, were men who lived in the Light of the transcendent Absolute, and were murdered for it by the state. I believe that these myths (in the higher sense of the term) are in our bones, so that the left must first uproot them in order to impose their own magical myth of Sugar Candy Mountain on earth.

It is surely no coincidence that Obama is our first non-Christian and "multicultural" (in the philosophic sense of seeing nothing special about the West) president, whose perverse version of "Christianity" is so beyond the pale that it contains far more heresy than valid theology. We have to imagine the spiritual condition of a man who sat in those pews week after week, year after year, hearing vile and lunatic things that would have sent any of us (trolls excepted) running for the nearest shower.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chaocracy and Our Malorderous B.O.

Let's continue with our discussion of the order of the polity, except let's stop calling it that. Sounds too remote and theoretical. Let's just call it government.

Using Wilber's nomenclature, the government would refer to the exterior-social, whereas culture is the interior-social, i.e., the We. The closer the government can come to expressing the will of the We, the better -- assuming, of course, that we are dealing with a virtuous populace. With a citizenry that lacks virtue, a virtuous autocrat would actually be preferable (in the short term, of course, until his inbred, syphilitic son takes the throne).

Obviously, the Founders never foresaw an unvirtuous populace. Well, actually they did, which is why they rejected democracy for a representative republic. This is also what led to our first factions -- let's just call them political parties -- i.e., the Federalists and the Regular Guys. The Federalists were extremely skeptical of the ability of grubby Regular Guys to govern themselves, and envisioned more of an aristocracy of virtuous Men of Slack (for Slack was required in order to cultivate virtue, e.g., manners, classical learning, disinterestedness, and the occasional bath).

The Federalists lasted only 12 years, until Jefferson, who pretended to speak for the Regular Guys, became president. The Democrat party can be traced back to him, in that it still consists of an intemperate rabble of utopian schemers, impractical dreamers, and condescending monied elites who presume to speak for the Regular Guys who just laugh at them behind their backs.

Today, these self-styled elites mostly prop each other up in a nationwide televised intellectual jerk circle, so that, say, a Thomas Friedman and a David Gergen (to pick two clowns at random) can convince each other and themselves that they are not vacuous mediocrities with nothing important to say. Their real job is not to convey useful ideas to people who need them, but to manufacture and maintain self-importance in each other through the propagation of conventional wisdom.

For example, if you are one of those many people who think that Obama is "brilliant," it is very likely that you are a member in good standing (no pun intended) of the elite jerk circle. In affirming your belief that B.O. is something more than a failed community organizer and affirmative action political hire, other members of the jerk circle will confirm your brilliance, sophistication, and discrimination, and elevate you above those tea-bagging talk radio listeners and sexy leather-clad biker chicks -- you know, the millions of Regular Guys & Gals you presume to speak for.

Anyway, enough history. More sexy leather-clad biker chicks!

There can be no government in the absence of force, i.e., violence (potential or actual). But this violence is only legitimate if 1) it is rooted in ordered reason, and 2) it expresses the will of the people, i.e., the interior social. But again, when we speak of the "people," it is the individual who is the ultimate source of order, for a nation of disordered souls cannot produce an ordered government. To put it another way, people who cannot even master their own domain have no business trying to master mine.

But one of the shell games the left plays with virtue is to conflate it with politically correct stances on social issues. For example, you can be the most hateful, mean-spirited, and disordered person -- say, Sean Penn, or Alec Baldwin -- but so long as you support "gay marriage" or believe in "global warming," then the left considers you a Good Person. Dennis Prager was talking about this the other day, i.e., the replacement of the classical virtues with mere political correctness.

For the left, to become "socially conscious" is analogous to baptism, which washes away one's sins. But becoming socially conscious never involves seeing through the intoxicating and destructive lies of the left, much less ordering of one's own disordered soul. That would be too difficult. Much easier to just wish rectal cancer on one's critics. After all, didn't Thomas Jefferson say that the Tree of Marxism must occasionally be refreshed with the blood of Fox viewers?

Now, man is not perfect, so inevitably we must have a government that has the power to crack the occasional head and lock up the disordered people who threaten the general order. But what if the very forces of disorder take control of the government?

As a matter of fact, we have been on this downward trend for the past 75 or so years, and Obama represents the apex -- or nadir -- of this baleful ascent of the chaocracy. For example, we all know what happened when the judical chaocrats took control in the 1960s, and crime -- the very definition of disorder -- skyrocketed. But their solution was to define deviancy even further down, so that abnormality became the new normal.

For the chaocrats are fundamentally naive about the source of order, generally because they don't believe in the soul, much less an ordered one. Rather, as someone put it (Eliot?), they dream of top-down systems so perfect that no one will need to be good. For example, that's what the government takeover of healthcare is all about. Just like Medicare, this vast system will be so effective that it will eliminate fraud, waste, and increased demand for "free" services. Thus, it will not just cure men, but finally cure Man. And they call themselves reality-based.

But socialists perversely punish responsibility (i.e., order) in the effort to eliminate irresponsibility (disorder). For example, I would like to be responsible for my own health and retirement, and suffer the consequences if I don't plan for the future. Is that a bad thing? Yes, it is -- so bad that the left would like to outlaw the selfish pursuit of my own health. (Step one: make it too expensive.)

As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, if one's political philosophy is not rooted in an accurate anthropology, then it will not just be wrong, but actually engender oppression, for you will be like a deranged zookeeper who puts the penguins with the toucans or feeds grass to the lions. To take just one obvious example, if you do not believe that man was created to be free, then you will have no problem with a political philosophy that devalues or even eliminates man's freedom.

Or, as Schall puts it, "Politics presupposes our understanding of the internal order or disorder of human beings." Without this understanding, we will create a political order that is literally appropriate for some other nonexistent species. For example, let's say that your anthropology doesn't go beyond a literal-minded, fundamentalist Darwinism, with no recognition whatsoever of the transcendent order that is man's true ground and destiny. What would your resultant ideal political order look like? I won't even get into the possibilities, because I don't want to violate Godwin's law this early in the morning.

To be continued. Probably no post tomorrow, as I have a very early day.

(Yoinked from Lucianne)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Voted For the Messiah, and All I Got Was this Lousy T-Shirt

Today's post has an opening act. While rummaging around the archive, I found some old gags buried beneath a pile of overripe cherry-picked facts, right next to the revealed hunches and some old sneaking suspicions. A few years ago, Dupree had the idea of starting a company that manufactures political bumper stickers and t-shirts. He asked for my help, so I came up with the following ones for liberals. Unfortunately, most of them were too long to fit onto a bumper sticker, so the idea was scrapped.

--A fool and someone else's money can solve any problem. (The Liberal Credo)

--Whining isn't everything. It's the only thing.

--If life gives you lemons, file a class action suit against Sunkist.

--A person is known by the company he boycotts.

--A lie travels halfway around the world. The other half doesn't get CNN.

--Eternal vigilance is the price of paranoia.

--Like father, like, what's that?

--Don't count your chickens before they're aborted.

--Beggars can't be choosers. Rather, they're now called "homeless."

--Necessity is the mother of entitlements.

--Ask not what your country can do for you. Instead, steal it from future generations.

--It's not how you play the game, so long as no one wins or loses and gets their feelings hurt.

--Spare the forceps, spoil the fetus.

--When I was a child, I spoke as a child. After attending graduate school, it was even worse.

--Boys will be boys until Obamacare provides subsidized ritalin for every one of them.

--Regardless of your background, any American who really works hard at it can still become a victim.

--Those who don't learn from history must have majored in it.

--And a child shall lead them. Unless the GOP can get its act together before 2012.

--Freedom's just another word for nothing left to tax.

And some bumper snickers for Islamists and their fashionable sympathizers:

--Sticks and stones will break your bones if your words should ever humiliate me.

--If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try to blame the Jews.

--A penny saved will help finance a martyrdom operation.

--There's something rotten in Denmark. Free speech.

--Don't judge a book unless it's been approved by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue.

--Don't try to reinvent the wheel before you've even discovered it.

--Give a Palestinian a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and the UN will have nothing left to do.

--A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Period.

--One picture is worth a thousand riots.

--Ask me no questions and I will tell you lies just for the hell of it.

--The race doesn't always go to the swift, but to the sneaky and duplicitous.

--Good fences make it more difficult to kill your neighbors.

--If it ain't broke, that's a relief, because we have no idea how to fix anything.

--If you can't beat 'em, at least try to kill and maim as many of their children as possible.

--If you can't say anything nice, you should run for office in the Palestinian territories.

--It's not whether you win or lose, it's how much meaningless suffering you can inflict.

--It's always darkest before the dawn. So if you're going to sneak into Israel with a suicide bomb, that's the time to do it.

--What doesn't kill you won't kill any Jews either.

--Don't shoot the messenger. Torture his family in front of him.

--The road to hell -- or anyplace else, for that matter -- is paved with IEDs.

--Those who don't learn from history are respecting the will of Allah.


Now, on to today's post.

What does God's little theo-drama have to do with us? For Balthasar, it is not a doctrine but a reality, the reality of the trinitarian God. Your mission, should you accept it, is to "appropriate this reality," to "enter into it and become absorbed into it," and to make it your own subjectivity. At once, you assimilate it into yourself while at the same time you become assimilated into it. Be careful though, because apparently some disassembly is required.

Think of how the assimilation of culture works for the child. Is he assimilating it, or does it assimilate him? Or how about language? Do we speak it, or does it speak us? This might seem like an idle question, but as I pointed out in my book, the more alert you are to this process, the more you see that the average person is actually spoken by language. They more or less consist of a storehouse of disconnected memes they rewordgitate like prerecorded tapes, depending upon which button you push. Indeed, this is what makes them so boring.

A person who is actually alive to language and operating out of a "free center" is always a dangerous person -- dangerous to the establishment. Yes, I am a conservative hippie, but that's not exactly what I meant. "Establishment" is a term of art used by Bion to denote the "group container," as it were. It can only be understood dialectically, in relation to what Bion called the "mystic" or "messiah" (again, you need to strip these -- at least initially -- of their religious overtones).

Man is obviously a social animal who belongs to various groups. Believe it or not, the first group is infant-breast (or even mouth-nipple). And although it is becoming more of a rarity, some of us move on from there, while leftists pretty much live out their days in the shadow of the infantile teat they call government. Just as the infant doesn't initially realize that the breast is connected to a flesh-and-blood woman with her own interests, liberals don't understand that government milk can only come from productive, flesh-and-blood citizens.

As I explained in my book, whatever else it is, culture is first and foremost a psychological container that can be more or less in touch with reality -- just like a person. Thus, an orthodox Raccoon would not ask why this or that culture is so crazy. Rather, he would ask why some are relatively sane. If you realize how crazy people are, then you understand why cultures are the way they are. Or, to put it another way, only someone who is completely blind to the dark side of human nature can proudly call themselves a "multiculturalist." Might as well boast that you have Multiple Personality Disorder.

Think of the thoroughly academically brainwashed Obama, who sees nothing exceptional about America. Palestinian exceptionalism, Iranian exceptionalism, North Korean exceptionalism, it's all the same. Except for Jewish exceptionalism. That's just the Zionist hoodlums hoarding their gold.

You could say that a culture is just a neurosis writ large, while a neurosis is just a private culture. And the latter is indeed a culture, because you don't have to be a clinical psychologist to know that the average person is at cross-purposes with himself because he is inhabited by various alter-egos with differing agendas (and from different orders of being), which we call mind parasites. Mind parasites generally operate unconsciously, while the conscious mind makes excuses for them in order to confer a spurious sense of unity upon the self -- a coherent narrative.

But this narrative is always a lie (more or less), as it is in the service of mind parasites, not Truth. Thus, to surrender to Truth is always a threat to the mind parasites. You might even imagine that you don't have any until you try to act in such a way that threatens them.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading autobiographies of genuine saints and mystics is that they always go into great detail about this -- about how they dealt with the rebellious mind parasites that were stirred up by virtue of their attempting to conform themselves to the Divine. So to enter the spiritual path is to declare war on your mind parasites, precisely. Or, you could just say that when you try to adequate yourself to what IS, you create a riot among those dedicated to what isn't. (Think of Jesus after his baptism; the very next thing that happens is the confrontation with the adversary in the desert.)

Again, the establishment features the identical defense mechanisms that are present in the most basic group, i.e., mouth-breast. These include splitting, projection, internalization, deification, evacuation, envy, contempt and triumph. None of these has any necessary relationship to truth. For example, a person who is projecting may say something that is technically true, but that isn't why he's saying it. Rather, for that person, the real truth is the function of his defense mechanism, which is to expel the bad from the psyche in order to maintain homeostasis. (Think of our anonymous troll.)

The mind is obviously an "order-seeking" organ. However, like all living systems, it is open and at disequilibrium. As such, it can never actually achieve homeostasis except when one is dead. And it goes without saying that one may continue biological life long after one is intellectually or spiritually dead, a point which is proven by the existence of the tenured. And our anonymous troll.

Therefore, all man-made intellectual systems, no matter how lofty, will have a component of the most laughty infantile anxiety, which comes down to the fantasy that I possess the breast (to be pedantic, this unconscious process is actually spelled phantasy, to distinguish it from conscious fantasy). And at its extreme, this is none other than hell, which constitutes the willful fantasy of radical self-sufficiency, closed off from the transcendent source of love, truth, beauty, and unity. For truly, in order to be somebody, you must be a big nobody. You know, Blessed are the poor in spirit....

To cite one obvious example, the naive Darwinian who truly believes that his ideology provides any kind of adequate explanation of the human station is really acting out of the most primitive defense imaginable -- just whistling past the graveyard of his intellect. Please note that this does not apply to someone who simply embraces the science in a disinterested way, knowing that it's only a scientific abstraction, not to be confused with reality.

According to the sadly out of print New Introduction to the Work of Bion, "Attempts to evacuate, deify, or dogmatize are defensive reactions in the face of catastrophic change," a principle that applies "to any scientific, religious, therapeutic, or social group."

Change. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes. It appears that we are in the midst of some catastrophic changes these days. And what does the catastrophic change elicit and call out from the deep?

Yes, precisely. The messiah. But of course, the political messiah is only the visible side of the moon. We all know that there is a dark side of the moonbat, consisting of the primitive defense mechanisms that have conjured the false messiah into being. It's all a big defense. Against what? Against reality, of course.

This is why in a creepily unprecedented way, the entire liberal media extablishment is working as a farce-multiplier for Obama's rapidly crumbling political deification. After all, no one is in the midst of a bigger crisis than the liberal media, who are in the process of becoming extinct, messiah or no messiah. Or, put this way: even the real God couldn't save newspapers. Nor would he want to, since one thing God cannot do is act contrary to his nature, which is Truth (among other things).

The genuine Messiah is exceedingly dangerous. He is not the cure for catastrophic change. Rather, he is its cause. He sets up his "death-jump" into history "as a model: he lures men from their limits out into the same inevitably deadly adventure. His fire is to burn on in others. Now and then he actually succeeds, like dynamite, in blasting a soul into the air, and far and wide the windows rattle and the foundations of houses quake" (Balthsar).

You could say that the false messiah rescues people from what is, while the true Messiah saves them from what isn't.