Monday, May 10, 2010

The Volk Religion of the Left

If one doesn't believe in revelation, then the issue of divine accommodation is moot. But if revelation has occurred, then I think it's impossible to avoid the conclusion that it must be couched in terms that human beings can comprehend. And since human beings have changed dramatically over the centuries, this means that God must reveal himself in different ways at different times and to different populations.

For example, as we were discussing in the previous post, the logic of sacrifice made perfect sense to primitive peoples, otherwise it wouldn't have been universally practiced. It took thousands of years for human beings to arrive at the conception of a rational and caring God -- or even God, since it was a long, back-and-forth struggle to evolve from polytheism to monotheism. Compared to how long man has been here, monotheism has only prevailed for a tiny percentage of the time.

Stark begins with an analysis of the religious beliefs of primitive peoples, but it turns out that there's not all that much we can know about them with certainty. For example, many theories on the subject were derived from the study of "modern stone age" cultures such as Bedrock that persisted into the 19th century or later, and there is no way of knowing for sure if the Flintstones are really similar to peoples of ten or twenty thousand years ago.

Interestingly, it has long been argued that religion began with nature worship, but Stark writes that "primitive peoples show remarkably little interest in what we may regard as the most impressive phenomena of nature -- sun, moon, sky, mountains, sea, and so forth -- whose monotonous regularities they take very much for granted." In other words, ironically, it is contemporary human beings who are much more impressed with the beauty and majesty of nature. This is not difficult to understand, as primitive man must have been very much aware of the fact that nature was full of dangers.

Furthermore, as I have argued in the past, I don't think primitive peoples were individuated enough to notice such a sharp distinction between self and world. It is only because we are so aware of our separation that we take aesthetic notice of the environment -- which is why it is no coincidence that the romantic movement arose shortly after the emergence of the modern self.

In every development, something is gained but something is lost. I can see this quite vividly in my son, who is still between baby and boy. When he goes thorough a growth spurt, this is usually accompanied by anxiety that makes him want to engage in "regression play," for example, being a baby animal.

Likewise, when the autonomous self emerged with modernity, something was lost. Actually, several things: a fixed role, erosion of traditional family structures, weakening of religious constraints, etc. Think of the vast difference between having your identity given to you, vs. having an open-ended self that one must struggle to actualize and understand. In a very real sense, being liberated from tradition meant being a mystery to oneself.

The scientific and industrial revolutions created a kind of historical rupture or existential birthquake which continues to be felt today. In his book Modern Fascism, Veith discusses the deep alienation that resulted from the dramatic change from an agrarian, religious, hierarchical, and essentially timeless (or cyclical) existence to one that was suddenly ordered around the machine, the clock, democracy, and (small r) reason.

If we say that man appeared approximately 200,000 years ago, his life was essentially unchanged from then until the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 years ago. Afterwards, not a lot changed for the average Joe until the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 18th century. So in the overall scheme of things, our current lifestyle is truly just a blip -- several hundred years out of a total of 200,000. No wonder, therefore, that humans have such a strongly romantic and nostalgic streak, being that we're all living in an alien psychic environment profoundly different from the one we we evolved in.

Veith writes that "fascism is essentially a response to the alienation that has been a part of the spiritual landscape of the West since the Enlightenment.... Science, technology, and the economic realities and environmental damage of the industrial revolution isolate the individual from nature. There has thus been a genuine yearning for community and for an organic unity with the natural world."

Living a life of cold logic is intrinsically alienating. There is nothing Rational about living a life of pure (again, small r) reason. But nor is there anything rational about abandoning reason altogether and living a purely instinctual life, which is what occurred with Nazi Germany, but also to a lesser extent in the 1960s, not just in America, but all over the developed world.

Again, this is anything but progressivism; it is pure romanticism, which is always backward looking -- and not just backward looking, but backward to an idealized past that never existed to begin with. It is pure projection of present existential pain, and escapism into a mythic past. No one is more conservative than a progressive. It's just that what they want to conserve is childhood and all of its privileges, i.e., irresponsibility, dependency, entitlement, rebellion against the grown-ups, polymorphous perversity, weak boundaries, etc.

For someone who lives without any religious telos, the denial of impulses seems stifling and arbitrary. As Veith writes, "If objective knowledge is alienating, subjective experience is liberating and healing. Authentic experience comes from unleashing the emotions, cultivating the subjective and irrational dimension of life."

So never ask why the left is so emotional and irrational, because that is the whole point. It is a way of life. You will look in vain for the "rational end" they are seeking, because the emotional irrationalism is its own end.

America was the first nation explicitly created around abstract and universal principles instead of more primitive modes of blood, soil, mythology, etc. Here again, the modern doctrine of multiculturalism is in reality a quite primitive reversion back to earlier ways of life. Multiculturalism is specifically a rejection of American principles, what with its obsession with blood and race instead of ideas. This is why those who criticize Obama are accused of being "racist." It is not as if we have our ideas and they have theirs. Rather, we have our ideas and they have their emotions, which they project into us -- as if we are the ones who are obsessed with race!

For Americans -- and for Christians -- "essence" is in the individual. That is, we are created in the image of God, so that our deepest personal essence partakes of divinity.

But for the multicultural volkists of the left, essence is in the group: "Volk is a much more comprehensive term than 'people,'" signifying "the union of a group of people with a transcendental 'essence.' This 'essence' might be called 'nature,' or 'cosmos' or 'mythos,' but in each instance it was fused to man's innermost nature and represented the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality and his unity with other members of the Volk. The essential element here is the linking of the human soul with its natural surroundings, with the 'essence' of nature."

Now, why do you think that virtually all leftists are environmental hysterics and global warmongers? Here again, you need only scratch the surface of their irrational rhetoric to appreciate a reservoir of primitive, volkisch-like sentiments of "unity" with mother earth, of "healing" the planet, of turning back the tides, of sacrificial penance to the gods of carbon offsets, etc.

For (non-left) Americans, the individual stands above the state, and derives his inalienable rights from the Creator. But for the left wing volkist, the group is the supreme identity that is fused with the state. No surprise then that we worship such different divinities.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Human Sacrifice on the Altar of the Left

Again, the key to the evolution of God is "divine accommodation," which means that, at any time and in any culture or individual, knowledge of God is limited by the capacity of human beings to comprehend. Since there has never been any human culture that is unaware of God, that means that revelation and comprehension must always be occurring. Even with pre-literate peoples, the message still got through, but in a highly limited and concrete manner.

In fact, Magnus made an excellent point in this regard, and in many ways it is the main reason why this question about God's evolution should be of interest to us: "I wonder to what degree each person is doomed to repeat the psychogenesis of history. At least it should be possible to avoid some of the long pauses and backsliding." The point is that since human beings clearly develop in every way, it necessarily follows that their ability to comprehend God will follow the same developmental schema.

As mentioned yesterday, I certainly don't agree with everything Stark has to say on the subject. Although the book provides a great deal of fascinating and extremely useful research, I think his analysis is far too superficial, and never really gets beneath the surface into the principial, or metaphysical realm. In other words, he is far too empirical, and tries to draw his conclusions in a merely logical way, as if he is studying household income, or the evolution of tools. His ultimate explanation is that religions should be understood in the manner of free market economics, so that, if given the choice, people will "choose" religions that are more satisfying to them.

But this approach begs so many questions that it is difficult to even know where to begin. For example, he assumes far too much rationality in humans, especially humans of the distant past. Let's look, for example, at the (literally) bloodthirsty religions of Mesoamerica. Stark chides the earlier, pre-PC generations of anthropologists that contemptuously dismissed these people as barbaric and hopelessly illogical savages, but I think that is closer to the truth than suggesting that they were merely engaging in an understandable "exchange relationship" between God and man. You know, God wants to drink human blood, and we just happen to have a lot of it around, so it's a win-win situation!

B-b-b-but why blood? Why human sacrifice? And how can there be whole human cultures that revolve around this practice for hundreds of years, without anyone noticing that, for starters, it doesn't actually work? Okay, every time we do it, the sun comes up. Plus, the sun hasn't extinguished yet. Ergo, human sacrifice works.

But is this really logical? And why the anxiety about the sun going out? What's that all about? Obviously the sun had no problems making it through the day before the institution of human sacrifice. Who's the genius that came up with the idea, and how did he sell it to his fellow tribesmen? Can you imagine the conversation?

If I were there at the time, participating in the debate, I would have undoubtedly adopted the role of group psychologist. "Okay, let's stipulate that someone wants to slice open a victim's chest, cut out the beating heart, and eat it. Before assuming that it's God, let's explore this a bit more. Where are these feelings coming from? Mr. Dahmer, what are your thoughts? Etc.

Stark defines sacrifice in operational terms as "things given up or foregone so that they might be offered to God(s)." Okay, good enough. But there's a big difference between the perspectives of the knife-wielding priest and the sacrificial victim, isn't there? I mean, what's the priest really foregoing in Stark's terms? Nothing. Rather, he's very much like a liberal, who is perfectly willing to sacrifice other people's money.

The comparison is rather apt, because the left describes a Ted Kennedy as a lifelong public servant, which is true in the same sense that the sacrificial priest was one. For what did Ted Kennedy ever give up in the sacrificial process of burning all those trillions of dollars that didn't belong to him? When push came to shove, he wouldn't even allow wind generators near his property, because they might interfere with the view. Sacrifice!

Stark notes that "Blood played a significant role in sacrifices in all of the ancient temple religions," and this is indeed true (since, unlike the modern liberal priesthood, they didn't have cash). But again, why? One type of sacrifice that was still in vogue in Paul's time involved slaughtering a bull "on a wooden platform under which lay new initiates who were then drenched in the bull's blood..."

Okay. Let's assume that God enjoys this spectacle. My first thought is WHAT IN THE HELL KIND OF GOD ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE, PEOPLE!!!!!

For this cannot be God, -- and certainly not a God worth worshiping -- but some kind of preternatural monster. Stark notes that when the Spanish explorers arrived in Mexico, "they were utterly astounded by the immense ritual slaughters that were taking place." Subsequent academically correct research tried to deny the scope of the sacrifices, but they have now been verified. Stark cites one archaeological find containing the remains of 42 children with their throats cut, as an offering to the "rain gods" (let's not give Al Gore any ideas. Besides, hasn't the poor man sacrificed enough?).

Again, since we're not actually talking about God, what are we talking about? Unfortunately, Stark blandly dismisses psychoanalysis with a single sentence to the effect that is a well-known fraud that needn't seriously detain us, but his only reference is to the admittedly loony anthropological speculations of Freud, as if psychoanalysis hasn't undergone further development in the past 75 years.

One of the key insights of psychoanalysis is that behaviors that appear to be irrational have their own unconscious reason. But Stark believes that "the case for sacrifice as a highly rational economic act is overwhelming." Therefore, there's no need to even invoke a psychoanalytic explanation, since economics explains it.

Do not concur. Here is Stark's description of this rational behavior: "Adult male victims usually were held down [obviously, someone didn't think this was so rational!] on a sacrifical stone atop a pyramid, their chest was slashed open, and the priest snatched their still-beating heart from the chest and held it aloft to the sun." Then, the body "was rolled, flailing down the temple steps to the bottom where it was skinned and dismembered." (Hmm, reminds me of my IRS audit.) For some reason, female victims were often "skinned by a priest who then wore her skin as the slaughter continued."

I wonder what this would have looked like if they had been irrational?

One ceremony in 1487 "began with four lines of victims, each line stretching for two miles.... the total number sacrificed on that occasion was as many as twenty thousand, although others have placed the number as high as eighty thousand.... During regular festivals, the numbers killed at a particular temple probably ran around two thousand a day. But there were literally hundreds of sacrificial sites," like 7-Eleven stores on every corner.

But you know what? The sun's still here, so shut up. And you know what else? President Obama observed that it also came up the day after Obamacare was passed, so shut up again. For that matter, the high priests of liberalism know exactly how many jobs were saved and created as a result of the ritual Porkulus sacrifice, so stop complaining. The state has to burn money in order to ensure that God will make more.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Evolution of God

New topic: the evolution of God. But how can God evolve, since God is by definition outside space and time, and therefore not subject to change? Well, God may not evolve, but humans surely do, and with it, their conception of God.

At least this is the argument set forth by Rodney Stark in his Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief, which I'm currently reading. I can already see that I have some differences with his approach; nevertheless, this is one of those books I wish had been available when I wrote mine, since he has some very important things to say that would have helped me to fine-tune my vision.

In particular, it helps me to more clearly elucidate my differences with Schuon over the question of whether time is spiritually entropic or leading in a positive direction. If Stark is correct, I don't see how it is possible to maintain that cultures of the past were intrinsically superior to ours just because they were closer in time to this or that revelation. The unspeakable barbarism of the past is difficult for me to overcome.

This will be a multi-parter. Also, in case it's not obvious, this will be one of those exercises that is more for me than for you, as its purpose will be to discover what I think. In other words, I'll be thinking out loud and you'll be eavesdropping, so don't complain if the results are half-baked while they're still in the oven.

One factor that immediately sets Stark apart from other attempts to understand the basis of religion is that he is not contemptuous of believers, nor does he assume at the outset -- as sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists, and materialists in general must do -- that God is simply the name we give to a collective delusion implemented for the purposes of genetic survival.

In other words, for a materialist, religion cannot really be "about" God, since God does not exist. Rather, there must be some hidden benefit to this massive and universal self-deception, say, group cohesion, or fear-management.

Stark summarizes the situation by noting that "this entire body of recent work is remarkably inferior because so few authors could restrain their militant atheism." Indeed, if "atheist" is just a name we give to people who, for whatever reason, have a spiritual impairment that prevents access to the transcendent, then nothing they say about God is of any value whatsoever, as it's simply a "negative hallucination," or confabulation, designed to paper over an ontological hole in their vertical perception.

Everything else about man is subject to development, why not his understanding of God? In this regard, man's "discovery" of God is not fundamentally different than, say, the discovery of fire, or electricity, or gravity. The discovery is just the initial "containment" of a real phenomena, but that's not the end of it, only the beginning.

But as we learn more, the cognitive container undergoes transformations, as is true of any knowledge. As Stark writes, "Jews and Christians have always assumed that the application of reason can yield an increasingly more accurate understanding of God" -- in other words, that our understanding evolves. Jesus makes reference to this in explaining his use of parables to the masses, as does Paul in his allegory of giving milk to spiritual babes but meat to the grown-ups.

This in no way detracts from the truth of revelation, which no human being could "contain." Again, what transforms is the human container, which changes both quantitatively and qualitatively. In other words, our spiritual holding capacity doesn't just get "larger," but more "multi-dimensional." You might say that the circle doesn't only expand, but gradually becomes a sphere as well. Indeed, you could say that exoterism involves growth of the circle, whereas esoterism pertains to growth of the sphere.

Again, as Stark notes, "from the earliest days it has been the conventional Christian view that although the Bible is true, its meaning often is uncertain" and subject to diverse and vertically layered interpretations. Thus, to reduce revelation to a literal reading is to attempt to cram the sphere back into the circle, when the whole point is that the circle is the residue of the sphere, not vice versa.

A key concept is divine accomodation, which maintains that "God's revelations are always limited to the current capacity of humans to comprehend" (Stark). In other words -- and how could it be otherwise? -- "in order to communicate with humans, God is forced to accommodate their incomprehension by resorting to the equivalent of 'baby talk.'"

If this is correct, then revelation itself should reflect changing perceptions of God, as God instructs a slowly developing mankind. And indeed it does reflect this growth (e.g., Jews occasionally backsliding into idolatry and other offenses, or Peter's gradual understanding), not just within official scripture, but if we stand back and take a cosmic view.

This is the approach I adopted in my book, and which Stark has already helped me to fill out in certain areas. That is, if we think of history itself as salvation history, then what we call official "salvation history" (i.e, the chronicle of Divine-human contact in the Old and New Testaments) is a subset of the former.

Or, better yet, it is like a fractal of the whole, since no one person could ever wrap his mind around the whole existentialada. But with God's help -- through revelation -- we are given the means to do just that, to grasp the whole through the quintessential fractal known as revelation. For any "part" of God is paradoxically the whole, both in space and time -- e.g., the Son is both distinct from, and yet at one with, the Father. And the Word was -- and is -- there at the beginning, so that to know the Word is to know the beginning and end, i.e., Alpha and Omega.

Stark quotes some of the early fathers such as Irenaeus, who wrote that "the written revelation in inspired scripture is a veil that must be penetrated. It is an accommodation to our present capacites... [that] will one day be superseded." Or, Thomas Aquinas, who agreed that the "things of God" are "revealed to mankind only in proportion to their capacity; otherwise, they might despise what was beyond their grasp...."

This implies a corollary, that men might come to despise the things of God if they regard them as beneath their grasp, which I believe is the situation postmodern man finds himself in. Thus, is it possible for God -- using the same scripture and identical revelation -- to accommodate these lost souls?

You tell me. It is certainly one of the missions of both my book and this blog: to demonstrate day-in and day-out that God's revelation will always be "ahead of its time." You can call yourself "post-modern," but you are still pre-Ancient of Days, for "before Abraham was, I AM."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Truth Sets You Free, Freedom Sets You On Truth

One of the consolations of secular humanism is that since a human life has no intrinsic -- which is to say, transcendent -- purpose, it isn't possible to waste one's life. Nor, if absolute truth doesn't exist, is it possible to be intrinsically wrong and therefore cosmically stupid. And of course, if virtue is reduced to an arbitrary cultural agreement -- say, about whether or not it is a good idea to leave a woman attached to her clitoris -- then a culture cannot be bad, much less evil, only "different" and probably oppressed and victimized to boot.

If human beings are not free to know truth, then neither freedom nor truth can be said to exist. In other words -- no, the identical words, only italicized for added oomphasis: if human beings are not free to know truth, then neither freedom nor truth can be said to exist.

These two categories -- freedom and truth -- are fundamentally intertwined, and any diminution of one leads to a negation of the other. Therefore, it should be no surprise that a philosophy such as leftism, which does not value liberty, should be permeated with so many lies. And it is not just that these lies represent bad or faulty information, subject to correction. Rather, these are vital lies which one is compelled to believe, often in spite of common sense and hundreds of years of collective experience. In other words, one is not free to believe otherwise.

Perhaps you remember the seemingly mundane but illustrative example of the high school cheerleaders who were compelled by law to root equally for both boys' and girls' teams. As Dennis Prager wrote at the time, "almost no one directly involved wants this -- not the cheerleaders, not the fans, not the boys' teams, and not even the girls' teams. But it doesn't matter: The law coerces cheerleaders to cheer at girls' games."

And it all begins with a vital lie of the left, that men and women are identical. Since no normal person believes this, it must be mandated and pressured into us by force. Put another way, the state -- and this is just one of dozens of examples -- makes it against the law to be normal. (Other examples that come readily to mind: in California it is against the law to "discriminate" against a cross-dressing employee, and in our public school textbooks it is forbidden to depict any culture in a negative light.)

Once a vital lie such as this is accepted, freedom must be constrained in a thousand ways -- not just for men, but obviously for woman as well, since a normal girl has no spontaneous interest in being a cheerleader at a girls' softball game. For that matter, at least back when I was in high school, no boy who wasn't known to be light in the loafers wanted to associated with the words "yell king." Might as well say screaming queen.

I mean, what an intrinsically undignified designation for a young man. Real men don't yell (except when necessary), any more than they whine, quibble, needlessly complain, or pose as victims. If you would be a king among men, you must not only refrain from pettiness -- which is only the absence of a negative -- but possess a genuine center of power. This power may be in the realm of knowing, or doing, or being, but a man, in order to be one, must conquer something in one of these realms.

Furthermore, with respect to knowledge, you can't just know "anything." Rather, you must know truth; and, most importantly, you must defend it, just as you would defend your family. Nor can you do just anything. Rather, you must courageously do what is virtuous in a fallen world.

And you certainly cannot be just anything. Rather, your being must radiate the calm presence of Being itself, which undoubtedly supersedes, or at least infuses, the other two powers. This center of Being is also the center of Power, since it is a terrestrial prolongation of the celestial center of Truth, Virtue, and Freedom.

Prager notes what should be a truism, that "Of all the myths that surround Left-Right differences, one of the greatest is that the Left values liberty more than the Right. Regarding a small handful of behaviors -- abortion is the best example -- this is true. But overwhelmingly, the further left one goes on the political spectrum, the greater the advocacy of more state control of people's lives.... It is astonishing that this obvious fact is not universally acknowledged and that the Left has somehow successfully portrayed itself as preoccupied with personal liberty with regard to anything except sexual behavior and abortion."

Again, since the left does not value liberty, their version of "truth" must be coerced, never arrived at freely. As Prager notes, "Most activists on the Left believe that they, not only their values, are morally superior to their adversaries. Therefore, coercing people to adhere to 'progressive' values is morally acceptable, even demanded. [No bottled water for you! No Christianity for you!] It is thus quite understandable that laws would compel high school cheerleaders to cheer at girls' athletic events as much as at boys'. And true to leftist totalitarian models, not only is behavior is coerced, but emotions as well."

In other words, in compelling one to have certain emotions, the left even tries to shape you "from within," or "beneath" cognition. This is one of the purposes of political correctness, as it compels people to identify with, and express, false emotion -- for example, hysteria over Arizona merely enforcing Federal immigration laws.

Again, consider the pettiness of the left, which leads to an insect-eye-view of the world. Regarding the cheerleaders, leftist activists insist that they should "attend girls' and boys' games 'in the same number, and with equal enthusiasm' as part of its five-year goals.'"

Is it not Orwellian to require "equal enthusiasm" of anyone over anything? Ironic, since "enthusiasm" comes from en theos, or to be in-spired by God. How could enthusiasm be compelled, and still go by the name? Isn't that like "forced spontaneity?"

Besides, for a true leftist, shouldn't genuine en-thusiasm of any kind be against the law on the grounds that it violates the so-called separation of church and state? So too inspiration (spir = spirit) and charisma ("divine gift"). My own field of clinical psychology has many similarly illiberal demands mandating, for example, that I "respect" diversity. Why? Why not the Absolute, or One? Why the pluribus but not the Unum?

Because so-called progressives cannot compete in the marketplace of ideas, it is critical that they hijack the judiciary, so that their policies can be imposed on an unwilling populace, whether it is the redefinition of marriage, or government enforced racial discrimination, or acceptance of illegal Democrats, or compelling citizens to purchase health insurance.

It is simply axiomatic that "The more secular the society, the more laws are needed to keep people in check. When more people feel accountable to God and moral religion, fewer laws need to be passed. But as religion fades, something must step into the moral vacuum it leaves, and laws compelling good behavior result" (Prager).

Natural law is eclipsed by unnatural law, which ends up producing unnatural men -- which is to say, either feminized males or developmentally arrested boys. Or, you could say that the denial of natural law creates merely natural men; which is to say, animals. And for the left, this is "mission accomplished."

The truth is not at your service. Rather, vice versa. Only by virtue of this constraint -- the yoke which is paradoxically easy -- are you free. Not to mention, intelligent. Which is to say, real.

Man is so made that his intelligence has no effective value unless it be combined with a virtuous character. Besides, no virtuous man is altogether deprived of intelligence; while the intellectual capacity of an intelligent man has no value except through truth. Intelligence and virtue are in conformity with their reason for being only through their supernatural contents or archetypes; in a word, man is not fully human unless he transcends himself, hence, in the first place, unless he masters himself. --F. Schuon

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Cosmography of Subjective Space

Schuon writes that there are three possible "situations or tendencies" for human beings: "firstly, conformity to the Principle, or the 'upward' tendency; secondly, the expansive affirmation of possibilities, hence 'horizontal' -- or, if one prefers, 'passional' -- existence; and thirdly, non-conformity to the Principle, and thus the 'downward' tendency, the illusory movement in the direction of a 'nothingness' that is nonexistent, obviously, but is possible as a negative and subversive point of reference." (This is in accord with the Vedanta, which speaks of sattva, rajas, and tamas, respectively.)

Obviously, the Raccoon way of life corresponds with the "upward tendency" (accompanied by a horizontal prolongation of Spirit into the world). For our kind, this is the only possible purpose and even justification for human existence, which is to say, transcendence of oneself in the journey back to our Source. One way I know I'm on the right track is if I am slightly or acutely embarrassed about where I was (vertically speaking), say, a year ago -- let alone, 10, or 20, or 30 years ago. I hope I can always say, "what an idiot I was for believing that!"

But if there is no vertical tendency, then there is no possibility of real growth (beyond mere biological development), much less conformity with Cosmic Truth, and thus, no need to ever feel shame or regret.

Here we have struck on one of the great appeals of leftism. Imagine, for example, being Jane Fonda, and being so incapacitated by an absence of shame that one believes the same things at 70 that one believed at 30. Put another way, if a conscious person were Jane Fonda, how would one ever stop cringing at one's past behavior? Easy. By disabling shame. By becoming fixated down and back in developmental spacetime.

Being on the left means never growing, and therefore never having to say one was wrong. In fact, another side benefit of being on the left is that one can never be a hypocrite, since they deny the existence of objective values one can fail to live up to. Thus, no one holds Al Gore or Thomas Freidman to account for consuming more energy than a small city, while hectoring the rest of us to live like cavemen.

Likewise, imagine one day waking up from the awful dream of being, say, Keith Olbermann. The worse the dream, the less likely it is that the person will awaken from it, since the shame would be too overwhelming. Thus, they defend against shame -- for they still have an inchoate awareness of it, and in Keith Olbermann's case, he oozes it -- by building an even stronger fortress against it. To quote the philosopher Butthead, this type of person is always trying to "run away from his bunghole."

Now, most of us have no doubt lived in some version of this dream at one time or another in our lives. But I would guess that all Coons can remember when something in them began to stir them from the dream, since which time their life has been an ongoing process of further waking, or "realization."

This is a good word, since it is real-ization -- which is to say two things. First, conformity with Reality, which automatically creates the tension between lower and higher that makes the "upward tendency" possible. And second, the slow conversion of oneself into something real and solid -- indeed, something eternal, or a self fit for eternity. This results from the metabolism and assimilation of Reality, which is the only thing that leads to real growth. What's the alternative, assimilating falsehood and fantasy?

Looked at in this way, life consists of building a vehicle -- of conceiving, gestating, and giving birth to a "celestial self" or astral body fit for vertical travel. Likewise, to fail to do this is not just to waste one's life, which is tragedy enough. Rather, it is to waste eternity, which is worse than a tragedy. It is plain careless.

It is no surprise that one of the central passions of the left is abortion -- it is an unthinking "way of life" for them, which is to say, a way of death. This is simply a horizontal reflection of the "astral abortion" of the leftist's life. Yes, perhaps this sounds harsh, but I am not saying anything that the leftist does not explicitly believe. From where they stand, they would mock and dismiss the Raccoon point of view as a fantasy at best and probably a pathology. We are wasting our lives on "spiritual fantasies," instead of getting down to the real business of depopulation and income redistribution, i.e., enforced horizontalization of the world.

Again, this is what a horizontal man such as Obama must think, given his admitted horizontality. How could he think otherwise? Like a man living in two-dimensional flatland, he is a rock-solid realist, insofar as he is innocent of any knowledge of the third dimension. He hears of people who speak of cones and spheres, but he knows better, for reality is right there before his eyes, and every leftist knows that perception is reality.

But it is strictly incorrect to say that the leftist simply inhabits the horizontal, "passional" world alluded to by Schuon in the first paragraph. No. This latter world is relatively neutral, but has a naturally upward tendency if left alone, as per the physics of non-linear systems, i.e., chaos and complexity theories. This is why science and the free market lead to such miraculous progress if we simply get out of the way and stop trying to force this or that outcome -- e.g., creating prosperity by forcing banks to give home loans to unqualified people. As Adam Smith noted 230 years ago, the market is an almost magical way to transform man's inevitable passions into something that transcends them, but only if we get out of the way, which the leftist refuses to do, precisely.

This, of course, is why it is such a cosmic hoot to suggest that the left is a great respecter of science, much less, progress. Both the left and right have specific issues with science, issues that are a function of their respective relationships to principial reality. But Yuval Levin points out that the left "has a much more complicated set of problems with science that are explored far more rarely than those of the right":

"Scientific advance, for instance, is the great engine behind capitalism, and is in that respect responsible for much that the left has disliked about the west since the 18th century. Much of what progressives oppose is precisely progress. Science, extended beyond its appropriate bounds, is also the chief contemporary threat to our continued allegiance to the principle of human equality, which has been at the heart of the liberal worldview. Put simply, science seems to demonstrate we are not equal -- this after all is the problem many on the left had with The Bell Curve. Of course, it only seems that way if you take a very peculiar view of what the principle of equality actually is. We are equal not in our natural capacities -- obviously we are not all equally strong, or smart, or tall, or healthy -- but in our standing as human beings in relation to something higher than ourselves. But the left is no longer well equipped to offer that defense of equality, since it requires all manner of premises they have given up."

In short, human beings are equal only in the vertical sense. Obviously, I might add. But if you have jettisoned the entire realm of verticality, then you are reduced to trying to impose horizontal equality, which is simply another word for tyranny. And this is why the left is also so angry. They are perpetually aggrieved -- and basically incapable of true human happiness -- since they have converted the vertical "transcendence drive" into a horizontal "political drive" -- which only ends up pushing them further and further from the goal and purpose of life, which is to say, human reality (which may only be found in the vertical). This results in a kind of nagging existential pain that eats away at the leftist, an itch he can never scratch. Or it is something like "referred pain," in which a lumbar injury causes sciatica in the leg. Leftists are obviously in pain. They remind us of this constantly. They are the Party of Pain. They just have no idea where the pain is coming from.

Which is why leftism is the philosophy of anti-progress. Since it unapologetically sets itself up as the "revolutionary" (which is to say, compulsively reactionary) philosophy of "non-conformity to the Principle," then it is necessarily "centrifugal" in nature, if only because of the Cosmic Law of Gravity, i.e., the Fall.

In other words, from the Raccoon standpoint, you are either with us or with the errorists. Once you become truly committed to that first proudly false step in ontological space, then your cosmic fate is pretty much sealed. You become trapped in the downward, dispersing, or centrifugal principle from which you cannot escape except by waking up -- which involves the acute pain of realizing not only that you have wasted your own life, but that you have spent it doing great harm to others.

No wonder there are so many tenured leftists who have not taken a new cognitive imprint since 1968! The more time that passes, the more intense the pain of waking. One becomes, as Schuon has said, encased under a thick and impenetrable sheet of ice that builds and builds like a glacier, separating one from one's vertical source. Tenure, publications, awards, and academic prizes are piled on, until one sinks beneath the weight.

Tom Sowell describes the problem with his typical lucidity:

"That people on the political left have a certain set of opinions, just as people do in other parts of the ideological spectrum, is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is how often the opinions of those on the left are accompanied by hostility and even hatred.... [F]or many on the left, indignation is not a sometime thing. It is a way of life....

"But how can people work themselves into a lather over the fact that some taxpayers are able to keep more of the money they earned, instead of turning it over to politicians to dispense in ways calculated to get themselves re-elected?...

"Often it is an exercise in futility even to seek to find a principle behind the anger. For example, the left's obsession with the high incomes of corporate executives never seems to extend to equally high -- or higher -- incomes of professional athletes, entertainers, or best-selling authors like Danielle Steel....

"If it is hard to find a principle behind what angers the left, it is not equally hard to find an attitude. Their greatest anger seems to be directed at people and things that thwart or undermine the social vision of the left, the political melodrama starring the left as saviors of the poor, the environment, and other busybody tasks that they have taken on. It seems to be the threat to their egos that they hate. And nothing is more of a threat to their desire to run other people's lives than the free market and its defenders."

Exactly. What can one say except that the chronic anger and hatred of the left is indeed "principled," except, to be exact, it is, as Schuon put it, "in non-conformity to the Principle." Thus the inevitable downward trend of the leftist's passions, including, of course, artistic passion.

Raccoons are hardly dispassionate. But our passion is always upwardly tending toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. We passionately love these with all our hearts, minds and souls, always bearing in mind that wisdom is the proper content of knowledge, and beauty the appropriate object of love. Naturally, if everyone were this way -- which is an impossibility, if only because Dupree would be overwhelmed by the number of membership applications -- it would be paradise on earth, would it not?

Monday, May 03, 2010

How the Left Ruins the Cosmos

Man cannot be properly defined in the absence of knowledge of what a human life is for. For Man is not simply a bit of discrete matter with easily proscribed spatial and temporal boundaries.

Rather, a human life is something that can only unfold and express its wholeness -- and therefore its identity -- in time. But our movement in time is not simply arbitrary; or, at least it should not be. Rather, it is guided by a telos, so that there is something that man -- both individually and collectively -- ought to become. As such, it is possible to waste our lives and fail to become human, and it is equally possible -- and looking more likely all the time since November '08 -- for mankind to be an epic fail.

Given the above, it is important to understand that "meaning" -- including the meaning of the past -- is not in the past, but in the future. No one can know what anything means until the whole process plays out. If you stop the process at an arbitrary point and assign it a fixed meaning, you are analogous to Klimate Klown Kult members who tell us that global temperature has increased over x number of years, but neglect to add that it has decreased over y number of years. Same facts, different meaning.

Regarding our cosmic evolutionary future, St. Paul wrote that "the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage to decay into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs until now," just as human beings "groan within ourselves" for our spiritual redemption (Rom 8:21-23).

Human beings are not matter and they are not God. If we were matter, we could not evolve, and if we were God, there would be no need to. But in reducing himself to matter, the radical secularist covertly elevates himself to God, since nothing is higher or lower than anything else -- thus, with a single metaphysical error, the humanist makes a god -- or a giant assoul -- of himself. You will have noticed that this is one of the contradictions at the heart of both scientism and leftism, and which ramifies into countless other errors.

I don't want to get sidetracked into cataloguing all of these contradictions. (In fact, it is unnecessary for me to list all of the contradictions, because I just remembered that a reader gave me a link to them.)

Suffice it to say that the secular left is "the essence of contradiction" and can never be expressed in a metaphysically coherent manner, for it is a strict impossibility. Until the leftist awakens to his own internal contradictions, there is no hope for him -- not even -- or, shall we say, especially -- cognitively, for he is a talking contra-diction and thus "anti-word." He cannot arrive at true Meaning, only dissolve it in the toxic matrix of his omnipotently narcissistic skepticism.

Or, we might say that leftism represents language deployed against itself for that very purpose. Now that I'm thinking of it, it reminds me of Roundup -- you know, the weed killer. It is quite effective if you want to kill a single weed. But I once tried it on some unwanted ivy, which only kills a few leaves, leaving the complex root system intact. Leftism kills the leaves, but thankfully not the roots of the Word. But they never stop applying the Roundup.

We should not automatically exclude the religious from a similar sort of fallacy, in that they often make the opposite error and deny or devalue our materiality (and the material world). But as Schuon points out, the object of human existence "is to be in the middle: it is to transcend matter while being situated there." While "other creatures also participate in life," only man, from his intermediary level, "synthesizes them: he carries all life within himself and thus becomes the spokesman for all life, the vertical axis where life opens onto the spirit and where it becomes spirit. In all terrestrial creatures the cold inertia of matter becomes heat, but in man alone does heat become light."

Another way of saying it is that, just as life is "matter become divine heat," human existence is "life become divine light," so to speak. The reason this is so is that sparks of the divine light permeate matter, but only man is able to mediate the divisions both within the created world and between the created and uncreated worlds. As Nesteruk writes, coming at it from an Orthodox Christian standpoint, "The restoration of animals and matter to union with God will come about through the salvation of man, for it is only humans who can change the order of things in nature through their own perfection, leading ultimately to union with God, to deification" (and again, bear in mind that this includes the "restoration" of the past, so to speak).

Yes, it is a heavy burden to be responsible for the salvation of the cosmos, but there you are. Someone has to do it, but it can only be saved one human at a time, at least until a certain "tipping point" is reached. No one knows the day or the hour of this point, as it could be in 10,000 years or it could be happening right now (being that salvation can only happen now, while you wait). In fact, it is no doubt happening right now, assuming the existence of the eschataon -- the light-filled attractor in Whose penumbra we live.

Of course, it may never be fulfilled with the current idiodition of the human being. Just as we may fail individually to become what we are meant to be, we have to entertain the possibility that we may fail collectively. Otherwise, why do anything? There is a certain type of religious person who says, "what, me worry? The outcome is certain. It's all in God's hands," etc. This is wrong movement, crasshoper, for it is an absence of faith. Faith means that we have hope in such an outcome. Conversely, to have certainty of it is to eclipse the faith that abides in our uniquely intermediate human station.

Now, the "interior order" of the human being mirrors the interior order of the cosmos itself. Here it must be emphasized -- for it is another common error of secular humanists -- that we are not responsible for our own order. In other words, this order cannot be imposed -- which the left always tries to do in a thousand ways -- but can only be discovered through an awakened intelligence. It is given, meaning that it is a gift, or a grace. The reverse is also true: to receive this grace is to find oneself -- or at least to find oneself on the path back to oneself -- one's nonlocal self.

From the individual to the collective. An article entitled The Real Solution to Poverty helps to explain the apparently non-obvious relationship between free-markets and the spiritual evolution that can only be discovered, not imposed -- in other words, the necessary relationship between free market libertarians and spiritual traditionalists. Kling writes that

"The capitalist solution to poverty is unsatisfying to many people, because it is not planned or intended. Policy makers and anti-poverty programs per se are not involved."

But "The phenomenon of unplanned results exceeding planned outcomes is quite widespread. As Nassim Taleb points out in his new book The Black Swan, and in this fascinating interview, human planning tends to work poorly when compared to trial and error. He argues, for example, that many medical discoveries are serendipitous, while systematic efforts such as those of the National Cancer Institute often yield disappointing results.

"In Hayekian terms, we say that order emerges, and often this order has little to do with the intentions of planners.... The intentions of the anti-poverty crusaders are good. However, the results of centrally-planned anti-poverty efforts are small, and perhaps negative (certainly very negative in the case of Communism). Decentralized capitalism, in which no one sets out to broadly reduce poverty, is the best anti-poverty program."

In short, there are rules for evolution, one of which is that there are no rules -- at least those that can be imposed from the top down by intellectually limited and spiritually endarkened human beings. But human beings either never learn this lesson, or else each generation must learn it anew. Hence, Obama.

Some 1500 years ago, St. Athanasius of Alxandria recognized that "if things in the universe were to exercise the power of ordering themselves, we would see 'not order but disorder, not arrangement but anarchy, not a system, but everything out of system, not proportion but disproportion'.... Athanasius uses the existence of life on earth to conclude, in a similar fashion, that there exists a principle of 'arrangement and combination' in the world that is ultimately granted by God" (Nesteruk).

Nesteruk writes that the deep rationality of the universe proceeds "from the Word (Logos) of God, who unites all principles of existence (that is, the logoi of things) in himself in a harmony and order that penetrate into creation and are contemplated as the order and rationality of the universe."

In this regard, two things to bear in mind: 1) as above, so below, and 2) man is the real mirror and potential image of God. For these are the "keys" to being a normal human, which is to say, a realized human (as in "made real" and "really made," which is not a contradiction, but a paradox).

Nesteruk notes that the affirmation of the incarnate logos, "though being in a body locally at a given point in the vastness of cosmic space, is still co-inherent at every point in space because he is in everything as the Word of God," which in turn "provides an implicit principle of order in the universe that ensures that every place in the universe, as a place of the 'presence' of the Word, is co-inherent with the place where God is bodily incarnate, on earth."

So we got that going for us. Now for some of those contradictions intrinsic to the left; the belief

that there were no charities before welfare,

that there was no art before federal funding,

that the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding,

that taxing the use of gasoline or other energy will reduce the use of gasoline or other energy, but taxing work and investment will not reduce work and investment,

that all generalizations are false,

that there are absolutely no absolutes,

that you can be sure that nothing is certain,

that it's really bad, even evil, to make or pronounce moral judgments,

that all cultures are equal, but ours stinks; that no race, class or gender is superior, but middle class white males are clearly inferior, that no books are superior, except, of course, those by third-world authors,

that it's good to support minority, homosexual and women's rights and to simultaneously make common cause with Islamofacists, who would attack all of them,

that identifying individuals by their uniqueness is "racist," but identifying them only as a member of a race is not

that the independent broadcasters who give us 500+ TV channels can't deliver the quality that PBS does,

that good economies are caused by politicians and not by entrepreneurs,

that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity,

MORE

Also relevant: Solzhenitsyn, "As Breathing and Consciousness Return," 1973 (via American Digest):

"What is the first step? Simply to discard the lie, and to realize that you have proceeded from a state of false knowledge, to one of true ignorance. The frame of your television is broken; you have no television; the illusion of omniscience vanishes. Eyes you have, and a brain. They are small. The world is large. History is even bigger. So what? You are not first, and not alone."

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Worst. Apocalypse. Ever.

Anyone else feeling slightly apocalyptic this morning, what with the catastrophe off the gulf coast, the narrowly averted catastrophe in Times Square, and the coming entitlement catastrophe? Then I've got the perfect soundtrack for you. Might as well dance toward the dawn with death trailing behind while the whole sh*thouse goes up in flames!

Friday, April 30, 2010

I AM, Therefore I Think

A few more random thoughts on ontic and epistemic closure. I say "random" because in arriving at them, I am attempting to abandon ego-control -- handing off the ball to Bob's Unconscious, as it were -- but there is usually another hidden order beneath the randomness, organizing the search party. Indeed, I'm counting on it -- on there being another neural net somewhere above me when I work without one.

Which reminds me. On a purely psychological level, the final net is the Mother, or M-Other (see comments beginning about halfway down for further belaboration of the point). In order to understand and appreciate this, you must go much deeper than the usual associations of the word "mother." Rather, you have to think like an infant, which is of course difficult to do, since, in order to do it, you must abandon speech, logic, memory, and boundaries. Yes, sort of like Howard Dean.

But what's left, you ask, when one does that? That's a good question, and one that people such as Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, and D.W. Winnicott set out to answer. Freud took psychological investigation back to the oedipal stage (ages 3 to 5), but regarded the period prior to that as a sort of dark and impenetrable jungle. In order to go there, it required a kind of inspired visionary lunacy, which is where Melanie Klein comes in. For in order to see into that dark world, one must be "broken" -- either willingly or unwillingly -- along one of its fault lines, so to speak, permitting one to either enter into it, or, more likely, to be flooded by its primitive material. Then it's a case of sink or swim.

I won't go into all of the details, which would be impossible anyway. The point is that human beings are ontologically open at both ends, the "above" and the "below." Only the most naive sort of rationalist could believe that his ego is a thing unto itself, unconnected to any other realities and requiring no further explanation. But a rationalist begins with reason, which is his whole problem.

The more someone is identified with his empirical ego, the more closed off he will be to the unconscious on the one hand, but the transcendent on the other. Either way, once you get over (or under) yourself and realize that your ego is a kind of floating condensation on a roiling sea of consciousness, then it's not any kind of stretch to believe in the thing called God, but which I prefer to call O, in order to avoid tainting God with egoic associations. We want to know O as it is, not as the ego thinks it is.

In a discussion of the differences between philosophy, theology, and gnosis (or intellection, if that word makes you uncomfortable), Schuon correctly points out that in one sense, the differences are relative, but in another sense, absolute. In the contemporary world, the differences tend to be quite stark, since philosophy is usually reduced to some variety of rationalism, while theology is reduced to dogmatic pneumababble about things no one can prove, but which must be taken on faith (the same way the rationalist must take his egoic reason on faith).

And intellection doesn't even enter the picture -- and not only for the profane thinker, which goes without saying, but for the "religious thinker" as well. Which is why he is not really a thinker; either that, or only a thinker. In other words, when the ego thinks about spiritual realities, it tends to generate stupidity, since the ego is of a "worldly substance" and not well adapted to celestial realities that have their source above the world.

But as Schuon points out, the differences between these modes are "only relative when one understands by 'philosophy' the fact of thinking, by 'theology' the fact of speaking dogmatically about God and religious things, and by gnosis the fact of presenting pure metaphysics..."

I think I would modify -- or expand upon -- this slightly, in that I would define theology as speaking "about God," whereas gnosis is speaking in God (or the Holy Spirit), so to speak.

Better yet, in order to avoid any misleading associations (and as fully explained in my book), I would designate theology O-->(k), and gnosis O-->(n), for we're really talking about two very different types of knowledge, and two very different means of accessing them. For example, anyone can acquire dogmatic (k) about O. This is not to put it down, only to draw a distinction between it and (n), which must be "undergone" as opposed to "acquired."

We've talked about theology and gnosis. Where does this leave garden-variety philosophy? That depends. If it comes from the ontically closed ego, then it amounts to what I call in my book (k)-->ø. That is, instead of beginning with "reality" -- a reality that clearly transcends, even dwarfs, the ego, it begins with the empirical ego and its little reasoning faculty. It then applies its reason to "the world," but it's not really the world -- i.e., O -- just a little egoic representation of it.

This is why the ego necessarily reduces O to ø, irrespective of how intelligent the person is. If one imagines that one can map reality with reason, one has rendered oneself stupid, for one is simply engaging in one of the numberless varieties of (k)-->ø. Get in line.

Schuon makes another critical point about the difference between profane philosophy, or (k)-->ø, and gnosis, or O-->(n). That is, -- ironically -- the former can't really know anything with certainty. Except for one thing: that it doesn't know, or is not sure.

In this regard, Descartes was absolutely correct. If we limit ourselves to the ego, we can only begin with the radical skepticism of doubting that we even exist. But since we can doubt, then we exist. As a result, the rationalist is always fighting against nagging doubts about his own real existence, and certainly about his significance. This is what happens when you put Descartes before the Force.

So rationalism is founded upon the principle of doubting that we exist, which is a pretty paltry thing to hold onto. In contrast, theology is founded upon the a priori certainty of dogma, which for many people is enough: God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Nothing wrong with skiing between the lines as opposed to extreme seeking in the ungroomed areas of the Sacred Mountain.

But gnosis or intellection begins with another kind of certainty, the certainty of metaphysical truths that cannot not be, but which must again be "undergone" and assimilated. Indeed, Truth must be suffered, or as Petey prefers to say, sophered. Why is that? Because to know a truth -- i.e., genuine objectivity -- is death to the ego. But once the ego is out of the way, it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, it kind of tickles.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Epistemic Closure and Ontic Collapse (5.16.11)

I guess I found a topic we haven't discussed. Have you been keeping up with the debate about whether the conservative movement has descended into epistemic closure? Ironically, it's been a big topic of discussion in the hermetically sealed intellectual world of the left, including in such shriveled organs as the Washington Post, New York Times, and New Republic.

Pot kettle black!

PowerLine discusses the matter here, and to a certain extent, all that remains is to laugh at the leftist who imagines that his ideology is not only the essence of epistemic, but of ontological, closure. For it is not just that the leftist lives in a closed intellectual world, but that he closes himself to whole worlds, i.e., the vertical world, or every ontologically real degree of being that transcends matter.

Many of my readers are former liberals who left the left precisely because of its narrow, closed, and cramped worldview, histrionically enforced by the femailed fist of political correctness.

One could list the many issues which are not debatable on the left -- e.g., that the Constitution is both a malleable document and unambiguous in its upholding of the sanctity of abortion -- but that is not the point of this post. For one thing, mocking the left in this conventional way is too easy. Rather, we wish to mock them in a more revelated and laughty manner.

In order to do this, we must begin at the very beginning, for again, if one's anthropology is wrong, then so too will one's political philosophy -- and everything else, for that matter -- be wrong.

For example, if it is true that man is just another animal selected by the environment through random mutations, he is by definition epistemologically closed, for he is limited by what his selfish genes want him to know (and we would have no way of knowing otherwise).

On the other hand, if man is created in the image of God, this places no limit on what he may know, since he partakes of the very substance of the Absolute.

Schuon notes that true -- or traditional -- philosophy involves "knowledge of the stellar world and all that is situated above us." But this is precisely where knowledge shades off into wisdom, the latter having to do with immutable ideas and archetypes, i.e., our Cosmic Clueprint. It is "knowledge of first causes and principles, together with the sciences derived from them."

This knowledge is both essential and true, hence, liberating: it is the truth that sets one free, but only so long as one both knows it and lives in conformity with it (for the latter implies that truth has mingled with one's own substance).

It is here that truth touches on intrinsic morality -- or where knowledge has its limits and responsibilities. For all normal men know that truth may be defined as that which we must know and are obligated to defend. Only an already lost soul believes that truth doesn't exist or that it carries no moral obligation with it.

But for the secular leftist -- or any profane thinker -- there can be no philosophy as such, only various parodies of it, such scientism, rationalism, Darwinism, existentialism, etc. Since the world of transcendence is a priori closed to him, the profane thinker (or infertile egghead) is reduced to "reasoning" about phenomena, or secondary causes (i.e., diddling around ønanistically with cosmic maya). Thus, his philosophy becomes the dry dream within a dream that Lao Tse warned us about.

Do you see the problem? Logic itself is a closed system -- for its conclusions arise necessarily from its premises -- but becomes doubly closed when one applies it only to the shifting empirical world of secondary causes.

Not only does the profane thinker try to reason in the absence of truth, but he seriously attempts to arrive at truth through reason, which no serious person would ever attempt to do. Such individuals imagine "that the norm for the mind is reasoning pure and simple, in the absence not only of intellection but of indispensable objective data" (Schuon). The problem, of course, is not logic, but knowing the purposes and the limits of logic.

Now, as a kind of compensatory mechanism, the secular thinker exchanges vertical openness toward the transcendent with a kind of faux horizontal freedom -- for nothing pleases the leftist more than to believe that he is a fearlessly "free thinker" who has thrown off the shackles of convention and tradition. He is the very opposite of those religious yahoos who believe in ontological realities transcending matter -- little things like truth, love, virtue, beauty, or Slack.

But how could freedom exist in any meaningful sense in the absence of truth? If there is no truth, then there is no freedom, only random or arbitrary movement. And if there is Truth, then by freedom the leftist merely means freedom from it. But you knew that already.

Again, the profane thinker is reduced to "observing causations in the outer world and drawing from his observations the conclusions that impose themselves on his sense of logic" (Schuon). This does not deserve the name "philosophy" any more than Keith Olbermann deserves the name "journalist." But the leftist cannot exclude what his impoverished philosophy tries to deny, so he necessarily lives in a world of ghostly demonic presences that he projects into the conservative.

In other words, for the true leftist, the transcendent is collapsed into the immanent and located in the malevolent other, who becomes the essence of everything he denies in himself. Only in this way could a doctrinaire leftist flatter himself by imagining that he lives in an epistemologically open world. Whereas a normal person vertically "brings his troubles to God," so to speak, the leftist projects them horizontally into demon teabaggers, anti-immigrant nazis, Obama-hating racists, and other malign figments of his ontologically closed imagination.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Hiatus

While I determine whether anything remains unsaid.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Promissory Gnosis in the Cosmic Treasury

For today's repost, I have selected an ancient and venerable blast from four years ago. I have edited it quite a bit, since the subject is rather tricky, and when I first wrote it, it was hijacked by a unifying thread of wordplay centering around money and banking, sometimes at the cost of fungible clarity. I've tried to better explicate the plain meaning, but probably haven't fully succeeded in backing up my promissory gnosis.

I was moving some stuff around my office and found an old post-it on the floor, under the desk. On it was written the marvelous sentence, I was beginning to sense that the night had written a check that the daylight couldn't cash. Those aren't my words. I lifted them from Lileks, who was quoting another writer whose name I can't recall. I found the sentence arresting enough to file away for future abuse.

In a way, that's the big question, isn't it? We're only alive and in the light for a brief period of time between two dark vaults of eternity. In that brief span of time, can we shed sufficient light on our murky past to comprehend it? Even scientists who are otherwise blinded by the literal daylight recognize that our origins are obscured in a figurative mystery that the worst of them only abuse in order to simplify.

After all, anyone can make a mystery go away by imagining what's in it. In this regard, scientistic fantasies are really no different -- and serve the identical function -- as the most primitive tribal stories of cosmic and human origins. We forget that "Big Bang" was originally a term of ridicule. Which it should be, if it is taken to be a sufficient explanation of creation in all its dimensions and modes, vertical and horizontal, exterior and interior.

So the question is, in being inexplicably conceived and burped out of the cosmic voidgin, has time written us a bad check that eternity cannot cash?

Looked at strictly temporally, our lives are a culmination, the detritus left by 13.7 billion years of meandering evolution, just the cosmic effluvia deposited along the banks at the terminal moraine of the now. If our existence were truly limited to this temporal line of credit, it would be nigh impossible to account for the miracle of the human subject -- not just that it is, but what it knows, for radical contingency could never know absolute necessity.

For really, all adolescent scientistic kidding aside, how, while drifting along in the stream of mere material shuffling, did the cosmic current somehow raise itself above the plane of matter, and awaken to a non-empirical dimension of immaterial space? That’s some evolutionary currency. The question is, is it backed by the full faith and credit of the Divine Treasury, or is it only a rubber check issued by the Bank of Darwin located in Fort Hard Knocks?

Some 3.85 billion years ago, the evolutionary stream defiantly wrapped around itself and created a tiny loophole amidst the greater whole. Up to that point, the cosmos was truly “one.” But it was a purely material one whose circumference was everywhere and center nowhere. With the emergence of Life as such, the cosmos now had a center, a center with branches in every living thing. In having a center, it now had a here and a now, whereas before, it only had a featureless everywhere.

For Life itself is not a spatial center but a hierarchical and therefore vertical center. Whatever else Life is, it manifests something that mere matter does not. To paraphrase E.F. Schumacher, it is more fruitful to think of matter as “life minus x” than it is to think of life as “matter plus x.”

This is why it is hopeless to defer to biology as to the nature of Life as such. As I mentioned in the book, a biologist knows no more about the nature of life than a watchmaker does about the nature of time. As I have noted before, although it is obvious to me that the cosmos manifests intelligent design, I do not rely on this to inductively leap the conclusion that God therefore exists. This is like proving the existence of time by studying watches.

Etymologically, the word evolution is linked to the word for “unroll,” as in the way an ancient manuscript was unfurled. On the one hand, we see that the unrolling tide of evolution has been accompanied by increasing novelty and complexity which is tucked away in that evolutionary data bank known as the genome. But where does the compound interest come from?

In other words, accompanying the horizontal course of evolution has been a vertical liftoff as well. As human beings, this is the only horizon we are really interested in. This vertical horizon is an area of increasing centration, following in the wake of that first declaration of vertical independence represented by Life. Life is that narrow slot we have all leapt through in order to have our precarious subjective existence, like a little eddy formed in the stream of time.

But instead of being swallowed up by the tide, that little primordial eddy grew in strength, widened, and gained increasing vertical centration. Still surfing atop the precarious flow of matter and information -- a little whirling dance on the knife edge between immaterial being and material non-being (paraphrasing Hans Jonas) -- mere animals eventually awakened to humanness.

And that is not all, for the centration and widening of vertical evolution did not end with that first proto-human primate looking around and thinking to himself, “Hmm. I’m alive. I am screwed.” Rather, it seems that, immediately upon awakening to his humanness some 35 to 40,000 years, our distinguished furbear pledged allegiance to the vertical order that had sponsored him. Admittedly, he sometimes did this in awkward and gruesome ways, such as human sacrifice, self-mutilation, and suicide bombing. But he also did it in some preternaturally beautiful ways, such as the cave paintings at Lascaux and Alta Mira.

Which raises an interesting question. Just what was this new subjective dimension that human beings had stumbled upon? Most mysteriously, why was it not an empty vault? In other words, why did it contain such riches as aesthetic standards? What’s the point of beauty? For that matter, why is the world that we awakened to so beautiful? Is it really beautiful? Or do we just see it that way? If the latter, why?

So human beings erected an altar. The purpose of the altar was to further “widen” that same little slot that was initially opened up by life. By widening that slot, human beings obtained increasing awareness of other inexplicable vertical characteristics, forces, and luxury capaxities: a sense of the sacred, the penumbra of holiness, love of truth, understanding of good and evil, refinement of the heart. Each of these represented a subjectively objective reality that was discovered, not invented.

For proto-man to become mankind proper, it was a matter of assimilating more and more of what was discovered in the vertical, all of these traits and capacities that have no Darwinian utility at all. For vertical evolution does not involve becoming a better animal, but a better human. And the standard of humanness is not found in the horizontal world bequeathed to us by Darwin, nor by naive scientism in general. Mankind owes nothing to Darwin for those things that lift us above the tide of animal evolution.

For there are only two absolutes; or a relative absolute and an absolute Absolute. Everything else is a matter of degree and scale. At one end -- call it the lower vertical -- is pure insentient matter. The secularist Sons of the Earth have pledged their allegiance to Omnipotent Matter, Mother of All Mamafestation. This is Horizontal Man. He is indeed made in the image of that which he reveres and idealizes. He is king of the lowerarchy, a prince in hell.

At the other end of the spectrum, at the toppermost of the poppermost of the cosmic hierarchy, is the true Absolute, the Sovereign Good, the Alpha and Omega that radiates its All-Possibility down into the herebelow. This is the transcendent peak toward which Sons of the Light fix their gaze. For we are neither dirt nor divinity, but somewhere and someone in between.

And that is not all. For in a hierarchical cosmos, each created thing is superior to something below it and inferior to something above. As such, "ye shall be godless" is logically equivalent to the primordial lie, “ye shall be as gods." Thus, secular man is his own god, albeit the petty flatland god of an ontologically diminished horizontality. In his relativism he pretends to feel no better than anyone else, but in elevating his relativism to an absolute, he secretly knows that he is superior to everyone, especially God. He has no way of knowing his place in the cosmic scheme, his proper caste.

This represents a small triumph for darkness, the primordial darkness accompanied by belief in the serpent’s promise of horizontal self-sufficiency in the closed circle of animal existence. You may have noticed that the serpent has insufficient funds to back that check written in the cosmic dark. As such, there's no way to amortize your lifeloan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Secret Message of the Human Form

Short on time. A couple of rewordgitated laughedovers.

In a logoistic universe, everything is a symbol, and will therefore "refer" to something else. It is for this reason that concrete things are knowable in their abstract essence, and that essential things (archetypes) may take on a corporeal form. It is the reason why humans can communicate with one another, and why the world communicates with man, who is its "spokesperson." Everything carries a message, including the human form. The cosmos is made of language -- in fact, various languages -- that humans may decode and understand. This is the presupposition of both religion and science.

What is the message of the human body? It depends upon how well you can listen, and what your agenda is. If you are a biologist, you may be interested in the message of DNA, of the genes which encode various protein sequences. Obviously, this is a language. Or, on the macro end, you may be more interested in the form, the phenotype. For this person, the animal form will essentially be a "message" about the environment in which it evolved. For example, the thick fur of a polar bear is a message about the cold climate in which it evolved.

These reductionistic approaches obviously work in a limited sense for the lower animals. But they don't work for man; or, man clearly transcends any mere genetic or environmental explanation, if only because he is free to ignore his genetic "programming" (for example, he can choose to either pass on his genes or keep them to himself, which violates the whole point of natural selection), just as he can choose his environment (i.e., he needn't live in eastern Africa, where man evolved). You might say that if man comprehends natural selection, it cannot comprehend him. Or, if man understands his own genetic programming, he is no longer subordinate to the program.

Now, in the Coonifesto, I suggested that man is subject to two main programs or blueprints. There is the horizontal or terrestrial blueprint of our genotype; and there is the divine blueprint containing our "celestial archetype," so to speak. Any attempt to reduce the latter to the former is just plain silly. It accounts for the shrillness and condescension of reductionistic Darwinians who try to shout down their opponents with a "truth" that cannot be true.

The majority of scientists are not intellectuals properly so-called, but merely worker bees practicing a servile art on some micro-problem at the fringes of the ponderable or abstract Cosmos. We do not consult them for human wisdom, to say the least. Although a biologist specializes in "life," it would never occur to us to consult one to help determine the best way to live. Likewise, physicists specialize in the "material world," but it wouldn't occur to us to consult one to help us decide on the sorts of material objects we should use to decorate our house.

In short, the dispute between radical atheists and their opponents is basically a problem of knowing one's caste, or of material intelligence vs. spiritual intellect. Being that the divine plenitude results in a hierarchical, full employment cosmos, atheists surely have their (mainly catabolic) role and their place. It just isn't at the top.

The following is imperative: if we want to know the proper way to live, or understand the nature of beauty, then we must consult someone who is in touch with "reality," that is, human reality. Human reality is not found in mathematical equations or genetic programs, which are abstract, not real. The whole point of religion, properly understood, is to reconcile the human with human reality, or appearances with the Real. And the Real is not found "below," but above.

Equally important, this is not to say there is no "below." Obviously there is, since we are standing right above it. Religious people who deny the below end up looking just as silly as scientists who deny the above. If there is an above, there must be a below. Ultimately, as we shall see, man "refers" to God, and vice versa. This is the principle "message" of the human being, both in his objective and subjective states, i.e., body and mind.

As Schuon writes, "to say that man, and consequently the human body, is 'made in the image of God,' means a priori that it manifests something absolute and for that very reason something unlimited and perfect."

Here again, this is imperative: being the "summit" of creation, man transcends his animal form, even while having one. In other words, the human being is the quintessence of "earthly creatures, but also -- for that very reason -- the exit from their condition." Thus, "to see a man, is to see not only the image of God," but also a doorway that is open towards the "illuminating liberation."

To put it another way, we are the door or the lens through which God's energies are focused most intensely, a locus for the "inpouring" of grace into the world. But every entrance is an exit, so God's way into the world is our way out to God. Or, to paraphrase Eckhart, God's inflowing is our outflowing; or, God's outflowing is our inflowing. Same difference.

Now, among the human -- not merely genetic -- archetypes, are Male and Female (in fact, the genes are an expression of the archetype, not vice versa). Male and female, he created them. As maintained in Jewish thought, the Human Being as such is not male or female, but a complementarity of Male-Female, which is precisely why marriage is a sacrament, because it helps bring us closer to the divine archetype that transcends our individual and separative existence. And it does so through the unifying principle of love (not just Darwinian survival), which is only fitting. Even Darwinians get married, but one wonders why. In other words, why don't they just obey their genes and reproduce as indiscriminately as possible, like NBA players?

Again, if what we are saying is true, then we should see abundant evidence of man's deiformity. Here is an example that you will either understand or not (probably not if you went to graduate school), so I won't press the point. Being that God is by definition Absolute, he is necessarily Infinite. As Schuon writes, "the masculine body accentuates the first aspect, and the feminine body the second aspect." In other words, male principle = Absolute, female principle = Infinite (or you could even say 1 and 0, but I'd like to keep the discussion clean). This breaks down into further intelligible complementarities, such as the infinite compassion of Mother and the Absolute law of the Father; or Mercy and Justice; or "my baby's innocent!" vs. wait 'til your father gets home!

Culturally speaking, in the absence of the Father principle, there is only mercy and compassion, therefore the creation of victims, no matter how guilty. But in the absence of the Mother principle there is only rough justice for innocent and guilty alike, as in the Islamic world. Infidels and women get what's coming to them, even though they don't deserve it. But in liberal victim culture, no one gets what's coming to them, so no one learns, changes, or profits from experience.

2.

If the human body carries a message, who's the messenger? Is it Darwin or God? Or some weird hybrid, like Dargod or Godwin? In other words, if the body is a reflective surface, does it only reflect the below, or does it also convey information about the above?

As we have discussed before, this is a problem science can't even pose, let alone resolve, because it excludes at the outset that which the scientist is not predisposed to believe. But for the believer, there can be no privilege higher than Truth, regardless of where it comes from or leads to. Science can only deal with a small subset of this greater Truth, and cannot even justify the existence of its own assertions, as per our friend Gödel.

Speaking of Gödel, now that I think about it, there were probably three or four singular intellectual developments in the 20th century that must be counted as being of the utmost importance to metaphysics, for they decisively undermined the entire metaphysical framework of reductionistic scientism.

In no particular order, these would be Gödel's theorems, which proved that any sufficiently complex logical system contains assumptions that cannot be justified by the system, but which are nevertheless true in the platonic sense (by extension, this means that a logical system can be consistent or complete, but not both).

Never forget Gödel.

Second, the nonlocality of the cosmos, as per the "experimental metaphysics" of Alain Aspect, which showed that subatomic particles are in instantaneous communion, irrespective of the distance involved.

Third, the emergence of chaos and complexity theories, revealing the deep fractal order of the cosmos at all levels, and how complex systems are governed by nonlocal attractors.

And fourth, the systematic mapping of the unconscious mind, showing that human thought results from a dialectical (or "bi-logical") synthesis of the asymmetrical conscious and the symmetrical unconscious mind.

Any attempt to comprehend the world without these deep truths will be feeble at best. As you may have noticed, religion has no difficulty accommodating these truths (indeed, it rests upon them), whereas they are highly problematic for any linear, atomistic, rationalistic, mechanistic, or reductionistic metaphysic. For example, anyone who has felt the real presence of a Great Soul who is no longer technically living, has no problem with nonlocality. I mean, I rely upon guidance from the "communion of saints" in the same way another person might rely upon wikipedia. I just take it for granted that they can speak to one in the here and now, across any spatial or temporal boundaries. It's not magic. Rather, it would be magic if they couldn't.

Nor does any religious person have a problem with the idea that science can provide no final answers to the quandary of existence. Rather, he is very comfortable with the provocative symbolism of revelation, which vaults the mind into a higher and deeper understanding, into the very dimension from which truth and revelation emanate like so many sparks from a central fire. Science can't do that.

And surely, no believer has a problem with the idea of mysterious archetypal attractors that seem to canalize or lure existence from a nonlocal phase space. Isn't this why we pray to do the Creator's will, to conform ourselves to the greatest and most attractive Attractor of them all?

And what sophisticated believer would be a big enough ass to think that mere logic is capable of mapping reality? Please. We thank God for the unruly symmetrical logic of the unconscious and supraconscious mind, for it is truly the Spice of Life. Without it, we couldn't have imagination, poetry, music, humor, mythology, and even the visionary leaps of the true scientist. If not for the unconscious (I should really say "transconscious" or "metaconscious"), bean-counting mathematicians would be the legislators of this world, instead of poets and prophets.

Now, as we were saying yesterday, the supreme principle breaks out into the absolute and infinite, or the male principle and the female principle. As Schuon writes, "each of the two bodies, the masculine and feminine, manifests modes of perfection by definition evoked by their respective sex; all cosmic qualities are divided in fact into two complementary groups."

This is just as the physicist Neils Bohr might have predicted. In fact, in my list of 20th century metaphysical breakthroughs, I should have mentioned the principle of complementarity. In your day-to-day life, whenever you are confronted with a seemingly unresolvable paradox, it's almost always a case of complementarity -- not "either/or," but "both/and" -- for example, time/eternity, form/substance, subject/object, matter/spirit, wave/particle, conscious/unconscious, male/female, science/religion, intelligent design/natural selection, tastes great/less filling, etc.

As it pertains to the complementarity of male/female, Schuon points out that there is naturally something anterior to this, which is "the non-material being that was the primordial androgyne," and "which survives in each of us." This is Adam Kadmon, the Cosmic Man, or divine blueprint for humans.

What this means is that the human form is a "harmelody," i.e., a complementary synthesis of vertical chords (the archetypes) and horizontal melody (or terrestrial plunge into time and evolution), and that we are of a nonlocal piece with the stars that gave birth to the elements of which we are composed. In other words, when a human being looks at a star in the night time sky, he is really registering photons from a long-ago event that might very well mirror his own cosmic birth. The cosmos is thoroughly entangled with itself in this bizarre manner, so that we can literally see our own cosmic past as it arrives at our doorstep.

And to say that we are but a fugitive dream within the deathless, sleeping what's-His-G-d-name, is simply to acknowledge that our life is a dream dreamt by the nonlocal Dreamer beyond name and form, a Dreamer that lives within our deepest Self. Yes,

The world of things that come to be and cease to be is a world of dreams. He who is asleep and dreaming (in the literal sense) in this world is in reality dreaming doubly; and when he wakes (in the literal sense), he is like a man who has been awakened from an "incidental" sleep, but has given himself up again to his "natural" sleep. --Hermes

So awaken to the great Dreamer who dreams the dream of this cosmos, and dream actively instead of being passively dreamt -- especially by the hypnopompous dreams of sleeping materialists.

I once had a dream. I dreamt that I, even though a man, was pregnant, pregnant and full with Nothingness like a woman who is with child. And out of this Nothingness God was born. --Meister Eckhart

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Searching for Absurdity in an Intelligible World

So, yesterday's post was just a roundabout way of saying that in order to take back control of one's film, one must first get back to Magnetic Center by eliminating the A influences and assimilating the B influences:

"The heart must therefore be pure, and if not already pure it must be purified. This is the sine qua non of success" (Mouravieff). You know, wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Or, unless you are coonverted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (which is, of course, within).

And when we say innocent, one must especially be innocent of lying, in particular, to oneself. Just this morning Mrs. G. and I were talking about how (cautiously!) pleased we are with how Future Leader is turning out, in that he is completely unrepressed and full of life, and yet, polite, compassionate, and well-mannered. All along, we've been working with the idea of not allowing the "civilizing process" to succeed at the cost of having to repress and deny critical parts of himself. When that happens, it sets the stage for secret lives, unarticulated agendas, psychic envelopes, emotional blockages, barriers to thought, attacks on linking, etc. Mind parasites.

Mouravieff points out that the admonition to be as little children has often been taken "as a restriction of the intellectual life," which is obviously an error of the first magnitude. Indeed, it leads to nonsense such as this: an atheist group calling for a "national day of reason" -- as if there is anything reasonable in not knowing the limits of reason. When Jesus said to be as little children, he certainly didn't mean that we should all think like childish atheists.

Paul clarified the issue when he said that one should be mature in intelligence, understanding, and judgment, but be "babes" in terms of malice.

Skipping ahead a little, Mouravieff makes a provocative point that "Our lives often resemble a well-conceived theatre play in which the roles are upset by a person searching for an absurdity; each of us is this mischievous or comic being." Emphasis mine. But why the emphasis? I think because this goes to the issue of mind parasites, which can almost be defined as a "(sub)person in search of an absurdity."

For what is a mind parasite, ultimately? It is a semi-autonomous bit of consciousness that has split off from the central self, and has an agenda all its own. This agenda is never rational from our point of view, but is usually rational on its own plane.

Take, for example, the routine case a girl who is sexually abused or traumatized in some way, and then grows up to think she is a "lesbian." Unconsciously there is a fear and rejection of men, but it comes out as a pre-oedipal attraction to women (in the pre-oedipal stage we are still merged with Mother). In other words, it is a movement back in developmental time to before men -- and sexual differences -- even existed (and with it, a confusion of sex and mothering).

But in any event, mind parasites are always seeking an absurdity, whether it is the fantasy of complete safety, escape from death, omniscience or intellectual certainty on the plane of reason (like the above atheist group), freedom from sexual differences, suspension (or reversal) of time, etc. Freud focused on the denial of sexual differences, but modern psychoanalysis has revealed many more.

And this also goes to what I was saying above about Future Leader. When it comes right down to it, we are trying to raise a child who is free of mind parasites, but who is also, and most importantly, good. Think of an extreme case, say, Tiger Woods. He had very "hands on" parenting, but what did it result in? An absurd compulsion to spend 16 hours a day seeking a kind of meaningless perfection that is impossible anyway, while spending the rest of his time living out the secret lives of his sexual mind parasites. He's truly a miserable, pathetic human being, an utter failure. And if I had a child like that, I would never recover from the shame.

When mind parasites hijack the script, "Life then takes on the character of perpetual compromise with oneself," causing "changes in the intellectual center due to cheating and lying; heart disease if the emotional center is sensitive and still aspires to the truth," other diseases of "obscure origin," and a general "accelerated aging" and premature death. Living a lie takes its toll, as there can be no peace within the self, only temporary cessations of hostilities.

The works of Allan Shore -- and I'm not necessarily recommending them, as they are more for professionals; for a more popularized but still sound presentation, try this -- describe the cascade of neurobiological changes that take place in the child exposed to stress. If the stress is chronic, it leads to permanent changes in the brain. It is as if the mind parasites are etched into our nervous system.

What is so fascinating about Schore's work is that it actually documents the existence of mind parasites with hard science, and even pinpoints the main areas where they take root and affect in the brain. For example, the deepest mind parasites are contained in the preverbal right brain, since it develops ahead of the left brain during the first two years of life. But since this hemisphere is nonverbal, this helps to explain why these mind parasites are beyond the reach of language, and can live out their dramas in such puzzling and self-defeating ways.

This is an extreme case, but many years ago I evaluated a man with a shoe fetish. In fact, he even wore a pair of women's hi-heeled shoes during the evaluation -- which was quite a sight, since he was a bearded, grizzled elderly man otherwise attired in a pair of soiled overalls.

I don't have time to get into the details, but it turned out that his mother had died when he was three or four years old, and that in order to cope with his grief, he would snuggle with her shoes. Quite sad, but a vivid example of "searching for an absurdity."