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,


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!