Tuesday, November 02, 2010

To Be Perfect is to Change Often

Some further thoughts on Walter Russell Mead's God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World.

One of Mead's central points is that "the choices between faith and unbelief did not appear as stark to much of the English-speaking world as they did elsewhere." Rather, here we have been able to maintain a creative tension between faith and reason, which forms the essence of "dynamic religion."

The dynamic religion of the Anglo-American sphere has not just been able to coexist with, but thrive upon, the same sort of skepticism that is so corrosive and ultimately fatal to static religion. In other words, the Anglo-American style of religiosity was well-suited not just to usher in science, but to then assimilate it and endow it with a transcendent meaning it cannot otherwise possess. Without this transcendent meaning -- or vertical orientation -- science can become something monstrous (just as can religion divorced from the natural/horizontal world).

People naturally seek the comfort and security of a closed system of thought, whether they call it religious or "scientific." In the West, we have been able to reconcile the absolute and relative, time and eternity, change and permanence, through the notion of progress, or evolution (understood in its broader, non-Darwinian sense).

Mead does a good job of showing how the Anglo-American world is animated by the spiritual deep structure of faith in the idea that progress is both possible and good. Thus, we can assimilate and make sense of change, whereas overly tradition-bound cultures see change as the enemy, and therefore reject the notion of progress.

At the same time, English society "decided that reason cannot stand alone as the basis for a human society." Indeed, it is a truism that "the 'scientific' societies of the Communist world, boasting of their objective grounding in rational and scientific truth... were considerably less flexible than the Western societies they opposed," just as "there was less freedom in France under Robespierre and his Reign of Terror than under the less systematic and less 'rational' revolutionary governments that preceded it" (Mead).

Virtually all of us in the Anglo-American world are progressives, which sets us apart from almost all cultures that have preceded -- and coexist with -- us. This is why a Raccoon believes in darwhiggian evolution. Of course evolution exists, as it is a necessary consequence of a creation separate from its Creator.

The only place evolution cannot occur is "within" (some might argue "beyond") God, or in the ground of the Absolute, which is necessarily outside time and therefore free of change. The leftist university tries to create a "shadow eternity," cut off from reality. But that is a temporary and and ultimately unstable condition that cannot endure, irrespective of their struggle against change and progress.

It is telling that Obama's entire fund of knowledge appears to consist of nothing but the leftist bromides and platitudes he absorbed in college, thus, his inability to recognize reality; rather, like all Marxians, he wishes to change reality before understanding it.

Progress can only exist in the light of permanence, otherwise it is merely random and arbitrary movement. The secular folks who go by the name "progressive" are in fact mere "changeists," since they reject that by which change can be objectively measured, i.e., God, the Absolute. So in this regard, Obama has certainly succeeded in bringing Change to Washington.

Mead notes that Milton was one of the first to recognize that "truth is revealed in a process," so that "knowledge of God [as opposed to God in Himself -- GB] must necessarily change and deepen over time." Of Truth, Milton wrote that "if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition," the perfect image of a closed system -- and only an open system is susceptible to evolution.

In the English-speaking world, change was eventually understood "as a permanent, necessary, and even sanctified element of true religion." This also plays a role in our inherent optimism, which is a kind of earthly analogue of Christian hope.

Mead makes the critical point that in the Anglo-American world, We are all Abraham now. The idea that we can and should have "a personal relationship with God" has "for more than three centuries been strengthening its hold in American life." That we must all "answer the call" and discover our own identity, vocation, and meaning, testifies "to the power of the Abrahamic archetype in the American mind":

"The Abrahamic believer, convinced that God is leading the way to an unknown future in a new land, is ready to accept not only the personal but also social consequences" of his freedom -- including his economic freedom. Those grounded in static religion naturally have difficulty accepting change, but "for the dynamic believer, change is both a sign of progress and an opportunity to show the growing virtue of faith." Thus, "with an energy that no centralizing power could ever summon or shape, millions of Americans through decades and centuries spontaneously" struggle to improve themselves and progress toward God.

***

In the last two sections of the book, Mead addresses the Lessons of History and the Meaning of it All. He largely rejects the postmodern view that "no single story line can capture the complexity of contemporary life."

As mentioned yesterday, there are three (or possibly four) mutually exclusive grand narratives in competition, 1) European style socialism (which subsumes such hideous developments as identity politics, multiculturalism, moral relativism, deconstruction, victimology, and the unintentionally ironic rejection of all grand narrative except for its own), 2) Islamism, and 3) Anglo-American classical liberalism.

Thus, we should not be altogether surprised at the de facto alliance between the left and the Islamists, as they share the common enemy of American liberalism and its foundation in Judeo-Christian principles.

Now, a Raccoon has his own "grand narrative," but it is cosmic -- even metacosmic -- as opposed to global. To be perfectly accurate, he places global events in the larger framework of cosmic evolution, of the 14 billion year drama of cosmogenesis-to-cosmotheosis, AKA the arc of salvolution. This is the true Meaning of it All, and the only real way to comprehend both the Meaning and the Lessons of History. Otherwise you are within history, a conditioned subject of your own narrative.

To put it another way, the meta-cosmic narrative is the only one grand enough to comprehend us, rather than vice versa. In other words, if your grand narrative is rooted in mere reason, it will explain everything but the grand narrator, who is the most important part. How grand can one's narrative be if it doesn't even explain oneself?

Mead writes that "History as we know it began about three or four thousand years ago," when "a wandering herdsman named Abram heard what he believed to be a call from God."

But in our view (and the view of Genesis, properly understood), History actually began 13 or 14 billion years ago, when an ordered cosmos uniquely suited to the development of life and mind sprang into existence from "nothing." True, Abram took the mysterious call, but it was from the nonlocal Author of this mysterious cosmos, not just some local tribal deity. Of course, he couldn't have known that at the time, but still, this means that there is a thread that connects the origin of the cosmos to the origin of America and ultimately to the destiny of the world.

Put it this way: in order for Alpha and Omega to meet in the herebelow, the emergence of ordered liberty is absolutely necessary. For to err is genetic, to evolve divine.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Pimp-Slapping Obama and Conserving Our Metaphysical Dream of Progress

I wouldn't worry about that goggle-eyed, wicked old witch. After tomorrow, Pelosi's powerless:


No new post. Thanks to the Board of Psychology, I'm now several days behind in my work, so you can thank them for setting back the progress of cosmotheology for 72 hours.

But I'm reposting something from several years back, which may have immediate relevance to the news of the day, as the nation prepares to awaken from Obama's metaphysical nightmare and begin properly dreaming the American dream again.

I'm going to condense a series of posts that reflected upon Walter Russell Mead's excellent God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. The review ranged over a number of posts, so I'll try to eliminate the inessential. If the transitions are too abrupt, I'll just throw in some asterisks.

Supposing you knew every "historical fact" in existence, and then fed them all into a supercomputer. What do you suppose the computer would come up with? Would it be able to synthesize all the facts into a suitable dream? Of course not. Only a dreamer can historicize, even as history discloses the Dreamer Who Dreams It.

Of particular interest to me is the religious dream that has allowed the Anglo-American world to succeed where all other dreams have failed, to such an extent that it is by far the most powerful dream the world has ever known.

In fact, at present there are three primary dreams in competition for who will Dream history 1) American classical liberalism (i.e., conservatism), 2) European statist secular leftism (including its American variety), and 3) Islamism. The world isn't big enough for all of these dreams, and yet, only one of these dreams is big enough for the world. (And I suppose one might have to add a fourth, Chinese style authoritarian capitalism, or whatever one would call it.)

Mead's book is divided into five main sections, each of which is fascinating in its own right. But of particular interest to me is the third section, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, which gets into the religious metaphysics -- our metaphysical dream -- which allowed the Anglo-Saxons to come to dominate the world over the past several centuries.

Seen in the light of Mead's explanations, the Marxist counter-dream just looks silly -- i.e., that our success is based only upon oppression, or violence, or exploitation, or class warfare. Rather, our success is because our dream is much closer to reality -- or our reality is much closer to the Cosmic Dream and its Author.

For example, Mead gets into a subject I discussed in the Coonifesto, which is that only open systems can evolve, both individually and collectively. In a closed society, adventure is exchanged for security. Everyone knows their place or role. The tyranny of custom and tradition is complete, as in the contemporary Islamic world, or, to a lesser extent, among the ironically named "progressives." Because of their dominance, there is no place less intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- free in America than on a leftist university campus.

Likewise, the left represents the main organized opposition to that which, more than any other factor, has created so much progress in the world, the free market, compared to which the progressive movement has contributed essentially nil to the betterment of mankind.

As Mead writes, "the journey from East to West is a journey from relatively closed to relatively open society," both historically and geographically. For example, even in contemporary America, the culture of the New York Times is the quintessence of a closed, parochial, backward-looking world view, especially as compared to the view here from Raccoon Lookout in Upper Tonga. But further east from New York to Paris, the view gets even more closed and cramped.

Later Mead notes that "History is in large part the record of efforts, more often successful than not, of the advocates of closed society to shut down open societies."

For example, what is the contemporary culture war but the effort by leftist elites to strangle debate with political correctness and to enforce their idiosyncratic views on the rest of us, through the news media, through Hollywood, through acedemia, by packing the Supreme Court with anti-Constitutional activists, etc.? Mead writes that "History may be understood as a series of efforts to tame the disruptive intellectual and political forces of an open society and restore the closed society with its stability and reassuringly eternal and absolute qualities."

Now obviously, it isn't just secular leftists who want to shut down progress and create a closed society. In the past, traditional religion has most often been the main adversary of the open society, and therefore progress. A large section of Mead's book is devoted to explaining how we in the Anglo-American world got it just right in terms of religious metaphysics, in such a way that progress not only became possible, but inevitable.

But it is always a very tricky balance, and it's not something we should take for granted. Rather, as we shall see, it involves a "trinity," a three part dynamism that Mead calls tradition-revelation-reason. Societies that move too far in one of these directions become dysfunctional, and either cannot endure or cannot evolve.

*****

Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Anglo-Americans have been on the winning side in every international conflict. And we didn't just win these conflicts, but proceeded to reorganize the world in our image. Much of the resentment toward us has to do with the fact that in order to survive and flourish in this world, you must adapt your dopey culture to the world we both discovered and made, which is to say, "reality" -- and nothing is the source of more resentment than the demands of reality.

Never confuse "Anglo-American" with "European," much less "white," let alone "French." "It is France that has most often attempted to defeat or at least most often contain" the Anglo-Americans. "Whatever we call it, the hatred and fear of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and all of their doings is one of the motors driving the world" (Mead). It is "one of the key organizing principles that many observers use to make sense of mysterious events," i.e., it is an unconscious paranoid process that animates resentful and envious people who don't really have any ideas, only rebellious anti-ideas. Anti-Anglo-Americanism is a constant in world history. It just takes different forms. Thus, the hatred of President Bush, both here and abroad, is nothing new.

Very early on, the Anglo-Americans discovered the dynamics of complex systems, i.e., the "invisible hand." They understood that order emerges from chaos, not just in economics, but in virtually every realm -- politics, the marketplace of ideas, science, relationships, etc. Most cultures -- including half of our own -- still struggle with the idea that most things will improve if only you leave them alone.

For at least a couple hundred years, sensible Anglo-Americans have been predicting the End of History -- the end of poverty, war, stupidity, and all the other follies of fallen mankind. We are tempted to imagine that world peace is just around the corner, under the assumption that the rest of the world will naturally come to its senses and adopt our liberal values, since they are obviously so successful. George Bush may be the latest victim of this sanguine view of mankind, i.e., giving Muslims the gift of freedom and expecting them to appreciate or make use of it

A brief asnide -- Heidegger is an even bigger assoul than I thought: first he proclaims Hitler and Nazism to be "Europe's best and even noblest protection from the twin threats" of Marxism and "Americanism"; then he concludes that the latter "is the hideous final destination on humanity's road away from a meaningful way of life"; and then he finally decides that "the Marxist machine, for all its evil, was less dangerous than the American." And Heidegger's vision "remains central to much European and Latin-American anti-Americanism today...." (ibid).

All Raccoons know this, but it's worth repeating: in (economic) reality, only the free market respects the masses, as it efficiently responds to their genuine needs, even if elites have comtempt for them. In traditional or elitist societies it is "the rulers and well-born whose tastes must be studied, prejudices indulged, and caprices made much of." "The power of mass consumption, harnessed by flexible markets to the economic interest of the talented, may be the most revolutionary human discovery since the taming of fire. The changes that have come and will come from this union of the ambitions of the elites with the aspirations of the masses are incalculable" (ibid).

By the time Marx was dead and writing all his books, middle and lower-income families were already enjoying "a higher standard of living in some ways than even the most aristocratic households had enjoyed only a half century before" (ibid). Thus, his ideas were born obsolete, one more reason why leftist academia is such a soul-killing environment.

It is because Anglo-American governments have been so relatively weak that they have been so strong. Like the free market, they must respect the wishes of the people and lean on voluntary cooperation instead of coercion. Thus, big government will necessarily become unpopular, because it no longer need respond to the citizenry and instead must coerce or use force. [Say it again! Tomorrow.] This is why everyone hates the IRS or recognizes the failures of the education establishment or the problems with social security, but no one can change them. Imagine the permanent nightmare of nationalized healthcare, which constitutes some 17% of our economy.

Again, all Raccoons know this, but societies that overvalue reason and devalue tradition and revelation become dysfunctional and cannot evolve. "Dynamic religion" is the philosopher Bergson's term for "the angel that calls people forward to ever more open societies." Those who have read the Coonifesto will be familiar with my idea that only open religion specifically engages the eschaton, O, luring the open system toward it, both individually and collectively. Mead notes that open religion can take many forms, such as "a feeling of restlessness and unease, a yearning for new experiences, a voice in the head shouting warnings or commands, visions, dreams, or ideas." It is living religion, or O → (n).

Dead or "static religion" is the historical norm, certainly outside the Judeo-Christian world, but often within it as well. And radical secularism can be as much a static religion as any other. In this regard it is the form -- the deep structure -- not the substance, that counts. Put it this way: whoever you are, you either practice a dead religion or a living one:

"The tragic choice that many self-consciously 'modern' observers see between the black-and-white realism of open modernity and the visionary colors and imagery of closed tradition and myth disappears if Bergson's dynamic religion is taken into account" (ibid). We cannot do without our great visions that "light up the western sky" and "stir human souls to the depths," driving us to "to pull up our stakes and move on," which is to say evolve, both within and toward O.

Which is why Raccoon philosophy is simply the operating system of reality in both its vertical and horizontal dimensions; it is what we might call "dynamic" or "evolutionary neo-traditionalism."

To be continued...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bring. It. On.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Revolting!

Yes, as Ben the Wise has reminded us in a comment, all I said was "one provocative way of looking at it."

In other words, it's not like I was trying to be provocative or anything. Besides, it's Borella who is doing the provoking (with his idea that Protestantism leads inevitably to secular extremism), although I must admit that I do find his argument persuasive (especially in concert with some other more recent scholarship about the religious wars and the Reformation).

I might add that it's somewhat useless to enlist history as a defense of Protestant theology, not just because history cannot justify theology, but because history -- better yet, the past -- keeps changing. In other words, the meaning of the past is largely determined by the present -- which is why each generation must engage the past anew. (You know the crack by that Chinese premier -- Kissinger or somebody asked him what he thought of the French Revolution: "To soon to tell.")

Consider, for example, what the ascendency of Obama meant two years ago, versus what it means today. Which is why no one should get too excited about the coming Republican tsunami, since it will undoubtedly mean something (disappointingly) different two years hence. It is in the nature of waves to begin their withdrawal precisely at high tide.

History is also full of irony -- of good things leading to bad and bad to good, or felix catastrophes. For example, it might be argued that the two most important events in history were the Incarnation and the creation of America. But would the latter have been possible absent the Reformation?

In fact, if I'm not mistaken, at the time, the Vatican still regarded monarchy as the most natural and superior form of government. And of course they had a point, if one compares the latter to the French Revolution, which was and remains the template for most subsequent revolutions, which is to say, the rule of the mob, AKA democracy (which was once a pejorative).

So is a little secularism -- a human sphere independent of religion -- a good thing? Yes, obviously. But can it go too far? Yes, obviously.

Which is something that secularists cannot see and do not recognize -- which is precisely why they are extremists. They imagine that their extreme position is the center, when it is clearly at the periphery, not just politically, but ontologically. Thus their utter failure to understand American conservatism, which is intrinsically balanced between secular and religious, or terrestrial and celestial, concerns.

And "balance" is probably not the most apt word, since it is much more of a dynamic and evolving (because dynamic) reciprocity or complementarity. It is a complementarity between freedom and restraint, rights and responsibilities, individual and collective, the anabolic preservation of tradition and the catabolic destruction of the free market, etc.

Anyway, back to Borella's thesis. Again, his concern is that Protestantism, by rendering the world both irrelevant and unintelligible, eventually opens the way for scientism to fill the breach left open by the complete absence of any integral theology, a la Thomas. Rather, it literally tosses aside some 1500 years of sublime meditation on the Nature of Things, and reverts to the theological barbarism of blind faith, which eventually becomes the sole feeble defense against modernity. But it didn't work and it won't work.

One reason it won't work is that it presents no coherently unified front against the comparatively integral worldview of scientism. Rather, it's not just that the Reformation fractured the Christian world in two, but into hundreds, thousands, millions, and maybe even billions of pieces, so long as we take literally the idea that "every man is his own priest." If this is the case, then there is no authoritative dogma and really no objective Truth to be had.

Indeed, this is one of Borella's points, that the Reformation inevitably leads to subjectivism, relativism and therefore skepticism, for if truth is in the eye of the individual believer, then there is really no truth at all.

Yes, thanks to the Reformation, everyone could now interpret the Bible for himself, but so what? How often do you meet someone who can quote you chapter and verse, but really has no idea what he's talking about?

I would say that this is the rule, not the exception. Few people have an integral understanding of the totality of scripture, in both its vertical and horizontal dimensions. Once the Bible means anything to everyone, the door is open to the religious demagogues and hustlers who plague us to this day, with no central authority to shame them into silence.

It would never even occur to me to try to do this myself, starting from scratch, in a single lifetime. What breathtaking presumption! Again, SPEAKING ONLY FOR MYSELF, I can't imagine life without the stream of commentary, from the early Fathers to Denys to Maximus Confessor to Thomas Aquinas to Meister Eckhart, et al (not to mention the Jewish sages).

It seems criminal -- or criminally irresponsible -- to toss all of this aside as irrelevant so long as one simply has "faith." If it works for you, that's perfectly fine, but my concern is getting more people on board the cosmic bus, especially the secularists who might embrace the Message if it were presented in a way that doesn't strike them as stupid and/or insane. Most people need keys to unlock the Mystery. Just consider yourself particularly gifted if you are able to jump start your divine vehicle without them. I certainly couldn't.

Was the Church less than perfect in Luther's time? It was and always will be (and remember, I'm not speaking as a Catholic, just some guy). But one must balance this against the unholy hell that was unleashed with the Reformation, which, in my opinion, was much more about ethnicity and tribal hatred than it was theology.

I mean, really. People might say they're trying to brutalize each other over some subtle point of theology, but the psychologist in me regards this as pure pretext for the unleashing of the most barbarously savage impulses that the Church had miraculously kept in check up to that point. Many more people died in a year or two -- I don't have time to look up the exact figures, but probably even a good week -- of the religious wars than in the entire Inquisition.

But Luther insisted that there was no way to settle this dispute with words, only "by the sword": "to attack in arms these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and all this sink of the Roman Sodom" and to "wash our hands in their blood." But... wasn't Christ's blood sufficient?

And while science continued to develop from its Catholic roots in Protestant countries, this is no thanks to Luther, who "was an avowed enemy of reason" who "repudiated the tradition of natural law" -- not to mention the philosophy of Aristotle, whom he regarded as a "heathen and plague." If this intemperate man speaks for Jesus, how could such extremism not give a temperate man the Jesus Willies?

But as I said, this is not about me and especially not you, only about Borella and his ideas. But unfortunately, I'm now out of time, having blathered on for too long. In any event, I hope it goes without saying that no one is obligated to agree with me, and that contrary views are most welcome.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Staying Open For Isness

As we mentioned a few posts back, one provocative way of looking at It is to say that the Protestant rebellion led directly to the disaster of the secular left. This is one of Borella's central points in his Sense of the Supernatural.

The book description says that for the last three centuries -- or ever since the scientific revolution -- "Christian philosophers and theologians tried to preserve God's transcendence by denying any continuity between the natural and the supernatural. In so doing they inadvertently played into the hands of those who wanted to push God to the margins, or even to deny him altogether. The result was to lay the foundations of modernism, as well as secular humanism."

If I am not mistaken, this was Kant's main concern -- that science would eclipse faith -- so he "resolved" the problem by suggesting that science not only dealt with phenomena or appearances (or maya), but that these phenomena had no intrinsic reality. Rather, they were only representations of the nervous system. Thus, he severed the link between mind and reality, since all we could ever really know were species-bound forms of our own sensibility. (One again thinks of Escher's drawing of the hand drawing the hand drawing itself.)

Reality, the noumena, the thing-in-itself, becomes an absolutely closed book. The result is, in Whitehead's words -- to be honest, I just wasted about fifteen minutes unsuccessfully attempting to track down the exact quote -- something to the effect of an epistemology with a cloud on one side and a dream on the other. Science deals with the dream, while religion deals with the cloud.

Thanks, Manny! Way to save religion!

The whole point of religion is that it discloses transcendent and perennial truths. Indeed, I would call it the science of the noumenon (and note that noumenon cannot be plural, or "noumena," as Kant implied).

In contrast, science does indeed describe phenomena, except that the phenomena are properties of real objects, not just the dream-forms of our nervous system.

This is completely consistent with both the Judeo-Christian tradition and with Vedanta, the latter of which is often mischaracterized as a metaphysic that doesn't regard the world as "real." Undoubtedly there are vulgar forms of Vedanta that do this, just as there are vulgar forms of Christianity that deny free will and horizontal causation.

But the whole point of the maya principle is that the world is real, just not ultimately real. Rather, it is a prolongation, or "projection," so to speak, of the deeper/higher reality. To think of maya as "pure illusion" would be to make Kant's mistake, and sever the world from its source and Principle.

Kant was of course preceded by Luther, who severed reason and faith, and therefore knowledge and will, through his theory of justification by faith alone.

Thus, if faith is a matter of will, it doesn't matter if you don't understand what you are willing yourself to believe, so long as you believe it. This absurd doctrine has been the source of the Jesus Willies in more than a few intelligent people, who are not enthusiastic about the idea of ignoring and devaluing the brains God gave them.

Luther's metaphysic completely eliminates the (↑) from the (↓↑). But in so doing, he really eliminates real grace altogether, which is actually a circular (or spiraling) process, as described yesterday. In the last analysis, our aspiration is God's inspiration, so that even faith is (obviously) a gift of the Spirit, and our own perfection of that gift is itself another gift.

As Borella describes it, without the divine assistance of grace (↓), "no one can raise the natural powers of the soul to the supernatural level of a true and consistent adherence to faith. This grace assists the intellect in the act by which it grasps revealed truths, and assists the will in the act by which it desires that to which the intellect applies itself."

Again, it is circular, so to participate in it is to participate in the life of a kind of trinitarian circle of emanation and return, or "flowing forth" and "flowing back." It is not just a static assent to the statistically improbable or frankly absurd.

Therefore, through participation in this virtuous circle of (↓↑), "habitual grace effects a real change in our soul, a change by which our very being is opened up to the awareness of supernatural realities." The effect of grace is to actualize and give form to "the soul's capacity to be receptive to the spiritual or supernatural," or what I symbolize (o).

It seems almost silly to have to point out that it's not either/or, i.e., damned or saved, as believed by so many evangelicals. Rather, it is a path, a journey, a Way.

Yes, we are fallen, but our essence nevertheless remains supernatural in a multitude of ways, both subtle and obvious. "And unless the believer experiences within his being, by virtue of a truly spiritual instinct, a kind of connaturality with the world of faith, how can this [higher] world be other than totally alien?"

This is an excellent question, for it goes to Luther's idea that we must simply assent to an absurdity that we do not understand, as opposed to cultivating our deep intuition that the higher world is our proper home.

"But God cannot refuse to enlighten the heart which is open to grace, that is, to grant to a human being some minimum of intelligibility in the act of faith, lacking which no progress of belief, either in thought or will, would have any meaning.

"Be that as it may, this initial grace [↓] of the sense of the supernatural is only granted to the extent that an individual's heart is open [o] and receptive [---]. And therefore it can be lost, either in part or totally, in proportion to the degree that the human heart closes and hardens" (Borella; pneumaticons added by El Bob Gagdad).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Circumnavelgazing the Whole Existentialada

Very little time this morning. A total speed post, presented to you with warts & all....

Schuon provides another way of looking at the inspiration-aspiration -- or pneumacosmic metabolism -- we like to call (↓↑). He says that "the 'life' of the Infinite is not only centrifugal; it is also centripetal: it is alternately or simultaneously -- depending on the relationships considered -- Radiation and Reintegration."

Imagine a beating heart at the vertical center or origin of it all, circulating blood and zapping every last slaphappy capillary before lapping around back again.

Or, just as the physical laws of the cosmos somehow hold throughout, so too does the spiritual Law. There is no place one can be and be absent from this Law and this circulation. If it were to stop, even for a moment, we would instantaneously become like frozen rock or dry granules of desiccated clay. This circulating energy is the juice that holds us together at every level. It is the Oneness that sponsors our own psychospiritual wholeness and unity.

Schuon speaks of the reintegration or "'return' of forms and accidents into the Essence." Aurobindo calls it involution-evolution, while in Christianity it is called...

Well, it is called different things, but Eckhart refers to "the dynamic reciprocity of the 'flowing forth' of all things from the hidden ground of God, and the 'flowing back,' or 'breaking through,' of the universe into essential identity with this divine source" (McGinn).

Or, in the orthoparadoxical words of the Meistro himself, "I have often said, God's going-out is his going-in."

Eckhart called this the exitus-reditus (or emanation and return), emphasizing the idea these two necessarily go together. God cannot but help overflowing his own energies, so to speak, but where can they go except "in God?"

It's like the blood that pumps from your heart. Looked at one way, the blood travels "away" from the heart. But looked at more holistically, there is really no line between the heart and its most distant artery.

Eckhart sees the exitus-reditus "as the fundamental law of reality taught by the Bible." Again, God's "bursting forth" is our "breaking through" -- which are ultimately the same thing, hence Eckhart's wise crack about how the eye with which I see God is the very same eye with which he sees me.

Thus there are "two graces" (or a single grace viewed from two ontological vertices): "The first grace consists in a type of flowing out, a departure from God; the second consists in a type of flowing back, a return to God himself."

Thus, we can only return to God because God has "left God," so to speak, hence the significance of the total kenosis, or divine self-abandonment, of the Incarnation. What is that but the ultimate going out for the purpose of the ultimate return and reintegration?

Eckhart: "The first break-out and the first melting-forth is where God liquifies and where he melts into his Son and where the Son melts back into the Father."

Note that the exit is "outward," the return "inward." Or say expiration and inspiration, from down-and-out to up-and-in.

Back to Schuon. Of the Radiation and Reintegration discussed above, he says that it is as if the Absolute, "by overflowing, so to speak, prolongs itself and creates the world."

Thus, the Absolute is simultaneously static and dynamic; or, static at one level, dynamic at another; it is in time while always being above time.

Looked at this way. God only "becomes" God (for us) by entering the exitus-reditus stream. Prior to that -- vertically prior -- is the apophatic God beyond our comprehension.

You might say that by flowing from eternity into time, God "becomes." Conversely, he "unbecomes" upon the mystic's breakthrough "to the silent unmoving Godhead, [a breakthrough] that brings all creatures back into the hidden source..." (McGinn). Really, it's what the whole cosmos has been waiting for (cf. Romans 8:22).

All the Rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. --Eccl 1:7

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. --Rev 22:1

He who believes in Me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. --John 7:38

Monday, October 25, 2010

Swaddled in Ideology, Enclosed in the Arms of Death

It seems that people routinely conflate dogma and ideology, but religion is -- or should be -- the opposite of ideology, since the latter encloses, while religion dilates and liberates. Furthermore, the most sublime religious philosophy eventually yields to the unitive experience of divine communion which is its source (cf. Thomas Aquinas).

Ideology can only pretend to be disinterested and "intellectual," hence the secret danger that it actually enlists -- and parasitizes -- much more of us than we realize. First we give it life, then it takes from us, like Obamacare.

Man wishes to know (and is made know), and he wants to know totally and with certainty -- which requires knowing with his entire being. Our deepest desire is to give ourselves over totally to something that transcends us; no one actually wants to be an atheist or skeptic, which is why atheism so quickly turns into a faux religion. An atheist is an atheist because he loves truth, however fragmentary and dimly perceived.

When Bertrand Russell was jailed during World War I for some sort of civil disobedience, the jailer asked him his religion. "Agnostic," he said. Unfamiliar with the term, the jailer said, "I guess it's all right. We all worship the same God, don't we?"

Of course the anecdote is told for the purpose of ridiculing the jailer's naiveté and Russell's subtlety, when from the higher perspective, the roles are ironically reversed. Russell is the naive one.

For as Schuon writes, the rationalist merely "calls 'reason' his lack of imagination and knowledge, and his ignorances are for him the 'data' of reason." When the unimaginative mentality grinds away at ignorance, the result is the kind of highflown philosophistry Russell spent his life producing and defending.

Yes, it is sophistry but it is equally philo, again, because man is made to sincerely love truth. As Schuon writes, "to be sincere is to draw from the Truth the maximal consequences from the point of view of both intelligence and will."

Indeed, this is why intellectual leftism and the willfulness of activism go hand in hand. It is not enough for the leftist to love his self-styled truth; rather, he feels an inner compulsion to impose it upon others. Why do you think the trolls feel compelled to come here and educate us? It is a good impulse turned bad as a result of a passionate attachment to the Lie. In short, it is a perversion.

Sincerity is "to think and will with the heart, hence with our entire being, with all we are" (Schuon). Again, man does not wish to live in a fragmented state in which he is alienated from God, self and world. No one wants to be Bill Maher; rather, one has no perceived choice but to be Bill Maher. One is enclosed in Bill Maher, with no apparent exit. It would take a bigger man than Bill Maher to not be so bitter about his total bedickament.

Both types of fundamentalist -- religious and secular -- end up enclosing "the intelligence and sensibility within the phenomenal order" (Schuon). This is a quite critical point, for metaphysics (and therefore total truth) is not, and cannot be, derived from the phenomenal realm.

Rather, the converse: the phenomenal realm, the manifestation, is a function of the principial realm. Here again, this is why secular ideology must enclose, for it reverses the ontological situation and contains man in what he properly contains.

In other words, in the ultimate sense, the soul is not in the cosmos; rather, the cosmos is in the soul. Which is to say, the soul contains the cosmos. If this were not the case, we couldn't have transcendent and universal knowledge of the cosmos.

But the scientistic ideologue makes the elementary error of forgetting his own transcendence and sealing himself up in his own imagination, like, I don't know, like this picture worth a thousand posts:


In fact, you often hear atheist sophisticates say that they have no problem with injunctions against murder and theft, but what's the deal with the graven images? This is the deal with graven images, that they can become a self-dug grave for the imagination if one forgets that they are only images.

Again, ideology suffocates, spirit in-spires. Ideology suffocates because it does not breathe in the Real: "in the human microcosm, the descent is inspiration and the ascent is aspiration; the descent is divine grace whereas the ascent is human effort, the content of which is the 'remembrance of God'" (Schuon).

In short, it is the psychospiritual metabolism represented by (↓↑). Now, imagine life in the absence of this metabolism. What would happen? Well, on the spiritual plane, approximately the same thing that happens to a person with kidney failure denied dialysis. There is an accumulation of toxins, which in turn leads to damage to the organism.

In the mind denied its proper metabolism, the toxic build-up must be dealt with in another manner. For example, I'm thinking of when I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years back. You know you have diabetes when you can't get enough water and you can't stop peeing. What is happening is that your body is defaulting to "plan B" to get rid of all the excess sugar, i.e., urination.

What is plan B for the intoxicated mind? Let us count the ways: denial, splitting, projection, projective identification, acting out, infantile omniscience, envy, devaluation, contempt. Or, just say "left."

In the book, we symbolize it •••()•••, which alludes to the fact that the mind remains open (as it must in order to survive), only on a horizontal level, with demons outside instead of below.

And as I mentioned above, it is not just leftists and radical secularists who engage in this, but religious flatlanders as well. Just two sides of the same counterfeit coin of the realm.

Out of time....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Thought I Saw My Government Running Away With My Heart

This post is from almost exactly two years ago, the day Obama won the presidency:

We come now to Letter XI, The Force. This is a timely symbol for the events of the day, as the force of the left ascends on the political wheel of fortune. However, we can draw coonsolation from the fact that, being that leftism is an entirely closed intellectual and spiritual system, it is already "on the way down," outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. In short, its end is in its beginning, as the poet said. The higher it ascends in its intoxicated reach for power, the further it will fall. The concrete fact of Obama shall soon enough kill the vaporous idea of Obama.

This passage by UF is perfectly apt today: "Plato has never had success as a revolutionary and never will do so. But Plato himself will always live throughout the centuries of human history... and will be in each century the companion of the young and old who love pure thought, seeking only the light which it comprises." In other words, you can never really have a "revolution" of people oriented to the white point of wisdom discussed in yesterday's post.

For one thing, it is an individual endeavor, not the sort of thing that could ever occur on a mass scale. And the left is a mass movement, which automatically condemns it to mediocrity and banality. It is led by a conformist herd of elites who imagine themselves superior, but nothing could be more foolish-- and self-contradictory -- than the idea of "mass excellence."

In contrast to Plato, Karl Marx has enjoyed over a century "of astonishing success and has revolutionized the world. He has swept away millions -- those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to the prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners."

Really, can you name another philosopher who has enjoyed such a literally smashing success in such a short span of time? But you -- yes, you there -- "as a solitary human soul, a soul of depth and sobriety, what do you owe Karl Marx?"

I don't know yet. Ask me next April 15th.

The point is, "Plato illumines, whilst Marx sweeps away." Obviously, it is impossible to imagine a person of any spiritual stature getting caught up in the Obama hysteria. But it is equally impossible to imagine such a person being caught up in any kind of political hysteria. It is one of the reasons we can never match the diabolical energy of the left. Since the leftist is condemned to the horizontal world, he channels his spiritual energy into politics. As I wrote a couple of years ago,

"Regardless of what happens Tuesday, it shouldn’t greatly affect the spiritual equilibrium of the Superior Man, whose invisible combat will continue as usual. Indeed, this is what distinguishes us from the agitated multitude of horizontal men who locate their salvation in politics. Whatever the outcome, our lives will continue to center around our own perfection and salvation, not for narcissistic reasons, but for the simple reason that it is not possible to save others unless we have first saved ourselves. Needless to say, horizontal Republicans will not save us from horizontal Democrats.

"The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can lie in its usefulness to the individual -- again, not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose -- i.e., to be useful to the Creator."

Hmm, I see that the B'ob foretold the cult of Obama:

"Horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine authority. Taken to its logical extreme, this manifests as the demagogue, the cult of personality, or the dictator-god who expresses the vitalistic will of the people. But all forms of leftism lie on this continuum. So much of the pandering of the left is merely totalitarianism in disguise -- a false absolute and a counterfeit vertical."

And there is no one so inflated with narcissistic hubris as the leftist social engineer who will save mankind from its own self-inflicted wounds. The leftist can give man everything but what he most needs, and in so doing, destroys the possibility of man. As Eliot said, he dreams of a system so perfect it will be unnecessary for anyone to be good.

Likewise, "the moment we talk about 'social conscience,' and forget about conscience, we are in moral danger." Eliminate the idea of moral struggle, and "you must expect human beings to become more and more vaporous" (Eliot). Since man is placed at the crossroads where he is free to choose between good and evil, this again eliminates man. You might say that for the leftist dreamer, man is strictly unnecessary. In fact, he just gets in the way. Humanity is reduced to "a manageable herd rather than a community of souls" (Lockerd) -- a transtemporal community which naturally includes the dead and unborn.

For horizontality goes hand in hand with exteriority and outwardness, which is the initial direction of the fall: first out, then down. Gravity takes care of the rest. Horizontal man is down and out, whereas our salvolution lies up and in. Animals are almost entirely exterior. Like the leftist, they do not actually live in the world, but in the closed system of their own neurology. Only man -- inexplicably and miraculously on any scientistic grounds -- can exit the closed system of his own neuro-ideology and enter higher worlds, worlds of truth, beauty, and moral goodness.

To be in contact with these higher worlds is to be Man. To neglect or deny these anterior worlds is to destroy man, precisely. It is to starve and suffocate man’s spirit by laying waste to his proper environment, the only environment in which he can actually flourish and grow into full manhood. You cannot replace the holy grail of Spirit with the lowly gruel of flatland materialism and expect it to feed the multitudes. Human beings do not draw their spiritual nourishment from outside but from above -- which in turn “spiritualizes” and sacralizes the horizontal.

Being what he is -- and isn’t -- horizontal man externalizes concerns about his self-inflicted soul murder, and obsesses over the future of "the planet" -- over speculative weather reports one hundred years hence.

But right now there is a hell and there is a hand basket, because we can clearly see both with our own third eyes. Furthermore, we can see exactly who is running with baskets in both hands. Look, it's Nancy Pelosi! Harry Reid! Barney Frank!

Again, vertical man never obsesses, let alone enters the state of perpetual hysteria of leftist man. As Eliot wrote, "we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph." Nevertheless, vertical man naturally frets about the deteriorating conditions of the interior of the human world, and its seemingly unimpeded slide into barbarism, spiritual exhaustion, scientistic magic, neo-paganism, self-worship, the cult of the body, abstract materialism, and a vapid and rudderless subjectivism.

Such lost souls cannot discern the signs of the times, much less the direction of history. For them, history can be nothing more than a meaningless tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying a nice paycheck and adoring coeds. Horizontal man scoffs at spiritual reality on the peculiar grounds that it cannot exist, denying its presence with that which affirms it by virtue of its self-evident existence.

It is a truism that vertical man paradoxically lives very close to the ground, as he has internalized the cautionary tales of Eden, of Icarus, of Babel, and of various episodes of the Honeymooners. In contrast, horizontal man seizes what does not properly belong to him, not just recapitulating the fall but enshrining it in his ideology. It's no longer a bug but a feature.

But when you cast your vote for horizontal man, you are unwittingly chipping away at the foundation of the very tower in which horizontal man is privileged to sit despite his metaphysical ignorance. For in reality, we only have the luxury of superfluous and slumbering horizontal men because of the vertical men -- real men -- who came before and built the tower brick by brick (except for the cornerstone, which was not made by human hands).

Thus we can see our own possible future by casting our gaze at Europe, which is too high and top-heavy for its own long-forgotten foundations, and is well into the process of toppling into dust. For when horizontal man falls, he doesn’t actually fall far, only back down to the ground where vertical man awaits him.

Yes, we are exiled in time, but for vertical man, time does not alter the basic existential situation which religion is here to address. It is believed by our intellectually sterile and spiritually desiccated elites that religion is no longer relevant. In so believing, they underscore their own irrelevance, for to paraphrase Schuon, they blame Truth for their own lack of qualification to understand and accept it. Suffice it to say that to be eternally young is to forever grow -- only inward and upward, toward the primordial light that has already defeated horizontal darkness, today and forever.

So render unto the horizontal the things that belong to the horizontal, but do not store your treasures there, where myths corrupt and chickens doth come home to roost. As always, be as wise as the horizontal serpents who stand on their bellies, but innocent as vertical doves who kneel on wings.

A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom. --Russell Kirk

Hey, I THOUGHT I SAW MY GOVERNMENT RUNNING AWAY WITH MY HEART!

I mean, IN A WORLD OF LOVE WHERE THEY BURN LIKE NERO
YOU WRITE 'EM A CHECK AND YOU THEN ADD ZEROES!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just How Low Could a Logos Go if a Logos Could Go Low?

More on the point/cross deustinction: "Geometrically speaking, the Absolute is like the point, which excludes everything that is not itself" (Schuon). It is Yahweh, Brahman, Tao, the One without a second, the Not Two Shabbas.

In contrast -- or complementarily -- "the Infinite is like the cross or star or spiral, which prolongs the point and in a sense makes it inclusive." Thus, it represents the Son of the Principle, bearing in mind that there can be no father without a son and vice versa.

Now, "Freedom in the last analysis coincides with possibility." If the Father is All Possibility, the Son is the first Actualization of the possible.

For creatures, freedom consists of willing in conformity with our nature or essence -- our real (true) possibility. Thus, willing against our nature is the possibility of the impossible. It looks free, but it is not. It is the opposite. It is slavery. And in all of creation, only humans can do it.

Importantly, the cross, star or spiral of the Infinite travels in both directions; it is both ascending and descending. Not only did Christ descend from heaven to earth to hell, but the latter was a "necessary" part of the package, so to speak.

In a footnote, Schuon compares it to Jacob's Ladder, which is "an image of the Logos," what with the vertical energies and entities going up and down the cosmic telovator.

But how Lo can it go, you ask?

At the very least, it goes from All Possibility at the toppermost of the poppermost to every lost possibility at the bottom of the manifestation -- or from the One, to the many, to the too many, to the It wasn't funny the first time, to the Enough already!, to the Don't make me come down there! (which is why he had to come down there).

Now, the manifestation is always in the principle, thanks to the spiraling cross. But is the principle in the manifestation? Ultimately, yes, but relatively, no.

In other words, it is our choice. Again, human beings can choose to live in conformity with the Principle or choose to go our "separate" way, even though it is strictly impossible to detach oneself from the Principle on pain of being nothing at all.

In other words, even the most middling relativity must spend some timelessness in the Principle's office:

"For Manifestation is not the Principle while nonetheless being the Principle by participation because of its 'non-inexistence'; and Manifestation... is the Principle manifested, but without being able to be the Principle in itself" (Schuon).

To say Truth is to say Principle, so even the most confused atheist confesses his faith in the Principle, so long as he is speaking truthfully. Hence Eckhart's wise crack to the effect that the more they blaspheme the more they praise Him. Way it is.

Diversity is outward, unity inward (or in-word). No act of perception can apprehend the inner unity of things, perception itself being the knowing subject turned "inside out," so to speak. Conversely, perception turned outside in -- or right-side up -- is the transcendent Subject.

The senses represent the terminal moraine of the ponderable cosmos, which is why to be an empiricist is to be a terminal moron.

But equally to be a rationalist is not only to be a mere pencil-pushing geek, but to have no lead in one's pencil. Reality is always empirical, rational and more. You cannot write the world with physics, only describe an abstract version of it. Physics is only possible because of the Logos. God is not a mathematician. He is a mythsemantician.

Ever wonder where all the darkness comes from? Well, not only is the Light self-evident, but we couldn't even be aware of the darkness without it.

In other words, "to say radiation is to say increasing distance, hence progressive weakening or darkening, which explains the privative -- and finally subversive -- phenomenon of what we call evil" (Schuon).

Thus adam shame it is, but the gardenall sin is ineveateapple: Radiation → Distance → Weakening → Darkening → Privation → Subversion.

Or, Creator → Inalienable Rights → Founding Fathers → Constitutional Republic → Limited Government → Liberals → Left → Roosevelt → Inversion → Carter → Subversion → Obama → Perversion → Unlimited Government → Hell.

But again: the vertical energies travel in both directions, to hell and back. There is expiration. And there is inspiration. And Obama has reached his expiration date. (Not literally, of course. Eleven more days to go.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Point of the Cross and Cross of the Point

In case you're wondering, I've just been riffing along with Schuon's misleadingly titled Sufism: Veil and Quintessence -- misleading because, like all of his books, it's truly about "everything" -- in the most literal sense of that word. Every. Thing. And more.

And as always, it's full of pithy little gems and asides. For example, here's a little footnote that could be the basis of a whole post... who knows, maybe even this one: "The total Universe can be compared to either a circle or a cross, the center in both cases representing the Principle." Reminds ʘne of the ʘ in cʘsmos and cʘʘnvision, doesn't it?

With regard to the point-circle, "the relationship between the periphery and the center is discontinuous, this being the dogmatist perspective of theology, analogically speaking."

In contrast, in the cross-circle "the same relationship is continuous, this being the perspective of gnosis." The former perspective (ʘ) takes phenomenal reality into consideration, whereas the latter "takes account of the essential reality of things and the Universe." (Indeed, look at how the cross is planted right in mother earth.)

Or, you might say that the point-circle considers things from the relative reality of man (and creation), whereas the cross-circle is from the absolute perspective of God, in whom there can be no discontinuity. Viewed from the bottom up, there is simply no way to overcome the ontological fissures and discontinuities we perceive, absent a flight into reductionism -- which only aggravates the apparent absurdity of the world, converting mystery to mystification.

Thus, the cross-circle is clearly the more "real" of the two symbols, although, at the same time, it necessitates the point-circle, because the latter represents the relative reality of a creation separate from the Creator. We are at the periphery. God is at the center (or origin). And man himself -- i.e., under his own natural powers -- is powerless to return to the center. Rather, only an act of God can facilitate that. Only God can bridge the gap between point and periphery. How? Through the Cross!

Coincidentally -- or perhaps not -- this is one of the central themes of Borella's The Sense of the Supernatural. He is a French Catholic esoterist, completely orthodox in his thinking, as far as I can tell. He points out that it has only been in the last two or three centuries that we have developed this strict demarcation between "nature" and supranature, which means that the point-circle is taken to be the ultimate reality, instead of the cross-circle.

In other words, because of the impact of the scientistic worldview, the radical discontinuities of the world are taken to be real, not merely a phenomenal residue of the creative principle as it proceeds from God to world, Creator to created, Center to periphery. But then, the two domains became radically separated, so that scientism becomes the religion of the periphery, while religion becomes the science of the center, with no meaningful communication between the two.

Borella mainly faults the Protestant rebellion, which, because it abolished the hierarchical intelligibility of the world, left the field open to be colonized by the cognitive predation of materialistic science. Looked at this way, scientism (not science, mind you, which is Christian through and through) is really just another form (or side) of Protestantism!

Another especially baleful effect of Luther on the West is his extreme devaluation of man. We can all agree that man is fallen, but for Luther, the fall is absolute. Here again, man is hopelessly condemned to the periphery, to the point that there is literally nothing he can do to participate in his own salvation. He is predestined, so that, as in Islam, past, present, and future are all predetermined. Ironically, there is no cross with which to get across!

But I believe Borella is correct in equally emphasizing man's theomorphism. Without in anyway forgetting our fall into ignorance, sin, and contingency, we are nevertheless "in the image of the Creator," so that the same cross that lives within the Trinity is now within us -- at least in potential.

Is it not obvious that man is incomplete? Not even the most boneheaded atheist considers man in the state of nature to be a "finished product."

Rather, we all recognize that man is charged with completing and perfecting himself, which immediately implies transcendence. If man is complete in himself, or if his progress is actually just arbitrary, then his life consists of nothing more than circling around the periphery of that circle. There is no center, no essence, no progress, and no point to existence. Only with the cross does man's life have a point.

In his preface to the book, Wolfgang Smith suggests that the supernatural is first intuited on the basis of what is lacking in man. We know we are incomplete, and that there is something about our existence that is not in accord with this vague sense we have of our intrinsic dignity and nobility. This is not the same as pride, which merely elevates the periphery to the center, and then presumes to dominate it. Rather, it is the recognition that there is nothing in the natural world that "is worthy of this transnatural miracle that is our spirit":

"To have the sense of the supernatural is to understand that 'man infinitely surpasses man,' and that there is nothing in nature that corresponds to the spirit." A man who is fully "at home" in the natural world is an animal. Only when man is properly at home in God does the world then become a comprehensible weigh station for his sojourn.

Because of the cross within the otherwise closed circle of existence, there is an "opening" set in the heart of creation, through which the upper waters may penetrate and vivify -- or an artery through which the supernatural blood may ʘxydize and circulight.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All Men Are Drunks and Hobos

Continuing our little discussion of caste and clue, Schuon notes that the priest/sage and knight/warrior share the common capacity "for spontaneously placing oneself above oneself," the former through wisdom and disinterested intelligence, the latter through heroism and self-sacrifice. In both cases, the person simply responds to "the nature of things" in order to provide what is needed in the moment, whether in the field of intellect or of action.

The third caste discussed yesterday -- the merchant, artisan, or craftsman -- may have more of a challenge in this area, in that it is possible for the mercantile mentality to dominate, thus reducing everything to quantity -- to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Nevertheless, it shares with the sage and warrior "an inward incentive toward the good," in contrast to the fourth caste, which "cannot maintain itself in the good except under a pressure coming from outside and above," the reason being that "this human type does not dominate itself and does not like to dominate itself" (Schuon).

Now, is this a generalization? Of course. In the absence of generalization it is impossible to think. The question is whether it is useful in illuminating an aspect of reality. In my experience, I find it to be perfectly accurate, allowing, of course, for inevitable exceptions.

For example, I was a card-carrying member of the laboring class for at least 12 years, when I toiled as a retail clerk. While I was very comfortable with my fellows, there is no question that these were not people who dominated themselves or who enjoyed doing so. To the contrary, they -- we -- not only frowned upon dominating ourselves, but systematically employed every chemical means to unmoor ourselves from the tyrannical dictates of right reason.

In other words, we drank a lot. In fact, here's an autographed photo of me from the Great Strike of 1979. Why autographed? Because I was drunk!


Actually, I was always on strike, mainly against authority, consequences, and adulthood. Yes, we were members of a labor union, but the notion that there was any kind of nobility or higher purpose associated with this is a sham. Rather, we simply wanted more money and benefits, combined with something approximating lifetime tenure.

Not that there's anything wrong with this. But to conflate this naked self-interest with heroism -- as in the left's hagiographic attitude toward the labor movement -- is pure hooey. The reason why this country has always rejected socialism is because of the common sense of our labor class, which never fell for the bogus wisdom of our tenured caste of pseudo-disinterested Marxian scholars telling them how to think. Plus they're usually drunk.

Only the first caste is truly lacking in "worldliness." The warrior caste obviously must deal with the world -- and mankind -- as it is. But the priestly caste is aware of the distinction between celestial and terrestrial things, and doesn't allow the Is to obscure the Ought.

Note that our secular class of tenured priests also trucks in the Ought, but this Ought is purely terrestrial and marxmade. It involves what Voegelin called the "immamentization of the eschaton." It also must redound to coercion, since it is not a "truth" that lies outside or above man. God vouchsafes his truth and lures men to it. Man can only enforce his.

Extremes meet, so it is quite possible -- especially in our day and age -- for our sages to actually be outcastes, in particular, if they are in contact with no reality higher than themselves. As Schuon explains, the outcaste lacks a homogeneous center, and is "unbalanced" or "mixed" with all sorts of incompatible and contradictory impulses. For example, imagine a university professor who doesn't believe in objective truth. Such a person cannot be helped, and yet, here he is presuming to help others!

Schuon goes on to say that the two higher castes are "noble," in the sense that their spirit is "free," or "'sovereign,' for it is naturally conformed to the universal Law, whether in 'heroic' or 'sacerdotal' mode." A man is noble "to the extent that he carries the Law within himself," but he is ennobled "to the extent that his obedience is perfect," at first "quantitatively" but eventually "qualitatively."

In other words, obedience is gradually interiorized -- or, as the interior is awakened, the obedience becomes spontaneous.

There is also a hidden relationship between the priestly and mercantile, which recalls Somebody's wise crack to the effect that few things make a man more peaceable than when he is occupied at making money.

Think of the natural contemplativity of the artisan or farmer: "It is easy to see the peaceful character of the peasant, the craftsman, the merchant; none of them has any interest in coming to blows, and each of the three functions possesses an aspect that binds or unites human groups rather than placing them in opposition" (ibid). Which is why capitalist countries are more peaceful within and with each other.

The warrior may fall if he forgets his higher purpose and descends into ambition or mere quarrelsomeness; this results from "an intelligence with too little contemplativity" (ibid). In contrast, the merchant can be afflicted by a "contemplativity with too little intelligence," whereas the intelligence of the priestly caste may become "narrow and pedantic," thereby becoming flaccid and ineffectual. In other words, it is possible for the elect to suffer from electile dysfunction.

In the ultimate sense, the priest/sage should either be "without caste" or encompass the qualities of each of them. Think of the heroic martyr-priests, or those who patiently and lovingly (not to say beautifully) transcribed and preserved all those ancient manuscripts prior to the invention of the printing press.

In another sense -- and a very important one -- all men are outcastes and bums, especially in our post-edenic, fallen state. Just as "the totality of truth demands the totality of man," his complete inversion results in priests like Deepak Chopra, sages like Paul Krugman, rulers like Obama, warriors like Osama, merchants like Countrywide, and deranged celebrity outcastes such as Keith Olbermann or Sean Penn.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Builders Rejected by the Stoner in Chief

I didn't intend to spark a controversy with yesterday's post, not even a trivial one. The main point is that, say, communion (or any other group service) takes only a few minutes. What about the rest of the week? What shall be the focus of your spiritual life and activity, since you only have one soul and one life?

As for the extreme ascetical and penitential practices of Pope John Paul II, any pope is in a unique position, representing a billion souls in particular, and mankind in general, before God, and conversely, God before man. Who knows what kind of insopherable energy flows in both directions through that focal point of cosmosis?

Whatever it is, it is intense. But if no one but the president can really know what it's like to be president, this is even more true of the papacy. Part of being Pope involves no longer being the man, but the office, and all it implies.

It is, of course, analogous to Jesus, in which both the divine and human natures are copresent. But I'm guessing that the Pope has a much different (and unsettling) appreciation of the general human nature, similar to how the guru takes on the karma of the disciple.

Just a guess. But as a psychologist, I can tell you that it can be an overwhelming burden to have a single patient with primitive, borderline issues. It is impossible to imagine having millions upon millions of them. Or, imagine having a dozen ex-wives. Who can really know such torture but Larry King?

Since we live in a spiritually hostile world in which the aliens have taken over, it requires an act of conscious will to think properly. In other words, if one abandons oneself to the general intellectual ambience, there is virtually no chance of undeviated thinking. For obvious reasons, the situation is only worse for the tenured and for those who succumb to their influence.

In a way, the Pope is at a distinct advantage here, since he gets to live in the intensely sacred ambience of the Vatican, where one can hardly open one's eyes without being lifted by the vertical energies. Everything there points up, whereas in the world of the secular west, so much tends to point down. Thus for the rest of us, we must create our own interior cathedral, so to speak, or at least "recall" the archetype from which the physical one takes its measure.

This interior cathedral is where the soul finds its rest. Schuon speaks of "the humble serenity of pure intellection, humble because impersonal and serene because conforming to That which is."

Note that the impersonality assures, or at least promotes, the humility. For example, if I am saying something "new," not only is the focus inappropriately placed upon me, but I am probably wrong to boot: error squared. Intelligence without humility inevitably betrays itself, whereas humility is a kind of deep existential intelligence, if only the vivid awareness that one is not God (and dependent upon God for right thinking).

It is difficult to express it more clearly than this: "God requires from each man what each man can and must give; but from the intelligent man He also requires intelligence in the service of truth, for which it is made and through which it lives" (Schuon). And if one's intelligence is strictly in the service of truth, this is a kind of intellectual karma yoga, since one must constantly "forget the self" in order to be in conformity with the truth that transcends it.

And how can the ego get puffed up with pride, when there is no question of the ego inventing or possessing this truth? Of course it happens, but the moment it does, error has effaced the truth and introduces a kind of passional toxicity.

One intuits this in the case of all of those self-styled spiritual teachers who cannot but help promulgating deviant doctrines to their followers, since there is only one doctrine equally available to everyone, albeit in different modes for different spiritual types. Thus, the more necessary these teachers imagine themselves to be, the more unnecessary they actually are.

Schuon discusses the various spiritual types, which are classically divided into ruler, priest, sage, warrior, merchant, laborer and outcaste. Each can be sanctified in its own way save for the latter, which can only be saved.

Consider Schuon's description of the merchant caste, which includes the craftsman and farmer: there is a "love of work well done -- both the result and the performance -- and of wages honestly earned; an emotional accent on the fear of God and on meritorious works conscientiously and piously accomplished."

Please note that he is not being the least bit condescending. Imagine, for example, if American capitalism were dominated by this mentality -- which it actually is, far more than people realize. Indeed, this is why it "works," because of the American "civil religion" so accurately described by de Tocqueville.

My father was of this caste -- a very pure businessman. In this regard, it is impossible for me to imagine him engaging in any kind of unethical or dishonest business dealing, even though he was in no way conventionally religious. Nevertheless, one can see how his work was a kind of karma yoga, since it was always "elevating." And people loved doing business with him for it. Is living the truth not a kind of implicit knowing it? Or is it actually explicit?

Schuon goes on to say that such individuals can appear superficially "horizontal" and conventional, but there is nothing wrong with being conventional in a just and rightly ordered society. Indeed, it can be "a protection against the lack of a sense of proportion for those not sufficiently endowed with discernment."

For example, consider an Obama, who clearly imagines himself to be of the priestly/intellectual caste, but who is so lacking in humility -- not to mention discernment and conformity to the real -- that he falls far lower than any upstanding merchant in the Chamber of Commerce. It is no coincidence that he so contemptuously attacks the latter, just as he belittles all normal Americans and the civil religion that has served us so well.

We don't hate Obama. But he sure despises us. Intellectually speaking, the most meagerly endowed tea-partier knows more about America than Obama and his doubtcaste rabble of unrepentant dementors. And the former is certainly more spiritual, at least in the positive sense of the word.

Reminds me of that biblical story of how the productive builders were rejected by the stoner in chief...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Healing the Sick, Raising the Dead, and Flattering the Self

This is good to know, and not just because it's convenient and self-serving: that is to say, "there are ascetical and disciplinary measures that make no sense except for passional men given to ambition and vanity, not to say pride, and therefore disqualified for gnosis" anyway (Schuon).

What this means is that the full-blooded Raccoon -- to the extent that he actually is one -- needn't concern himself with all those spiritual techniques aimed at eliminating the ego with extreme prejudice, since his being is already pretty much in conformity with his highest aspiration. Just as, for the Raccoon, having to go to school interfered with his education, conventional religiosity may hinder his spiritual development.

Or, put it this way. Most Americans are now officially overweight. They eat too much and exercise too little because they lack self-discipline. Therefore, the many thousands of studies, diets, books, and Oprah programs dealing with this issue have no relevance to those of us who are already disciplined and fit.

It reminds me of diabetes, which is now a pandemic in the developed world. When there isn't enough food -- and there is plenty of physical labor -- people needn't worry about disciplining their appetite. But the plague of type II diabetes simply reveals the fact that most people have no control over their mouth and no discipline over their body.

I have adult onset type I, which is a different beast entirely, unrelated to lifestyle. However, it does require the same degree of self-discipline to control. I can't eat so much as half a pretzel without being conscious of the immediate effect on my blood sugar. But I have evaluated hundreds of type II diabetics, and thus far I haven't encountered a single one who exerts the level of self-discipline I would consider acceptable. And it's not just because I have "high standards," unless you call wanting to avoid blindness, stroke, cognitive decline, impotence and amputation an unreasonable standard.

I don't mean to rag on these people. The point is, they are average, just as the man in need of serious spiritual self-discipline is average. I recall another wise crack by Schuon, to the effect that the superior man dominates himself, and loves doing so. He doesn't have to be whipped into submission to properly order his soul and his life. Rather, it just comes supernaturally naturally.

Elsewhere Schuon wrote that "the world is miserable because men live beneath themselves." The fundamental -- and inexcusable, for it is diabolical in its effect -- error of every variety of liberalism, is that it pretends it can "reform the world without having either the will or the power to reform man." It only results in the absurdity of attempting "to make a better world on the basis of a worsened humanity."

Followed to its conclusion, secular leftism inverts the cosmos, ending "in the abolition of what is human, and consequently in the abolition of happiness too." For genuine improvement, man requires re-ligio, or an authentic and efficacious means of binding him to his source and destiny.

Having said that, it is obviously quite easy to deceive oneself in these matters, unless one understands that the burden is heavier, not lighter, for the self-disciplined. Or at least the responsibilities.

For example, if you are at the base camp of the mountain and something goes wrong, it's not going to be fatal. But if you are up there scaling a rock wall at 8,000 feet, you have to be very cautious, because errors will be magnified there.

This is one of the reasons why I have no patience with, or tolerance for, all of those self-styled new age spiritual teachers, as the great majority of them are no more advanced than their followers, only clever -- or sociopathic -- enough to make a career out of it. But suffice it to say, no person of genuine spiritual attainment makes a business out of it. Indeed, it is a kind of proof that the attainment is bogus. The spiritual life is its own reward -- that and the joy of passing it along to others.

In a more spiritually balanced world, all of the above would qualify as truism. But again, as we were saying last Friday, the Christian West emphasizes the penitential path, not the path of knowledge or metaphysics. In this regard, Schuon makes a subtle but crucial point, that "the great question that arises is knowing whether metaphysical ideas act on the will of a given man or whether on the contrary they remain inoperative abstractions" (emphasis mine).

As I am always at pains to emphasize, nothing I write about can be of any use if it is just "knowledge" (k) that is not realized (n). Unrealized spiritual knowledge is less than worthless, because it can be so deceptive. Not only must this knowledge be realized, but, if properly expressed, it should facilitate its own realization, or mysteriously actualize what it signifies. It should, according to Schuon, "unleash interiorizing and ascending acts of the will and affective dispositions of the same order."

If this takes place -- and only if it takes place -- then "there is no need to seek to create a distaste in the person in question for a world that already hardly attracts him or for an ego that already has no more illusions or ambitions." You can't kill what is already dead, so "it is pointless to impose attitudes on the 'pneumatic' that are meaningless for him and that instead of humbling him in a salutary fashion can only bore and distract him."

Naturally, we are speaking of degrees, not absolutes. But at least in my case, no one has to convince me to lead a quasi-monastic life focused on spiritual interiorization. However, please note that the form without the content would be a kind of perversion.

For example, there are numberless tenured drones who perhaps have the monastic temperament, but use it to obsess over some tiny, irrelevant corner of the cosmos. In my case, I have a passion for the eternal, which animates everything I do. To the extent that I discuss some small corner of existence, it is only in the context of how it bears upon the eternal. We're always talking about the divinization and sanctification of the cosmos, or cosmotheosis. This, we hope, is what distinguishes us from the acadanemic and infertile eggheads of the tenured henhouse.

I should also hope that it goes without saying that "intelligence" is not at issue. There are plenty of brilliant people who spend their lives propagating error, and plenty of average ones who live a truth that is much higher and deeper than themselves. Prior to intelligence -- for intelligence alone cannot know of it -- is "a sense of the sacred," and "all the moral and intellectual consequences it implies." For a sacred world demands a kind of knowledge in conformity with it. And it excludes systematic knowledge that is unaware of the sanctity of the world and of man.

In order to have a sense of the supernatural, one must either be above nature, or the supramundane must infuse nature with its presence. Same difference, which is none.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Child of the Moment, Living Without a Why

Since religion must deal with the whole man (who is not just afflicted in one isolated part), it is addressed to his intellect, his will, his body, and his emotions -- or in terms of truth, love, beauty, and virtue.

But for some reason -- especially lately, i.e., the last couple hundred years -- the general message has become more narrowly focussed on the will and the sentiments, excluding -- and sometimes even being hostile to -- the intellect.

In turn, this has only cleared the way for anti-intellectual modernists and postmodernists to perversely dominate the field of intellect. This leads to the intolerable situation of religion addressing one part of man, "science" another. This creates an existential or even ontological split in man, where no such split actually exists (or could exist).

This is quite insidious, because it violently estranges man from himself, and then posits the resultant alienation as normative. But to the extent that it is normative, it is only a result of our contingent "fallenness" and not our essential being, the latter of which is possible to recover (or, to be more precise, to re-member).

For not only is man whole, but he is the terrestrial refleshion of wholeness, i.e., the microcosm. At risk of being willfully misunderstood, we are "gods in the making," which is sort of the whole point of this verticalisthenic exercise. If "we must be careful not to attribute to God the limitations of men," it is equally true that we must not attribute to man the limitations of the self-styled godlings of atheism, materialism, and ideological Darwinism.

For the soul is all that it knows, which is all that is potentially knowable. And only nothing is not knowable. Everything real is.

Schuon agrees that Westerners tend not to "have a sense of the metaphysical transparency of phenomenon," and instead "insist as a matter of preference on penitential means" of religious practice. In short, they emphasize the "moral alternative, not that of contemplative participation." But as a courtesy to other spiritual types, "if these fideists have no wish to use their intelligence, at least they should not forbid others to do so" (Schuon).

There is of course nothing wrong with the penitential path so long as it is not forgotten that man is (potentially) whole, and that any single path should encompass the others. To say that man is fallen is not just to say that he is prone to moral corruption, but that he is also -- and perhaps even more fundamentally -- susceptible to intellectual betrayals of every kind.

In other words, man transgresses against truth just as much as he does virtue. To not know reality is to not know how to behave. But proper behavior implies some awareness of truth, even if it is only subconscious and not explicitly formulated.

Indeed, truth is nothing more than the inward virtue of the intellect, while morality is the exterior truth of soul. To artificially separate these various modes and functions cannot but help lead to incoherence, confusion, and absurdity. For if man is not whole (both spatially and temporally, vertically and horizontally), there is truly no escape from cosmic absurdity. Then it's just my surd against yours.

One might say that there is an inverse relationship between wholeness and absurdity. This occurred to me yesterday, while thinking about how much sense existence makes to my son. Nothing is yet absurd. We're trying to hold off that realization for as long as possible, while simultaneously nurturing the tools -- or better yet, the unThought deep structure -- to cope with the pressure (and the pressure to conform is intense) society will bring to bear on his spiritual innocence and wholeness.

Culture does one of two things: it compresses us into a dense and spiritually closed metamorphic rock, or disperses us into spiritually impotent fragments. Reversing the former condition requires love, beauty, slack, and dilation, while the latter requires self-discipline, rigor, severity, and boundaries. Or say music and geometry, female and male, mother and father.

Of course we ultimately need both. When both are operative and relating harmelodically, the partition between the upper and lower waters becomes more permeable, so that we may grow with the flow.

Also, as Schuon formulates it, "the psycho-spiritual is exteriorized to the extent that the believing mentality is interiorized." What this means is that if our ¶rimary Orientation is to the "above" (as in ↓↑) and not the "outward," the latter begins to be conditioned by the former, and "paradise" begins to emerge from the fog. Or at least there is an intuition of heaven, so to speak.

To live without a why and to be a child of the moment is very much as I described the situation with my son, except that he has a couple of deputized parents to help ensure the coontinuity. As adults we must rely upon, and place our faith in, the actual Source, i.e., the Father of fathers and Mother of mothers, and thereby be adopted sons after the Son, if one may put it thus.

This was kind of short, but a voice upside my head is saying "the end." I guess that's all for today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Inversion, Subversion, and Perversion of the Left

I really like Schuon's compact description of the purpose of sacred art: "the return of accidents to Substance."

It's actually a two-way, or circular, process, very much like Creation itself (which is obviously no coincidence, given our theomorphism): "Art expresses this relationship in a movement that is at once descending and ascending, for on the one hand it reveals the Archetype in the form and on the other hand it brings the form or soul back to the Archetype."

Thus, it is a literal (↓↑), like an exteriorization of the interior followed by an interiorization of the exterior. And clearly, the descending or involutionary arrow must be prior in this relationship, one more reason why scientism and metaphysical Darwinism are such absurdities.

If you consider history, it obviously reveals a great deal of accident and contingency, which, of course, it must. This is not heaven.

However, looked at in another way, its most important features are nothing less than exteriorizations of the soul, which are in turn interiorized by those who come later. And when I say "interiorized," I mean that these past exteriorizations are precisely the Archetypes that awaken both the intelligence in general but also its specific contours and forms.

This used to be the grand meaning of a "liberal education": in the words of Matthew Arnold, it was to familiarize oneself with "the best that has been said and thought in the world."

But today, to obtain a liberal education is to familiarize oneself with -- and internalize -- all that is petty, envious, egalitarian, mediocre, bureaucratic, aesthetically toxic and spiritually corrosive, even while elevating oneself for being so destructively cynical toward all that is properly human. Cynicism instantly converts the inferior man to a superior man (in his own mind, of course.) It is a kind of "negative omniscience," like the infantile Power of No!

The pathological combination of cynicism and contempt is the mother's milk of the leftist, which we are now seeing in all its disturbing transparency due to the rabble's rejection of our elite masters.

Narcissists never take rejection well, but this is more than mere rejection. It is a dramatic repudiation of a whole worldview that is upside-down. Leftists don't realize it, but they literally cannot function in a world that is right-side up. To put it mildly, there is no place for a lowlife, thuggish, anti-intellectual, spiritually barren community agitator in the real world, much less as its leader. To put it another way, leftism is an employment program for the unemployable. Imagine Al Sharpton actually having to function somewhere!

And while looking up the exact wording of that quote by Arnold, I found another that equally applies: "Culture is properly described as the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection."

Now, what is perfection? It is something free of defect. In a way, it is to say that every part is necessary to the whole, and not contingent, which is another way of expressing Schuon's formulation above. Thus, to quote Arnold again, "Greatness is a spiritual condition," and creative life is "Waiting for the spark from heaven to fall."

Last week I considered writing a post about the importance of envy and contempt in the psychospiritual economy, but I refrained from doing so because I thought it would be too technical. But it just keeps coming up, as the left deals with its ongoing implosion. Taranto touched on it yesterday, quoting a typically clueless moonbat who cannot even consider the possibility that her leftist worldview is defective. The problem for poor progressives, you see, is that they are "partisans of reason and rational choice" (!).

As always, the problem for the left is Americans; but really, it's human beings, since their metaphysic does not apply to us. Which is why it never works. Especially in practice.

I won't dwell too much on envy and contempt, only to say that they are an important component of what Melanie Klein called the "manic defenses." Basically, you may think of the manic defenses as ways to deny an impending reality.

Let's suppose "4" is a disturbing reality. Therefore, just as you are about to realize that 2+2 = 4, the manic defenses come to the rescue to deny 4. How do they do it? Well, one way is to devalue or destroy 4 through contempt and envy. In colloquial terms, you might think if it as "sour grapes." But unconsciously, the person realizes -- or fears -- that the grapes are not sour at all.

So I am seeing this defense every day, multiple times a day. If the left knew what they were doing -- or had any control over the process -- I don't think they'd do it. Or at least they wouldn't publicly engage in it, because it is so personally unflattering, and so alienates normal Americans -- the very Americans whose lives these elites wish to control! And no wonder they wish to control us, since we are all racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and all the rest. How could such monsters be capable of self-government?

Klein writes that the purpose of the manic defenses is to deny a psychic reality, usually as a result of a significant loss of some kind. The loss for the leftist is not just in the exterior "political" world, but more importantly, in the interior world, since for the leftist, his identity is much more bound up with his politics than is the case for the spiritually normative person. The leftist is a "superior person" -- more wise, noble, tolerant, and intelligent than the rest of us -- so that to have his politics repudiated is a personal affront.

I think I'll move on. But this sidebar into politics is not entirely irrelevant to our discussion of art, since, as Schuon points out, "the return of the accidental to the Substance, of the formal to the Essence, amounts to the reintegration of plurality into Unity."

Thus, it is possible to deny this higher unity, which is what the left does a priori, what with its multiculturalism, moral relativism, egalitarianism, "tolerance" of the intolerable, deconstructionism, etc. As we have discussed before, leftism is the doctrine of ontological multiplicity and its implications, so that the only way out is down, into the black night where all is just another kind of one -- the bad and ultimately fascistic kind.

I'm running out of time here, but to say unity-multiplicity is also to say center-periphery. Now, the further from the center we fall, the less of the divine influence there is. At the extreme periphery there is a privation of the Good, but it is possible to crash through even that, and into the realm of cosmic subversion.

You might say that the upcoming election will result in a subversion of all the perversion, except that it will actually represent a supraversion of the left's cosmic inversion -- which is to say, a vertical ingression. God wi↓↑ing.