Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Prehistory, History, Post-history, Trans-history

One thing reasonable people should be able to agree upon is that wisdom exists, that it is a very different thing than "knowledge," and that it tends to inhere in the group as opposed to the individual, since a group's experience will be so much more wide and deep, i.e., extending far into the past and encompassing the knowledge and experience of countless older ansisters and brothers.

No one individual in a single lifetime could possibly experiment with every way of living and determine which was best. You can't start life from "zero," with a pneumacognitive blank slate, any more than you could do so with a genetic one.

Genes, for example, may not embody wisdom per se, but they do encode an inconceivable amount of information about the world in general and about the "average expected environment" in particular. Thanks to our genes, we don't have to learn how to recognize human faces, how to bond with others, or how to speak. Rather, these things will all come naturally if we are simply placed in a human environment.

There was also a time when we didn't have to think too much about philosophy, or about metaphysics, or about God, because it had all been done for us by groups that preceded and enveloped us. It has only been about 300-400 years that religion (in the West, anyway) went from being an unconscious matrix to a conscious enterprise that must be carried out by the individual.

While this creates spiritual obstacles that never existed in the past, it also creates unprecedented upportunities for spiritual growth. For example, the most unsane visionary of medieval times could not possibly have conceived of a day when one could so easily purchase an indulgence over the internet from Petey, my household gnome.

There are two major contemporary obstacles to spiritual growth, materialism, and its corollary, the idea of progress. I'm currently in the middle of a fascinating book that discusses this, The Order of the Ages: World History in the Light of a Universal Cosmogony, by Robert Bolton. Bolton points out that our traditional division of the human adventure into prehistory, history and post-history is not exactly accurate. This is because prehistory didn't really end 5000 years ago, or whenever written records begin.

Rather, for all intents and purposes, prehistory continued until the time of the scientific revolution, which didn't really get underway until the 17th century. Consider, for example, ancient Egypt. Although it is considered a part of history, it "retained the same theocratic form for some five thousand years without any radical or irreversible change in its spiritual or social order."

This is a rather staggering idea to contemplate; I'm not so sure we even can contemplate it, since we are so imbued with the ideas of progress, change, and evolution, which were inconceivable for the ancients.

As Mead suggested in God and Gold, I don't think we understand the extent to which we are all -- religious and secular alike -- living in a world with such radically different assumptions than any humans who existed previously. In short, we are consciously living in history, and must therefore cope with linear, irreversible time, whereas premodern peoples lived in a more timeless state -- or, to be perfectly accurate, a cyclically temporal state that resonated with eternity.

Traditionalists maintain -- and they may well be correct about this -- that this premodern, timeless mode is normative for human beings, and that we were never meant to be where we are "in history." Certainly the numbers are on their side, given that human beings only stumbled into this thing called "history" so recently. Perhaps life is so confusing because we are not supposed to be here -- we literally drifted into this strange temporal viaduct, and now we can't get out or find our way back into the timeless (which is the purpose of religion).

Again, it's almost impossible for us to think in this way, because we have to eliminate from our minds all of the anxiety that goes along with the temporal mode, which is also intrinsically quantitative and materialistic.

For example, we are naturally very concerned with the linear amount of time we spend on the planet -- the quantity of our years -- in such a way that it can eclipse the actual moment-to-moment quality of our life. Part of the reason for this is that in the modern world, quality no longer resonates with eternity, so it might as well be just more quantity.

In other words, in the modern world even quality tends to be reduced to quantity. We can all experience this, for example, in the bland "flattening" of aesthetic qualities. Most everything is constantly "different," and yet, just more of the same.

This especially becomes noticeable if you are able to step outside history and live in a more timeless mode. There is a kind of constant change which, ironically, is no change at all, since change is only possible in light of permanence. If everything is changing, then it is logically equivalent to nothing changing -- like fashion, it's difference without a difference, or mere agitation on the surface. So it's a kind of timelessness, but somehow the opposite of the timeless plenum enjoyed by our premodern furbears. How to describe it? It's sort of an empty plenum or overflowing vacuum, is it not? A cornucrapia of BS.

Now, just when you were getting used the idea of being condemned to history, Bolton points out that we are actually no longer living there. Rather, that ended way back in -- well, people can argue over exactly when history ended, but it was definitely over by the start of the 20th century.

History over? How can that be? World War I, World War II, communism, the British invasion, the collected poetry of Suzanne Somers? Yes, just agitations in the posthistorical void.

Bolton notes that as late as the fourteenth century there was "nothing that need necessarily have led to anything different after another five hundred years, whereas the pattern of changes from the fifteenth century onward was unmistakably cumulative." So that is when history truly began. But it was very, very different from our post-historical situation, since it still resonated with the timelessness that preceded it, and in fact, can be seen as a sort of "prolongation" of those timeless qualities, only now concretized in time.

With the entrance into history proper, Bolton writes that it was as if a damn had burst, so that all of the potential in these eternal ideas flooded out into time. But eventually the force of the "explosion" weakens, until we have reached our present state of exhaustion, in which we are collectively more distant than ever from the living principles that animated our civilization.

To a large extent, time, history, and change are all tied in with the development of science, which, for the first time, introduced real -- and seemingly inevitable -- progress. However, again, our technical progress over the past few hundred years is so "directly demonstrable and tangible" that it "can almost stifle any sense that something else may have been lost at the same time." In fact, Bolton argues that these tangible changes serve to orient us solely to nature, which has the consequence of masking "a relentless loss of both a consciousness and of a spiritual energy of a far more essential kind."

According to Bolton, this has to do with the nature of time and our fall into materiality and quantity, and the consequent historical movement away from a kind of consciousness that is no longer familiar to us. Or, to be perfectly accurate, it is still accessible, but it must be self-willed. For reasons we will get into later, in the post-historical world, consciousness contracts unless active counter-measures are taken.

To be continued....

I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison; in the prison of one thought. These people seemed to think it singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large.... these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine. -G.K. Chesterton

Monday, November 08, 2010

Purchasing Eternity With the Gift of Time

... God, freedom, unity. Three things which are one, for you cannot realize freedom and unity unless you realize God... --Sri Aurobindo

The question of whether mankind is degenerating or progressing inevitably touches on other fundamental complementarities such as evolution/creation, authority/personal experience, tradition/modernity, science/religion, and ultimately time/eternity. In my view there is a dialectical and generative space between the two poles, where what Mead calls "dynamic religion" may take place.

The central point, I think, is the question of the importance of time. Ironically, both science and a certain kind of religiosity devalue and even dismiss time as illusory and even pointless -- which it must in fact be if, on the one hand, there is only nature, or, on the other, only God.

But I believe time not only serves a metacosmic purpose, but that there can be no eternity in the absence of time, and vice versa. That being the case, there can also be no creation without evolution, no authority without personal experience, and no science without religion (and vice versa).

Put it thisaway: the One breaks out of eternity into two (i.e., duality), but this duality is resolved (and progress occurs) within a dynamic and transitional trinity. Thus, history can be seen as a sort of rolling catastrophe (as in catastrophe theory) in hyperspace, as the many make their winding way back to the One. History is ultimately the straight book that God tries to write with crooked liars.

Let us stipulate that history either has a direction -- and therefore a purpose -- or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then there's no point to anything, including religion. It would be like an endless baseball season with no World Series. Instead of a 162 game season that only seems endless, the season would actually be endless, with a new game every day, day in, day out.

Eventually, players would stop scratching their crotches and begin scratching their heads and ask themselves, "why are we doing this? Why are we playing all these stupid games?"

So the founding gods of baseball bifurcated the teams into a duality which we call the American and National leagues, and then invented this third thing called the World Series in order to create a sense of purpose and finality. Thus, when you win the World Series, you have reached the highest pinnacle, the "absolute," the baseball equivalent of enlightenment, or the toppermost of the poppermost.

But just as in religion, there is apparently more than one Absolute, since there is a new champion each year, and it is not as if the new champion surpasses all the previous ones. The 2010 Giants are not better then the 1954 Giants. Baseballically speaking, both went as high as it is possible to go in this world. Sure, you could argue over which team is better, but that's like arguing over whether Plato or Eckhart was a better hitter.

But in the case of the World Series, deep down some of us realize that it is something we merely invented for the purposes of finality. We simply superimpose it on the individual games, in order to give them a higher meaning, so to speak. Since there is this finality to an otherwise endless season, it creates intensity and drama, very much as does death (the playoffs are exciting because teams are always facing "sudden death").

If you knew you weren't going to die, it would be analogous to an endless baseball season. No, worse than that. Like an endless soccer season. No, worse. An endless soccer game. Just a bunch of people running around in circles ending in a 0-0 tie.

If history has no purpose, then it is bound to get worse, i.e., to degenerate. This is for the same reason that the quality of professional baseball would degenerate in the absence of a World Series. No one would bother acquiring a player to improve their team at the trading deadline, since there would be no deadline. Standings wouldn't matter, since there would be no point to them. Wins and losses would be just like Monopoly money, a symbol of nothing.

To the extent that things are getting worse in the world, could it be linked to the widespread belief among our elite that history has no purpose, no direction, no telos? Interestingly, this is where the secular far left and traditionalist far right converge. As an anonymous commenter mentioned, given his 'druthers, Schuon, the hardcore traditionalist,

"considered a 'totalitarian' [in the traditional religious sense] society preferable to a secular society. Religion, culture, science, art, and soccer, should all be under one heading, if you will. He was obviously opposed to secular totalitarian regimes, like the Nazis or the Soviets, but not religious totalitarian regimes. One can also see this in the leaders he writes positively about -- Charlemagne, Napolean, Franco, and even Lincoln (Lincoln's temporary measures during the Civil War are clearly those of a monarch)."

It seems to me that we have only three choices. One can go along with Schuon and other traditionalists who affirm that timeless and total truth has already been revealed to us, and that it is only for us to conform to it. Alternatively, one can be a member of the psychospiritual left, and maintain that history has no meaning except that which we impose upon it (which is no meaning at all, just self-deception).

Or, you can be one of our pneumacosmic coonfolk and maintain that timeless truth does exist. However, for our purposes, it exists in the future, not the past. Primordial man does indeed gambol above the clouds in the sacred garden atop the cosmic mountain. However, this is not just situated in the longago but the heretocome.

Our intimations of paradise are just that -- they are what Bion called memoirs of the future. Being so, they are the vector that guides history and confers its real meaning: the arc of salvolution through which we are given the uppertunity of a lifetome to dwell in time but to aim our eros at the heart of eternity. Our days are measured, guided, and given meaning by a sense of growing proximity to this sacred, nonlocal ground.

If this dimension is in the "past," then each day that passes is simply a measure of how far we have fallen from the ideal -- a meaning, to be sure, but a kind of "anti-meaning." Again, what's the point except to wait to die?

Conversely, for a member of the psychospiritual left, what's the point except to deny death and lose oneself in the senses? In this view, a Bill Maher or Hugh Hefner are the wisest men on earth.

Now obviously, various Christian theologians emphasize different sides this dialectic, hence the argument between faith and works. If eternity is all that counts, then faith is all that matters. But if history has a purpose, then works take on much more significance.

Long story short, faith and works just have to do with the practical applications of time and eternity.

Manifestly, the unrestrained use of individual illumination or judgment without either any outer standard or any generally recognizable source of truth is a perilous experiment for our imperfect race.... [T]he whole tendency of development of an individualistic age of mankind [goes] back to the one dominant need of rediscovering the substantial truths of life, thought and action which have been overlaid by the falsehood of conventional standards no longer alive to the truth of the ideas from which their conventions started.... [M]an has to circle back towards the recovery of his deeper self and a new upward line or a new revolving cycle of civilization. --Sri Aurobindo

Thursday, November 04, 2010

This is the Moment When the Rise of the Oceans Began $peeding Up Again

Well, rather than trying to edit and wryclean my soiled bobservations in public, I think I'll take another little break. Besides, I have full responsibility for the Boy for the next few days, since Mrs. G. is visiting her mother in Sarasota.

Here he is wrestling some kind of sea monster to a draw (taken with a phone; he ain't really a shiny albino):

But more importantly, if you look closely, you can see that the ocean has already begun to rise again since last Tuesday. Which is good news for me, because it means that in my lifetime I have a chance for beachfront property. I mean, I'm about eight or nine miles inland, but Malibu is only 13 feet above sea level, so you do the math.

This is what I call truly progressive egalitarianism, in that it would leave entertainers such as Barbra Streisand and Mel Gibson -- who have made enough money -- literally underwater in their mortgages, while common folk such as myself would see their property values multiply by a factor of ten or twenty-- a true reversal of the financial world order that should make Marxists happy, if only they were capable of happiness.

Meanwhile, open thread. Suggestions for future topics welcome.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Beyond the Devil and the Deep Blue States

Our Unknown Friend writes that it is the marriage of imagination + will that engenders demons. However, it is actually the union of an intoxicated will and imagination that does so. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the will so long as it is subordinated to intelligence and virtue, and there is nothing wrong with the imagination so long as it is not unmoored from the images of archetypal truth.

But intoxicated will and imagination always go too far; they release inhibitions and partake of other forces -- usually infrahuman in their origin -- that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.

Again, this is something the left does by definition; since they deny the vertical, it returns in a disguised and perverse form, which provides them with a preternatural energy that conservatives can rarely match. The moment a conservative becomes "ecstatic" about politics, he's no longer a conservative. Intoxication certainly has its place. Just not in politics, where sobriety should rule the tarry night.

Obviously, because of their psychically unbound energy, young people are more prone to the varieties of psychic intoxication (unless they have an unusually developed center), so it is no surprise that Obama took two thirds of the youth vote in 2008 (the vote was 50-50 for actual adults). To paraphrase someone, these children wish to give us the full benefit of their inexperience.

My first presidential vote went to Jimmy Carter, who, for those of you below a certain age, was the Obama of his time. He too promised dramatic change, which came in spades -- soaring inflation, increased unemployment, emboldened enemies, loss of respect in the world, diminished confidence at home. And yet, it didn't matter. I still voted for him again in 1980.

UF points out that even Marx and Engels could have avoided intoxication -- and prevented the birth of a hideous genocidal demon -- if they had actually just considered the plight of the poor in a detached and disinterested way. But instead, they went far, far, over the line, into cloud cuckoo land, insisting that God did not exist, that history obeyed scientific laws, that "all ideology is only a superstructure on the basis of material interests," etc.

It is the same with the Darwinists. If they would just maintain a little sobriety, instead of drunkenly careening into areas in which they have nothing to contribute, all would be well. But like a loudmouthed know-it-all at an academic crocktail party, they just can't stop themselves. They'll tell you everything about love, beauty, truth, God.... It's all wrong, of course, but that's the thing about being drunk -- it feels good.

Of the founding fatherless children of the left, UF writes that "there is no doubt that with them it was a matter of an excess -- a going beyond the limits of competence and sober and honest knowledge -- which they did not in any way doubt, having been carried away by the intoxicating impulse of radicalism."

You must understand that the radical wants to be intoxicated -- with outrage, with self-righteous anger, with smugness, with superiority, with iconoclasm, with fear (e.g., of "domestic spying," or the "theofascistic takeover of the nation"), with the omnipotent demands of "social justice."

And like any other drug, radicalism is addictive because of the feelings it engenders. This, I think, explains why so many of my generation refuse to grow up -- because they are literally addicted to the feelings produced by radicalism, which mimic transcendence, only from below.

For example, they do not want racism to be over. For a white liberal, it gives such an intoxicating feeling of being on the side of righteousness, that it's impossible for them to let it go. For you Raccoons of color out there, you probably realize that every white liberal condescendingly imagines that he is noble Atticus Finch, and that you are poor helpless Tom Robinson.

By the way, a boneheaded -- and intoxicated -- commenter compared opposition to the redefinition of marriage to racism. But opposition to "gay marriage" isn't learned. Rather, it is innate, i.e., in conformity to the cosmic law. Anyone with a rightly ordered soul is naturally opposed to it. Rather, they have to unlearn what is natural and normal in order to be passionately pro-homosexual marriage.

I well remember being innocently "homophobic" as a boy, but I was never racist. In reality, I had no idea what a homosexual was. Rather, it was just the innate knowledge that boys should act like boys -- that there was an ideal to which we should aspire. Boys who didn't were suspect. It was a kind of mutual self-policing, like fighting in the NHL.

In fact, it's more than a little perverse to even call it "homophobia." Rather, it was really just about learning The Art of Manliness, which all boys need to do -- especially today, when manliness is opposed on all sides by passive-aggressive liberal wimps for whom whining isn't everything, it's the only thing. Marriage is one of the principle ways that boys become men. Therefore, it is no surprise that liberals want to undermine the institution.

In contrast, racism must be learned. Yes, I know it is ubiquitous in history, but it is nevertheless learned. It is mostly about cultural and ethnic differences, and race is simply a handy marker for this.

The left also doesn't want poverty to end, because this too would eliminate the cause of their righteous indignation. Otherwise they would define poverty in absolute instead of relative terms. So long as they define it in relative terms, a certain fixed percentage of the population will always be "poor," no matter how fat, affluent, and diabetic.

The left is animated by the intoxicated desire to "change everything utterly at a single stroke. And it is this fever to *change* everything utterly at a single stroke which gave birth to the demon of class hatred, atheism, disdain for the past, and material interest being placed above all else, which is now making the rounds in the world" (UF).

You see how it works? The ideology legitimizes the intoxicated expression of envy, anger, murder, whatever. It is what allowed Bill Ayers, for example, to want to attempt mass murder of his fellow citizens in good conscience. When you're full of that much righteous rage, what else can you do? He still has no regrets, because he is still drunk. But like all drunks, he stays drunk in order to avoid the pain of regret -- regret for a wasted life spent wasted on a spiritually barren ideology.

Again, this is the counter-inspiration of the Devil, and it is a caricature of genuine spiritual grace and the transformations it facilitates. For as the latter descends from the Divine down into the cosmic lowerarchy (↓), the malediction of Satanic Grace rises up from the inconscient and infrahuman, and works to transform the recipient into its deathly image.

I now pronounce you Manacled for Life, 'til death do you impart.

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


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



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.