Monday, November 29, 2010

Anti-Religious Bigotry and the Cultivation of Stupidity

(Formerly titled On Cutting Off Your Nous To Spite the Face Before You Were Born, which was too oblique.)

Just as behind all religion and all spiritual philosophy there is a metaphysical assent -- the affirmation of Being -- so behind materialism... there is a metaphysical negation -- the denial of Being -- which is the ultimate and quasi-mystical ground of the materialistic position. --Christopher Dawson

What if the ultimate purpose of education were not simply to receive the state's idea of knowledge (k) but to nurture and strengthen the Light which makes it possible to know at all? For if one cannot know what it is important to know -- and why -- it hardly matters what one does know.

Knowledge always exists in a context -- a container -- and if the context is false, it renders the content dubious at best. For example, the left can never understand America, because the container of its "adversary intellectuals" distorts the country into one that is fundamentally racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or greedy, or what have you.

I suppose there are still some people who bitterly cling to the idea that Obama is unusually intelligent. But even if this were the case, his container is so messed up that whatever native intelligence he does possess is steeped in the Lie. I think this becomes more evident with every passing month -- that Obama has a deeply flawed vision of America and of reality more generally (i.e., economics, religion, science, history, psychology, etc.).

As it so happens, the purpose of a (classical) liberal education is, as the adjective suggests, to liberate the mind from various contingencies -- i.e., to truly adequate oneself to the diverse manifestations of the Real in a disinterested manner. Therefore, those who run our educational establishment are mainly engaged in something else entirely. They may be ideologues, or propagandists, or technicians, or mechanics, but they are anything but liberated from their narrow agendas.

It is no wonder that young adolts are generally more stupid coming out of a liberal university than they were going into it. Because if one is not exposed to the Light, one will simply assimilate the darkness and try to use it to illuminate one's life. I am convinced that this is one of the primary reasons why the left is so confused, and why its adherents cannot argue or even think logically. They value education but not the Light from which it derives its value -- just as they value art without beauty and the maintenance of politically correct beliefs without individual virtue.

The dehumanized and anti-intellectual climate of our university system is obvious to us today, but Dawson noticed the problem some fifty or sixty years ago -- that it was starting to become disturbingly illiberal, un-scholarly, and post-literate because anti-religious. This wackademic mania "arose among the half-educated and gradually spread both upwards and downwards."

Among other distortions, the upside-down education of the left emphasizes such impossibilities as knowledge without truth, rights without duties, self-esteem over self-transcendence, and the antihero over the hero, since the former is the authentic nihilist who sees through the sham of authoritarian hierarchy, oppression, perennial values, and first principles.

The left idealizes these monsters because they have the courage -- i.e., violence -- to permanently solve the annoying problem of classical liberals and their delusions of freedom, private property, and individual conscience. (And anyone who thinks I'm being polemical ought to read the extensively documented Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.)

A genuine hero is only heroic to the extent that he risks life and limb for a real and permanent good that transcends himself. Since transcendence doesn't exist for the secularist, the hero must therefore be an idiot or a manipulative liar. One saw this deep moral confusion in the torture debate. Even if one regards waterboarding as torture, only a moral imbecile cannot see that it makes all the difference in the world whether it is in the pursuit of evil ends -- just as there is an infinite difference between an American violently killing a nazi and a nazi killing an American. Same act, different context.

The religiously super mensch differs from the Nietzschean superman, in that the former "is free from some of the practical implications of morality only by identifying with the intelligible source from whence morality arises" (Bolton). He is free not just to do anything, but to do good, which is the only real freedom -- just as freedom to know truth can be the only real intellectual freedom.

Another way of saying it is that the hero is free to defend reality, while the antihero is "free" to be hostile to spiritual reality and to therefore live in fantasy. Leftist intellectuals are certainly free within the constraints of their two horizontal dimensions (who, because of the tamasic inertia caused by the absence of grace, also inevitably fall into a third dimension, the lower vertical), but in the absence of the transcendent, their freedom doesn't even have the value of animal freedom, since it will always be tainted by a guilt-stained recollection of the Real, or what Joyce called the agenbite of inwit.

Yes, the left has its heroes, but when you scratch the surface, you will see that they are always worshipped for their destructive, not creative, capacities. For example, one of the reasons I was against the MLK holiday is that I knew the left would simply turn it into a partisan anti-holiday celebrating anger, bitterness, envy and division -- the opposite of what a holy-day is supposed to accomplish, which is the facilitation or recollection of the wholeness or transcendent unity that makes a nation possible.

The problem isn't with King, at least to the extent that he was simply trying to make America comport with its first principles, which are so obviously rooted in the transcendent, i.e., "all men are created equal." The problem is how the left cynically uses King to advance principles that have nothing to do with American ideals. Ultimately, the left is a revolt against the vertical order, or "defiance of the cause of their own existence," i.e., pneumacognitive cluelesscide.

Why do leftists instinctively and unreflectively embrace the environmental hysteria of the climate change fanatics? It is because in the absence of mature spirituality, they have no metaphysical bullshit detector, so they essentially convert a spiritual crisis into a weather crisis -- the externalization of inward evils. In the hierarchy of being, Man is above the natural environment, not an entity that is reducible to it. Nature is not actually our mother, unless balanced with the transcendent male principle, i.e., immamanence + patranscendence.

But if "liberated" from transcendence -- i.e., the Father -- we are swallowed up in the infra-rational realm of the Great Mother. Free of the One, we simply fall back into the orbit of the (m)Other. If this were ever completely successful, the result would be, in the words of Bolton, "an opting out of [Man's] place in the cosmic hierarchy, while retaining a dominance over nature based on human powers and techniques alone. Nothing further from truth and stability could be conceived, nor anything better calculated to result in a stampede into the jaws of Fate in its most inhuman form." In other words, leftism in itself is an environmental crisis of the first magnitude.

This reminds me very much of depressed patients who cannot bear their depression and therefore experience it only in the body, i.e., the "physical environment." I recently evaluated just such a woman, who was clearly profoundly depressed but consciously unaware of being so. However, she had pain in nearly every part of her body, in the absence of any objective medical findings to account for it.

In her case, her conscious mind very much existed on a two-dimensional plane that excluded emotional (and therefore intellectual) depth, so that the only way she could "think" about her depression was through the body. In other words, one can no more deny the unconscious than one can pretend one doesn't have a body. To the extent that it is denied, it will simply return in some other misrecognized form.

It is no different with Spirit -- both good and bad. To the extent that it is denied, it will simply return in some disguised form. And this is why, to paraphrase Richard Weaver, all attacks on religion inevitably result in attacks on the mind, for how could it not be so? To cite just one obvious example, if we are nothing more than materialistic Darwinian machines, then there could be no way for us to know that truth. All truth, by definition, is transnatural and could never have come from mere matter. Nor could goodness or beauty come from nature -- unless nature is not what you think it is.

This is why we can say that all good comes from God, even if indirectly -- which is almost always necessarily the case, given the hierarchical complexity of manifest existence (just as your brain must work through so many layers and systems to accomplish even the simplest goal; it doesn't accomplish its ends by magic -- except that it actually does). Real power is always spiritual power, the ability to make an idea manifest in the material world. In this sense, we are all mirrorcles of the absolute, in that we have the capacity to make the word flesh. Civilization itself is nothing but word made flesh.

What, you think dirt just becomes flesh and flesh becomes Word on its own? Then you're a moron and you desperately need to know it, which is the only reason why I say it. Believe me, it doesn't give me any pleasure to do so. Dupree, that's a different story. Nevertheless, extremism in the defense of reality is no vice, just as tolerance of the intolerable is no virtue.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bonus Post for Givethanksing About: A Truth-Bearing Cosmos!

For this one I waded deep into the knowa's arkive for some early bloggerel from exactly five years (or some 1,575 posts) ago. I wonder if it still makes perfect nonsense?


Several readers have asked me to comment on the issue of intelligent design, for this is a debate that sharply divides even conservatives.

For example, last week the estimable Charles Krauthammer wrote a biting editorial claiming that ID was nothing more than a "tarted-up version of creationism" which "may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological 'theory' whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God."

He goes on to say that ID "violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the 'strong force' that holds the atom together?"

While Krauthammer is brilliant with regard to politics, here he is simply mischaracterizing ID in order to heap scorn upon it. It is not surprising that many conservatives reject ID, because conservatives are generally logical people. However, one can prove anything with logic, so long as the conclusion follows logically from the premise. If your premise is faulty, then so too will your conclusion be faulty. Garbage in, garbage out.

Perhaps I should emphasize up front that I wholeheadedly agree with Krauthammer that intelligent design should not be taught as science per se. For intelligent design accepts what science discloses as true, but then asks what it means on a higher or deeper level.

It's like the difference between studying history vs. studying the meaning of history, two entirely different things. Science generates only tentative conclusions, which is as it should be. It is the job of theology and philosophy to decipher the meaning of what various disciplines disclose about reality.

Science itself is devoid of meaning, which is, again, as it should be. In itself it can make no pronouncements whatsover on the (absolute) origin of the cosmos, the source of Life, the meaning of consciousness, the role of human existence, the purposes to which science should be put, etc. It's just a shame that children are no longer taught philosophy, and instead are taught idiotic and fraudulent things like African American studies, feminism, multiculturalism, etc. As a result, even if they can technically think, they are unable to think about thinking.

Bottom line: teaching intelligent design in a science class may be good metaphysics but it is bad science. However, at the same time, using science to justify a materialistic philosophy is junk metaphysics, because doing so is simply dressing up assumptions as conclusions.

In fact, we could take Krauthammer's exact words and apply them to scientistic reductionism: "it is simply a tarted-up version of materialism which may be interesting as a sort of godless theology, but as philosophy it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological stance whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, cosmic evolution -- they are to be filled by chance. Materialism violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be philosophy -- that it be logically coherent. How does one logically disprove the proposition that pure chance was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the 'strong force' that holds the atom together?"

Science is simply a method designed to quantify and measure objective realities. By its very nature, it is barred from addressing subjective reality, nor can it measure qualities without reducing them to quantities. Scientistic fundamentalists who dismiss ID generally elevate the methodological reductionism of science to an ontological reductionism, which is completely unwarranted and inappropriate. It is to announce that what science systematically ignores cannot exist.

Krauthammer suggests that ID is a closed system, when in fact, the opposite is true. The very reason why science, when elevated to a metaphysic, generates so much paradox and absurdity is that it is a closed system, regarding only the material realm as ultimately real. Therefore, everything outside materiality escapes its purview.

In point of fact, science, if taken to its logical extremes, undermines its own assumptions in several ways. That is, science has run into a number of limit cases that long ago proved its inability to account for the whole of reality. In my book I go into a lot more detail, but I will simply hit some of the highlights here.

One of these limits is disclosed by modern physics. Bell’s Theorem proves that reality is nonlocal, meaning that the universe is internally related and that it has deep connections that transcend space and time, the implication being that the universe itself cannot be contained within our artificial bounds of space and time. Physics provides us only with a mathematical net or “container,” but not the content, which slips through the container like water through a sieve.

The world, even at its most fundamental level, exceeds our ability to measure or contain it. Science begins with the assumption that the cosmos is composed of externally related parts (logical atomism), while modern physics shows that the universe is fundamentally an internally related whole that has the capacity to operate "vertically" in a top-down manner, i.e., from whole to part. Indeed, this newer understanding of wholeness allows us to transcend many scientific paradoxes and blind alleys in a way that materialism never will.

Another limit of science is called the “Universal Complexity Barrier" (UCB), an idea developed by William Dembski. In addressing the origins of life, the real problem is the origins of information, not just any information, but the staggeringly complex information found in the DNA of the simplest living thing.

There are only four ways this complexity could have come into being: 1) chance, 2) necessity, 3) some combination of chance and necessity, or 4) design. Not too long ago, scientists simply assumed that chance would have eventually resulted in the emergence of life. However, this was before it was understood that life has only been here for 3.85 billion years, and that the planet was too hot to sustain life prior to about four billion years ago. Therefore, there was only a window of about 150 million years for chance to operate, which is far too short a time.

The problem encountered here by scientific fundamentalists is that the hypothesis of chance runs aground against the dictates of the UCB. To take an example, a hundred typists pounding away at a hundred pianos will never produce the works of Thelonious Monk. At most, they may produce a few bars of Ugly Beauty or Misterioso or Think of One, but there will always be an upper limit to how much “complex specified information” (CSI) will result from pure chance, and beyond which the typists cannot go.

Other scientific theories to account for the emergence of life are just variations on the same theme, but they all come up against the UCB, and assume complex information for which they cannot account. Besides, the combination of chance and necessity can result in a little more CSI, but nothing approximating the complexity of life.

Scientists have also been searching for an “evolutionary algorithm” in nature that can account for the emergence of life, but no matter what they try, they cannot surpass the UCB. In short, it is a completely scientifically accurate statement to say that the simplest living cell could not have come about through any neo-Darwinist scenario of chance and necessity.

Therefore, one may safely conclude not that God exists, but that the universe was either full of complex specified information from its very origin, or else that it cannot be a materially closed system subject only to horizontal causes found within nature.

However, if you simply leave the matter there, you are a curiously uncurious person. Personally, I have no difficulty at all positing the existence of a cosmos with more dimensions than four, and which has both horizontal and vertical causation. After all, this is how our minds operate vertically to control the horizontal processes governing our material bodies, and I believe the form of our subjectivity reveals important information about the form of existence.

The cosmos cannot be a little bit pregnant with meaning. It's either/or, period. And to deny cosmic meaning is to perform an astral abortion on oneSelf. Sure it's legal, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Also, one must remember that natural selection is proposed in a medium called language, which natural selection is helpless to explain. To be perfectly accurate, either language explains natural selection, or natural selection explains language. Both cannot be true, for if language is reduced to a completely materialistic explanation, there is no reason to believe that it is capable of encoding and transmitting truth, so the assertion becomes logically self-refuting. Go ahead, just try to prove the truth of something with something that is proved by what you are attempting to prove.

Speaking of which, another limit of science is Gödel’s Theorem(s), which forever proved that there is no logical system that doesn't contain assumptions that cannot be justified by the system. The implication of Gödel's theorems is that any consistent logical system will be incomplete, while any complete one will be inconsistent.

Gödel also believed he had proven that semantics -- that is, meaning, or quality -- can never be reduced to syntax -- mere order, or quantity. As such, the mind can never be reduced to matter, and the mind's ability to know far surpasses any reductionist explanation. Roger Penrose later used Gödel's theorems to prove that the mind cannot be a computer, and that the mind exceeds the ability of any formal system to capture it, much in the same way that nonlocality shows how reality exceeds the formal system of quantum physics.

Gödel further believed that any scientific theory that tried to eliminate all paradox and inconsistency was doomed to failure and that "sooner or later my proof will be made useful for religion, since that is doubtless justified in a certain sense."

Bottom line: if blind materialism is true it is untrue, for it can never account for how matter may know the truth of itself. And if it is only matter speaking, what reason do we have to believe what it is saying? There is no knowledge at the level of the senses.

Once you acknowledge that human beings are capable of knowledge -- which is another name for truth, or it is nothing at all -- then you have lifted yourself out of any mere materialistic explanation. When matter is placed over spirit, all qualities are reduced to quantities, semantics to syntax. You thereby circle around and meet with the cognitive pathologies of the left, which also deny transcendent Truth. Extremists meet.

Intelligent design does not prove the existence of God -- at least not the God uniquely disclosed by the Judeo-Christian tradition. There are much better ways to do that. It's just that science, properly understood, doesn't disprove it, and I think this is what animates the misguided impulse to try to teach ID as science proper.

The God who is dismissed by the detractors of ID is simply a caricature, a "straw god" that they apparently internalized somewhere along the way due to an unfortunate encounter with some boneheaded or debased version of religion.

Have a wild turkey day:

But not too wild:

Hey, it's only a flesh wound!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Inward Christian Soldiers!

Interesting that early Christianity spread in part by virtue of the sadistic violence visited upon its adherents. This is in conspicuous contrast to Islam, which metastasized primarily as a result of sadistic violence perpetrated upon others.

Even today, we have no real way of knowing how many actual Muslims there are in the world, for how many would remain Muslim if given the choice? Obviously true conversion can only take place in the heart, not at the end of a sword. How rapidly would Christianity spread in China or Saudi Arabia or Iran if the authorities allowed anything like a free marketplace of religion? But the spiritual customer can only be sovereign in a place free of religious or secular totalitarianism.

Islam also differs from Christianity, in that Christian martyrs were (and are) victims of mass murderers, whereas Muslim martyrs perpetrate it. According to Birzer, the actual Christian martyrs of the second and third centuries were "an inspiration to a decadent population, devoid of any higher understanding, but still seeking something higher than itself." He cites the example of St. Perpetua, who, "when a gladiator approached her in the arena... took the gladiator's trembling hand and guided it to her throat."

Repeated countless times, these saints "became the dying witnesses to a purpose in this life and the life beyond. Their blood led to mass conversions among a lost Roman people." But do people actually convert to Islam as a result of its "martyrs" killing and maiming thousands of innocents? Where is the appeal, except to eternal hatred?

Once Christianity became the state religion and the era of persecution ended, a new kind of "interior martyrdom" emerged, as serious seekers fled to the desert in order to find God in the solitude of the heart. These souls engaged in a kind of extreme seeking that is also difficult for us to comprehend. I mean, it's one thing to join a monastery and become part of an interior community, but they didn't exist until much later.

Then again, perhaps there are spiritual challenges and temptations in our day that people from even one hundred years ago couldn't imagine. Most of us will never know what amounted to constants among pre-modern people, including hunger, disease, war (up close and personal, not in a distant land), chronic pain, constant loss, and early death.

Thus, for any thinking person, the utter futility of the world must have seemed quite obvious. It's the same with the Buddha's advice -- it wasn't nearly as difficult to detach from the world when the world had so little to recommend it. What was one giving up, really? Few had any possessions, any private property, any aspirations, anything to read, or anything to do except subsist.

So in an odd way, the present world undoubtedly requires its own kind of spiritual athleticism in order to transcend it, since the temptations and distractions are so much greater. In a way, the more fulfilling the world is, the more pain there is. How did people in the past endure the routine loss of a child? I would guess that infant mortality was so high, that the vast majority of parents had lost at least one child. Nowadays, this constitutes a tragic minority. Indeed, even a miscarriage is an occasion for grief, whereas I can't imagine premodern people giving it a second thought.

As I speculated in the book, this must have affected the way the premodern psyche grew and developed. We now know that the psyche is formed on the basis of attachment to early objects, and that any kind of disruption in the attachment process leaves emotional and cognitive scars for life.

Of course we can never know with certainty, but there is good evidence that prior to modernity, parents didn't invest a lot of emotional energy in their children until there was a good chance they'd survive infancy, so I don't see how this could not have resulted in what we would call schizoid (i.e., detached), depressed, or paranoid personalities (i.e., bitter, distrusting, and angry people) on a widespread basis.

For us, the modern world is so alluring that we can forget all about transcendence. It gives the illusion that it can fulfill us, but this is a promise that it can never keep. Unconsciously, this attachment to the world probably just makes us feel less secure. In a perverse way, the more secure we actually are, the less secure we may feel, because we expect things to go perfectly. We can come enticingly close to controlling most of the variables in our lives -- which only makes it more maddening that in reality we are promised nothing.

I am sure this is what animates the angry and hysterical control freaks of the left. They always wants to make things "better," with no appreciation of what a miracle it is that things work at all. They have no earthly conception that the optimal will never be perfect, and that in pursuing perfection, they will only engender the sub-optimal. Their attempts at control always generate chaos, for which they recommend more of the same. Today we have roughly the same percentage of the population living "in poverty." But I know of not a single leftist who is prepared to declare the 45 year "war on poverty" a failure.

Similarly, the housing bubble clearly wasn't caused by the free market, but was a direct consequence of massive federal intervention in the mortgage industry for four decades. It is the same with healthcare and the cost of higher education. Both operate outside any rational system of actual market prices. You can only know how much something actually costs when you allow the market to set the price.

Likewise, leftists whine about the treatment of homosexuals and other minorities, when they have literally never had it so good. Without a doubt, 21st century America is the best place there has ever been to be black, female, or homosexual. Water and air are the cleanest they've been since it has been possible to measure them, and one of the reasons healthcare is more expensive is because there are so many drugs and procedures that didn't even exist a generation ago.

Hey, if you want to save on healthcare, just limit yourself to the treatments that were available in 1975. But this is about as likely as wealthy liberals voluntarily giving more money to the government, instead of forcing others to do so.

Because of their materialism, the left frets over the natural environment when the greater threat comes from the psychic environment. Dawson felt that (in the words of Birzer), history involved a "battle for possession of the human soul," and that "to protect the order of the culture and the polity, one must first protect the order of the soul. Without the order of the soul, all will fail." What he wrote in the 1940s would apply with equal force today:

"England and the whole world are passing through a terrible crisis. We are fighting not merely against external enemies but against powerful forces that threaten the very existence of our culture. And it is therefore vital that all the positive intellectual and spiritual forces of Western culture should come together in defense of their common values and traditions against their common enemies.

"The defeat of totalitarianism... 'depends in the last resort, not on the force of arms but on the power of Spirit, the mysterious influence which alone can change human nature and renew the face of the earth.'"

But preservation and destruction are constants in history, always occurring simultaneously: "to the Christian the world is always ending, and every historical crisis is, as it were, a rehearsal for the real thing."

In this regard, it is critical to bear in mind that evil ideologies are never truly creative, and therefore ultimately subject to the entropy and degeneration of the world:

"The tyrannical ideologue can neither be creative nor imaginative," and is "merely a shadow of the true Enemy, himself just a creature, albeit a very powerful one within time." Islamism on the one hand and leftism on the other are "blind powers which are working in the dark, and which derive their strength from negative and destructive forces."

I don't worry at all about the things that consume liberals, such as what the weather might be like in 100 years, whether we are mean to terrorists, or why open homosexuals can't serve in a military the left despises anyway. What concerns me is whether we can continue to nurture a psychic environment capable of sustaining the human soul, and whether, because of various technological developments, man will blind himself to the deadly consequences of his spiritually self-destructive behavior.

In short, the spiritually "dangerous and treacherous" have "been made artificially safe," so that "the distinction between wisdom and folly would seem to be an irrelevance." As Bolton writes, "high forms of culture can usually continue for at least another generation after traditional moral restraints have given way, creating the impression that a society can have the best of both worlds." But this is only a fool's paradise, for the bill eventually comes due.

If there ever was a widespread conversion to truth as a vocation, most of the problems of society would solve themselves, since it would remove the basic evil of aimlessness. It was for this reason that Pascal said that the whole calamity of mankind was owing to the fact that a man cannot remain quietly in one room for any good purpose.... [T]he security of any society depends on the presence in it of minorities and individuals who are spiritually alien to it, who have a mission which goes far beyond the basic practicalities which rest on everyone. --Robert Bolton, Keys of Gnosis

Suffice it to say that none of us would be who or where we are had it not been for the existence of such impractical men -- interior and exterior martyrs of various kinds. So let's be thankful these magnanimous fleshlights passed through these parts and illuminated a narrow teloscape for the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Logotomized Always Lie

With dumb-as-a-postmodernity, much of Western civilization has undergone a spiritual logotomy that results in the removal of one's higher spiritual sense. But just like a victim of lobotomy, the logotomized person doesn't even know what hit him, for he is now missing the part that might know.

In the not-too-distant past, no one was really religious, or "chose" religion in the way that we must consciously be and do. Rather, it mostly chose them. It was simply the pneumatic context in which humans lived, and one thing modern developmental psychoanalysis has discovered over the past 40-50 years is the priority of the mind's container over and above its content. Or, at the very least, one must always regard container and contained dialectically, for there can never be one without the other. (Think of modern physics, in which "objects" are no longer radically separate from the space that contains them.)

True, truth is truth; nevertheless, it makes all the difference in the world what sort of receptacle or "matrix" contains that truth. If the container is false -- i.e., determined by the Lie, or hatred, or envy -- then it will color all of its content in ways that may be imperceptible to the individual except in the form of symptoms, i.e., emotional or cognitive pain or dysfunction. These symptoms are alternately "absent presences" (anxiety) or "present absences" (depression).

To take a simple example, consider the truth of justice. Human beings are born with a precognitive, archetypal understanding of justice -- a preconception, or empty category, that must be filled out by experience.

Leftist attitudes toward justice (i.e., the insatiable moloch of "social justice") essentially result from a deformation of this pre-existing truth, as they enforce their idea of justice in fundamentally unjust ways -- i.e., racial quotas, income redistribution, attacks on private property, class warfare, etc. All forms of modern leftism are essentially dishonest appeals to truth, unjust appeals to justice, unfair appeals to fairness, coerced appeals to generosity, etc. Again, it's the container that is so destructive, since it damages even "good" content, i.e., charitable impulses.

Please note that the omnipotence of the fantasy -- the end -- justifies the means required to attain such a beautiful thing, which always requires the coercion (and implicit violence) of the state. The same dynamic explains the terribly unjust and coercive monstrosity that is Obamacare, which will only require more state coercion in order to "fix." At each step along the way -- from kickbacks, to bribes, to penalties -- state coercion is required.

There was a time that the Church, broadly speaking, was generally able to contain the human spirit and provide a vehicle for its articulation and development. For some one thousand years, the vast majority of people in the West lived, thought, felt, worked, and died within this meaning-generating container.

Now, a spiritual container must not only be capacious enough to hold the human spirit -- which tends toward the infinite -- but must also paradoxically provide a sort of "friction" against which we may think and move.

In other words, thinking spiritually in a truly creative way means that there must be an interaction between container and contained that produces new thoughts. Indeed, if religion could not do this, it would not only be entirely static, but would provide no satisfaction for the soul's intrinsic desire to grow with knowledge. The Bible really would be the end of theology instead of the beginning, and the importance of the great saints, doctors and mystics would also be rendered meaningless. And history would have no purpose at all, since the truth would all be located in the past.

This specifically human form of knowing -- the dynamic interplay of what Bion symbolized as ♀ (container) and ♂ (contained) -- is a critical factor that distinguishes us from the beasts, since it is not only analogous to play, it is play. It is well understood that certain young animals play -- i.e., puppies and kittens -- but that virtually all adult animals lose this capacity as they grow into their mature archetype, which is essentially fixed and final.

But man only fulfills his destiny by preserving his neoteny -- i.e., the retention of a childlike, epistemologically open attitude -- to the end of his days. Not only is man born immature, but he must remain so on pain of putting an end to the growing process. But again, since man verges on the infinite (♀) and the soul is all it knows (♂), there can be no end to the maturational process.

Now obviously, there are mature and immature ways to preserve our immaturity. When Jesus says that we must be as children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he surely doesn't mean that we must stamp our feet and throw a temper tantrum until God lets us in. Rather, he's talking about things like openness, spontaneity, creativity, timelessness, and trust (or faith).

Now, "openness," "spontaneity," "timelessness," etc., all apply to the container, not the content. For example, spontaneity is not a content or specific idea that one may hold in one's mind like an object and be done with it. A -- perhaps the -- major task of parenting is to raise one's child in such a way that he will have a happy, healthy, and productive container for the rest of his life, irrespective of the specific content. And in all likelihood, if you do things right, your child won't even be consciously aware of this blessed container until he has children of his own to contain!

This was an idea that was probably first worked out by the developmental psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, who wrote about how, for example, one's lifelong capacity for "basic trust" is forged in the first 18 months of life, largely depending upon the quality of parenting one receives. No one talks much about Erikson anymore, as his ideas have been extended, elaborated, and fine-tuned by others, but his basic conception is correct. Note how each of his stages has primarily to do with the container, i.e., trust, autonomy, identity, generativity, etc., not any specific content.

The trusting person sees the world very differently from the non-trusting -- which is to say, paranoid -- person. Surely it is no coincidence that the Muslim Middle East has the lowest quality of parenting and the highest degree of paranoia, along with an almost total lack of creativity, openness, and autonomy. This is obviously worrisome, since democracy and free markets can only flourish in a high-trust environment.

To put it another way, trust is huge enabler of market efficiency, removing all kinds of obstacles to doing business with one another. Almost any American can do business with any other American, whereas in tribal cultures, the circle of trust is greatly narrowed.

But I want to return to the topic of religion as the container (♀) of an explosive force, or content (♂). Call it the "spiritual drive," or the "pneumaphilic instinct," but whatever it is, just like any other human capacity, it requires a container to guide and channel it -- just as, say, music requires a system of musical notation to structure and give it depth.

Bach, for example, was born with a "musical drive," but what if he had been born at a time prior to the western system of musical notation, which allows one to think with such complexity within the chordal space of vertical musicality? The point is again that an adequate container is critical for one to achieve one's potential in any given area.

It is no different with religion. The other day, I was reading of how Dawson felt that different historical eras were literally different worlds which we could not really understand by projecting our own world onto them. This makes total sense to me, because true empathy of a patient involves not just understanding their content, but their container.

Furthermore, real change generally doesn't involve the patient obtaining this or that piece of missing information. Rather, it involves a slow alteration and repair of their container within the context of the therapeutic alliance. Truly, therapy is just something you do to distract the patient while his mind is healing itself, mainly as a result of an intimate relationship with another.

So anyway, my point is that modernity -- e.g., the scientific revolution and the birth of the individual self -- essentially exploded the religious container that had contained the mind and spirit up to that point, and there is no going back to that innocent world. You cannot put the bats back into the belfry or the truthpaste into the tube. Different world.

They say that modern physics displaced earth from the center of the universe, just as natural selection displaced man from the center of the biosphere, thus rendering the religion of Christianity hopelessly quaint, what with its cognitively reassuring firmament above and a God who just happens to be in the form of a man.

Whatever. The point is not to argue over facts, which is to say, the content, but to understand the cosmic, and even metacosmic, nature of Christianity, so that it may serve as a container for the historical middle world we happen to inhobbit. I suppose that's the point of both my book and this blog, which is why I never argue with the other guy's content when his container is so messed up. One Cosmos "Under" God is really another way of saying One Mother of a Cosmos Contained by Father God. And they say God himself was marrily contained for awhile, but that's amother story.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Word War I and the Battle for the Bridge

Of the basis of religion, Birzer writes that it is rooted in "the recognition of a superhuman Reality of which man is somehow conscious and towards which he must in some way orientate his life" (all subsequent quotes are from the same book).

Thus, if man is the bridge that spans the ontological ocean between matter and spirit, then religion is the perennial clueprint that encodes the engineering principles, so to speak, of this bridge building innerprize. Conversely, if the radical secularists are correct, then man is just another bridge to nowhere.

Far from being an "opiate for the masses," it is modern secular ideologies "which serve as nothing more than addictive drugs for decadent and lost peoples." Most perniciously, they still treat man as a bridge, except that he becomes a bridge between the way things are and the way our elites would like them to be. In short, he becomes a bridge between big government and bigger government -- or between the powerful state and the omnipotent one. First they seduce us with the Mommy state, but then coerce us with the Daddy state.

Now, revelation does not -- cannot -- stop with the written word: "On the contrary, the whole history of Christendom is a continual dialogue between God and man, and every age of the Chruch's life, even the most remote and obscure, has some important lesson for us today" (emphasis mine). This would imply that the present is not more important than the past; but nor is it less so.

I find that traditionalists have a sort of inferiority complex about the present, and conversely, tend to idealize the past. But if each epoch of history is in some sense providential, then the question is, what is the metacosmic purpose of the present time in which we are living?

Perhaps it has to do with sanctifying the scientistic "reign of quantity" and bringing it back into harmony with timeless religious principles in a higher synthesis of spirit and nature. Which is to say, same as it ever was, for as Augustine wrote, to the extent that science and philosophy reveal truth about the world, "we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it."

In so doing, just as paganism was incorporated and sanctified by Christianity, perhaps our task is to sanctify these modern forms of neo-paganism. This endeavor is hardly opposed to science, but rather, attempts to place it in a context in which it is able to "become" or "reveal" what it actually is in the larger scheme of things. Science is not self-explanatory, but is explained by something transcending both science and certainly the scientist.

Another way of saying it is that postmodernity has shattered the unity of the world into ever-smaller, disconnected and isolated fragments, in a process that is indistinguishable from decay. But this is not just a passive process of entropy; rather, the forces of secularism oppose any attempt to put the cosmic egg back together into a greater hierarchical synthesis.

Thus, on a very deep level, secularism tries to impose a religiously anti-religious lowerarchy on the rest of us, which is what liberal intolerance is all about -- diversity, moral relativism, multiculturalism, political correctness, etc. Each of these, at its root, elevates division to an absolute.

In this specific sense, one cannot be "in love with the world" without hating God; for to love only the world is to reduce man to matter and therefore to a machine, and ultimately to a means rather than an end. But then secularism slips in its own teleology, converting man into a means of achieving wholly materialistic ends as defined by the "progressive" who substitutes terrestrial perfectibility for spiritual evolution.

Thus, there really are "two Americas," the one that exists in reality and the one that exists in the fantasies of the left, i.e., "Sugar Candy Mountain." Secular ideologies "promise much by taking much," which is to say, your soul.

Another important point is that the left must be intrinsically anti-family, since the family is the "first institution" and is obviously prior to the state. As such, it is a competitor with the modern welfare state, something that has become obvious vis-a-vis Western Europe or the black family in America.

Since man is a social animal, if his most intimate bonds are not with the family, they will be with something less. Should the family collapse, "society itself must collapse or change in a fashion so drastic as to be no longer recognizable." This is the sort of radical and fundamental change promised by Obama.

Indeed, this is what the whole debate about the re-definition of marriage is all about. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "homophobia," but with a prudent appreciation of the profundity of the issues involved -- i.e, not with homosexual "rights" but with heterosexual duties. It's like performing a needlessly radical experiment on a body that is already taxed and trying to maintain its health and equilibrium. Except the experiment is conducted by a handful of lawyers instead of doctors, so we can't even sue them for malpractice.

"There is a point at which the world of spirit comes in conscious contact with the world of matter. That point is man." Dawson felt that "most heresies have come from the inability to walk between the two extremes," so that "to privilege either the spiritual or material at the expense of the other is to verge into a modern form of Gnosticism."

Thus, in reality, man's "whole destiny depends on the proper co-ordination" of matter and spirit; since Man is a bridge, "the lower world is in some sense dependent on him for its spiritualization and its integration in the universal order." And man's true order does not -- and cannot -- come from the material and temporal world, but from the timeless and atemporal. To ignore this reality is to commit cluelesscide as it pertains to one's genuine humanness.

"All true progress comes from the proper use of language." As God "spoke" the cosmos into existence, man "speaks" culture into existence. If the family is the first thing undermined by the left, then language is the second. What is always most startling about leftist discourse is the inebriated and intoxicated abuse of language. Call it discoarse. They truly are at war with the Word, so we can say that Word War I has been going on since the beginning of human time. The contemporary left is just a new whine in a very old battle.

"The 'mastery' of professional historical methods and 'techniques will not produce great history, any more than a mastery of metrical technique will produce great poetry.' The true historian, or the metahistorian, will recognize that 'something more is necessary -- intuitive understanding, creative imagination, and finally a universal vision transcending the relative limitation of the particular field of historical study.'" Thus, the genuine historian must also be a poet in the true sense of the word.

History has both upper and lower vertical aspects, or infraconscious and supraconscious: "What we see in history is only a partial and uncertain manifestation of the spiritual activity which is taking place at once below and above the level of historical study." "We modern sophists... are the ones being unscholarly in discounting a higher power, a power unseen and unknown through our five physical senses, but recognized by all human cultures prior to the advent of modernity."

"Christian culture is always in conflict with the world," whereas leftist culture is always at odds with reality, i.e., the unchanging spiritual reality from which the world derives its meaning and man his significance. To perfectly adapt to the world in the manner of a Darwinian animal is to be a perfect animal. Man's task is surely to adapt, but to the real world of truth, beauty, virtue, and unity.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Horror of Existential Shrinkage

It is only in the poetic imagination which is akin to that of the child and the mystic that we can feel the pure sense of mystery and transcendence which is man's natural element. --Christopher Dawson

Dawson felt that imagination was the most important mode of the metaxy (discussed in Wednesday's post), the divine ←→ human vertical bridge that is Man; and that creativity and imagination were "the greatest gifts God had bequeathed to the human person" (Birzer). Or, if you prefer the psychedelicized and mushroom cloud-hidden words of a raving ethnobotanist,

"The imagination argues for a divine spark in human beings. It is absolutely confounding if you try to see imagination as a necessary quantity in biology. It is an emanation from above -- literally a descent of the world soul" (Terence McKenna).

In order to know reality one must first be capable of imagining reality, something no animal can do. This kind of higher imagination is "the ability to see clearly beyond the here and now into the reality of eternal forms -- thus allowing one to order one's soul to the eternal community."

In the absence of the seer-view mirror of imagination, the human being loses the ability to order anything beyond his immediate sensations and appetites; reality flattens out, so that animals become indistinct from humans, men from women, gods from kings, kings from men, men from monsters, art from entertainment, superstars from benchwarmers. With 20/20 houndsight, all the world essentially becomes analogous to pornography, which is sex drained of eros, or matter drained of soul, or knowledge drained of wisdom.

In contrast, the task of the true Christian -- not unlike that of the improvisational orthoparadoxical bohemian classical liberal Judeo-Vedantin neo-traditionalist -- is to unite matter with soul in order to sanctify the world. Given the ontological fact of the two vertical arrows of existence, there is the possibility of an upword inscape from the world toward the Abbasolute; or a downward escape into the considerable charms and snares of Mamamaya.

But where we are supposed to live is within the innercourse of the two, or more precisely, the One, which can be trimorphically envisioned but not seen; or only seen with higher vision, which is to say, imagination. With our intelligence we may discern the contours of this reality, but with our imagination we may unite ourselves to it. The former is mind, the latter is heart, and their union is the basis of the higher I-mage -- the mage who imagines. That would be us. Like the three magi who discerned the celestial arrows and saw Christ in an anonymous baby in a manger.

As usual, Schuon says it best: "The vice of outwardness is the lack of harmony between the two dimensions: between our tendency towards the things that surround us and our tendency towards the 'kingdom of God which is within you.' What is necessary is to realize a spiritual rootedness that removes from outwardness its tyranny at once dispersing and compressing, and that on the contrary allows us to 'see God everywhere'; which means to perceive symbols, archetypes and essences in sensible things....

"Similarly regarding matter: what is necessary is not to deny it -- if that were possible -- but to withdraw from its seductive and enslaving grasp; to distinguish in it what is archetypal and quasi-celestial from what is accidental and indeed too earthly; hence to treat it with nobleness and sobriety. In other words, outwardness is a right, and inwardness a duty..." The superior man is always fishing for complements, such as heaven-earth or time-eternity.

A one-sided, unimaginative, and dryasdust outworldliness is an affliction that particularly afflicts the psychospiritual left. Even back in his day, Dawson could already see that most liberal statists were "simple-minded secularists and utilitarians who failed to understand truth, beauty and goodness" and "lacked the power of imagination. They were quantifiers and calculators, sophisticated men of the world, but not of the soul. They had been duped by worldly wisdom" (Birzer).

This low altitude is both a cause and consequence of the mechanization of man, and renders him "less than God intended him to be." To put it another way, the inevitable outcome of radical secularism is that one is free, but not free to realize one's spiritual potentialities, and therefore only free in the manner of an uncaged beast; or a beast with impenetrable barriers he cannot see, thus giving the illusion of freedom. But we are creatures and not beasts, for the same reason we are citizens and not subjects.

Imagination mediates between the possible and the actual, and converts walls into windows, windows to doors. It is what allows the infinite and absolute to become intelligible, i.e., to be re-presented in the finite and relative realm.

As Bolton writes, "each relative world contains only a cross-section of the universal possibilities," and each person is just such a relative world. This world can be quite vast and expansive or small and cramped, depending upon the individual case. In other words, the size of the exterior world in which one lives and moves is merely a projection of the human interior.

For example, when we consider the inconceivable vastness of outer space, only a materialized mind living under the "reign of quantity" fails to realize that he is really contemplating the relative infinity of his own soul, for the physical cosmos is neither large nor small, whereas the soul is all it knows. The world it encounters is just the canvas upon which we paint beautiful or ugly pictures with the materials available to us; or the darkwomb in which we develop our pneumagraphs.

Bolton writes that "it may seem strange to speak of the mind as though it were a thing having a physical size, but it undoubtedly has its own analogue of spatial capacity." Furthermore -- and this is a critical point as it pertains to scientism -- the ability "to grasp one part of reality brilliantly while being oblivious of the other things that human minds are capable of can be more opposed to the truth than the perceiving of all things equally dimly."

And this is why, as I have mentioned before, even the literal creationist is surely closer to the reality of the situation than the unimaginative and spiritually autistic atheist who has drained reality of its most essential ideas, archetypes, and principles. His mind contracts the cosmos in order to make it adequate to the cold and shrunken proportions of his own being. This is what the world looks like when you peer into the wrong end of the teloscope.

This existential shrinkage would be a great embarrassment to atheists if only they realized how silly they look to us in their misosophical nakedness, but like children and savages, they live in a kind of naive cognitive innocence without so much as a fig leaf of metaphysics. They have no idea why we laugh at them, which for them is a mercy.

Regarding the "intelligent error" of those shrunken secularists, Schuon writes that "It is only too evident that mental effort does not automatically give rise to the perception of the real; the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error. The paradoxical phenomenon of even a 'brilliant' intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships."

In turn, this exclusively horizontal Ørientation "creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill." And of course, there are not just scientific materialists but religious ones, those "whose intellectual intuition remains latent, this being precisely what constitutes the 'obscure merit of faith.'" In other words, even if one cannot understand Truth, one should still believe and have faith in it.

Reason can never arrive at reality, and it is the height of unreasonableness to imagine otherwise. At best, it can remove obstacles in the way of our imaginative vision. As Schuon explains, reasoning is analogous to "the groping of a blind man, with the difference that -- by removing obstacles -- it may bring about a clearing of vision; it is blind and groping due to its indirect and discursive nature." Reason is surely a gift, but a gift that gives -- or facilitates -- something beyond reason.

That is, reason "is a means of knowledge, but this means is mediate and fragmentary like the sense of touch, which enables a blind man to find his way and even to feel the heat of the sun, but not to see." To put it another way, it allows us to uncover the transcendent vision "which one possesses a priori," i.e., vertical recollection.

What does it mean to say that the cosmos is expanding? Again, if one is only referring to physical reality, the point couldn't be more banal. Who cares? In the absence of a stable frame of reference, expansion and contraction are just figures of speech.

In a very real way, the only thing that is actually expanding in the world is man's inwardness, is it not? And if you're not expanding, then you are contracting, for the mind cannot cease its dynamism, its metabolism of reality. You are what you eat, and if you eat the quantified and atomistic sawdust of secularism, you will inevitably be spiritually malnourished, just a shell of your future self.

Slowly, through grace, each Christian is sanctified, the debris of the world being gradually removed from the order of his soul, and then the human as the metaxy serves as the bridge between the spiritual and material worlds. --Bradley Birzer

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Living in the Shadows of What Needn't Be

"Before I draw nearer to that headstone to which you point," said Bob, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that only may be?"

Still, Petey pointed in silence, downward to the grave by which it stood.

"The course of our lives will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," offered Bob. "But if those courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"

While no form of leftism, materialism, scientism, or secularism is to be taken intellectually (let alone spiritually) seriously, I do take seriously orthodox spiritual views that clash with mine.

The reason for this is that no form of materialism, whether explicit or implicit, is sufficient to account for the richness, depth, and complexity of the world, and can never result in the metacosmic unity even scientists presume to exist. On the other hand, if the other guy has a plausible alternate explanation of spiritual unity, then that needs to be given its due, since there cannot be two unities. Either one of them is wrong, or else one can be assimilated into the other.

This is why I spend so much time pondering the traditionalist view that terrestrial perfection -- which is to say, unity -- lies in the past, and that time is an ultimately degenerative process. This goes directly against my intuitive sense that time is ultimately progressive, even though from within time, things are always simultaneously getting worse and better, so it's understandable that some people see through the half empty glass darkly.

It's very much analogous to the free market, which, at any given moment, will appear to create "problems" such as "income inequality." But if one tries to force incomes to be more equal -- to "spread the wealth around" -- it just results in less wealth, productivity, and affluence for the system as a whole.

Now, a lot of puzzling and even startling things happen within time -- i.e., apparent ontological discontinuities -- that I believe cannot be sufficiently (i.e., in a way that satisfies our total intellect) explained by either science or by tradition, but only by a higher synthesis of the two, which is what I attempted to do in the Coonifesto.

You might say that the vertical is One, the horizontal is two, and man is the higher third that unites them; or, in the Laosy absurcular logic of Taoism, The Tao gives birth to One / One gives birth to Two / Two gives birth to Three / Three gives birth to all things. So the Three and One are really two sides of the same mata-reality beyond being.

Speaking of those discontinuities, there is not, nor will there ever be, any scientific explanation of the phenomenon of life itself, nor of human consciousness. These are well beyond the limits of what materialistic science can deal with. Obviously, human consciousness explains science, not vice versa. Likewise, language and reason explain natural selection, not the converse. If evolution were the cause of language, then the truth of evolution could not be known. This is axiomatic.

I think we can stipulate that the world is either headed toward apocalypse or unity. If time is progressive, then history represents an arc of salvolution that will result in the reunification of the world, after our 50,000 year journey out of Africa and into the prismhouse of time and cultural diversification.

If this reunification -- i.e., higher synthetic unity -- does not occur, then I agree with the traditionalists that mankind cannot be sustained, and that we are headed toward some sort of disaster foretold in all of the world's mythologies -- a disaster that falls under the heading of "apocalypse." No one knows the time, the hour, or the details, but it will be nasty. Sort of like the fantasies of the global warming hysterics, only in reality.

The question is, does history have an expiration date, or does it have a way to "renew" and regenerate itself? There are many ways to look at this question. The Christian view would be that history essentially reached its inevitable nadir long ago, which is why God decided to take things into his own hands and jump down into his creation so as to reverse its downward course. Absent having done so, history would have continued winding down into chaos and barbarism. While humans may have still existed, it would be in a kind of spiritual darkness that we can scarcely conceive.

Actually, we don't really have to look far to perceive the shadow of this darkness, for it not only exists within ourselves, but pervades certain precincts of the present world untouched by the Judeo-Christian TimeLifeStream, perhaps most visibly in the Islamist death cult and the necropolis of the psychospiritual left, both of which are a kind of parasitic Death that feeds on Life.

It's not just that we merely "disagree" with the left. Rather, we regard it as a pure horror, for if we had to reduce our consciousness down to the level from which it proceeds, we would no longer be ourselves. And then there would be no point to living. Might as well become a community organizer.

Christopher Dawson was a (small t) traditionalist, but did not believe that history was inevitably winding down. He did, however, feel that only a spiritual rebirth could reverse our downward historical trend.

As Birzer explains, Dawson saw "beyond the mechanistic and materialistic understanding of history," and arrived "at a meta-history that transcended and transfigured conventional historical assumptions." Whereas the conventional historian who focuses on the "raw material" of history can "lose sight of the deeper spiritual forces that make history intelligible to us," Dawson attempted to place the individual "within a larger mythological understanding of story and history" and to render "the past present by the light of the eternal omnipresent." In short, the One can illuminate the Two in a way that the Two can never directly illuminate the One.

In point of fact, the historian cannot help but place history within the context of a larger myth, the question being whether it is a true or false one. In ether worlds, we speak of myth in the proper sense of a narrative that embodies and discloses archetypal reality, not in the fallen sense of mere quasi-animal passive imagination. "It is only in the poetic imagination which is akin to that of the child and the mystic that we can feel the pure sense of mystery and transcendence which is man's natural element" (Dawson).

Any sort of leftist historicism derived from Marx is not just pure mythology (in the luciferic sense), but is a counter myth that is not rooted in any kind of transcendent reality, only in the fevered imagination of the leftist. The same can be said for the myths of scientism, atheism and materialism. Naturally, Dawson was not taken seriously by these intellectually unserious types, since "he took seriously the importance of the Creator, the profound implications of the Incarnation, and the movement of the Holy Spirit in history."

Dawson viewed history through the mirror of revelation instead of the projection of ideology -- and not just the revelation of scripture, but through the living revelation (↓) given him by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, history itself is a revelation of that same Spirit, so the writing of history ultimately involves spirit interpreting Spirit, so to speak. There is no question that he was just as "scholarly" as any academic historian, except that he was free from the narrow and artificial constraints of various fashionable ideologies which come and go.

For Dawson, historicism is "the belief that men can, by the use of their natural powers, discover an inner meaning in the historical process." But "a civilization cannot long survive the dying of belief in a transcendent order that brought the culture into being." Therefore, by "re-mythologizing" history, Dawson was simply doing what I said must be done to avoid eventual catastrophe, which is to write a universal history in the teeth of forces that "desire nothing less than the total subversion and destruction of all that is True, Good, and Beautiful."

Although it is always the blest and curst of times, Dawson may be forgiven for believing that he lived in a somewhat uniquely perilous age, in that (writing in 1940) "the dark forces that have been chained by a thousand years of Christian civilization... have now been set free to conquer the world." Fascism, communism, socialism, and any other illiberal statism all depend upon and flow from the de-Christianization and re-paganization of the West, and the gradual descent into "a chaos of pure sensation."

It should go without saying that there is no merely "human" cure for this temporal descent (since it is a downward prolongation, so to speak, of our fallen humanness), and that "the forces of evil cannot be successfully resisted without the power of Spirit," the only thing which can carry on the work of Creation and thereby reverse our otherwise inevitable Fall.

"Good Petey," cried the B'ob, as down upon the ground he fell: "Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you’ve shown me, by an altered life!"

"I'll think about it," sayeth Petey.

"Okay, then, how's this: I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I shall dilate time and live in and above the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me toward their ultimate fulfillment. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may overcome my higher education and sponge away the writing on this stone! Cut me some slack, O ambiguous spirit!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Meandertale Man with a Sinuous Bridge to Tell

As Colonel Beaglehole has said many times from deep inside his opium den, it's a miracle that history can get anywhere at all when we're not even allowed to begin the barmy enterprise with the correct premise.

"I say, if you don't know what Man is or what he is for, then what bloody difference does it make what mountainous climbs he's accomplished or what mutinous crimes he's accompliced? He might have done this, or he might have done that, but since he has no essence and no cosmic role, then it doesn't really matter, now does it?"

Now where's my blasted hookah?!

But Christopher Dawson -- who has his coonological orthoducks in a row -- begins with the idea that man is the metaxy, or bridge, between the material and spiritual worlds.

Hey, that sounds familiar. Didn't I sapiens a homologue in meander tall tale? Yes, here it is -- page 133, right next to the picture of that cute little guy caterpultering into a buddhafly. To paraphrase,

"Historians -- contemporary ones, anyway -- no longer presume to know the 'purpose' of history. Without question they tell us about causes and motivations within history, but they steer quite clear of asking what is the actual point of history. And understanding the point of history is admittedly quite difficult -- if not impossible -- if one doesn't know what a human being is."

Indeed, "the problem is compounded for a mere human being working with only human sources, for how then can one stand outside the flow of historical events and gain any perspective on history, or have any stable frame of reference? If the historian is just a historically conditioned product of history, why should we pay any attention to him at all?"

The point is that the majority of secular historians would ironically dismiss Dawson because of his religiosity and "subjectivity," when he is the one who is being -- or at least trying to be -- objective, by placing history in its proper cosmic and spiritual context -- by understanding the flow of horizontal events in the light of an eternal vertical standard.

This is in accord with Tomberg, who conceptualizes history as a sort of whirlpool created by two opposing streams of influence, one horizontal, the other vertical:

"The spiritual-cultural history of mankind is the result on the one hand of the causes which are to be found in space and time, and on the other hand of the causes which are not to be found there, which are of a timeless and spaceless nature."

Or, to plagiaphrase Terence McKenna, history is just the burst of static between monkeys and God, as the eschatological object at the end of time -- call it O, if you like -- "mitigates and transforms the forward flow of entropic circumstance." Noetry in motion!

Wikipedians say that the metaxy is the "in-between" or "middle ground" between the divine realm and mankind. Eric Voegelin (who was influenced by Dawson) used the term to designate "the permanent place where man is in-between two poles of existence" such as infinite and finite, time and eternity, matter and spirit, form and substance, being and beyond-being, or -- would you believe? -- KAOS and CONTROL.

Voegelin also used it to mean the unchanging "template of the mind (or nous) in contrast to the dynamic and unordered flow of experiential consciousness." Which is why it's One Cosmos Under God for those who get smart.

Therefore, as Birzer writes, "Only by properly ordering himself between the two extremes and demands of the physical and metaphysical can man fulfill his purpose for the 'integration [of the material] in the universal order.'"

Thus, even if you are not overtly Christian, you can still see Christianity as our particular way (in the West) of conceptualizing and thinking about this over- or underlying metaphysical reality -- an unavoidably mythsemantical deuscourse as real and objective as mathematical discourse.

To put it another way, if you toss aside our Judeo-Christian wisdom tradition, as secular scholars have done, then you also throw out our traditional way of discussing the reality of man's role as cosmic mediator. You end up with mere de-mythologized horizontal history, and ultimately with a desiccated particularization of historical events, divorced from their origin and destiny, the alphOmega.

This intellectual fallforall encloses the mind in deconstruction, multiculturalism, "diversity," moral relativism, and the politically correct truthspeak of the left. In turn, this is why secularism is not just opposed to religion, but a substitute "religion of darkness" for infertile eggheads living in their ovary towers.

But the yolk's on them. When you worship at the ego-altar of secular extremism, you are engaging in a kind of primitive sacrifice of the One. It is a violent dismembering and therefore disre-membering of Unity, and as result, anti-human in the extreme. Instead of the white unity out of which the diversity of cosmic color emanates, you end up with the black unity of a chaotic blending of colors with no qualitative differences. Raw power then rushes in to fill in the void, and gravity takes care of the rest.

This is why the phony diversity of leftist college campuses results in such a stupifyingly bland and anti-intellectual pneumatosphere, where one is free to believe in anything but Reality.

The new intellectual boorbarians of the left are specifically opposed to man's role as metaxy, even if they cannot consciously understand what they do or why they do it. They are simply reenacting a timeless vertical drama, engaging in a sort of Black Mass involving a crucifiction stranger than fact -- the Crucifixion being the symbol par excellence of the link between human and divine -- only without resurrection.

All primitive sacrifice involves the attempt to steal and appropriate the life force of the sacrificial victim. But this force can only be given from above, not taken from below.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Birth of a Cosmos: Cosmogeny Recapitulates Psychogeny

Back in the womb from which I came, I had no God and was merely myself. --Meister Eckhart, speaking of his own womb with a pew

Is the human species "maturing" -- which is to say, evolving -- with time? Consider the "Muslim world," which is either more or less mature than the West as a whole. It is a yes or no question, but in order to answer it, one must have either an implicit or explicit theory of human development, as every developmental theory is guided by a telos, i.e., an end toward which the organism is striving. Thus, in order to know whether mankind is evolving, one must first understand the purpose of the human station.

Dr. Sanity believes that millions of Muslims suffer from "Teddy Bear Syndrome" (coined by Victor Davis Hanson), which is "the tendency of many Muslims to judge Westerners and those who do not adhere to Islam as 'blasphemous' when they exercise freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of choice, and freedom of religion; and to react in an intolerant, inappropriate and violent rage, demanding death or some other extreme punishment for the accused."

Yes, Teddy Bear Syndrome shares many similarities to left wing political correctness, so it must be a variant of a potential that is present in everyone, a primitive impulse that must be "outgrown" -- like throwing temper tantrums when you don't get your way, or ramming through complex legislation that no one has read, or suing to overturn the 2000 presidential election. The TB syndrome is why nowhere in the West does one find more intellectual immaturity than on an elite university campus.

But fortunately, most people are not left wing university professors. Yet.

Regarding the etiology of Teddy Bear Syndrome, Dr. Sanity writes that part of the problem results from the failure of Islam "to evolve from its medieval and primitive origins" (emphasis mine). But on any traditionalist view -- including traditional Christianity -- religion does not evolve. Rather, the whole point is that it is fixed and final. However, just like everything else, scripture looks very different to a developmentally mature mind than it does to an immature one.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I gave up childish ways. First the milky way; then the meaty way.

The psychological immaturity of the Islamic world is generally mirrored by a pseudomature response by the "liberal" West. As Hanson writes, "the reaction to this madness is now stereotyped. Often apologies -- not condemnation -- follow from contrite Westerners. To prevent a recurrence, Western writers, filmmakers, teachers and religious figures quietly edit their work and restrict their speech -- but only when Islam is involved."

When this happens, it is analogous to allowing the baby to run the household. Children naturally try to manipulate parents, but a good parent knows how to set boundaries and to be consistent. However, over the past 40-50 years, especially with the Baby Boomer generation, these psychological boundaries have been discarded, which has resulted in an indiscriminate blending (as opposed to a true synthesis or integration) of the sexes and generations, and of high and low.

One of the reasons for this is that the Baby Boom generation may have been the first to actually prevail in the perennial battle between adults and children, thus providing no check on the tendency toward omnipotence. In other words, in prevailing in the Oedipal struggle, they lost, for the downside of vanquishing Father is that one ends up orphaned.

Yes, some positive things obviously came out of the 1960s, but one of the most baleful ones was the Genderless Adultolescent. This is a person who by definition can never be mature, but only give the appearance of being so. It is much more difficult to be a Genderless Adultolescent on the right, whereas it is more or less normative on the left, as exemplified by their current low-standard bearer. Anyone who reads left wing blogs knows this is so.

As for myself, being primarily a vertically oriented person, I think of politics -- as it typically plays out -- as a distraction from reality. On the one hand, I do not conflate salvation with conservative political success. Rather, it's just that the left is so incredibly dangerous and destructive on every level -- intellectual, economic, psychological, and spiritual -- that it must be combatted. In fact, most conservatives would prefer to ignore politics and be left alone to enjoy their lives, but this would be irresponsible so long as the left pursues its antihuman agenda with such religious fervor.

The problem with most history, even to this day, is that it is too sweeping and general, and ignores the reality of the unconscious and the insights of developmental psychology. It makes it difficult to comprehend something as fundamentally irrational as Islamism. The left, for example, treats Islamism as a rational response to something we have done, which seems like "empathy" or sensitivity but is actually the very opposite, a kind of self-congratulatory indulgence of an enraged child.

In One Cosmos I quoted John Bowlby, one of the early pioneers of attachment theory, who wrote that "The truth is that the least-studied phase of human development remains the phase during which a child is acquiring all that makes him most human. Here is still a continent to conquer."

Similarly, Tolstoy wrote that "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance." Or the anthropologist Norbert Elias: "It seems as if grown-up people, in thinking about their origins, involuntarily lose sight of the fact that they themselves and all adults came into the world as little children. Over and over again, in the scientific myths of origin no less than the religious ones, they feel impelled to imagine: In the beginning was a single human being, who was an adult."

But in reality, In the beginning is a neurologically incomplete, helpless little baby, utterly dependent upon caretakers who may or may not be up to the task of raising him, and who themselves bear the unconscious scars of their own childhood trauma. Thus, it is not so much that "in the beginning is the baby" as "in the beginning is the dynamic relationship between an unformed nervous system that will develop (or fail to develop) its potential in rapport with its caretakers."

Take the myth of Genesis, for example. This can be misleading, since it begins with the creation of a male adult, followed by a female adult (who comes out of the male), and lastly, a couple of children.

But in reality, the reverse is true: first there is a baby, out of which comes the mother, who then bifurcates (from the infant's point of view) into a mother and father. In other words, the baby cannot possibly imagine that the mother gave birth to him, as doing so would require abstract language, boundaries, a conception of linear time, the differentiation between inside and outside, etc.

Rather, as Winnicott observed, there isn't actually such a thing as a baby (at least as far as the baby is concerned). Instead, there is a true union of mother and infant, a (hopefully) harmonious psychological matrix (matrix being etymologically linked to womb) through which the baby will eventually "discover" the mOther -- and only later her consort, who is Fa(r)ther away in developmental time.

Fascinatingly, Genesis is psychospiritually capacious enough to be supplemented with the infant's view of the cosmic situation. This was an idea developed by James Grotstein, but it is also implicit in the interpretations of some mishnavous rabbis who view Genesis as an orthoparadox about man's movement from psychological infancy and dependence to maturity and independence.

As Kass writes, "Eating from the tree certainly produces a death of innocence. Through judgmental self-consciousness, human beings become self-separated; the primordial childlike, unself-divided, and peaceful state of the soul 'dies.' Thanks to reason and freedom, protoman becomes a different being -- the old one dies. This death, repeated in every human life, we have all experienced for ourselves; the contented and carefree life that we knew as innocent children is in fact permanently lost to us, the inevitable result of our rise to self-conscious knowledge of good and bad."

The rabbinical tradition often turns scripture inside-out or upside-down in order to squeeze out a little additional wisdom. Don't worry, scripture is resilient. It can handle rough play, and will return to its original shape. In Grotstein's case, he begins with the psychological fact of infantile omnipotence. One can argue whether or not God is omnipotent, but infants certainly are, for how could they know otherwise?

Thus, the omnipotent baby (again, from the baby's point of view) is quite obviously the creator of the cosmos, including its mother and father. Clearly, a brand new cosmos comes into being with the birth of every child, does it not? There is no cosmos at all in the absence of consciousness, so it is simply an existential fact that cosmogenesis is repeated afresh with every newborn baby: cosmogeny recapitulates psychogeny, so to speak.

Here is another aped quote from the Coonifesto, this one from David Darling, author of Equations of Eternity: "[W]e may reasonably view an infant's dawning of awareness on two levels: as a consciousness arising in the individual and, simultaneously, in the universe as a whole.... we can watch an incredibly condensed version of the growth of awareness on this planet, and in the cosmos, in each developing child."

But only if you are a sensitive parent. Isn't this a big part of the joy of parenting, re-participating in the birth of a fresh new cosmos, as your child -- and his world -- changes from day to day? Jesus made so many sensitive comments about children and about the relationship between a child's consciousness and spiritual awareness, that it's a little surprising that people fail to make the explicit connection.

God is the newest thing there is; the youngest thing there is. God is the beginning, and if we are united to him we become new again.... My soul is as young as the day it was created. Yes, and much younger! --Meister Eckhart

Monday, November 15, 2010

If Good Times are Bad, What Makes a Lifework Leafing?

I try to take human beastlings as I find them, not as I wish them to be. And I find humanity at large to be a pretty appalling bunch. Half of them, anyway. Half the time. In any given school year, the class is half fools.

Does this make me a misanthrope? Hardly. There is a stark distinction between objectivity and cynicism -- or idealization, for that matter -- neither of which is an acceptable stance for the truth seeker. One of the major differences between conservatives and liberals is that the former tend to love people but believe mankind stinks, while the latter love mankind but have no use for the actual people whom they wish to dominate and control.

In his book Human Accomplishment, Charles Murray writes that "We human beings are in many ways a sorry lot, prone to every manner of vanity and error. The human march forward has been filled with wrong turns, backsliding, and horrible crimes."

Nevertheless, he takes the nuanced Raccoon position that "in its grand sweep, it has indeed been a march forward. On every dimension, the last half-dozen centuries in particular have brought sensational improvement which, with qualifications, continues to this day."

In the book, Murray attempts to quantify the great things humans have accomplished, but it seems that for every achievement there is an equal and opposite monument to our depravity. He asks, "What can Homo sapiens brag about -- not as individuals, but as a species?"

He notes, for example, that military accomplishment is out of the question, since "putting 'Defeated Hitler' on the human resumé is too much like putting 'Beat My Drug Habit' on a personal one." He also rules out mere governance and commerce, since these "are akin to paying the rent and putting food on the table" as it pertains to our species as a whole.

In other words, these are things human beings must do in order to survive and prosper. They are not so much accomplishments as prerequisites for them. What took (and continues to take) so long for mankind to simply get out of its own way? (In fact, I would actually put successful commerce high on the list of accomplishments, as it is something that the vast majority of human beings -- most especially the tenured -- not only do not understand, but actively interfere with, e.g., Keynes, Krugman, & other Krackpots.)

Now, this progressive view of mankind goes directly against the traditionalist view of a degenerating mankind. Again, traditionalists locate perfection in the past, to such an extent that they often seem to think their thesis requires no empirical support.

For example, in The Order of the Ages, Bolton writes, "We think today about progress, and about how much society has advanced in the last few decades, but the evidence for this could equally well be used to argue that these are times of extreme decadence, when all natural and human standards have been overturned and we await the inevitable dissolution of all that the modern mind has created. Either we are moving toward new, higher standards of science and civilization or we stand at the very end of an era, on the verge of Apocalypse."

Bolton believes the latter, but on the third hand, both could be true: as we proceed through time, the polarity or tension within the human soul just becomes more and more extreme:

There was a bright light,
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio

The news of most any day reminds us of this ironic polarity, that "these are the days of miracle and wonder," so "don't cry baby, don't cry." For every Simon there's a Garfunkel, and yet, the two together create a third that is more successful than either.

Murray writes that "the human capital for great accomplishment and the underlying human attraction to excellence are always with us, but environments for eliciting great accomplishment are not."

I mentioned this the other day in the context of the so-called Palestinians, a culture so depraved that it literally provides the individual no opportunity to even be adequate, let alone excellent. Rather, it demands madness, bloodlust, sadism, hatred, and depravity, which has probably been true of most human cultures down through the ages. Just as he is free to choose evil over good, man, because he can know, can know many things that aren't so. And most of what he knows falls into this latter category.

Michael Novak writes of a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza on the subject of atheism:

"In it, I heard Christopher describe his own view of the world, which may be abbreviated as follows: It was just 100,000 years ago that humans finally appeared on this planet. On average, these poor creatures died by age 25, and suffered (often horribly) from disease, earthquake, flood, famine, and cyclones -- not to mention murder and warfare. Only after some 96,000 years does Jewish history begin, and only after some 98,000 years does Christian 'salvation' come. For all those thousands of years the Creator/Designer left human beings to suffer. Then, even after Judaism and Christianity arrive, the suffering continues almost unabated. In addition, these poor human beings are badly designed. They have developed too much adrenaline, and the frontal lobes of their brains are too small. All these together leave humans in a bleak condition in a bleak world, and with very little hope."

Now, I happen to agree with Hitchens, at least as far as he goes. In fact, so does the Pope in a recent encyclical. Novak writes that

"Benedict agrees that the condition of humans before the Jewish and Christian news of God’s intentions was as bleak as Hitchens says. The idea of progress was not present in consciousness.... The idea that each human is free in his individual conscience -- not the conscience solely of city, tribe, or even family -- had not been introduced. The idea that the human mind is proportioned to the world as it is, and capable, in the image of the Creator, of creating new inventions, discoveries, and means of progress in history, had not yet been grasped by the mind of humans."

So Pope Benedict is obviously not a traditionalist in the Guenon/Schuon sense, but a crypto-Coon who recognizes genuine progress and therefore doesn't blow up the baby with the bombwire. He knows that progress has occurred, but at the same time, that it is never enough to satisfy the soul of man. But don't cry, baby. Novak continues:

"Even the human capacity for invention and technological progress, we find, is not a consistent bearer of hope. Humans remain both free and also drawn to self-love, arrogance of power, irrational ambitions, and moral decadence.... Thus, at any time even instruments of great good can be turned into instruments of unparalleled evil. Of this we had much evidence during the 20th century.... [T]he horrific evils that millions experienced in the last hundred years required more than logic, science, and crazy utopian ideas. Hitchens and others are free to accept or to reject the hope that Judaism and Christianity implant in the souls of many. The fact is that this Jewish and Christian hope, once it became the driving force of Mediterranean and European civilization, produced an unrivaled and enduring burst of optimism, inquiry, and stunning progress."

So we come back to what I stated at the outset of this post about taking man as I find him: "Judaism and Christianity have the advantage of dealing with the world as it is. They take it with all its hurt and folly, stupidity and egotism, natural disasters and disasters by human hands. Both faiths prepare their daughters and sons to face a vale of tears, to meet much suffering equably, to keep their hopes unbroken no matter what, and to show courage worthy of the children of the True God. For both faiths, suffering is an irremovable fact of life."

I would suggest that you're lucky to be alive during an era when you can say It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, because for most of human history, it has mostly been the latter, which leads to something like this sentiment: "It is the worst of times, but we remember the best of times, even if they only exist in myth and story."

Traditionalists, insofar as I am able to determine, believe in a literal "best of times," a "golden age" that had no simultaneous and intrinsic "worst of times."

But those on the left believe in an insane mirror image of this: that these are the worst of times and that we can perfect mankind and build a utopia which will be the best of times.

But to paraphrase something very infallible that the Pope said a few years ago, before he was even Pope, "the loss of transcendence leads to the flight to utopia." The leftist program is a surefire way to create a true worst of times, as they proved time and time again in the 20th century. A Jew in Nazi Germany or a political prisoner in the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or China, can be forgiven for believing "these are the worst of times, full stop."

So a Raccoon believes that the very conditions of our human existence somehow necessitate this outwardly absurd tension of good times, bad times, of which I've certainly had my share. Yes, the song and dance remains the same, even if you can't dance to to the song. For what is a Led Zeppelin, anyway? It's really a promethean lead balloon, which might get you high, but not for long. "Oh the humanity!"

In the days of my youth
I was told what it means to be a man,
Now I've reached that age
I've tried to do all those things the best I can.
But no matter how I try,
I find my way into the same old jam.

Of course you do, pagan! There's only one way out, and it's not in the past, nor is it in the future.

James Joyce planted it in zoso many pages: perpetual fall and redemption, and irreconcilable dualities within a cyclical but spiraling time that mixes darkness and light, AKA the Nightmare of History:

The fall of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. (Those broken financiers who leapt from Wall Street buildings in 1929 only fell back to the earth, same as the high flying bubble-blowers of 80 years later.)

Hohohoho, Mister Finn, you're going to be Mister Finnagain! Comeday morm, and, O, you're vine! Sendday's eve and, ah, you're vinegar! Hahahaha, Mister Funn, you're going to be fined again! (The same vine produces wine and vinegar, for every fun there's an equal and opposite fine, and every fin, or end, is a new finnagain, or beginning.)

Gricks may rise and Troysirs may fall (there being two sights for ever a picture) for in the byways of high improvidence that's what makes lifework leaving and the world's a cell for citters to cit in. (Cit is the sanskrit word for consciousness, which is simultaneously liberation and prison.)

And even if Humpty shell fall frumpty times as awkward again... there'll be iggs for the brekkers come to mournhim, sunny side up with care. (Fall and rise, fall and rise, olden pneumagain, same old same old, to break from the infertile eggheads you've got to om a lot -- in your own way, of course.)

The movibles are scrawling in motions, marching, all of them ago, in pitpat and zingzang, for every busy eerie whig's a bit of a torytale to tell. (Every political program's got a bit -- or more than a bit -- of its opposite, so don't get all excited when one end of the sleazesaw is up. Fascism, the lust for control over others, is in the human heart, so every loving lefty is the frightful righty he fears, just as every hysterical olbermann's a banal undertaker.)