Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Why Good Things Happen... At All

When last we spoke, we were discussing the cosmic Law of cause and effect, or of moral causality -- the latter of which exists, but not always as rapidly and efficiently (as compared to material causes) as we would like. But this has always been known; some version of The wheels of justice grind slowly but exceedingly fine has been making the rounds since antiquity.

Likewise the flusteration and doubtrage when the blue meanies seem to triumph -- for nothing provokes doubt more than the appearance of injustice. Justice is implanted in our hearts, but only the childish, the stupid, and the left (I repeat myself) imagine that perfect justice can be achieved on earth.

But most people ask the wrong question, or look out the wrong end of the teloscope. As far as we are concerned, the question is not why good things happen to bad people, but why good things happen at all. Of course pleasant things must happen, but good things ought to happen, and the world of the ought begins where natural science ends -- the latter of which deals with the is only, and even then, the manner in which the Is appears to our senses.

Thus, if one is a flat cosmos materialist, then there is no mystery, since the only question is why pleasurable things happen, and pleasurable things happen because certain subjective sensations were selected by evolution in order to tell us when we are engaging in some life-enhancing activity that increases our chances of passing on our genes, like bashing in someone's head when they don't see things our way, or raping the next attractive woman who comes along.

But every conscious being knows that the moral order cannot be reduced to neurology and genes, any more than a great work of art can be reduced to its molecular components. Thus, if one is a materialist, then one must necessarily be a cynic, as the cynic is able to see through the naive people who believe in a fixed moral order. The cynic knows that these people are just fooling themselves -- or worse yet, just trying to manipulate and control others -- and that good and evil cannot actually exist.

Deep -- or even not so deep -- down, we all know that there are objectively bad behaviors, which negates the materialist's frivolous argument, but this has no impact upon him, since for him truth cannot exist either.

If the materialist is intellectually honest, he will have to acknowledge that Bach was just a musical con man, what with his sinister idea that the purpose of his music was to reveal the divine order, or that Abraham Lincoln was just a tyrant and demagogue who used the slavery issue to consolidate presidential power in unprecedented ways, or that Christians only pretend a fetus has some intrinsic value in order to gain control over women's bodies.

O, what is a troll but the lice on Bob's transdimensional vapor trail? But enviously suckling on the creativity of another feels good, so it must be right. We wouldn't know, but biting ankles must feel like an accomplishment to someone who has never seen a calf, knee, or thighbone.

Now, as far as we can tell, one of the intrafamilial squabbles between Judaism and Christianity -- but not really, as we shall see -- is over the value of action in isolation from the state of the soul engaging in it. We have heard Dennis Prager (Medved too) speak of this on numerous occasions, that in Jewish thought, the overriding concern is the value of the action, not the motivations of the person engaging in it. Thus, bad people can do a lot of good. "Charity and pride have different aims, yet both feed the poor," say the rabbis.

There is obviously some real truth to this, but I think that overall, taken in isolation, this is a morality intended for an earlier age. It is certainly not invalid, but incomplete for the spiritual aspirant who wishes to ascend beyond moral convention toward the source of morality itself.

Clearly, Judaism was a covenant with a people, a collective. This is perfectly appropriate, being that the individual as we understand it simply did not exist at the time of the Jewish revelation, which we believe was vitally necessary in order to create the context for the interior individual to later emerge.

This is not to say that the Jewish approach is negated by Christianity. To the extent that it is "transcended," it is only because it must be included in the Christian approach, just as Jesus said, i.e., that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

In our view, truly fulfilling the law would be to merge action and intention, heart and body, spirit and letter, words and music, man and God. There remain Christians who emphasize works, others who emphasize faith, but to the extent that we wish to become "perfect," there should really be a marriage of the two.

Nevertheless, man's capacity for autoflimflammery, or pulling the wool over his own I, is more or less infinite, so it is morally perilous to operate without the sort of external guide rails provided by a revealed moral code filtered through contemplative generations of The Wise.

Or, as Rabbi Zimmerman expresses it, To live outside the law you must be honest. Virtually all people need to be shown the good before they can see and know the good -- even though the good must already be "inside" in order to recognize it "outside." A life spent contemplating the Law in the manner of a Jewish sage no doubt has a transformative and purifying effect on the soul, for as the Yiddish saying goes, Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.

I can see how this operates in real time, since my five and a-half year old attends a Catholic school where his fresh dough is being baked in a really wonderful way.

This has direct relevance to our discussion of free will, for a good action that is forced is just as servile and unfree as a bad action, just as a dog that is trained to assist a blind person isn't really "choosing" the good. The dog could just as easily transfer its loyalty to Kim Jung Il, assuming he didn't eat it first.

Similarly, memorizing truth in a rote fashion can never be the same as possessing wisdom, no matter how true. To quote another rabbinical quip, "he falsifies who renders a verse just as it looks." Indeed, "for every answer you can find a new question." Thus the ironyclad Bionic adage that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.

So intentions do matter, especially when it comes to the modern self, which is much more "interior." In a way, this is more challenging than merely engaging in outwardly good deeds, for it adds a whole new world in need of purification and sanctification.

For no sooner had this new interior self emerged, than a whole host of new evils flooded into the psychospiritual world, or at least exacerbated the old ones. With the modern self came the appearance of the kind of unlimited evil we witnessed in the 20th century, and which we now see in Islamofascism. Islam becomes combustible when merged with certain "ideals" imported from the modern West, among them, fascism and scientific technology. Imagine if, say, the ancient Mesopotamians had had access to weapons of mass destruction, and not just the modern ones.

Bolton agrees that "physically similar actions can differ internally." Perhaps most importantly, "the actions of conscious agents owe so much of their true nature to the beliefs and intentions with which they are performed." And it is on the level of intention that the Law (discussed yesterday) really becomes apparent and that "like attracts like."

This is why people are not united by common actions, but by a common spirit that draws them together into the same spiritual attractor. Even the blatantly anti-spiritual left operates out of a debased spiritual attractor that will be well familiar to Raccoons. We understand them perfectly, but they cannot understand us.

In turn, this is why there is a "culture war" in America, and why the frumpy no-labelists who complain that there is "too much divisiveness" are missing the whole point. John Edwards is correct: there are two Americas -- the material flatland of his Marxian fantasies, and the real one. In his world, theft is moral because it is detached from the moral order that he doesn't recognize to begin with. Which is how he became wealthy.

Bolton says that it is on the interior plane that we will especially see the effect of the Law, as we attract people and things into our life which share a similar "spirit."

For example, Raccoons who "stumbled" upon this blog and to its community were actually drawn here, "attractor to attractor," something that becomes increasingly clear as one's internal attractor develops in time. Why the trolls are drawn here is a different matter entirely, although for some, there may actually be a latent good spirit that was attracted here but which is concealed by their envy and intellectual deadness. For them there is hope yet, so long as the pilot light isn't extinguished.

Bolton goes on to emphasize that "interior" does not necessarily mean "private," and that the interior does affect the exterior:

"By virtue of the Law, actions and orientations are never merely private, despite appearances. Consequently, a manner of being which deepens the relation to God and universal values, and so identifies with a more concrete reality, thus interacts with the ambient world simply by being a part of it. This is to be the instrument of an action of presence which necessarily attracts proportionate positive action from the world, and so liberates potentialities within it which increase its order and stability."

Which is why the rabbis teach that a minimum of 36 righteous souls in each generation is required to sustain the world. Yes, that's all it takes to keep all the leftist do-gooders in check.

When the great Tao is forgotten, goodness and piety appear. --Tao Te Ching

41 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Deep -- or even not so deep -- down, we all know that there are objectively bad behaviors

Brings to mind something I glanced at yesterday:

"Professional human lie detectors said that people are uncomfortable with untruths and will show that in certain ways..."

If Darwinism were true, there'd be no reason for people to feel inherently uncomfortable about lying. In fact, in many cases it would probably be a useful and adaptive behavior. From an evolutionary point of view, why should the veracity of the sounds coming from our throats make any difference to how comfortable or uncomfortable we feel, provided we are not in any immediate danger?

1/05/2011 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Last night Homer was hooked up to a lie detector. He was given the instructions and asked if he understood them. When he said "yes," the machine blew up.

1/05/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:D

1/05/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

So intentions do matter...

Jesus used the framing refrain, "You have heard it said ... but I say to you ..." in the Sermon on the Mount to transport us beyond the deed to the intent, beyond the letter to the Spirit.

And, by the way, I can't tell you how many times my wife has reminded me of that "already committed adultery" thing in the mall. At least until I started wearing shades all the time.

1/05/2011 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I knew there was something else, OT: Robin of Berkeley blames psychology and psychiatry for a stealth attack on American values. It's a nice little history of the damage. She even mentions R.D. Laing and Carl Rogers. I remember watching a film of a Rogers' encounter group. I felt exactly like R. Lee Emery in the Geico commercial.

1/05/2011 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

For example, Raccoons who "stumbled" upon this blog and to its community were actually drawn here

In my case I heard about OC from someone on LGF about 4 1/2 years ago. OC gradually attracted me and I became a daily visitor while simultaneously LGF repelled me (Queeg chopped my account -- twice).

1/05/2011 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, great post.

Have you started the Fr. Brown NT book yet? If so, what do you think of it?

1/05/2011 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Have not yet started. Waiting for my used copy in the mail. I anticipate that it will either be very good or very mundane.

1/05/2011 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But the Steely Dan is great.

1/05/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

You'd like this, Bob.
And you'll love the price:
The Parables of Our Lord

1/05/2011 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I have a gap in my synapses somewhere that makes me always associate Steely Dan with "Stuck in the Middle with You" when I know good and well that it's by Stealers Wheel -- which then reminds me that Gerry Rafferty died yesterday.

It was too little too late in the '70's to do much for me -- I'd already gone over to the dark side on my way to roots. But some of the younger folks might have be fans.

1/05/2011 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I love the Dan of Steel. Been listening on headphones and hearing all sorts of new things. Much multi-layered harmonic and timbrel complexity and shading.

1/05/2011 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

I don't know what attracts trolls to your posts in fact, but notice a kind of inherent "lust for argument" in their responses. Chesterton was quoted as saying, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid”, but trolls seem to prefer to jaw.

You wrote,
Raccoons who "stumbled" upon this blog and to its community were actually drawn here ... and ... we attract people and things into our life which share a similar "spirit."

Interesting to note how different the individual Raccoons are in terms of lifestyle, and even chosen path -- but it's easy enough to love a kindred spirit, even when they irritate, or when you disagree.

Also:
...the interior does affect the exterior:
a manner of being which deepens the relation to God and universal values, and so identifies with a more concrete reality, thus interacts with the ambient world simply by being a part of it. This is to be the instrument of an action of presence which necessarily attracts proportionate positive action from the world, and so liberates potentialities within it which increase its order and stability.


That is quite a statement.

1/05/2011 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"For example, Raccoons who "stumbled" upon this blog and to its community were actually drawn here"

Am I one of the few people who ended up here with absoutely no idea that LGF existed?

I did what I usually do and spun the Wheel of Fortune.

It took me a while to realize that this was a book club, too.

1/05/2011 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

This is a club?!

Bob, how could you..

1/05/2011 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Walt -- agree about the profundity of that statement. It explains certain experiences without veering into Deepakland, i.e., we create reality.

1/05/2011 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick -- it's a club people cannot join but can only leave. The opposite of Hotel California.

1/05/2011 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Leaving Hume (", and even then, the manner in which the Is appears to our senses.") for another time., this is a BIG 10-4,

"Of course pleasant things must happen, but good things ought to happen, and the world of the ought begins where natural science ends -- the latter of which deals with the is only..."

♫ ♪ You can't have One without the other...♪ ♫

1/05/2011 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"This has direct relevance to our discussion of free will, for a good action that is forced is just as servile and unfree as a bad action..."

Absolutely. I was having an argument with some folks over the Federalist Papers about this very thing (though they didn't realize it), and some had a hard time realizing that a Good Law, tyrannically imposed, ceases to be Law or Good.

We've come along way baby, since 1776... time to reclimb that ladder!

1/05/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Similarly, memorizing truth in a rote fashion can never be the same as possessing wisdom, no matter how true. To quote another rabbinical quip, "he falsifies who renders a verse just as it looks.""

Ooh... that goes with my previous comment as well. It's shocking how many time people who quote "What The Founders Did!" have zero clue about why they did it.

"Indeed, "for every answer you can find a new question." Thus the ironyclad Bionic adage that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity."

I hate Quotation pages for just that reason. Ok, this is obviously one of those posts I have to read all the way through first, to avoid reposting bite by bite, back after lunch.

wv:outer
limits

1/05/2011 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

There are indeed people whose mere presence is a blessing, radiating Light and love. And there are, in addition to these, people whose words are radiating Light even when they are not trying to be spiritual. I have witnessed both, although the first only very rarely.

In such cases, it is clearly their interior that shines through. It may not be pleasant for all, though. I have read that in British subway areas, classical music was played to drive away the people making mischief. Presumably they felt a similar pain by the harmonies as I feel on hearing typical rap. This kind of disruption is probably felt by some people in the presence of a Light-filled person.

1/05/2011 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

"Justice is implanted in our hearts, but only the childish, the stupid, and the left (I repeat myself) imagine that perfect justice can be achieved on earth."

I may be childish, stupid, and "leftist," but even I don't imagine that "perfect justice can be achieved on earth." But I think that the world CAN become more just than it is now with a little help from its friends.

1/05/2011 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Certainly - they just have to choose to do it...

1/05/2011 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

But WHY do they choose it? ;-)

1/05/2011 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

You don't.

1/05/2011 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Because they may.

1/05/2011 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

And because something causes them to choose that option over others?

1/05/2011 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous mama grizzly said...

No, because I said so.

1/05/2011 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

I think we can all agree that something causes Nagarjuna to be so dense. Opinions divide as to exactly what it is.

1/05/2011 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Spock said...

Given the possibility of freedom, and the option to transcend mere biological processes, a man chooses instead to remain a slave to chemistry.

Fascinating.

1/05/2011 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hard to believe, but not all the slaves were happy about the emancipation proclamation. A small minority liked the idea of being taken care of and having no responsibility....

1/05/2011 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Sadly, to a great many people security and immaturity are far more appealing than risk and personal responsibility.

***

In other news, Beer: Is there anything it can't do?

1/05/2011 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Jimmy Page's fave radio song guitar sola ever

-but they sure [slickly] lost me by AJA

1/06/2011 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

"...or that Abraham Lincoln was just a tyrant and demagogue who used the slavery issue to consolidate presidential power in unprecedented ways."

Apparently that is a "view" that is being celebrated at various Secession Balls in places like South Carolina.

1/06/2011 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, there's a whole revisionist industry of Lincoln-haters out there, akin to the Holocaust deniers. Like the left, they produce a body of work that caters to the hatreds and prejudices of the creeps attracted to it.

1/06/2011 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Jack said "...being celebrated at various Secession Balls..."

Huh. Who'd wanna celebrate losing their balls? Go figure.

1/06/2011 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hey, didn't Hitler have one of those seceding balls?

1/06/2011 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

"I think we can all agree that something causes Nagarjuna to be so dense. Opinions divide as to exactly what it is."

Therefore, I am not "free" to join the exalted ranks of the Raccoons, and you are too smart to be "dense" like me?

1/06/2011 07:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Professor Higgins said...

By Jove, I think he's got it!

1/06/2011 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

Now the question is, Do YOU?

1/06/2011 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Van said: "Huh. Who'd wanna celebrate losing their balls? Go figure"

My sentiments exactly!

1/06/2011 04:44:00 PM  

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