Monday, January 31, 2011

The Child is Father to the Evolving Man

The only reason to come up with a new post today would be to prove to myself that I could do it even in the teeth of this lousy cold. Which is not a good enough reason. All aboard the Knowa's Arkive!

Let me express myself in an even clearer way. The fruitful person gives birth out of the very same foundation from which the Creator begets the eternal Word or Creative Energy, and it is from this core that one becomes fruitfully pregnant. --Meister Eckhart

In his Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, Stone writes that by the 16th century, new and unprecedented trends in human psychological evolution were clearly emerging. In particular, there was an increase in individualism, characterized by a growing capacity for introspection, or exploration of the interior world.

Not surprisingly, we see the first real novels appear at this time, which explore the interior life of everyday individual characters, instead of dealing mainly in archetypes, religious fables, heroic epics, and more stock characters. There is also a growth of personal autonomy, marked by awareness of the individual conscience, empathy for others, affectionate marriage, and the uniqueness (and therefore, value) of the individual.

Since these things are completely taken for granted in our own time, it's difficult to try to imagine what life would be like in their absence. Another important point, as Elias has pointed out, is that we cannot think of these changes as having been brought about in any conscious manner. No one invented them, nor were they brought about by the ideas of a few great and influential men. Rather, they just "happened."

Or did they? Is there a hidden "law" at work in the movement of history?

Magnus left a pertinent comment yesteryear, writing that he wonders "whether modern civilization could even have come to exist had not the Nativity Story been burned into our minds year after year, generation after generation, millions of times through the centuries." This reminds me of how Gil Bailie looks at scripture. That is, we have our own ideas of what it's all about, but what if God has his own agenda of which we are not consciously aware? What if he's trying to nudge all of mankind in a particular direction, so to speak, by tinkering with our unconscious template?

In Bailie's case, he sees the central gospel message to be about putting an end to mankind's perpetual scapegoating and sacrificial violence, which was and is endemic in the pre- and non-Christianized world. The sacrificial act fosters a temporary unity achieved through ritual violence, which must be repeated again and again.

However, the unconscious message of the gospel is that when we murder the innocent victim, we murder God. Such an idea was utterly novel in the world of ancient Rome, just as it is today in the Islamic world, where might makes right and the meek inherit dad's rusty Kalashnikov.

Similarly, if Magnus is correct -- and I believe he is -- then another unconscious message of the gospels would be about the manner in which we are to regard children. Again, it is difficult -- and even painful -- for us to put ourselves in the mindset of antiquity, when children were regarded as essentially worthless, and not infrequently used for sacrifice to appease their gods: "Many ancient pagan societies believed that parents possessed an unqualified right to kill their own children for any reason." Indeed, the Roman Law of the Twelve tables "actually required a father to put to death a deformed child" (Hutchinson). Conversely, "Jews were almost alone among ancient peoples in their opposition to infanticide," and Jesus himself "had a singular appreciation for the wondrous spirit of children, which was rare in the ancient world" (ibid.).

Note that radical pro-abortionists affirm without apology that the human fetus has no intrinsic value -- that ending its life is fundamentally no different than removing a decayed tooth. The mother determines its value. But who determines the value of the mother? Don't ask.

However, in a world in-formed by the gospel message, one can no longer believe this about children. Rather, there will be an awareness of the moral offense, which is why the left must promote abortion so radically and so fanatically, for to entertain doubt about the matter is to be convicted by one's conscience.

The point I am attempting to make is that our conscious mind understands things one way, while the unconscious understands them in another way, which may well be at odds with what the conscious mind believes. We do our best to "consciously" interpret the divine message, but is this even possible? Isn't it a little like a two-dimensional circle trying to circumnavelgaze a three-dimensional sphere? A sphere moving through two dimensions can be described as a series of circles of varying sizes. But it will require a leap of imagination for the flatlander to "see" that these apparently separate circles are all partial reflections of the one sphere.

To extend the analogy, what if God, or "God's word," is, say, a ten-dimensional object moving through our four dimensions? We will attempt to detect the contours of this object in a linear way, when in fact, it takes a vast leap of imagination to en-vision the Divine Reality.

Looked at a certain way, O can have no fewer than 6,928,198,253 dimensions, which is to say, a number equivalent to the human population at this moment. Is this an argument for relativism? Not at all. I am arguing that there is an absolute object with at least 6,928,198,253 dimensions, and in whose shadow -- or light -- or both -- we live. Remember, every bit of light we see -- and of which we are made -- is just a part of the sun. We imagine that the sun is a distinct object 93 million miles away, but this is pure fantasy. Not only are we right here in the middle of it, but it is simultaneously entangled in us.

Similarly, our own I AM is plugged directly into the hyperdimensional subject in the manner described by Meister Eckhart, so that "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me." So is it my eye? Or God's eye?

In order for a knower to know an object, there must be a third thing called "light," and the supraformal light is always superior to any formal object it illuminates. For as Schuon wrote, "the formal cannot exhaustively express the informal," nor can metaphysics be reduced to creed without some part of O escaping the formulation.

Man partakes of the divine being, therefore he Is. However, since he is not God, he -- alone among the animals -- may "become." God and man are not one; but nor are they two. I suppose the best way of saying it would be that God and man are three. Two of the parties are obvious, which is to say, the Absolute and the relative, the latter of which must exist in light of the existence of the Absolute. In other words, the relative is a necessary consequence of the Absolute, the latter being infinite and extending into relativity, as the central sun extends to all the millions of eyes with which it sees itself.

The Great Mystery is why this middle term exists, this uncertain mode of being-becoming. For it is in this space that the ongoing creation -- or fertile reproduction -- of the human takes place.

Now, what is a baby? Or, to put it in a slightly different way, what does a baby symbolize -- at least for those of us with a Christianized unconscious -- which is to say, virtually all of us in the Judeo-Christian West (for remember, there was a critical context for the valuing of babies, and that was the Jewish culture of antiquity; Jesus pretty much had to be a Jew).

In a baby, heaven and earth touch, and the circle is yet unbroken. The child, by virtue of his im-maturity, is "an incomplete state which points toward its own completion" (Schuon). The child represents what was and is "before," that is, "what is simple, pure, innocent, primordial, and close to the Essence, and this is what its beauty expresses; this beauty has all the charm of promise, of hope and of blossoming, at the same time that of a Paradise not yet lost; it combines the proximity of the Origin with the tension towards the Goal" (ibid.).

Thus, "The man who is fully mature always keeps, in equilibrium with wisdom, the qualities of simplicity and freshness, of gratitude and trust, that he possessed in the springtime of his life" (Schuon).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slipping into Darkness

In Canto IV, Dante and Virgil cross the river Acheron to hell proper, the "abyss of woe." Of the nine precincts of hades, the first five are reserved for the more self-indulgent -- one might also say impulsive -- sins, while the next two are for those who willfully hurt and inflict violence upon innocent others.

The last two are for the truly malicious who not only hurt others, but sin against God and goad others into doing so. How many demons has Karl Marx converted? The figure is incalculable, but he might be Satan's greatest recruiter.

Note that many of our elite universities forbid recruitment by the United States military, one of the greatest forces of good in human history. But it is unthinkable that these leftist seminaries would ever forbid their Marxists, neo-Marxists, pseudo-Marxists, and crypto-Marxists from recruiting fresh demons into their ranks, since this is their central mission. This tells you all you need to know about the moral perversion -- and inversion -- of academia.

I don't know how many literature departments still discuss Dante, but if they do, it can only be in a faux-sophisticated spirit of withering irony, narcissistic temporo-centrism, and narrowly childish superiority -- or the usual combination we see on the left of cynical contempt and credulous gullibility. It's what makes their intellectual world go 'round and then flat.

The three levels of hell reminds me of three levels of psychological illness: the neurotic, the personality disorder, and the sociopath. As we have mentioned before, the neurotic mostly suffers from internal conflicts, and in many ways is just a "normal" human being. We all have conflicts, but only when they seriously interfere with happiness do we generally seek treatment for them.

The personality disorders are much more serious and much more difficult to treat, the reason being that they generally involve damage to the container as opposed to conflictual "content." It's like the difference between a house in need of routine repairs vs. one with a seriously compromised foundation. In order to repair the foundation, you might have to tear down much of the structure and rebuild from the bottom up.

If you don't appreciate the pervasiveness of personality disorders, then you cannot understand Man. You might think that these are relatively rare, but they are quite common. These people are generally quite resistant to change, because they have no insight into their condition. This is because insight requires critical distance in order to see how one part of the self is in conflict with another.

But in the case of the personality disorder, you might say that the pathological part has taken over, so they are often aware of no internal conflict at all. Instead of understanding their conflicts, they act them out with others (or with society, as in the case of certain political activists). People with personality disorders not only live in hell, but inevitably make the lives of people around them a living hell (at least the "extroverted" types).

Over the last couple of decades, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder has gotten a lot of attention, but there are actually about ten varieties of personality disorder. Furthermore, these may be subdivided into levels of intensity. In my view, what is called the Borderline Personality Disorder is not so much a distinct entity as a more primitive level of development, so that, say, a narcissistic personalty can be closer to neurotic or to borderline, along a continuum, depending upon the health of the underlying structure. (Keith Olbermann, for example, would be a prime example of a borderline narcissist, in that no matter where he goes, he cannot help inducting others into his psychodrama and making those around him miserable.)

One of the classics of psychoanalytic literature is Neurotic Styles, by David Shapiro. For example, the impulsive style has a distinct mode of cognition and behavior which may superficially appear to be "active," but is in fact quite passive. Specifically, they are passive in the face of their own impulses, like a child. An immature child is not necessarily "willful," just unable to suppress impulses and resist temptations.

Subjectively, the passive/impulsive person has the experience "of having executed a significant action, not a trivial one, without a clear and complete sense of motivation, decision, and sustained wish." Thus there is action, but not "completely deliberate or fully intended." "These varieties of experience -- whim, urge or impulse, and giving in -- are essentially similar from the standpoint of their formal qualities."

It is critical to note that these people may appear to be self-confident and uninhibited, especially to the inhibited and unconfident. They can radiate a kind of infectious charisma, often on a very primitive level. They can be charming and playful, until one realizes that they cannot be sober or deliberative.

I think this is the secret of certain gifted actors who are completely crazy in their personal lives, e.g., Marlon Brando. Now, there was a man with no boundaries. You might say that he was a saint of the lower vertical. Lower than that would be an Adolf Hitler, whose primitive aggression was completely uninhibited. I suppose this is why men on death row are never without love letters from adoring females, or why Yasser Arafat was such a heartslob on the left.

But this is getting a little academic. Back to the Inferno. Upton notes that the first souls Dante meets in Limbo are similar to the neurotics described above, in that they are capable of insight and self-understanding: "They are better than all others in Hell because they alone understand what spiritual loss really is." While it is a sightless realm, "In this particular circle of the 'blind world,' however, the inmates are conscious of their blindness." And because they are aware of their blindness, they can ultimately be helped.

As I have mentioned before, there are three types of atheists (similar to the above schematic): the lazy/indifferent, the willful, and the obligatory. The obligatory atheist has thoroughly cut himself off from spiritual reality, in such a way that there is no helping him outside a serious implosion of grace (and even then, he will probably reject it). Their spiritual foundation is so compromised that nothing can be built upon it. Such a person is "spiritually insane" or autistic.

Note also that these are the activists who feel compelled to recruit and enlist others into their condition, à la PZ Myers and all the rest. They are anything but passive and indifferent, like those in the first circle of atheism. They cannot leave God alone.

Which, ironically, can, in a few cases, result in an eventual breakthrough, as in the case of Anthony Flew. One must be careful about spending one's life pondering God's absence, because one might accidentally run into him. This is somewhat how it happened with me. ʘO¶s!

The souls in limbo can progress spiritually, but it is a rather slow struggle, since they cannot actively participate in the process. This is not much different from psychotherapy, which is difficult enough to conduct with someone who seeks it, but impossible to impose upon someone who doesn't want to be there. It is not like performing an operation on an unconscious individual. Rather, you need full conscious participation, because ultimately the person is learning how to operate upon himself. You can't do it for him.

Note that there is a portion of salvation even for those atheists who nevertheless have lived their lives in service to truth, to those who honor every art and science. These are upright and dignified souls who speak rarely, and in quiet tones. One might say that they have ascended as close to God as it is possible to do in the absence of a conscious participation in Christ (and Dante understands Christ in a deeply meta-cosmic and even meta-Christian way).

The One Cosmos waiting room:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Lazy Man's Way to Hell, or Don't be Astoneaged at All the Meandertale Men

Now joined by his faithful sidekick Virgil, Dante ventures in Canto III into the antechamber of the underworld, which will reveal nine concentric circles, each housing a different type of offender. There is an upper and lower hell, the former being more of a minimum security prison, the latter housing the real sociopaths.

This reminds me. Shortly after I completed graduate school and was trying to start a private practice, I thought about hanging a notice above the door, the same inscription Dante places above the Gate of Hell: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here. But how many people would get the comedic reference, or appreciate it if they did? (Speaking of comedy, I did not know this, but the working title for the Divine Comedy was I Love Lucifer. Not surprisingly, the suits at DanteLu nixed the idea.)

Not to make too much of the comparison -- which is a little too romantic for my taste -- but there is an obvious resonance between the psychoanalytic journey and the cartography of hell. This will become more clear as we proceed, but it is easy to see how Freud largely medicalized and secularized ideas that had been circulating in the collective psyche for centuries.

Heh. I was just trying to find a reference to this in a book by the psychoanalyst James Grotstein, and found this in the foreword: "In... attempting to speak about [this book], I feel a bit like humble Dante being guided through the underworld by Virgil. The wonder, the marvel, the splendor, and the terror of the unconscious as portrayed by Grotstein is reminiscent of Dante's portrayal of the underworld in The Inferno. Grotstein brings to life for the reader the excitement that Freud must have experienced as the immanence of another order of experience first began to reveal itself to him through his exciting/frightening encounters with the female hysterics who had overwhelmed Breuer [an early influence on Freud].

"The mystery and the awe became all the greater as Freud followed the trail of his thoughts and feelings in his journey into the underworld of his own mind and body and spirit, an underworld occupied with subjects and objects and invisible presences with their own utterly alien and utterly familiar subjects and objects and history and sense of time and space."

Or as we call them, mind parasites. One purpose of therapy is to "turn ghosts into ancestors," or parasites into fossils and artifacts. Drained of their numinous power -- which can only be appropriated from the central self -- they can no longer fascin-ate, which is etymologically linked to fascinum, or witchcraft. They are also linked to fascism, but that's another storey. We're only on the first.

Regarding the journey into the unconscious/underworld, Grotstein writes of wanting "to bring psychic entities, the unconscious and its denizens (its internal subject and internal objects), as well as the ego and id, out of the shadows and mists that have enveloped and obscured them in the misleading garb of deterministic science, which was Freud's oeuvre, and restore them to their true aliveness."

For Freud, the unconscious was structured around unrecognized and mis-recognized desire. Similarly, in hell "The soul travels quickly to the place of its desire" (Upton).

In the words of Joyce, the nightworld of the unconscious is a primitive meandertale where "the ignorance that implies impression that knits knowledge that finds the nameform that whets the wits that convey contacts that sweeten sensation that drives desire that adheres to attachment that dogs death that bitches birth that entails the ensuance of existentiality."

But who hasn't thought that?

Upton notes that we assume every soul "would automatically choose Paradise," but this turns out to be as wrong as the notion that human beings will choose the Good in this life.

When a person comes in for therapy, it is generally because of some form of self-defeating thought and/or behavior that precludes happiness. This is a result not just of faulty ideas that can be eliminated through reason, but of internalized mind parasites with agendas all their own. And again, this is hardly a new idea, just a modern way to talk about a truth that was clearly recognized by Dante, only expressed in a different framework.

Upton observes that "in order to desire Paradise, one must possess a soul which resembles it." In short, one must purify and purge (as in purgatory) those elements that are incompatible with, and turn away from, the Life Divine.

But the first circle of hell is reserved for souls who didn't so much actively turn from God as passively drift -- one might say "Fall" -- away from him: "The souls in this circle, the circle of the whirlwind, are damned because they simply went along with circumstances..." (Upton). Heaven expelled them... / And yet deep hell refuses to receive them.

One thinks of the impressionable and emptyheaded "independent voters" who decide our elections and usher in a nightmarish future that none of them intended. But because of their spiritual and intellectual passivity, they open the way for political actors with very bad intentions indeed. For Dante, these are souls Who mourn the lack of intellect's true light.

Thus, this is also "the circle of the Cowards who, ironically, are also in another way fearless" (ibid). As Upton explains, since they "have no fear of God" they "are complacent," most especially about the evils in our midst. Not for nothing does wisdom begin in the fear of God, for this fear is a natural consequence of understanding what is at stake. Importantly, the fear emanates from love, not vice versa.

Upton makes another critical point, that to drift along with the tide of the world is to reject one's most precious gift, which is the unique self. When this occurs, it leaves an empty core of gnawing, existential envy. As Dante says, these are people who had never lived, so they are naturally envious of the living. (It is striking how much envy Sarah Palin provokes in the dead. Indifference I can understand, but why the delusional frenzy of hatred?)

As I discussed in the book (p. 243-44), envy might be thought of as a kind of psychic "referral pain," which transforms inner emptiness into a painful longing for what others seem to have.

Thus, the diminution of envy is both a commandment and a gift. It is a gift, because it is a natural result of recognition of one's true self -- i.e., the O <---> (¶) axis -- which is the only way to spiritual contentment. As the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein recognized, Envy <---> Gratitude are located along a continuum. Thus, as Upton explains, souls in paradise "envy no one," even when "they occupy the lowest level among the saved," while the envious are perpetually driven forward in an endless quest to find and fill themselves.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When You Go to Hell, Be Sure and Bring a Loved One

I guess we're going to be fighting through the Inferno canto-a-canto. Upton sets the scene in Canto II, noting that "In the face of Hell, Dante's courage begins to fail."

Technically we haven't yet crossed the threshold of the nether world, so there's still time to back out and leave it alone. You know what they say -- the devil you know is preferable to the one you don't. (Although for New Jersey Devils fans, it's getting close.)

Here again, this reminds me of why I don't recommend this blog to anyone. Rather, I only offer it. It's certainly here if people want to come in, but you're not going to get anything out of it if you think you can avoid the heat of the lower vertical. People who try to develop spiritually while ignoring the dark side are generally two things: 1) annoying and 2) shallow. And often dangerous, because they only project into others what they deny in themselves.

Anyway, just when Dante is wondering whether this is such a great idea, in pops Virgil, who lets him know that "he has been sent to help him by Beatrice, acting as an emissary of Divine Grace" (Upton), thus bolstering his flagging courage.


"Eh paisano, don't sneak up on'a me like'a that!"

By now we all know about the various nonlocal operators who are standing by, ready to assist you. Virgil is just such an operator. Did Dante attract Virgil, or vice versa?

I mention this because this phenomenon clearly operates within a field of attraction, fundamentally no different than the way attraction operates, say, in the field of terrestrial love. When it all works out, the loving couple exist within in a pregnant space of attractor-to-attractor. It is a very specific feeling to be in this vibrant space, where the two attractors become one.

As I mentioned on page the 224th, it is only because we have this "divine attractor" within that we are drawn to God, and vice versa: "Being that we are made in the image of O, perhaps it is no surprise that we have our own 'magnetic center,' that is, an internal faculty that draws us like a magnet toward inner truth." While this can "take the form of uncanny synchronicities and meetings with mysterious helpers at just the right time," it can also "produce major tensions and upheavals in the soul" (Smoley) -- we refer to these as birthquakes -- most especially when its higher needs are not acknowledged.

I don't know how to reproduce the symbol, but an operator such as Virgil is an example of what I mean on p. 228, with the ↑ inside O. According to me, such individuals "have ascended the ladder of consciousness from our side of manifestation, and can therefore show the hidden passageway that leads out." Such fleshlights are qualified to teach, because they are "instructed by O," so to speak. They are Men of Achievement, quite the opposite of a tenured ass bearing a load of books.

I like how Franklin Merrill-Wolff describes it: the presence of such an individual tends to "produce a condition such that the latent and indigenous Inner Light of the individual is aroused sympathetically into pulsation and thus, ultimately, 'catches on,' as it were, for Itself."

The whole point of this verticalisthenic is to experience a shift in one's consciousness, so that one inhabits a new "center of gravity," so to speak. Please bear in mind that this is not remotely abstract, but rather, a straightforward and literal description of something that should be very experience-near. This shift is critical. It is what the words "repent" and "metanoia" are referring to. The Raccoon calls it the center of levity, which is the true source of divine comedy.

In the final analysis, Virgil actually represents a projection of Dante's own deeper self. He is attracted to the projection because it is his own unborn self, which can only be accessed via encounter with an external model.

Please note that this is no different than in any other human endeavor. I know that for me, my life can be seen as the gradual actualization of traits and capacities that I first encountered in others.

Assuming that this attraction is rooted in love and truth -- as opposed to the many dark currents that can crapsize our boat, such as narcissism or a lust for power -- then the field will be "fruitful" and result in the assimilation of the exterior ideal. We will become what we love. So be careful!

Note that this is precisely what animates Dante's relationship to Virgil: May my long faithful study of your book / And my great love for it, avail me now! / You are my master, and my very author: / It is from you alone that I have taken / The lofty style for which men honor me.

Note also the words of Lucia to Beatrice: O Beatrice, true praise of God, / Why not assist this man whose love for you / Is such that he has left the vulgar throng?

As we have discussed many times, man inhabits the "middle world" between the upper and lower vertical. Indeed, he is like an arrow that passes through, and partakes of, every level, from the highest to the lowest.

This is what it means to be a micro-cosmos, or a local branch of the central treasury. If this were not the case, then knowledge of the cosmos would be impossible. But because of our verticality, we can obtain genuine knowledge of every layer of the existentialada, from physics to biology to psychology and on to metaphysics and theology.

Obviously, the Inferno is a representation of the lower vertical, which has a number of distinct sub-levels, as we shall see. In a more general sense, as Upton says, "entry into the Inferno reverberates with the quality of the Fall of Man, which was [I would say is] a descent from a higher form of corporeality into a more animal-like condition."

Now, as we have been discussing in recent posts, spiritual progress is characterized by space, freedom, time dilation, and slack retrieval in general. Not surprisingly, the descent into hell is the opposite, a kind of "contraction" (Upton). Instead of time dilation, we are squeezed by and for time. There is nothing to do, and never enough time to do it. Have you ever suffered depression? Then you know what it means when it takes all day to get nothing done.

More hideously, there are humanoids who require a whole life to accomplish nothing. In fact, this will inevitably happen if one doesn't turn around. Or, to put it another way, if you don't change directions, you're liable to end up where you're headed.

So, "If we give ourselves completely to manifestation, we are giving our souls up to the river that leads to Hell" (Upton). Like all worldly rivers, this one flows downhill.

But there is a celestial river on which we may float upstream. In order to find the river, we must first notice the little nonlocal springs that dot the landscape. This can occur, for example, when celestial beauty radiates through phenomena, in what Schuon called the "metaphysical transparency" of the world.

For Upton, these "noble signs... are there to lead counter to the direction of the manifestation itself, and ultimately carry us back to our Source in the Unmanifest."

Note the watery language: "Are you then Virgil -- that great fountainhead / Whence such a flood of eloquence has flowed?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Middle Age Crazy

As we know, the Divine Comedy begins with a hint of what it's all about, which is to say, the Mother of all mid-life crises: Midway upon the journey of our life....

D'oh!

We think of the "mid-life crisis" occurring in middle age. When I was a lad, the tripping point was around 40, but nowadays it seems to be more like 50, or perhaps even later. This is not necessarily a positive development, for it only means that we can put off the crisis a little longer by nurturing the illusions that maintain us and confer a bogus meaning upon our lives.

But make no mistake: any meaning short of God is no meaning at all. It's either God or nothing, Yahweh or the low-way, O or Ø. PZ Myers may be sociopathic (Taranto also comments on his moral depravity here), but at least he's intellectually honest enough to acknowledge that for the atheist, a baby can be no more intrinsically valuable than a burger. (My site meter indicates the presence of PZ readers, based upon the allegation that I wish to attract his attention. Do not flatter yourselves, children. Nothing does not attract us, although many nothings are strangely attracted to this blog for reasons only they don't understand.)

The good news is that if there is true meaning -- AKA Truth -- then there is God.

Now, life is not a mathematical equation. Rather, it is a mythsemantical journey, so one cannot actually assign a number to "mid-life."

Rather, as I believe I once heard Donald Fagen say, life itself is a continual crisis. Every stage of life is a mid-life crisis. For example, my son is having a mid-life crisis between the oedipal and latency stages of development. And it's no less intense than it is for some pathetic One Cosmos troll and obsessive stalker who wakes up and realizes he's a crock roach.

How do we know Dante is in crisis? Because he tells us so in the second line: I found myself within a forest dark. For us, the forest is a place of primal beauty, of slackful relaxation, of peaceful nature unsullied by civilization.

But for premodern man, the forest was a place of great danger. It marked the edge of safety, beyond which you were taking your life into your own hands. To venture in alone would be almost suicidal.

Hey Don, don't forget the hot dogs and beer!


Even outside the forest, the darkness of the premodern world was unimaginable for us. But inside the forest it was even darker. At night, you wouldn't have been able to see your hand in front of your face. There is an evolutionary reason why children are afraid of the dark, because darkness is where the monsters literally dwelt. You wouldn't even know what ate you. Thus the old adage, he who hesitates is lunch.

The little clearing of civilization is where things are illuminated. But this area of light is a hard-won prize, surrounded by darkness. No wonder people cling to their stupid cultures, since they are preferable to living in the dark.

In other words, whatever else a culture is, it is a collective defense against the dark. Never ask why people believe such idiotic things. Just remember the danger of the surrounding forest.

In this regard, it is analogous to the ego, which serves the same purpose on an individual basis. In treating patients, one of the first things Freud noticed is that you cannot simply confront them about their irrational beliefs. Reason is impotent, because the irrational belief is a defense against the dark. Just like culture, the ego, whatever else it is, is a little area of light surrounded by darkness. Freud called the darkness the "unconscious," but this is very misleading.

A better term would simply be consciousness, which is to the ego as the cosmos is to a planet. It is "relatively infinite," while the ego is the attempt to reduce infinity to some manageable chunk. It is not actually possible to do this, the reason being that the contained can never contain the container. But people never stop trying. Only when it reaches the point of absurdity do we call it "pathological."

For example, the compulsive personality reduces reality down to, say, a struggle with germs. He becomes preoccupied with cleanliness, washing his hands repeatedly, disinfecting everything, taking multiple showers a day. In this case, reality has become a kind of narrow beam of light, beyond which is the dangerous forest full of microscopic monsters.

But all ideologies -- and I mean all of them -- are just the same process writ large. Again: God or nothing. Everything "outside" God is just a nasty case of OCD.

It is the same with paranoia. The paranoid personality attempts to manage the forest by projecting it outside the self, into others.

I don't want to jump too far ahead, but the forest Dante is talking about is obviously the interior/unconscious one. To rip a vivid example from the headlines, liberals routinely manage their rage by projecting it into conservatives, as they did in the case of the Arizona mass murderer. They fear what they hate, because the projected hatred returns to them on the rebound. It's all an intrapsychic process, reinforced and leant legitimacy by the collective nature of the neurosis. Just as in the case of a primitive culture, there is safety in numbers.

I don't want to get sidetracked, but Taranto has been doing a great job exposing the absurdity of it all. Most people mark it down to hypocrisy, but it's much worse than that, since many leftists actually believe what they're saying. When we say that a defense mechanism is unconscious, we mean unconscious. It has to be unconscious, because these people obviously aren't stupid, and it requires no intelligence to see that the charges are not true.

Third line: For the straightforward pathway has been lost. Why is that? Because, as we have discussed many times, the realm of the unconscious (and supraconscious) is not governed by linear, aristotelian logic.

Rather, it is the world of symmetrical logic, as described by Ignacio Matte Blanco, so to plunge into the unconscious is to give oneself over to a world with very different rules. In the unconscious, linear math is of no assistance. For example, in this world it is completely unproblematic that One should equal Three, and vice versa.

Because the unconscious is always in us -- or, to be precise, we are in it -- a deadly crisis is always just around the coroner. As Upton explains, "This is the point where outward manifestation has reached its limit, after which a person must either ascend spiritually or be content to live within the progressive deterioration of the form of his life."

In other words, life is either ascending or descending, for the same reason that there is either God or nothing. Absent the ascent, then gravity and entropy take over.

But we cannot properly ascend with our little ego, which again, is just a defense against the dark. Rather, we must first colonize the darkness. We must redeem our own personal hell, so to speak, in order to be fit for the greater Light. The great balls of purifying fire precede illumination.

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Alighierical Tour of Heaven and Hell

I'm no Dante scholar, but this book by Jennifer Upton is certainly the best I've ever read on the Divine Comedy. In fact, one could probably travel down to the seventh circle of academia and not encounter wisdom of this depth and lucidity. It's going straight into the liberatoreum of permanent Raccoomendations.

Besides, does anyone go to college anymore in order to navigate the soul, expand the subjective horizon, colonize the nonlocal mindscape, and venture across the great divide separating man from the incorruptible sphere of the celestial beings and household gnomes?

I didn't think so.

Dante was one of the great pneumanauts -- spiritual explorers -- of all timelessness. He cannot be confined to western civilization, but is an example of what I was referring to in pp. 182-187, in the deuscontinuous transition between Mind and Spirit. For illiterate readers, a hint is provided on p. 183, which depicts Virgil leading Dante to the toppermost of the poppermost, where you can see the tail end of heaven dangling from above:


The world is, to put it bluntly, a trap. Or, one might say that it is a wall for the tenured, but a door -- or picture window at least -- for the Raccoon. It is not just a room with a view but a womb with a pew, meaning that life is a kind of pre-natal experience, with all this implies: conception, gestation, risks, complications, contractions, labor pains, all of it.

Which is why one must be born of water and of spirit. In one way or another, one must be born again from above, which is why you might say that this blog specializes in midwifery.

A particularly dangerous situation is the breeched birth, in which one is spiritually upside-down and trying to come out ass-first. This explains countless people one meets in this life.

Back when Mrs. G was pregnant, there would be anxious moments when the baby didn't make its presence known by banging on the cave walls. We had an incredibly nice doctor who would treat these as emergencies, take her in right away, and do a quick doppler in order to reassure her that all was well.

Now that I think about it, post-uterine life involves three trimesters. There is childhood, followed by "outer" adulthood, and then "inner" adulthood. At first we are taken care of by others, until we reach the age of maturity, at which point we become independent, get a gig, raise a family, and care for others.

But in the east -- and really, in any spiritual tradition -- there are two sides to adulthood, each no less important than the other (at least from the Raccoon perspective). And bear in mind that while we can distinguish between the two, we cannot actually separate them, any more than we could make a sharp division between planting -- or even just tilling the soil -- and harvesting.

It is one continuous process, even though the human station allows us to recognize abstract and rather puzzling discontinuities of various kinds and degrees. For example, nature knows no discontinuity between, say, physics and biology, whereas human beings are able to categorize the two. It is the same with "spirit" and "matter."

Anyway, as I was saying about Dante, he was clearly a pneumanaut par excellence. To treat him as a mere "literary figure" is to miss the point entirely, unless it is simply to emphasize that he was able to express perennial truth in an especially beautiful -- which is to say, truthful -- manner (beauty being the radiance of the true). Here's what he says upon reaching the edge of the exterior frontier:

We mounted upward through the rifted rock,
And on each side the border pressed upon us,
And feet and hands the ground beneath required

Where we were come upon the upper rim
Of the high bank, out on the open slope,
"My Master," said I, "what way shall we take?"


Life is that rocky road, but the road has a purpose and a destination. Absent a destination, then it is just a kind of trap, which is why, if one is an atheist, it makes perfect nonsense to simply take the leap into infrarational absurdity, à la Nietzsche. In other words, for the atheist, all roads lead nowhere, so why take one?

Thankfully, we have a gallery of esteemed saints and sages to show us the way up, in, and out: "[A] few of the trapped ones, by following a newly discovered current of being through to its nonlocal source upstream, far away from the terminal moraine of the outward-turned senses, did eventually identify a passage hidden in plain sight, through which lay yet another surprising but felicitous discovery: a Mighty Strange Attractor at the...

Drum roll please....

"... end of history -- Woo hoo!!! -- the One True Being ontologically prior to existence and from Whom existence itself is derived."

Yes, "by merely fooling around with the software of their own minds, these inward explorers -- eccentric psychonauts mostly unfit for conventional existence or simply unwilling to accept the slave wages of normality -- identified a trap door into a vertical dimension, and found there a return-route to the forgotten country from which humans had set out Before the Beginning" (the ainsoferable B'ob).

Please note that the structure of the Divine Comedy proceeds from hell to purgatory and on to paradise. One might say that spirit plunges down to the very depths of existence, in order to recover and redeem as much reality as humanly possible: "Dante's apparent descent into Hell is really a spiritual ascent, not a damnation..." (Upton). Really, it's a kind of circle, more on which later.

Note that Dante's ultimate guide is true love, represented by the figure of Beatrice. Upton makes the critical point that "Many a person has reached the threshold of spiritual Truth by starting from the thinking function, only to have that Truth destroyed in this life through false feeling. True feeling, on the other hand, can be a 'homing' faculty, drawing us toward the Center almost faster than we could travel on our own initiative" (emphasis mine).

Thus, when we refer to O as the Great Attractor, we are not just having a little pun at your expense. We mean this literally: we are attracted to this Oming deivoice, and voice versa. We call this attraction love: the love of truth, of beauty, and of virtue. The good man loves these things with all his heart, mind, and strength, which frankly isn't difficult to do, unless one has attended college.

Just getting warmed up. To be continued....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Making the Cosmic Loop-d-Loop

We're continuing our discussion of how to stay out of the loop.

A loop is, of course, a curving line that closes upon itself. Physicists tell us that our universe is a closed system. What they fail to realize is that if this statement is true, then it is false, because it proves that the system is not closed.

If the universe were actually closed, then we couldn't possibly understand it, any more than a moth knows why it is attracted to the light or a troll understands why he is attracted to me.

To com-prehend is to grasp, as with the hand, in such a way that it encompasses, or contains, the object therein. Thus, to comprehend something is in principle no different than the manner in which our hand contains a rock, except in a higher space. Only things transcending us cannot be fully grasped.

Only human beings may know that "it is possible to act in error." Conversely, "if fate ruled everything, error would not only be impossible, but the very idea of it would have no meaning" (Bolton). Likewise, to entertain a single regret is to acknowledge that things might have been different if only you hadn't been such a jackass and made such stupid choices.

To say "better choices" is to say truer ones -- or decisions aligned with truth and therefore rooted in reality. If the latter is impossible then our behavior is truly arbitrary, and autistics and sociopaths would be our sages and saints, respectively. The autistic's inability to penetrate beneath the surface would actually be the highest knowledge, while the sociopath's inability to behave morally would be the highest virtue.

One may say that there is nothing above logic, but one would be wrong. Even supposing, à la Spock, that our life could be governed by pure logic, we would still have to choose for that to be the case. We would have to say to ourselves, "a life rooted in logic is superior to one that isn't, therefore I will choose the former."

But one could equally say with Nietzsche or Jim Morrison that it is more fun to plunge into the Dionysian world of impulse and desire. (You may recall that the hotheaded Captain Kirk was always there to save the day when necessary, by overriding Spock's mere logic.)

Recall from yesterday's post that if something is purely determined or purely accidental, then it cannot be caused per se. This is because if something is purely determined, it is just an immediate implication of what preceded it, and not truly separate from it except in our imagination. And if something is completely contingent, then there is no meaningful link between cause and effect.

Again, the world of spirit is one of freedom, whereas the world of matter is alternately determined or random. Human beings are the vertical link between those two realms, which is where our freedom abides.

In Kant's phrase, this is the "kingdom of ends," or what Raccoons call the cosmic telovator. For human beings, things don't inevitably come about as a result of fate, i.e., the past. Rather, meaningful human action is always guided by a future we wish to bring about.

In truth, nature is shot through with formal and final causation. What makes human beings unique is the ability to consciously partake of them, i.e., to enact a plan or pursue an ideal.

In both cases, you might say that the future flows into the present, whereas with the material and efficient causation of primitive scientism, the present is purely the result of the past, with no remainder (again, the closed loop).

Any number of conditions are fated by nature, among them death, embodiment, sex (male or female), gravity. As Schuon writes, these may be summarized as the "four accidents of our existence: the world, life, the body and the soul; or we might also say: space, time, matter and desire."

It is precisely these contingencies that we rise above and over which we may triumph in spiritual development. But please note that the physicist who pronounces on the cosmos covertly does the same thing, for surely a mathematical "theory of everything" would represent a triumph over space, time, matter and desire.

Again, hell is the quintessential closed loop, and we would never deny that many people choose to live there. Dante said (in Upton) that those living in hell "have lost the good of the intellect."

And what is the good of the intellect? Well, obviously its ability to know truth. After all, if it can't even do that, then what good is it? Having an intellect would be as pointless as, say, a liberal man technically possessing gonads.

As Upton says, the hellbound "may be 'smart' like cunning politicians and lawyers, but they have no intellectual intuition of higher realities." Translated to politics, our freedom is protected by the Constitution, which is not a document that "gives" us anything. Rather, it preserves our intrinsic freedom by limiting the power of the state.

And it is necessary to go back up to the Declaration of Independence in order to understand the ground of the Constitution, i.e., our sacred rights and duties that can only have a supernatural origin, as Lincoln knew so well.

Now, as mentioned a couple of posts back, whatever physicists may say about the universe, it is critical to bear in mind that they are not talking about anything ultimately "real" in the metaphysical sense, only abstractions they use to frame and understand their data.

But the cosmos is obviously very different from, and infinitely more than, this abstraction. No one lives in the cold and dead universe of physics.

Rather, the world of physics is just one of many departments in the University of Soul. As Bolton points out, the soul is "a sphere of consciousness which contains the physical universe in its own mode, and many more subtle realities besides" (emphasis mine).

Put another way, the soul is "the container of our world-representation." The ego is merely an adaptation to the world (both the objective and subjective worlds), whereas the soul is a microcosmos -- an ordered totality -- that both mirrors and cocreates the experienced world. Otherwise, there would be no cosmos, only a linear succession of disconnected perceptions and sensations.

This is entailed in one of our first principles, "as above, so below," i.e., "man is made in the image and likeness of the Creator." But there is image and there is likeness, and human time is the distance between the two, which is none other than the spiritual path.

This path is a kind of wider, extra-cosmic loop, except that it is a möbius strip, which means that its inside is outside, and vice versa.

Or, in Schuon's description, it may be thought of as "a spiroidal movement around a motionless Center," except that the movement travels in both directions -- in other symbols, (↓↑).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lord Keep Me Out of the Loop

The loop -- or løøp -- is the world of purely horizontal causation. It is precisely this loop that free will is able to "rise above" and operate upon.

But clearly, there is nothing in nature that could have somehow willed itself to rise out of the loop. Rather, any apparent loophole would simply be another aspect of the loop. If one is a materialist, this is the way it is and the way it must be. But such reductiognostic sophistry is nothing more than a childish GIGO fit.

To be perfectly accurate, human beings do not actually rise above the loop. Rather, our means of inscape is a descent from above.

Again, we may think of this descent as a line in vertical space that connects us to our creator in the most intimate way. Which is why Eckhart was orthoparadoxically correct in saying that the eye with which I see God is the very same eye with which God sees I.

Note that this is another kind of loop. We call it the loopwhole, for it encompasses the All -- like the eye atop the pyramid on the back of your legal tender.

As the Rabbi expresses it, there is really only one source of light. The soul is not so much a "point" but more a "continuous line of spiritual being" that stretches from a general source to "the specific body of a particular person" -- and beyond, even into the darkness.

But note that this darkness is not and cannot be "intrinsic" or essential; rather, it is a function of the diminution of the light as it proceeds further away from its source, for shadows are a function of light, not vice versa.

We can all get caught up in closed loops of various kinds. For a human being, these are always pathological. Indeed, they are the quintessence of pathology, being that life -- and this includes spiritual life, not to mention psychic life -- must remain an open system in order to grow and develop. Once the mind is closed -- or in a loop -- there can be no true growth, only the illusion thereof.

This is for reasons alluded to in yesterday's post, that in a closed system, each event entails the next and is fully entailed in a previous one, extending back to infinity -- a false infinity, to be sure, but we cannot blame scientists for not being metaphysicians. They are not bound by the prescription, "metaphysician, whole thyself."

One could more accurately call it "hell," which is not eternal proper (which only applies to God), only "perpetual." Not only is hell closed, but it is the quintessence of ontological closed-ness. Not for nothing did Dante speak of "the circle of hell."

We'll get back to hell momentarily, but I want to continue with Bolton's discussion of the higher space of free will. And when we say "higher," we not only mean in the vertical sense, but also because this is a space of higher dimensionality.

Indeed, it is because of this higher dimensionality that we cannot comprehend the mind through any model of linear causation. Rather, the mind is in and of hyperspace, so it simply cannot be contained in any model derived from everyday Aristotelean space. Rather, the converse: the four-dimensional space of physics is contained in hyperspace, just as the circle is contained by the sphere (and this applies perforce to the circle of hell). We can only be in hell because hell is in us.

Bolton makes the subtle point that an accidental cause cannot really be thought of as a cause per se, in the sense that it "does not exist specifically for what it brings about." We are surrounded by such accidental causes, which are precisely the kinds of closed loops discussed above. In themselves, they are meaningless and always add up to zero.

But human beings have the freedom to respond in diverse ways to these accidental causes. This is because we partake of the higher Cause that can operate on the lower ones.

And this "is due to the presence in us of the 'weakness and slackness' of not-being" (Bolton) referred to in yesterday's post. Again, our space of freedom, or slack, must be a realm of non-specificity in order to be truly free. Specificity, or determination, is the opposite of freedom, and again places us in the loop.

Speaking of closed loops, I remember a period of my life in which I was trapped in a nasty loop. This was back when I first entered graduate school -- or it entered me, to be literal -- and was reading Freud. It shows you how internalizing a bad metaphysic can result in real despair. This absurcular loop resulted from taking to heart Freud's ideas about psychic determinism. There may also have been some herbal cigarets involved, which tautened the dread.

Long story short, if everything is caused by the primitive unconscious, and our conscious self is just a kind of derivative defense mechanism, then what is the point of life except the discharge of pure animal impulse? But I was already doing that. I surely didn't need graduate school to learn how to be a beast.

It was around then that I stumbled upon Ken Wilber's Spectrum of Consciousness, which succeeded in vaulting me out of that loop. He and I have since gone our separate whys, but I will always be thankful for what thy wilber done. Life is full of such offramps and inscapes. But once you exit the unfreeway, it doesn't mean you have to rely on the other guy's map. Indeed, to do so is to defeat the whole purpose of going on one's own bewilderness adventure -- just like Jesus did after his baptism.

When we deliberate, contemplate, meditate, or pray, we are out of the loop. For me, when I write these posts, I am out of the loop.

In fact, that's pretty much the whole point of this verticalisthenic. Actually, I am trying to relux into the more fruitful loop of the divine-human partnership, and just see what comes down. Re-pent is trancelighted from metanoia, which means to turn around. But in practical terms, it essentially means to turn around and get out of the loop. It is to leave the material thingdom for the divine kingdom.

Cooncidentally, this is beautifully discussed in Jennifer Upton's Dark Way to Paradise: Dante's Inferno in Light of the Spiritual Path, wherein she describes how the Inferno is a detailed description of the closed loop of hell. And while it may or may not apply to post-mortem reality, it undoubtedly applies to this life.

She also shows the necessity of hell, for it can be a "road to heaven." Along these lines, she quotes Martin Lings, who wrote that "the descent into hell" is necessary "for the discovery of the soul's worst possibilities." These "need to be recovered, purified and reintegrated" if we are to be fit for the upper storeys, i.e., the repenthouse. Anything incompatible with God must be left behind, like those boosters that fall off an ascending rocket ship.

Hell is also a static place, in keeping with its status as a closed system. Its unhappitants are "mired eternally in the form of their ruling sin," and "fixed in their stations": "they are chained to all the sins, the fears and the angers they simply could not face in life" (Upton).

In contrast, purgatory -- which you might say is where we live -- has in it the possibility of vertical movement, and is thus "the archetype of the spiritual Path" (ibid.).

In hell, "being itself is a burden." But we could also put it conversely: when we are burdened by being, we know we are in hell. Which is why Raccoons pray: O Lord, keep us out of the løøp!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seize the Principle and Let the Dead Bury the Tenured

We left off yesterday discussing the interior space of freedom we all inhabit, only to a greater or lesser degree. It is within this space that the self is able to exert its will as a "first cause."

Obviously, if there is no first cause, then each cause is nothing but an effect, extending to infinity. And if that is the case, then nature is a causally closed system with no possibility of genuine selfhood and all it implies.

But if the cosmos is causally closed, then there are actually no causes and no effects, just the illusion thereof. Nor could there be time, since it would really be nothing more than chronologically extended space. In a monistic system, nothing is separate from the system, so no novelty is possible. This is discussed on p. 72 of the book, where it states that

"the necessary cannot come into existence, because coming into existence is a transition from not existing to existing. The purely necessary in fact cannot essentially change, because it is always itself. In other words, novelty is truly creative and therefore contingent and unnecessary. Conversely, if something is strictly determined, it cannot be novel or creative, for the same reason you cannot compose a symphony by merely applying a predetermined rule for the combination of notes."

Rather, reality is comprised of nature and adventure; the adventure is possible because nature, while "stable," is infused with a spiritual element that is able to steer it in the same way we rely upon the unchanging laws of physics and chemistry to build a car. If both the automobile and its inventor are equally constrained by the laws of nature, then neither could ever have come into existence.

We are able to slip those surly bonds of physics every time we so much as smile at a friend, let alone think a new thought. To even suggest that thought is determined in the same way nature is... well, first of all, if that were true, one could never know it, because one would be indistinguishable from the very nature one is attempting to understand.

But more absurdly, it is to take the metaphor of science wayyyyy too far. Metaphors are tools, not the toolmaker, the big queer Homo, not the dandy little faber.

As we have said a number of times, the progress of science involves the reduction of multiplicity to unity. A good scientific explanation organizes a range of diverse phenomena under a deeper principle. The deeper principle is not "caused" in the same way the phenomena are -- say, the principles of higher math.

As Bolton explains, real knowledge -- which is to say, knowledge of principles -- "is what pertains to first causes." Thus, extending a horizontal sequence "to infinity would extinguish knowledge as well as causality."

Here again, ironically, both scientism and religious fundamentalism end in the identical nul de slack which eliminates the self, creativity, free will, real knowledge, and most everything else we care about.

Thus, our first principle is the Uncaused Cause (O), which entails within itself a number of other principles which we will discuss as we grow along.

A second principle -- well, to be perfectly accurate, we cannot call this a principle, for it would imply that the Creator was compelled to give it, which takes us back to determinism. We are referring, of course, to the gift of our deiformity, which we subsequently elevate to an explanatory principle.

Again, we believe that human beings are in the image of the Creator, which is why we have that palpable spark of the Uncaused Cause within us.

This interior spark is obviously not -- and could not be -- self-generated. Rather, it's like the pilot light in your furnace. I don't know about you, but I turn mine off from around April to November, and re-light it around Thanksgiving, when the weather gets cold.

The point is, the pilot is always there, but it is up to us to ignite it and become the conscious co-pilot of our lives. This is a more than adequate metaphor of the Uncaused Cause within us. It is a gift of grace, always there. But we must recognize, accept, and ignite it in order to benefit from its light and its warmth, or Truth and Love, respectively. And we have to watch over it just in case it is blown out by a stiff breeze or some other exigency.

Once we have established the principle of an Uncaused Cause, then, as Bolton explains, there is "no reason why there may not be many other, lesser kinds of uncaused causes."

In this regard, on the basis of pure metaphysics, I think it is infinitely more challenging -- well, impossible -- to try to imagine a cosmos with no uncaused cause. Again, this merely generates the "bad infinite" discussed by Hegel -- the dark night in which all cows are black. Nothing can be known in such a cosmos. You might say that knowledge itself proves the Uncaused Cause, again, since real knowledge is knowledge of principles.

Think of it this way. If we live in a universe of pure horizontal causation, then we are in the absurd situation of inhabiting (exhabiting is more like it) a cosmos that is simultaneously purely necessary, and yet, purely accidental. In other words, everything would happen for a reason, but for no reason at all!

This is why Aquinas was correct in equating the real with the knowable, and the knowable with the created, thus ending the temptation to ontological, existential, and epistemological absurdity with one swell whoop. So, whoopeeeeeeeee!

Reality is truth, and vice versa. In affirming the createdness of being, we are able to get on, in, and up with our lives, and let the dead bury the tenured.

Now, another, more subtle principle is that being must be posterior to non-being. Most religious folks don't bother with this principle, as it's not strictly necessary for non-metaphysicians. But the truth of the matter is that being is the first fruit of something surpassing it, which we call "non-being," only because it is beyond all human category, the broadest of which is being.

Being is the most general category we can conceive, so all we can say of this principle is that it is beyond being. Some people just call it nothing, while others call it O, or the Tao, or the Godhead (Eckhart), or shunyata, or the Ground, or the ain sof (Kabbala).

Now, here is the subtle part: the uncaused must partake of non-being, which is to say, total "non-specification." Again, it is the "empty space" out of which free will operates.

Some of the most straightforward and orthoparadoxical explanations of this principle are found in the Tao Te Ching, e.g. the idea that We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being but non-being is what we use.

It is no different with regard to the space of mind. You might say that knowledge is what we use to build this mansion, but that the resultant inner space is what makes it livable.

I'm sure that as my readers have grown spiritually -- which is to say, expanded the nonlocal space in which they live -- they find it more and more difficult to be around people who live in their cramped little spaces of scientism, or materialism, or secularism, or feminism, or leftism, or any other spiritual straitjacket. Man is the microcosm, not the micro-ism.

The point is that non-being is a kind of pure space. It is quite literally the origin of our cosmic slack, which is to say, the "place" where we are free from any determination except for what God has willed us to be, which is to say, a unique spark in the dark in that park before time. You know, paradise.

This spark at the center of non-being is symbolized ʘ.

To be discontinuously continued....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Aliens Among Us and the Final Frontier

As we were saying yesterday, free will is an acquired taste. You might say that it must be freely chosen; it is only offered, never forced upon unwilling victims.

It is also on a continuum, and is essentially indistinguishable from spiritual growth, the reason being that the latter expands the "space" from where free will arises. Free will may be thought of as a spark of the uncaused cause within. It would not be inaccurate to call it the "caused uncaused cause" or the "created creator."

In Foundations of Free Will, Bolton notes that we begin life being almost "wholly determined by the external." However, some of us move on from there. By transforming ourselves, these external causes no longer act on the same entity; a kind of "break" is created in nature, where linear causation becomes discontinuous.

It reminds me of Leonard Cohen's line: There's a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in. Indeed, Bolton writes that "every breakdown of a culture is also an opening through which a way back to its spiritual foundation can be found by those who are alert for it."

Which is why, as bad as things might appear to be at the moment -- and they are bad indeed -- it is nevertheless an auspicious time to be alive for extreme seekers and off-road spiritual aspirants. Law of Compensation, and all that.

I discussed this somewhere in the Coonifesto -- here it is, p. 233, amongst the commanishads and upanishalts. Believe it or not, it falls under the heading of the Second Law of Reversed Thermodynamics, right after the self-tautology that there is no O but O. Being that there is no O but O, you shall not deify Ø, much less (k).

I won't remumbo the entire jumbo here, but there is also some relevant material on p. 236, on observing the sabbath speed limit: "ultimately the sabbath must be internalized, so that the very real and tangible presence of the world cannot sink its teeth into you and remake you in its image." Various Raccoon techniques for accomplicing this include lowering the Zone of Silence, internalizing the the PortaPew, mastering the UnderReaction, achieving TimeDilation, and of course, installing the DePakinator.

Now, just because we are subject to external and internal causes of various kinds, it hardly means that we lack free will. For one thing, we couldn't be aware of these causes unless they were pushing against a part of us that may or may not be happy about it, and is capable of resisting.

This is why only human beings may become neurotic, which essentially means that they may be at cross-purposes with themselves, and subject to internalized causes that clash with the will of our true self.

As we mentioned yesterday, it is critical to understand how truth and freedom are intrinsically linked, and how one is strictly impossible in the absence of the other. As Bolton explains, freedom cannot occur in the absence of truth, because if our actions are based upon falsehood, we cannot say that they were free in any meaningful sense.

In other words, if I believe something that is utterly false, and then organize my life around that falsehood, no freedom can result. Rather, freedom results from acknowledging truth and acting upon it. Conversely, actions can "always be made involuntary by ignorance of matters of fact" (Bolton). We are only free to act on truth.

Think of a courtroom scene in which false evidence is offered in order to convict someone and send them to prison, thus eliminating their freedom. But the identical thing happens if we convict ourselves with false evidence. We end up in a prison of our own making.

This must also mean that the free act is "one which is motivated toward the intelligible good" and which "must have a final cause in something higher in the scale of values in respect of truth and moral and aesthetic value" (Bolton). Thus, we are only free to do good. Those who do evil are slaves, irrespective of how it may subjectively feel to be operating outside the Law.

We all know that our liberty is rooted in the rule of law. But terrestrial laws are (or should be) merely instantiations of celestial ones, eg. don't murder, steal, bear false witness, etc. If theft is legal -- as, for example, under socialism -- there can be no freedom (or a severe limitation of it).

But nor can there be the free pursuit of truth under socialism, because the state must prevent certain threatening avenues from being explored. Thus, it is no surprise that the state-run media is on the warpath against those of us who simply want to diminish the power of the state. They are only acting in their perceived self-interest, which comes down to power, not truth.

Speaking of which, is it not ironic that a new hero of the left is "a septuagenarian white sheriff from Arizona with a hostility to free speech"? Here again we see a tool of the state bearing false witness, ultimately in order to diminish our freedom.

Sheriff Dupeschtick is a quintessential sleazy reicher. As Bolton writes, "the typical result of such actions is for the will to become the prisoner of other wills." In other words, to the extent that one agrees with the Sheriff, one become a prisoner of his lies (just as the left remains a prisoner of the lie that "Bush lied").

To withhold our assent to the Lie is to commit a flagrant act of freedom. Conversely, "evil actions are therefore never more than semi-free at their inception." And they only progress from there, "toward states [that are] are ever-increasingly under the power of alien causes, owing to which their freedom would tend almost to disappear" (Bolton).

Now, what is an "alien cause" but a mind parasite? To be perfectly accurate, the latter is an internalized alien cause. We are all subject to alien causes all day long, but it doesn't mean we must act on them. Just because I hear neo-Marxist rhetoric from my government, I don't have to believe it.

But if I do assent to these liars, then I have internalized a vicious and self-defeating mind parasite that now has influence over me, and is limiting my freedom. Then one's life is given over to fate; we have sunk beneath ourselves into the world of these lower causes, so that one is dragged along on the Darwinian monkeygoround instead of rising upon the spiral stairs / That lead up to that heart of light.

In short, what would have become your individuated self "will remain a more or less undifferentiated part of the macrocosm, and will not develop into a microcosm" (Bolton). You have committed a self-administered celestial abortion.

And this also explains how the key to state control is in the Lie. You must assent to lies in order to give control over to the state. As Ronald Reagan said, "A government cannot control the economy without controlling people," which means lying to them -- not accidentally, but essentially.

Nor can there be socialism without unhinged moralizing. The left doesn't actually offer economic arguments, but substitutes moral arguments in the space where economics should be. You only have to read a single column by the left's most influential economist, Paul Krugman, to understand this. Instead of thought, we are treated to another bout of encopresis, fecal smearing, and political tourette's syndrome.

For the Raccoon, the interior "space of freedom" is the final (and only) frontier. Of it, Bolton writes that "ignoring the 'empty' aspect of the soul-life is by no means immediately evident, but it inevitably leads to relations with alien wills and forces in which one's own will has less and less relevance."

These alien powers and principalities are what we call the "tissue of mind parasites," or the conspiracy to rob you of your slack.

To be continued...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Free Atlas, Great God Almighty a Free Atlas!

I just finished reading Robert Bolton's Foundations of Free Will, which touches on many of the sane themes we've been discussing lately.

For example, Bolton agrees that freedom and necessity are not opposites but complementary, and that one would be impossible (and even unthinkable) in the absence of the other. Necessity relates "to free will as the earth with its fixed shape and cardinal points relates to the direction-finding of a traveler" (ibid.).

If we remove such constraints we are "free," but in a way that is just as meaningless as being fully determined. Without these constraints, freedom devolves to "just another word for nothing left to lose."

Bolton also reminds us that man "is situated on the dividing-line between two realms, those of nature, where necessity rules, and of the spirit, where freedom rules." Thus, without objective epistemological and moral constraints -- i.e., truth and virtue -- we could be no more free than a person floating aimlessly in space with no orientation whatsoever.

And this, of course, leads to one of our core Raccoon principles, that freedom is a function of truth, and vice versa. If truth does not exist -- or, if man cannot know it -- then freedom is strictly impossible and even inconceivable.

Conversely, because man was made to know truth, he is created to be free; or, in an even higher sense, he is created to create, which combines the most felicitous union of truth and freedom with their fair sister beauty. For the superior man, nothing should be done artlessly.

This is not a principle that should be passed over lightly, for it is one of the keys to this whole existentialiada with free holiness on the side. For it entails its corollary: that those who embrace the Lie are not -- and cannot be -- free. Lies can only ape a facsimian of freedom, for freedom is obviously not free if it is oriented toward error.

If you spend your life in subjugation to the Lie, you will have wasted the uppertunity of a lifetome, for you will have lived as an illiterate slave. Might as well not have been born, except at least your bad example can serve as a tutelary tale and cautionary tool for those who are tempted to believe that truth is relative or a mere cultural construct.

We all know people who spend their lives buried beneath themselves in a tomb of illusion, which is why the unexhumined life is not worth living.

Think of those cardinal points alluded to in the first paragraph. What if there are cardinal points all around, but they all arbitrarily point the wrong way? A person will rely upon them to guide him through life's journey, even though they lead precisely nowhere.

Therefore, this person's subjective sense of freedom -- irrespective of how "real" if feels -- is completely illusory. Such is the "academic freedom" of the tenured, which is supposed to be a means, not just a deadened nul-de-slack. Severed from truth, such faux freedom perishes with each vain publication.

Bolton also agrees with us that freedom cannot be an either/or proposition. Rather, it exists on a coontinuum, and not just because of the evil and lie-bound assouls who would deprive us of it.

Rather, in a free society such as ours, obstacles to freedom are clearly situated primarily within. As we ascend vertically, we can flush away these impurities, which is why man is his own best enema.

At any rate, freedom "is a possibility which develops out of an originally unfree state" (Bolton). And unless the reality of freedom is emphasized from the outset, "most human beings will not bother to develop their natural capacities to the full" (ibid.), as we see in the Islamic world. Since they believe everything is fated by Allah, why bother trying to improve oneself?

The same spiritual illness afflicts the left, in that their principle lie is that human beings are mere objects who are defined by race, class and gender, and who react in a deterministic way to the environment around them.

This leads logically to their theory of government, which posits a large and intrusive state to manipulate people toward its preferred ends. Of course, they never explain how the elites who determine the preferred ends are able to escape the chain of epistemological causation and freely perceive a reality unconditioned by their class-based "false consciousness."

You don't even have to believe in free will in order to know it is real. Bolton uses the example of two people, one of whom believes in free will, the other of whom does not. As a consequence of believing in it, the person will conduct himself quite differently than the one who does not. One little spud will endeavor to actualize his potential, while the other will remain a half-baked potato too lazy to even invent the couch.

Thus, we see how belief of any kind enters the causal chain to alter human reality. Again, this is rather obvious when we consider cultures that cherish freedom vs. those that deny it. Ye shall know the latter by their fruitlessness, both individually and collectively.

Unfree cultures tend to produce worthless people, as in the Palestinian terrortories or the New York Times idiotorial board, to cite a couple examples of low-hanging fruitlessness.

If providence subsists prior to fate, this must be analogous to what we were saying the other day about entropy being parasitic on order. Obviously we could not speak of disorder in the absence of order.

Therefore, no matter what physicists say about the priority of the second law of thermodynamics, God exists prior to the world, not just in the horizontal past, but in the descent of each vertical moment. If there is any order, there is only One transcendent order and one theography course to pass through. And that's an order!

So don't just recycle that free atlas the Creator issues us at birth, for it is a map to the stars.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Religious Causation and the Climate of Love

Q: What caused that evil assoul to murder six people?

A. Jared Loughner.

Q: What causes liberals to imagine that causes outside Jared Loughner caused Jared Loughner to murder six people? (We are assuming, of course, that he is capable of distinguishing right from wrong.)

A: That is impossible for the liberal to answer, owing to the infinite regression of liberal fantasies about psychic causation. If everything is caused by something less, then so too are liberal ideas about causation.

But the short answer is usually college, where young adults go to eliminate their common sense, the first step in indoctrinating them with liberal ideology. If you can get a person to doubt the most obvious things, then you can get them to doubt anything, from truth, to free will, to objective morality. And this is the space the liberal exploits in order to fill with their nonsense.

As I have mentioned before, just because someone pretends to be irreligious, it hardly means that they actually are. If you consider the fact that virtually all human beings for all of human history have been religious, we're talking about something that is so deeply ingrained in the human being that it would be folly to imagine that one could so easily slip out of this reality by a mere conscious declaration. (Indeed, adopting the moronic view of the psychic determinist, what actually causes the person to reject religion? Perhaps it is just the climate of anti-religious bigotry among our elites.)

It is critical to bear in mind that religion is not just a content, but a container. It is not just a belief system but a dynamic mode of thought. And in order to comprehend religious truth, one must deploy this mode of thought, even if (as is usually the case) it is done unconsciously. No one needs to do it consciously, which is one of the beauties of authentic revelation, which has been "pre-thought," so to speak, by a mind vastly superior to ours.

While the average person routinely draws upon the religious mode of thinking, they have no idea they are doing so -- any more than the person who falls in love is aware of all the unconscious processes that contribute to this phenomenon, and without which it could not occur. No one employs logic to will themselves to fall in love. And it would be absurd for a rationalist to come along and say they don't believe in love just because it escapes their little net of reason.

Rather, once the person enters the "space" of eros, they are entering a kind of ancient cathedral that long antedates their own personal existence. Hidden forces begin to emerge, as if one is suddenly thrust upon the stage of a very old play. Remember?

I do, partly because I was by no means prepared for the forces that were unleashed when I was 17. For a weaker man, it might have been, in the words of Sonny Boy Williamson, her funeral and my trial, but the point is that there are human realities that it would be foolish to pretend we understand, or that we can simply "reject" with our local ego. Nothing could be more naive.

The same obviously applies to religion. Much better to simply acknowledge that one is religious rather than to pretend one has escaped this vital and pervasive mode of thought. For the consciously religious person, it is strictly impossible to escape religiosity as a consequence of our deiform nature. In other words, the plain fact of the matter is that human beings are in the image of their Creator. The absolute abides within us, which is why we may know absolutely -- which is another way of saying know, full stop. It also means that a spark of the "uncaused cause" indwells us, i.e., divine freedom.

Think of what happens when one becomes a mother. It is as if a whole new computer program kicks in. One doesn't have to accept it. Rather, one can only reject it. Many "born again" experiences are analogous to this, in that the person's "religious mode" has suddenly come on line, so they are able to see and understand a whole new dimension of reality that was there all the time, but had gone undetected without the software to discern it. It is no different than what words look like to the illiterate -- just random squiggles.

Which is why when we say that for the leftist, "nothing is sacred," we mean that ironically. For as soon as one says that, the leftist takes offense, which only proves that something is indeed sacred to the leftist, even if it is only irreverence and blasphemy. But the point is, one cannot actually be human and be unaware of the reality of the sacred, even if one idolatrously displaces it to profane objects and ideas. You can even reverse-engineer a person. Find out what is sacred to them, and you have discovered their religion.

I still remember quite vividly when my religious mode came on line and I suddenly found myself on the "other side." I don't want to romanticize this, because it is such a common experience, perhaps only made more noticeable for someone who had made the journey all the way back up from ideological atheism. As I mentioned in the book, it was analogous to those magic eye pictures, in which the third dimension suddenly pops out at you. Or do you pop into it?

Now, a religious practice largely involves maintaining and deepening one's involvement with this previously hidden dimension. At first it might be dimly perceived, or perhaps one moves in and out of it. One reason why I still struggle with conventional religiosity is that I cannot imagine, say, going to a religious service once a week and thinking that that is in any way sufficient to maintain contact with O.

Importantly, the idea of weekly worship evolved in a context that was thoroughly religious. It wasn't as if there were no religion for six days and then religion for one. But because of the radical secularization of our culture, we truly need to develop and internalize our own "private cathedral" that is with us at all times. Modernity brings countless blessings, but we must also be aware of the costs, for there is generally no blessing without a curse (and vice versa).

These blessings are mostly in the horizontal/quantitative mode, which can easily hypnotize and seduce us away from the vertical/qualitative which confers meaning upon them -- just as a disproportionately religious culture can be pulled away from the world, so it remains stuck in an unevolving socioeconomic rut. To be excessively in or out of "the world" is to push a partial truth beyond the breaking point. Rather, we should be in but not of, as the Man says.

The real Cosmos is not and cannot be synonymous with what materialists call "the universe." The universe is an abstract construct employed by scientists to help explain and frame their data. It does not actually exist, except as an abstraction. You might say that it is the (merely) logical residue of the living Cosmos, the latter of which is the ordered totality of being, as reflected on both the macro and micro scales ("as above, so below"), and in both its interior and exterior aspects (subjective and objective).

In turn, the cosmos cannot be synonymous with the Creator (pantheism), but is, however, incomprehensible in his absence. The world is none other than God, but God is not the world.

Now, each of us is born with certain invariants which constitute our true or essential self. However, these categories remain empty potential unless they are actualized in life. We are all "driven" to achieve this unique potential, something the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas calls our "destiny drive."

The word "drive" is probably misleading, because this doesn't operate like other drives, which are more mechanistic and past-to-future in their orientation. Rather, the destiny drive is clearly teleonomical, operating in a future-to-present, or top-down manner. Sensing one's destiny feels very different than discharging an urge. Furthermore, it is not a repetitive or one-time-only sort of thing, as in "What did you do last weekend?" "Oh, I gratified my destiny drive. I think I'll do it again next Saturday."

Rather, the destiny drive mysteriously applies to the whole of one's life, not just to an isolated part of it (in fact, analogous to the cosmos, you could say that it is the implicit totality of one's being, which naturally must be disclosed in time, for it cannot possibly manifest all at once). It is the ultimate organizing principle on the subjective-micro scale of human existence. Obviously it is not coterminous with the ego, which is a general function that most everyone has.

The ego is more like hands or teeth -- which is to say, a tool for navigating around internal and external reality. Just as soma is in psyche and psyche in pneuma, the ego is in the self.

The ego is unique in the way that a snowflake is unique. Yes, every snowflake is distinct, but it's a distinction without an essential difference. No snowflake surpasses "snowflakiness." Like the egos of Hollywood, everyone is different, but they're all the same flake. Alec Baldwin is no flakier than Sean Penn, and they both smell about as sweet as a Rosie or Roseanne.

Bolton discusses this question of uniqueness in Keys of Gnosis, but I would use slightly different terminology. That is, I would say that each snowflake is an individual, but they are not individuated. Only a human being can individuate, which is to say, achieve a destiny which is unique to him. Everything else in the cosmos simply is what it is; only man is orthoparadoxically both who he is and is not yet.

So yes, there is a kind of "predestination," but it is very different from the materialistic predestination of a snowflake. Human beings alone can become something they are not, and thus arrive at the wrong destination. No one has to tell a pig to be one, but you can never stop telling a liberal to be a Man.

In fact, there can be a fine line between destiny and fate. Only destiny is within the realm of providence, whereas fate implies its opposite.

Now, a universe of pure providence would be indistinguishable from a universe of pure fate, and therefore, devoid of destiny. Under a system of pure providence, only the whole system has a destiny, which is no destiny at all. This is a monist metaphysic that Obliterates the value of the unique individual.

In a materialistic context, hard determinism reduces one to a plaything of genes, physics, and chemistry, while in a Christian context, predestination reduces one to a praything of God. And in an Eastern context, one is just a preything of maya. But the whole point of traditional Christian metaphysics is that time is both real and irreversible, so that true and eternally valuable novelty occurs within it.

"For this reason," as Bolton explains, "supposedly spiritual teachings for which the total system is the only real agent [i.e., monism] are only disguised expressions of Fate," and fate is not providence, let alone destiny. Predestination explains precisely nothing, but unexplains everything of concern to us.

Rather, providence and destiny work with the freedom left over by fate, and are manifest "in the ordering of things by a benign intelligence which leads souls to a good which seems to have been pre-ordained for them, or for which they seem to have been made" (Bolton). Interestingly, we are able to recognize fate as fate, because it is a "constraining force" that can never totally contain us, and which we could not recognize "unless there were something in us which did not belong to it."

But at the same time, providence could have no meaning unless it existed over and against the "unfreedom" of fate: "[T]he Catholic idea of co-operating with Providence is linked to the idea of realizing one's individual Form or Exemplar." Thus, it is not so much that "God is my co-pilot." Rather, I am God's co-pilot, a formulation that uber-Coon Meister Eckhart would have appreciated, had he known about airplanes, which he might have used to flee from the authoritarian forces of fate in religious garb.

By the way, although airplanes crash, that is not what they were designed to do. Yes, you need a blueprint to create an airplane capable of crashing, but that is not the purpose of non-Muslim airplanes. As such, as Bolton says, there is no grounds for a "negative predestination," since creating something to fail is a contradiction of terms.

Fate has to do with those things over which we have little power, "a kind of order manifest as necessity, constraint, and coercive causality, which includes purely random events" (Bolton). For example, we are fated to die, or to live with sexual tension, or to toil for our daily bread, or to endure dopey comments from trolls.

This is very different from our destiny. Fate generally interferes with our destiny, but even then one must be cautious in leaping to conclusions, for in hindsight our lives can often look like a trail of fate which led to our destiny. Here I think that fate can serve approximately the same purpose as entropy, discussed in yesterday's post. An organism can never eliminate entropy; rather, it uses entropy by dissipating it in order to maintain its dynamic equilibrium.

Likewise, we can "dissipate" fate to achieve our destiny. In this regard, fate has a way of underminding the "best laid plans of mice and men," plans that likely came from the ego, not the Self. Thus, fate can often serve the purpose of eroding the ego's pretensions of control. This may sound a bit abstract, but it's not. For example, I have a sense that this blog has to do with my destiny -- who knows, maybe even yours, but that's for you to discern.

But I could never do this with my ego in the way. Rather, I can only achieve "control" of my destiny by giving up egoic control. I could never do this with effort. Quite the opposite. Each morning I abandon memory, desire, and understanding, in order to make a little raid on the wild godhead. So, even if I'm wrong, let it never be said that I wasn't truly, uniquely, and unprecedentedly wrong in the way only Bob could be: deeply wrong to the very core of his being. Which is the only right way to live.