Monday, April 11, 2011

Freedom Will Die, Comrades, if the State Fails to Sacrifice Enough Babies!

Now entering purgatory proper, we must ascend seven terraces in order to reach ecstasy central. The seven terraces no doubt correspond to the seven deadly sins (or capital vices). And since the cardinal sin is pride, the first terrace is reserved for the narcissistic and vainglorious who are full of nothing but themselves.

Pride -- or hubris -- is the sin from which all others flow, as it essentially involves an overvaluation of the self (or ego) accompanied by a devaluation of the other. It is as if the pole God → man is displaced to Me → You.

In another sense, pride can have no reality; rather, it is a reaction to its positive counterpart, humility, which is an objective appraisal of the self in Light of the Creator.

One shouldn't think of humility as representing an exaggerated devaluation of the self, for this too can be a disguised form of pride. In a religious context, a race to the bottom can nurture the unconscious belief that one has scrambled to the top. But humility is the way, not the end.

Much of this is addressed in the Sermon on the Mount -- Mount being the operative term, since the sermon is being delivered from the top of the purgatorial mountain we happen to be ascending.

You know, blessed are the poor in spirit. Or, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray on TV to be seen by men. And When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as they do in congress, to be honored by the state-run media.

In fact, the Sermon on the Mount can be seen as a set of "impossible" ideals which are to guide our ascent, for nothing less than the impossible can serve as the celestial attractor.

If this ideal were something easily attainable by man, it would only lend itself to the pride it is attempting to vanquish. Thus, as Dante says, Don't dwell on the form of punishment but consider what comes after that.

In other words, Dante urges us to keep our eyes on the divinized, those effigies of true humility. No, they are not down here in purgatory. Rather, we see their forms engraved upon the rock and carved in marble. This is to signify that they are in time but not of time; people come and go, but these celestial clueprints -- or icons -- will endure:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. Eternity is down here in time -- and more importantly, in flesh.

So Even when we know that everything perishes, we should still construct our temporary shelters with granite. For Values, like the soul, are born in time, but do not belong to it. Therefore, To search for the “truth outside of time” is the way to find the “truth of our time.” Whoever searches for the “truth of his time” finds the clichés of the day (three of Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

Dante passes by three celestial archetypes of humility, first Mary, then David and Trajan. Mary is the one who turned the key that had unlocked the highest love, while David is both less and more than king.

What a marvelously succinct description of the perfect ruler, whose humility makes him less than a king, but whose wisdom and magnanimity make him more than one. This is in contrast to the typical contemporary ruler, who is simultaneously infrahuman and all too human. Such rulers bring only change we can bereave in.

Note that each terrace must be successively smaller as we ascend toward the peak. Therefore, the first terrace is going to be quite commodious; as a matter of fict, it is the commodius vicus of recirculation in the first and last paragraph of Finnegans Wake. It is the meandyouring riverrun past Eve and Adam, from swerve of shore to bend of bay. In the words of Petey, it is the winding binding river of light that empties to the sea and cures us of plurality.

So, Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But according to Dante, the soul's aberrant love would make the crooked way seem straight. This is a critical point, and one of the reasons why Love cannot be higher than Truth.

For a love that loves the inappropriate object is still love; but "knowledge" of falsehood is no longer Truth. It is obviously the same with virtue; for example, it is possible to "courageously" defend the morally indefensible.

To say "truth" is to say "objective" is to say "disinterested." This is the spirit in which we are to understand humility: not as harsh and excessive judgment on the self, but an accurate and objective insight into it. Get over yourself. You are not the worst person in the world, only one of the worst.

Schuon has many wise statements about pride and humility. For example, "A humble person is not interested in having his virtue recognized, he is interested in surpassing himself; hence in pleasing God more than men."

This is another way of saying that the Raccoon's primary orientation is in the vertical and toward the Absolute. And the ultimate in humility would be represented first by Mary and then by Jesus, both of whom "emptied" themselves in different ways. This unattainable degree of humility is nevertheless our celestial telokenosis.

This emptiness -- or what we call (o) -- is the essence of humility. God's quintessential humility -- or kenosis -- is represented by the Cross. Here again, the true King must be both less and more than a man -- and more through the less (or even least).

Now, one reason why the left is unnecessary is that no one is incapable of appreciating what he doesn't have. In other words, no one needs to be taught how to envy, which is, to a large extent, pride in action.

Note that the left invented the term "social justice" to conceal the envy at its foundation. But "social justice" is just another way of saying "state mercy," to which we are entitled. Which would not be so destructive if it didn't intrinsically involve the administration of injustice to others.

Thus, it is not enough that we respect what he wants to do with his life; he demands, in addition, that we respect what he wants to do with our life (DC).

You don't want to be compelled to fund abortions, even though the Constitution plainly says you must? Oh yes, The leftist screams that freedom is dying when his victims refuse to finance their own murders (DC).

No, it's not a graven image but a marble clueprint. Vive la deference!

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Dream of Peace in Our Nighttime

Speaking of dreams, mine have undergone a profound shift in the last week.

It started when we decided to get a new bed. Aging hippie that I am, I'd been sleeping on a waterbed for some thirty years (a few different mattresses as the technology advanced). I drained, dismantled, and said goodbye to the old friend, but the new bed hasn't yet arrived in the mailbox, so in the meantime we've been sleeping on an air mattress that we use for guests.

This is going to sound like I'm furiously deepaking the chopra, but it seems that sleeping on air instead of stagnant water has some kind of effect on dreamworld. (I'm sure Will will have an explanation.) No other variables have changed, so I can't identify any other reason for the shift. But these dreams are truly better than life.

At least in a sense. I'm not prepared to stay there yet. The problem with dreams is that you seemingly lose control in them, and become subject to the whims of the Dreamer.

But what if you could somehow harness the pneumatechnology of dreaming? I mean, clearly, dream consciousness has potentials that are simply unavailable -- or available in a severely attenuated form -- in waking consciousness.

Daytime imagination pales in comparison to the powers of night. You should see my paintings! During the day I can barely draw a stick figure.

Again, the problem is one of control. Nuclear energy is vastly superior to conventional energy, but not if you can't control it. Then it becomes a nightmare, if you will. Or, what if you give this superior technology to barbarians who can only misuse it?

That goes for both nuclear and imagination power. For when it comes right down to it, aren't the vast majority of human problems caused by the misuse of imagination? By people imagining things that just aren't so, and then acting on them? It's not just stupidity, but stupidity filtered through imagination, which is a farce multiplier.

In the bʘʘK, I tried -- at least I tried, you damn dirty apes! -- to undress this problem: the problem of why man has such a poor track record of managing the content of his own mind.

In no other animal is this the case. Rather, evolution sees to it that there is a perfect fit between animal and environment, with no psychic "remainder," so to speak.

But in man alone there is quite literally this infinite gap between being and becoming, or existence and potential, or "is" and "can be." This "remainder" -- this imarginal space we in-habit at the vertical center of the cosmos -- is everything.

Obviously, a man without imagination is not a man; but a man with imagination is dangerous animal, to be sure. So where does that leaf an upright biped who is downright out of his tree?

Much of history -- and certainly on an individual basis -- has to do with adapting to the exceedingly strange condition of having a mind. Think about it: it is the only organ that has a mind of its own except for the penis.

Only man is not Master of his Domain. To paraphrase Bion, the perennial problem for man is thoughts and what to do about them. But man must first evolve the thinker in this life. Thus, in the words of Don Colacho, Men disagree less because they think differently than because they do not think.

And many -- if not most -- people never reach the stage at which they are able to think their own thoughts and then take them deeper: "Religious thought does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper" (Don Colacho's Aphorisms). Religion is here to (among other things) help us manage our minds and go deeper with them.

But people will do virtually anything to avoid thinking their thoughts, and the very existence of my disreputable profession proves it. No other animal needs a "psychologist" to help it find out who it actually is and to manage what it is thinking behind its back!

The evolution of the thinker involves first and foremost interiorizing what is exteriorized. For most of man's history, he has instinctively projected and exteriorized consciousness, either in toto or in bits and pieces that he cannot tolerate and/or integrate.

Only very gradually has man discovered that consciousness is within. And not only that, for consciousness is withinness as such; the I AM is the within of Being; and I is prior to AM. It's really I → AM → Me, or beyond-being, being, existence.

But man repeatedly makes the error of projecting existential problems into the world and then imagining they can be solved that way. But they cannot be. They are permanent features of human existence. Which is why Social problems are the favorite refuge of those fleeing their own problems (DC).

And not only! For the frustrations intrinsic to life -- to the embodiment of imagination -- are often the very boundaries that need to be respected in order for growth to take place: The barriers life frequently throws across our way are not obstacles for us to demolish; they are silent warnings that divert us onto the right path (DC).

The leftist unconsciously knows -- or unKnows -- that the problem is man, which is why all forms of leftism ultimately redound to the elimination rather than cultivation of man. For the Lie is always parasitic on the Truth which it requires in order to exist at all; the Lie requires a perverse sort of thinker, whereas Truth just is. If no one thinks it, it will still exist. Forever.

The genuine problems that confront man are by no means "solved" by the left, just systematically ignored and obliterated, to man's eternal detriment. In the ideal world of the left, it would be against the law to even talk about the real problem(s); hence, political correctness, which is simply totalitarianism by other means.

It is analogous to the street maps of the old Soviet Union. You could be standing right outside a grand Orthodox church which was nowhere depicted on state-approved maps. Thus, you could be cheek-to-jowl with the Truth, and yet, "nowhere."

It is also possible -- and likely -- for a man to only imagine that he knows: We eventually understand the man who knows what he is saying, no matter how complicated what it is he is saying. But it is impossible to understand the man who merely imagines that he knows [what he is saying] (DC).

The Raccoon knows that the world cannot be explained "scientifically," for this would not only make for a world unworthy of man's presence in it, but would render life completely worthless, not to mention as dull as dirt and tedious as the tenured.

But The expert believes he is a superior being, because he knows what, by definition, anybody can learn. And bear in mind that this is not so much an imaginary world as an abstract one. No one can actually live in the scientistic world, and only a severely autistic person would even try.

The great danger of the scientistic worldview is that it not only allows, but forces, one to think thoughts one never had, and therefore to be something one is not and could never be.

Anyway. Back to Dante's dream, wherein we are finally about to enter purgatory proper. We've been fumfering around the first terrace long enough. Time to be an accomplice to Dante's climb. Let's do this thing!

Monday. Until then, pleasant dreams.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lucy in the Sky with Dante

In Canto VIII Dante breaks out of the poem in order to provide a little clue for us all: Here, reader, sharpen your eyes to truth.

Why? Because in what he is about to describe, the veil is surely so transparent / That passing through it is an easy thing.

Reality is always here -- where else? -- just a few psychrons away in the space of your own pneurology. The distance between one world and another cannot be measured with the crude instruments of science. To attempt to do so is like looking for the boundary between the Dreamer and the dream. The two are distinct but inseparable.

Dante sees a "company of noble spirits," facing east with palms lifted upwards, and with "eyes intent upon the heavenly spheres." Clearly they are actively oriented to the vertical; the open hands signify an attitude of (o). Then,

Emerging and descending from above / I saw two angels bearing flaming swords. One of them descends all the way down, settling on the embankment across the way. Woo hoo! Vertical I-AMissaries!

Dante looks at the girl with the sun in her eyes, and is "dazzled by [the] excessive light" -- which immediately calls to mind the Transfiguration, in which Jesus' face "shone like the sun."

Sordello says that they are sent by Mother Mary, speaking words of wisdom and protecting against the serpents that surely come out at nightfall. Just like here, coldblooded reptiles emerge from the brush to warm themselves with the remains of the day.

Dante sees another familiar face and explains the situation to him: he has arrived here "by way of the sad regions"; he is not actually dead, but "still within the first life." However, "by this journeying, I earn the other."

Here again, Dante is giving us a BIG HINT of what this poem is all about. But his interlocutors are astonished to hear this.

Just then Dante is distracted by three flaming torches located in the southern sky. But just this morning, in that very same spot, were four brilliant stars that are now below the horizon. What gives?

Before we can find out, everyone does a spit take (remember, it's a comedy), because right over THERE is the serpent! And not just any serpent, but one that looks suspiciously similar to the one who "offered Eve the bitter food."

Now we're really in the thick of it. The cosmic veil has been lifted, behind which we see a celestial spark in the park in the dark, and now that rake of a snake who spake is awake!

But then a couple of celestial hawks -- i.e., the angels -- move across the sky, causing the serpent to flee. Of note, the snake only hears the rustling of wings, and this is sufficient to send him back under cover of darkness.

Surely the angel/birds represent the higher consciousness through which we are vigilant, and with which we "watch and pray." For there are beasts hiding within our garden, and which require a kind of night vision in order to see them. But once seen, they scatter. They are unable to endure the glance -- the glancing blow -- from on high.

After this episode, Dante is able to safely fall off to sleep and even to dream, where free to wander farther from the flesh / and less held fast by cares, our intellect's / envisionings become almost divine.

The dream is an obvious transformation of the events of the evening, involving an eagle patrolling the sky, ready to swoop down on its prey. Note that this eagle can only descend not ascend, for its claws refuse to carry upward any prey.

But it then snatches up Dante himself -- who is not prey -- lifting him toward the sun. Both he and the eagle are scorched by the flames, to such an extent that he is awakened from his slumber, terrified and "cold as ice."

Clearly, as much as Vanderleun protests, Dante cannot just skip purgatory and go straight to paradise. Many things remain to be burned and purified, but this is a controlled burn, not an uncontrolled forest fire -- not a raging inferno, as it were.

It is like the difference between undergoing psychotherapy in order to patiently process unconscious material, vs. dropping acid and being swallowed up into the unconscious, winner take all.

But in an interesting plot twist, it turns out that Dante was visited in his sleep by an angel, "Lucia," who took him up toward the entrance of purgatory proper. Luc-ia is Light, of course, but now I am out of time, so you figure it out. Hint: the Walrus was Paul.

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds, and you're gone.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

There's No Crying in Purgatory!

We haven't yet heard much about Virgil's thanatography, but in canto VII he tells us how he ended up cooling with the heels in purgatory:

"I am Virgil, and I am deprived of Heaven / for no fault other than my lack of faith." But he is nevertheless worthy of ascent to God, and was therefore directed to this mountain.

True, he failed to make the varsity squad, but was considered promising enough to make the JV, where he will be able to work on his fundamentals, hone his skills, and develop a two-way game.

Look, only a handful of players make it to the bigs, so you shouldn't feel bad. Almost anyone can play baseball, but only 750 or so make it all the way to the Show. If you're even considered big league material, that's pretty good.

So hang in there, kid. You'll get your shot. Just be ready when the call comes. It's all about preparation.

As it so happens, I'm coaching my son's little league team. The players are very little -- four to six years old -- so technically this is hell, not purgatory. We just played our last game until April 27, as the league has a spring break, dividing the season in half.

This is good for us, as it will provide our players an extra three weeks to work on the weakest part of their game, which is their age. That and their size. Thus, if we continue practicing during the spring break, and if we try real hard, there's a good chance that when the second half begins, our players will be three weeks older.

Anyway, it looks like Virgil played an error-free game, but lost anyway. His life was analogous to basketball in the days before the 24 second clock, whereby a team could theoretically take a 2-0 lead and then try to run out the clock:

Not for having -- but not having -- done, / I lost the sight that you desire, the Sun -- / that high Sun I was late in recognizing.

In other words, instead of playing to win, Virgil played to not lose.

Nice guys don't necessarily finish last, but they often finish in the middle of the pack, because they don't want to offend anyone. Some of the saints are pretty tough customers, all knees and elbows. Come into their lane, and you're likely to discover that sanctification is a contact sport. Crowd the plate, and you'll find yourself upended, in the dirt.

What do they call Pope Benedict? God's pitbull? In reality he is nothing of the sort, just a hard-nosed coach who expects the best of his players.

There is no crying and wailing in baseball or purgatory, only heavy sighs. But sighs matter, for these are sighs of longing for the sovereign Good -- for the bright Son to occasionally peek out from behind his clouds of glory.

Interestingly, Virgil reveals that purgatory is very much like the United States, where hard work pays off and one is free to rise to the level of one's abilities (or usefulness). But some people hate this arrangement, because liberty only reminds them of their failures. For them, liberty is a source of pain and humiliation, not a school of hope and self-improvement.

In societies where everybody believes they are equal, the inevitable superiority of a few makes the rest feel like failures.... Only a hierarchical structure is compassionate towards the mediocre and the meek (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

Such souls would prefer to abolish Heaven and Hell than take the risk afforded by Life. Liberalism doesn't help the envious, but it does at least attack the target of envy, thus temporarily easing the pain. But in transforming opportunity to victimhood, life passes them by; or, they become passive subjects of Life, just floating down the path of least resistance.

But life hasn't treated them unjustly. Rather, it has worked just as it is supposed to, revealing them for who they are. "Social justice" is simply their new term for envy. Gravity takes care of the rest.

Sardello -- whom we met in yesterday's post -- tells us that in the United States of America -- I mean the diverse states Purgatory -- No fixed place has been assigned to us; / I'm free to range about and climb as far as I may go. Woo hoo!

Speaking of which, there is a Simpson's episode in which Mr. Burns is on his deathbed. He whispers to Smithers, "I only wish I'd spent more time at the office."

This is another sort of person, the one who displaces the spiritual adventure to a purely horizontal game of commerce and acquisition. They are all about the administration of business instead of the minstration of Isness.

A subtle point about Purgatory: in Hell there is no Light, whereas in Heaven there is only Light. But here there is a cyclicity and rhythm, i.e., nightanday. Or, one might say timelessness in Heaven; endless time in Hell; and productive time -- i.e., progress -- in Purgatory.

At night it is impossible to climb, not so much as an inch: It is the night itself that implicates your will. / Once darkness falls, one can indeed retreat / below and wander aimlessly about / the slopes, while the horizon has enclosed the day.

Why the separation of night and day? Let us count the whys! For one thing, man here is still of a "mixed substance." We are in Purgatory specifically to purge ourselves of our own darkness. As we do, our days grow longer and our nights shorter until we reach our summa vocation.

"It's called a 'business retreat' -- you know, like church for people who worship the almighty dollar."

I appreciate the gesture, but that's really not going to get you out of Hell any sooner, Andrew.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Placing a Call to the Nonlocal ʘperators Above Our Praygrade

In the next scene, Dante finds that he is suddenly the most popular fellow in purgatory. He compares himself to a dice player who has just walked off with his winnings. The crowed presses upon him like pigeons around a geezer tossing bread crumbs from a park bench:

He does not halt but listens to them all; / and when he gives them something, they desist; / and so he can fend off the pressing throng.

What is it they're after? I turned my face to them / and, making promises, escaped their clutch.

In a full-employment vertical cosmos, there is not just a binary division of Creator and created. Rather, the whole point is that it is a complete hierarchy, with degrees of being from top to bottom -- for example, saints and angels above, television executives and community organizers below.

It seems to me that modern Christianity abolishes this hierarchy, which unwittingly abandons the field to scientism, or a materialist metaphysic. In other words, if there is only God above and the world below, pretty soon the former becomes superfluous.

Let us not accuse modern man of having killed God. That crime is not within his reach. But of having killed the gods. God survives untouched, but the universe withers and decays because the subordinate gods have passed away (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

And When their religious depth disappears, things are reduced to a surface without density where nothingness shows through (DC).

This is why in any form of old-school (small o) orthodox Christianity, it is both possible and efficacious to call upon various nonlocal operators to throw us a vertical bone, anyone from the Theotokos to the previous Pope. This is not polytheism, any more than it is "polybiology" to rank species between mammals, reptiles, insects, and Al Sharpton. To the contrary, the hierarchy is a necessary consequence of there being a Creator. Life is one, but vive la différence!

To put it another way, science would have no difficulty whatsoever describing a non-hierarchical cosmos. As it stands, it must maintain the absurdity that the hierarchy is an illusion or accident, not essential -- even while relying on the existence of the hierarchy in order to both recognize and appeal to Truth.

It reminds me of what Joyce said when asked if he was influenced by the ideas of Giambattista Vico: "I wouldn't pay over much attention to these theories, beyond using them for all they're worth."

The people in purgatory pray for others' prayers for them, in the hope that prayer can bend the rule of Heaven. Can it? Will, then, their hopes be utterly in vain? / Or were your words misunderstood by me?

Yes and no. There was a time when these hopes were in vain -- when prayers could not mend their fault in the absence of a passageway to God. But there is a light between your mind and truth, and we must wait for it to speak to us.

For Dante, Beatrice is this light. She is at the summit of the very mountain we are climbing, "smiling joyously." Upon hearing this, he is immediately reinvigorated, and tells Virgil, let us move ahead more quickly, for now I am less weary than before.

In a sense, the whole of Christianity is based upon this idea, in that Christ is given to us as a way to approach and think about the otherwise unthinkable God. However, it is careful not to imply that Christ is part of any hierarchy, hence, the Trinity. The Trinity is explicitly not a vertical emanation, a la Plotinus.

However, is it possible to say that there is a "Vertical Trinity" -- which is primary -- and a "Horizontal" trinity representing its shadow in the herebelow? This makes sense to me; perhaps we might call them the transcendent and immanent Trinities. This is how Schuon envisions it:

"The 'Father' is God as such, that is as metacosm; the 'Son' is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the world, hence in the macrocosm; and the 'Holy Spirit' is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the soul, hence in the microcosm."

This is useful, because it does not posit "three gods," but three modes of the one God. There is the inconceivable God-beyond being, the ain sof of Kabbala. There is the "conception" of God, the Word -- a word which can be recognized, read, and comprehended. And then there is the "Holy Spirit," which is the comprehension itself. Only Truth can recognize Truth.

Elsewhere Schuon writes that "The Trinity can be envisaged according to a 'vertical' perspective or according to either of two 'horizontal' perspectives, one of them being supreme and the other not. The vertical perspective -- Beyond-Being, Being, Existence -- envisages the hypostases as 'descending' from Unity or from the Absolute -- or from the Essence it could be said -- which means that it envisages the degrees of Reality."

Again, the very idea of God implies hierarchy; but also, the very recognition of hierarchy leads inevitably to God. Unless one just arbitrarily stops halfway up the mountain, as do the tenebrous, the tendentious, and the tenured -- or the dark, the twisted, and the opaque.

Back in purgatory, Virgil notes that the sun is setting -- as it must, even though its light is only "hidden," not absent -- but that a distant soul will show us where to climb most speedily.

We then see a very dignified, noble, and silent soul -- perhaps Schuon himself -- who watches us pass as a lion watches when it is at rest.

No, it's not Schuon, but someone named Sordello. Sordello, who has great affection for Italy, goes into an extended rant about its present condition. He even questions God, asking

You who on earth were crucified / for us -- have You turned elsewhere Your just eyes? / Or are You, in Your Judgment's depth, devising / a good that we cannot foresee, / completely dissevered from our way of understanding?

I don't think so. This would imply a complete misunderstanding of the cosmic situation, and a misuse of the idea of hierarchy -- as if God is to blame for this not being paradise. You can't blame God for something he never promised, and which is impossible anyway.

Running out of time here, but Pope Benedict writes that "The present 'world' has to disappear; it must be changed into God's world. That is precisely what Jesus' mission is, into which the disciples are taken up: leading 'the world' away from the condition of man's alienation from God and from himself, so that it can become God's world once more and so that man can become fully himself again by becoming one with God."

Bottom line: this is an analogue, continuous cosmos, not a digital and discontinuous one.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Incorruptible Adolescent Rebellion: O, Why Must I be a Teenager in Love?

I guess we're still technically in the foothills, making our way toward the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory.

We'll be spending a few more cantos here in ante-purgatory, which houses two main types whose metanoia was either too little or too late. These folks did eventually see the Light and vowed to change their ways, but with no time to put the plan into action; therefore, the purification must take place postmortem.

[W]e all sinned until until our final hour; / then light from Heaven granted understanding, / so that, repenting and forgiving, we / came forth from life at peace with God, and he / instilled in us the longing to see him.

But it's a painful longing. In fact, a couple of spooks are surprised to see us here, because 1) we can move -- specifically, up -- and 2) we cast a shadow from the Light that strikes us. But Virgil cautions us to pay no attention to these local gossips and to move on.

Just like life. Don't look back after placing your hand to the plow, and let the dead bury the tenured.

If someone is impressed with your vertical slackrobatics, don't let it go to your head, because there is no reason to be puffed up by the recognition of an inferior. Are you proud that your dog loves you? We treat an inferior with healthy respect and genuine affection. We do not look up to them. Rather, we are humbled by them.

What meaning have these whisperings for you? / Come, follow me, and let these people talk. / Stand firmly as a tower whose pinnacle / Sways not for all the blowing of the wind.

This is indeed a key point, discussed on pp. 220 and 236 of the bʘʘk. It falls under the heading of "faith," i.e., silence (---) and openness (o), which are achieved for the purpose of ascending; we must liberate ourselves from the "alien influences" of the world, and "break free of the chains, the limitations, and the restrictions imposed by environment and education" (Steinsaltz). We must always remember that what we get into gets into us. What do we get out of religion? A better question is what religion gets out of us.

Another way of putting it is that An intelligent man is one who maintains his intelligence at a temperature independent of his environment’s temperature (Don Colacho's Aphorisms). Since so much of what passes for intelligent discussion is just the steam that emanates from a fresh pile of manure, we should unplug from the crazocracy and seek our heat and light elsewhere.

Thus, there is always a two-front battle going on, one below and one above. The southern one has to do with administering the conquered territory, while the northerly has to do with pushing on toward our highest aspiration, colonizing more space along the way.

There is the kingdom of man, and the Kingdom of God. One way or another, we are trying to colonize the former in the name of the latter. We do not -- as do the tenured -- nocuriously attempt to assimilate the roaring torrent of O into a little crock of (k), but rather, sanctify all (k) in the absolute mystery of O.

Know that the Intellect has less to do with demystification than remystification: Everything that makes man feel that mystery envelops him makes him more intelligent (DC).

Absurd? Quite right! For Man calls “absurd” what escapes his secret pretensions to omnipotence (DC). "Absurdity" is the accusation a little godling makes of the bigOne he doesn't understand -- or only understands.

In the previous post we discussed how the ascent is more difficult at the outset, when we are closer to the world's center of gravity. One reason I never recommend the blog to others is that you had better be pretty sure that you're sick of the world before you begin -- otherwise, you might find yourself in a no-man's land of no-world and no-God as well, or a puerpoutual state of cynical nihilism.

Don Colacho has many profound aphorisms along these lines. I think my favorite is I have seen philosophy gradually fade away between my skepticism and my faith.

Quite contrary to what is believed by indentured atheists, Christianity is not an escape into fantasy, but an inscape from it. It is not religion as previously understood, but the cure for religion. It is no beliefs with the exception of what we are taught by the Holy Spirit.

With the help of our deosynchronous satellight we are cured of a thousand stupidities and turned away from countless nul de slacks: There is no stupid idea which modern man is not capable of believing, as long as he avoids believing in Christ (DC).

But until we have cleared a space for the Great Teaching to occur, we live in a space of pronounced -- and healthy -- skepticism which easily dismantles any worldly philosophy. Indeed, The believer knows how to doubt; the unbeliever does not know how to believe (DC).

Adolescent? Absolutely! For A fulfilled life is one which delivers to the grave, after long years, an adolescent whom life did not corrupt (DC). O, why must I be a teenager in love?! That's why. Because I AM said so. The world doesn't need another adolescent rabelaisian.

My six-year old is already able to stop me in my tracks with various ontological questions -- questions that are vastly superior to any worldly answer I can furnish. I could provide scientific answers, but these merely stop the question. They don't actually answer it, except for the pseudomature adolt who arbitrarily stops asking "why?"

So be about your Father's business, which spirals around Aspiration (↑) Rejection (---) Surrender (o) and waiting for (↓) to bear you updown here.

I know what you mean -- I was once much older too. I'm younger than that now.

Friday, April 01, 2011

What Makes a Life Worth Leaving?

As our explorers begin their ascent, the mountain is quite steep, far more steep than the line drawn from middle-quadrant to the center point. I'm not sure what that means, but it doesn't matter anyway, for it's just a metaphor of the vertical journey -- which is much more difficult at the outset than it is later on. Says Virgil,

This mountain is of such sort / that climbing it is hardest at the start; / But as we rise, the slope grows less unkind.

This reminds us of how potentials become inclinations, inclinations become habits, and habits become virtues or vices. In a way, we have more free will at the outset than we do at the end, when the inclination has become almost "hardwired" from repetition. This runs counter to the scientistic belief that we are genetically frontloaded to become who we are. But to the extent that we are, this mostly involves potential, not invariant behavior.

For example, we are born desiring. This does not mean we are hardwired to steal, despite those studies "proving" that liberalism is innate.

Virtue is rooted in free will, for we become virtuous by choosing between good and evil. No act in itself is virtuous, but becomes so with reference to its end. Nor is mere knowledge of good and evil sufficient, for the knowledge must be put into action. Virtue must be embodied, or it won't be of much use to anyone.

In Dante's case, his whole journey is predicated on his pursuit of the highest good, which, one might say, is located at the furthest extreme of the vertical cosmos. As a result, it exercises the least "gravitational attraction" when we are most distant from it. Virgil confirms this, letting Dante know that

When the time comes when it appears / To you that the ascent becomes as easy / As going down the current in a skiff, / Then you will have reached your journey's end, / And there you may expect to rest from toil.

In other worlds, one reaches a point of transition into the orbit of the Great Attractor, for it is written on P. 257:

O Death, you old mahahasamadi, show us your secret mannascrypt, your Divine Cosmodeity. Take us before & beyond this womentary maninfestation, reveal not the horizontal but our inmost upmost vertical bigending. Floating upstream along the ancient celestial trail, out from under the toilsome tablets of time, cast your I on the meager image below. So long. So short! Whoosh! there went your life.

Yes, yes, I know -- why the annoying and self-indulgent mystagoguery, Bob? Do you really expect anyone to know what you're talking about? Or is this just an elaborate way to conceal the fact that you don't?

O Death. Death is the Guru without whom we would never dream of embarking on the vertical journey. For why would we?

The problem for human beings is not having a life worth living. Rather, it is having a life worth leaving. Life values itself, as we see in the world of biology. Biology assures us that life is worth living, but not for any reason outside itself. Self-preservation is the Law of nature.

But human beings have been fugitives from this Law ever since they became human. For to say "human" is to say "vertical." We became human when we entered the vertical; or, when the vertical descended into man. Either way, it is the vertical that not only makes a life worth leaving, but makes it possible to do so. In coonspeak, this is called the big teloscape.

Again, the whole of the Divine Comedy is predicated on this reality. At midlife (back in the first canto), Dante realized that he wasn't actually living his life, but that it was living him. Thus, rather than being guided by Death, he was, for practical purposes, dead (or guided only by biology):

For the right path, whence I had strayed, was lost. He had succumbed to earthly gravity, or "temptation." Thus, So weary was my my mind, so filled with sleep [and sleep is the gentle brother of Death], I reeled, and wandered from the path of truth.

And it all went by so fast. Dante alludes to this at the beginning of canto IV, noting that When any of our faculties retains / a strong impression of delight or pain, / the soul will wholly concentrate on that, / neglecting any other power it has.

This is again an animal capability, one that "secures the soul in stringent grip," to such an extent that time moves and yet we do not notice it.

So short! Whoosh! there went your life.

Here again, the Divine Comedy is predicated on a reversal of this tendency, which has become deeply ingrained by midlife. As Dante writes, unlike animals, the human soul has the power to perceive the course of time; but this is distinct from the power that captures all the mind. The former has "no force," while the latter "binds."

Thus, it will require a conscious decision and an act of will to exert the force necessary to "turn around" and break the chains that bind us to the lower world of the immediate, of the passing stream of pleasure and pain.

Dante does this by keeping the end in mind; one might say that only by faith may we know that the end even exists, for one cannot know what one has not yet experienced. So lofty was the summit, that it soared / Beyond my sight.

Virgil tells him not to despair, but to keep climbing Until we meet some guide who knows the way. In other words, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Nonlocal ʘperators are always standing by, ready to assist you. For they literally have nothing better to do.

And whatever you do, Do not take a backward step, for we have heard from the wise that it is not a good idea to put one's hand to the plow and look back. Inward and upward!

B-but the mountain soars / Much higher then my mortal eyes can reach.

Don't worry about that. So long as you see that the mountain exists, that's the important part. For every mountain has a summit, does it not? You don't need to see the dark side of the moonbat to know that it exists, do you?

Next we come to an important way station -- or station of the way -- where the slothful depart from the slackful. Nondoing is hardly the same as doing nothing! Nevertheless, at least doing nothing is preferable to doing something harmful, a lesson Democrats will never learn. Thus, these souls are in a low level of purgatory rather than hell. In other words, they are independents, not liberals.

Dante converses with one of the idlers, who says that he repented too late -- i.e., that he put off the journey till the last, so he is not enjoying the true rest, the slack sabbath. It's just the false slack of the comfortable and self-satisfied. Nothing to see here. Let's move along.

You pseudoslackers need to move out of Mom's basement and gita life!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Adamology of Sin

O pure and noble conscience, you in whom / each petty fault becomes a harsh rebuke!

You know you're in purgatory when you feel the presence of the conscience, which is the interior grumpass that always reveals true north.

The conscience -- which is nonlocal and universal -- must be distinguished from the culture-bound superego, which Freud mistakenly conflated with it.

The latter is mere adaptation to a particular world, whereas genuine morality struggles to make the world reflect its standards, which are both timeless and universal. One of the characteristics of hell is that the people there have a superego that sanctions evil. Is there any doubt that the idealistic Hitler thought he was performing a service to mankind?

For just as truth cannot be relative and still call itself truth, nor can virtue be a matter of mere cultural conformity. As Burke said, custom reconciles us to everything, no matter how immoral -- human sacrifice, genital mutilation, the designated hitter.

One might say that conscience is vertical, while secular law should be a horizontal prolongation of this. Laws that intrinsically violate the conscience are not laws at all; to the contrary, the good man is obliged to underlook such laws.

Schuon writes that it is incumbent upon us to recognize this distinction "between what is good according to the law and what is good according to virtue," for "a base man can obey the law, be it only through simple constraint, while a noble man may be obliged, exceptionally, to transgress a law out of virtue." But The fool, seeing that customs change, says that morality varies (Don Colacho).

Pope Benedict discusses this in terms of apodictic vs. casuistic law; the former involves "metanorms" such as the Ten Commandments, which come straight from God, whereas the latter are more conditional instantiations of the Law, analogous to the distinction between principles and rules.

So long as we fall short of perfection, the conscience is there to remind us of it. To put it another way, Perfection is the point where what we can do and what we want to do coincide with what we ought to do; or, Ethics culminates where the rule appears to be an expression of the person (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

One might say that "manners" or "politeness" or "ethics" must pass from mere outward action to interior being; or that being must increasingly infuse action. I don't want my son to merely do good but to be good -- which is to say, happy.

Until that point, it is as if we are inhabited by an Other who does not rest until it is either assimilated -- i.e., it becomes one with our own substance -- or we kill it.

But one cannot actually kill the conscience. In this regard, it's a little like the Terminator, who can be smashed into bits, but the bits have a tendency to want to come back together. Therefore, you have to keep shooting and shooting, just to keep him dead. Or, you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. The hellhound is always on your trail.

As Bion describes the process, "In so far as the destruction is successful, the patient experiences a failure in his capacity for perception.... [The] sense of imprisonment is intensified by the menacing presence of the expelled fragments within whose planetary movements he is contained."

Note that one of the most dreadful characteristics of the left is to externalize the conscience in the form of their endless proliferation of law. A fool or knave imagines that if he obeys "the law," this makes him a good citizen. But We can never count on a man who does not look upon himself with the look of an entomologist (Don Colacho).

I would say Adamologist. For if one doesn't get the gist of Adam, one's moral philosophy will be a jest.

In reality, the externalization of conscience leads to a situation in which the soul is bereft of interior guidance. It is reminiscent of the income tax system that is designed to compel us to be "charitable," but in practical terms forces us to find any way possible to avoid being charitable, through loopholes, tax shelters, deductions, and what not.

Note that the free market has a way of converting man's faults into virtues. Conversely, leftism has a way of turning our virtues into faults.

The "invisible hand" of the left -- the left hand -- externalizes energy from the conscience that should properly be directed at the self. This not only gives the self a free pass, but can even result in a kind of secular sainthood, a la Al Gore or Jimmy Carter -- both of whom are bad men (the former because he is a liar, the latter because he is a hater) who are magically "cleansed" of their faults by systematically blaming others.

More generally, you can be fairly certain that anyone who accuses the wealthy of "greed" has never exhumined his own buried motivations, and for this reason has a warped view of mankind.

For to suggest that a man is "greedy" should be a banality of the first rank. The question is, what are you going to do about your greed? Make it go away by confiscating from those who have more than you? Envy, like evil, cannot be appeased. Rather, appeasing it fuels it.

The above considerations explain how and why there is no one more aware of his faults and failings than the saint, for his conscience is the most developed. Charity begins at home, by modestly ridding the world of a single assoul. "The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself. A saint is a void open for the passage of God" (Schuon).

Also, to give materially with no spiritual strings attached is not an act of charity. As Pope Benedict explains, "When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely those supposedly more important things that come to nothing."

The nightmare of Marxism of course proves this, but so too does the lootmore of the left, which adds insult to injury by making its beneficiaries worse people, or maleficiaries. In this pathological dance, the left wing politician gets to indulge in pride, while the recipient gets to feel entitled to his envy. It's a win-win for the Crafty One!

Damn conscience! Must you follow me everywhere!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Celescalating the Skyrescape Ladder

Chaos prevails here. Little time to post....

The sun had now progressed to that horizon / Whose great meridian, at its highest point, / Extends its arch above Jersusalem.

Again, Hell is a series of concentric circles, and purgatory is a triangle above that. And now we learn -- to our relief -- that there is a vertical axis that descends from the apex of the triangle down to earth, the hereitblows.

Note that this line could never ascend to the top without having first descended to the bottom. This is indeed a key principle, one that, upon understanding it, immediately clears away a multitude of superstitions of the tenured.

For it is impossible to think or even say anything meaningful in the absence of a Top. Father Involution is prior to Mother Evolution. Furthermore, if Christ descends into Hell, it is only because it is possible to do so -- possible for fullness to become emptiness, as it were.

We must imagine the top as the plenum of all that is good; on its descent, as it ventures further and further from the Principle, it becomes increasingly materialized and then dematerialized to the point of the "void" at the center of Hell (which is only a "false center," an inverted image of the fulsomeness of Heaven).

Says Don Colacho, Hell is a place that can only be identified from paradise, since Nothing cannot perceive Something.

Here one can understand how the worst demons are always "idealists." They always have beautiful theories and ideals, which, when put into practice, result in the propagation of more evil.

The superior man always prefers the real to the ideal, which is another way of saying descent, which is another way of saying Incarnation.

In attempting to create his Heaven on earth, the idealist must first -- without even knowing it -- eliminate the cosmic hierarchy that creates the very possibility of good.

Note that on his own, man cannot ascend, but can always descend. In the words of Don Colacho, Every straight line leads directly to a hell. The ascending ones are always a bit crookward.

Again, man cannot possibly ascend unless there is something real to ascend to. Otherwise, one is simply being forced to ascend to the manmade ideal of the leftist, usually concealed in some attractive veneer such as "universal healthcare."

The left appeals to your ideals in order to eliminate them -- in other words, to paraphrase someone, they dream of systems so perfect that no one needs to be good. The system will produce good the way a machine produces paperclips, thus eliminating man, that troublesome priest and pontificating bridgebuilder!

Our sojourners next encounter an angel, which is none other than a vertical emissary. The earliest description of this is in Genesis 28, in which Jacob has a vision of the vertical structure of the cosmos:

"[A]nd behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."

Importantly, Jacob understands this to mean that "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it."

In noneother worlds than this, there is no radical disjunction between God and man, the principle and the manifestation, but a hierarchical nexus. God is the cause and the world is the effect, but there is always something of the cause in the effect. Therefore, Jacob exclaims,

"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!"

Our existence is the gate of Heaven. Which is why, The gate of reality is horizontal (Don Colacho). For the earth is the womb in which the seeds of God grow to maturity.

Hey, that's just what I was thinking! A waalworth of skyerscape of most eyeful hoyth entowerly, erigenating from next to nothing and celescalating the himals and all, hierarchitectitiptitoploftical, with a burning bush abob off its baubletop and with larrons o'toolers clittering up and tombles a'buckets clottering down. --Finnegans Wake

The fire escape goes both ways:

She stands all alone
You can hear her hum softly
From her fire escape in the sky
She fills the bags 'neath her eyes
With the moonbeams
And cries 'cause the world's passed her by

Didn't time sound sweet yesterday?
In a world filled with friends
You lose your way

She's a haunted house
And her windows are broken
And the sad young man's gone away
Her bathrobe's torn
And tears smudge her lipstick
And the neighbors just whisper all day

Didn't time sound sweet yesterday?
In a world filled with friends
You lose your way

Monday, March 28, 2011

Doing Time in the Purgatoreum

Well. I guess there's no place to go but up, is there? Might as well spend a little while in purgatory, this time without guidance. Unless you consider me to be the guide, which I would not advise. We are approaching this endeavor in a state of more or less total ignorance, or (o), from which only a warm blast of (↓) can rescue us.

This will be a cross-generational dialogue -- like two dozen generations, give or take. And as is my usual custom in conversation, I will politely use my interlocutor as a springboard to pretty much say what I wanted to anyway.

But in my defense, A genuine vocation leads the writer to write only for himself: first out of pride, then out of humility (Don Colacho).

Nor are we approaching this in anything resembling an "academic" manner. To the contrary: A book does not educate someone who reads it to become educated (ibid.). Which explains a lot about the tenured.

And one of my favorite aphorisms of Don Colacho is that A work of art has, properly speaking, not meaning but power. That being the case, there is no need to fall back upon accepted interpretations, but to simply respond to the power that is being conveyed and felt.

SO, I have no idea how or where this will go. It will be a verticalisthenic exercise in unadulterated free association, which means that we must allow Bob's Unconscious to show us the way.

Now, the first thing that occurs to us is that Dante is a psychotherapist of sorts; or a pneumatherapist, to be more precise. To suggest that Freud "discovered" the unconscious with his 1899 publication of The Interpretation of Dreams is pure hubris.

Rather, what he did was give it a 19th century scientistic spin; basically, he snuck into the literature department, stole the concept, and proceeded to medicalize it. And then charge good money to get it back.

And before literature, it was the province of theology. Thus, we can even see a sort of fight over ownership of Dante's corpus. But for an undivided person who doesn't see any radical distinctions between art, science, and religion, we don't really care about these inter-departmental squabbles. Thankfully, nor does God.

It also occurs to us is that James Joyce no doubt saw himself as a modern day Dante. Finnegans Wake (FW) too is a descent into the underworld, only instead of writing about it as an observer, he forces you to be a participant. One of the fundamental polarities that structures FW is the eternal sibling rivalry between the man of thought and the man of action; the former is an extension of Mother, the latter of Father.

The Muse "is invoked by the poet: the poet does not invent his verses but discovers their materials in those deep layers of the psyche where lurk the infantile, buried reminiscences of the mother." Thus, the poet is Mom's favorite (Campbell & Robinson).

However, the genuine mama's boy, so long as he is true to his Muse, will never get to the bottom of himself. This is because the language of "her dreamlike enigmatic inspiration is not wholly clear to the waking eye, though deeply familiar to the soul" (ibid.). Here again: power, not meaning. Except that the power is the echo, aftershock, or recoil of a deeper Meaning that no one could have invented.

There can be no radical discontinuity between Inferno and Purgatory. As Will reminds us, the former must simply be a more extreme version of the latter.

It looks to me like Inferno is reserved for souls who either oppose God or who are completely passive as to their spiritual destiny, whereas Purgatory is for anyone who is actually using this life to better themselves. In fact, Pope Benedict reminds us that "anyone who honestly and passionately searches for truth is on the way to Christ."

In a very loose analogy, it's somewhat akin to the difference between a neurosis and a personality disorder (and I notice that ShrinkWrapped is doing a series of illuminating posts on the subject).

Basically, the neurotic is aware of his problems, and is conflicted and in pain about them. In contrast, the person with a personality disorder inevitably acts them out and inducts others into their psychodrama. In the latter case, they substitute action for thought. You might say that they are "embodied pathology," an ironic twist on the idea of Incarnation. They are the naughty word made flesh.

In Canto 1 of the Purgatory, Dante says that we have left behind / The cruel waters of the ocean deep. Whereas Inferno is structured in a series of concentric circles, you may imagine purgatory as a mountain -- or triangle -- sitting atop of the circle. At the apex of the triangle is Paradise.

This mountain is the second kingdom, / Wherein the human soul is cleansed of sin / And rendered worthy to ascend to heaven. In other words, it is here. It is not only this life, but the very purpose of this life.

And straightaway, Dante calls out to mama mia -- the muses -- for assistance: O sacred muses, since I am wholly yours / May this poem rise again from Hell's dead realm. (BTW, I'm going to liberally mix translations as kneaded in order to amplify my meaning.)

Dante contrasts the murky world of the unconscious with the bright world of the conscious mind: The aspect of the sky shone forth serene / From zenith to the rim of the horizon, / So that my eyes were filled again with joy / As soon as I had left that deadly air.

We can only write about what we know, and here again I see a kind of analogy with psychotherapy. After spending an hour disgorging the content of their unconscious, patients routinely feel "lighter" and less burdened after a session. It really is the movement from one world to another and then back again.

Dante next encounters a bearded fellow who alludes to what we stated above about the passivity or opposition of the souls below this plane: Who are you, that counter to the stream / Have fled from the eternal prison house?

This is an important point, for as we have discussed many times, man is situated between two attractors, one above and one below. In either direction, the further one proceeds on the basis of will, the more the will comes to be under the influence of the attractor at either pole.

So this bearded fellow wants to know how these two wanderers beat the cosmic system, and wonders if a "newer law" prevails, one he doesn't know about. For until now, it was more or less a one-way street, or nul de slack, in that direction; one could go in, but not out.

This is an obvious anticipation of Christ, who descended into Hell in order to liberate the souls there. Indeed, Pope Benedict writes that Jesus' baptism "envelops him from every side," and is "thus an anticipation of his act of descending into the underworld."

And "he does not descend merely in the role of spectator, as in Dante's Inferno," but "goes down in the role of one whose suffering-with-others is a transforming suffering that turns the underworld around, knocking down and flinging open the gates of the abyss" (ibid).

Dante is too fermisht to speak, so Virgil explains that I came not of myself; / From heaven came down a lady, by whose prayers / I helped this man and keep him company.

Virgil points out that Dante is not dead, and that he has yet to see his final hour. He came close, but turned his life around just in time. He has seen the wicked people, and Virgil now wants to show him the souls Who purge themselves of sin in your care.

Purgatory is a place of tests and trials. Note that Jesus' first activity upon his baptism is to confront a kind of purgatory, where he is tempted with all of the usual human rewards and compensations for losing God: "It is a descent into the perils besetting mankind, for there is no other way to lift up fallen humanity. Jesus has to enter the drama of human existence, for that belongs to the core of his mission; he has to penetrate it completely, down to its uttermost depths..." (ibid.)

So now, "God's will can conquer the downward pull of our selfishness and make us capable of the lofty height to which we are called," i.e., (↑).

Excuse me? You came from Hell?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cosmos: Now Open For Isness

This post concludes our guided tour of Dante's Inferno, which began way back on January 24, 33 cantos and 45 postas ago. I don't know whether I'll continue the journey upward into purgatory and paradise.

This wing of Hell is the maximum security Judas Memorial Detention Center, from which they say no one has ever escaped, for here one is deprived of both Life and Death -- although some prominent theologians believe otherwise, including Balthasar.

In underworlds, Balthasar believed it possible for even the worst deicidal maniac to pay his debt to the cosmos. Schuon too maintained that the idea of eternal damnation was contradictory, since only God can be eternal. To say that Hell is eternal is to imply that evil is coterminous with God.

Origen also maintained a belief in the restoration of all souls, i.e., apokatastasis: "For him, all souls, including the devil himself, will eventually achieve salvation, even if it takes innumerable ages to do so."

This is based on a deeper principle -- or at least divine hunch -- that God would not put himself through the hassle of creating this maninfestation of assouls "capable of dissolving into the oblivion of evil (non-being) for all eternity." Consequently, Origen "reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation, for certain souls require more education or ‘healing’ than others."

True dat. Hence, the school of purgatory. In any event, it's a long time, and if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime.

Judas is the archtraitor, the archetype of traitors against benefactors (Upton). Such individuals not only do evil, but return "evil for good. They actually punished others for doing good to them -- and this kills life completely."

In life, such individuals are on the extreme paranoid end of the developmental spectrum. When dealing with a paranoid person, you cannot just be "nice" and expect it to change them or put them at ease, for niceness only makes them more suspicious.

You might say that they preemptively kill any love before it can enter. The paranoid mind is so consumed by the process of projecting the bad outward, that it contaminates everything else. They are kept "pure" within, but at the cost of being surrounded by persecutory objects.

And because they cannot emotionally "feed" on anything outside themselves, they starve to death inside. They end up eating only their own self-produced delusions (i.e., crap), in a tighter and tighter circle. It is a death spiral into Ø.

Once again Dante employs digestive similes, for Satan's munching of the traitors "is a parody of the sacrament of the Eucharist." The Eucharist in-corporates Jesus into the faithful, and vice versa. But Satan chews "endlessly without swallowing," which is reminiscent of the hungry ghosts of Buddhism, who have huge bellies and pinholes for mouths.

Imagine chewing endlessly without swallowing. Here again, there are patients who do this. Some are variants of the paranoid style, called obsessional (this is different from OCD, which is a more or less neurochemical problem; here we are referring to personality style). When you offer an interpretation, they will "chew on it" in a way that mimics thought, but is really for the purpose of rejecting. They are subtly "oppositional," and always find a way to spit out what you give them. Here again, they starve within.

Such individuals also cannot see the forest for the trees, because they are always chewing but never digesting. There is a helpful chapter devoted to this subject in Shapiro's Neurotic Styles. He calls such people "living machines," for they are marked by their rigidity and absence of pneumacognitive fluidity. Interestingly, they may appear "attentive," but theirs is actually an indiscriminate "active inattention," being that it systematically misses the big picture. In some degree or another, they lose contact with reality, since reality is not an empirical fact but a synthetic experience.

Now, the dead can be resurrected, but not the unDead. The purpose of most any spiritual practice is to "die before we die," so as to be reborn. But the people here cannot "give their lives," since they have no life to give. It has already been starved to death by their own self-enclosed psychic processes.

Upton writes that "the source of all sorrow is the lack of gratitude, and the most fundamental form of ingratitude is not to be thankful for the gift of one's own existence. Ingratitude is based on the delusion that we are self-created; and this is the deepest delusion of all" (emphasis mine).

This relates to what I said about the paranoid/obsessive style, in that the fundamental problem for such individuals is again the inability to in-corporate and assimilate reality. To assimilate means to become seamlessly one with what one has assimilated. In this way mere knowledge is transformed to being.

As I mentioned in the book, human beings are psychically open systems, both on the horizontal and vertical planes. Both horizontally and vertically we are intersubjective, which is why the purpose of religion -- at least Christianity -- is to have a living relationship with the Creator. This relationship takes place in the "space" between O and (¶). If that space is collapsed, then there is no possibility of gratitude -- or of spiritual growth, for that matter.

Upton contrasts the satanic principle -- which is entirely closed -- to Mary, the Theotokos who nurtures the "growing God" in her womb: "As opposed to the rebellious passivity of Satan, the Virgin is the active receptivity of Pure Being, which draws toward it the Grace of God."

In our bʘʘk of the same namelessness we symbolize this as (o), one aspect of which is the teloscapic (H)openness that brings with it the possibility of Love -- which must again be incorporated and assimilated in order to become truly efficacious.

In our end is our bigending. Upon touching bottom, our virtual adventurers turnaround and begin their journey back upstream along the ancient celestial trail. Night turns to morning, "And upon setting foot in what Dante calls the 'bright world,' they once more see the stars; their intellects can now, at least in potential, have access to the higher worlds."

(A circular round of applause for Jennifer Doane Upton for winging us back home sophly).

A luminous fissure appeared in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle, the unimaginable opening of a window on the world. --p. 58

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To My Detractors: Eat Me!

This culture war has been going on for much longer than people realize. Along these lines, the Divine Comedy actually contains much political "news of the day." However, it would have no relevance to us if it didn't concern themes that are both timeless and universal.

Hey, why don't we shut up and read a little history this morning, okay? Might even learn something.

In Dante's time, Italy was caught between two factions: "While the conflict was local and personal in origin, the parties had come to be associated with the two universal powers," one of which "sided with the Emperor and his rule of Italy," the other "with the Pope, who supported self-governing city-states."

So it sounds a little like big-government Federalists vs. Jeffersonian Republican-Democrats. And Ugolino was one of the Federalistas, except that he apparently conspired with the Papists to secure more power for himself.

Blah blah blah yada yada yada, "Dante placed Ugolino and Ruggieri in the second ring of the lowest circle of the Inferno, which is reserved for betrayers of kin, country, guests, and benefactors. Ugolino’s punishment involves his being entrapped in ice up to his neck in the same hole with his betrayer, Archbishop Ruggieri, who left him to starve to death. Ugolino is constantly gnawing at Ruggieri's skull."

So it sounds like Dante is placing a pox on both these louses. Why?

"Ugolino's gnawing of Ruggieri's head has been interpreted as meaning that Ugolino's hatred for his enemy is so strong that he is compelled to 'devour even what has no substance.' Ugolino, though punished for his betrayal of his people, is allowed some closure for the betrayal that he himself was forced to suffer under Ruggieri, when he is allowed to act as Ruggieri's torturer for eternity."

This makes sense, in that, as we have discussed many times, mundane politics often comes down to mutual projection, or the "organization of hatreds." But projection is always an intrapsychic phenomenon that takes place between two parts of the self. Therefore, Ruggieri is a projection of Ugolino, and vice versa.

One can see this taking place quite transparently when members of one political faction accuse the other of crimes and misdemeanors of which they themselves are guilty. You will have noticed that I never indulge in this kind of hypocrisy, for example, accusing only Democrat politicians of being corrupt. I never pretend to be shocked when a politician of either party is accused of corruption.

While there is indeed a political "culture of corruption," it is underwrotten by a bloated state that has so much money and power with which to corrupt people.

Look at our vice president, who has been quite vocal in his insistence that any president who deploys U.S. troops in the absence of an imminent threat to the country must be impeached. Now, either he believes this, or Biden was simply betraying his country -- a treasonous offense -- when he said it about President Bush. Because Joe Biden never uses words lightly.

One could cite countless other instances of liberals excusing in Obama what they denounced in Bush, but let us move along.

So anyway, it is entirely appropriate that in Hell, Ugolino is permanently reunited with his projected Ruggieri, except in a completely unintegrated -- one might say indigestible -- manner.

In other words, the healthy person integrates various parts of the self -- both horizontal and vertical -- rather than projecting, splitting, and denying them. Please note that we are always one, despite our best efforts to rid ourselves of the parts we don't like, or which clash with the ego's image of itself.

In Hell, Ugolino is reunited with himself, except that he is forever trying (unsuccessfully) to integrate what he projected in this life. In this regard Dante was quite astute in linking this to digestion, as projection arises in the earliest phase of psychosexual development, the oral stage.

Projection in and of itself is by no means pathological. To the contrary, it facilitates the vital link between infant and mother, and indeed, between all humans. We could not meaningfully communicate with one another in the absence of this type of mutual projection, which is deeper than words.

A clearer term for pathological projection might be forced projection, in which, instead of a free flow between subjects, there is a quasi-permanent object within the self that must be constantly projected in order to rid oneself of anxiety, or depression, or low self esteem, whatever. Then the person spends his life in search of suitable receptacles for his projections.

I thought of this the other day while daydreaming behind the wheel. It occurred to me that liberals never accuse conservatives of believing what we actually believe or doing what we actually do. Instead, they take a grossly distorted and exaggerated version of what we believe, and then attack us for it.

Now, if I were actually guilty of what they accuse us of -- e.g., racism, imperialism, misogyny, homophobia, fascism, theocracy, etc. -- I would be the first to attack myself.

There must be a name for this logical fallacy, but I am unaware of it. If it is engaged in consciously, then it is indeed a mere logical fallacy. But I suspect that the majority of liberals do this unconsciously.

In other words, they are simply projecting a primitive part of themselves into us, whether sexual, violent, sadistic, power mad, whatever. And this would explain why it is so difficult to have a rational conversation with a liberal, for when we talk about equality they project racism, or when we talk about marriage they project homophobia, etc.

Again, they seem to be unable to help themselves from accusing us of things we don't believe. They never deal with the actual issue. We can't even have a rational discussion of the fiscal crisis facing state governments, because liberals immediately project into us a violent assault on the "middle class," or some other such primitive fantasy.

I hope I never do this with the left. In other words, I don't accuse them of things they do not do or believe, only what they actually do and believe, which is more than enough for me.

Liberals want a bigger state. I want a smaller one. They want an elastic, "living Constitution." I don't. They want the government to discriminate on the basis of race. I don't. They want more money for teachers' unions. I want vouchers and freedom of choice in education. They want socialized medicine. I want market based reforms. They think the Constitution confers a right to abortion. I don't see it. Etc.

It is sad to think of our trolls eternally gnawing away at my brain in Hell, but that's just the way it is.

Mmm, Gagdad...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pride Slide and the Shame Game

The last circle of Hell is reserved for the traitors, who are placed here "because betrayal is the central sin of the Christian tradition, represented by Judas, who betrayed Jesus" (Upton).

More generally, "the worst betrayal is to deny the truths of God and so set up a parody of them -- and this is also self-betrayal, which is why Judas must commit suicide" (ibid).

What motivates betrayal is pride, the cardinal sin. But underneath pride is shame. The pride of the pathological narcissist is really a preemptive defense against the experience of shame, and shame is a sort of attack on the self, projected into others.

Inappropriate pride results from dysregulated shame, i.e., shame that is either too overwhelming to endure, or which occurs in a self too fragile to endure it. Instead of tempering and tutoring pride, it traumatizes it.

Look at what happens in Genesis. Adam's promethean pride is immediately followed by his intolerable shame, which in turn provokes the first lie, so we can see how all of these things are linked.

Adam first pretends he is God, so that when the real God appears, he doesn't just revert back to himself -- a mere man -- but is revealed as the shameful "opposite" of God. It's a pretty big leap to instantaneously go from being a proud god to being ashamed of one's body!

As it so happens, I am coaching my son's Little League team, and Little League -- like everything else in our culture -- has become pathetically feminized since my own glory days as a sensationally adequate hurler. Obviously it is possible to go too far in the opposite direction, and to use sports as a vehicle to transmit shame to a child.

But we have overreacted to that danger by trying to arrange it so that the experience of shame is impossible. Importantly, this is not to protect the children -- who can handle the reality that some players are better than others -- but the parents who cannot tolerate their own vicarious shame.

Remember, shame itself is not a bad thing, only shame that is excessive (i.e., traumatic), on the one hand, or dysregulated, on the other. Shame serves the vital purpose of group harmony, as there is no one more dangerous than the hordes of Shameless with their absurdly inappropriate self esteem in tow. With no sense of shame, no behavior or political party is off limits.

Again, the ideal is to introduce shame in tolerable doses. Shame is even a sort of "divine instinct," in that a race of shameless humans could never be human. If you want to know why the culture of professional sports has deteriorated so much, it is because the players have become so shameless.

Schuon: "pride... is to overestimate oneself while underestimating others; it is the refusal to accept humiliation when the nature of things requires it; and it is ipso facto to take for a humiliation every attitude that simply reveals our limits."

And pride "destroys the virtues for two reasons: first of all because one takes them away from God, to whom they belong in reality, thus putting oneself -- like Lucifer -- in place of the Divine Source; and secondly because one attributes de facto a disproportionate value to a phenomenon which is necessarily relative" (ibid.). In other words, get over yourself.

Upton makes the important point that in this circle of Hell, "fame becomes shame."

But this is also true in the hereabove for anyone with three eyes to see. A normal person would be deeply creeped out for being known for anything other than moral, intellectual, or artistic excellence.

To be known for anything else is -- or should be -- humiliating. The only reason it isn't is again because of pride, which conceals the shame. For the properly right-side up person, the more famous he is, the more humble he should be. Ask yourself: is there anyone more humble than Christ? I didn't think so.

But in our culture, instead of teaching humility we teach self esteem, another cadword for pride. Why would one esteem the self, of all things? Do these people not even know what a human being is? Have they never cracked a history book? Are they ridiculous? Does it grow ungnosissed that Even if humility did not save us from hell, in any event it saves us from ridicule (Don Colacho)?

Yesterday Dennis Prager devoted an hour to the topic of how one produces children who are good. This is the central task of parenting in particular and culture in general.

However, one of the principles of the left (either implicit or explicit) is that man is basically good. That being the case, there is no reason to train a child to be good, since nature takes care of that. For the leftist, any child will turn out okay so long as he isn't exposed to dangerous conservative principles such as self-discipline, objective morality, and absolute truth.

This is hardly a gift to the child, but a callous deprivation, for it leaves him in a state of nature instead of helping him ascend to the properly human. One could hardly do more to invert our cosmic system of Christian jewishprudence.

Some righteous wimpslaps from the hand of Don Colacho:

--To educate man is to impede the “free expression of his personality.”
--The individual today rebels against immutable human nature so that he might refrain from amending his own correctable nature.
--The right to fail is an important right of man.
--Rejection troubles us and approval confuses us.

You're right, Virgil. Deep down, these celebrities are aren't such bigshots.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unspeakable Truth and the Lower Limits of Language

As we converge upon the center of Hell, language begins to break down altogether, as is to be expected, for it is located at the greatest ontological distance from the Word. At the bottom of the cosmos, God -- the Word -- just isn't that into you. Literally.

This is a precise but inverse analogy of what occurs as we approach the One, which also sheds language like so much water off a duck's back.

One might say that language is allegheirically swallowed up in Hell but drawn into Heaven; the former is the ego shouting (•) into the infinite void Ø, while the latter is the I-AMmaculate Voidgin (O) shouting with joyous labor pains out of ʘ. The former is abØrtion, the latter c♀♂nception.

Thus, in neither case can the object of language be "contained" -- similar to how physics breaks down at both ends of the cosmos, at the subatomic and metacosmic, the nonlOcal head and the lØcal TOE. In between it works just fine -- or is at least adequate to the needs of terrestrial survival.

As we should all know by now, this was the Big Idea behind the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections of the bʘʘk.

For clearly, no language suffices to describe the state of affairs prior to cosmic manifestation, just as no description is adequate to convey what transcends language in the highest realm. Therefore, I had to invent a hyperdimensional language in order to stay one step ahead of the dictionary and to trick Gödel, who is always right on my tail.

Or, to put it another way, Coherence and obviousness are mutually exclusive (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

So even a poet as singular as Dante acknowledges the difficulty of describing his experience, the challenge of finding words Appropriate to describe that dismal pit / On which the other circles converge.

Dante goes on to say that I would press out the juice of my conception / More fully still: but since I have them not, / 'Tis with some fear I bring myself to speak. / The utmost depth of all the universe / Is not a theme befitting childish tongues.

O ye, condemned to utmost misery, / Where words can scarce suffice to tell your woe, / Better had ye been sheep or goats than men!

As Upton explains, "These realities are inexpressible like those of the supraformal planes of Paradise, but for the opposite reason."

It's a bit like trying to objectively describe the quantum world, which cannot be done, because the photons needed to observe it alter it. The order we bring to it is inseparable from the observer who orders it.

Thus, in order to describe his experience, Dante "must gloss over the true chaos of the reality he is encountering, which is why he fears he has failed to do justice to his subject" (Upton).

Here again, this is why I attempted -- however unsuccessfully -- to simultaneously evoke what I was describing in those two single ends of the Absurcular Book; in so doing, my only guide could be what was evoked in me, so there is no guarantee that it is evocative for others.

The paradox of Hell is that if we become what we behold, we can only lie about it. Language "sinks to the level of the chaos and darkness it is attempting to describe, and thus becomes unintelligible" (Upton).

Someone once said that Hell is a place were reason is absolutely impotent. Since language is the -- or an -- embodiment of Reason, we must somehow abandon language to enter Hell. Or, we are in Hell when reason and language fail us in a persecutory manner. There are many instances when the failure of language is a blessing.

Interestingly, Dante asks the Muses "to help him tell the story of Hell in such a way that the evil of it may be safely contained within his great poem, not let loose upon the world" (Upton).

Here again, this would represent a kind of inverse analogy of scripture. As the latter evokes and allows us to assimilate Light, truth, beauty, love and virtue, we can imagine a kind of diabolical scripture which could unwittingly "enter" and contaminate us.

Before you dismiss this as metaphorical, aren't we all concerned with what goes into us, and the effect it has upon the soul? Religious people are aware of this in a more or less direct way, whereas the irreligious tend to experience it in a displaced and dysfunctional manner -- for example, in their preoccupation with the body and with absurd threats to our health. It is difficult if not impossible to explain to such a person that I send my son to a religious school in order to avoid the deadly soul pollution of secular culture.

And what is political correctness but a weird caricature of spiritual purity?

To be a fisher of postmodern men, one must be aware of the fissure in postmodern man -- a fissure that results from the systematic abuse of language. And logocide always redounds to soulicide.

Say, how would you describe this place? I'm having a little difficulty finding le mot juste.