Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Leaving Eden for the Big City

We left off yesterday discussing the "tyranny of cousins" -- i.e., band-level societies -- and how they are held together not so much by blood as by what Melanie Klein called "constitutional," or innate, envy.

Speaking of bands, oddly enough, it reminds me of a lyric by Alice Cooper: What's keeping us apart isn't selfishness / What's holding us together isn't love.

As Fukuyama explains, these societies "are highly egalitarian." They are essentially horizontal, with primary distinctions falling along the lines of age and sex.

This is primitive communism in all its naked glory. But note that the result -- or basis -- is the same as its modern version, the effacement of individuality by a kind of coercion that is always operating under the surface.

What is the nature of this coercion? As Fukuyama describes it, it is a kind of passive-aggressiveness that keeps everyone in line. No one has to even explicitly tell anyone else what to do.

While some members with leadership abilities will naturally emerge -- as when boys play together -- they do not have any formal power, nor are there any explicit rules or laws. Fukuyama notes that there is "authority" but not power; or again, the power is implicit and spontaneous.

Here again, this reminds me of the implicit regime of political correctness, which is also always present, aggressively pushing people into little boxes of identity in order to enforce community standards. Political correctness is like the rule of law, only furtively established by totalitarians.

And one only becomes aware of the law by transgressing it. Then you understand that there is this alternate source of power and "justice" in the world. It is decentralized and dispersed, but comes together like a collective defense mechanism when needed to attack liberty and enforce ideological servitude.

Importantly, political correctness results in a false unity, since it is founded upon fear and hatred rather than love. It is rooted in thanatos, not eros (or a "false eros," i.e., (-L), as when the troll leaves us with a chirpy namaste, assoul!).

An image occurs to me. If I remember correctly, there is a kind of fungus that exists as individual cells, but which can come together in the form of an elongated tube, which can then "walk," so to speak, by falling forward.

Now, a fungus is neither plant nor animal, but one of those "in between" entities that escape our clear-cut boundaries, like viruses or Michael Jackson.

Like the Walking Fungus, tribal societies "can aggregate at a high level," but "are prone to immediate fissioning once the cause of their union (such as external threat) disappears" (Fukuyama).

Fukuyama mentions an old Arab wisecrock: "Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the stranger." This explains how the only real "unity" in the Arab-Muslim world is deeply rooted in the cosmic thanatos of Jew-hatred. This is the same unity as human sacrifice, which I believe Gil Bailie calls "unanimity minus one."

The Walking Fungus also reminds me of zombies who walk around but aren't really alive as we understand the term. Is it possible for Death to be "alive" and running around loose in the world? Or does this only happen in movies?

Oh no, it happens. More on which as we go along. (Click to embiggen.)

How did humans transition from band to tribe? It occurred only yesterday, about 10,000 years ago, and accompanies the development of agriculture. Correlation is not causation, so it is impossible to say which came first.

But on the psychic plane, this represents a profound shift, for it is the transition from a life of freedom and movement within bountiful nature -- one might even say Eden -- to one that is stationary and for the first time involves work that is actually toil instead of "adventure."

There is a big difference between getting together with the boys to go on a hunting trip vs. turning soil and picking weeds. Ask any man.

The need for constant mobility limited the size of bands, but agriculture brought with it great increases in population that required new modes of interaction. Now, for the first time, human beings had to deal with others outside the clan without simply killing them.

As a result, roles that were once concrete and implicit now must become abstract and explicit. For example, instead of "authority" incarnated in the form of "father," the authority must be pried away from the object and understood as role, not person.

Importantly, the authority will still be rooted in the unconscious archetype of Father, only projected into the Chieftain or Big Man.

This kind of arrangement is still halfway between tribalism and a fully developed society, the latter of which is (supposedly) fully conformed to abstract roles and laws. For example, for us moderns, the "president" is primarily an abstract office, not a concrete man.

But not really, for as we were saying yesterday, later stages always contain -- and are sometimes contained by! -- elements of earlier ones. This is true both on an individual and a collective basis. Indeed, Obama's fundamental problem is that the left's archetypal projections of the godman have gradually been withdrawn, thus revealing the emperor's empty suit.

Fukuyama doesn't get into it, but what are the implications for religion of these different stages of development? Joseph Campbell wrote a big-ass, expensive book -- which he considered his magnum opus -- on this subject (published separately as The Way of the Animal Powers: Mythologies of the Primitive Hunters and Gatherers and The Way of the Seeded Earth.

Wait. Fukuyama does get into religion, but not too deeply. In fact, he says that the reason band-level organization "took hold across human societies was due to religious belief, that is, the worship of ancestors."

The spirits of the dead require "continual maintenance on the part of their living relatives, who had to provide them with regular offerings of food and drink lest they become angry" -- like in-laws who never leave.

The bigshots who unified the society were subject to the same courtesy, only on a grand scale -- for example, as exemplified by the pyramids of ancient Egypt. When a pharoah died, it was considered good form to entomb him with a bunch of slaves to tend to his needs in the afterlife.

Likewise, in ancient China "the graves of high-status people were filled with... the bodies of horses, slaves, and concubines" -- not to mention plenty of food -- "intended to accompany the dead person into the afterlife."

Even so, the problem with a Chinese burial was that the spirits were still hungry an hour later.

On that note, I must stop. Time to earn some bread by the sweat of my brow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Envious Cravemen and Liberal Proglodytes

As we were saying in the previous post, the origins of everything are obscure. One of the reasons for this is that science has no difficulty tracking continuity. The trick is how to account for true discontinuity and still call it "science."

Inevitably, science deals with the problem by explaining the novel and unknown in terms of the past and the known. It superimposes what it knows on what it doesn't.

In so doing, it drags life into matter, pneuma into brain, and subject into object, and then just ignores both the remainder that defies such a simplistic reduction and the many irreducible paradoxes that result.

For the scientistic mindset, the emergence of a puzzling discontinuity such as humanness is not really a radically novel development, only a continuation of monkeys. Life is nothing special, just a statistically rare arrangement of matter. And even the cosmos itself is no big deal, just a random fluctuation in the quantum void.

Thus, when science tries to explain everything -- or when it tries to leap outside itself, toward ultimate explanations -- it necessarily explains nothing, for science can no more explain itself than the eye can see vision or the fingers can grasp the hand.

The purpose of science is not -- and cannot be -- to explain "everything." Science always requires an implicit frame of reference in order to make sense, and this frame of reference is always metaphysical and/or theological.

We would have no objection to this if they made their metaphysics explicit, but they never do this. Instead, they make the most outrageous claims while pretending that these claims are not rooted in a metaphysic that the science itself can in no way support, for the science is a posteriori to the metaphysic.

We must bear these caveats in mind as we search for the "origins of politics," for we will not actually discover them through the methods of science. Science will show us shadows and footprints, but never the thing itself. Irrespective of whether one calls oneself scientific or religious, rational or transrational, a leap of faith is required in order to "settle" the matter. A matter is settled when our mind is at peace, and no longer persecuted by the presence of the unKnown.

Take the example of those 3D magic eye pictures. In Bion's metapsychology, the random-appearing dashes of color are analogous to "thoughts without a thinker," or what he calls beta elements. These are the raw material, so to speak, of thinking.

It is the work of a moment to analogize this to the human condition, for we all find ourselves immersed in a giant 4D Magic Eye Motion Picture we call the Cosmos, and starring you in the lead. The odd thing is that you must simultaneously play your role while figuring out the plot.

The sudden emergence of the three-dimensional image out of the chaotic void is what Bion calls alpha function, but you are free to simply call it "thinking." A person who fruitfully thinks will constantly be engaging in alpha function, that is, continuously bringing together and synthesizing the raw stuff of life into novel syntheses. As we mature -- so long as we are rooted in, and guided by, the teleological attractor of Truth -- these syntheses are successively wider and therefore deeper.

Thus, our psychospiritual development is intrinsically non-linear and discontinuous, as we gather more existence into our being. And to say "depth" is immediately to leave science behind, for depth is a measure of soul -- in fact, the most adequate measure of soul, in any field.

Why is Shakespeare deeper than [fill in the blank]? For the same reason that Aretha is deeper than Celine Dion, or any artist or thinker is deeper than another. The deepest idea can be made shallow in the head of a shallow soul -- for example, the profound ideas of God, or Creation, or Evolution (or Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively).

So let's keep this in mind as we search for the origins of politics, which are buried in the mythterious origins of humanness.

Fukuyama reminds us of that quintessential example of scientistic materialism gone nuts, Marxism: "they posited a theory of developmental stages -- primitive communism, feudalism, bourgeois society, and true communism -- all driven by an underlying conflict between social classes."

There is so much wrong with this formulation that we don't have time to fisk it to pieces -- besides, History has already done so.

But note that it begins with materialistic assumptions -- it is, after all, "dialectical materialism" -- so that its conclusions are foreordained. It is a perfect example of a theory that explains everything and therefore nothing. But do the tenured nevertheless put their faith in postmodern variants of it? Does a boor shoot hoops in the White House?

Fukuyama is correct that "the evolution of political complexity" is "not linear: a given stage of development often contain[s] characteristics of earlier ones, and there [are] multiple mechanisms moving society from one stage to another."

Now, once we even use the word "stage," we are talking about hierarchy, about evolution, and about superiority. In other words, we are outside the domain of science, and inside the qualitative and properly human domain of values.

But liberals are profoundly uncomfortable with the human world, so they deicided to abolish the hierarchy with their doctrines of cultural relativism and multiculturalism. In this weird variant of Marxist materialism, all modes of production are equal, except for capitalism, which is worse.

This is another example of the incoherence of any form of secular materialism. As we have said many times, it is not the Raccoon who denies evolution, but the metaphysical Darwinian. Just as the leftist stole the term "liberal" to conceal his essential illiberalism, the Darwinist has stolen the word "evolution" to conceal his necessarily horizontal worldview, in which nothing can be higher or lower than anything else.

Properly speaking, the metaphysical Darwinist believes in change, not evolution. This was exemplified by our recent troll, who explained to us that human beings are simply an adaptation to funky weather. Since no weather is objectively better or worse than any other weather, humans are no higher or lower than anything else in this 2D unmagic eye picture. Suffice it to say, this doesn't even explain our cosmic funkmanship, let alone less important capacities.

Thus, Fukuyama is again correct in noting that "cultural relativism is at odds with evolutionary theory, since the latter necessitates identifying different levels of social organization and the reasons why one level gets superseded by another."

I also want to return to Fukuyama's previous statement about later stages containing elements of earlier ones. This is indeed a key principle, for any transformation must work with the existing material. Thus, I am not surprised that the laws of physics explain certain things about me. But to pretend that I can be reduced to physics is just stupid. Indeed, it is the other way around: humans explain physics, not vice versa.

Likewise, to pretend that humanness can be reduced to genetics or environment is equally stupid. Nevertheless, we should not be surprised to find traces of apehood in man, elements of primitive communism in modern economies, and elements of tribalism in liberal democracies. This hardly means that the latter terms can be reduced to the former.

One of the principle ways -- perhaps the principle way -- tribalism endures in the modern world is via the left. In defining itself as "postmodern" and "progressive," the modern leftist ironically becomes an atavistic proglodyte, for extremists meet in this cosmos.

Fukuyama notes that in the world of early humans, there is "nothing resembling modern individualism," which reminds us of the forced anonymity of the leftist hive, which reduces us all to racial, or gender, or socioeconomic categories.

For example, in Obamaworld, a hard working person earning $250,000 a year, who has five children in private schools, a wife at home, a mortgage underwater, and no net worth, is a "millionaire." Any individuality is effaced by the ravenous demands of the state.

In both the premodern and postmodern worlds, we are bound by what the anthropologist Ernest Gellner called the "tyranny of cousins." This is obvious in the former, as everything we think and do is defined and constrained by our place in the clan: "That is, your social world was limited to the circles of relatives surrounding you, who determined what you did, whom you married, how you worshipped, and just about everything else in life."

And in our opinion, one of the key psychic mechanisms that held this system together was and is envy. Envy was evolved to solve a serious problem, i.e., group unity and harmony, for human beings cannot survive outside the group. All primitive groups are characterized by the "evil eye" of envy, which makes its target feel uncomfortable and persecuted by these envious projections. But in order to evolve out of tribalism toward universality, we had to first break through the envy barrier, hence the 10th Commandment of spiritual evolution: you shall not covet your neighbor's whatever. In short, envy is natural; transcendence of envy is supranatural.

Thus, the leftist hardly needs to invent envy. He must only provoke, legitimize and exploit it in order to gain power over the envious, and eventually over all of us. Like the cravemen they are, they just want to be fair, and spread the poverty around.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

OMary Don't You Weep

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Origins of the Origins of Political Order and the Purpose of the Purpose of America

Fukuyama begins his search for The Origins of Political Order with the state -- the state of nature. And although he doesn't express it this way, he is absolutely correct to locate that origin in our irreducible intersubjectivity, or shared being. He rejects what he calls the "Hobbesean fallacy,"

"the idea that human beings were primordially individualistic and that they entered into society at a later stage in their development only as a result of a rational calculation that social cooperation was the best way for them to achieve their individual ends."

As I explained in the book, not only did human beings not evolve as individuals, they could not have done so. The mere evolution of a larger brain would have been insufficient to sponsor or host our humanness.

Rather, humanness emerged as a consequence of the unique circumstance of runaway growth in brain size, which ultimately resulted in mothers giving birth to premature and neurologically incomplete infants. At the same time, the mother's defenselessness in the face of having to care for a helpless infant created and strengthened the role of Father, bringing the trimorphic family into existence.

Thus, in my view, the internally related family is the first (and very possibility of) political order. But prior to it is the mother-infant dyad, which is not really a dyad per se, unless only looked at externally.

Rather, this is a uniquely interior dyad. In the orthoparadoxical formulation of D.W. Winnicott, there is no such thing as an infant. Instead, there is a single organism -- one might say the quintessentially human organism -- with mother acting as the infant's "auxiliary cortex," so to speak, to translate what is otherwise an infinite and dread-prone space into thought, or nonlocal being into local existence.

I don't want to get bogged down in details here. Interested readers can check out my book, or peruse the psychology department of the Raccoon Store -- in particular, the works of Schore (hard), Siegal (easier) or Greenspan (easiest).

A more subtle point, but critical to psychoanalytic neuro-developmental theory, is that the thinking process itself is intersubjective.

In other words -- and this is bobvious once you look at it -- human beings are intersubjective with ourselves. We are always in dialogue with an Other, and sometimes it is difficult to say which end of this relationship is more "us." I would say that neither side is, because we are again dealing with a fruitful complementarity, not a vicious duality.

Put it this way: if we weren't "two," we couldn't think. But if we weren't "one" underneath that, we couldn't actually know anything. So one might say that the One is revealed in the bipolar space between oneness and twoness, which we might call the psychic Third.

This third area is where it all goes down for human beings. It is the actual space we inhabit, only (for most people) projected out into the world and reified. This is why one jaded person can be "bored" with the world, while another sees it as an unrolling theophany, the very garment of divine being. Both are fundamentally interior states, apprehended externally.

Where I believe Fukuyama errs is in failing to appreciate the spiritual oneness that underlies our existential twoness. As he puts it, "it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history. That individualism seems today like a solid core of our economic and political behavior is only because we have developed institutions that override our more naturally communal instincts."

This passage is fraught with potential economic and political mischief. For while it is correct to say that individualism (which is to say, colonization of the interior) evolves with time and history, Fukuyama implies that it is therefore completely contingent and historically conditioned, which would be the postmodern, ultramoronic view of the tenured.

I cannot emphasize enough the arbitrary and self-defeating nature of such a distorted view of human beings. Yet, it is so pervasive in academia and in culture, that we are in danger of revoking our essential humanness as a result.

Again: human beings are two (i.e., intersubjective) only because the subject (and ultimately the metacosmic Subject) is fundamentally one.

But the oneness of the subject cannot be known or thought about until it bifurcates into two, e.g., thoughts and thinker, conscious and unconscious, Father and Son, form and substance, Absolute and Infinite, space and time, etc. What evolves is not the "individual" per se; rather, what specifically evolves and deepens is the process, which, in my symbology, reduces to O ←→ (¶).

Now, since the ultimate purpose of life is, and can only be, the sat-chit-ananda, or being-consciousness-bliss, of O ←→ (¶), it stands to transrationality that the best political order will be the one that makes this possible, or at least gets out of the way and doesn't stifle or prevent it. It will be the political order that quite explicitly begins with the idea that all men are equally endowed by their Creator with the liberty to pursue their happiness, which is again rooted in some form of matterimanyall engagement with the Real, i.e, O ←→ (¶).

This is why human life is uniquely and cosmically worthwhile, and why the state's first duty is therefore to protect it. Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness = Being Consciousness Bliss, deusrespectively.

The main purpose of the state is to accomplice things we cannot accomplish on an individual basis, which is to say, smack down all the deviants who wish to deny the human reason for being, either through physical or intellectual or spiritual violence.

Obviously, as Cosmo-Americans, we cannot support any state which undermines the explicitly spiritual assumptions of our having brought this great nation into being before its beginning (for in our end is our beginning, and vice versa). If the purpose of America isn't to facilitate the Adventure of Consciousness, then for what Good is it in the ultimate scam of things?

I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth. --John Adams

Nevertheless, I'm not completely close-minded on the matter. Liberals do make an articulate and passionate case for a contrary view.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two Tribes, Two Dreams, One Dreamer

Surmounting all is an intuitive feeling about the immanent nature of reality, and this is the sanction to which both ideas and beliefs are ultimately referred for verification. Without the metaphysical dream it is impossible to think of men living together harmoniously over an extent of time. The dream carries with it an evaluation, which is the bond of spiritual community. --Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

Trying to locate the "origins of political order" is a bit like trying to remember the beginning of a dream -- which ain't gonna happen. We never remember the beginning of a dream. Rather, we somehow find ourselves in the middle of one, and no matter how many times it happens, we're always surprised and more or less puzzled to be there. You know, like life. WTF are we doing here?!

It is exactly the same with the origins of politics, which must be coterminous with the origins of humanness. There is no humanness without some kind of psycho-political and pneuma-political order.

For just as kinship and tribal structures are the politics of early man, politics as we know it is the tribal structure of modern man. What are liberal and conservative but two different tribes? Hence the primitive emotionality that is unleashed as a result.

There are two ways we can approach the problem. Indeed, one might even say that there are two tribes who approach the problem in alternate ways. Fukuyama clearly belongs to the tribe that believes in rationalism and naturalistic explanations, which is fine. I never question another guy's faith.

But what if politics is actually the unfolding instantiation of something higher -- not just a complicated way for monkeys to organize themselves, but an ingression of cosmic principles?

For while Fukuyama shows a certain respect for the other tribe, he repeatedly lets on that he doesn't really take our orientation seriously, and automatically translates our beliefs into his language.

For example, our tribe sees a direct link between the unique emergence of individualism in the West, and Christianity's emphasis on the infinite value of the individual. Fukuyama, to his credit, acknowledges this historical reality -- which already places him miles above the multicultural crowd -- but then ascribes it to material/efficient causes.

Fukuyama begins his search for the Origin with our prehuman ancestors. Here again, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, and much to admire and learn from -- indeed, I did the same thing in my own book.

But there is a massive difference between saying that man came from the apes as opposed to through them. For just because humanness emerges in a modified ape brain, it hardly means that this trivial change was sufficient to account for the vast differences.

In Fukuyama's tribe, they point to the "one percent difference" in the genome between man and chimp. In our tribe, we point to the same one percent to show the relative insignificance of DNA in distinguishing man from ape.

Perhaps that one percent doesn't constrain but permits. After ninety-nine Noes! that keep consciousness plunged in the body and merged with the senses, a single Yes! liberates it out into the infinite.

It very much reminds us of that otherwise undistinguished novel, Little Big, which depicts the world as a series of concentric circles, with Reality at the center.

However, unlike in the wideawake world of Aristotelean geometry, in this case, the closer one penetrates toward the center, the more expansive the world, until one reaches the Absolute center which is simultaneously Infinite circumference.

In the profane world of geometry, each successive circle becomes more cramped. But with sacred geometry, each world is more expansive. Thus, in the unsane mathsemantics of our tribe, 1% = ; or, to put it anauthor's way, ʘ and O are "not two" (which is also why we can in principle know anything that is knowable).

In our view, the naturalist tribe can only pretend to understand how man managed to climb over the Monkey Wall, and can only devalue what lies on its other side -- the human side, which is to say, the divine/human side.

Their origin myth is no better than ours, and in fact, considerably more primitive and implausible, for it is forever constrained to explain the Greater via the Lesser. In this myth, truth must somehow be a function of truthlessness, consciousness of matter, life of chemistry, and politics of ape warfare.

The irony is that our tribe is expansive enough to easily accommodate theirs (with wombs to spare), whereas theirs necessarily denies ours.

This is a critical distinction, for our tribe believes in complementarity, while theirs believes in duality. For us there is a complementarity between science and spirit, whereas for their tribe there is only a duality that ultimately reduces to science. And for us, the complementarity always points to its resolution "above," while for them it is simply abolished by pulling it down below.

Which is a funny thing for a liberated monkey to do, for it is a little like escaping back into the zoo. But we are all acquainted with monkeys -- indeed, they are everywhere! -- who prefer chained security to a liberty which is simply "nothing" if not "everything."

And in the absence of spiritual awakening and guidance, liberty is indeed nothing, just as the existentialists say it is. Better to beat a hasty retreat back into matter, where we can at least cash in our chimps and be a king of nothingness.

A hopelessly wayward, eccentric, and willful member of our tribe, James Joyce, attempted the same thing as Fukuyama in his Finnegans Wake, but what a difference! And which approach is more "true?" That is one of the questions we will explore as we go along. (I should emphasize that we have barely even touched on Fukuyama's book, so you should reserve any odium until we have at least given him the podium.)

For Joyce, our origins are obscure, to be sure. But he treats the obscurity as a positive presence rather than a mere "absence." As with a dream, just because it is obscure hardly means that it doesn't have its own logic. It's just different than ours, and if we try to apply our daytime logic to it, we will either be misled or generate absurdity.

For one thing, the Dreamer is bigger and more powerful than the ego. The ego cannot really compete on its playing field, for the same reason that a child, no matter how brilliant a prodigy, will never be a literary genius. The ego going up against the Dreamer is like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon.

In describing the obscure style of Finnegans Wake, Joyce said that "It's natural things should not be so clear at night, isn't it now?" It is a book about the night, veiled in darkness, and attempting to express the truth of the night in the idiom of darkness.

To not remember one's dreams -- or at least not know that one dreams -- is analogous to not knowing that man ceases to be ape when he begins to dream -- or, when he crosses the threshold into the world of the Dreamer. The dream cannot be reduced to mere neurology without putting us back to sleep, swaddled in the animal carcass of our tenured furbears.

"What we have rashly labeled a dream, then, might more accurately be called the 'murmury' of a dream. And since all such dreams occur to us -- literally -- when we wake up and assume our conscious capacity to 'remumble' them, to articulate to ourselves in 'murmury,' traducing them in the process, they will help only some in allowing us to know what really happened in the clearer few minutes of the dark half-hour that we wished, in detail, to reconstruct" (Bishop).

Thus, in trying to locate the "origins of politics," we must simultaneously remumble and remurmur a collective dream. Casting the floodlight of reason on the nighttime of the Dreamer is like beating a drum while chasing a criminal.

Two tribes, two dreams.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Diving from the Shore of History into the Deep End of Revelation and Myth

I might be getting a little burned out on Signore Aligheiri. Or maybe it's because I'm totally preoccupied with a host of other subjects that are near to my head.

In any event, we're going to switch gears and take the cosmic bus for a side trip into those subjects, which are all touched upon in Francis Fukuyama's latest book, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.

It is interesting that science can tell us so many things about ourselves, but almost nothing about matters of ultimate concern. For example, man always lives in a political context, but we really have no idea how and when this got underway. We can only speculate about it in more or less intelligent ways.

This very much parallels the impenetrability of our own origin on an individual basis, which is beyond the horizon of infantile amnesia. Most of us have a more or less continuous history from the age of nine or so, which is analogous to "history." Between five and nine our memories are more spotty, episodic, and thematic, which is very much like prehistory, which we must construct from the intrinsically partial and discontinuous evidence.

But five to zero -- and minus zero -- consists of a vast forgettery. Remember the wise crack of Tolstoy: "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance." We might say the same of the inconceivable distance between merely genetic Homo sapiens and Man.

The intriguing thing is that the data is all there, but it's just unrecoverable because so much of it occurred before it could be encoded in language. And what is a pre-linguistic memory like, especially when it is buried under layer upon layer of language?

For human beings, myth begins at the threshold of prehistory, and bridges the gap between what we consciously recall and what unconsciously remembers us, so to speak.

Referring again to the individual, the infantile past is always remembered, just not consciously. Rather, it manifests in the form of "symptoms," or moods, or tendencies, or preferences, or actions, some of which will reflect who we actually are, others of which will be in opposition to our essence.

To take an example, all human beings essentially long for intimate union with another person. To the extent that they don't, we can assume that something occurred in their past which makes them fearful and avoidant of intimacy. The trauma is not consciously recollected, but rather, unconsciously lived. Therefore, the "living" is the memory, so that such a person is actually -- and quite literally -- "living in the past."

But importantly, such an individual will always have a "cover story" to account for traits, actions, and preferences -- the developmental fixations -- that are not actually his.

Here again, this is analogous to what is called confabulation, a common defense mechanism of psychotic people, but also of stroke victims who have lost access to their memories. It basically consists of covering over the unrecollected area with some invented link -- with a more or less plausible narrative. To put it bluntly, they bullshit, only without being consciously aware of it.

Interestingly, this is what scientistic types routinely accuse religious people of doing, but it is quite the opposite. Science does not -- and cannot -- actually reveal anything about origins, only about the boundary at which scientific ideas become operative. To confuse the origin of something with what we can say about it is an embarrassingly elementary error, for ultimate reality lies on the other side of that bright boundary illuminated by science.

For there is a huge difference between confabulation and myth, let alone revelation. Even if one rejects the idea of revelation, most sophisticated people are aware of the fact that the world's myths are loaded with information about human nature, about our origins, about our fundamental conflicts and strivings, etc.

Virtually every great novelist or poet draws his vital substance from this collective pool of myth -- myths which the individual artist could never have invented. Rather, we only have literature and poetry because the memepool is already there, waiting to be exploited. The great artist does not invent, but discovers, unThought truths about ourselves.

Perhaps I should note at the outset that the great weakness in Fukuyama's book is his evident rationalism, which causes him to look at myth and revelation in pragmatic and operational terms only.

Perhaps most importantly, while he properly notes the unique emergence of the individual in the Christian west, he essentially attributes it to the financial shenanigans of the Church, which ends up being an instance of the very Marxism he supposedly rejects.

In short, he provides a material explanation for a cosmic fact of surpassing significance; for indeed, the emergence of the conscious, truth-bearing human being is the most important fact in all of creation -- it is the Fact without which there could be no other facts. Facts are a function of principles, not vice versa, and human beings have unique access to this higher, principial world.

And how could this be the case if our individualism is totally contingent, just an accidental by-product of the Church's material self-interest?

For it's one thing to say that the modern self came into being as a result of the Church's attack on the kinship structures that kept man a "collective" rather than individual person, and therefore allowed them to have a bigger piece of the financial pie. (In other words, wealth and property were freed up from the tight structure that kept it within extended families.)

But it is an entirely different matter to reduce what emerged to such a linear cause. For even if there was a material cause of the emergence of the individual self, it would be a material -- or perhaps efficient -- cause only, certainly not a formal, let alone final, cause.

Consider Fukuyama himself. He is viewing all of history and prehistory from the panoramic vista afforded by his unique self, which is able to disinterestedly rise above time and disclose the truth of history.

But if this capacity is really just a side effect of the financial manipulations of the medieval Church, then why should we pay attention to him at all? Isn't his theory self-refuting?

I apologize for the lack of context, and for not beginning at the beginning of the book. If any of this is unclear, it will become so as we proceed. All of this is hot off the mental press, and perhaps a bit undigested.

I should also emphasize that this is a very serious, thoughtful, provocative, and worthwhile book. While I might disagree with some of Fukuyama's ultimate conclusions, he has done a tremendous amount of research and synthesized a vast amount of data -- not to mention debunked any number of cherished liberal, and some conservative, ideas that are tacitly accepted as true.

But sometimes a mind that is so synthetic can overlook some of the most important trees. I will be the first to admit that I've done so myself.

But it would be ironic in the extreme to overlook the very tree -- the Judeo-Vedantic Tree of Life, with its roots aloft, its branches and beleaves down herebelow -- that makes such a synOptic metaview possible to begin with.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You Shall Not Turn Stones into Government Cheese

Dante concludes his parsing of the Lord's prayer with Try not our strength, so easily subdued, / against the ancient foe, but set it free / from him who goads it to perversity.

He adds that this last petition is not for his sake -- since he no longer has that particular weakness -- but "for the ones whom we have left behind." He has this, er, friend who, you know, kind of has problems in that area.

The latter souls trudge around in circles with weights on their backs, hoping to purge themselves of the world's impurities -- or, the terrestrial impurities they have assimilated and internalized.

"Lead us not into temptation" has obvious resonance with Jesus' forty days in the desert, just after his baptism. If baptism is the "purification," then temptation is the test of purity.

And as we have discussed before, the adversary never forces the issue; he does not operate through coercion, like some mid-level government functionary, but through temptation.

Temptation is the test of purity, and purity is the victory over temptation. The purifying "fire" that occurs in the space between these two poles is our phoenishing school, so long as you make ashes of yourselves.

Temptation is etymologically related to stretch, so that it implies a kind of centrifugal pulling of ourselves outward, from the center to the periphery, from cooncentration ("coon central") to dissipation. The world itself is a giant test, an opportunity to challenge our ability to resist its seductions.

According to Pope Benedict, Jesus' time in the desert is not for his sake per se, but for ours, both as archetype and as mission.

Jesus has to plunge down "into 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.... He must recapitulate the whole history from its beginnings -- from Adam on; he must go through the whole of it, in order to transform it."

To put it another way, Jesus must retake the test that Adam FAILED, and this time obtain a passing grade. Please note that this is not so much a recapitulation of horizontal history as of the vertical history that is lived -- or relived -- by every man.

You might say that Jesus needs to come down and find out the exact nature of the problem by actually experiencing -- and undergoing -- it.

We are all dropped into history, just like Jesus. Indeed, if we weren't so dropped, then Jesus' own plunge into history 1O1 would have no meaning for us. For Man is the best judge of where his shoe pinches, and Jesus aims to walk a mile in our crockosins.

But Jesus skips the multitude of middlemen -- the multifarious manifestations of maya -- and goes straight to the source, for that is just the way He rolls. This way he can reduce the whole existentialida to a more digestible three-entree combo plate, confront the "quintessential human drama," and get on with it.

Benedict reminds us that the synoptics recount "three temptations of Jesus that reflect the inner struggle over his own particular mission," but simultaneously go to the question of "what truly matters in life."

Appropriately, the temptations all ultimately flow from the violation of the first Commandment, in which God is pushed aside "as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying."

With this primordial "act," man inverts the cosmos and places himself at the top, thus replacing the Abbasolute with a middling relativity. Doing so redounds to countless errors of every kind, e.g., cognitive, spiritual, philosophical, political, scientific, moral, etc.

This cosmic inversion cannot fail to result in epic falls, for no house can be built upon sand. In replacing God with man, we necessarily replace truth with opinion, virtue with convention, beauty with pleasure, and wisdom with tenure.

Now, "forty days" has a number of resonances, perhaps most especially the forty days Moses spent on Sinai and the forty years the ancient Israelights stumbled around in the bewilderness.

According to Ratzinger, this cosmic number is another symbolic hint that we are dealing with a totality -- with man's entire cosmic exodus and return, i.e, History as such.

Or, one might say that History has become derailed, and Jesus' mission is to get it back on track -- or at least show us where man has buried his tracks.

The three temptations of course have an exterior and interior meaning. They involve, 1) turning stones to bread, 2) taking a flying leap, and 3) the promise of worldly power and prestige.

Do we need to repeat the verticalisthenic exergesis? These three have so many dimensions and implications, that it would be difficult to explore them all in the space of a post. Besides, I believe we have discussed these in the past, in the context of our card-by-card series of posts on MOTT.

One popular way to try to turn stones to bread is through the apparatus of the welfare state. In its case, it attempts to transform money obtained through coercion into compassion. But the state has only enumerated powers, not innumerable feelings.

In the case of, say, the Palestinians, it tries to turn money into civilization and common decency, and we see how that has worked out. It is the same with Africa. It may temporarily relieve the guilt -- and inflate the self-image -- of liberals, but that's about it. The liberal temptation is always to turn stones to bread in one form or another.

But this temptation is rooted in the prior rejection of God (temptation one) and the subsequent consolidation of power (temptation three). So it's all of a piece for the liberal statist, who stands as a vivid example of how to fail Adam's test. And why God wanted a Word with Mary, since Eve wouldn't listen.

Liberals even tendentiously interpret the First Amendment to say that it is illegal for the state to traffic in bread, or to even acknowledge its existence. Rather, it insists upon a radical separation of stones and bread.

Which perhaps might not be so destructive if it didn't then pretend that stones are bread. The liberal fuses magical faith and raw power with an irony so thick that his mind cannot penetrate it.

For the leftist, taxes are his eucharist and entitlements his benediction. His appeal to "progress" is likewise an empty gesture in a world deprived of hierarchy. For how does the materialist measure progress except in the form of more and bigger stones?

Which generations to come will carry on their backs, trundling around in fiscal circles.

Obama's temptation in the desert: "if you are truly the One, then transform this stolen pork into prosperity!" (via American Digest):

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Liberal Agenda, or The Idiot's Guide to Hell on Earth

Upon us may Thy Kingdom's peace descend, for if it does not come, then though we summon all our force, we cannot reach it our selves. --Purgatory, Canto XI

That is to say, while (↑) may be a necessary force, it is never a sufficient one; conversely, (↓) is both necessary and sufficient, if only because (↑) is already a mannafestation of (↓).

In reality, the two movements form the ascending spiral of the interior cosmos. When they are in harmony, then God's will is being done, and we are in Heaven. As Pope Benedict writes, "The essence of heaven is God's will," or "the oneness of will and truth." Virtue flows from this alignment; or, one might say that virtue is the truth -- and beauty -- of will.

Likewise, truth is both the beauty and virtue of intelligence, and beauty is the truth and virtue of creativity. A beautiful place to live, containing beautiful souls, would be heaven on earth.

The Pope agrees that "Earth becomes 'heaven' when and insofar as God's will is done there; and it is merely 'earth,' the opposite of heaven, when and insofar as it withdraws from the will of God."

While we cannot create heaven on earth, we should at least try to do so in our selves, our families, our communities, and on out from there. It cannot start in Washington DC and trickle up, for Wise politics is the art of invigorating society and weakening the State (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

Indeed, the very idea that the state can create heaven on earth -- can cure man's Condition -- is at the root of the left's fantasies of omnipotence. Is there not a leftist who appreciates the irony that we are already living in the very country the left has bent all its efforts to forge over the past eighty years? And that more of the same can only make it worse?

The sophisticated leftist who would ridicule Genesis 3 is most desperately in need of its timeless wisdom, which is true, always has been true, and always will be true: you cannot prevent man's epic FAIL by pretending it didn't, doesn't, and won't happen. Every time.

Democrats can be divided into those who believe wickedness is curable and those who deny it exists (DC).

Only a leader who is systematically ignorant of the perennial truth of man -- perhaps one steeped in crapto-Marxist "liberation theology" -- could talk about "winning the future" with such fundamentally flawed troops. Mankind does not need Christianity so it can construct the future, but so it can confront it (ibid).

Besides, someone else has not only won the future already, but passed the savings on to you!

For how can one "win the future" without first winning the present? And to win the present requires mastery of the self. But to lavish the fruits of self-discipline upon undisciplined and disordered souls is a recipe for disaster -- for hell on earth, if you will.

Man is everywhen subject to Reynold's Law: "Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them."

But Unlike the Biblical archangel, Marxist archangels prevent man from escaping their paradises (ibid). Or, as Obama says, "legislate in haste, tax at leisure." The left passes the bills, and we pay them. This is their idea of "unity" -- of everyone being equally forced to subsidize the dreams of our spiritually deranged neighbors. Well, Perhaps individually men are our neighbors, but massed together they are surely not (ibid). My brother is not the mob.

Yes, we all want our daily broad. But do we really want her to come from the state? Really? For anything "given" to us by the state is instantaneously de-spiritualized and materialized. It is desiccated, mutilated, and exsanguinated by the time it ends up in our hands. This is how, for example, what begins as the "education establishment" ends in the establishment of stupidity.

Conversely -- and this is a key principle of Christianity -- because the Word has become flesh, flesh may attain to the Word. Or, as the Pope explains, "This extreme 'becoming-corporeal' is actually the real 'becoming-spiritual.'"

Again, (↓) is (↑), and vice versa. Thus, the essence of Christianity is a spiritualization of matter, which is the exact opposite of the left's cosmic movement, which involves -- always -- the materialization of spirit.

Consider, for example, this illustrative article on "income inequality," Gauging the Pain of the Middle Class. First, imagine the hubris of anonymous state officials "gauging the pain" of an entire "class" of people they have created in their own minds.

Note that they can in no way gauge the countless sources of real pain in individuals, e.g., divorce, parental abandonment, stupidity, impulsivity, promiscuity, bad values, narcissism -- to say nothing of the existential pain that comes with man's very existence.

Rather, like the scientist who confuses reality with what he is able to quantify, the leftist confuses happiness -- or pain -- with some abstract quantity. They concede up front that "the costs of income inequality are notoriously hard to measure.... Although conventional wisdom has long held that a widening income gap is a problem, there has never been a practical way to measure its actual costs." But does this humble them? No. You cannot humble the shameless.

In order to justify what he is going to do to us anyway, the leftist rejects the common-sense idea that "well-being depends primarily on absolute consumption." Rather, he actually pathologizes the envy-free by assuming that "the context of that consumption is often far more important."

In other words, you must not be satisfied with what you have. Rather, you must compare yourself to neighbors with more than you, in order to be aware of the extent of your pain -- indeed, to indiscriminately lump together mere economic circumstances with psychological, spiritual, emotional, and existential pain. Pay no attention to that stupid commandment that counsels us to refrain from indulging in the very envy that feeds on human happiness.

Do you actually believe your cramped little hovel is adequate? Well, it isn't. Rather, it "invariably depends on the quality and size of other houses in the surrounding area." As the author of the piece suggests, this doesn't only apply to houses, but to everything, which means that in the perverse world of the left, we should nurture a kind of infinite pain as a consequence of our boundless envy. And they accuse conservatives of "greed!"

And for every superior person who is happily free of envy, there is a pained leftist elite who wants desperately to rekindle it in us. We distress them because Capitalism achieves that disgusting prosperity promised in vain by the socialism that hates it (ibid).

The upshot is that hell on earth is not just the consequence, but cause, of the spiritually vacant world of the left.

In reality, No social class has exploited the other social classes more brazenly than that which today calls itself “the state." Thus, Societal salvation is near when each person admits that he can save only himself. Society is saved when its supposed saviors despair (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

So make a liberal miserable today: be happy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hollowed Be Thy Name

One cannot help defining things, but care must be taken not to limit them too much in defining them. --F. Schuon

I don't know about you, but I'm still in Canto XI, in the midst of Dante's invocation and paraphrasing of the Lord's Prayer. The question is, why is the Name to be hallowed -- or praised, as Dante puts it?

Hallow: to make holy or set apart for holy use; venerate.

Pope Benedict has a helpful meditation on the subject in his Jesus of Nazareth. Please note that the reasons for preserving the sanctity of the Name are in no way sentimental, or "procedural," or merely customary, but very much rooted in metaphysical principle.

First, God -- the Absolute -- has a name. Secondly, we cannot know this name unless it is disclosed to us. It is not for us to name God; for one thing, doing so would presume knowledge of what we are talking about.

In other words, when we name something, it is founded upon recognition of a thing's boundaries -- how it is set apart from other things. But since the Absolute can have no boundaries -- nor is it a thing among other things -- it can have no personal name we could give it.

Furthermore, since the Absolute is One, it can have only one name. As the Pope expresses it, God is not "one among many; he cannot have one name among others."

In an important sense, God cannot actually have a name. Rather, he must have a name that is simultaneously no-name -- a kind of algebraic "place marker," or empty category, that we may use to talk about him, without pretending to know what we're talking about.

Thus, when Moses asks his name, God simply says "I AM THAT (or WHO) I AM"; but my friends call me "I AM" for short. This designation is "My name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations."

The Pope says that this name conveys the idea that the Absolute is "without any qualification": it "is a name and a non-name at one and the same time."

Thus, the icandescend Israelights were "perfectly right in refusing to utter this self-designation of God," instead giving Him the unpronounceable tetragrammaton "so as to avoid degrading it to the level of names of pagan deities."

And now you know, my children, why we prefer to call it O. This pneumaticon was first used by Toots Mondello, who was a little dyslexic, and thought it read "hollowed be thy name." Since nothing is more hollow than an empty circle, the unname stuck. But it serves its purpose, as Raccoons go one step further than Jews in preserving the name of the unnameable.

It was always presumptuous and wrong -- and defeated the purpose -- to convert the nameless name to the name "Jehovah." Such chutzpah!

As the Pope says, Israel always regarded the Name as "mysterious and unutterable." To treat it as "just any old name" is to drag the mystery of God "down to the level of some familiar item within a common history of religions."

This is, of course, the ubiquitous problem of atheists, who necessarily deny the existence of some pagan god of their imagination. They are correct to deny this entity, but presumptuous in the extreme if they pretend that this personal god is the Absolute -- the I AM.

The Absolute is. To deny that It Is is to deny that anything at all essentially is. It is to sunder the very possibility of knowledge and meaningful discourse at the roots. It is the cosmic nul de slack of Truth.

God is not the object of my reason, nor of my sensibility, but of my being. God exists for me in the same act in which I exist (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

One of the metaphysical principles that flows from the Name is: I AM, therefore I think. Thought is posterior to, and rooted in, Being, not vice versa. That Being the case, we really can know reality, whether through science, aesthetics, mysticism, or other modes. The I AM guarantees it "to all generations."

It strikes me as a matter of some consequence that the more accurate translation appears to be I AM WHO I AM, which immediately suggests an interior, as opposed to THAT, which implies an exterior, or IT, that we can somehow place boundaries around.

Simply put, THAT is an object, whereas WHO is a subject. And to say "subject" is to say "relationship," for there can be no relationship in the absence of the subject, only external interaction, like billiard balls knocking together.

In the words of Don Colacho, If we believe in God we should not say, “I believe in God,” but rather, “God believes in me.” We cannot relate to God unless he first relates to us.

The Pope agrees that the Name "creates the possibility of address or invocation," and thus "establishes relationship." In other words, "God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He puts himself within reach of our invocation. He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him."

However, in doing so, he is creating the possibility -- no, the certainty -- that his Name will be dragged through the mud, man being what he is.

You know the mentality -- they build you up in order to tear you down. The worst offenders are without question the religious idolators who hijack the Name and essentially engage in cosmic identity theft.

Repetition of the "Jesus prayer" of Orthodox Christianity is considered the very essence of the faith, so long as one is aware of the underlying principle, which again comes down to a name God has revealed to us.

Schuon writes that the Name, "when ritually pronounced, is mysteriously identified with the Divinity. It is in the Divine Name that there takes place the mysterious meeting of the created and the Uncreate, the contingent and the Absolute, the finite and the Infinite. The Divine Name is thus a manifestation of the Supreme Principle, or to speak still more plainly, it is the Supreme Principle manifesting Itself; it is not therefore in the first place a manifestation, but the Principle Itself."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On the Brothelhood of Man: Our Mater Who Art in Matter

For those of you keeping score, it's the top of the XIth canto with two men on first terrace, trying to make it home. At bat are the prideful, so it's not looking good. Frankly, they don't have a prayer.

Speaking of which, Dante begins Canto XI with a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer, which, in a sense, can be more potent than the original, since the latter has become rather saturated with use -- indeed, just as the word "God."

But in order to grow in spirit, we must stay one step ahead of the dictionary, which inevitably domesticates the wild godhead. We must try to avoid this descent of Dogma into mere dogma.

Think of it: with the Lord's Prayer, the Creator himself is making it easy on us by teaching us not only how to pray, but what to pray for. I remember learning it back in Sunday school when I was five or so.

But in actuality, for me it was just a meaningless string of words, like the Pledge of Allegiance. By the time I would have been capable of comprehending the deeper meaning, it was already too saturated -- far too familiar to have any shock value whatsoever.

But if the Ultimate Principle calling you into his office and teaching you how to pray isn't shocking, then nothing is. You are a jaded soul.

Which reminds me of an aphorism: Every Christian has been directly responsible for the hardening of some unbeliever’s heart.

Fortunately, there is a kind of cosmic compensatory agency at work, through which we encounter fools, such as yesterday's troll, who serve to sharpen our faith as a result of seeing the intellectual consequences of their childish doctrines. Been there. Dumb brat.

Indeed, these foolish ideas are their own punishment. Remember, when the atheist talks about the "origin" of anything, whether of the cosmos, of life, or of the human person, he is simply boasting about the arbitrary limit of his metaphysic.

So anyway, Dante's paraphrasing of the Lord's Prayer has the effect of de-saturating it for us. For example, he begins with Our Father, you who dwell within the Heavens, but are not circumscribed by them.

In this single phrase, Dante is telling us that the Absolute is transcendent (within the Heavens) and therefore immanent (not circumscribed by them). The One is simultaneously closer to us than our own being, and yet beyond our imagining.

Another way of saying it is that the One is simultaneously absolute and infinite -- which finds its analogue in the herebelow in a diversity of ways, for example, the wave (infinite) / particle (absolute) complementarity of quantum physics.

Or, on a different plane, Father (Absolute, the Law, Justice) / Mother (Infinite, Compassion, Mercy). Although these are horizontally equal, the Absolute must be vertically prior -- as indeed Adam is "prior" to Eve.

To conflate the Absolute and Mother always leads to a kind of hell on earth; indeed, its horizontal prolongation is the contemporary ovary tower liberalism through which we are swallowed up by the All-Merciful nanny-state.

Its sociological prolongation is the destruction of the tripartite family, and its displacement by the pre-civilizational (and biological) dyad of mother-child.

The exclusion of father leads straight to barbarism, as we have seen with the feminized left's successful undermining of the family. For the left, a family is any two people in love with the state.

Hallowed be thy name. Dante says praised be Your name and Your omnipotence, but this still strikes me as too saturated. For what is the purpose of praising God's name? It's not as if we need to bolster his flagging self-esteem.

In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict has a meditation on the Lord's Prayer, which explicates and illuminates its various dimensions. On the one hand, we need to recognize in the prayer "the thoughts Jesus wished to pass on to us." In other words, there is an exterior component to it.

But there is also -- and more principially, since the inner could never arise from the outer -- an interior dimension of the Prayer, which "reaches down into the depths far beyond the words." It originates from and memorializes the eternal dialogue between the first and second Persons of the Trinity.

Thus, it is an intersubjective prayer between what I would symbolize as O → (↓↑) ← (¶). The prayer takes place in the spiraling space between subjects.

Back to "our Father" for a moment. Clearly, to say "our Father" is to say "your child," so here again we are talking about a relation between subjects. And of course, its horizontal prolongation is the true brotherhood of man, rooted in the Absolute.

We can only be brothers if we share the same father. Otherwise we are all bastards in the universal brothelhood of man.

However, this again does not imply any leftist egalitarianism. To the contrary: My brothers? Yes. My equals? No. Because there are older and younger brothers.

I'm going to have to cut this off in midstream. I need to get to work.

"Yeah, it sucks, but at least we're all equal."

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.