Friday, April 01, 2011

What Makes a Life Worth Leaving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So short! Whoosh! there went your life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Adamology of Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damn conscience! Must you follow me everywhere!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Celescalating the Skyrescape Ladder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fire escape goes both ways:

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Doing Time in the Purgatoreum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excuse me? You came from Hell?