Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cosmic Anthropology: True and False Humanisms

Well, this is good news. I just received a letter from my malpractice insurance carrier, letting me know that I can get a discount if I join a group called Psychologists for Social Responsibility, which is obviously a left wing cult of some kind. Imagine the outcry if they offered a discount, say, to people who complete the RCIA program and become baptized in an actual faith instead of being indoctrinated in a phony one?

In that case, you would actually take a solemn vow to absolutely avoid the sorts of activities that result in malpractice claims, such as bonking your patient. I mean client. No, consumer of mental health services. Wait, co-evolutionary partner.

But it seems to me that the type of gelatinous Joe who would join an outfit such as Psychologists for Social Responsibility has, by definition, a severely broken moral compass, since he systematically externalizes responsibility to the collective, thus robbing the individual of his moral agency, not to mention his human dignity.

That's a little unfair, isn't it? I don't even know anything about them. For all I know -- since they have the word "responsibility" in their name -- they could be a group that promotes personal responsibility, clean living, teenage abstinence, the cultivation of virtue, living by the Ten Commandments, shunning the self-defeating culture of victimhood, not whining, and generally acting like a man for once in your life.

Uh oh. According to the website, PsySR is an organization "that applies psychological knowledge and expertise to promote peace, social justice, human rights, and sustainability. Our members are psychologists, students, and other advocates for social change in the United States and around the world."

"Advocates for change?" What the hell is that supposed to mean? Such gibberish. Now you know why I don't relate to my profession. "Promote peace?" Something tells me that "killing bad guys" or tossing them in the slammer is not on the agenda.

"We share a commitment to the application of psychological knowledge and expertise in addressing today's pressing societal challenges and in building cultures of peace with social justice."

Even if you wanted to, how do you "build" a culture? Much less one "of peace and social justice" -- especially when "social justice" is just a code word for a backward and justice-denying collectivism?

Ah. Under the rubric "Our History," it says that they fought against fascism before and during World War II. Oddly, I am quite sure this didn't involve killing nazis.

And to suggest that these people "fought fascism" prior to World War II is just an outright lie, since they were and are the fascists (the liberal fascists, as demonstrated in Jonah Goldberg's book of the same name).

Proving once again that the left is irony-proof, they brag that "during the height of the Cold War in the 1980’s," they promoted "the use of psychological skills and knowledge to push for nuclear disarmament and to reduce the threat of nuclear war." Thank God they didn't succeed, or the Cold War would still be be with us.

Nevertheless, after they ended the Cold War with psychological magic, "we expanded our mission to include broader issues of peacebuilding and social justice." One evil empire down, one to go: the United States.

Ack. Every click brings new horrors. Anti-Semitic? Naturally. They don't call on genocidal Islamists to end their siege of the Palestinian territories -- or to renounce terror and recognize Israel's right to exist -- but demand that Israel cease defending itself from these monsters. One can hardly be more morally confused than that.

And they are so concerned about abuse within the Catholic church that they cannot call it what it is: predatory homosexual abuse, since the vast majority of victims were adolescent boys. And I don't even have to check to see that there is no concern expressed for teacher abuse in the public schools, where the abuse is more prevalent.

Oh for the love of.... "Climate change" causes mental illness in children. Being that the climate has never not changed, I suppose this explains why humans are so crazy. I know my son suffers a psychotic break every time the weather changes from sunny to cloudy.

Look at how they just make shit up in that letter. There's not a word of truth, much less science. It's all hysteria. These people are the very sickness they presume to treat. I'm sure they don't want to know that the air and water are actually cleaner than they've ever been since we started measuring, or that there is no non-junk science linking the natural disasters they cite to carbon dioxide.

Social responsibility? Let's begin by undermining the unit of society, the traditional family! They are opposed to any legislation that "seeks to deny same-sex couples the right to marry."

But of course, no one is denying anyone the right to marry. Persons of the same sex just can't marry each other, since it is impossible for a man to be married to a man. We want the state to simply recognize "what is," not to impose a new and idiosyncratic definition of reality upon the rest of us, and to redefine an institution that is much older than the state. No state has any right whatsoever to usurp this power.

*****

Enough of what isn't and can never be. Back to what Is.

I don't know if we can appreciate how radical it was in antiquity to announce that God is love; today its meaning has been largely drained, rendering it as biting as a Hallmark greeting card. Therefore, it requires some deprogramming in order to re-appreciate its world-altering consequences.

Consider how love spontaneously emerges in our free society. I would guess that the vast majority of popular songs are about love (I can't really speak for contemporary music, since I don't listen to it). Why should this be? It's quite odd when you think about it. But we don't think about it, because it is so pervasive.

Benedict notes that there is "a certain relationship between love and the divine," in that earthly love evokes our instinct for transcendence, and promises something far beyond the object of love.

Rather, love taps us into "a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence." And one of the problems affecting contemporary relationships is that they are asked to bear the weight of this "totally other" in a way that no human being can.

In other words, instead of looking toward that to which love points, or following it to its source, it becomes focussed solely on the (human) beloved, which cannot help but end in frustration and quite literal dis-illusionment.

But in Benedict's view, the very purpose of terrestrial love is to provide a kind of everyday ladder to the divine. A relationship is both a crucible and an escape (or rather, inscape) that can heal the wounds it makes through the unification of mind, body, and spirit, i.e., through the purification and divinization of man.

Man is a complementarity who is always fishing for his complement; he is a "unity in duality," both vertically, i.e., spirit + matter (or body), and horizontally, i.e., man + woman. Love is not only the basis of their unification, but oriented toward the telos which lights the path of ascent:

"It could hardly be otherwise, since [love's] promise looks toward its definitive goal: love looks to the eternal. Love is indeed 'ecstasy,' not in the sense of a moment of intoxication but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus from the closed, inward-looking self toward liberation through self-giving, and thus toward authentic self-discovery and indeed of God" (Benedict).

Benedict also explores one of our orthoparadoxical principles, (↓↑), i.e., eros and agape, or the "ascending and descending love" that "can never be completely separated" (ibid.).

Rather, "the more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized" (ibid.).

Only because God is a three-in-one is it possible for man to be a whole in oneness. The union that results "is no mere fusion, a sinking in the nameless ocean of the divine; it is a unity that creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully as one" (ibid.).

This is the True humanism. Anything less is just zoology or economics.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Round One of the Culture War: Is vs. Isn't

This post is brought to me and you by a curmudgeonly passage linked at American Digest. It is what we call "self-evident," but no less profound for being so, for in the latter daze it is sufficient to utter truth with clarity to be regarded as intemperate.

In the words of the very private Don Colacho, "Intelligence, in certain ages, must dedicate itself merely to restoring definitions." To paraphrase another aphorism, while ideologies are surely "fictitious nautical charts," the reefs they shipwreck us upon are nonetheless real. Keynesian economics may be pure doo-doo economics, but that doesn't make the malodorous results an illusion. Some ideas really do stink.

Anyway, the passage: "At the very core of our national discombobulation, this very problem We no longer speak the same language. We don't recognize the same historical records. We don't share the same values, principles, hopes, dreams or morality. People like Maddow (as proxy for her ilk) are as fervent in their socialist dogma as we in our love of freedom. After years of agitprop by well placed activists, we're past any possible rapprochement."

"We no longer speak the same language." True, but it goes deeper than that, as implicitly recognized by the writer, for the failure to embrace the same values and principles is rooted in ontology, not mere linguistics or epistemology. To "recognize" a principle is not to invent one.

Rather, in our ontology, the principles are real and man is uniquely privileged to know and live in conformity to them.

Indeed, this is what we would regard as the central "drama" in the Adventure of Consciousness. In other words, our ontology automatically confers a meaning, and therefore purpose, both to history and to the individual life situated therein.

I hope this is clear. As always, we are not aiming at agreement, only clarity -- or clarification of differences.

I believe it is fair to see that the postmodern left is rooted in an entirely different ontology. It is admittedly a rather makeshift one, borrowing from here and there -- much of it, ironically, is purloined from ours -- in a manner that never adds up to "one," as any proper metaphysic should do.

In other words, in a functioning metaphysic, one = one; what this means is that there is an intelligible reconciliation between the many and the One, or between appearance and reality, time and eternity, vertical and horizontal, maya and brahman, etc.

Now, the postmodern left has fooled itself into believing that it has transcended metaphysics. This is a self-refuting claim, in that transcendence of any kind requires a metaphysic to account for it, for either the transcendent position is real -- or discloses reality -- or it is not.

The vulgar materialism of postmodern secularism insists that the transcendence is not real, which forecloses man's very ability to know reality. Therefore -- and this is a critical point -- secular fundamentalism necessarily forecloses reality-as-such, for there is no reality in a cosmos that cannot be known (truth and reality being synonymous).

Rather, existence would be "pure illusion," or "absolute relativity," both of which are intrinsic absurdities. These are analogous to an optical illusion, but with no reality underneath, or like a mirage floating over a desert of nothingness.

Which is why Don Colacho is correct in noting that "Revolutions have as their function the destruction of the illusions that cause them." For example, the real Obama has destroyed the illusion that was embodied in "Obama '08." He is a political suicide, as it were -- but unfortunately, he is taking a lot of people down with him.

What is the meaning of existence? What is Is?

First, I think we can all agree that what Is, is. What Is can appear to be what it isn't, but that's obviously just appearance, not reality. Man is the only being who is prone to systematic illusion and tenure, for the very reason that he is capable of adequation and truth. If the universe were not intelligible, man could never know it, for to know it is to at once render it intelligible.

So our dispute -- the "culture war" -- is not just about politics or values, but is ultimately rooted in competing visions of reality. It is actually an "ontology war," which, in the Judeo-Christian arc of history, has been going on since "the beginning."

Indeed, the ontology war is fully recognized and accounted for in the third chapter of Genesis. One might say that it is woven into our existence, or that history is constructed out of the warp and weft of truth and error.

Prior to man there is no error because there is no truth from which to deviate. There is no choice, which can only take place in the space of man's conscious being. Man is free to choose, which again opens the cosmic door to error -- not to mention ugliness and immorality.

Appropriately, in what I believe was his first encyclical, Pope Benedict speaks for us in making the bold ontological claim that God is love. In other words, love is ultimately what Is, and what Is is love. But how could this be? You've seen the world. What kind of ledbrained bag of hot air would suggest that it is really just a whole lotta' love?

First of all, this is not a "thought" about reality; rather, it is the reality itself. Embedded in it is a decision about the world, again, a free choice made in the transitional space of human consciousness.

To de-cide means to cut, to make a scission. In this case, it is that same cut referenced above, between the Trees of Life and Death. This fork in the ontological road is always before us, never behind us. One cannot choose not to choose.

Benedict says that the assertion that God is love is rooted in an encounter "which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." But unfortunately, due to the debasement of language, "the term love has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings."

Among the varieties of love, one particular type conspicuously stands out from the rest, the love between Man and Woman.

Now, "falling in love" cannot be willed, can it? Rather, it is to awaken to a kind of intimate knowledge of who and what the beloved Is. Absent the actual experience, it cannot be adequately conveyed to anyone else in such a way that it could reproduce the experience.

In a couple of ironic aphorisms, Don Colacho says that "We do not know anything perfectly except what we do not feel capable of teaching," and "Of anything important there are no proofs, only testimonies."

Reality surely qualifies as "important." That being the case, it cannot be communicated (without remainder) via language, mathematical equations, or empirical sensation. Rather, it can only be experienced and testified to.

Importantly, the testimony cannot be prior to its experience, but it can certainly be a signpost, or lamp, along the way. The saints, for example, are fleshlights who illuminate the path for us, but we still have to take the path. We can't just phoneme it in.

In a purely rational world view, falling in love must be a kind of inebriation, at least if we are to trust Mr. Spock.

Likewise, as Benedict notes, "The Greeks -- not unlike other cultures -- considered eros principally a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a 'divine madness' that tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience the supreme happiness" of knowing what it's like to be the volatile Captain Kirk.

And with that I must abruptly stop in my own treks, because I'm still overloaded with work.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Father

... laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us. --Meister Eckhart


My Lord told me a joke. And seeing Him laugh has done more for me than any scripture I will ever read. --Eckhart

Friday, June 17, 2011

Economics, the Gay Science

I'm under too many deadlines, so there's no time for an entirely new post. Yeah, you could say The Man's got me down, at least for the moment. But I'll be back. Large. In charge. Tights and cape shit. Winning!

However, in lieu of a new post, I've been holding in reserve this lightly soiled one from a few weeks ago, which was mysteriously disappeared from blogger only to return home to daddy a couple days later, landing among my drafts. I think it was only up for a couple of hours, so here it is:

Dismal science? How did economics ever come to acquire this pejorative appellation?

In reality, "dismal" is any discipline to which liberals affix the word "studies": e.g., Womyn's Studies, Queer Studies, Chicano Studies, Gender Studies, Hip Hop Studies, Peace Studies.

You want dismal? How about feminist economics, which combines the joyless wisdom of Marx with the penis-withering face of Gloria Allred?

It says a lot about liberals that they can reduce even the study of women to a dismal and tedious endeavor. But this is what feminism does: transform a light and beautiful cosmic mystery into a grim and oppressive political animal, a dreary cult of hectoring ex-wives.

Ironically, it says here that "dismal science" is "is an inversion of the phrase 'gay science,' meaning 'life-enhancing knowledge,' a reference to the technical skills of song and verse writing."

But the term was coined by the illiberal Thomas Carlyle, in the context of (mis)using economics to argue for the moral superiority of slavery. This is essentially a proto-Marxian stance that posits a zero-sum economy and rejects freedom because of the bad things people do with it. This results in the anti-gay and homophobic economics of the left.

I didn't always regard economics as so very gay. By now you all know the story of how I jumped or was pushed from business school, so there's no need to rerun that dismal episode. But as it so happens, one of my stumbling blocks was Economics. That and Accounting. And Finance. And Business Law. And Marketing. And Management. And eventually, showing up.

If I recall correctly, one had to complete four years of economics: Principles of Microeconomics, Statistical Methods, Money and Banking, and Macroeconomic Theory. All of this was so foreign to the Gagdad orientation -- my own truth as an economic gay man -- that I either dropped out or was suspended, depending upon whom you want to believe. Only later did I emerge from the closet and openly identify as homo economicus.

Like so many other young men, I was seduced into the lifestyle by an older gentleman I shall call "L."

L made it all seem so thrilling, even dangerous, not to mention transgressive! I remember the very first thing he told me -- that the gay science is not about numbers, statistics, and aggregates, but all about getting a little action.

Eventually I discovered that the gay science isn't even a science, at least in any straight way. For one thing, nothing about it is replicable.

But even more foundational than that is the fact that economics rests on a ground of subjectivity.

And not only that, for it is actually intersubjective, meaning that the real action of economics takes place in the transitional space between two subjects who together determine a thing's "value." There neither is nor can be intrinsic economic value. To a man dying of thirst, a glass of water is priceless. To a drowning man it is worthless.

I know what you're thinking: does this mean that everything is relative? In economics it does. In other words, when we "think economically," we cannot help but to think in terms of constantly adjusting relationships that emerge as prices, and prices are no more stable than the weather, or Keith Olbermann.

But by itself, economics cannot tell us about intrinsic or perennial value, which is why I ultimately had to break off with the older gentleman mentioned above. In other words, while there is a hierarchy of real values in the cosmos, it transcends economics for the same reason truth transcends the closed system of logic.

For beyond the sea of conventional economics is an economics that dare not speak its name. Frankly, I don't know that it has a name. Let us call it Cosmoeconomics, unless I come up with a better term before the end of this post.

Richards addresses this subject in an appendix to Money, Greed, and God, but almost as an afterthought -- like an appendix or something.

As touched on a couple of posts ago, "the creation of wealth has as much to do with spirit as with matter" (Richards). Thus, "Christians should be the first to understand this, since we know that human beings are a unique hybrid of the spiritual and the material" (ibid.).

Spirit and matter can't do much on their own. But incarnate the former in the latter, and you can really get something done down here.

The free market, which embodies the two, is, in the words of Hayek, "probably the most complex structure in the universe" (in Richards). Like anybody could know that!

That's the point -- that we know we can't know something that embodies an infinite amount of information that is dispersed throughout the system. Those who don't understand this -- who pretend to know what cannot be known -- are now called liberals.

Which is (intentionally) confusing, because that name used to go to the enlightened ones who understand this principle, not to the ignorantsia of the left who pompously presume to know the unknowable, which always results in the unthinkable.

The market is the most complex structure in the cosmos because it is constituted of billions of the second most complex structure, the human brain, all linked together.

In the anonymous bathhouse scene of the market, all of these brains are plugged into one another, engaged in the constant intercourse of processing information and making minute adjustments within the intersubjective space of value. Again, without human beings there is no value, because there is no valuing subject -- or subject with values.

"Seen in its proper light, the market order is as awe inspiring as a sunset or perfect eclipse" (Richards).

Which is a pretty dismal understatement. A sunset? C'mon, you can do better than that!

Here is what we believe: that ordered liberty is one of the means through which post-biological human evolution proceeds. It is specifically within the context of freedom and restraint that the human spirit evolves toward its proper attractor, its nonlocal origin and destiny.

In his raptured appendix, Richards reviews Hayek's argument that the market is a spontaneous order. This is surely true, but Hayek either failed to draw out the cosmic implications of this queer fact, or else simply began with materialist assumptions that inevitably result in materialist conclusions.

But materialist assumptions can turn even the most awesome sunset into the trivial side effect of an insignificant planet revolving around an anonymous star.

Obviously Hayek was on the right track -- or at least off the left one -- in writing of "the implications of the astonishing fact, revealed by economics and biology, that order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive."

Not so fast, Fred! Is it really true that the emergence of meaningful complexity becomes unproblematic if we just dismiss it as a side effect of open systems doing what they are constrained to do, i.e., generate all this fabulous order from such unstylish chaos and rigid necessity?

That is soooo ungay!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Man the Problem or the Solution?

The disease or the cure? Or the very disease he pretends to cure? If so, is there an actual cure for man, or is the condition always fatal?

It seems that we are born in critical condition, and that it's all downhill from there. At best, we can manage the human condition with increasing sophistication, but not cure it. I mean, can we ever win the war on greed? Jealousy? Envy? Rage? Sloth?

One thing is certain: before the arrival of man, there were no problems in the cosmos, and therefore no solutions either. For roughly nine or ten billion of its thirteen or fourteen billion years, the cosmos was free of even the shadow of a hint of a problem, since it hadn't yet left mother nature's basement and gotten a Life.

Once matter was emancipated into life four billion years ago, one could say that there were problems -- specifically, the problem of staying alive -- but not really, since I don't think prokaryotes are conscious of being alive. No, I'm certain of it. Rather, they're like some needlessly baroque filigree on the elegant and tasteful laws of physics.

The true cosmic bar mitzvah doesn't occur until the arrival of man -- at least if we adopt a wide enough view, and regard primordial life as the metabolic bridge between nothing and everything. Prior to it: matter + law, or chance + necessity, and that's about it. Subsequent to it: everything that transcends those two, up to and including the Phenomenon of Man.

If we trancelight this into biblical terms, first there is nothing but the formless void, then separation into two. It doesn't matter what two per se; rather, it's twoness as such that counts. Thus, darkness and light, day and night, heaven and earth, man and woman, form and substance, wave and particle, inside and outside, whatever.

The point is that complements will get you everywhere, since they are all founded upon the primordial parting of the Dead Sea, and provide a way out, up, and into the Promised Land, or the Land I AM will show you. By appointment only. Do not disturb occupants. When the buyer is ready, the seller will appear.

Yesterday I wrote a spontaneous note to my future: An irony curtain has descended upon America. What I believe this means is that the above referenced division between light and dark finds roughly half the population on the wrong side of the tracks, without so much as a fig leaf of irony to conceal their futile dreams of control. But has it ever been different? I doubt it.

And while looking up the exact wording from Churchill's speech, we find the following timelessly timely truths:

"The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American democracy. For with this primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future."

Accountability to the future. Is this true? To whom or to what is man accountable? As we discussed in yesterday's post, man either has transcendent obligations to the Cosmic Law, or he doesn't. Only if he has this prior obligation is he intrinsically obligated and accountable to the future generations who, from their timeless perspective, already stand in judgment of our actions today.

Now, regarding that principial division of darkness and light, we can see that from Iran to the Palestinian territories, from Harvard to Berkeley, from the White House to the foreclosed house, a vertical curtain has descended across the Continent.

On one side of that line lie the Founders, prophets, saints, heroes and defenders of liberty and virtue. This we call the sphere of Light.

On the other side is what we must call the moronosphere, and everyone there is subject, in one form or another, not only to moronic influences but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from the state-controlled media and its political arm, the DNC. These fifth columns and columnists constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization.

Please note that we are not being Manichean here, any more than it is Manichean to divide humanity into male and female, or to respect the division between man and animal, or to place a line between truth and falsehood.

Manicheanism proper is a gnostic heresy, and while there is some truth in it (as there is in most any enduring heresy), it places a false division between matter and spirit. It is dualistic, as opposed to the complementarity of Christianity, where there can be no such sundering of man's integral psychosomatic unity.

More generally, the creation itself is "good," a fact that is crowned by the appearance of the Godman who fully divinizes both matter and human nature. Yes, we are at war with the "forces of darkness," but these forces have no ultimate reality. Ahriman is always his own worst enemy.

As Ratzinger explains, man's essence "precedes all history and is never lost in history," although it is often stolen, misplaced, or foolishly bartered away.

Man is simultaneously mere "dust of the earth," and yet, in-spired with the Divine breath, i.e., mouth-to-ear resuscurrection. Thus, we embody a complementarity that spans every degree of creation, from the lowdown downdest to the toppermost of the poppermost, and everything in between.

"Human life is untouchable because it is divine property" (ibid.). Which is why we can say to the state: get off my property! (Pre-emptive memo to trolls: yes, I know, but an unborn child is not the mother's property, or we are all someone's property, to be disposed of as they please. Unlike you, we don't make up the rules.)

"Both aspects, the divine dignity of the human race and the oneness of its origin and destiny, are definitively sealed in the figure of the second Adam," who "appears with total clarity." This is the authentic humanism on our side of the cosmic divide. All of the other so-called humanisms, regardless of how seductive, are manifestly false, for they cut themselves off at the roots.

For example, if man is nothing but a random accident enjoined by nature to pointlessly reproduce, he has no dignity and no value at all. He is but a pernicious disease of matter, a compulsively driven weiner with no cure short of extinction or a one week stay in rehab.

Here again, there is truth in this heresy, as man must indeed extinguish himself and be reborn. As a consequence of our freedom, there is always this fork in the road, one way leading to life, the other to death. Way it is. Or I AM, rather.

The stream of Western man bifurcated with modernity, as civilization "passed from an affirmation of the rights of freedom, detached from any objective reference to a common truth, to the destruction of the very foundation of this freedom" (ibid.). This was conspicuously untrue of America's founders, who were spiritually mature enough to anchor our liberty in ontology, not mere existence.

And this was simply the recognition that our rights "belong to man by nature, that the state recognizes them but does not confer them, and that they belong to all human beings as they are human beings and not because of secondary characteristics that others would have the right to determine arbitrarily" (ibid).

But "it is an illusion to think that man is in complete possession of himself, that he enjoys absolute freedom." Rather, because our sacred rights are a gift, they come with an obligation; or let us say a kind of reciprocity, or an open "vertical flow."

Thus, "conscience is the capacity to be open to the call of truth, which is objective, universal, the same for all who can and must seek it. It is not isolation but communion" (ibid., emphasis mine).

This brings us back to our opening question: is man the problem or the solution?

Well, he is both and neither, depending upon how -- or through what -- one looks at it. He is a problem insofar as he severs himself from his nonlocal ground, and supposes himself to be radically free and self-sufficient, which immediately reduces him to a cosmic nothing with no possibility of meaning.

But if the creation is "good" and it is good to be human, then it is human to be good -- or, more specifically, to be the cosmic eros shot into the transcendent realms of truth, beauty, goodness, and the One.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Knowledge Inflation and the Central Bank of the Cosmos

Is there any real law that governs man as such? Or is it all just concocted by The Man under a host of pretexts, generally to legitimize his power while covering his assets?

The postmodern view -- and as always, I am trying to be perfectly fair, accurate, and insulting -- would be affirmative to the latter.

I mean, right? Isn't this one of the bases of the whole culture war? That some things are objectively good or evil? Depending upon which side one comes down upon, one is either a classical liberal conservative or an illiberal postmodern leftist.

Ironically, the postmodern fellow doesn't believe in moral absolutes, and yet, he presumably believes that it is good to believe this (otherwise, why believe it?).

In fact, I don't remember encountering one of these folkers who wasn't even a little superior and sanctimonious about it -- like a chronic troll who frankly considers us "mentally ill" for our belief in a reality that transcends nature. I once thought this way, and I well remember what it was like to have such total faith in myself. What an insopherable assoul was the Bob!

If the postmodern view is correct, then man is an intrinsically sick animal, since virtually all human beings over the past 50,000 years or so have believed in, and tried to maintain contact with, this transcendent reality we call O.

Conversely, the cult of atheism is a rather new deviation, but it's a little difficult to account for, since it must be parasitic upon the intrinsically sick animal underneath. And how does such a ghost-ridden and demon-haunted being ever give birth to the atheist messiah who shall lead it out of darkness? Why, it's some kind of immaculate conception, or like space beings from planet Nerd to the rescue!

If man-as-such is so demonstrably and persistently out of contact with reality, how could such-and-such a man ever transcend his pathetic species, and what makes modern man arrogant enough to believe that he won't be surpassed and ridiculed by the superior Man of Tomorrow? What makes such a daft and unreliable beast have such total faith in himself? Has he no sense of cosmic irony?

The Raccoon is a Man of the Future who is authorized to ridicure his detractor trailers today, in the hope that the guffah-ha! experience will release the troll from his self-generated craptivity, through which he subsists on his own excrement.

Ironically -- again -- the secular fundamentalist has a kind of dim but inverted recognition of man's fallenness. One might say that the ass is only half-full of himself in concluding that Homo religiosus is nuts. But again, that being the case, it is equivalent to saying that man is nuts, a view that we enthusiastically endorse.

Nor can man lift himself by his own buddhastraps, a la the atheist, and somehow escape his own nature. To be sure, he can make horizontal progress -- as in science and technological feats -- as he becomes increasingly conformed to the World. But a one-sided conformity to the world has its own costs, which include alienation from the vertical ground beneath our feats of clay and above our heads of rock.

But in any event, I believe we can all stipulate -- both liberal conservative and illiberal leftist alike -- that Something Ain't Right with the humans. However, in our case, we have an absolute standard whereby we are able to measure the distance between archetype and individual, between our outward appearance and our interior clueprint, between what man is and why I oughta cease being a stooge and start acting like one.

I frankly don't know where the atheist gets his model of proper humanness, or how he is able to transcend his own humanness in order to pass judgment upon man.

Actually, I do know: they just make it up. And they usually make it up based upon their feelings, since it is impossible for mere logic to prove anything outside its own initial assumptions, which lie outside the logical system.

Rather, to know truth of any kind -- whether scientific, moral or artistic -- there must exist an objective and absolute standard that is orthoparadoxically "outside" us, and yet, which "communicates" with us in an intelligible way that is conformed to our nature. Importantly, it does not mean that we may somehow possess or contain the absolute.

Rather, it is a little like money -- at least the way it is supposed to function. The value of money cannot be determined by the individual. Rather, it is supposed to be maintained by the Federal Reserve, the function of which is to see to it that a dollar remains a dollar.

In the case of rampant inflation, for example, there are too many dollars chasing too few goods, resulting in devaluation of the currency.

The identical thing occurs on the cognitive plane if there is no central truth that makes this or that fact or knowledge fungible to truth. In other words, we believe that man's ability to know reality is backed by the full faith and credit of the Central Bank of the Cosmos.

Now, if there is no such bank, then we can expect a kind of "knowledge inflation," whereby increasingly worthless information proliferates, with no real way to arbitrate between outright lies and mere bullshit.

And we will keep spending more and more for less and less, which is, not coincidentally, the crisis we face in higher education. For few things are more expensive than a liberal education at an elite university, and yet, so utterly worthless, harmful even. Not only do they not put one on the path to truth, but they blow up the bridge, salt the earth, slaughter the big chiefs, and persecute the survivors.

In a lecture called Crises of Law, Ratzinger discusses the relationship between faith and law, for the one is impossible in the absence of the other. One might even say that faith is interiorized law, while law is exteriorized faith (that's my formulation, not his).

For example, as Ratzinger explains, "Israel's liberation from Egypt did not end with the Exodus -- it only began."

Rather, "it became full reality only when Israel received a juridical ordering from God," which regulated the community both horizontally (i.e., man-to-man relations) and vertically (man-to-God). Thus, "common law is a condition of human liberty." It is the truth that sets one free, the burden that is easy, and the Joke that is Light.

Ho! By the power of Toots, I call out your mind parasites and pronounce you ridicured!

Back to the Cosmic Bank whose central location is nowhere but whose local branches are everywhere. It is not only government that is bankrupt -- and with it all the dreams and memes of the left, all of their scheming and reaming.

Rather, there is a cognitive and spiritual bankruptcy that must precede this. What I mean is that America was built by drawing upon our vast inheritance of Judeo-Christian value tucked away for future generations.

But about 75 years ago, we began spending down the capital, with predictable results. As the Chinese say, the father builds the business while the sons destroy it.

In our case, we are now completely overdrawn on our account, and have no means to back up our values. Today it's all cognitive and spiritual funny money, except that there's nothing funny about it.

A culture that doesn't cherish and protect the values it was founded upon cannot survive. Of course, most cultures have no right to exist anyway. But some have an obligation to do so, since man is always and eternally obligated to the Truth that surpasses him and lights his way.

The denigration of law is never in any way at the service of liberty but is always an instrument of dictatorship. To eliminate law is to despise man; where there is no law, there is no liberty. --Cardinal Ratzinger

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dumbing-Down of Unbelief and the Ascent of Stupidity

In his discussion of JP II's Encyclical Fides et Ratio -- Faith and Reason -- Ratzinger expresses the doctrinaire Raccoon view that philosophy "must recover its sapient dimension as a search for the ultimate and all-encompassing meaning of life," and realize a scope of "genuinely metaphysical range."

And prior to this, it must, of course, "attest to the human capacity to know the truth," or else it can never get off the ground floor of the cosmic telovator.

Anything less than this approach prevents us from circumnavelgazing the whole existentialada, for to say that man may know anything with certitude is to say that he may potentially know everything.

To put it another way, to "know everything" is to know that the knower may know the Absolute, or know all that is knowable of its prolongation in the herebelow.

More generally, "human thought cannot stop at the level of appearance but must reach beyond appearance to being itself" (Ratzinger), or from the passing phenomena to the eternal ground. This is the only type of philosophy worthy of the name --i.e., love of wisdom -- and in the absence of which man is but a child, a Darwinian storyteller, a tenured ape.

Try as he might, man cannot renounce the perennial philosophy without compromising his manhood to a greater or lesser degree. In such a frigid spiritual climate, he inevitably suffers an existential shrinkage that prevents him from being all that he could be and should be -- and more, by George!

False philosophies are not just cosmic nul-de-slacks, but psychospiritual walls that extend as high as stupidity, but fortunately, are as weak as love. I know this sounds sentimental, but allow me to explain.

Again, Wojtyla's metaphysic does not end, but begins, in humanness. Humanness is the first principle, as it were. In this regard, he is only explicitly acknowledging the prime real estate where any philosophy and all science are privileged to dwell: in the human knower.

For to be born into the human state is to follow the realtor's eternal advice of purchasing the worst property in the best neighborhood. Life -- or the civilizing process -- consists of improving your properties.

And it is a never-ending project. We are all fixer-uppers. Some may have more superficial "curb appeal" than others, but when you actually see who lives inside, or inspect the foundation, or consider how high the roof goes, you may be in for a surprise. Conversely, some rather modest shacks can be mansions inside.

If our metaphysic begins, say, with lifeless and mindless "matter," this principle immediately redounds to the unforgiving chance and necessity which cannot get here -- to the soul -- from there -- the willfully silly nihility of inconscient whatever.

In other words, such a "philosophy" simultaneously accounts for everything and nothing, since it reduces its knower to a meaningless iteration of its own absurdity. Truly, it is just one damn thing after another.

Now "chance" and "necessity" are none other than the cosmic inversions of Infinite and Absolute, respectively, as seen through the eyes of the tenured. Living by their lightwights, we are condemned to a life that is limited to "the sterile rigidity of the law and the vulgar disorder of instinct" (Don Colacho), which are again inverted categories of Absolute and Infinite.

For just as the imaginary abstraction called "matter" bifurcates into chance and necessity, O necessarily bifurcates into Infinite and Absolute -- or Infinite because Absolute, to be precise.

How do we know this? Because we cannot not know this if we *think* about it. Just as the One cannot not be, the One cannot not be Absolute and therefore Infinite.

If you do not *think* about it, then you are merely a subject living under the Tyranny of Appearances. And this tyranny is absolute, so there! You've locked yoursoph into your own little prison, and the key is right there in your pocket -- unless you're just happy to see me. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

For to plagiaphrase The Donald, the most naive unbelievers among us believe in many things in which they do not believe they believe.

Again, this primoridial truth is going to manifest in one's philosophy, whether one wants it to or not. As we know, one can chase nature out with a pitchfork, but she will always come back with a virus. The same applies all the more to God, who can be driven out of the pitch dark but whose Light always returns, even if the splendid blind beasts of the night can only see by darkness.

Back to our first principle, the human being. If this is our first principle, we must ask: just what is a human being, anyway? Is he just a statistically unlikely arrangement of matter? A chance conglomeration of genetic accidents, a kind of glorified earth defect? A clever ape? A good dancer with a smooth line of BS?

Here we must proceed beneath man's appearance, and get down to the core. Once we do this, we will see that man is not, and could not be, any kind of simplistic "one," i.e., a self-enclosed monad.

If this were the case, then man could never have come into being, not historically, ontologically, psychologically, spiritually, or in any other way. For beneath his oneness is always a twoness, and this twoness is always simultaneously rooted in, and converging upon, a third.

Abstract? No, not at all. Rather, this should be quite experience-near, if you can remama back to when you two had a touch of infanity, and were just learning how to use your opposable brains.

When a new baby comes into the world, a new world comes into the baby, and cosmogenesis is recapitulated in his very head and heart, or mind and body -- or mindbody, to be exact. For a person is being-in-relation, and this relational being mirrors the very inner life of the Godhead.

You might say that the "medium is the message." For human beings, our medium is the prior relationality that sponsors the human subject. In all we do or say or know, we are in relationship like Sam is to Dave. We are open systems at disequilibrium with the worlds of love, truth, and beauty, which we can forever exteriorize and assimilate, import and export, give and receive, without ever "arriving" at some imaginary final stasis.

Rather, we are quite literally the gift that keeps giving, on pain of a death that keeps dying -- both literal and metaphorical, or physical and spiritual.

To not know this is to not know the answer to every question, which is, it all depends. To be "dependent" means to be in the orbit of something more or less "independent," as child to parent, appearance to reality, time to eternity, and man to God. Thus, the truly modern Independent Thinker is the very instantiation of the dumbing-down of unbelief.

A modern man is a man who forgets what man knows about man. --Don Colacho

Monday, June 13, 2011

Head First Into Christianity

Not that you need to know the back story, but my blogging tracks the movements and currents of my soul thingy in real timelessness, as it spontaneously darts about this way and that.

What this supposedly means is that I can only write about what I am preoccupied with -- or rather, what is preoccupying me -- and that I cannot "plan ahead," not even a single day. Nor can I look back, what with both hands on the plow, or I might not run into something.

This "method" has its virtues, I suppose, but renders it impossible to make any Major Announcements about the direction -- or even purpose -- of the blog. Like you, the best I can do is find out as we go along. You may be the last to know, but I'm only a few minutes ahead of you.

I do suspect or hope that the process is guided by some sort of nonlocal providence, both in the short and long term. The short term process seems more evident, even obvious, to me, because I see it happen every day.

However, as soon as one says this kind of thing, one is flirting with unbearable pomposity -- as in, "my pen is guided by the hand God!" -- when it is always meant with the utmost humility. All I can say is that it is accomplished through active surrender. We can argue over what I am surrendering to -- e.g., O, my monstrous narcissism, the collective unconscious, whatever -- but the underlying process is the same.

Last night I was laying on the couch, just like everybody else, looking at the basketball game while thinking about Pope John Paul II's cosmo-Christian spiritual anthropology. There was a commercial of some kind, showing how insanely hard the players work out between games. This is how you end up with a Dirk Nowitski or Kobe Bryant. All professional athletes have a gift, of course, but the greatest ones usually also work the hardest to develop the gift, have the highest expectations of themselves, and are always trying to improve their game at the margins in any little way possible.

This reminded me of the formidable spiritual athleticism of a Pope John Paul, whose biography I am currently reading. Here was truly an athlete for God. Now, one can, of course, pretend that God or O doesn't exist, which would make the eccentric Mr. Wojtyla an athlete of... of what? An elaborate delusion? A strange mental complex? A cosmic conspiracy theory?

If that is the case, why did he make such extraordinary progress in assimilating the delusion? How can one "progress" toward unreality? Isn't that the very definition of regression?

In mental illness, the further one is enmeshed in one's delusion, the more obviously dysfunctional one becomes. Sick individuals do not dramatically grow in the capacity to love, or acquire new skills for which one has no training or aptitude, or become more creative, or channel timeless truths in an elegant and refined manner.

Rather, everything becomes alternately more rigid and disorganized, as more and more primitive material needs to be projected outward in order to maintain the brittle delusion against the forces of reality. This is associated with a kind of frantic irritability, not the spiritual serenity of the motionless mover at the cosmic center.

The point is that it is quite evident that Karol Wojtyla manifested an unusual spiritual gift early on. The gift was unusual in both its depth and its diversity, combining spiritual attributes that are not normally present in the same individual, and often even at antipodes -- e.g., being equally comfortable in the depths of the most abstract philosophy and the depths of concrete persons, i.e., in the realms of Love and Truth (which is one reason why he could speak so intimately of the non-separateness of the two).

Wojtyla also (at least from what I can discern) seemed to work much harder at developing his gift than is typical, and moreover was singularly humble in taking no credit for any of it.

Speaking of humility, back to me. As I was saying, the short-term purpose of blogging is pretty clear to me, even if the longer term trajectory has eluded me. Where is this all going? If one were to undertake an exhumination of my buried corpus of 1,720 posts, would it reveal any larger pattern or trajectory? Is it any "closer" to the object of its attraction than it was five or six years ago? Is there less "noise" and more truth, less particularity and more universality (or at least the former in service to the latter)? Is it any deeper, or higher, or more encompassing, or is it just going in tiresome little circles, to which anytroll can attest?

Yesterday I had occasion to read an old post from 2006, because a number of sites had linked to it. I wasn't necessarily embarrassed by it, but it was definitely below current standards, not just of truth, but of depth and style. So if one considers it from a sufficiently arbitrary distance, one is able to prove that I am getting warmer, just like the globe.

I didn't intend this to be such a lengthy preramble, but it's just my way of saying that there are a couple of large subjects that have seized my inattention, and that I would like to stay with for awhile, even though I cannot promise anything to myself of all people, the Sprit blowing where it will and all. One might say that these principles are the missing key to my own preoccupations, or that they help to illuminate the point of my bobsessions.

First of all, this has emerged through a recent immersion in the works of Wojtyla and Ratzinger (I will refer to them by their pre-pope names, partly because that's when they did most of their writing, but also because I don't want to conflate this with any kind of "top-down" promulgation of a pre-cogitated magisterium, irrespective of how magisterial).

To my great surprise, both men were and are caught up in the same nonlocal attractor I find myself in. To be clear, I do not think they are in mine; rather, I have been pulled into theirs, just as they were pulled into something transcending themselves, otherwise it would not be real and true.

Anyway, two broad ideas or principles have come into focus. One would be what I might call "cosmic anthropology." Like me, Wojtyla became convinced that the human person is the most important "fact" in all of creation. By no means did he exclude physics, biology, and history from his metaphysic; to the contrary, he was in constant touch with experts from these and other disciplines. It is just that he never managed to overcome his awe over the very existence of persons, from which proceeds his belief in their intrinsic dignity, nobility, and potential greatness.

Absent this prior ground of meta-cosmic personhood, there can be no secure and inviolable ontological basis for a whole range of truths we know to be true, but could never "prove" with mere logic, e.g., the sanctity and infinite worth of the individual, the intrinsic right to religious freedom, and the a priori illegitimacy of any state that intrudes upon man's claims to truth, dignity, and justice.

The other organizing principle that has seized me could almost be the title of a book: Head First Into Christianity. I have blogged about this subject in the past, in that from my experience, most people -- Protestants and Evangelicals, anyway -- seem to come to Christianity via a kind of "emotional conversion." It is often a sudden change, and for this reason can lack a thorough penetration to all corners of the psyche. As a result, a kind of premodern, mythological belief system can exist side-by-side with the modern scientific worldview, inevitably leading to interior or exterior dissonance and lack of integration.

For example, this is why someone would use the tools of modern science to propagate a belief in literal creationism -- i.e., ironically use technology that never could have developed within a mythological framework, in order to argue for that framework.

This is not fundamentally dissimilar to, say, the Iranian mullahs who want to use the physics discovered by a Jew in order to cleanse the world of Jews once and for all. Or, more mundanely, it is analogous to leftists who deploy "tolerance" as a weapon to undermine the very Judeo-Christian civilization for which tolerance -- within reasonable limits -- is a virtue, or use Judeo-Christian appeals to morality as a means to install a premodern genocidal tyranny next door to Israel.

But in my case, I have been lead this way solely via the intellect. By no means did I begin with the principle, say, that ultimate reality incarnated in history as a man, and then go from there; rather, the converse: for me, that was and is the more or less final frontier, the last country to be colonized (which, not coincidentally, never can be, or else we would be God).

As it so happens, this is quite similar to the approach taken by Ratzinger in his Introduction to Christianity. I am almost halfway through this 359 page book, and thus far I don't remember a single reference to Jesus (or any other miracle) in the main text.

According to the index, the earliest mention is p. 196, but the main point is that Ratzinger is arguing from the bottom up and outside in, not from the dogma that can only crystalize at the end of the journey. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with an emotional acceptance of this dogma, being that its authenticity can be vouched for by various saints and mystics.

Nevertheless, not everyone is built the same way, and some of us want to place our invisible hand in the open wound at the center of our intellect.

To be continued?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Advice for the Modern, High Functioning Flasher

I don't know about you, but when I am facing a particularly thorny ethical dilemma, I always ask myself: what would Alec Baldwin say?

For example, let's say I'm a prominent politician -- one of the most visible and combative in my party, even -- and I'm caught gifting anonymous women with candid photos of my congressional staff. Predictably, our puritanical press goes nuts.

Now what do I do? I mean, after denying it, then lying about it, then asking the ladies (none younger than high school) to help me cover it up, and then smearing my accusers? I do what I should have done at the outset: obtain the wise counsel of my good friend Alec Baldwin.

First of all, Alec is a forgiving man, so long as you're not married to him, or employed by him, or maybe happen to be his thoughtless little pig of a daughter.

I know what he'd say: hey, kid, cut yourself some slack. You're a modern human being. No, check me on that: like me, you are a modern, high functioning man. Do you have time to figure out why you have a compulsion to open your raincoat over the internet?

Hell no! Besides, all that crap about "know thyself" and "the unexamined life yada yada" is for the ancient or medieval man, not the space-age modern man.

I know it takes a lot of time and energy seizing upon every opportunity to tell people how great you are as a human being. Hell, I'm the same way. Who has time at the end of the day for self-analysis? You've never been a business man -- or frankly had any way to make an honest buck, for that matter -- but you are surely a busy man. You are under the constant pressure of self-analysis before adoring and uncritical audiences, so forget about what I just said about having no time for it. It's all you do!

Like me, politicians are special people. Not as special as actors, but special nonetheless. We need something to take the edge off. The low functioning modern man might choose, I don't know, having a couple of beers, playing with his children, or maybe even having sex with his wife.

But you? You are always on the go. You don't have time for that. Besides, how can sex with a real woman compare with the reliable high of cyber-sleeping with someone?

Does this make you "pathetic?" Maybe in the eyes of the premodern world, but not to the modern, high functioning man. For us, this is sex nowadays. No time for romance! Porn? No way! Too two-dimensional for the modern man. You want someone breathing, something you can feel, someone -- okay, someone cheap, but nevertheless, someone doing it just for you -- unlike real women, who are so concerned with their own selfish needs that it's not worth the hassle.

Married? Yeah, that's a factor, but only one. You know what it's like to have that cell phone bursting with numbers of gals just waiting around to gaze at your junk mail. So you do what any modern, high functioning man would do: you open your digital trenchcoat, yield to the gentleman from down south, stand firm with the little guy, and wave your congressional probe.

To shift if not grind gears back to the subject at hand, we were discussing... what, exactly? I would say we are discussing universality, which is at once a hallmark of truth, but also the cure for the type of moral relativism that would place Baldwin's "high functioning, modern man" on the same plane as the actually high functioning man.

But if there is no high there can be no low, so low becomes high. As has been oft commented, one of the rewards of being a leftist is that it is impossible to be a hypocrite, since they have no objective standards.

Which is obviously not quite correct, not by a dongshot. For the leftist does have standards. It is just that these so-called standards replace -- and displace -- the classical virtues.

Thus, so long as one has the correct political stance -- unless it is a little too wide -- all else is forgiven. In the case of Weiner, yeah, it's not ideal that he's a pervert with a psychiatric disorder. But on the other hand, he's always fighting for you, e.g., the dispossessed, the disenfranchised, the disordered, the dissolute, the disgruntled, the dyslexic. As they say, troubled times require a troubled man.

Ratzinger, in the same lecture we were discussing yesterday, makes the critical point that in its earliest years, Christianity did not attempt to align itself with other religions. Rather, it "sought a connection with philosophies," even the finest philosophy available. Some misguided Christians regard this as some sort of error, an intrusion of "Greek thought" into what should be pure revelation. But this would not only particularize Christianity, but put it on the same plane as any other pagan religion.

The point was surely not to associate Christianity with a particular culture, but to attempt to transcend culture through the universality conferred by abstract philosophy. This is not to place philosophy above revelation. Rather, the point is to "connect with those movements that seek to escape from the prison of relativity."

Thus the identification of the Son with the logos, not to reduce the former to the latter, but to elevate the latter to the former. The logos is not just a philosophical abstraction that knows nothing of our being, but a person with whom we can form a vibrant relationship.

Conversely, the high functioning, modern man can know nothing of this relationship. Nor does he take full advantage of one of its analogues in the herebelow, marriage. The passionate interior relationship of sacramental marriage could hardly be more different from the externalized and self-divided relationship of two internet strangers.

In psychoanalytic developmental theory, there is a critical distinction between what is called "part-object relating" and "whole-object relating." Our developmental telos is away from the former -- situated in what is called the paranoid-schizoid position -- and toward the latter, which is in the depressive position.

Put simply, whole-object relating is between person and person, in a fully integral sense. Conversely, part-object relating is unable to transcend the ambivalence attendant to any relationship. The person in the paranoid-schizoid position deals with ambivalence by splitting it off into a sub-personality that is impelled to seek an object relation outside the central self. (This is essentially the same as a mind parasite.)

For example, let us say that I am unable to integrate love and lust in the same object. Love is reserved for, let's say, the wife, while a more immature and unintegrated form of primitive desire is split off and directed toward another object, say, a stranger in cyberspace (which is all the better, because knowing the real subject might interfere with the fantasy needs of the part-object relation).

According to the Dictionary of Kleinian Thought, "A part-object exists... in relation to the bodily sensations of the subject. Through projection into the object it becomes a narcissistic extension of the ego's own experiences and the separateness of the good object is not acknowledged. Only when the object comes to be recognized as whole does it properly take on a separate existence from the subject."

It is fair to say that this represents not the opposite, but an earlier stage on the way to what Pope John Paul II wrote of the "celebration of human sexuality as a gift of God for the sanctification of husband and wife," and "marital intimacy as an icon of the interior life of the triune God."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Screwtape Letters and Screwy Lettered Types

In a lecture on Culture and Truth, Ratzinger speaks of the peculiar attitude of our cultural elites, who always exclude themselves from the relativism they proclaim. Seemingly oblivious to the irony, they simultaneously embrace "a false humility and a false presumption."

With the left hand they do "not recognize in the human person the capacity for truth," but with the further left hand they covertly place themselves "above truth itself, while making the extension of one's power, one's domination over things, the objective of one's thought."

That's a neat little trick, in that it is a way to appropriate the genuine power that would normally be attendant to truth -- for even the most jaded atheist has a vertical recollection of the exterior radiance and interior attraction of the True -- and wield it not to understand reality but to change it.

But ultimate reality cannot be changed, for just as I AM WHO I AM, IT IS WHAT IT IS. Only the former can assure us of the latter; conversely, the latter is indeed a kind of ladder that should lead the genuinely curious mind to the former: I AM, therefore IT IS. Anything short of this formulation is to put Descartes before de' source, mon.

Being that another word for truth is "reality," one might say that the current intellectual fashion is to simultaneously deny reality while defining and limiting it to one's vulgar tastes.

If this sounds like an exaggeration, just think of how political correctness operates -- and how it operates most fiercely in the very environment that is supposed to safeguard and transmit truth, the university. Speech codes define what is thinkable and therefore knowable, and prevent truth from getting out of hand should someone stumble upon it, since there is a whole mechanism in place to suppress it.

Just as it requires intelligence to credibly "play stupid" in a play or film, it requires a kind of fundamental stupidity to pretend to the type of knowledge that is impossible in the absence of the correct metaphysic.

In short, truth must be received by its would-be knower. Science operates on the assumption that the scientist receives information by submitting, so to speak, to the world. Thus, the world is his "revelation," just as it requires submission to a revelation by God in order for us to know anything about him. Just as there is junk science, there is obviously junk theology, or deepakin' the chopra or jackin' one's jesse in public wouldn't be such kookrative endeavors.

Speaking of which, on a more or less banal level, think of Congressman Weiner's transgrossions, which, until last Monday, were officially impossible in many prominent quarters of the left.

Although any person of sound mind and good faith could see what was going on, a whole media structure was in place to assure us that we couldn't trust our own lyin' eyes. If not for new media, the story would have been disappeared by the MSMistry of Truth, effaced from the day and whitewashed from history.

I know this sounds hopelessly out of date, but if one is not learning the truth in a university education, what is one learning? And why does it cost so much, when one can get the same thing for free by listening to NPR?

I don't know about you, but where I find truth, it doesn't cost me a thing, which is why I don't charge folks for it. There's no overhead, since it's right here, just slightly overhead. Conversely, my secular indoctrination did cost a lot, which is why I do have to charge for that stuff. In a way, it's like punitive damages to reinstate my wholeness.

One of the reasons the culture war has become so contentious is that we are far beyond the point of mere "disagreement," which is why neither side is susceptible to the arguments of the other. Rather, the real struggle is over the very nature of reality -- more particularly, who defines it and who shall acquire the power that flows from conformity to the Real.

Here again, this is not an abstract discussion, but quite concrete. Let's suppose I believe buses are real, whereas my neighbor thinks they are an illusion. Only one of us can be correct, and being correct will give us a certain power of reality.

Now, just apply the same principle to everything that transcends matter (with the exception of mathematics, which is a kind of mirror of reality, and cannot be so easily manipulated).

For example, economics is a discipline that seems to revolve around (at least) two very different realities; let us call them Hayekville and Krugmania. People who live in the one not only "disagree" with the others, but believe them to be inhabiting another reality -- a "false reality," to be precise.

For those of us who hang out in Hayekville, the origins of our current economic meltdown have been known from the start, c.f. here, here, and here. But now comes another comprehensive account from a member of their own reality club, Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon.

This is just the kind of thing that is extremely upsetting to the parochial yahoo living in an unreal world, because it exposes and undermines the whole elaborate narrative structure that simultaneously shields them from reality while authorizing them to define and impose it upon everyone else.

The liberal doesn't require "proof" for his self-evidently elevated worldview. But disproof? Forget about it. This they really don't need. Repelling it usually requires attacking the messenger in a battle of annihilation with no rules. And when we say "annihilation" we mean this literally, because to disprove a lie is to annihilate it once and for all.

Conversely, to maim the truth results in real harm to most everyone except those who directly benefit from the lie. (Which is why I never get excited about elections, because they do not and could not ever result in the annihilation of falsehood, evil, and illegitimate power; rather, it seems that this thrilling competition is one of the unfortunate but inevitable conditions of human existence).

Thus, The fool exclaims that we are denying the problem when we show the falsity of his favorite solution, but There exists no truth in the humanities that does not need to be rediscovered each week (Don Colacho's Aphorisms). That last one is a lie, because you actually have to do it every day.

In his talk, Ratzinger mentions the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis's famous tale involving the practical education of an inexperienced demon by a more worldly-wise one. Note the word practical, for this is one of the adjectives the leftist substitutes for truth.

The younger demon expresses concern to his better worser "that intelligent people are prone to read books containing the wisdom of the ancients," which might cause them to accidentally stumble upon the truth (note that the demon knows the truth, since the lie is parasitic upon it).

Not to worry, assures Screwtape, for this type of knowledge can be easily nullified by simply elevating history above reality. Thus, the last thing the tenured will ask about, say, the Bible, is whether it is "true."

Rather, the "learned man" will ask "who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and in what phase in the writer's development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates... and so on."

This is how the kingly truth ends up being royally screwtaped. Remember our lengthy series of posts on the Divine Comedy? Ratzinger notes that in communist countries one was still permitted to be exposed to such subversive literature, so long as it was placed in the proper context, or narrative, which is always political and ultimately rooted in power (for again, who defines reality wields the power).

Reducing the real meaning of such a protean text is a way to immunize scholarship against truth. It's very effective, because it confines the scholar to a closed world from which he cannot escape and to which he cannot inscape, no matter which way he turns, for he has his head up his own assumptions. What is outside those assumptions is literally unthinkable.

But in truth, "Man is not trapped in a hall of mirrors of interpretations." Rather, "one can and must seek a breakthrough to what is really true."

And what is true is that there is one world and one human nature to go along with it, which is why truth can be, and is, timeless, universal, and harmonious (or integral). Everything fits together in a neat little giant coonspiracy, which literally means to "breath-together" in one Spirit.

In the formulation of Eckhart, our "breaking out" is simultaneously God's "breaking in." And we all know what it's like to be arrested (?!) by God's breaking and entering in the middle of the night.

Ratzinger names some of the barriers to truth, which enclose modern man in his little thought bubbles: historicism, scientism, pragmatism, nihilism -- to which one might add deconstructionism, reductionism, materialism, feminism, radical environmentalism, metaphysical Darwinism, and Obamaism.

Truth unites. The lie fragments.

In another sense, truth not only sharply divides (for it is a [s]word), but is the source of division -- one might say discrimination -- itself.

Conversely, the lie unites, but it is a false unity (for example, Hitler's mission to unite Europe, or Marx's to unite the wankers of the world). In truth, it is merely an agglomeration with no interior or exterior consistency, harmony, or wholeness. For there is only one complete, consistent, and harmonious metaphysic. And if they ask what it is, tell just them I AM sent it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Human Existence: The Perpetual Mid-Life Crisis

This is truly one of those posts that begins "nowhere" but will hopefully end somewhere.

The only way this can happen is if the post is "guided," so to speak, by its own end, which is to say, its own implicit purpose. Even if I don't understand the point, perhaps the Other with whom I am in dialogue will. It's certainly not something I could ever accomplish on my own.

I always begin in the bewilderness, which, you might say, is a repetition of where everyman and allmen must begin. Every day begins in slavery and ends with the promised land at least in view. And the whole innerprize is founded upon faith, in both its active and passive modes.

In other words -- again, like life -- one must in one sense "give up," but in another sense, actively deliver oneself over to the mysterious Other who shadows us through life, goading and pulling us along by the ear if we still have one.

In God and World, then Cardinal Ratzinger is asked how we can know when this Other is communicating with us:

"God speaks quietly. But he gives us all kinds of signs.... we can see that he has given us a little nudge through a friend, through a book, or through what we see as failure -- even through 'accidents.' Life is actually full of these silent indications. If I remain alert, then slowly they piece together a consistent whole..."

Like the human life of which they are a fractal, the doing and knowing -- the exploration and discovery, the journey and arrival, the alpha and omega -- must occur simultaneously, since they are parts of "one being" or "beingness."

For example, you could show an infant the university degree he will eventually acquire at the age of 22, but he will still have to go through the formality of earning it. Knowing that you will someday know is not the same as knowing. For example, I "knew" I would someday get married. But I never knew it would be like this!

In this regard, we are all beneficiaries of the amosing grace who delivers us from the exterior slavery of Egypt, through the perilous Red Sea, into the bewilderness, and on to the interior freedom of Israel.

For who is Yaweh, aside from Who He Is? For starters, he is the entity responsible for bringing the people of God -- whoever they might be -- out of the house of bondage, or from the matrix to the patrix.

For bondage is the rule in nature, and nature is sufficient in most every way to account for it. We are slaves to our genes, or appetites and desires, or culture, or family, or historical epoch. Man's slacklessness doesn't require much of an explanation, just as man's selfishness and greed would appear to be the factory setting.

Rather, what cries out for explanation is this mysterious irruption of freedom in a closed world where material and efficient causes rule with one fist of iron, the other of steel, if the right one don't gitcha' then the left one will.

Come to thinkin' on it, that song actually provides a vivid account of the slackless man's sorry lot:

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood, skin and bone
Got a mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store


The "company store" is Egypt in any one of its legion of manifestations. The Judeo-Christian arc of salvation -- i.e., its historical ground -- begins in this movement away from necessity and toward freedom.

However, being liberated from slavery is by no means synonymous with freedom. For example, I could turn my child out the door today and say "congratulations. You're free!"

But until one arrives at the destination, there is no way of knowing what lies ahead, hence the bewilderness adventure in between. If you haven't faced the perils of the bewilderness, then it's likely that your freedom -- i.e., self-determination -- is correspondingly narrow, brittle, or even somewhat illusory.

Now, an important point is that this arc of salvation cannot be thought of in purely linear terms. Rather, it must be regarded vertically, so that each stage of the journey is simultaneously present: bondage --> bewilderness --> freedom (or in another sense, Incarnation --> Death --> Resurrection).

Furthermore, the journey must be reenacted each and every day. Otherwise the path is soon covered over by the fauna and flora of various entities that live within us, so that communication is cut off between the various levels of being.

In other words, there is a lack of integration that prevents us from being the "totality" we were meant to be. Think of the Son, who eternally descends from the zenith to the nadir and back up again. Thanks to him, this benign circle was opened up for man, but we still have to step onto the path and take the first step(s). It is a permanent gift, but we must open to its presence.

Ratzinger expresses it well, speaking of how "the organ of sensitivity to God can atrophy to such an extent that the words of faith become quite meaningless. And whoever no longer possesses a faculty of hearing can no longer speak, because being deaf goes together with being mute. It's as if one had deliberately to learn one's mother tongue."

This reminds me of a patient I saw awhile back, who had suffered a stroke to the parietal lobe of the brain, which is the "language center." She was a Mexican-American woman, and prior to the stroke had been fully bilingual. While Spanish was her native tongue, she later mastered English after emigrating to the U.S.

Interestingly, the stroke caused much more damage to her native tongue than to the acquired one. Thus, while she could still communicate in her "secondary" language, she could no longer do so in her primary one.

This caused a great deal of pain, in that her mother and father (she was a relatively young woman) were not bilingual, and only spoke spanish. Thus, in an interesting metaphor, she was cut of from her source and ground -- her Father, as it were -- because of damage to the "organ of communication" alluded to by Ratzinger.

This reminds me of someone with uncontrolled diabetes, who may not be aware of a problem until the sudden appearance of "end organ damage" in the eyes, feet, kidneys, heart, etc. Just so, spending one's life walking like an Egyptian will end in blindness, amputation, infertility, a damaged heart, and a dangerous accumulation of toxins.

So you always have a choice: crisis or catastrophe.

Abraham, our father,
Was simply told to leave.
Go forth from your land and from your kindred...
to the land I will show you.

This is the setting out.
The leaving everything behind.
Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions.
The definitions. The language. The narrowed field of vision. The expectations....
To be, in a word: Open.

So it is with setting out on the path of liberation, leaving everything.
He would even have to discover
The way he would discover
While he was on the way.
--Lawrence Kushner, Honey From the Rock

*****

And he was told:
Go forth from the dugout to the position I will show you.
Where he would even have to catch on to
The way to catch
While playing on the field of dreams.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

You Shall Have No Gods Before the New York Times

As we know, liberal politicians are generally loath to articulate their actual principles, because those principles are unpopular if not offensive to a clear majority of Americans.

Therefore, they have developed the dual-track strategy of, on the one hand, defensively concealing their true motivations under clouds of rhetoric that is at once empty of specific content, but, for that very reason, potentially omnipotent in its reach, such as "helping the little guy," "diversity," "tolerance," "fairness," and "social justice."

In other words, if one's first principle is, say, "social justice," this term is so elastic as to authorize virtually anything to attain it -- whatever "it" is.

Never mind that the Constitution makes no reference to the term, and with good reason, since the Founders were well aware of how such mischievous rhetoric could be used by demagogues to inflame the passions of the mob. Let the heirheads of the French Revolution speak of such laughty principles.

The other prong of the liberal strategy -- to which any conservative prongee can personally attest -- is slander, vilification, and smearing. The reason for this second tactic is the corollary of the first.

That is, because our ideas are both popular and susceptible to fact and logic, it is necessary to attack our motivations. This means that the liberal needn't do battle with us in the arena of ideas, but in a kind of rhetorical underworld where they are much more comfortable, as they are already acclimated to the darkness.

One might say that, Rather than an ideological strategy, the Left is a lexicographical tactic. But Reducing another’s thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

For example, I would really need solid proof before branding a particular individual a racist, or misogynist, or homophobe, or greedy bastard. But conservatives are routinely accused of these evils with no proof whatsoever.

Rather, being conservative is its own proof, so to speak. The charge is a metaphysical/theological one, not dissimilar to our belief that man is a fallen creature, except that our principle applies to everyone, not just our political opponents (which in turn is an important reason why we oppose big government).

A couple of years ago, Howard Dean said that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals don't like to see children go to bed hungry at night. Such a manichaean worldview must be comforting in its childish simplicity; but not really, because it is necessarily persecutory, since it means that the liberal is surrounded by vicious people who wish for children to suffer. That's got to feel a little creepy.

Similarly, liberal racers who are obsessed with racial animus are undoubtedly comforted by their own nobility and moral rectitude, but this virtue is purchased at the high price of being condemned to a Nazi-like country in which more than half its citizens secretly embrace a doctrine of racial superiority. This is not a recipe for happiness or peace of mind.

Truly, as Taranto observed yesterday, liberals are not ready for a black president. The liberal cannot just be "enlightened" about race, and let it go; rather, he must be obsessed with the "racists" under every bed and behind every bush:

'As early as April 2008 we learned that it was "racist" to call then-Sen. Obama "elitist" (which means "arrogant," which means "uppity") or "out of touch" (another word for "other"). In August 2008, "skinny" joined the list. Slate's Timothy Noah observed:

"When white people are invited to think about Obama's physical appearance, the principal attribute they're likely to dwell on is his dark skin. Consequently, any reference to Obama's other physical attributes can't help coming off as a coy walk around the barn."

'Noah added that this was foretold by the prophet Fonzie. In February 2010, "professor" joined the list of putative racial slurs. Harvard's Charles Ogletree said "professor" is another synonym for "uppity," and he's a professor, so he should know.'

If you are a conservative and haven't yet been slurred as a racist, it just means that you're not trying. You haven't yet appeared on the liberal radar. Ironically, what this means is that the conservative does indeed inhabit a persecutory world, except the persecution is real.

We are not complaining, mind you. But we constantly hear and read about our own racism, xenaphobia (hatred of lesbian warriors), greed, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, etc. If there were any truth to the smears, they might actually sting, or at least provoke embarrassment. As it is, it's just a little surreal, and surreality is not without its charms, so long as one is lucid as it is occurring, and the bullets are only verbal and not metal.

Exaggeration? Hardly. For example, a few days ago, Nicholas Kristoff, star fifth columnist of the New York Times, penned a surreal idiotorial in which he explained how tea party conservatives would like the United States to resemble Pakistan. That being the case, what else do you need to know about us? After all, we want to enforce traditional Islamic values, behead petty criminals, and abolish civilian rule of the military. Who wouldn't detest such menaces to republican government?

We often say that contemporary left/liberalism is not so much an ideology but a substitute religion, hence the emotionalism and moralism that attach to it. It also becomes the "crusade" around which the liberal activist organizes his life, thus his source of meaning and identity (which amount to the same thing).

And because his politics is so entangled with his identity, it is difficult to detach from them. One loses one's perspective, and also cannot keep things in their proper place, largely because the vertical has been collapsed into the horizontal.

Therefore, horizontal things are inevitably imbued with the power and significance of the vertical, while vertical things become idols and graven images. Contemporary liberalism would be unthinkable in the absence of this idolatry.

For example, the newly named editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, is refreshingly transparent in disclosing her liberal idolatry, in that she frankly regards the Times as God: "In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion.... If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth."

How oppressive. But I have friends and relatives who would essentially say the same thing if they were as honest with themselves as Abramson. In fact, we are all familiar with the liberal paradox that "truth doesn't exist, and only I know it," but rarely do we hear it expressed so candidly by one of their heaviest eliteweights.

It reminds us of a comment by then Cardinal Ratzinger, that although Christianity developed "its most effective form in Europe, it is necessary to say that in Europe a culture has developed that constitutes the absolutely most radical contradiction not only of Christianity but of the religious and moral traditions of humanity."

The important point is that this new ideology is not a negation of the Judeo-Christian metaphysic, nor its contrary; rather, it is its converse, i.e., an inverted form of it.

In fact, if you will review your Ten Commandments, you will see at a glance that doctrinaire liberalism embodies a mirror image of them. But I guess I don't have to belaborate the point, since I have apparently already posted on their sacred dreckalogue.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Truth is a Poor Excuse to Swindle Us of Our Slack

They always come at you with the TRUTH, don't they? -- even the ones who otherwise have no use for the concept.

As we have mentioned before, even if a person is unable to know truth directly, he can know it indirectly by virtue of what evildoers pretend is true.

For example, all evil regimes that are manifestly steeped in falsehood claim to be aligned with a Truth that confers their bogus legitimacy, from the world-historical powers and principalities embodied in National Socialism or communism, to more regional demonocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Berkeley.

In each case, they not only maintain that they are founded upon truth, but that in most cases they are the very guardians of a precious and beleaguered truth to which the world is implacably hostile.

This has led many secular sophisticates of the postmodern left -- okay, all of them -- to reject the very concept of Truth. But this is like rejecting medicine because of what Nazi doctors did with it, or education because of how our elite universities disfigure it.

You might even hear a proglodyte of the left accuse us of "anti-intellectualism," which is only to miss the point entirely. It is because we cherish education that we criticize the educational establishment, just as it is because of our compassion for the poor that we champion the most demonstrably successful ways to escape poverty, none of which involve statism.

For that matter, it is because it harms blacks that we oppose state-mandated racial discrimination. We know this is true, if only because it is considered a terrible offense to suggest that Obama is our first "affirmative action president." If racial discrimination is such a wonderful thing, why take offense when we point out that some individual has benefited from the practice?

Speaking of how evildoers claim to be acting in the name of truth, just yesterday we were reading of how the uncompromising pursuit of truth was largely responsible for Hitler's downfall. For example, in invading Russia, he was simultaneously engaged in a battle of annihilation and a war of racial genocide.

But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior" races. Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise, in ways that severely hindered the allocation of resources.

In a perverse way, we can be thankful that Hitler was such a principled man, because if he weren't, he would have been a much more rational and formidable enemy.

In comparison, Stalin and his heirs to power were much more unprincipled. The USSR pursued its irrational beliefs in relatively rational and predictable ways, whereas, say, Islamists are willing to pursue their irrational ideology in completely irrational ways, up to and including self-destruction (as was the case with Imperial Japan).

In any event, "truth" is clearly a problem, because most of the wholesale evil in the world is committed in its name. Ratzinger writes that although we all supposedly cherish freedom, "we are inclined to react with suspicion to the concept of truth: we recall that the term truth has already been claimed for many opinions and systems, and that the assertion of truth has often been a means of suppressing freedom."

Thus we see at once that there is some sort of relationship between truth and freedom. But is it a direct or inverse relation?

We might say that the psychospiritual left maintains that the relation is inverse, and that the only way to secure our freedom is to deny any kind of epistemological totalitarianism from gaining power. Thus, as Ratzinger observes -- since he has often been their target -- "Anyone who maintains that he is serving the truth by his life, speech, and action must prepare himself to be classified as a dreamer or fanatic."

This is hardly an intrinsically meritless point of view, given man's bleak track record. History is a chronicle of malignant stupidities masquerading as truth, so why not chuck the whole nasty business, and limit "truth" to what can be empirically demonstrated, like climate change, or Keynesian economics, or queer theory? That way, only the good people will have power over us.

In some ultimate sense, man is oriented toward the One, Good, True, and Beautiful. But only because he is so oriented, he is susceptible to becoming dis-oriented. Although many people are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth, they all know a lie when they see one.

But in the absence of absolute truth, there is actually no real ground for arbitrating between various lies. Rather, one opinion is intrinsically no worse than another, hence the absurd doctrine of multiculturalism -- an "absolute relativism" that somehow coexists with its ideological opposite, the dogmatic absolutism of political correctness.

Is there a course between these two varieties of false absolutism? Yes, but only if man has free will. Everything is rooted in this principle, without which there is obviously no freedom, but more subtly, no truth -- including, of course, the "truth" that free will is an illusion, for what can an illusion prove? It's like asking how to obtain food from a dream of it.

Now, if truth is an illusion, then at once human intercourse is reduced to a matter of will. One could say that in such an existentialist worldview, man is condemned to freedom. Truly, freedom becomes just another word for "nothing left to lose," or, more succinctly, nothing.

Such a system would understand freedom "as the right and opportunity to do just what we wish and not have to do anything we do not wish to do." It "would mean that our own will is the sole norm of our action" (Ratzinger).

This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit if his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth.

In the Raccoon view, Truth is absolutely real. Indeed, it is the real Absolute. That being the case, no relative being could ever "contain" it.

This has some resonance with Gödel's theorems, which, among other things, prove that man has access to a whole world of transcendent truth that cannot be proved with mere reason. Rather, any such system is always founded upon assumptions the system cannot prove, rendering all such systems epistemologically closed circles in the lost roundup.

The Raccoon prefers to call this absolute truth O, so as not to confuse it with something we already know. For example, it is quite easy for an atheist to disprove the existence of God, but fundamentally impossible to disprove the beyond-existence of O without absurdly disproving oneself.

Now, tradition, properly understood, is not supposed to be a kind of binding tyranny from which we need to be liberated. Even so, one must not absolutize the system and conflate it with that to which it points, O.

Rather, you might say that it is a whole system for the articulation of O, generally worked out by people much better and smarter than you -- unless you believe there is no one better than you, in which case your faith in yourself is total. And I never argue with another man's faith.

Gotta get ready for work. To be continued...