Tuesday, September 06, 2011

An Important Bulletin from the Millennial Vortex: We Have Defeated the Racist Tea Baggers!

Let's begin with some definitions, because there are distinctly different types of millennial thought and behavior, some of which are terribly -- apocalyptically -- destructive, others of which are quite benign, constructive, and in my opinion, in conformity with reality (which is why they are constructive, precisely).

Landes first draws a very helpful distinction between "apocalyptic time" and "normal time." Normal time is, well, normal. For most people, if that's the only time there is, it's rather boring. All of us like to dilate time, jump in, and abide in the sanctified real estate of nonlocal slack. Nothing wrong with that.

But something else happens to time when we are "plunged into the vortex of messianic expectation." In my opinion -- and we'll get into this in more detail later -- two things happen.

First, this is when there is a transformation within the self, resulting in the millennial dream containing us, rather than vice versa. It is no longer something we can think about, because we are in it. Compare it to the mob mentality, in which people become ecstatically disinhibited and do things they wouldn't do in the absence of the mob.

But secondly -- and more importantly -- there is an intoxicating transition to a more right-hemispheric, symmetrical mode of consciousness that partakes of various categories of transcendence, including timelessness, magical thinking, great strength and power, and a special closeness to the very forces and levers of history.

I'm not going to go into detail at this juncture -- mainly because I haven't yet explicitly worked it all out in my head -- but this follows the ideas of the Chilean psychoanalyst and mathematician Ignacio Matte Blanco, especially as interpreted by Bomford in his Symmetry of God.

(And if any Raccoons have been discouraged from purchasing this book because of the price, I see that amazon has a number of used copies available for under $8. I don't want to oversell it -- the author's theology is on the liberal side -- but there is simply no other book that explores these important ideas. It serves as an accessible introduction to Matte Blanco, who is a major influence, and opens up many fruitful avenues of contemplation and study, providing a way not only to "think about God" but to "think about thinking about God" -- and why it is both necessary and unavoidable that human beings do so.)

(To put it another way, if one doesn't think about God in the proper manner, one will inevitably do so in an improper manner -- which is precisely the problem that infects millennial thinking, irrespective of whether one's religion is Christianity or leftism or atheism. In fact, history proves that atheistic millennialists are by far the more destructive, and that both Judaism and Christianity, properly construed, are mankind's most effective defense against raving millennialists of every stripe. "Indeed, if the last two centuries have told us anything, it is how dangerous those who would perfect the world become when they seize power" [Landes].)

In any event, the plunge into symmetrical logic helps to explain the psychic transformation that occurs when we are pulled into the phase space of the millennial attractor -- when the "inspired prophet" resonates with the "receptive community"; when, "in the expectation of an immanent and radical transformation of the world, [the group] 'burns bridges' to the 'normal future' and 'goes for broke,'" and we "participate in the glorious End of History" (Landes). (Remember James Carville's 2009 classic, 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation? Nor will anyone else.)

Again, I don't want to push the evidence too far -- in part because it's just too easy to do -- but I cannot help interpreting Obamania in this light, as millions of Americans -- now finally including the MSM -- are returning to Normal Time, and for the first time seeing Obama as those of us who never left normal political time have always seen our dear leader-in-the-headlights: as an inept, incurious, rigid, self-absorbed, inarticulate, and unqualified mediocrity of slightly below average intelligence and zero charisma.

Obviously, he has always been this. He hasn't changed. How can one go from awesome to pathetic with the flick of a switch? The only way is projection followed by its sudden withdrawal. Of course, it is hardly a crime to be a nonentity. The crime is in trying to con the rest of us into believing in this emperor's new empty suit.

More importantly, what was the real and enduring source of the misperception, which happens again and again, throughout recorded history? As Landes asks, "How many times... must apocalyptic prophecy fail, before it loses its promise?"

More on that question later. Suffice it to say that all around us, and at all times, there are "hidden transcripts" which, "under the right -- apocalyptic -- conditions -- ... can spread at epidemic speeds and breach the public transcript with explosive force" (Landes).

This is an irruption of unconscious into conscious -- or an obliteration of the boundary between them -- but the important point is that this ingression is structured in a very specific way. It is not as if one is immersed in a world of unstructured psychotic chaos.

Once one enters the vortex of apocalyptic time -- which, in my opinion, partakes of the symmetrical time of the unconscious -- "everything quickens, enlivens, coheres. [Believers] become semiotically aroused -- everything has meaning, patterns. The smallest incident can have immense importance and open the way to an entirely new vision of the world, one in which forces unseen by other mortals operate" and "they can make connections and intuit relations at levels that escape most of us with pedestrian minds" (Landes).

Here again, Matte Blanco's theories apply, for they explain how time becomes eternity, how the small becomes immense (a kind of insistent misinterpretation of "blessed are the poor in spirit"), and how anything means everything (and vice versa).

"Semiotic arousal" is one of Landes' frequent terms. It basically means a kind of self-reinforcing hyper-alertness to signs that confirm the basic premise -- which is not so much a premise, but again, a specific state of mind. It is essentially identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates, which sees complex and meaningful connecting links where there are none.

Rather, the paranoid person is specifically engaged in an indiscriminate projection of the contents of his own mind, which provides a kind of relief. But the relief is short lived, because now he is persecuted by the environment, i.e., by his own exteriorized mind. He then attempts to force all of the disconnected bits to cohere by organizing them into a monolithic conspiratorial entity. Once one reaches this stage, "everything" is proof of the theory, which simultaneously renders the person systematically stupid and omnisciently arrogant. But enough about Al Gore.

As Landes describes it, the semiotically aroused apocalyptic believer is privileged to have a special understanding of, and insight into, the world (this strikes me as similar to Voeglin's ideas about left-wing gnosticism). They are "convinced of the superiority of their perceptions, convinced that the uncomprehending masses... will either soon join them or get shredded in the coming cosmic upheaval" (Landes).

Indeed, Landes describes such a movement as analogous to an Indian rope trick, in which "believers climb up on something anchored only in hope." To which I would add, Change! -- which is no joke, because Radical Change! is what it's all about. Which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't involve the attempt -- which is by definition doomed before it starts -- to change what cannot be changed, starting with human nature.

Now, because the millennial movement is at odds with reality -- including the reality of human nature -- it can never last. Such movements are inherently unstable, so there will necessarily be a kind of frantic activity which masquerades as thought, but which is actually a kind of "papering over" logical contradictions and intrusions from that annoying Mr. Reality.

Again, Landes calls this apocalyptic jazz, which we are presently seeing in those dead-enders who still hold fast to the Obama fantasy. These are the professional "Baghdad Bobs" of the left, and it is sometimes difficult to know if they actually believe the crap they're shoveling. Most of these Wolfes are presumably too cynical to believe it, but they swiftly throw the memes out there and rely upon their dinghy little sheep to float them to their fellow gullible travelers.

There is no presence of Tea Party infidels in the city of DC. None. We have killed most of the son-of-bitches, and we will finish off the rest soon. Next question.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Left: Upping the Anti-Christ into 2012 and Beyond

It just occurred to me that the proglodyte left -- which never veers far from the ancient millennial screamploy -- is currently projecting their own atavism on to conservatives, what with their latest hysterical attempt to depict normal Americans as dangerous religious extremists.

For the left, the apocalypse is always right around the corner, and yet, they pretend that we are the religious fanatics. Remember back in 2004? Democrats ran on the belief that it was the worst economy since the Great Depression! Yes, back when unemployment was 4 or 5% and the deficit was around 4% of GDP.

Of course, it is inherently difficult to say when a liberal is being sincere, for a liberal who is transparent about his beliefs is unelectable. If Obama had announced his actual beliefs and agenda in 2008 -- or if the media hadn't done such yeoman work in obscuring them -- he would have had about as much of a chance as Dennis Kucinich.

Rick Perry's theology -- whatever it is -- is not my theology, but I am confident that it is within the American mainstream. On the other hand, Reverent Wright is not mainstream, but preaches a classic millennial/apocalyptic/paranoid/neo-Marxist brew masquerading as Christianity. And Obama sat there for twenty years, just drinking it all in.

I want to briefly address a couple of comments to yesterday's post, because they anticipate much of what we will discuss later. Gandalin wonders "how the Church has avoided the millenarian temptation despite the fervently hoped for deliverance at the eshcaton."

The short answer is that she has not always succeeded in doing so; and outside the Church, all bets are off, as Christianity has spun off any number of schismatic millennial cults over the centuries.

Landes notes that Augustine was largely responsible for putting the kibosh on millennial temptations. I don't have time at the moment to look up the exact quote, but he essentially said something to the effect that we must always live as if the eschaton is just over the horizon, even though we can never know and should not attempt to predict when it is to arrive.

In fact, this is fully in accord with Jesus' rather definitive statement in Mark 13:32, which should have settled the matter forever:

But of that day and hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. So, what should we do? Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. End of issue. Just stay alert, and don't let me catch you napping behind the wheel of karma.

So right there we have what ought to be a built-in unknowculation against the millennial temptation. But does it work? Certainly not with everyone. There are always books and religious television programs dedicated to proving that these are the End Times, but I am quite certain that a clever religious huckster could prove that any time is the End Time -- just as apocalyptic environmentalists can show that any weather pattern proves that We're All Gonna Die!

What this actually proves is that millennial and apocalyptic thought is somehow prior to any particular religion. However, this doesn't mean that it is intrinsically false. It does mean, however, that it can only happen once. Julie touched on this in commenting that "The Millenial tendency, it seems to me, must be based in Truth -- much like counterfeit money. But there is no end to the imitators, while there is only one genuine article."

This again goes to one of the central questions we will be attempting to answer as we go along: why do human beings seem to be built in such a way that millennial thought comes so naturally to them?

My preliminary opinion is that it is indeed an archetype, but a complex one, since it is not only in "space," so to speak -- like the Great Mother, the Wise Man, the Anima, the Trickster, et al -- but specifically deployed in time. Also, it organizes and reveals the ultimate meaning of everything, which is why it is so seductive and so intoxicating.

Conspiracy theories will always be with us, because something about them renders existence both exciting and meaningful. They are like the iron magnet that instantly organizes all our random metal shavings. Even if it portends a cataclysmic outcome, from a psychological perspective it is preferable to be persecuted by One Big Thing than a thousand nagging ones (think of the delusional paranoid, who has only one big enemy).

To put it another way, to immerse oneself in a Cosmic Drama of surpassing importance -- whether climate change, Obamania, or this or that smelly little leftist revolution -- is to forget one's own unendurable self for a blessed moment.

But as always, no one escapes the cosmic law: he who smelt it, dealt it. In other words, the problem with these leftist assouls is that they make us endure their unendurable selves. Imagine the horror of actually having to be a Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Michelle Obama, Barney Frank, Keith Olbermann, Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Cornel West, Al Gore, Rachel Maddow, whoever.

And yet, these are precisely the people who have the ovaries to interfere with our being. But our being is doing just fine, thank you. It never occurs to them that we are not aware of "missing something" that the mommy state can ever fulfill.

Rather, for most normal people, the state can only take, not give. Yes, there are obviously sad and tragic cases for whom we need that "safety net." But the left specializes in converting otherwise normal people -- or at least people who had a shot at normality -- to helpless and needy parasites who cannot live without a state master. In my state, California, these parasites call the shots, and there's not a thing we can do about it. The state is imploding before our eyes.

One thing these people never appreciate is that we are already living their awful millennium. It is already here, after some seventy five years of ceaseless effort to put it in place. But are they happy, now that it's here, now that the government is larger and more intrusive than ever? Of course not! Look at the rioters in Europe. That socialist paradise can't get any more comprehensive unless they revert to the Stone Age.

But do these reactionaries want to roll back the state and try progress for a change? Of course not! Rather, they want more of the same, as His Highness the Teleprompter will undoubtedly announce in its forthcoming "jobs speech."

This is again a transparent example of what Landes calls "apocalyptic jazz," that is, the type of discourse millennialists engage in after they have seized power and their predictions have failed, which they always do and always must.

The pattern is absolutely no different than Christian cults that predict and prepare for the second coming. When it doesn't happen, they just dig in their heels, figure out why their calculation was in error, and then offer a new and improved prediction. This pattern is universal because it is again a human archetype. We are all susceptible to it -- left and right -- if we fail to take precautions.

Although I want a conservative to win the presidency, in no way do I get caught up in the millennial hopes and dreams for which elections serve as "safety valves" to let off the psychic pressure. I'm not into predictions, but I am willing to offer three: one, the Republican candidate will be who it is. Two, I will vote for said candidate. Three, my life will not change much. In other words, there ain't no cure for Bob but the One cure.

I do not expect paradise on earth, because it is impossible. Conversely, the leftist never, ever asks himself if this or that is the best we can expect, given human nature and all.

Rather, the left always exploits the intrinsic imperfections, -- say, in any market economy, in the medical system, in the housing industry, in race relations -- makes them much worse with misguided policies, and then asks us to grant them the power to solve the problems they have created with more solutions guaranteed to make the problems worse.

This is how we end up with a disastrous real estate bubble, with Porkulus, with bankrupt Medicare and Social Security ponzi schemes, with Obamacare, with a dysfunctional educational system, with racial quotas that degrade their targets and impede their progress, etc. All of these ideas work fine in utopia, where they aren't needed. Here on earth they are a disaster. Especially when applied to human beings.

It is instructive to compare and contrast the American and French Revolutions, because in many important ways, these iterated into the left and right as we know them today. Landes has a chapter devoted to the French Revolution, so we'll get to that in due time. But how did Americans hold off the imposition of utopia by government masters for so long?

Clearly, one reason is that they were steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yes, the writings of the Founders occasionally veer into a kind of messianic fervor, but for the most part, they were quite sober and cautious, and not at all sanguine about man's ability to govern himself.

Since they were instructed by the wisdom of scripture that man is a fallen being who is imperfectible, but must always work toward his own perfection -- individually, but never collectively! -- they never lurched in the direction of the radical enlightenment, which threw off religion as so much nonsense, and attempted to found itself upon pure Reason.

Soon enough, the application of this pure Reason dictated the elimination of anyone who stood in the way between Now and Paradise. If you think this type of thinking is absent from the left, think again.

For Al Gore, if you do not believe the left should take over the global economy to prevent a climate apocalypse, you are no better than a racist or Holocaust denier. If you don't think it is wise to radically redefine the very foundation of civilization -- male-female marriage -- you are a hater and should be treated as such. Ironically, you are beyond the pale of the very civilization you cherish and wish to preserve.

Likewise, the only reason for your hostility to Obama's wise polices can be the color of his skin. You cannot possibly believe that the government has grown too large, for how can our savior, the State, be "too large?" What nonsense! And how inhumane!

Landes puts forth the ironyclad axiom that "one man's messiah is another man's anti-Christ."

This strikes me as manifestly true, but most especially for non-Christians, who see the anti-Christ in George Bush, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, "Dominionists," Creationists, the internal combustion engine -- whoever or whatever is their Demon of the Day. Since they are void of ideas, expect them to engage in this demonology -- to up the anti-Christ -- until November 6, 2012. Then watch them crank it up to eleven.

Kind of ran out of time before I even got started. I think this post may have been inspired by some of the sublime rants at Sultan Knish.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

How's that High-Vibration Light-Worker with Powerful Luminosity Workin' Out for Ya?

Part two of the previous post has been completely obviated as a result of my encounter with Richard Landes' new book -- required reading for Raccoons -- Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience. It's pretty much the history book I've been looking for my whole life. I only wish it had been around when I was writing my book, since it tracks perhaps the most important vector of mind parasites: millennial and apocalyptic discourse and behavior.

In my view -- and for my purposes -- it presents something like a master key for the interpretation of history. In fact, I would probably push the evidence further than does the more sober Landes. However, at the same time, I am very suspicious of just how much it does explain, for a theory that explains everything has explained nothing. Landes, who is aware of this, recalls presenting a paper, and a participant asking "What does this not explain?" Or, in scientific parlance, "What evidence can falsify your claims?"

Most history focuses upon -- and loses itself in -- a mere chronicle of outward events. But I am particularly interested in the invisible interior of history, or what one might call the "collective cosmic interior."

This is ironic, because postmodern multiculturalists like to pretend that this is their bailiwick, but they view the subject in a hopelessly uncritical manner; for the moment one says there are no bad or immoral cultures, one has rendered thinking inoperative. Not only that, but multiculturalists are infamously prone to the spiritual disease of "anti-America right or wrong."

One virtue of Landes' book is that he is an equal-opportunity critic. Somewhat like The Simpsons, everyone is in for ridicule, for it seems that everyone has "millennial tendencies." We all know that religions tend to be built around millennial dreams and fantasies, but even worse are the secular millennialists, since they are under the illusion that they are "rational."

But nothing is more dangerous than the millennial movement that wraps itself in reason, beginning with the French Revolution and then playing out in Marxism, communism, and the ubiquitous liberal Cult of Expertise (consisting of gifted people who have never met you, and yet, Know Better how to run your life).

(Interestingly, Landes notes that the main feature distinguishing communism from fascism is not the results -- which are so similar -- but the fact that the latter rejects modernity and grounds itself in romanticism rather than a pretense of science -- blood, soil, will, volk, etc. Thus, the 60s generation was and is more fascist than communist; its superficial scientism is always in the service of its deep romanticism).

One has only to look at the bizarre behavior and apocalyptic rhetoric of Al Gore to see the process in action. Or -- and we will be discussing this in much more detail -- the millennial hopes that rode Obama until that feeble horse collapsed in the dust. In point of fact, it is the other way around: the millennial dream is always in the saddle, and we are being ridden. We are the ones the millennial script is always waiting for.

One reason the book will be controversial is that it presents a frontal challenge to "positivist notions about the clear division between secular and religious phenomena" (Landes).

Also, Landes is aware of the fact that any imaginative "lumper" such as himself can and will be picked apart by hyper-critical and anal-obsessive academic "splitters," because that is what splitters do: toss cold water on forest fliers. Such professional myopics habitually confuse the limits of their thinking with the countours of reality, and therefore "objectivize their own limitations" (Schuon). (That's my bobnoxious opinion, not Landes'.)

One of the questions we will be addressing in this series of posts is why people seem to be built in this way, foolishly but repeatedly expecting messianic saviors, dramatic transformations in human nature, a new world order in which the powerless become the powerful, and the attainment of paradise on earth.

Surprisingly, nowhere in the book does Landes even speculate on the ultimate source of this odd behavior. Which is actually quite admirable, since he is an historian and doesn't pretend to be a psychologist or anthropologist (although he is insanely well read; I cannot recall reading a book with such a breadth and depth of sources, from left to right and center to fringe).

Landes does, however, present a number of working hypotheses, including the idea "that the emotional drives that underlie perfectionist social thinking, whether secular or religious, whether monotheist or polytheist or a-theist, share important dynamics."

Another important feature is that these movements are by definition doomed to failure, which results in an "apocalyptic curve," from "inebriating acceleration out of, and disorienting free-fall back into, 'normal time.'" But this is the most dangerous moment of the curve, that is, when the leaders must deal with "the terrible disappointment in realizing their expectations [have] failed."

For this is when the millennial movement, in order to preserve its newly won power, turns to violence, demonization, and improvisational "apocalyptic mind jazz" in order to keep itself going. In a generally non-violent political culture such as ours, this is when the bullshit really starts flying. "The stimulus wasn't big enough!" "My opponents are terrorists!" "The racists ate my homework!"

As Landes describes them, millennial movements are relatively bloodless as they ascend to power. Even Hitler did so through legitimate channels, and the communist revolution was no more bloody than the average. The real mayhem begins when failure is apparent -- when paradise is not at hand, the eschaton fails to arrive, and human beings are the same greedy, envious, petty, and narcissistic rascals they've always been. More on this dreary pattern later on.

Landes doesn't get into it -- perhaps too hot to handle for a member of academia -- but I don't think there's any doubt that Obama rode in on a wave of millennial hopes and dreams. In fact, it is almost as if he were aware of millennial dynamics, and consciously strove to trigger and exploit them in the masses.

Consider his '08 campaign speeches, which were otherwise content free, and yet, had a hypnotic effect which his supporters were not shy in acknowledging. Deepak described Obama in literally messianic terms, as a "quantum leap" in human evolution, and a columnist in San Francisco described him as a wondrous "light worker."

And Obama wasn't the least bit hesitant to accept the messianic mantle. People have ascribed this to his narcissism, but if Landes is correct -- and I believe he is -- there was something much deeper going on, i.e., much deeper than garden variety clinical pathology. After all, it really doesn't explain anything to point out that Mao, or Castro, or Lenin were narcissists, especially since Churchill and Roosevelt were probably narcissists as well.

Here is an example of straight up millennialism: "generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth."

To track down that quote, I stumbled upon this interesting looking blog which is quite to the point: Is Barack Obama the Messiah? Look at some of the quotes in the sidebar: Obama is

"A Lightworker -- An Attuned Being with Powerful Luminosity and High-Vibration Integrity who will actually help usher in a New Way of Being" (that was from the above-noted SF columnist).

--"We're here to evolve to a higher plane... he is an evolved leader... [he] has an ear for eloquence and a Tongue dipped in the Unvarnished Truth" (Oprah Winfrey).

--"Barack Obama is our collective representation of our purest hopes, our highest visions and our deepest knowings.... He's our product out of the all-knowing quantum field of intelligence" (Eve Konstantine).

--"He is not operating on the same plane as ordinary politicians... the agent of transformation in an age of revolution, as a figure uniquely qualified to open the door to the 21st century" (Gary Hart).

--"This is bigger than Kennedy.... This is the New Testament" (Tingles Matthews).

--"Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate.... He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh.... Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves" (Ezra Klein).

The question is, what makes people believe and say such crazy things? What is the nature of this insanity? Are they "just" crazy, or stupid, or drunk? Again, such explanations, although emotionally satisfying, are far too facile. This is a different kind of madness, and it seems to be part of our standard equipment.


Friday, August 26, 2011

History and How it Gets that Way, Part One

In what follows, I have woven together a number of posts from five years back, all reflecting upon the cosmological significance of History -- or the importance of what happened to what's gonna happen, what always happens, and what wants to happen in spite of ourselves. It ended up being pretty long, so I'll post it in two parts.

The historian of the future... will not compose a history of civilization -- that is, the story of technological progress and sociopolitical struggles -- but will trace the path of mankind through the stages of purification and illumination to its ultimate attainment of perfection. His narrative will detail mankind's temptations and their vanquishment, the standards set by particular individuals and groups, and the progressive lighting-up of new insights and the awakening of spiritual faculties among human beings. --Valentin Tomberg

One of the main things that divides left and right is our very different conceptions of history -- not just this or that fact or interpretation, but rather, the very meaning of History as such.

In my formulation -- borrowed from Valentin Tomberg -- I find it useful to consider history as having a “day” aspect and a “night” aspect.

For example, that ABC movie of several years back, The Path to 9/11, offered us a retrospective glimpse into the night time of history between the two Twin Tower attacks of 1993 and 2001. Although few people noticed at the time, it was during the sleepy Clinton administration that sinister events were incubating in the night time womb of history.

History, according to Tomberg, “is not to be understood as something which plays itself out on one level, but must be comprehended also in its dimension of height and depth.” Furthermore, “the key concepts for understanding the night aspect of history are ‘degeneration’ and ‘regeneration.’”

Degeneration involves a gradual, step-by-step descent from a higher level, while regeneration is the opposite: re-ascent to a higher level.

This is why, both personally and collectively, in the absence of periodic “booster shots” from above (↓), things will simply degenerate below. Our much-rumored fall didn't just happen once upon a timeless, but is repeated by each generation, and even on a moment-by-moment basis. There is no reason to place one's faith in spiritually amputated man, to put it mildly.

These periodic booster shots often enter history like depth charges from above. History records the existence of celestial emissaries charged with a divine mission to regenerate a spiritually exhausted mankind. Subtract these relatively few luminaries from history, and it becomes a dark place indeed. You only get one Moses, one Socrates, one Washington, one Lincoln, one Churchill.

As Tomberg puts it, “All movements of a social, political, artistic, intellectual, and religious kind may indeed have different speeds of devolution, but one thing they have in common: if no reinforcing impulse is given after a certain time, they will inevitably exhaust themselves. A thing of motion or or of life becomes a corpse unless 'reawakening impulses' intervene.” This is why most cults end with the death of their founder. Malevolent cults that survive are kept alive via the constant ingression of a demonic (↑) from below (i.e., the lower vertical).

Now the reactionary, illiberal left has repackaged itself as “progressive,” when the very nature of leftist assumptions prevents genuine integral progress (soul-body-spirit). Because they are bound to the horizontal and “live by day,” the best they can hope to do is to regenerate themselves via their own products. Horizontality feeds upon horizontality, leading to a state of severe spiritual malnourishment, a kind of ontologically "weightless monkey" who subsists on his own excrement (once he attains tenure or is admitted to the MSM).

Conversely, the conservative liberal movement is clearly oriented to the “above,” always mindful of looking for regeneration and redemption outside the things of this world. The inspiration of the American founders did not come from the visible world. Indeed, this was their very first announcement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men...”

History is a circle, but it is an open circle, or spiral. However, it can only maintain the upward spiral -- i.e., Progress -- if it is specifically oriented to the finality of spiritual ideals that are not located in the field of time. These revivifying impulses from above eventually exhaust themselves unless human beings keep them alive and embody their cosmic role of co-Creator, or bridge between Heaven and Earth.

This is indeed the esoteric meaning of American classical liberalism. In its absence -- in the absence of a conscious conservation of spiritual energy -- entropy and gravity take over, and human nature takes care of the rest. To assimilate grace is to hitch a ride on one of the ubiquitous spiritual streams that course through the arteries of the cosmos, luring us toward our nonlocal ground and destiny.

*****

All our destinies are interwoven; and until the last of us has lived, the significance of the first cannot finally be clear. --Hans Urs von Balthasar

The great historian Christopher Dawson made the provocative and yet axiomatic assertion that being an eye witness to history is of no consequence whatsoever to historical insight. Rather, it is possible -- even likely -- to live through "history" without actually seeing it at all. For one thing, time needs to play out in order to see what it entails. But also, in an important sense, to be inside time is to be outside history, and vice versa.

Dawson uses the example of the Battle of Hastings, which every British schoolchild once knew: “A visitor from another planet who witnessed the Battle of Hastings would possess far greater knowledge of the facts than any modern historian, yet this knowledge would not be historical knowledge for lack of any tradition to which it could be related; whereas the child who says ‘William the Conqueror 1066’ has already made his atom of knowledge a historical fact by relating it to a national tradition and placing it in the time-series of Christian culture.”

Similarly, an eye witness to the Crucifixion might have taken as much notice of the two criminals beside Jesus. Only in hindsight was the centrality of Jesus’ death recognized, even by his closest disciples. It is fair to say that no one who witnessed it thought to themselves, "I cannot believe I am here to witness this. This is the center and still point of cosmic history. Yesterday was BC. Tomorrow will be AD.”

Dawson is in accord with Tomberg, writing that “Behind the rational sequence of political and economic cause and effect, hidden spiritual forces are at work which confer on events a wholly new significance. The real meaning of history is something entirely different from that which the human actors in the historical drama themselves intend or believe.” A contemporary observer cannot have imagined that “the execution of an obscure Jewish religious leader in the first century of the Roman Empire would affect the lives and thoughts of millions who never heard the names of the great statesmen and generals of the age.”

Thus, there is an unavoidably eschatological aspect of history. Events cannot be fully understood without reference to their finality, that is, what they point toward and reveal only in the fullness of time. As Dawson says, “The pure fact is not as such historical. It only becomes historical when it can be brought in relation with a tradition so that it can be part of an organic whole.”

Another historian, Dermot Quinn, writes that “The fact does not tell the story; the story, as it were, tells the fact. It is the latter that gives pattern and meaning; it is the former that lacks a meaning of its own.”

Therefore, in order to be a proper historian, one had better get one's story right. And what is the story? Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it?

For as alluded to above, left and right are operating under -- and within -- vastly different narratives -- historically, politically, culturally, economically, psychologically, theologically, and even cosmically. Our disagreement over American exceptionalism is just a symbol -- albeit a useful one -- of this divide.

If history were nothing more than the recording and accumulation of facts, it would be of no use to us. Detail alone does not constitute history, any more than randomly played notes constitute harmony and melody. Only by knowing what history is for can we know what is of importance in history. Since history as it happens consists of unique and unrepeatable events, it is unintelligible unless bound into a larger scheme of order.

As Quinn puts it, “Randomness has no meaning. Yet to give meaning to events in time is to remove them from time itself, to deny them the singularity that makes them historical.”

Likewise, as the philosopher Michael Polanyi argued, to see meaning beyond the local is to see it in the local. A fact does not and cannot speak for itself. Depending upon your nonlocal understanding of history, you will see completely different facts and regard them very differently.

For the Jew, the Torah is the cosmic Center. For Dawson, it is the Incarnation that gives history its center and therefore significance:

“Viewed from this center the history of humanity became an organic unity. Eternity had entered into time and henceforward the singular and temporal had acquired an eternal significance. The closed circle of time had been broken and a ladder had been let down from heaven to earth by which mankind could escape from the ‘sorrowful wheel’ which had cast its shadow over Greek and Indian thought, and go forward in newness of life to a new world.” On the other hand, people outside the Judeo-Christian tradition tended “to solve the problem of history by a radical denial of its significance."

Thus, Dawson admits his metahistorical prejudice at the outset. And whether they admit it or not, all historians operate under their own implicit or explicit metahistory. Without one, they could not “see” or imagine history at all.

In my case, I attempt to take into consideration all of the facts of existence - -scientific, biological, psychological, anthropological, historical, and theological -- and weave them into a tapestry of 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution. Based upon this model, I know what is of historical significance to me. It is those things that either facilitate or impede the cosmic evolution of which human consciousness is the leading edge.

In other words, I like to place history in its ultimate context, for in the absence of an ultimate context, merely secular history really is a dark prison from which there is no hope of escape:

“It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanisms that have been constructed for living in the dark become useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom” (Dawson). Conversely, the absence of this vision gives rise to fantasied utopias that are always being forced upon us by intoxicated adultolescents.

The radically secular culture of the left can only exist by keeping man in the dark. So don’t ever be surprised when they attack the Light. For,

When the prophets are silent and society no longer possesses any channel of communication with the divine world, the way to the lower depths is still open and man's frustrated spiritual powers will find their outlet in the unlimited will to power and destruction. --Christopher Dawson

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is the Left Insane or Merely Unsane?

Ahh, if only everyone were sane.

But what does it mean to be sane? The dictionary is of little help to us -- it simply says that to be sane is to be healthy, to be "free from hurt or disease," to be "mentally sound, especially able to anticipate and appraise the effects of one's actions," or "proceeding from a sound mind: rational."

Uh oh: able to anticipate and appraise the effects of one's actions. Does this mean that the left is intrinsically insane? Yes, it does -- at least when they are not criminally insane.

Actually, I would prefer the less loaded "unsane," because I believe the vast majority of leftists could see reality if only it were carefully explained to them in a non-confrontational manner. For example, to understand Hayek's knowledge problem is to understand why leftist economic schemes not only don't work, but always have unintended consequences, i.e., quackfire on us.

Conversely, conservatives see and anticipate these adverse consequences, whether we are talking about socialized medicine, rent control, porkulus, relaxing lending standards, printing too much money, redefining marriage, whatever.

The question of sanity is not, and cannot be, an either/or proposition. Rather, there are clearly degrees of sanity, and therefore, degrees of insanity.

Apparently -- except at the extremes-- all of us are more or less sane and insane at the same time; or sane about some things and less sane about others. We all have our buttons, which, when pushed, cause our ghosts to invade reality. This implies that there are degrees of reality, as opposed to the more stark dichotomy of reality/unreality.

More generally, think of psychological development: a child is not insane just because he sees and experiences reality in a different way than an adult. But development does not cease with chronological or biological adulthood. Rather, psychospiritual growth is an endless horizon.

Sanity clearly cannot be reduced to merely being rational, for a rationalism pushed to the extremes becomes patently irrational. Rather, reason must always be in the service of something else -- something called intelligence, and intelligence is beyond all reason.

In other words, no rational operation accounts for intelligence as such, or is able to judge why and how some people are so much more intelligent than others. Only intelligence can discern and judge intelligence.

And what is intelligence? If intelligence is to be a useful or meaningful construct, it can only mean one thing: the mind's conforming or adequation to reality, and reality is another word for Truth.

For no matter how high someone's IQ, if their intellect isn't conformed to truth, how intelligent are they really? It is foolish to suggest that IQ somehow correlates with truth -- as if a person with an average IQ of 100 is intrinsically less in touch with reality than a person one standard deviation above, at 115.

Look at Obama. Many on the left have suggested that he is the most intelligent man to ever occupy the White House. Leaving aside the intrinsic absurdity of such a claim, his intelligence clearly doesn't prevent him from embracing any number of untruths -- or, more neutrally, ideas that do not conform to reality.

But what is reality? Animals are beautifully conformed to reality, but does this mean they are sane? No, because they are conformed only to the lowest degree of reality, the outer shell or "epidermis" of the cosmos, the material world. But nor are they insane. You can't put a dog on trial for sexual harassment for humping your leg.

Unlike animals, human beings are consciously aware of the paradox of inhabiting two worlds, an external world of objects and quantitites, and a subjective world of qualities -- of thought, imagination, values, feeling, creativity, beauty, virtue, will. Thus, if sanity is conformity to reality, what does this mean as it pertains to the wider subjective world?

We are currently in the midst of a triangulated war for the future, between Islamism, Western European socialism, and American classical liberalism, i.e., liberty, free markets, and a spiritually grounded individualism. Only one of these is sane, or at least more sane than the others, i.e., more adequately conformed to both external reality (the way the world works) and, more importantly, internal reality (real human nature; note that the left doesn't have a problem conforming itself to our animal nature, but in such a way that it destroys the human).

However, it would be a mistake to view this struggle in terms of three competing ideologies on a horizontal plane. Rather, like most important historical events, this war is also taking place in vertical historical space.

In this regard, you may view the (real) United States and its spiritual allies as reflecting a transcendent position above, the Western Europeans occupying a fully immanent one on the two dimensional plane in between, and the Islamists who swim in the parasite-infested waters of the lower vertical.

Importantly, this infra-human domain is not to be confused with the animal realm, for there is obviously no animal that would or could sacrifice its own life for a transcendently evil cause, as do Islamists. Animals are not evil. Rather, they're just animals.

Most of the real wholesale evil in history is caused by groups inhabiting this lower vertical area, which is both sub-animal and infrahuman. Moreover, just as there are vertical Missionaries who embody the upper transcendent, there are avatars of evil who embody and give voice to the lower vertical: bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, Mao, et al. The awesome power of these men is trans-human (or infrahuman, to be exact), and cannot be explained by recourse to any mere human psychology.

If there is a purely animal-human realm lacking in transcendence, then it is actually the immanent-horizontal space occupied by Western Europe and the international left. Although they think of America as "selfish" because of our belief in low taxes and limited government, it is actually the other way around.

While socialism may superficially appear to be more humane, Mark Steyn points out that "nothing makes a citizen more selfish than socially equitable communitarianism: Once a fellow is enjoying the fruits of government health care and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the broader social interest; he's got his, and if it's going to bankrupt the state a generation hence, well, as long as they can keep the checks coming till he's dead, it's fine by him." In this sense, social democracy is eventually "explicitly anti-social" (NR, 11-7-05). [Note how Steyn "saw the future," i.e., the unintended consequences playing out today, back in 2005.]

There is a further corrosion of the soul that takes place with European style socialism, in that, because it elevates material desires to the highest, it cynically cuts the heart out of any transcendent view of the world, anything beyond one's immediate animal needs.

As Steyn explains, it perversely elevates secondary priorities, such as mandated six week vacations, over primary ones such as family and national defense. And (real) progressive political change eventually becomes almost impossible, because the great majority have become dependent upon government, which causes a sort of "adherence" to the horizontal. To paraphrase Dennis Prager, the bigger the state, the smaller the human.

You cannot rouse the ideals of a nation that has lost its ideals. Any politician who threatens the entitlement system cannot get elected in Western Europe. The situation is analogous to an addict who has given over his power to the pusher.

By attempting to create the perfect society on earth through government coercion, it actually diminishes our humanity, since it relieves human beings of having to exert the continual moral effort to make the world a better place -- and oneself a better person -- as this is only possible by maintaining contact with the realm of transcendent moral and spiritual ideals.

In other words, European socialism is actually a flight from morality, thereby making people less humane, not more. It is a bogus kind of freedom, because it merely frees one from the vertical while condemning one to the horizontal.

As Pope Benedict has remarked, "I am convinced that the destruction of transcendence is the actual amputation of human beings from which all other sicknesses flow. Robbed of their real greatness they can only find escape in illusory hopes.... The loss of transcendence evokes the flight to utopia" (emphasis mine; this should be pasted over every goofy left wing bumper sticker).

As Tomberg summarizes it, the human being is always faced with the choice between two basic attitudes or outlooks: that of existential being or that of essential Being. According to the choice he makes, he is either "orphaned" in the purely material, deterministic and horizontal realm with no reality higher than his individual meatsack, or his individual being is grounded in the more essential, trans-subjective Being which is both his sanctuary and destiny.

The European existentialist lives shackled in the Egyptian "house of bondage," in manacles forged by the deterministic/materialistic outlook, resulting in a materialized reality drained of divine-human meaning. That is, no vertical causes can arise in the closed chain of cause and effect, so that one is truly imprisoned as it pertains to the moral/spiritual realm.

From the existential outlook follows a host of disastrous ideas, such as class determines consciousness, poverty causes crime, free will is an illusion, private property is theft, hierarchy is evil, the vertical dimension is an opiate for the masses to keep them oppressed, and worst of all, the idea that a coercive state is needed to enforce equality (vs. the American belief in a Creator who endows us with a spiritual liberty which it is government's primary duty to protect). The freedom of mere animal passion forges the fetters that bind Western Europe to the horizontal wasteland.

So, back to our original question: what is sanity? Sanity is not reason, but intelligence. And intelligence is conformity to the real -- both internal and external -- which is Truth.

Intelligence is the perception of a reality, and a fortiori the perception of the Real as such. It is ipso facto discernment between the Real and the unreal -- or the less real....

It is only too evident that mental effort does not automatically give rise to the perception of the real; the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error. The paradoxical phenomenon of even a “brilliant” intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively “horizontal,” hence lacking all awareness of “vertical” relationships....
--Frithjof Schuon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Incarnation, Discarnation, and Reincarnation

Okay, okay, a post. This one was spat out five years ago, and has never been rewordgitated. It will be as good as news to most readers. It certainly is to your early morning psychopomp.

To back up a bit, we've been spending some of our free time in a first approach at organizing the Knowa's Arkive.

No, we are not making much progress. Plus, most of 2005-2006 is pretty dispensable, in our esatimation. Sometimes we wish the blog were better known, or at least unKnown by more souls. But whenever we review what we have written, we always say to oursoph: "glad the blog wasn't better known back then!"

This one is in response to a question about reincarnation, asked in the course of an interview conducted by the improprietor of the blog Sigmund, Carl and Alfred.

Q: Do you believe in reincarnation? Do we really get another chance to “get it right?” Why?

A: Hmm... Why do I get the feeling that I have begged this question before?

Oh, wait. That's deja vu. This question is about reincarnation.

It is interesting that the Eastern, “right hemisphere” of the world regards reincarnation as a banal matter of faith, while it is a stumbling block for the Western, left hemisphere of the worldbrain. Is there a corpus colossum that can join the two hermetispheres and make sense of the concept?

As always, words are problematic and potentially misleading in discussing spiritual matters. In short, words are words, not the reality to which they point, nor the experience which they memorialize.

To start before the beginning, there is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern approaches to philosophy, in the sense that the former generally begins and ends with knowledge by analysis and discernment, while the latter rests upon knowledge by experience and identification. (As we will see, this is more a matter of emphasis, for in reality, we cannot have the one without the other.)

For example, the touchstone of Vedanta is the Upanishads, which were written (actually, remumbled by others) by ancient rishis, or seers. As such, the Upanishads do not contain ideas that are argued but visions that were seen and experienced. Not only is this truth “seen,” but the seer comes to embody the truth so perceived.

In other words, this is transformative truth -- in knowing it, one is not the same. Naturally words must be used to convey the experience, but they mustn’t be confused with the thing in itself. This is a very different from Western philosophy, which mostly consists of ideas -- however wooly or trite -- that can be passed like an object from mind to mind.

The horizontal aspect of language is mostly reducible to a purely Darwinian explanation. But there is an irreducibly mysterious vertical aspect to language that cannot be so reduced, unless one wishes to be absurd. Most modern people don't mind being absurd, so long as they can imagine that they understand. Better to be absurd than to deal with the anxiety of not knowing. Hence, college.

It has been remarked that poets are metaphysicians in the raw, mediators between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing.

More generally, in its sacred, mythological, or poetic modes, language is the nexus between the nighttime and daytime realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambiguous variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional subject-object.

Or one may think of profane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language we are discussing involves vertical recollection, or anamnesis.

It is said that “that which is Night to all beings, that is Day to the Seer.” The typical soul is blinded by the bright and shiny objects of the waking world, while the seer is able to detect hidden connections in the night womb where events incubate before undergoing the formality of becoming in the external world. This we call the seer's catalogue.

There is a Bigstream of Life into which the particular stream of your playful lila life enters upon conception. Your life is a little eddy, so to speak, in the stream of Life, and partakes of that larger Life.

Once here, we see through a glass darkly: “on earth the broken arcs, in heaven the perfect round.” We float atop this mortality-go-round, but the stream below is full of information that links us to the whole.

Down below is a storehouse of collective memory to which we have access, and which can definitely give us the feeling that we have been here before, in particular, because spiritual growth always involves recollection -- not horizontal recollection but vertical recollection. We have a memoir of a future samething-or-Other that is already "inside" us, in our deepest, most inward being (or "beyond" us in our "highest" being. Whatever.).

Reincarnation is a way of talking about the two very different kinds of heredity that clearly operate in us: a horizontal heredity that is encoded in our genes and our culture, and a vertical heredity that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind."

In our view, when we talk about reincarnation, we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious -- about that part of ourselves which not only has distinct inclinations and attitudes -- even perhaps a terrestrial mission -- but is also able to tap into a sort of knowledge base of which it has had no personal experience.

Are we really the product of two heredities? I don't know about you, but genes or no genes, I have no idea how I dropped into my particular spacetime matrix, AKA family, given the indifference and mutual incomprehension. I incarnated with very specific inclinations -- a bicosmic orientation -- that I can find in none of my relatives, either living or dead (at least until my son).

But I certainly see these connections in non-blood relations with whom I share vertical DNA.

*****

So, we apparently have a terrestrial heredity that extends back through higher primates, lower mammals, fish, plants, single cells, and across the dark abyss to insentient matter.

On the other invisible hand, we have a vertical heredity that extends through various degrees of being, all the way up until we reach Brahman, the Absolute, the One, The Father in Heaven, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs and the Uncreated Slack.

Our "frontal self" comes into the world the usual way, while another part of us is imaginately conceived, or, one might say, "word made flesh."

Unlike the horizontal word of DNA and natural selection, this is the vertical word of transnatural election.

There was a time, not too long ago, when human beings were not aware of their vertical descent from above, any more than animals are. Again, if you think of our humanness as situated at the innersection of the horizontal and vertical, it took some time for Homo sapiens to realize their place in the vertical.

In fact, one cannot even know of the horizontal until consciousness has lifted us above it. Otherwise we are simply immersed in our perceptions and engulfed by the senses. But as consciousness ascends, one begins to realize that the vertical is also a world in its own right.

After all, Homo sapiens was genetically complete as long ago as 200,000 (or as recently as 100,000) years. And yet, either way, we don't see much evidence in the archeological record of "vertical liftoff" until about 35-40,000 years ago, with the sudden appearance of beautifully realized cave paintings, body decoration, musical instruments, statuary, widespread burial of the dead, etc.

Clearly, vertical liftoff had begun by then, into a nonsensuous dimension of transcendental Love, Truth and Beauty that was anterior to our arrival there. For what would motivate an erstwhile ape not just to paint, but to do so with such refined delicacy of line, shade, and contour? Why bother?

But vertical progress for humans is frequently stalled, both collectively and individually. Human beings have reached many historical impasses, or crossroads (frankly, we are in a somewhat nasty one right now).

In reality, these are not horizontal impasses. Rather, they are vertical impasses. Overcoming these world-historical obstacles is not a matter of additional horizontal evolution. That process is basically over, although recent research seems to demonstrate that some additional evolution has been going on at the margins.

But even if certain brains have been getting a little bigger or smarter, it is not our hardizontalware, but our vertical software -- or aloftware -- that counts. You can have a gifted IQ but still languish below on the vertical launch pad, a point that is obvious if you consider the sorry state of contemporary academia. Plenty of big-brained primates there, all messed up with no place to grow.

As such, past historical impasses have been broken through in one of two ways: either a vertical ascent by some great hero from this side of manifestation, or a descent of the divine energy into time or into a particular person.

The vehicle of both ascent and descent is our perfected self, unencumbered by the accidents and distortions of horizontality. It is actually already there calling you, just waiting for you to catch up.

One of the main purposes of a religious luxicon is to provide memes of talking about an otherwise immaterial and nonsensuous dimension. Light, transparent, bright, freely coursing energy... these are all gladjectives that apply.

In the gospels, it says that Jesus gave a few disciples the privilege of seeing his vertical body of light. What must that have been like? First, of course, the disciples had to "ascend" vertically, "high upon a mountain." There, within the orbit of their highest aspiration, Jesus' face "shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." Then Jesus held a summit conference with two other luminous bodies, Moses and his shadowy double, Elijah.

Our physical body is on loan from nature, whom we must repay at the end of our days. "Thou owest nature a death."

But looked at vertically, the body is descended from the spirit, not vice versa; or, one might say that the spirit is the form of the body. Death, or disincarnation, involves an apparent separation of the vertical from the horizontal. Reincarnation is one way to talk about their mysterious union down here in 4D, but the realincarnation is above and ahead, not behind or below.

Monday, August 22, 2011

You Can't Plan a Head

My deblogging will continue through August, at least. As always, I have no plan to blog and no plan not to. Frankly, there is no plan except not having one, and certainly no plan to ever start planning to blog, but rather, to continue following the unplanned plan to the letter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summa Vacation

Excuse us while we inhale. Vacation starting in 3-2-1... O!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Cosmic (M)Other


In Theo-Drama III, Balthasar touches on the very subject we've been discussing. In a section called Jesus' God-Consciousness and Its Historical Medium, he says that

"The issue is this: If Jesus' consciousness of an absolute (divine) mission is to coincide with his I-consciousness, how can the child Jesus ever have awakened to self-consciousness without simultaneously knowing of his mission -- at least implicitly?"

For example, "many a pious picture shows the little Child playing with pieces of wood in the form of a cross." More problematically, theologians have often attributed to Jesus a complete knowledge of his mission and destiny -- along with everything else knowable by man -- from the moment of Incarnation.

Perhaps not problematic to you, but I don't get that.

T-Aq went so far as to suggest that Jesus could not learn from men at all, but if this is the case, then in what way can it be said that he was human, since the essence of humanness is relationship and exchange with other persons?

Balthasar points out that this is the case of a scholastic a priori colliding with reality, for "unless a child is awakened to I-consciousness through the instrumentality of a Thou, it cannot become a human child at all."

No one can escape this principle without escaping from his humanity. Thus, "if it is essential for self-consciousness to be awakened by a 'thou' and subsequently initiated into a world of spiritual tradition," then "it follows that the 'I' who awakens the unique 'thou' of the Child Jesus must have a unique relationship to him."

This does not imply that Mary had foreknowledge of Jesus' mission, the unusual circumstances of his conception notwithstanding. But as I described in the book (subsection 3.2, The Acquisition of Humanness in a Contemporary Stone Age Baby) -- well, let's just begin with that wise crack by Tolstoi, who said that "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance."

Not only can we not exempt Jesus from this abysmal ("immeasurably great") developmental journey, but I would suggest that his many provocative statements about children and childhood -- quite unusual, if not unheard of, for the time -- suggest an acute awareness of the stakes. The fact that he is routinely depicted as an infant and a defender of children, and that he speaks of the virtues of childlike-ness, suggest that he was quite attuned to this reality, and that he didn't care who knew it.

Indeed, if we want to attribute to him a kind of super-human intelligence, then, with all due respect, it would actually be the opposite of what Thomas describes; that is, rather than being unable to learn from man, Jesus possessed great insight into every man's developmental roots in his own childhood. Why else put it in such vivid terms: It would be better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones.

As I wrote in the book, babies "interact with mothers in such a way as to use them as an 'auxiliary cortex' for the purpose of 'downloading programs from from her brain into the infant's brain.'"

Actually, this is slightly misleading, because prior to the downloading of any explicit "content," the baby takes in the whole maternal matrix (matrix = womb) -- the context rather than content -- which becomes the "background subject of primary identification." And this is, of course, where the deepest mind parasites get in.

As it so happens, I've been observing a particular mother who is extremely anxious but doesn't know it, and how she is unfortunately transmitting this to her son, whom she then must "protect" because of his identification with her anxiety," in a kind of closed intrapsychic circle.

The point is, if a mother is unable to think her thoughts, she will end up forcing her child to think them for her. But how can an infant possibly bear such thoughts? (BTW, if I had been a younger parent, I would have undoubtedly transmitted a lot more mind parasites into my son. As things stand, he doesn't seem to have any except for those he brought with him, plus the standard issue pests that come with being human.)

Back to Schönborn. He agrees that "Human awareness is inconceivable without relationships with others." We do not become self-aware "as a result of withdrawing all bridges to the outside and being with" ourselves. "There is no such thing as isolated self-awareness. Openenss to and dependence on others are an essential part of human self-awareness: first of all, to the mother, the first person to whom one relates."

I'm thinking about this for the first time, but it has always been recognized that the Incarnation has a relationship to History, in that it is as if the author of the world-historical play jumps down onto the stage and enters the action.

But for me, History is dependent upon psycho-developmental history. No other animal besides man has history, because no other animal has the open-ended psychological development resulting from his neoteny. Thus, not only is childhood critical to understanding man, but, in an important sense -- just as Jesus advised -- we remain children for life, in that we are always growing toward our nonlocal developmental telos.

Now, Ratzinger and other esteemed theologians suggest that Jesus is, in a sense, the "end made middle," or the fulfillment of history crashing into time. But what if we apply the same eschatology to personal history? This doesn't really require much of a leap, given that Jesus is, so to speak, God's icon of man, of which we are more or less pale reflections.

But in any event, rather than providing us with a model of ontological completeness, Jesus clearly provides a model of dependence, relationship, and obedience (to the Father). Thus, of all people, he would be the last one to think of as closed off to others.

Schönborn reminds us that "every human self-awareness is mediated and not unmediated," and that "only in knowing other people and things, and only by this means, do we know ourselves." So, "In that sense, we may and must assume that Jesus came to know himself through others, and, like any child, especially through his mother."

It is quite the opposite of Sartre's claim that "hell is other people." For hell is no other people -- no relationships -- precisely.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How the Under Half Lives

Let us cautiously proceed with this idea of Jesus' psycho-spiritual or pneuma-cognitive "development," which essentially comes down to his -- or anyone else's -- deployment in time.

Obviously, no human being is born "complete," or, less inaccurately, finished. No one is -- or should be -- finished until their life is. And even then... or so we have heard from the wise.

Rather, just like the body, the soul always points toward its own fulfillment, meaning that it must, in a sense, be both an "already" and a "not yet" -- which, as we shall see, has some important implications for Christian eschatology in general.

(And with regard to these irreducible orthoparadoxes that are not susceptible to aristotelian logic, -- e.g., already/not yet, I-in-Christ, Christ-in-me -- I would recommend using your God-given bi-logic to understand them.)

I am reminded of a couple of quotes by Norbert Elias contained in the Cʘʘnifesto:

"[T]he individual, in his short history, passes once more through some of the processes that his society has traversed in its long history.... If one wished to express recurrent processes of this kind in the form of laws, one could speak, as a parallel to the laws of biogenesis, of a fundamental law of sociogenesis and psychogenesis."

Never ask why human beings keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over, or why each generation discovers anew the wonderfulness of socialism, only to see their collectivist tower of bubbles come crashing down.

The second quote, and it's a good one, full of implications:

"It seems as if grown-up people, in thinking about their origins, involuntarily lose sight of the fact that they themselves and all adults came into the world as little children. Over and over again, in the scientific myths of origin no less than religious ones, they feel impelled to imagine: In the beginning was a single human being, who was an adult" (emphasis mine).

Interestingly, one thing I've really noticed about Balthasar, Ratzinger, and Wojtyla, is their deep appreciation of psychological development, and with it, attachment, bonding, parental relatedness, etc., which automatically, even if only implicitly, confers much more importance upon Mary, since carrying Jesus in her womb was only the beginning of her task (as indeed all mothers know).

With all due respect -- and I love icons -- the baby Jesus cannot resemble those paintings in which he looks like a mature little man with a full head of hair, grasping a Torah scroll instead of a bottle.

The idea we've been developing over the past several posts is that -- consistent with long-established dogma -- Jesus is man and God, unmixed and yet undivided. Here again, with the use of our bi-logic we may imagine how such a situation could be.

For Rahner (as described by Schönborn), we might imagine in Jesus "a basic mode of being that is immediate to God, of an absolute kind," coexisting with "a development of this original self-awareness of the absolute fact of the creaturely intellectuality having been given away to the Logos."

I don't know if that last sentence was entirely clear, but Schönborn goes on to suggest that "what develops in the human life of Jesus" is obviously not the basic mode, or his essential ground of divinity, but rather, "the thematization and objectification of this basic mode of being in human concepts that are taking place."

Here again, this allows us to at least imaginatively enter into his mentality, and understand how he could gradually come to terms with his mission -- for example, while praying in the garden of Gethsemene.

And it helps get our minds around the idea that Jesus can be God and yet have an "I-thou relationship with the Father that occurs in history."

For Balthasar, Jesus "mission" in time is precisely the realization in history of the eternal activity of the godhead, or the historical prolongation, so to speak, of the Trinity into time.

In a certain way, I suppose we may imagine it as the dialectic of O and (¶), only writ large, to put it mildly. As alluded to above, Jesus both "is" and, in the End -- or better yet, Begending -- "becomes" O: not My will, but Yours, be done.

This we might say is the full concordance of Man and God, or the full conscious realization of ʘ. Indeed, we might even pneumaticonically represent the well-known formula of the Fathers by unSaying: O became (•) so that (•) might become ʘ.

As we have discussed in many posts, there is not, nor can there be, any humanness in the absence of relationship, and this would apply quintessentially to Jesus.

For who is Jesus, ultimately? He is Son, and the essence of Son-ness is the relation to Father (and vice versa).

Gotta get rolling. To be continued....



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Does I AM Say that I AM?

If omniscience is more the mode than the content, then it is clearly in the subject, irrespective of the object(s) it contains and contemplates.

In other words, even if we had access to every single "fact" -- like a vast computer -- we would not be omniscient unless we were in the mode of omniscience. Conversely, even with no "facts," so to speak, omniscience remains omniscience.

I believe it is possible to approach this coonundrum by way of analogy. As it so happens, psychoanalytic theory describes clear developmental stages which result in fundamental transformations to the subject, so that the "objects" within undergo changes as well.

To be perfectly accurate, the objects do not change, but the "vertex" of the subject does, but this seems to bring a new object into being; or at least hidden dimensions are disclosed that can only be perceived in the higher mode.

I've posted on this subject before, but I know not when. I believe I characterized psychological development as a "conquest of dimensionality," a phrase I once heard Terence McKenna use in a more anthropological sense.

For if we consider the long view, human historical development clearly involves an ongoing conquest of dimensionality, or exploration of the cosmic interior.

By the way, just yesterday I noticed a provocative sentence by Ratzinger, which includes the words, "theological advances have not ceased..." Advances. What can he mean by this?

For animals, the world is mostly surface. They have a sensory orientation to the world, which is why their reality is quite unimaginable to us. It's still "the world," obviously. And sometimes they experience much more of it than we do, albeit on a single plane. For example, who can imagine what it would be like to be a dog, whose olfactory sense is so acute that it can detect urine to the tune of one part in ten thousand (or whatever it is)?

But a normal human being comes into to the world oriented to the cosmic interior, to which almost all other animals are entirely closed. However, it doesn't end there, with the simple binary of interior/exterior or human/animal.

Rather, just as there are degrees of sensory attunement -- e.g., dog nose vs. human nose -- there are degrees of interior attunement. For example, psychologists now talk about "emotional intelligence." I'm not one of them, but wikipedia describes it as "an ability, skill or... a self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups."

I don't have time to go into the etiology of my own model, but....

BORRR-ring.

Agreed. I just googled myself (it tickles!) and found a previous post in which I discuss the subject.

Now, there is a question in developmental psychology -- at least in integral/transpersonal circles -- as to whether "spiritual development" inhabits its own maturational track, or whether it goes along with psychological maturation in general. It's a little difficult to say, because, for example, one can attain sainthood in the absence of great intellectual development, or, conversely, one may be a great theologian without attaining sainthood.

Still, I think the "more perfect man" would be someone like Aquinas, or Eckhart, or John Paul II, in whom sanctity and intellect are equally developed. Many a fall is caused by good intentions in the absence of intellectual rigor. But so too are falls caused by intellectual development proceeding ahead of emotional and spiritual development.

Another way of saying it is that sanctity may be attained in the realms of truth and/or of virtue, but ideally these two are united, for virtue is the truth of action, while truth is the virtue of intellect.

Sanctity as such is not a "moral concept, but an ontological reality: the divine reality communicating His intimate and proper Life to some of His children. The saint is thus not primarily the humanly perfect Man, but the divinised human person." It is "not so much God-realization on Man's part, as Man-realization on God's part" (preface to Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle).

Thus, "The progress of a spiritual person towards God is rather the progress of God in him or her. The ascent to the mountain on a person's part (↑) corresponds to the more real descent of God (↓) into his/her being" (ibid., emphasis and sharp objects mine).

Therefore, we might say that God -- and only God -- discloses his omniscience in this (↑↓) trialectic, or what we call the cosmic gyrescape.

Returning to Schönborn, he says that in the "ultimate unity of the conscious subject, in which I know myself, in which I am as it were everything," lies "the clearest analogy to the divine omniscience, which must surely be thought of as a unity, not as an infinite sum of perceptions."

As it pertains to Jesus, he writes (following Rahner) that what "develops" in his human life is, or must be, a kind of gradual disclosure of his own interior. For even -- or especially! -- Jesus was a baby, a boy, an adolescent, a young man. Presumably development took place, just as it does for any human. We are not born adult, which is to say, mature. Eternity takes time.

Quoting Rahner, "This does not of course mean that Jesus 'came upon something' that he absolutely did not previously know but, rather, that he more and more grasps what he already always is and what he basically already knew."

In this way, we are able to, in a sense, reconcile the divine and human, which can be seen as both without confusion and without division.

In a way -- and I'm thinking about this for the first time -- we might think of Jesus as "God deployed in human (developmental) time," since a human being cannot help but be situated in developmental time. Jesus is God refracted through the lens of humanness, but this lens has very specific temporal properties that we need to understand in order to see how God manifests in the human mode.

We (intuitively) know, for example, how God manifests in the mode of nature, since the latter radiates something of the divinity in what Schuon calls its "metaphysical transparency." I suppose that glory, or divine beauty, is ultimately how he manifests in Jesus. Only when we perceive this resplendence are we able to exclaim with Peter, Wo, you really are the Son of the living God!

Like anyone can know that! For again, this is not God-realization on Man's part, but Man-realization on God's part.

I call it a guman... It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like God and human unmixed and undivided... bred for its skills in salvation...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mister Gnosis-All & Miss Understanding

... omniscience? Which is what, exactly? a: infinite knowledge b: universal or complete learning or knowledge

Omniscient: 1: having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight : knowing all things : infinitely wise 2: possessed of universal or complete knowledge

Not sure if that's helpful. What do you mean, "infinite?" 1: being without limits of any kind : subject to no limitation or external determination 2: having no end : extending indefinitely : having no limit in power, capacity, knowledge, or excellence : immeasurably or inconceivably great

Seems to me we're entering an absurcular tautology here: omniscience is having infinite knowledge, and infinite is having no limit in knowledge, AKA omniscience.

And let's not get into "universal," or even "knowledge," because I believe we'd encounter a similar tautology, for if a truth isn't universal, it isn't true and therefore not proper knowledge.

Let us stipulate that God -- or O, rather -- is by definition "OMniscient." We could also turn this around and say "omniscient is O," since it is the only case -- even if hypothetical -- of omniscience.

Except we are also told that Jesus is "true God." If so, then he is "ʘmniscient." But how? How can a man be omniscient? We can affirm it, but can we understand it, even by analogy?

And if we can't, isn't it just nonsense? Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, for such "nonsense" can nevertheless serve the purpose of placing a border around thought, and let us know that beyond this border, no productive thought is possible. Like "zero" in math, we need a placeholder for nothing in order to think.

There are many such boundaries in Judaism, which no doubt contribute to their being such a freakishly productive people. For example, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Period. Issue settled. Move along. Get a job. Support your family. Don't waste your life in idle speculation about what comes "before" creation.

(The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo serves a similar purpose in Christian metaphysics, which one might say is meaningless in a meaningful way.)

So, again: how are we to understand how this applies to Jesus? In other words, if we say he is "omniscient," is this something we may actually "think about," or is it more a kind of pneumacognitive boundary to prevent us from wasting our time on unproductive speculation? Should we just say it's a "mystery," and leave it alone?

No doubt this is fine for most people, since most people are not metaphysicians or Raccoons. For the majority of believers it is more important what they "feel" than what they know, although it should be emphasized that in a normal person, feeling serves as a kind of very sophisticated and rapid-response knowing.

Revelation is addressed to the "average" mentality. So where does this leave those of us who are at the margins of normality? Is there no religion for us? Did God forget about us in his haste to fashion a revelation for mass consumption?

Oh, and before you even go there, no, this does not make us "elite" or "special." Rather, it simply and dispassionately acknowledges who we are. We could pretend to be otherwhos in order to "pass" in normal society, but as we mentioned a day or two ago, the "original sin" is pretending to be someone we are not.

A lot of mis- and disunderstanding might be avoided if our detractors could simply acknowledge that we do not run a blog for normals. As we speak, there are over 500 religious blogs that cater to normotic personalities, and are (naturally) more popular than ours. This is to be expected, as there is no shortage of nonbʘbs.

Back to our idle questions about the nature of Jesus' mentality. Schönborn asks, "Is the concept of 'omniscience' a meaningful concept at all?" If so, "what might represent its corresponding finite analogy in human consciousness?"

Is it Al Gore, the self-styled omniscient weatherman who drunkenly assures us that any opinion deviating from his is BULLSHIT!!! Is it the petulant and peevish know-it-all Obama, or is he just bluffing? No, because someone who pretends at omniscience is just infinitely stupid, or Ømniscient. That sort of unsettling Ømni-science is indeed settled.

Let's start with some basics. As Schönborn explains, "Omniscience cannot be the sum of all present, past, and future propositions." In other words, by its very nature, "One does not become omniscient" because "one cannot get from a finite to an infinite knowledge by a process of addition."

That may be helpful, because it suggests that omniscience is not so much the "content" as the "mode," so to speak. In fact, it can't really be the content, because (as deifined at the top) in the mode of the "infinite" there can be no boundary, no limitation, no determination, no distinction between knowledge and its knower.

Bob, that makes me a little uncomfortable, because you're beginning to sound like some kind of mush-headed non-dual mystic who reduces the world to an infinite blob of no-thingness.

Don't worry about that. We are not one of those. Nor are there any hidden fees in my saying so. One Cosmos will never grovel for your love offerings.

Schönborn goes on to point out that "negative [apophatic] theology" is a kind of unknowculation against our attempts to grasp what cannot be grasped with our finite minds, which "simply cannot imagine a total knowledge."

Unimaginable. Immarginable. Reminds me of Joyce's boundary-less and omnihilist text. Perhaps it can provide a clue or two.

"There is no agreement as to what Finnegans Wake is about, whether or not it is 'about' anything, or even whether it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, 'readable.'"

Now we're getting nowhere, and fast! An unreadable text that isn't about anything. And yet, "it is, perhaps, the single most intentionally crafted literary artifact that our culture has produced." But why would someone spend their life painstakingly crafting a meaningless text?

O, I don't know, except when I do. How and why does a meaningless cosmos make such sense to us? And doesn't any kind of real and universal knowledge necessarily partake of...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Wanted: One Messiah. No Experience Necessary

Lord of the Flies. Happens every time you put the children in charge.

Any idiot can change the world, but that doesn't mean you can change reality. But the left long ago abandoned any pretense of understanding the world for changing the world. Change! Change is good, isn't it? Isn't this what they were hoping for? Finally the death of capitalism.

It's fine, I suppose, to have an adolescent ideology when one is an adolescent. But what if adolescence is the maturational terminus of said ideology, and every institution established or infiltrated by these immature ideologues legitimizes their immaturity?

Not only do we need a different ideology -- one that isn't, to be exact -- but some adults to administer it. Because it will take the rest of our lives -- at least -- to undo the mess the left has gotten us into, not just here, but around the world.

Yesterday I had to inform my six year-old that his allowance will not begin to cover the bill for Obama's spending spree. Naturally he's going to want a raise, but then I had to explain to him the perils of inflation.

Indeed, it will require an unusual (these days) degree of maturity to endure the patience that will be required to dig our way out. For one thing is certain: even the wisest and most mature adults will not be able to turn this around in one, two, or four years. Which will be the basis of the left's shrill calls for more socialism in the coming years, in order to solve the problems created by socialism (which, you will recall, all started with the socialist attempt to make everyone a homeowner -- or rather, to force lenders to make loans to unqualified borrowers).

Oh well. Human nature. Never say that it's not in need of redemption.

Which brings us back to our freewheeling discussion of Christology, in particular, how we may approach the question of human and divine natures coexisting in the same being.

"For the Son is not the Father -- for only one is the Father, and yet he is what the Father is -- nor is the Spirit the Son, because he comes from the Father, for only one is the Only-begotten, and yet he is what the Son is" (Gregory the Theologian).

In other words, the three persons of the Trinity share an essential "what" but not the "who." This would imply that the What is "deeper" or more fundamental than the Who, but this is not so, because the "whoness" is intrinsic to the "whatness."

What this means is that there is no What without a Who, or rather, no AM without an I. And there is no I without a Thou, and no I-Thou without a link between that is called "love," but which I would prefer to symbolize (L) and (K).

For love and knowledge -- or truth -- are always related, no matter how much one may wish to deny it (but why would one want to, anyway?). Put it this way. You -- you there: do you have any obligation to Truth? Do you owe the Truth your allegiance, your respect, your devotion even?

Of course you do. If you don't, then why am I listening to you? And why are you bothering with me?

If we ask the question, "Who am I?", it is obviously insufficient to answer it in any materialistic way, but also with any general appeal to Being, because man is always personal being. Indeed, he is the mode of personal being within the cosmos (which is why a part of him is always "without" the cosmos, i.e., transcendent). And this personal being is always particular, even though it shares the general features. Yes, I am somebody, but not just anybody.

Oddly enough, this issue reverts back to our opening comments about the current crisis. For if we fail to respect the distinctions within the Trinity, we end up with an admixture that always redounds to our detriment: "Intermingling would mean caesaropapism or political messianism, when a political reality is equated with the Kingdom of God. The human element is swallowed up here" (Schönborn).

This is why genuine religiosity was and is an inoculation against the latest messianism of the left, i.e., Obama. Only a rube or knave would place hope in this mediocrity, who is merely a nothing when he isn't busy pretending to be everything.

And you will see more and more of this recognition on the left, as the scales fall from their eyes and he transitions from everything back to nothing, from somebody back to anybody. The important point is that he hasn't changed, only the projections of those who saw something more in him than a smooth-talking but none-too-bright community agitator.

As usual, this will not be an occasion for introspection on the left or in the media (but I repeat myself), but an occasion to reassemble the search committee for the next messiah. In fact, I believe they'd already have one in place -- as they did in 1980 -- if it weren't for Obama's "race" (which I place in quotes only because I attach no importance to it). For the Democrats cannot alienate blacks and win any national election. Live by the race card, die by the race card.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we were discussing the nature of "self-knowledge." Now, even the most thorough knowledge of oneself is nothing whatsoever like scientific knowledge, i.e., knowledge of objects and principles. Rather, it is first of all interior knowledge of one's interior, but also "knowing oneself as a whole" (Schönborn), even though the latter is never -- and can never be -- completely conscious.

This a priori "wholeness of self" is an extremely mysterious reality that doesn't receive sufficient attention. For it's one thing for us to perceive exterior oneness, or relative wholeness, in an object of some sort, which has clear boundaries around it. But how to account for the interior wholeness that we take for granted, but which is the implicate ground of our humanness?

It seems that Augustine confronted this question way back in the day. According to Schönborn, he was "convinced that there is something that 'every mind knows of itself and about which it is certain,'" which is none other than I Am.

In this regard, he anticipates Descartes by a millennium or so, but without going off the rails into a mere rationalism: "This ultimate certainty, which can never become objective knowledge, is the basis of all perception" (ibid.).

Thus, not "I think, therefore I am," but rather, "I am, therefore I think." For remember: there is no AM in the absence of the I; and in order for thinking to be both "in truth" and (therefore) efficacious, it must obviously be in conformity to Truth. And do you owe no obligation to Truth? Of course you do. We've already settled that.

Long story short, I believe it is fair to say that, since Jesus is "true man," then all of the above observations must apply to him as well -- indeed, must apply to him quintessentially.

For he surely respects the distinctions within the Trinity, even while knowing that they cannot ultimately be separate; he has an unusually high degree of self-awareness, and with it, other-understanding, or empathy; has a total allegiance to Truth; and does not conflate celestial and terrestrial dimensions, despite the ubiquitous temptation to vote Democrat.

Ah, nostalgia. Good times, good times... until Thatcher had to come along and wreck things.