Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strangling the Last Nazi with the Entrails of the Last Hippie

Let's talk about the millennial movement I know best: the 1960s!

One way of resolving the complementarity discussed in yesterday's post -- between Is and Ought -- is to collapse one into the other.

For example, one can transform Is to Ought, and be all superego (the conventional conscience) all the time: sanctimonious, judgmental, rigid, priggish; such individuals are easy to identify, because they are narrow-minded, conventional, fearful of experience (or of being), and dominated by the defense mechanism of projection (i.e., they see their own split-off and denied sexual and aggressive impulses in everyone else).

The other way -- which appears "cooler" but is every bit as pathetic -- is to collapse Ought into Is, which comes down to elevating appetite, instinct, and desire to a kind of moral imperative: if it feels good do it, free love, free hate, give peace a chance, give war a chance, etc.

Individuals who engage in this can radiate a kind of infectiousness or allure, as they seem to have solved the problem of limits, and appear to live in a world of instinctual plenty. They can also provoke envy, as if they have the secret of life, and we are somehow missing out on it.

As a brief and possibly banal aside, I spent twelve years working in a supermarket -- often the graveyard shift with no adult supervision -- so I would spend a lot of time idly flipping through magazines such as People or Us. (I was a frivolous fellow and it was a union job, so the man-hours always exceeded the amount of work that needed to be done; in other words, lots of slack.)

One lesson I internalized early on is that things aren't always as they appear to be with these quasi-animal, instinct-driven celebrities living in their infrahuman paradises. Especially over the long run -- we're talking twelve years -- I came upon example after example of bliss transforming to catastrophe. One issue he "has it all" -- money, fame, women, the respect of his peers, a golden future, the perfect relationship -- but a few years later, another issue is devoted to the same person's trainwreck of a life. This confirmed in me a kind of sacred hunch that there was nothing intrinsically enviable about these people. If there was a secret to life, they didn't have it. Or, if they did, it had nothing to do with all the outward trappings.

In Violence and Vision, Mendel has two chapters devoted to the second style of millennial fever, i.e., reducing Ought to Is. Typically we think of millennial thought in conjunction with religion or ideology, but in this case, we are dealing with nature.

Now, it is axiomatic that for man, being in a state of nature is unnatural. In other words, there is no mythical man prior to the cultural matrix that nurtures, preserves, contains, and allows expression of his humanness.

For one thing, man is uniquely trinitarian and intersubjective, and cannot be who or what he is in the absence of others, which automatically introduces a kind of constraint on any notion of "pure being" detached from concern for other persons. Indeed, man can only be himself in openness and intimacy with others (both vertically and horizontally).

Another way of saying it is that for man, the supernatural is natural. Man cannot be man in the absence of the good, true, and beautiful -- without courage, justice, freedom, nobility, reverence, love, and creativity, each of which is a luminous facet of the gemlike One.

Nazism, on the one hand, and the Sixties, on the other, resolved the problem of Is and Ought by creating a magical world of isness, of the celebration of instinct.

Let's begin with National Socialism. What was it, really? Historians have been debating this for decades, but it seems to me that, underneath it all, the key principle is the complete legitimization and institutionalization of violence toward the Other.

Think of war: in war, we are temporarily liberated from the dictates of our superego, and are free to engage in violence toward the other. We are permitted to do things we normally wouldn't dream of, like putting a bullet through someone's head. This is normal and necessary. It is a calling and a profession, i.e., the Warrior.

The same principle is sublimated through violent sports such as football and boxing. But even in non-violent sports such as baseball and basketball, there is still a sublimation of the primitive desire to conquer, dominate, and triumph. It is why boys need sports, whereas for girls it's totally optional. Girls don't generally need an outlet to sublimate their violent tendencies. Rather, girls need to sublimate their inborn ability to hypnotize and seduce, i.e., to dominate and triumph in a different way over the weak. Men and women have different "intrinsic struggles" with their lower selves.

Nazism essentially took the unusual psychological circumstance of war, and normalized it. Of course, the first step is to create a kind of all-powerful enemy, which then paves the way for a severely polarized mentality of "annihilate or be annihilated." In this view, the Holocaust was quite literally a simple case of self-defense. If one isn't the hammer then one is the anvil. There is nothing in between.

"In fascism, the Apocalypse found a philosophy that let it act forthrightly and stop pretending that violence and hatred were really peace and love." It "boldly glorified violence as a noble end in itself. As fascists, those who wanted to hurt and kill could do so openly. Might was Right, not because it served the cause of love... but simply because that was the way nature worked and the way Providence wanted it to work" (Mendel).

Someone else characterized fascism as the violent resistance to transcendence, and this too is a good definition. However, when transcendence is immanentized, the immanent -- nature -- becomes transcendent, as necessarily occurs in metaphysical Darwinism. Thus, it is no surprise that the Nazis rooted their ideas in a kind of twisted and yet literal interpretation of Darwinism, which necessarily regards any Ought as nothing but an Is in disguise, just a pretext for purely selfish genes.

"Since nature's primary, if not exclusive, concern was survival and growth, it was entirely appropriate that those strong enough to prevail in the endless struggle for the scarce prerequisites of life should dominate and guide the species into the future. Only unrestrained and unabated conflict could assure the dominance of the healthiest, the strongest, and, therefore, the best among the species, humans included" (Mendel).

Furthermore, "it was right that the weak die before they harmed the species as a whole by multiplying and thereby perpetuating and spreading their weakness. What could be more 'logical,' 'rational,' or 'scientific?'" (ibid).

Don't wait for a Darwinian rejoinder, because there isn't one. Indeed, the Nazis found abundant confirmation for their values in nature.

That being the case, who would be public enemy number one? That is correct: those bastards who made us all slaves to those fraudulent transcendent values, the Jews. Mendel quotes Himmler, who said that "we had the moral right, we had the obligation toward our people, to kill [the Jews].... you may call it cruel, but nature is cruel..."

And before him, Nietzsche wrote of how "the Jew, with frightening consistency, dared to invert" the aristocratic values reflecting the natural hierarchy of strong and weak, master and slave. Indeed, Jews "gave the world the God of thou-shalt-not," not to mention the value of free will, the preciousness of the individual, and concern for the weak.

That noted bio-ethicist, Hitler, wrote of how "the idea of struggle is as old as life itself, for life is only preserved because other things perish through struggle.... In this struggle, the stronger, the more able win, while the less able, the weak lose." And of all the animals, man alone imagines he can ignore and transgress this law written in nature and in our genes." Thus, "our motto should be -- If you will not be a German, I will bash your skull in." And you don't blame a German for doing this any more than you would blame a tiger for eating a gazelle.

In this upside-down cosmos, life -- raw life itself -- becomes a "Law unto itself." It is divorced from any real value that would imbue it with truth or meaning, and becomes a self-enclosed tautology: "Live intensely, never mind whether the aim or stimulation came came from the 'highest' or 'lowest.'" One might say that Nazism involved a masculine fascism, while in the case of the sixties, it was a feminized fascism.

But just as the vertical doesn't go away just because we collapse it into the horizontal, the masculine doesn't disappear just because it is conflated with the feminine.

Rather, we merely end up with perverse, unnatural, stunted, and inappropriate forms of masculinity and femininity. In the case of men, we end up with wimps or barbarians, while in the case of women we end up with something analogous, for which I haven't yet devised a snappy shorthand.

Note how so many intellectuals were seduced by fascism in the 1930s, just as they were -- and are - seduced by the fascism of the 1960s, right down to our current Dear Leader. Which we will discuss tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No Good Deity Goes Unpunished

In his Vision and Violence, Mendel asks, "Why has the apocalypse persisted century after century, changing nothing but its mask -- from God to Reason, History, and Nature?"

And although he has chapters describing each mask -- e.g. the French Revolution (reason), Marxism (history), and National Socialism (nature) -- he never really gets around to answering that question: why?

Another conspicuous weakness of the book is his misunderstanding of genuine mysticism, which he somehow regards as apocalyptic. Thus, a Meister Eckhart gets lumped in with the Inquisitors who quizzed him.

However, the book is not without its merits. One of the most interesting chapters is the first, which goes into the worldview promulgated by the ancient Hebrews.

What makes it so interesting is that this completely marginal and undistinguished group of slaves and nomads somehow arrived at the most functional and humane way of organizing society. As I have suggested before, this itself argues for a supernatural source, and yet, since Mendel is writing from a wholly academic/horizontal perspective, he just leaves this miracle hanging, with no attempt at a real explanation.

For example, he writes of the unprecedented vision "that commits us to the world, to change, and to the attainment of the good society," describing it as "a gift to us from the ancient Hebrews and their Bible, on which so much of our culture is founded."

Agreed, but who gave them the gift? To leave the Creator out of this picture is to leave no way of explaining it. Oh well. That's our job, I suppose. I'm just gratified that an erstwhile member of the tenured class appreciates the miracle of the Jewish revelation.

Mendel writes that "Biblical man and woman are committed to this world, come what may, because their God not only created it, but called it good, 'very good.'"

This was and is a critical point, for, among other things, it made uniquely possible the eventual emergence of science in the West. Mendel notes that Hebrew sages were "on guard against attempts to spiritualize material reality out of existence" (as in eastern religions), and "repeatedly emphasized the divinity of the world and the necessity of our continuing attachment to it and to our tasks within it."

Another key idea that is rife with contemporary political implications is an emphasis on the "distinct and permanent separation" of heaven and earth, or vertical and horizontal.

In short, all millennial thinking -- whether religious or "secular" -- conflates the two, and is motivated by the belief that we can somehow create heaven on earth. What this ends up doing is either eliminating the vertical all together, or creating a hellish mixture of horizontality and lower vertical energies, with no spiritual telos. Like Obama and his den of Chicago muscleheads, we end up with "thugs for hope."

But the Jewish sages cautioned that heaven is "not fit for earthlings" and counseled man to "seek not what is too wonderful for thee." If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

Another central idea is that human beings are in the image of their Creator, which primarily has to do with our ability to reason, with our freedom of will, and with our boundless creativity -- or, one might say, our ability to know truth, to do good, and to create beauty, respectively.

The expulsion from paradise is also fraught with implications that we ignore at our peril. This realmyth may be approached from any number of angles, but Mendel looks at it in psycho-developmental terms, as an evolution from infantile dependence to mature and autonomous individuality.

This necessarily implies work, for no longer are we within the womb of infantile omnipotence, in which our desires are instantaneously transformed into their fulfillment. But enough about the left.

As Mendel describes it, "having to work for the fruit of one's labor" is coterminous with "growth beyond an infant's immediate and total gratification," the latter of which is "always the miraculous core of the millennial fantasy."

This transition from the maternal to paternal sphere involves "the necessity of laboring against obstacles to achieve one's aims; the accompanying necessity of Law and its constraints to curb the rush of infantile desires; and the value of reason to overcome those obstacles and conscience to see the wisdom of those constraints."

Thus, the millennial left is always at war with each of these: with the intrinsic value of work (which doesn't detract from, but adds to, our dignity); with the transcendent order that places fruitful constraints upon animal desire; and with the simultaneously frustrating and liberating application of reason.

One might say that the "romantic" left ignores or denigrates reason, while the pseudo-scientific left absurdly elevates it to a suitable guide for life, which automatically renders it unreasonable in the extreme (plus the vertical always seeps in anyway, since spirit abhors a vacuum).

What this means is that, always and forever, "It is only in this endless enterprise, in which reason, freedom, and conscience are both means and ends, that humanity both is and becomes the image of God."

These are the eternal orthoparadoxical horizons within which man lives, and which generate a humanly insoluble complementarity of is and ought, or being and becoming. The sacred ought is simultaneously necessary and impossible.

To put it another way, we always fall short of what we ought to be and do, but we must never stop trying. It goes with the terra-tory, which is to say, terra, earth.

This also implies that "God himself... awaits the completion that only his created image, man, can achieve," which is nothing less than carrying forward "the work of creation to the world's completion." Lean forward, as it were.

And the greatest task of world maintenance and reparation involves moral repair. Thus, knowledge and thought are nothing if not allied with "ethical purpose." Truth should not only set us free, but is ultimately the foundation of any efficacious change in the world. Clearly, change based on lies and delusions -- or on vacuous Hope -- is not going to be beneficial.

Here is the truly miraculous part, and which probably helps explain the depth and persistence of Jew-hatred down through the centuries; for "what is most remarkable about the Biblical message of moral commitment and action is the fact that it provides virtually all of the basic blueprint for the good society."

Thus, it is axiomatic that bad people -- especially tyrants who do not want competition from another deity -- will oppose both the inconvenient message and the annoying noodges who deliver it, generation after generation.

For this was the first people who sought communion with God through ethical behavior as opposed to, say, child sacrifice. The Judeo-Christian God is very much unlike certain tribal gods of our acquaintance, who justify "territorial conquest" and who legitimize "hatred and annihilation of other peoples."

It is no wonder that all of the wholesale anti-Semitism in the world emanates from the left and from Islam. Evil prefers to operate under cover of darkness, and hates to be watched and judged.

One thing that accounts for the durability of the Hebrew vision is that it is actually in accord with human beings as we find them, not as we wish them to be. It "makes no attempts to conceal human flaws," and yet, nurtures the idea that man may gradually, "over time, sufficiently control the 'evil inclinations' in human nature to establish the good society of peace, freedom, justice, and material well-being."

And of course, there is "no role for apocalyptic-revolutionary violence in this vision." Rather, "the Biblical vision starts with the premises that the goal is too distant; the way too slow and uneven; and both the travelers and their guides too limited and uncertain for violent theory and practice."

Besides, my question to the left is: why do you want to bring a new world into being, when you can't even appreciate and enjoy the existing one?

(All of the quoted material is from Mendel's Vision and Violence)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

3,000 = 1 = ∞

As you might imagine, I'm not into this whole anniversary business. From what I've read, no one made a big deal out of December 7, 1951, and why should they have? It was the anniversary of a cowardly sucker punch, of our own unpreparedness, of our underestimation of depths of evil in this fallen world.

Even now -- especially now -- religious psychopaths all over the world are looking forward to another genocidal event to which we will undoubtedly look backward.

But why look back before the job is even done? Often it becomes an excuse for the villainous traitors in our midst to pretend they are actually on the same side we are, by expressing sympathy for the victims -- victims they would otherwise regard as deserving of their fate because of America's evils. They are not animated by a desire to avenge these deaths, which, after all, is the important -- and difficult -- part. With all due respect, anyone can cry. What we need are people who can fight and kill, a very different skill set.

The Sultan speaks for me in observing that

"the anniversaries have long since been reduced to a national therapy session, with pain released and healed in the media's own talking cure. But it isn't the pain that matters, it's what we do with it that counts. We have not yet lost the war -- but we are losing it, and unless we decide as a nation what we stand for and what we stand against, then we will lose. It will take time, like our banks we are too big to fail, but given enough appeasement, enough immigration and enough terrorism -- it will come."

It doesn't matter if we lost 3,000 people or one person that day, for the evil is just as extreme, even infinite. Ironically, to place a nice round number on it is to contain it, not express it.

There is more truth than we realize to Stalin's remark about tragedies and statistics. The reason for this is that one -- that is, one precious human life -- is already infinite, and the infinite cannot be surpassed.

Substituting 3,000 or even six million can only be a diminution, a drawing back from the infinite horror and pain -- the horror of, say, one young mother deciding whether to be burned alive or to be pulverized by the concrete below. Such pain can neither be conceived nor surpassed.

There is no "collective suffering." Rather, as Bolton explains, "The maximum distress is always neither more nor less than one victim." In no way can this "be made into any objective total or larger entity." What we really need to remember, always, is the infinite worth of the individual and the limitless evil of the enemies of individualism and liberty, light and truth.

A repost from five years ago:

History very seldom records the things that were decisive but took place behind the veil; it records the show in front of the curtain. --Sri Aurobindo

Everyone seems to be using this day to offer their reflections on What Changed That Day, both in themselves and in the world. I don’t know that my own personal musings would add much of anything. Therefore, some tranpersonal cosmic ones.

I remember thinking on the day it happened, “nothing will ever be the same,” as if the veil of history had been rent right down the middle, revealing to us, if only for a moment, exactly what lay behind it: the principalities and demonic powers, the Cosmocrats of the Dark Aeon -- those unseen forces that “are more than rational and which make use of lower things, things below reason, in order to conquer and rule the world of man” (Dawson).

Outwardly, history seemed to change directions that day, but the opposite is true. History arrived at the destination toward which it had been hurtling under cover of darkness -- or was it blindness? -- in a more or less straight line for two decades or more. And zigzagging toward for centuries, the moment you stop to think about it. Really, we should substitute "inevitable" for "inconceivable."

For as ever, there are two dynamic principles and social orders at work in history, the City of Man and the City of God. Or, if you prefer, there is a centrifugal force that draws the world down into ignorance, bewildering multiplicity, darkness, and death, another centripetal force that draws us up toward unity, life, love, and Truth.

We live in the midst of the worldpool created by their interaction, and the eye of that world-historical spiral just happened to focus over New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that day. Where will it touch down tomorrow? We may express shock at where it touches down, but we should never be surprised that it touches down.

For Christians, the cosmic storm touched down on a place called Golgotha some 2000 years ago. At the moment, it appeared as if the forces of evil had accomplished their ultimate triumph. And yet, the opposite was true. For if ever there was a turning point in history, that was it. What looked like the darkest night was actually the dawn.

On any spiritual view of history, history is coextensive with time itself -- cosmic time -- and historical time represents the interpenetration of time and eternity: eternity enters time, and time makes its way back to eternity, serially revealing a bit of it at each step along the way.

When someone speaks of "root causes," it is time to reach for your revolver. Those who search for them nearly always look in the wrong direction, for the causes are not horizontal but vertical.

The antievolutionary barbarians we are fighting are delusional servants of their own loathsome creature, a false god created out of their own perverted psychic substance. Why people worship their own creations is a good question, but it is hardly a new phenomenon. Most anyone who doesn’t worship the Creator worships a creature. It’s just a matter of degree and of virulence.

Here are the root causes: World. Trade. Center.

First, the World, the idea that human beings are actually one, and that, beneath our superficial diversity, there is a universal Way and Life and Truth. It is the opposite of multiculturalism, the pernicious idea that the endarkened multitude of human streams evolve in their own parallel universes and that truth is somehow embodied in each culture.

In point of fact, culture -- that unreflective torrent of custom that drags most souls in its wake -- is more or less a repository of falsehood and delusion, of things that are not true because they cannot be true. Time reveals this to be the case, but it is specifically time that our enemies wish to arrest and reverse.

Trade. The spiritual evolution of which we speak is a system, and only an open system may evolve. We are specifically at war with people who object to this fact, and wish to remain in a dark, dank, and airless prison -- an authoritarian anthell with truth handed down from on high, preventing any hope for evolutionary progress.

These are literally death cultures, for death occurs whenever a system becomes closed, whether it is biological death, psychic death, epistemological death, spiritual death, economic death, what have you.

Center. The world is converging towards its nonlocal center, a spiritual telos that is located outside space and time. This center can only be reached through liberty, for “the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” While we necessarily hail this future unity of mankind from afar, we also know that it is available to each of us now. And only now.

Spirituality respects the freedom of the human soul, because it is itself fulfilled by freedom; and the deepest meaning of freedom is the power to expand and grow towards perfection.... --Sri Aurobindo

*****

I hope Will doesn't mind my posting of the poem which I just found in the comments from the original post:

ON THE LEDGE (poem)

On occasion I find myself considering an image,
Perhaps not the one you might expect,
Not the plane nightmare frozen before impact,
Not the gout of fire,
Not the empty eye socket gash in the building,
Not any of those images but
Who really forgets?

Hmm? Oh, yes:
It's this image of two people
Standing on a ledge, probably
Between floors 80 to 90.
Very tiny in the picture, of course,
Dwarfed by immensities around them,
But if you look closely,
You can make out several things -
First, they are a man and a woman,
Second, they are holding hands,
Third, they are in the process
Of jumping -
They look for all the world
Like a couple jumping into
The shallow end of a pool
Or maybe over a rain puddle,
You know, with a dainty poise -

Now, here's what I have to consider:
We all know that animals, when
Confronted with fire, succumb to
Blind scrabbling panic -
Firemen tell of how when crawling
Down a smoke-drenched hallway
in a burning tenement building,
They have to be mindful of
Fleeing rats and cockroaches
That run right over them
In panicked hordes -
This couple on the ledge, however -
Well, did they even know each other?
Maybe not, and yet here they have
Agreed to a simple comforting of
One another by holding hands,
And clearly agreed to jump together,
a calm, agreed-upon decision -
God, would You explain this equation
To me?

I like to think that they were meeting
For the first time, having circled one
Another for their lifetimes, and then,
On that morning, recognized each other!
It's you! It's you!
Destined at last to hold hands!
Oh, but more, of course -

Long ago, at a Wisconsin resort,
I turned from the pier
And saw on the green slope
Behind me two girls, sisters, no doubt,
One perhaps five, the other eight,
Holding hands, and I had never seen
Anything so vulnerable as them,
Almost lost in the tangled thicket
As they stared at the lake,
Holding hands to comfort one another -
Which, I might add, is an image that
Has always come to me whenever
I feel hopeless about the world
And it saves me -
In the fullness of time
I will find you, girls,
and thank you -

And thank you, couple on the ledge -
What you did was not an act
Of defiance,
But it did defy the evil,
All of it, just that simple hand-holding,
The power of which
Held chaos in check,
Oh good for you,
Good for you,
Bravo! -

Yesterday, a mother showed me
Her infant baby girl in a crib,
And the baby stuck her arm up
And I held her tiny hand between my
Thumb and forefinger,
And a circle of Light encompassed us both
And we smiled at each other
On the ledge
Before we jumped -

*****

Which reminded me of a few lines from Dylan's Chimes of Freedom:

In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting

As we listened one last time and we watched with one last look
Spellbound and swallowed 'til the tolling ended

Friday, September 09, 2011

Reactionary Mush from the Imperial Wimp

This is right in keeping with our discussion of the millennial mentality: regarding last night's predictable Mush from the Wimp, a Jeffrey Kuhner observes that

"Contrary to popular myth, liberalism is not politics committed to science or rational thought. It is a substitute religion -- a secular philosophy similar to Marxism that seeks to replace Christianity and provide believers with existential meaning. Hence, it must be defended at all costs, even in the face of irrefutable evidence or logic. Mr. Obama is not an anomaly among progressives. They share his stubbornness. Reassessment is not possible. If Mr. Obama truly were to tack to the center, it would represent a fatal admission of error. The liberal faith would collapse. This is why left-wing Democrats are demanding that he defy the Tea Party --- and reality.... The problem is not Keynesian liberalism, but the lack of sufficient zeal."

As we will see, this is an extremely common pattern, for again, what is the millennialist to do when redemption doesn't come, when the cargo doesn't arrive, when the spaceship doesn't land? More stimulus!

Imagine if Obama were actually serious about helping our ailing economy. The first thing he would do is sign the repeal of Obamacare, but that is impossible. But why is it impossible? Is it only because of arrogance, narcissism, petty pride? No, it's much deeper than that.

I can fully relate, because I know how difficult it would be for me to abandon one of my bedrock beliefs. Furthermore, I know I wouldn't do so based upon some "transient" or "apparent" setback, as Obama no doubt imagines he is facing. Thought is always superimposed upon a well of deep emotion, so it's actually more analogous to switching allegiance from one team to another.

In my case, I've been a Dodgers fan since I was nine years old. My allegiance is completely irrational, or a-rational, anyway -- as Seinfeld said, since the players are always changing, it really comes down to rooting for laundry -- but that doesn't make it any less compelling. I suppose if I moved to another city I could root for a different team, but my heart wouldn't be in it, given my long history with the Dodgers, especially during the formative years.

Indeed, it was a very slow and difficult transition for me to go from 100% liberal to 100% conservative, as those beautiful and seductive lies and illusions were exposed and dropped one by one -- lies that had shaped and structured my identity and even my reality (although the two obviously go hand in hand).

A philosophy isn't just some kind of interchangeable operating system. Rather, it's a rough and ready, all-purpose economic, cultural, historical, sociological, political, and even metaphysical map of reality. It orients one to fellow citizens, to the world, to other countries, to history, everything. This is why it was always said that one should refrain from discussing religion and politics in public, or with people one doesn't know well. Religion is understandable, but why politics?

Because politics is quite obviously much more than politics, as we have been learning in our discussion of apocalyptic and millennial thought.

Furthermore -- and this is key -- if one has no (conscious) religion, then one's politics will inevitably partake of that preternatural energy as well. In my view, this is the only thing that explains the fanaticism, anger, and irrationality of the left.

And I would say the identical thing of "conservatives" who convert politics to a millennial religion or personality cult. A conservatism that is not rooted in maturity, sobriety, and (usually melancholy) experience (individual and collective, present and past), is not conservatism.

I want to continue with some of Landes' definitions before (I think) moving on to what I believe to be the actual dynamics, or deep structure, of the millennial/apocalyptic mindset.

First, he draws a distinction between hierarchical and demotic millennialism, which in many ways describes the differences between left and right. I won't speak for Landes, but when I say "right" in this context, I am referring not to American style conservatism -- which is uniquely demotic and hierarchical, hence its effectiveness -- but to European style statism, caesaropapism, fascism, authoritarianism, etc. American conservatism is as different from these as it is from contemporary liberalism.

The hierarchical "pole of millennial thinking works from a top-down model of the 'perfect' society," and often includes visions of the "messianic 'world conqueror' who inaugurates the golden age." This "emporer-messiah represents God on earth and constitutes" his "image and icon" (Landes). (See snidebar for contemporary examples.)

Landes notes that "the evil forces that hierarchical millennialists target come from 'below' (the unruly masses) and from 'without' (foreigners)." Substitute "reactionary statists" for "imperial government" and "tea party" for "unruly masses," and you get the idea. These statists are offended by "commoners who do not know their place, women who talk back," and general disrespect for aristocrats and elites.

As the Sultan so accurately describes it, "When liberal pundits accuse tea party protesters of longing for the good old days, it is in fact the pundits themselves who in true reactionary fashion long for the good old days," specifically, "when the common people kept their heads down and listened to their betters. To hear the MSNBC talking heads bewail the danger of the armed mobs at Town Halls, you might think that you were listening to royalists bemoaning the French Revolution. But theirs is an equally elitist worldview in which power comes not from the voice of the people telling their representatives, but from the people listening to their representatives telling them what to do."

Our state masters forget -- if they ever knew -- that "The American experiment was based on the radical progressive notion that the people as individuals were best suited to conduct their own lives. Socialism by contrast is a reactionary ideology that rejects individual freedom in favor of a rule of the enlightened elite" (ibid).

And Greenfield is writing of and from the same attractor we are, in observing that "To hear the adulation wash over Obama, is to hear an echo of the slavish worship of the Sun King or a divinely appointed emperor. It is not simply messianic, a vein of political mysticism long common among liberals, but royalist in nature" (emphasis mine).

Having said that, its inverted cousin, demotic millennialism, is hardly better, and often worse. For one thing, demotic movements have a way of becoming hierarchical: the people's revolution soon enough becomes the vanguard of tyrannical elites.

In conjunction with my research for this series of posts, I have been reading the classic account of our constitutional convention, Miracle at Philadelphia, and it couldn't be more obvious that this was one of the dualities the congress was trying find a way to get past: monarchy at one end, and at the other, democracy (which in those days wasn't any kind of ideal, but rather, another word for mob rule).

How to construct a system that was both "aristocratic" -- i.e., drawing upon the disinterested wisdom of virtuous citizens who had the time and inclination to think and study, unquestioned geniuses such as Barbara Boxer or Al Franken -- but also fostering in people a sense that they too were participants who had a stake in the government?

The second distinction drawn by Landes is between restorative vs. innovative millennialism. Here again, this is generally reflected in the differences between left and right, but only in Europe, not America, since our unique combination of limited government, free markets, and Judeo-Christian values was harmonuiously innovative (as evidenced by the "creative destruction" of the free market and the development of science) and restorative (we are by far the most religious nation on earth, if one presupposes the freedom to choose one's religion or no religion at all).

A true "restorative" or "conservative" revolution would be like that of the Islamists, who utterly reject modernity and want to return to an insanely "pure" form of Islam. Ironically, conservative Americans are routinely accused by the left of having a similar agenda, when the opposite is true. Rather, the left wishes to impose its religion on the rest of us, since one cannot be a leftist without a huge and intrusive state. Again, Greenfield describes it perfectly:

"While the Tea Party protesters are fighting for a fundamentally progressive cause, the right of individuals to lead their lives as they see fit, liberals are fighting for a reactionary cause to impose an overriding government on the people against their will.... The socialist dream is the ancient dream of a supreme state, that is somehow all-wise and all-benevolent, whose rulers are somehow more enlightened than ordinary people, and who supply everyone with their needs."

Lastly, Landes describes two main types of apocalyptic scenario, the cataclysmic and transformational, which further divide into active and passive versions. I'm running out of time here, but let us just say that the "passive transformational" is the most benign of the four possibilities, while the active cataclysmic is the most destructive (for example, the Islamists are active cataclysmic, as apparently was the recent Norwegian mass murderer).

And unfortunately, all secular millennial scenarios are activist. Why? Because there is no God to bring about the transformation. Rather, we're on our own.

For example, although the left supposedly believes in evolution, they do not trust it. Rather, they want to force their preferred outcome, but in ways that are certain to fail, which brings us back to last night's ridiculously stale Mush from the Wimp.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Obama: From Heaven's Gate to Hell's Portal in Four Short Years

Back to those definitions promised in yesterday's post. No, don't surf away! They're quite interesting.

First there is the important distinction between apocalyptic and millennial. For Landes, the former has to do with the End Time, not only that it exists -- which isn't really a problem -- but that it is imminent.

Or, as the Rolling Stones interpreted the mindscape in 1968, a storm is threatnin', a fire sweepin', and war a-comin', all just a shot away. It's like a backdraft situation. All someone has to do is open the door -- or, more likely, kick it in -- and the world is consumed in the purifying/punishing conflagration.

So the apocalyptic involves "a sense of immanence about the great upheaval and the scenario whereby we now go from this evil and corrupt world to the redeemed one" (Landes).

Although the Book of Revelation is all over the apocalypse, Christianity -- in fact, Jesus himself -- also explicitly teaches that one is not to waste time trying to determine when it will occur. It's like trying to figure out when you're going to die. First, you can't do it. Second, it's a waste of your brief allotment of time. Third, if it's fixed in time, you can't do anything about it anyway.

For example, we don't really care if a Mohammedan happens to believe that the 12th imam is going to come down here someday and straighten it all out for us. Fine. Whatever. We only have a problem if they think they can shorten his work or hasten his arrival by, say, acquiring nuclear weapons and blowing Israel off the map. (Speaking of which, I'm not sure if our new Persian cat is working out. See picture below.)

Which makes no sense anyway, because Islam, like Marxism, is completely fatalistic. It never made any sense for Marxists to foment their revolutions, since their own metaphysic insisted that the Revolution would occur necessarily and scientifically, as a result of the workings of the Dialectic.

But as we shall see, the apocalyptic has a deep structure with its own form and momentum. It doesn't matter what kind of intellectualized nonsense people come up with to explain it to themselves, whether "scientific" or religious. From this deeper perspective, scientific Marxism is exactly like a UFO cult, a cargo cult, or even the bizarre Ron Paul cult.

One might say that millenialism is the theory, apocalypticism the application. Thus, apocalyptic believers "tend toward hyperactivity. Indeed, the more impending the end, the more frenetic their behavior" (Landes).

These are people who literally burn their bridges to the past, to the present, and to any future other than their apocalyptic scenario. And I say "literally," because normally we are aware of an implicit temporal bridge that connects one moment to the next.

For the apoplectic apocalypter, it's a zero-sum game. Allah or nothing. Go big or go to hell. Sinner take fall. It is, as Landes says, "totalistic," in my opinion because it again partakes of the symmetrical logic of the unconscious (discussed in yesterday's post), in which past, present, and future are all intermingled, interchangeable, and copresent, as in dream consciousness:

"If one event is before another, then the principle of symmetry states that to the unconscious the second event is also before the first. 'Before' and 'after' thus become meaningless -- all time is simultaneously present" (Bomford).

There are different apocalyptic scenarios: "some are violent and envision cosmic destruction," others "transformative and call for a change of the heart" (Landes). Some are active and "involve human participation," while others are more passive.

Nevertheless, even the passive variety places radical demands upon the believer. Think of the Heaven's Gate cult from a few years back, in which the members auto-raptured themselves in anticipation of being beamed up to the awaiting spaceship.

In this context, eschatology has to do with the specific end envisioned by this or that apocalyptic scenario. In other words, where does this all lead? What's the point?

In secular forms, such as Al Gore's climate hysteria, millions if not billions of ecological sinners perish as a result of our greedy use of fossil fuels. Religious versions often come down to God's final judgment, both of individuals and of the world they made. It is the radical application of cosmic justice, in which everyone finally gets what he deserves, right in the kisser.

Landes draws an important distinction between the secular and religious eschaton. In the former, people either create heaven on earth -- i.e., immanentize the eschaton (Voegelin) -- or face the complete destruction and the annihilation of everything.

If you are old enough to remember, this is how the left attempted to undermine Ronald Reagan's successful strategy of defeating the Soviet Union, by propagating apocalyptic rhetoric and appealing to the "apocalyptic unconscious," so to speak.

Ironically, a big part of this involved an indiscriminate projection of their own apocalyptic fantasies onto Reagan, as if he intended to engage in a nuclear exchange in order to trigger the millennium. They did the same thing to Goldwater in 1964, with their infamous "daisy ad."

Reagan was, like most any Christian, a millennial believer. But he specifically wanted to defeat the Soviet Union by spending them into oblivion, not going to war with them. Obviously, he made the secular apocalyptic scenario less likely, not more likely.

Landes reserves the word millennialism for "the belief that at some point in the future, the world we live in will be radically transformed into one of perfection -- of peace, justice, fellowship, and plenty."

These elements were transparently present in the Obama campaign of 2008. Interestingly, I believe we will see him go from the hopeful millennial script of 2008 to a ferociously apocalyptic one in 2012. Note that until recently, Obama had been able to project the apocalypse into the past, into Bush; now it will have to be projected into the future, but it's the same old apocalypse.

Meet the new Kos, same as the old Kos.

In short, just as in the 1980s, the left will accuse the Republican candidate of wanting to end the world as we know it, of wanting to reward the greedy and evil, overturn justice, set back the clock, chain women to the kitchen, lynch blacks, force back alley abortions, have the elderly eating cat food, and generally impose our Fascist Theocracy™. In other words, the very mirror image of Hope, along with a kind of totalistic Change, only all bad this time.

When lost in the dream time of apocalyptic thought, going from heaven to hell is a matter of the flick of a switch. Obama's doing so is a scandal, really. Let's call it Heavengate.

*****

As promised, our new Persian:

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Wake Up Morons! The End is Not Near!

No movement that takes power can sustain the hallucination that the new world is indeed messianic for more than a short while. Most burn out quickly, in months or years.... --Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth

And hopefully they do this without inflicting too much damage upon the nation. There will always be damage, to be sure, since damage results any time there is a severe disjunction between thought and reality.

Think about it: in our case, for the brief time Obama has been in office, we and our children's [fill in the blank] will be paying for the rest of our lives. For what, exactly? For the privilege of having this insufferable cipher lead us for a few years?

It's like surveying the wreckage the morning after a huge drunken party. And for what? We didn't even get drunk, since we weren't one of the party pretendees.

In fact, it's not unlike the 1960s. What did we get out of that intoxicated spree? Whatever it was, we're still paying for it -- not just monetarily, but much more problematically, culturally.

This cultural hangover is not a problem for the left, since it is their implicit -- and often explicit -- goal to destroy the existing culture, being that it is so fundamentally and irredeemably flawed: patriarchal, racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally oppressive. Frankly, economic Marxism was on the way out before the rise of Obama, but cultural Marxism was as strong as ever.

Ironically, for the Marxian-inspired thinker, existence precedes essence, which is a fancy way of saying (among other things) that economics trumps culture. But since they were unsuccessful in (completely) overturning the economic order, they shifted the focus of their long dreary march by infiltrating every cultural institution, questioning its premises, and delegitimizing it.

Meanwhile, the fundamental issues at the root of our civilization had been settled so long ago, that conservatives forgot how to defend them with fact and reason.

The attempt to redefine marriage is only the latest and most radical assault, but if the left succeeds, they will have managed to erode the sacred, pre-political foundation of civilization itself, the trinitarian man-woman-child bond.

The results will be much more dramatic than, say, the collapse of the state-sponsored economic bubble, but people will not see it, for the same reason they do not see the baleful cultural effects of the new deal and great society, even though they are right before our eyes.

In reality, you have to be blind to miss them, which is sort of the point: leftism blinds one to the reality of the vertical, to the enduring structures that make us human -- or which activate and guide human potential toward its proper end.

An acquaintance pointed out to me that young people apparently have no problem with the state forcing a new and idiosyncratic definition of marriage upon the rest of us. I responded that this should not be surprising, given the secular soulwash children receive as a result of the failure to separate ideology and state.

Here in California it is not only against the law to teach any unpleasant truths about homosexuality, but children are mandated by the state to cultivate positive feelings about the love that won't shut the fuck up because there are children around, pervert!

I mean, can we not agree that THERE IS SOMETHING DESPERATELY WRONG WITH SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO TELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN ALL ABOUT ANYONE'S WONDERFUL SEX LIFE?!!!! How sick does something have to be before people recognize it? Are they really that numb to the centrality of preserving childhood innocence until the appropriate time? It has nothing to do with homosexuality per se, just rudimentary judgment and discretion, not to mention separation of crotch and state.

When we say we don't want to establish a state religion, it is because there is a larger principle involved. Ultimately, it means that we don't want truth and power conflated, because power has a nasty way of propagating only the truths that legitimize its present structures and current beneficiaries.

Moreover, we are a nation founded upon liberty, and liberty is strictly impossible in the absence of transcendent truth (including the truth of our transcendence). Existentialists are correct that without truth, liberty literally degenerates to nothing, since it renders thought and action meaningless.

Which is again the whole point of a secular miseducation that fosters relativism in all its noxious and soul-deadening forms. Once relativism is internalized, then anything is possible because nothing is real.

Pope John Paul II, in his struggle against socialist tyranny, did so in the belief that culture was prior to economics. He knew that by awakening and strengthening the culture, the economic order would fall.

This is because man is man -- because human nature is real -- and it is cruelly unnatural to impose upon man a political order that doesn't reflect this fact.

Likewise, prior to our disagreement with the left over a free vs. centralized economy is the culture war that ultimately comes down to truth or relativism, man or beast, intellect or anti-intellectualism.

In a recent essay, Mark Steyn cites Laura Ingraham, who writes that “Even if our economic and national security challenges disappeared overnight, we’d still have to climb out of the cultural abyss into which we’ve tumbled.”

Like me, Steyn would go "a little further than the author on that. I’m a great believer that culture trumps economics. Every time the government in Athens calls up the Germans and says, okay, we’ve burned through the last bailout, time for the next one, Angela Merkel understands all too well that the real problem in Greece is not the Greek finances but the Greek people."

Americans are different, or at least they are supposed to be. Where Europeans cherish equality, collectivism, and centralized control, we celebrate liberty, individualism, and limited government.

Or did, anyway. As Steyn correctly points out, Americans -- as a group, not necessarily the innocent individuals -- have no right to complain about the economy, since "Any society eventually winds up with the finances you’d expect."

So don't ask how we ended up in this awful place, for we have the economy we so richly deserve, after so many decades of magical thinking. And more magic -- the kind we will hear from Dear Leader tomorrow evening -- will not undo the magic.

In addition to the usual fare, I am always reading something on the lighter -- but still instructive -- side, currently David McCullough's 1776. It ties in with our present discussion, because it goes to the question of how the American "revolution" ended up being "millennial" -- i.e., being at the leading edge of a world-historical transformation -- without being millennial, i.e., ushering in a radical overthrowing of the existing order, and creating the New Man.

I'll undoubtedly get more into this later, but one of the key points is that ours was by no means a revolution.

Rather, it was a war for independence. It was not a war for dependence upon the state, much less a struggle to create a radically new order, but to preserve the existing one.

Thus, it was the opposite of a revolution. If asked, both "officers and men in the ranks" would have said they had taken up arms "in defense of their country and of their rightful liberties as freeborn Englishmen. It was to 'defend our common rights'" (emphasis mine).

Likewise, for Washington it was "a defense of all that is dear and valuable in life" (emphasis mine). The operative word is is, i.e., the present tense. It was not a war for some kind of fantasied "was," "could be," or "ought to be" -- i.e., a past paradise or future utopia -- but simply what is, for human reality.

At the same time, these warriors were not unaware of the millennial implications of the struggle. McCullough cites an editorial in which the writer proclaims "Never was a cause more important or glorious than that which you are engaged in; not only your wives, your children, and distant posterity, but humanity at large, the world of mankind, are interested in it; for if tyranny should prevail in this great country, we may expect liberty will expire throughout the world."

And if the Sons of Liberty don't defend man's cosmic birthlight, who will?

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