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.