Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Total Mess Calls for a Total Solution

Why is the left -- particularly leftist intellectuals -- so easily deceived? After all, Obama was their dream candidate. Before him, if the tenured had had their way, we would have had presidents McGovern, Dukakis, and Mondale, not to mention a second term for the despicable Jimmy Carter.

Likewise, intellectuals overwhelmingly supported FDR, and by and large continue to champion his nasty combination of hostility to business, high taxes, big government, heavy-handed social engineering, and income redistribution (even when a program ends up being an income transfer to the wealthy).

Now, believe it or not, I want to be as fair as possible to the left. I am not just trying to engage in polemics, or amuse my readers with the usual two-minutes hoot.

In fact, we can even leave other people out of it, since I can inquire of myself: why on earth did you, Bob, believe all that crap? I was once an intellectual, if by intellectual we mean a person who spends most of his time thinking about stupid ideas that sound good but don't work in practice, especially where human beings are concerned.

So, just how did I get involved in that racket, and how did I extricate myself? In one sense, it isn't difficult to explain. I spent most of my 20s immersed in the world of the tenured, pursuing my BA, MA, and Ph.D. licenses to steal.

But I was never a passive sort of person who was satisfied to simply take the knowledge I was given and use it to furnish my mind for the rest of my life. Rather, I really wanted to understand -- you know, the usual adolescent stuff such as why is the world so f-ing f-ed up, and who the f- can we blame?

Obviously the MSM couldn't be trusted. Back then I would have regarded them as just shallow bimbos as opposed to deceitful and agenda-driven bimbos, although I probably would have also agreed with the proposition that they are all large corporations who don't print or broadcast anything that clashes with their corporate interests (I remember reading Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent with hearty approval).

And conservatism was a priori out of the question. Not only had I had no exposure to conservative philosophy (certainly not in any coherent sense, just maliciously distorted or disunderstood fragments), but would have no sooner turned to it than I would have joined the Nazi Party of America.

Conservatism wasn't just intrinsically false, but plainly malevolent. To say nothing of uncool. Conveniently, I could maintain this fiction because I didn't know any conservatives. Or, if I did, I didn't know about it. Like any other sanctimonious liberal, I truly assumed that liberalism was just common sense and common decency.

Therefore, since I wanted to penetrate beneath the surface, I eventually turned to the usual leftist suspects such as Chomsky, Zinn, the Nation, and all the rest, assuming this was the way any rational and educated person should proceed. So I was among the "seduced" spoken of in The Great Lie, and no one is more seducible than the secular intellectual, for reasons we will get into, if not today, then as we proceed.

One question this collection grapples with is what exactly is totalitarianism? Is it even an "ism," or is it just a tactic? Is it actually a new phenomenon, or just a new name for tyranny? Is it something that human beings gravitate toward, or is it only imposed from the top-down and outside-in? How can two such vastly different cultures -- Russia and Germany -- end in this final common pathway of totalitarianism? And was it an inevitable result of the ideology, or did it have more to do with the men, e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, et al?

As alluded to in yesterday's post, we shouldn't think of liberal democracy and totalitarianism as opposites, but as situated along a continuum -- or perhaps even like the yin-yang symbol, so there is always a little grain of totalitarianism in the best democracy, and vice versa.

Here is how Vaclav Havel characterized it: "[I]n the end, is not the grayness and the emptiness of life in the post-totalitarian world [he was speaking of 1970s Czechoslovakia under the Soviet boot heel] only an inflated caricature of modern life in general? And do we not stand... as a kind of warning to the West, revealing its own latent tendencies?" After all, if human beings can immerse themselves in the Lie and "be alienated from themselves," it is "only because there is something in them to alienate."

Conversely, if -- as assumed by modern scientism and the philosophical left -- there is no essential self to be alienated, then what's the problem with a massive state engaging in social engineering in order to create its utopian version of a "better" human? Why not?

Furthermore, for the left in general and totalitarianism in particular, there is no intrinsic authority and no moral absolutes, because no God. There is no pre-political truth. As the left teaches us, "the personal is the political," so there is truly no escape from political -- or politicized -- thought and action.

What this ultimately implies is that there is really no individual (much less a free one), which, in a stroke, eliminates the first principle of our liberal Founders.

This would explain how and why self-styled "progressivism" always involves a regression to a pre-individual and collective state of being.

In this context, Taylor notes that communism, fascism, and National Socialism can all be thought of as "a rebellion against this separation, as a project to reintegrate people into a social whole where they find community, duty, and a higher purpose. To the extent that liberal democracy fails to provide these goods, the totalitarian temptation will not disappear."

Meaning that it can never disappear so long as human beings attempt to draw ultimate meaning from politics and/or economics. Nevertheless, this pseudo-religious quest is transparently what the OWSers are all about. The other day, Taranto linked to some representative examples, such as this florid bit of political schlock by a Max Berger:

"The rapid growth of the occupations, the broad public support for the movement, and the incredible amount of media attention it has garnered suggest that we as a people recognize the need to revolutionize our political system and our economy.

"The occupy movement is still in its infancy, but... it has already reawakened the radical imagination, especially for members of my generation by tapping into our surprisingly deep wells of sincerity and authenticity. The unbranded space of the occupation provides the canvas upon which we paint the outlines of our imagined future. In it, we are reminded us [sic] that we all depend upon each other for happiness and survival. In it, we are not consumers or clients; we are citizens in a consensual community that empowers each of us. In it, we are compelled to truly listen to each other..."

And buddy, you must have a heart of stone if that deep well of sincere authenticity doesn't make you laugh out loud.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Neurotic is to Psychotic as Leftism is to ?

Correct! Totalitarianism.

This is one of the many truisms that occurred to me in reading through the essays in The Great Lie: Classic and Recent Appraisals of Ideology and Totalitarianism.

I believe I've mentioned in the past that I was trained in a school of psychoanalysis (let's call it neo-Kleinian object relations) that regards neurosis and psychosis as being more on a continuum, as opposed to being completely distinct and unrelated clinical entities. (There are obvious exceptions, e.g., purely biochemical conditions, but we won't get into that discussion.)

Because of this continuity, I was taught that one could learn a great deal about the workings of the normal/neurotic mind by studying and observing the psychotic mind.

It is as if the psychotic patient has all of the same psychological defense mechanisms as the neurotic, only "writ large," so to speak. Mechanisms that are subtle and difficult to detect in a normal person become all too obvious in the psychotic (or in the normal person under stress) -- which, if you think about it, is true of most pathology. Only when something goes wrong with an organ does one become aware of what it silently and efficiently does under normal conditions.

For example, if you doubt that projection exists, just spend a little time with a psychotic person who is capable of verbalizing his experience. Likewise denial, splitting, distortion, idealization, evacuation, fantasy, somatization, support for Ron Paul, etc.

Or, think of the advances in medicine that occurred as a result of such epic bloodbaths as the Civil War and World Wars I & II. The crazed barbarity of these killing fields nevertheless resulted in important advances in medical know-how. Irony thy name is history.

Bion in particular reconceptualized the conscious/unconscious distinction into more of a psychotic/non-psychotic complementarity. As a result, we are all -- quite literally -- "a little bit crazy," except that the crazy is in a dialectic relationship with the "normal."

However, this implies that "normal" is not opposed to psychotic; rather, normality involves a healthy balance between the two. In order to be normal, one has to be a little crazy. I think this is one reason why people instinctively doubt Mitt Romney's normality. He's just too normal. Conversely, Herman Cain, whose infectious crazy leaks out all over the place, is instinctively seen as refreshingly normal. (One of the problems with politicians is that they have to pretend to be so normal. The most dangerous ones actually believe it.)

Indeed, one can be "too normal," which is the tendency of most adults. Something occurs in their development that causes them to repress or deny the crazy and renders them completely conventional.

In the past, I have noted how ironic it is that my generation -- the baby boomers -- should begin as such self-styled rebels and non-conformists, only to settle into pathetically reactionary liberalism in their geezerhood.

I remember reading an excellent paper called The Normotic Personality that touched on this "disorder of order." (I just remembered that it is actually a chapter in this book, which I hope to discuss in more detail as we go along.)

In a way, the normotic personality is analogous to an auto-immune disorder, or allergy. What is an allergy? It is an overreaction of the body's defense mechanisms to the presence of the not-body. Similarly, the normotic personality scans the psychic environment to shoot down any "not self" -- anything that might threaten one's consciously constructed identity and its narrow reality tunnel.

If we weren't a little bit crazy, the world would be drained of most of its deeper meaning and resonance. We would be like machines, or robots, or atheists. We would be completely boring, in a boring world, like talk radio before Rush Limbaugh, or one of reader William's blogs.

One of the reasons people idealize celebrities and artists is that they seem to live lives in which they are able to give free reign to the crazy. But one doesn't have to read too many biographies to discover that they didn't usually have much of a choice in the matter, and that the crazy eventually swamps the enfeebled non-crazy part of the personality. This was an occupational hazard for jazz and rock musicians, back when those genres were living realities and not just safely contained museum pieces.

In Introduction to the Work of Bion, the authors write that "The multiple experiences of the individual in his contact with himself and with others imply an unavoidable confrontation between his tendency to 'have consciousness' and not to have it, between his tendency to tolerate it and to avoid it." In this context, "the psychotic personality is not a psychiatric diagnosis but designates a way of mental functioning that coexists with other ways of functioning."

As alluded to above, Bion assumes "that all individuals, even the most developed, potentially contain mental functions and responses derived from the psychotic personality, manifesting," among other ways, in hostility toward the mental apparatus.

That latter observation is a key, since one of the ways to most easily detect the psychotic mind in action is via its assault on unwanted meanings. As we have discussed before, meaning results from a union of particulars -- i.e., "facts" -- into a higher principle.

But what if this higher principle is disturbing to the conscious mind, say, the principle that socialism always fails, or that AGW is far from "settled science"? It can easily be dispensed with by attacking any links that lead to that conclusion. Which is why the left's principle method is and always has been attack, slander, defamation, smearing. Paul Krugman's editorials are as clear a contemporary example as one might find of this psychotic mechanism in action.

Reader William inadvertently reminded us of another excellent example of this mechanism, when he (approvingly) linked to a silly Bill Maher monologue suggesting that America's founders would have "hated" the tea party because they were all anti-religious.

To the extent that Maher actually believes such an easily disproved lie, it is only because the left has a whole publishing industry dedicated to legitimizing what leftists wish to believe. But truth infected by desire immediately becomes something less than truth. One of the first things we should learn in life is that the world could care less how we wish it to be.

But there is an intimate relationship between "wishing" and psychosis. I believe this is ultimately traceable to the boundary-less condition of infancy, the one time in our lives when dreams and wishes really do come true, as if by magic.

For example, I have an uncomfortable sensation in my abdomen. I don't know what to call it yet, since I don't have language. Therefore, I begin crying out to the cosmos, and what do you know, a bountiful breast appears, right where I need it! Some people never get over that feeling of omnipotence, which comes down to feeling entitled to the ministrations of the world. The other 90% learn that the world does not owe them a living, that life is unfair, and that it is dangerous (and deluded) to think otherwise.

Another key aspect of the psychotic personality is hatred, or what Bion symbolized as the (H) link. In other words, two subjects can be equally linked by (L) or (H), but the link is just as strong -- and just as needed -- in both cases.

For the psychotic part of the personality, the intolerance of frustration "manifests itself as violent hatred of internal and external reality" (ibid.). Furthermore, the hatred extends to those parts of the personality "that are used to establish contact with this reality and its recognition, that is, extends to everything that has the function of linking."

In The Great Lie, there is a whole section devoted to what the author calls seduction, that is, how so many intellectuals were -- and are! -- drawn to leftism despite its failures and outright horrors. The various chapters touch on what these "thinkers" have to do to their own minds in order to continue their belief in the unbelievable.

In one sense, it is simply the secular analogue of the conversion experience, whereby one has a sudden insight into the redemption of a hopelessly fallen world (indeed, this pseudo-religious aspect is one reason why its adherents have such difficulty with critical thinking and self-awareness).

Russian victims of Soviet tyranny knew all about the reality of Marxism, which is why they could have nothing but contempt for western apologists such as Sartre, Chomsky, and all the rest. Ironically, an imprisoned Solzhenitsyn was at least (spiritually and intellectually) free enough to know that "Marxism has fallen so low that it can now arouse only contempt. No one in our country who wishes to be taken seriously, not even a schoolboy, can talk about Marxism today without a smile."

But western intellectuals still haven't gotten the memo. Or, more likely, consistent with Bion's theories, they simply attacked it away via their unsane principle that anti-communists were more dangerous than communists. The hate is still there, of course, just directed at the wrong people -- much as the left hates George Bush much more than the Islamists.

Well, what was intended to be a very brief introduction has metastasized into a post. To be continued.

Friday, November 04, 2011

To Hive and Hive Not

Arcanum VI, l'amoreux. Oops, pardon our French. We mean zee lover.

Our unKnown Friend from an alternate vertical future -- our own yet-to-be-lived future, to be exact -- writes that the central theme of this card is the vow of chastity, esoterically understood. For "one is chaste only when one loves with the totality of one's being." Therefore, there is no true love in the absence of chastity -- and vice versa.

Chastity is the living unity and wholeness in being whereby body, soul, and spirit become one -- not through a merger that effaces differences but through a harmony that... harmonizes them. This is not uniformity but unity. It is the return of the many to the One, both in oneself and with the other, the former via the latter, meaning that, ironically, it takes two to be at one. (Technically three, but we'll get to that later.)

The bottom line is that two's company and three's a cloud. And whenever two are present, there I AM, raining down.

"There is a difference between spiritual things and bodily things. Every spiritual thing can dwell in another." And "Where I am, there God is; and then I am in God, and where God is, there I am" (Eckhart). When wholeness comes, the partial vanishes (1 Cor. 13:10). Poof!

As usual, the psychospiritual left embodies a direct inversion of this two-in-one principle. For instead of beginning with the individual-seeking-unity, it is in perpetual rebellion against the individual. Rather, it posits the exterior collective -- i.e., the benevilent state -- whereby our fragmentation and alienation are "cured."

Taken to its logical extreme, such a cure represents "perfect integration through perfect fragmentation. That is, the perfect unity of the state requires the utter destruction of all autonomous social bonds, rendering each individual more isolated and powerless..." (Taylor). It is as if the left grinds humanity to dust, molds this desiccated substance, like clay, into its new-and-improved man, and then breaths the spirit of Marx into him.

The critical point is that our drive toward unity can become as perverted and pathological as any other drive. The secular left creates a unity, alright, but it is a physical unity only, a reduction to matter and thus no unity of soul or spirit.

UF writes that "to feel something as real in the measure of its full reality is to love." Obviously, it is no coincidence that Genesis discusses human sexuality in terms of knowledge. Is the Torah simply confused on this matter? Or perhaps disclosing a reality from which the tenured have excluded themselves?

Imagine a typically prudish "human sexuality" class that leaves out the very reality without which sexuality is not human. Obviously, there is no need to imagine it, because the purpose of all leftist ideology is to demoralize and make us less than what we are, which is to say, human (in the full sense of the term, body-soul-spirit).

To love someone is to begin the process of knowing a person in their full reality. The operative word is begin, for as Bion theorized, love is a link (L) between subjects. It merely gets the party started. Until we forge that link, the Other is not really real, just a piece of psychic furniture.

UF explains that -- contrary to substitious materialist sophistry -- the one thing we know as really real is ourselves, the human subject. The materialist denies this reality, rendering the subject a side effect of matter.

Now, matter is obviously a kind of "one," which is an inverted doctrine of spiritual oneness. This material oneness is the false unity that inspires the left, and is the basis of their first political principle, i.e., "what's yours is mine," or "you work, I eat."

How do we escape the prison of our narcissism? Primarily through love, because love partakes of being. There is also knowledge, of course, but unless that knowledge is rooted in love and being via the Intellect, it is no more enduring than smoke driven by wind, and will not survive the Judgment.

UF writes that there are two principle methods of overcoming our cosmic narcissism, generally corresponding to eastern and western religions (although each has both; it is merely a matter of emphasis). The first is obliteration of the illusory ego, so that one becomes a "shadow among shadows." This is the "equality of indifference." If the separate "I" doesn't exist, then we're all one. Being that the ego is the ultimate illusion, just vanquish that illusion, and the doors of perception are cleansed (although nobody's home behind the door).

The other way -- the Christian way -- is to extend the love that one has for oneself to other beings. Instead of "me dead, you dead," it's "me living, you living."

Now, this is difficult to do. Obviously. But you don't try to do it all at once. Rather, you start with a small circle, and then gradually widen the circle. Start at the center, not the periphery. Try loving your neighbor before The Planet. Again, the left begins at the periphery. Obama is the great Unifier. But what kind of unity is it that doesn't even recognize my real existence? I'm not some ant in the leftist hive:

"When a Marxist says 'power to the people,' he isn't talking about actual people.... It takes no time at all to realize that Marxists and their intellectual offspring have no use for actual people in general, and only one use for 'actual people' who do want what they're supposed to want. They treat them like pets."

UF returns to Genesis, where God says that "it is not good that Adam should be alone," which is to say that "it is not good that man should love nobody but hisown." And God wasn't just ribbing, for he then creates the complementary other, who is actually of the same substance as Adam, even a part of himself. To love is to recognize the prior unity: "In the beginning there was only one love and its source was one, since its principle was one."

Again, love has to do with the recovery of higher unity, not the imposition of a lower uniformity. This is a key point. UF agrees that this reality is precisely inverted by the left, but also by old-fashioned Freudianism.

In the case of the left, it elevates economic interest to all. In the case of Freud, he elevated the sexual instinct to all. You might say that the left reduces everything to the first chakra, Freudianism to the second. And both are entirely compatible with materialism, scientism, and metaphysical Darwinism, which try to account for the top by reducing it to the bottom. That's not love. It is hate. Hatred of reality.

Naturalism is not so much a love of matter as a rejection of, or inability to apprehend, that which transcends it. This is why Obama feels that the founders erred in writing a constitution that made it such a hassle for him to appropriate our stuff and give it to others, or why his pal Bill Ayers feels he "didn't do enough" back in his days as a loving domestic terrorist. But he shouldn't worry. As an "educational reformer," he's destroying more young souls than he could ever hope to as a bomb-tossing psychopath.

In the coming year you will see the false love -- the hate -- behind the Obama phenomenon. As his spiritual dementor screamed, God damn America!

Yes, brace yourself for Obama's love, you ungrateful bastards.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

If Nothin' Ain't Broken, Can't Nobody be Fixed

On to the Pope. The central lesson of this card has to do with "vertical respiration," or what our unKnown Friend describes as the double movement of prayer and benediction -- or of (↑) and (↓), respectively. Thus, if you ask why we pray, it's for roughly the same reason we exhale. We do so in order to inhale -- to metabolize oxygen and gita life, buddhi.

The ascending and descending energies are parts of a single movement. In fact -- in a manner of speaking, of course -- you could even say that we are the answer to God's prayers, in that our inspiration is his expiration -- certainly on the plane of creativity.

"The prayers of humanity rise towards God and, after having been divinely 'oxidized,' are transformed into benedictions which descend from above." In prayer, something departs from us, but returns somehow transformed.

The point is, as Schuon once put it, "prayer fashions man." In a way, man is nothing but a prayer placed in the middle of nowhere, a prayer which ascends to the heavens and links the above and below. Man's very verticality -- however conceptualized -- is a prayer, don't you see? And if there were nothing at the other end of our verticality, man as such truly would be a hopeless prayer, just a long bomb hurled by inconscient matter into the cosmic dead end zone.

Even -- or especially! -- the cries of the helpless infant are hope-filled prayers to the Divine Mother. The intersubjective relationship between mother and baby forms a reciprocity dance of mutual projection. When those innocent prayers are systematically unanswered, the infant is ushered into hell -- into some version of autism, narcissism, or depression. An open, intersubjective system with others is not formed, so love cannot enter or escape. While they may later bond with others, it's really a form of external adhesion, not intersubjective relation.

Transferred to the psychospiritual plane, scientism is a kind of autistic bond to the surface of reality. It is also a state of spiritual asphyxia: like expiration with no inspiration. It is the creation of an uncannily lifeless pneumascape by dead and tenured souls.

As UF writes, "Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practice some form of prayer; he who practices it receives vivifying benedictions in some form." There is a reason why the blue states are blue: no spiritual oxygen. When someone has a dead relationship with the Creator, one must always inquire into what it is that the person is projecting into him, i.e., the actual source of the deadness. Suffice it to say that it is within the undead themselves, certainly not within the very source of Life.

Again, there is horizontal respiration, which is between the outside and inside; and vertical respiration, which is between the above and below. UF even suggests that death represents "the abrupt passage from horizontal to vertical respiration," which is why the spiritual life has often been characterized as a rehearsal for death. Apparently, with enough practice, we may convert what is otherwise a sharp right angle into the more gentle arc of spiritual liftoff.

This arc is ultimately a circle that returns us to our(true)selves, the circle being the perfect symbol of eternity. One might say that prayer is thinking within the curved space of spiritual reality, in such a manner that the circle gradually expands.

UF points out that true intellectual or creative work is a prayer. It is fueled by the faith and hope that one's efforts are guided by an end that can only be dimly intuited at the start, never "seen." Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe! Blessed are those who tolerate the ambiguity of facts, that they may penultimately reveal principles, and principles that they may ultimately reveal their Origin. When the world of facts embraces the world of principles, that is a prayer come true. And when God shines through the principles, that is the end (goal) of prayer.

Prayer takes place at night and in darkness. Again, it is a complement to the wideawake & cutandry thought of the day. In fact, it is why we sleep, or more precisely, dream, for to dream is to metabolize the day and weave it into our psychic substance, just as to think and act during the day is to externalize the soul's implicate dreams and visions.

What is human culture but one big soul-dream and/or nightmare? And what is the materialist but a sleepwanker, a man deprived of the vivifying dream of reality, and therefore reduced to mental masturbation?

UF then goes into the critically important theme of the wound, and how it is only through the wound that the cosmos is entangled with itself. The senses are wounds through which we are penetrated by the world on various planes and in various modes.

Until the appearance of life, there was only an exterior cosmos. But with the appearance of life, there was suddenly this new category, an interior. But in order for there to be an interior, there had to be an exterior with which to exchange matter, energy or information, and this can only take place through a wound.

This implies that there actually was no exterior to the cosmos prior to the emergence of life, being that exterior and interior co-arise. Therefore, there was just.... what? You figure it out.

UF reiterates that our senses are wounds, and painful ones at that. Without them, the world cannot penetrate us, but sometimes the penetration can damage us. We feel, but as a result, we are aware of pleasure and pain. We see, but that gives rise to both beauty and ugliness. And if you cannot suffer pain, you cannot suffer pleasure.

It is through the wound that an otherwise closed system becomes an open one. In order to know the objective world, one's mind must be wounded by it, by the "nails of objectivity." Likewise, to know God, one's heart must be wounded, which is to say, a vertically open system.

When we wonder, we are exploring our psychic wound, our intrinsic incompleteness and need for the Other. When we think, we are trying to heal it. How did the wound get here? Animals don't have that particular wound.

And when we pray, we are exploring our spiritual wound. How did it get there? Why this wounded heart?

I suppose so we can know we have one, so that it may be healed in love. God save the man without a broken heart! By breaking it.

We the People of the United States, in Order to... secure the Blessings of Liberty [↓] to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution [↑] for the United States of America....

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Shock Treatment and Mystical Obliturature

We are still mulling over the meaning of the passage from Monday's post, "Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God."

In writing it, I was undoubtedly thinking of Meister Eckhart -- or he of me -- whose sermons I have been reading, for this would clearly be one of his takeaway points. Eckhart wasn't saying anything new, nothing that wasn't previously said by such luminaries as Maximus Confessor or Denys the Areopagite.

He was, however, saying it in a new and more pun-loving way, and saying it to a new audience consisting of regular churchgoers instead of concealing it behind the formal latin and linear logic of scholasticism. Eckhart is always aware of the fact that lived experience is infinitely richer than our ability to articulate it.

What Eckhart is really doing is playing with apophaticism, the latter of which is at the heart of any orthoparadoxical approach to, and formulation of, God, and which prevents us from confusing the divine form with its content (or its energies with its essence). It has a venerable tradition, beginning with the unpronounceable name of JHVH, which comes down to the impossibility of reducing the clearobscuro I AM to any cutandry HE IS.

Regarding Eckhart's freevangelical pundamentalism, McGinn writes that he "deliberately adopted a strategy designed to shock the reader" or listener, and "consciously adapted [a] fluid hermeneutic of multiplication [of meanings] and mischievousness for the good of his students and his lay audience."

In so doing, his linguistic jive-alarmamentarium included paradox, oxymoron, chiasmus, parallelism, antithesis, hyperbole, negation, and the negation of negation (McGinn). These modalities contribute to "the 'shock treatment' of a mystical discourse designed to awaken by challenging traditional modes of speaking and understanding" (ibid).

Shock treatment. Reminds me of a swimming pool. As you pool owners know, in addition to regular chlorination, every once in awhile you have to shock the pool with an extra strong dose of chlorine, in order to neutralize all of the little beastlings that survive the regular dose.

The same applies to theology, only more so. You might say that the usual pneumababble and sanctified blah blah is analogous to regular chlorination. You can get so used to it, that you don't really hear it anymore, or it no longer penetrates to the core. Perhaps it keeps most of the mind parasites at bay and algae off your north face, but everyone recognizes the need for the occasional shock treatment, whether it involves going on retreat, intensifying one's prayer life, or exposing the parasites to a deadly dose of One Cosmos nonsense.

Prior to Joyce, I can't think of anyone who played with the possibilities of language -- the word! -- more than Eckhart. Obviously referring to himself, Joyce writes in Finnegans Wake,

"Shem is as short for Shemus as Jem is joky for Jacob. A few toughnecks are still getatable who pretend that aboriginally he was of respectable stemming [but] every honest to goodness man in the land of the space of today knows that his back life will not stand being written about in black and white. Putting truth and untruth together a shot may be made at what this hybrid actually was like to look at." (I think Joyce is speaking of what happens if we shine too bright -- and too unplayful! -- a rationalizing light on scripture, in this case, the Torah.)

Nevertheless, despite his flaws and failings, the author, the conveyor of the Word, "lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak," meaning that his words have the power of life. (For Eckhart, knowledge is life, and vice versa.)

So, as with Joyce, it's difficult to know when Eckhart is just pulling your leg. And even when he does, he's usually just trying to make the wrong one right, so it goes all the way to the ground.

For Eckhart, the ground -- or perhaps groundless ground -- is the Godhead, which is (vertically) anterior to God. That is, "The Godhead becomes 'God' in the flowing of creation."

This is just the kind of statement that can get a man in trouble if his inquisitors lack a sense of humor. And proportion.

Eckhart explains: "Though it may be called a nescience, an unknowing, yet there is in it more than in all knowing and understanding without it, for this unknowing lures and attracts you from all understood things, and from yourself as well."

This results in a kind of soul-flooding -- since we cannot possibly contain the divine essence -- which "runs over and floods into the powers and into the outward man."

It is not just a "turning around" (metanoia, repentance), but a kind of cosmic inversion whereby the world-current is reversed and we live in the state of what we call O --> (n).

In fact, "no man ever went astray for any other reason than that he first departed from this, and then sought too much to cling to outward things.... [T]here are many who sought light and truth, but only outside where it was not to be found. Finally they go out so far that they never get back home or find their way in again" (M.E.).

This is what we have in the past referred to as the "terminal moraine of the senses." But one could just as well call it a desert or dump or OWS encampment.

Reader Gabe expresses concern that "I cannot help but think that when you try to integrate different ways of knowing, after you have found one you trust, you run a risk of picking and choosing what you like," and "when you admit other sources besides the one that brung ya' where you're at, it messes with your frame of reference."

True enough, but there is another side to that coin. It wasn't too long ago -- just a blink of the world-hisorical eye -- that the religions were separated from each other by geographical, linguistic, and cultural barriers. As Schuon notes, each of them speaks of the "absolute," and designates itself as its guardian. But how can there be more than one absolute?

This question generally leads either to a kind of adamantine literalness or a corrosive cynicism, neither of which is conducive to growth. In the words of Schuon, "Confronted with a relativism that is growing ever more intrusive, it is necessary to restore to the intelligence a sense of the absolute, even to the point of having to underline for this purpose the relativity in which immutable things are clothed."

In other words, in order to preserve the absolute from the ravages of relativism, we must not absolutize that in which it is "clothed."

To put it another way, relativism has its rights. To deny relativism is to foster a totalitarian system, a la Iran or Saudi Arabia, where the absolute absolutely bars relativism, including such first degree relativities as liberty, private property, individualism, democracy, rule of law, meritocracy, and science.

What we need is a balance, or better yet, complementarity, between absolute and relative, not one or the other, each of which results in its own particular hell.

In fact, this book I'm working on, The Great Lie: Classic and Recent Appraisals of Ideology and Totalitarianism, fits right in with today's theme, in that the various political religions of the left "utterly deny the legitimacy of the liberal idea of separate spheres in social life and they replace the liberal distrust of politics with an absolutization of the latter."

This is the loony logic behind the intellectual children's crusade of the OWSers, who tell us that "government is corrupt and not to be trusted, and we need lots more of it!"

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My Absolute Can Beat Up Your Absolute!

I woke up late and just commenced to typin'. This post is probably all over the place. I'll try to tie it together tomorrow, when I have more time. For now, I present it to you fully half-baked, just as it came out of -- or into? -- the fog.

"Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God. How could it not be so? It is foolish to imagine that we could ever contain the uncontainable within our borrowed being" (from yesterday's post).

I was about to say that this ought to be an uncontroversial statement, but the comments from yesterday suggest that it isn't. And I can see why not, because it challenges the absoluteness of one's religion. But it shouldn't, because religion is about the Absolute, not the Absolute itself.

As Schuon writes, "the sense of the absolute is situated in each [religion] on a different plane, so that points of comparison often prove illusory."

For example, in Christianity, the Absolute is located in a person; in Judaism, a book; in Buddhism, an experience. Each of these conveys a sense of the Absolute, which, for most people, is "sufficient."

Problems arise when people begin fighting over their version of the Absolute, when we should be much more concerned with the values that flow from recognition of the Absolute.

As Dennis Prager says, it is irrelevant to me whether a person shares my religion. After all, Obama claims to be a Christian. What is much more important is that he share my values, which are the very opposite of his. He too has a sense of the Absolute, but he perversely locates it in the state -- which is only the latest iteration of the progressive "instinct" for tyranny and absolutism.

Speaking of which, I'm currently reading this book about Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, and one thing that immediately jumps out is that the truth of modern liberalism is even worse than how contemporary conservatives characterize it. Back then, Wilson could innocently present pure liberalism, without spin or deception, equivocation or dissembling.

For Wilson, it was absurd to suggest that the Founders were dealing with universal truths and natural rights. Rather, they were just creatures of their times. We -- meaning state officials armed with Ivy League degrees and good intentions -- needed to toss aside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, if we really wanted to get things done.

For Wilson, the separation of powers prevented the state from doing what it needed to do for your benefit, you ungrateful peasant. As he said, "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface" -- you know, all that abstract stuff about life, liberty, and natural rights conferred by the Creator instead of the almighty state.

Back to where we were ("Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God.") Ironically, I think exoteric Christianity conveys this idea on an intuitive level via the Trinity. God the Father "sends" his Son for our benefit. No one has seen the Father, but we can see the Son.

And yet, "I and the Father are one." Wha... Shouldn't the Father "superior" to the Son? It is impossible to answer that question without getting into theological trouble, but from our perspective it would appear so. Which is why the doctrine that they are actually one is non-obvious, and could only be given to us through revelation and faith.

Incidentally, I think the same basic complementarity applies to the exoteric/esoteric dimension, and Unknown Friend even says so later in the book.

Reader Gabe says that "the phrasing [about the superiority of the unknown God] leads me to think this is mostly just fun, but please, what does this mean?"

The question -- and I don't mean this in any pejorative sense -- reminds me of what the fun-loving Meister Eckhart went through in his day. He was considered an eminent and completely orthodox teacher until the very end of his life, when he ran afoul of Church authorities, but for completely political reasons.

I found a copy of the complete vernacular sermons that costs under a hundred dollars, and the introduction points out that Eckhart was basically caught in the crossfire between rival gangs of Franciscans and Dominicans (sounds like a Monty Python skit).

Blame the church? Yes and no. You must remember that back then, there was yet to be a distinction anywhere on earth between the sacred and profane, between power and faith, between politics and God (that had to wait until 1787).

Today we worry about religion encroaching on politics, but back then it was the other way around. Think about the extent to which politics seeps into everything these days (especially for the left), even though we have a specific category for it. Now imagine what it must have been like before we had a separate category to contain it! All of those corrosive impulses got into everything.

This is precisely what the Founders were so concerned about -- not just separating the realms of politics and religion, but then trying to see to it that the realm of politics didn't tear itself apart, as it usually does, redounding back to anarchy or tyranny. Time and again they spoke of the danger of what they called faction, which they treat as analogous to some kind of political "original sin."

For example, Federalist 10 says that "the latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man." For the Founders, "human nature does not improve, and there is no progress to a point where we can stop worrying about the factious nature of men and the pernicious ends toward which it might direct the power of the state" (Pestritto).

Beware most of all the administrative state, the pragmatist, the independent, the moderate, the neutral "problem solver," since these are all just the latest covers for the worst kind of faction. In 2008, America thought it had elected such a person -- you know, just a non-ideological smart guy who would solve our problems.

But today, no less than in Eckhart's time, there is no thinkable thought that is radically separable from religion, and this is especially true of the left, since they have no sophisticated, separate cognitive category with which to articulate their innate religiosity (except for that which they fancifully project into the religious).

As usual, the Bible has more wisdom about the nature of faction than one will encounter in four years of college with three years of graduate school thrown in. What is the first faction? One can look at it in different ways. First there is the rebellion against God, creating the "faction of man" against the Divine. This always leads to disaster, from Babel to Communism to National Socialism to the European Union.

Then there is the faction of man against woman, instead of the cosmic complementarity (and union) of man and woman, i.e., male-and-female he created them. Denial of this complementarity leads to any number of abominations, from compelling women to live in black bags to forcing the "impossible possibility" of homosexual marriage upon the citizenry.

Remember, America was uniquely created in order to preserve and protect our natural rights, one of which is marriage (which is obviously prior to the state, and even a necessary condition for the state). In no metaphysic -- whether religious or biological/scientistic -- could homosexual marriage be considered "natural."

The next faction in Genesis is between the brothers Cain and Abel, and it is characterized by envy. The envy is, of course, located in Cain, but envy victimizes both the host and its target. The envier can kill the envied but will be none the happier for it.

The OWS protesters live in a kind blissful ignorance of this psychic fact, giving free play to their destructive envy, when one of the purposes of life is to transcend envy. It is indeed a key to any kind of personal happiness.

You might call it Chinese politics: you can eat the rich, but you'll be hungry again an hour later.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Coming Present Collapse of the Spiritual Bubble

Well, everything appears to be back to normal. With the exception of the will to blog, the absence of which may well be the new normal. It was certainly the old normal, i.e, pre-October 2005. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, continuing with Meditations on the Tarot, our Unknown Friend makes the extremely important point that "the existence of the universe is rendered possible by the act of contraction of God within himself. God made a 'place' for the world in abandoning a region inferior to himself."

This is in conformity with the Kabbalistic idea of tsimtsum, or "the withdrawal of God in order to create freedom." It adds a vital dimension to the otherwise unthinkable idea of creatio ex nihilo. In other words, it helps us to think about the nothing with which the cosmos is made. For as every pneumanaut knows, the cosmos is a very real present absence; compared to the Absolute, it is nothing. And yet, it is. But how is it? How can nothing be something?

As follows: "in order to create the world ex nihilo, God had first to bring the void into existence. He had to withdraw within in order to create a mystical space, a space without his presence -- the void. And it is in thinking this thought that we assist in the birth of freedom." [I would add that since we are in the image of the Creator, we must do something analogous to "give birth" to the Word, i.e., "withdraw" and create a space for him.]

This is why the Void is such a "pregnant mystery," so to speak. Our own subjectivity is aglow with the absent-presence of the divine Subject. The realm of the "mysterious" is not at all synonymous with "ignorance"; rather, it is a mode of knowing. More precisely, it is a mode of unKnowing, a paradoxical "unthought-known" that coincides with the Creator's absent-presence.

[Says Meister Eckhart, coincidentally, "Though it may be called a nescience, an unknowing, yet there is in it more than in all knowing and understanding without it, for this unknowing lures and attracts you from all understood things, and from your [lower] self as well" (emphasis mine); note also the subtext of what it means to be an "unKnown Friend."]

Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is "superior" to the known God. How could it not be so? It is foolish to imagine that we could ever contain the uncontainable within our borrowed being. It would be like taking out a loan from the bank in order to try to buy the bank. And we all know where that leads....

If you think the financial credit bubble was bad, just wait until the bill comes due on the vast fortune secular society has borrowed from religion. There is a huge spiritual bubble at the foundation of materialism, scientism, secularism, and leftism, and I don't want to be around when it bursts. No, check me on that. I do want to be around, since it is happening before our eyes.

But so too does this bubble exist on an individual basis. The leftist is puffed up and inflated with a host of morals and other truths he has purloined from the church. Thus, he is not so much a legitimate borrower as a cosmic criminal and thief.

One can well appreciate why classical liberalism is such a hard sell, being that freedom is an echo of the haudible nothing that makes our very existence possible.

In other words, a conservative, in order to be true to his principles, must promise nothing. He must swear to protect our God-given nothing -- our natural rights -- from the enemies who would misappropriate it, and he must always endeavor to give the people more of the nothing they deserve.

While people such as the OWS protesters cry for "social justice," this is actually the last thing they want, since justice means getting what one deserves. And that would resemble a Boschian vision of hell. Or worse, an OWS encampment.

In contrast to the conservative liberal, the illiberal leftist promises everything, but in so doing usurps our precious nothing until there's nothing left of it. The leftist gives us something for nothing, which is a terrible bargain.

The leftist state is like the bad mother who anticipates our needs before we can even feel them, so we become an enfeebled nobody instead of a robust nothing. From there it is a mere step from being a full-blown EUnuch who can't even be bothered to reproduce. Soon there won't be enough children to feed all the hungry grown-ups, at which time the Muslims will devour them.

As UF further explains, the mystical space of nothing is not only the space of freedom, but of potential. Therefore, it is not an empty nothing, but a plenum that is filled with unborn preconceptions that will become future realizations once they are properly fertilized and conceived.

Why does tiny Israel have more patents in a year than the entire Muslim world in a hundred (or thousand or whatever it is)? Because the Muslim world cannot tolerate the nothingness of freedom. Instead, its people are swaddled in an allah-too-present, "in your face" god who gives no slack. And yet, I am quite sure there are Sufi teachings compatible with the ideas we are discussing today.

Just as "the bigger the state, the smaller the citizen," the bigger the God the smaller the person. Previously we have highlighted the "smallness" of a God who is not only an anonymous peasant born in the back of beyond, but who is crucified in history as a common criminal. Can't get much smaller than that! But look what grew out of that tiny seed.

The divine withdrawal and creatio ex nihilo are also related to the idea of kenosis (the self-emptying of God) and the crucifixion. In fact, you could also say that these ideas are linked to sacrifice, in that God becomes "nothing" in order for you to become "something." It is better for you that I go away, because when I do, the Holy Spirit will come along to help refill your empty tanks.

Obama may be our president, but he will never be our meister, much as he would like to be. For our Master rules by his intrinsic authority, which can only be freely recognized in his absence.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Viral Adventures!

Time enough for a comment on this strange malady. No, not that one! This viral syndrome or whatever it is.

It began quite suddenly Sunday morning. I was absolutely fine on Saturday. Pitched in my son's little league game and mountain biked in the afternoon.

But Sunday morning I began feeling generalized aching in my joints -- ankles, wrists, back, everywhere -- plus a headache. I thought maybe it was just because I hadn't biked in awhile, and maybe strained some muscles or jostled some joints and triggered an inflammatory response.

But then, Sunday night, my back was on fire. No, not inside. Rather, the skin. No redness or rash. Nor did I feel at all feverish. But Mrs. G could feel the heat coming off of me. Felt like I could fry an egg on my back. So we did, which was nice.

I was puzzled by the whole thing. I'm thinking, "either this is a kundalini awakening, or something weird is going on."

Monday I was wiped out. The fire was gone, but the skin was real sensitive to the touch. Plus mentally not there. Incapable of work. But I did finish Gilson's book on the spirit of medieval philosophy, so I was still capable of comprehension. Just no will.

Monday night I sweated like crazy, Tuesday night even more, even though I still didn't feel at all feverish. This always happens to me after a cold or flu, so I thought it was a good sign.

By Wednesday afternoon, I felt pretty good, but still kept an appointment with my nurse practitioner. Said it was probably viral, possibly even shingles. We could runs lots of expensive tests to investigate further, but since I was getting better anyway, why bother? Let her know if it gets worse.

I haven't developed any rash, but apparently shingles can occur without one. But I do have a distinct dermatome running below the rib cage toward the navel, where the skin is still sensitive, but that's going away.

Apparently, the shingles virus attacks one of the nerve roots that comes out of the spine, affecting the skin it connects to, hence the fire.

Anyway, it seems to have almost resolved. Today I feel ready for game seven. Weird, though, to have had something one has never had before....

And I shudder at the thought that I am now an official geezer -- Topic A being one's health -- like our troll who loves to obsessively share too much information about his bodily functions.

Anyone else have any close encounters of the viral kind to report? It seems that if nothing else, these viral adventures make for a good yarn, each type of virus with its own tale to tell. I can imagine it yelling tell my story to the worllllllld, as it is being destroyed by the fascists of immune system.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Open Thread

while I cope with this annoying viral syndrome of the indeterminate sort. Can sill master the basics, but not the extras.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Open Thread

Too much to do.

It occurs to me that Beatle George was the first person who got me interested in religion, what with his lifelong passion for the Vedanta. And come to think of it, his Taxman was my first exposure to classical economics.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Accidently-on-Purpose Essence of the Left

To summarize yesterday's post, "the subject partakes of the Absolute through its capacity for objectivity" (Schuon).

And as we saw, it is possible for man to be objective with regard to the natural/horizontal/quantitative world -- which wasn't controversial until the emergence of postmodern critical theory -- just as it is possible to be objective (i.e., to have accurate in-sight) with regard to the subjective/vertical world of qualities.

Indeed, the only thing in the world we may know directly and without mediation is the subject.

As the One bifurcates into absolute and infinite, or time and space, the object -- in a manner of speaking -- bifurcates into immanence and transcendence. We might say that immanence is the intelligible object, while transcendence is the comprehending subject.

But beneath this they are obviously "one in truth"; or, truth reveals their underlying unity, to be precise. Thus, any act of truth both reveals and is predicated upon the One; and the One is none other than the single Truth embodied in knower and known.

In any act of truth, "the essential takes precedence over the accidental" (Schuon). Conversely, lying liars and the lies they tell are always rooted in the accidental. You will have noticed that the first and last refuge of the leftist is a rapid retreat into the accidental, often for the very purpose of denying their own first principles, i.e., essence.

Pretty abstract, Bob. Example?

Okay, let us say that racial discrimination is wrong. The essence of this belief is rooted in our first principle, that all men are created equal.

The leftist also says that discrimination is wrong. Bueno. We agree. But in the very next breath, the leftist says that he wants to make it against the law to overlook race in hiring, college admissions, mortgages, and government contracts. "Wait a minute -- I thought you just said... "

"Shut up, racist!"

That last vulgarism reveals the leftist's actual first principle, which is that people who disagree with him are evil. It is one of the master keys to understanding the otherwise incoherent and intellectually dishonest ranting of the leftist. Slander, vilification, smearing -- these are "of the essence," not at all accidental. As we know, the leftist "believes he refutes an opinion by accusing the holder of that opinion of immorality" (Don Colacho).

The important point about a thought is its essence, not the accidents it comes clothed in -- language, skin color, class, gender, etc. Consequently, the left assures its own perpetual ignorance by systematically reducing conservative thought to its supposed hidden "motivations."

The same applies to the leftist's typical analysis of religion -- e.g., that people bitterly cling to their religious faith because of, say, economic insecurity. In true Marxian fashion, Obama will eliminate our economic insecurity and hence "cure" the citizenry of its religiosity.

Say, how's that workin' out for ya'?

Another example? Okay, yesterday I linked to a thoughtful video by Bill Whittle that so happens to reveal some essential things about the left. The leftist's considered response: "Bill Whittle is a moron."

Instead, we should learn our economics from this oddly smirking and cheerily passive-aggressive dude (do not attempt to endure more than a few minutes) who insists that we should indeed vilify "Wall Street" -- remember the leftist must vilify someone or something -- for the recession that ended in June of 2009. Failure to do so is analogous to failure to properly diagnose salmonella.

Notice that there is no interest in pursuing that thought to where it inevitably leads, i.e., "hey, how did those henhouse mothercluckers on Wall Street catch salmonella?," for it ends in vilification of the wrong entity: the state, and that is a thought the leftist must avoid at all costs. Indeed, the very purpose of "blaming Wall Street" is to misdirect our attention and seal our ignorance.

Notice also that the left, very much in contrast to its nihilistically libertine self-image, is all about "legislating morality," for what is morality but mastery of our impulses? But how exactly will legislation eliminate any of the seven deadly sins, greed included? What about government sloth? Hollywood lust? Racial pride? Economic envy? Michael Moore's gluttony?

Thus, "the left's theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them" (Don Colacho). And to paraphrase DC, a vocabulary of ten words is sufficient for the leftist to explain everything. Those ten would include racism, sexism, homophobia, greed, and "corporations."

Back to our main topic. "Perfect objectivity" would represent "perfect adequation of the knowing subject to the known object" (Schuon).

As such, this would coincide with the "perfect objectivity" of God, and the consequences that flow from this, e.g., truth, beauty, justice, virtue, etc. Each of these involves a harmony between principle and manifestation, appearance and reality, accident and essence. These are our "north stars," even though they can never be "perfect" in the herebelow. Rather: thy will be done in the terrestrial horizontal as it is in the celestial heaven.

Another key principle: "To say objectivity is to say totality" (Schuon) on every level. Thus, the fact that there is totality (or wholeness) at all derives from this higher (or deeper) principle of unity and totality.

Therefore, we have relatively autonomous domains represented by such disciplines as physics, biology, neurology, etc. And if any horizontaloid tries to tell you exactly how these relatively autonomous planes relate to one another, he is lying -- first to himself, then to you. For the distance between, say, matter and truth, is absolutely infinite (the bad kind) and unbridgeable from the bottom up. You cannot get here from there.

Now, a religion is a "cosmic totality," so to speak. Its purpose is, or should be, to provide a framework with which to situate ourselves and think about everything. In contrast, various sub-disciplines have sharp boundaries that prevent any such totality.

For example, physics leaves off where biology begins. There is some overlap, of course, but nothing truly essential.

To put it another way, physics is a necessary cause of biology, but not a sufficient one. The same applies to the relationship between biology and psychology. There is again much overlap, but the idea that truth or beauty could be reduced to biological categories is plainly absurd.

One of the things our friend Gödel teaches us is that a system can be complete or consistent, but not both. A "perfectly consistent" system will be incomplete, while a "perfectly complete" system will be inconsistent.

This applies to religious doctrines no less than scientific paradigms. Thus, a given religion can be more or less complete or "total," just like anything else. And yet, it seems that all religions claim this totality for themselves.

But this cannot be true. For example, Islam claims totality, but at the expense of key principles such as Incarnation, Trinity, and Resurrection. Conversely, Christianity has no fundamental objection to prophecy, so long as it is divinely inspired and true.

Out of time. To be continued...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Absolute Cosmic Bullshit of the Left

A few days ago I wrote that "just because the Absolute is not (exhaustively) expressible, it doesn't mean it isn't knowable; indeed, we cannot not know it and still think, since all thinking is rooted in it."

In response, reader Gabe Ruth wrote that he struggles "with seeing that this is self-evident. Are you saying that it is (self-evident)? I guess I mean more precisely, are you saying that the physical world cannot be the Absolute, and we can know this?"

Yes to the self-evidence of the first; and yes, the physical (I would say natural) world is not and cannot be absolute. I affirm that the Absolute Is, and that it is not the natural world; or, to put it in a less saturated way: O Is, and O is not ø. An even simpler way would be: O.

In contrast, it is not quite right to say that ø is not; rather, it both is and is not, since its "isness," or being, is borrowed from O. In other words, while the the Absolute is absolute, it necessarily entails relativity. Conversely, the relative cannot be absolute, for absolute relativity is an absurdity. Therefore, O entails ø, while ø implies O. Which is why one is only "nothing" to the extent that one is detached from God, or O. ø is always "manmade," similar to the idea that God sends no one to hell who hasn't chosen it for themselves.

In a typically lucid but extremely pregnant (yes, you can be more than a little pregnant) formulation, Schuon writes that "The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute."

Let's break that down. Unlike any other creature, the human being is capable of standing "outside" or "above" himself in a disinterested way, and apprehending the objective truth of things. If this were not the case, then science would be impossible, not to mention any practical notion of justice. Our judicial system is predicated on the idea that twelve human beings can consider the objective facts in a disinterested manner in order to arrive at a verdict. (The same applies a fortiori to constitutional democracy, without which there can be no "political justice.")

This notion of objectivity applies both to the within and without, or to the object and the subject. This is obvious in the case of science, since it is again founded on the idea that one may know the world in a disinterested and objective manner.

But what about the subject? Isn't it by nature "subjective?" Well, first of all, if that were entirely true, then science would be impossible, because all knowing would be fatally contaminated by subjectivity. But clearly, the subject partakes of objectivity, which is how and why it is able to know objectively.

The same applies to knowledge of the subject. For example, a routine part of conducting a psychological evaluation involves assessing a patient's capacity for what is called "insight." What this essentially boils down to is the ability to reverse one's gaze and look at oneself in an objective manner. It may come as a surprise to you -- maybe not -- how few people are capable of this. Generally speaking, the sicker the person, the less insight.

Really, it is astonishing what most people don't know about themselves. I often think to myself, "my God, I know more about this person in five minutes than they have learned about themselves in 50 years." I mean, really. What a strange way to live!

I might add that I am not necessarily speaking of the usual defense mechanisms such as repression or projection, through which the person systematically denies and splits off an unwanted part of the self. Rather, I am thinking of something more analogous to pre-scientific cultures that have not yet established the psychic capacity to view nature objectively. Obviously, science can only take place if the psyche isn't entangled with nature, so the latter can be apprehended in an objective manner.

The same applies to psychic reality, i.e., the self. In both cases, what is required is the colonization of a third dimension that "lifts" oneself, so to speak, above the flow of phenomena.

For example, in order to be a historian one must rise above history and regard its temporal passage from a higher vantage point. Likewise, in order to be a scientist of any kind, one must rise above nature. And in order to be a psychologist -- an adequate one, anyway -- one must have this same capacity as applied to the flow of psychic experience.

Schuon goes on to write that "There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence," which is a very compact way of saying what we have just said above. Knowledge, intelligence, and objectivity are interrelated in ways we don't necessarily appreciate.

And we certainly don't appreciate the implications of this epistemological trinity. Indeed, for 50 or 100 or 150 years -- depending on where one draws the line -- the psychospiritual left has been engaged in a jihad against objectivity, which means that it is by definition at war with intelligence and truth.

Oh. That's explains a lot, doesn't it? Here, let Bill Whittle spell it out for you:

Note that Critical Theory applies to everything and everyone except the person who wields it. Which is why we have a kind of insight into the motivations of the left, of which the typical liberal is utterly bereft.

And how does the leftist deal with this? By projecting it into conservatives and fantasizing about the nature of our hidden motivations. But in order to do this in a productive manner, one must first have self-awareness, or personal insight. This is why a good therapist should undergo a lengthy personal therapy before he gets near a patient.

So liberals always deal with conservative arguments by imputing hidden malevolent (never benign) motivations, often in frankly absurd ways. The latest is that conservatives who support Herman Cain are racists. How can this be, you ask? I mean, liberals were obsessed with Obama's race, whereas conservatives couldn't care less about Cain's. But as Taranto helpfully explains, "white Republicans are so racist that they're willing to elect a black man president just to keep black people down. The absurdity of that formulation underscores the left's desperation to keep the idea of racism alive."

Now, just as there can be no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence, "there is no freedom without objectivity of the will" and "no nobility without objectivity of the soul" (Schuon). This explains why the left's attack on objectivity redounds to the erosion of freedom, but also nurtures the awesome nobility of these elevated human beings:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Freedom, Reality, and the Power of Stupidity

All false religions -- and true religions falsely understood -- aspire to power rather than truth. The worship of power is, according to Unknown Friend, the source of all idolatry. We transparently see this in the new age movement, but also in traditional religious circles whenever God's absolute omnipotence eclipses man's freedom, and therefore, real existence. For reality and freedom are directly related, in the sense that if something isn't free, it is just a part of something that is; or, the whole is always more free than the part.

New agers basically co-opt religion for the purposes of exalting themselves and bolstering their own narcissism. As UF puts it, they want to "develop their own greatness without the rival grandeur of the Divine to discomfort them." This exercise is "fundamentally infantile," and atheists are certainly right to reject it.

Consider the titles of some of Deepak Chopra's books: The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Pocketbook Guide to Fulfilling Your Dreams. The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence. Creating Affluence: The A-to-Z Steps to a Richer Life. Perfect Weight. Perfect Health. The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents: Guiding Your Children to Success and Fulfillment. The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want. Grow Younger, Live Longer.

This is all about the bad kind of gnosis, about some "secret" known only to the elect. Just splash some cash Chopra's way, and you will be blessed with financial success, spontaneous fulfillment of your every desire, perfect health, a long life, and even successful and fulfilled children! (As if one has the magical power to revoke a child's God-given free will, except perhaps by abusing them.)

In all of these books, you will notice that they have nothing to do with knowing God, but with being God. They prey on the rampant narcissism of our age, as if the answer to selfishness, dysfunction, and depression is more of what causes it. It doesn't just fly in the face of the Christian message, but of the central message of all legitimate spirituality, e.g., "If you want to become full / let yourself be empty / If you want to be given everything / give everything up" (Tao Te Ching).

It is no wonder that Chopra is also such a diehard supporter of Obama. He takes quite literally the childish idea that Obama represents a "quantum leap" in consciousness.

But if Chopra's kooky ideas are true, one naturally wonders: why do we need politicians, let alone illiberal statists, at all? In other words, if Deepak has the magical secrets which will fulfill our every desire, why would we care about some silly politician? Don't politicians simply become unnecessary middlemen between us and our desires?

Here again, we see how the anti-religious person cannot help being religious. He can deny truth, but it simply returns in some twisted form. Why would Chopra, of all people, believe in the coercive ideology of leftism, which specifically maintains that people have no power to change their lives for the better without a huge and intrusive state?

For Chopra, the state is the Father, Obama the Son, and high taxes the Ghastly Heist. If he actually believed a word of his books, he wouldn't only be a conservative, but a radical libertarian: just unleash the people and let magic take care of the rest!

UF also discusses the other extreme. I am not -- nor could I ever be -- one of those people who don't worry because "God is in charge." Free will is an irrevocable gift. It cannot be regifted, or revert back to its original owner. In the words of Schuon, we are condemned to freedom, and are always free to fall into the abyss, if that is what we choose. Indeed, this is the source of our dignity.

I am reminded of something a wise Supreme Court justice once said -- something to the effect that if the citizenry wishes to go to hell in a handbag, my job is to help them do so. In other words, this idea that the liberal elites of the Supreme Court are here to rescue the moronic populace through judicial tyranny is a modern innovation.

The purpose of the Supreme Court is not to deny our freedom just because one or two of them don't like what we did with it. I remember when the Supreme Court overturned some obscure sodomy law in Texas. Justice Thomas agreed that the law was "uncommonly silly," but this is utterly beside the point. For if the Supreme Court had the constitutional power to abolish silly laws, Democrats would be out of business overnight. Stupid laws are their raison d'être.

UF makes the critical point that the Christian lives with "the paradox of almighty God reduced to a state of extreme powerlessness." This seemingly counter-intuitive image is said to be "the most perfect revelation of the God of love."

This is quite radically different from the new age belief in a God who would leap down from the cross and, for a paltry $1995.00, sell you the magical secrets of fulfilling your every desire and deepaking your sleeping chopra at a weekend seminar in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, with one of Time Magazines top 100 heroes and icons of the 20th century!

It seems that many religious people, instead of overtly adopting the Chopraesque narcissistic grandiosity, simply project it onto the deity. It's the same infantile process, only externalized. As UF writes,

"their faith in God depends only on the power of God; if God was powerless, they would not believe in him. It is they who teach that God has created souls predestined to eternal damnation and others predestined to salvation; it is they who make God responsible for the entire history of the human race, including all its atrocities.... God is almighty, therefore all that happens is only able to happen through his action and his consent."

In short, "The idol of power has such a hold on some human minds that they prefer a God who is a mixture of good and evil, provided that he is powerful, to a God of love who governs only by intrinsic authority of the Divine -- by truth, beauty, and goodness -- i.e., they prefer a God who is actually almighty to the crucified God."

What is the point of asking that "thy will be done" on earth as it is in heaven? This implies that in the upper vertical -- the celestial world, so to speak -- God's will is done "automatically," so to speak. But down here in the fog and haze of the lower pneumatosphere -- the terrestrial world, with its messy web of psychic crosscurrents -- this is not necessarily the case.

For there are many vertical degrees of being -- and therefore relatively autonomous horizontal planes -- between the top and bottom. Although God may intervene in this or that plane, he could not abolish the planes altogether -- i.e., the hierarchy -- without canceling out manifest existence entirely. Doing so would be analogous to, say, abolishing cells in order to prevent the possibility of cancer in the body.

Either human existence is real or illusory. If real, then so too is our freedom real. In fact, as UF writes, freedom "is none other than the real and complete existence of a being created by God." In other words, to be "free" and "real" are synonymous terms from the spiritual point of view. For if one is not free, then one is determined by something else -- or just an extension of some other entity that is real, whether genes or God, it doesn't matter.

But what is freedom? Freedom implies a kind of (relatively) absolute wholeness, or center, which is a mirror of the Creator, who is the "Center of centrality" or "Interior of interiority," so to speak.

Therefore, to illegitimately constrain or eliminate freedom is to do away with God. Again, no wonder that the religiously irreligious zealots of the left who reject our natural liberties -- and God -- imagine that government can somehow create freedom when it can only protect or oppose it.

Again: to be free is to exist. For the average OWS leftist who feels "unfree" as a result of some nebulous cabal of bankers, this is merely a projection of his own subjective absence of psychic freedom. To feel controlled by the "1%" is as crazy as a billion Muslims feeling controlled by 15 million Jews.

For the leftist, the state exists, and we become its extensions. Think of it. The average American already works for the state until what, mid-April? How will we be more free if Obama succeeds in moving it forward to mid-May or June, when government expenditures are 50% of GDP?

To the extent that one's mind is inhabited by quasi-autonomous parasites, these intrinsically limit one's freedom. And there's not a thing Obama can do about it. No one else can deliver us from hell or send us to heaven: "Love existence, and you have chosen heaven; hate it, and there you have chosen hell."

Likewise, "God is all-powerful in history in as much as there is faith; and he is crucified in so far as one turns away from him." And the Emperor, or legitimate ruler, reigns by intrinsic authority over free beings. Paradoxically, God must be a kind of "absent presence" at this center of freedom, otherwise we would not really exist.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Restoration of Faith through Reason

Books such as Meditations on the Tarot are generally regarded with suspicion by the typical religious believer, perhaps rightfully so, since it seems that there are no doctrinal safeguards once one is off the groomed slopes of the cosmic mountain and engaged in extreme seeking.

At that point "anything goes," or at least so it seems. There is no way to determine whether the person is speaking truth, whether he is a narcissistic sociopath trawling for attention, or whether he is just eccentric or even insane. Better to just stick with what we know: straight up scriptural revelation, even if it often clashes with other truths of the world, and sometimes flirts with frank absurdity.

This occurred to me in thinking about the idea of a universal metaphysic that is revealed through religion, even while religion can never be reduced to a mere metaphysic. As Schuon writes, "all esoterism appears to be tinged with heresy from the point of view of the corresponding exoterism," for it gives the appearance of man elevating himself above the plain meaning of this or that revelation. It seems to be an invitation for clever knaves to justify anything.

And yet, man has a mind and therefore a will to truth. This mind -- our most precious inheritance -- seeks not just information but understanding. As such, it is impossible for me to believe that our Creator would want us to assent to any doctrine that makes less than total sense to us.

In other words, he wants us to assent not just with body and heart -- or with will and sentiment -- but with our minds. And a mind that assents to what it doesn't understand has devolved to mere will, i.e., the will to believe. This has its place, of course, but faith should be a prelude to understanding, not an end in itself.

This occurred to me while speaking with a friend who is engaged in a "spiritual search," but who is already deeply involved in the Jewish faith. He was raised in a strictly orthodox world, and although he is now involved in a less rigorous branch, he nevertheless has obvious problems with what he regards as a kind of minute attention to iterations of the Law -- for example, avoiding broccoli since there might be a tiny insect lodged inside the flower, or not tearing perforated toilet tissue on the sabbath because it is a form of "work."

That said, he greatly appreciates the wisdom, certain traditions and rituals, the community, and the transmission of values to his children. But in Judaism, one has no right to pick and choose the parts one likes, for where does one draw the line? It reminds me of Neusner's A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, in which he listens to the Sermon on the Mount with "Jewish ears" and likes much of what he hears. But when Jesus places himself above the Law and puts himself in place of the Torah, it's a deal breaker.

In a way, we might say that there is a kind of dialectical flow from experience to doctrine to experience and back to doctrine. For example, Moses had some profound encounters with God, which are embodied in the Torah. Jesus comes along and seems to reverse the sequence, but after Jesus comes the Church that creates an updated doctrine -- the Catechism of the Catholic Church runs to almost 800 pages. But then Protestants come along and reject the whole thing. Protestantism becomes reified, so then numberless sects split off, especially in America, where people take religious experience seriously. But most of them make no sense, and are intellectually negligible.

It's probably easier to accept the idea that various experiences of God are all related, than the notion that there could be a kind of central doctrine that unites particular expressions of it. But this is what Schuon seeks to accomplish; or rather, simply "discern," since he was of the belief that it was already there to see, so long as one is capable of seeing it.

For example, he writes that only an esoteric approach can explain "and restore the lost truth by referring to the total truth; this alone can provide answers that are neither fragmentary nor compromised in advance by denominational bias. Just as rationalism can remove faith, so esoterism can restore it" (emphasis mine).

That is indeed a key point, for it implies that esoterism is a kind of "higher Reason" from which profane reason must be a descent. To paraphrase another comment by Schuon, something isn't true because it is logical, but rather, the reverse: things are logical because they are true.

By definition one cannot ascend to truth via (profane) reason, since reason can only prove the consequences of premises that reason cannot supply. Therefore, any time one accepts a truth, one is operating outside the closed system of logic (which was one of Gödel's points, precisely -- not that truth doesn't exist, but rather, that there are permanent truths not provable by logic).

So the truth embodied in revelation is clearly a descent from something higher. To try to ascend to this truth using only human tools is doomed to failure.

Rather, in order to comprehend it, one must make the effort to conform oneself to the plane from which it arises. This is not fundamentally different from any form of knowledge, say, quantum physics. Try as we might, quantum physics is never going to be reducible to, or explainable in terms of, Newtonian physics. This is because the Newtonian world is a kind of "descent" from the quantum world, the latter of which is "higher" or "deeper," at least theoretically.

Now, truth comes to man in various ways. Sometimes it comes from the outside, as when we were in school. But oftentimes -- especially as we grow older -- truth comes more from within. Schuon writes that the first kind is "formal," as it can be clothed in communicable symbols that are readily transmitted, received, and decoded without too much distortion (math would be the ideal of this form, since it can be conveyed with no loss of meaning at all).

But the interior type of knowledge is "direct and essential," Importantly, this is especially true of revelation, even though it would appear to come from the "outside."

But no one should believe that revelation is in any way analogous to mathematical knowledge that can be conveyed without ambiguity or distortion. Rather, as Schuon explains, the purpose of revelation is to awaken "interior truths" so to speak, by providing us with symbols to think about them, and without which truth is unthinkable. We could still "experience" it, but would be hard pressed to communicate and make sense of it.

Thus, for Schuon, "Revelation is Intellection in the macrocosm, while Intellection is Revelation in the microcosm."

This is again no different from any intelligible reality, for example, physics. In the case of physics, we confront an intelligible world that comes fully encoded in mathematical terms, as if the one mirrors the other.

How is it that the mind of man and the deep structure of the natural cosmos just so happen to harmonize in this transcendent manner? Why, it's almost as if the physical world is the objective instantiation of the math, whereas the mental world is the subjective apprehension of same. One might say that the sensible world is the macrocosmic revelation of mathematical truth, whereas mathematical intelligibility is its subjective revelation in the microcosm.

In any event, there is a Truth and a Way. And this Truth is not, and could never be, fully horizontal or reducible to something less than itself. Rather, it is a descent and appears before us as a hierarchy, as do the modes appropriate to various degrees of reality. One might say that it is a symphony.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Spiritual Free-Fall from Washington to Obama

Today's post is on the Emperor, and it could hardly be more timely, even though it was written three years ago, before Obama came along to foolfail its prophecy.

Indeed, I wrote at the time that "This is a timelessly timeless archetype, what with the likely election of a president who embodies so many elements that are the precise opposite of what this arcanum symbolizes."

For now, after three years of dissembling and misdirection, Obama is finally discarding the empty suit routine and nakedly displaying the divisive little tyrunt beneath:

"Obama’s reelection strategy" involves fomenting "full-blown cultural warfare against a large and diverse segment of society known as Republicans.... [H]e and his advisers seem to have decided... to mount a deeply polarizing campaign based on 'values' -- suggesting his vision for America is correct even if the economy is not right yet.

"But in waging this battle, Obama is saying nasty and dangerous things. He is promoting his own principles -- not just by touting their goodness, but by suggesting that Republicans hold to an offensive, even un-American, philosophy. By painting his opposition as not just wrong but evil, Obama risks dividing the nation in a profound and unnecessary way.

"Allegations that Republicans want sick people to die and hate homosexuals are caricatures you might expect of an extreme House member or a raving partisan running for local office. That a president would say -- or even believe -- such things is deeply disturbing."

But such slander of conservatives is par for the coarse and unrefined media, just as it is commonplace in academia and holy writ among the liberal rank and foul. In truth, demonization is the only weapon the left has, and the only weapon it has ever had. God, guns and gays -- hating the first, fearing the second, and promoting the third -- is what they are all about.

Our Unknown Friend begins with the observation that "the less superficial a person is -- and the more he knows and is capable of -- the greater is his authority." Specifically, "to be something, to know something and to be capable of something is what endows a person with authority."

Being. Knowledge. Capability. The more of these one has, the more intrinsic authority. And importantly, this won't be any kind of "official" or conventional authority. Rather, the person will spontaneously radiate the authority outward, from the center to the periphery.

(I remember Schuon saying something to the effect that the reason a pope or priest must be decked out in their finery is to convey this spiritual authority, even if they themselves personally lack it. And he didn't mean it in a disapproving manner.)

In turn, each of these categories has a dimension of depth. One can know superficially or deeply. One can do something adequately or with great depth, like the true artist.

But the most mysterious of the three is being. One of the primary purposes of religion is to develop depth at the level of being.

Now, consider Obama, circa 2008. First, what did he know? Pretty much nothing beyond the usual lies and absurdities one is exposed to in a leftist seminary, i.e., college.

Second, what had he accomplished? See #1.

Third, who is he? Yes, one could say "no one," except that spirit -- both good and bad -- abhors a vacuum, and soon enough rushes in to fill the void. You know the drill: people who reject God don't believe in nothing, but rather, in anything.

The other day I was reading an article about Schuon by the Orthodox Christian scholar James Cutsinger, whose initial experience of Schuon's "intrinsic authority" was virtually identical to mine. No one had to tell me that this man possessed authority. Rather, the depth of his authority was communicated directly, center to center:

"Nothing had prepared me for my first encounter with a book by Frithjof Schuon. I vividly recall reading the opening page, and then rereading it again, then a third time and a fourth time, before proceeding" (Cutsinger).

Now interestingly, this depth is not a matter of "complexity" or sophistication. Indeed, those things are often just tricks of the tenured to make one believe they are deep when their ideas would be recognized as utterly banal if conveyed in plain English.

Cutsinger agrees that "the words themselves were certainly not difficult, nor the style at all complex. Indeed, compared to many a modern philosopher's work, Schuon's books are noted for their simple, and often poetic, beauty. And yet for some reason I found myself unable to move with the speed I was accustomed to."

Cutsinger adds that it was as if he were running along the beach, and then suddenly found himself in the ocean. Very mysterious. In other words, he is merrily scampering on the surface of one reality -- call it earth -- but then, to his surprise, finds himself in a different medium, one that is at a right angle, so to speak, to our usual experience of the world:

"Here was a new medium, no less able to support my movement, but requiring an altogether different engagement. There would be no more running now. I would have to swim."

There is another corollary at work here, for just as it requires depth to apprehend depth, only depth can recognize shallowness and superficiality. This is clearly why so many shallow people believe Obama is deep, or nuanced, or even beyond that -- that he truly represents some sort of messianic or "transformational" figure. I feel as if his entire mind could safely fit into a little corner of mine. And I'm not bragging. I would assume that all Raccoons feel the same way.

Back to the Emperor. Among other things, the Emperor is the symbol of divine authority on earth. He is not a replacement of divine authority, but its horizontal prolongation. And along these lines, perhaps the most important point is that, as UF writes, "God governs the world by authority, and not by force. If this were not so, there would be neither freedom nor law in the world."

This automatically excludes an Obama from being a legitimate ruler, in that the left is all about governing by force. He will not "lure" you toward the good by his intrinsic authority, but compel you to "share" and "spread around" the fruits of your labor with his purely terrestrial power. And that's all it is: "I won." If he were capable of explanation, he wouldn't have to ram through unpopular legislation and demonize opponents.

God does not "compel" acceptance of his authority, or we would not be free. Thus, the typical atheist who asks for miracles in order for God to "prove" his existence is really asking for God to remove his freedom. But that is something God will never do. UF elaborates:

"One is free to be believing or unbelieving. Nothing and no one can compel us to have faith -- no scientific discovery, no logical argument, no physical torture can force us to believe, i.e., to freely recognize and accept the authority of God."

The atheist says to Jesus: "Come down from that cross, then I might believe in your power!" But power is not truth. Rather, truth is power. And the truth is, Truth is crucified in history, and yet, survives. And that is a powerful miracle.

In response to the original post, reader James commented that "It is a pleasure and a joy to serve someone who has real authority. It is a horror to serve under someone with no authority, just higher rank in a man-made hierarchy. You can learn all the important things about someone by imagining what it would be like to serve them."

This powerfully applies to George Washington, whose biography I am currently reading. One of the things that made him great -- and contemporaries testified to it over and over -- was the intrinsic authority he radiated. He was never a great military strategist, but was able to maintain the Continental Army through sheer force of his magnetic presence, under appalling conditions that truly boggle the mind.

It is indeed difficult to imagine how America could have succeeded without his being our effective leader for over sixteen years -- the eight years of his presidency and the eight-plus years of the war. As Jefferson wrote, "The moderation and virtue of a single character... probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."

In other words, Washington's great power was in the realm of being: the Continental Army "always stood on the brink of dissolution, and Washington was the one figure who kept it together, the spiritual and managerial genius of the whole enterprise: he had been resilient in the face of every setback, courageous in the face of every danger.... The extraordinary, wearisome, nerve-racking frustration he put up with for nearly nine years is hard to express.... He labored under a terrible strain that would have destroyed a lesser man..."

And "at war's end" he sealed his stature, in that "he stood at the pinnacle of power, but he never became drunk with that influence, as had so many generals before him."

That is the kind of truly exceptional being at America's founding -- an exceptionalism the current clown demeans by his frivolous presence even prior to rejecting it with his inane speech.