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.