Friday, November 11, 2011

Herman's Hermits and Harry's Parasites

Slept too long because I stayed up too late viewing the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson?, which I'd been wanting to see ever since I'd heard about it several years ago. It had an extremely limited run, but last I'd heard, couldn't get a distribution deal. Apparently not that much interest in someone who should be much more widely known and appreciated, but just doesn't fall into any easy category. He's sort of his own category. Anyway, the documentary is now up on You Tube in seven eight parts:

I don't know if it will be of general interest to nonHarryheads, but it does tell of a rather dramatic struggle between one's gifts and one's mind parasites. He was dealt a terrible hand in childhood, and at first it seemed as if the parasites would routinely have their way without much interference from the host, what with no interior resources to challenge their dominance.

His gifts nevertheless broke through -- which included a beautiful voice, something like a five octave range, a Brian Wilson-like ease with melody and harmony, clever and quirky lyrics, and well-developed senses of humor and the absurd -- which meant that the parasites had to redouble their efforts to the point of an outright death wish: if we cannot control this host, then we must kill him!

I haven't yet made it through episode six, but I believe he made one last stand before the mind parasites finally succeeded in vanquishing him.

On to Letter IX, The Hermit, which might very well be called Le Raccoon.

At least if memory serves. It is clearly the arcanum with which UF himself most identifies. He says that a person who is "truly young, i.e., living for an ideal," is instinctively drawn to this figure, similar to the Jungian concept of archetypal projection. In other words, the archetype of the Hermit is "within," but we must first locate it without, in order to assimilate its content into the preconceptual form within. Without the experience, the archetype will remain an empty category -- a dead letter addressed from the Self to your self.

The Hermit is "a wise and good father... who has passed through the narrow gate and who walks the hard way -- someone whom one could trust without reserve and whom one could venerate and love without limit."

The reason why there are so many false teachers is that we have an innate need for actual(ized) ones -- just as counterfeit money depends upon the existence of the real thing. But since our culture has largely -- and proudly -- severed itself from its own wisdom tradition, the Deepaks of the world rush in to fill the void. In fact, we can see that Obama is riding the waves of that same archetypal energy field.

Only in a culture that has lost its spiritual bearings could this bumbling cipher be regarded as unusually intelligent or minimally wise. For an insight into Obama's unconscious swamp, just consider the sinister minister he idealized as his own Hermit -- Reverend Wright!

Such an odious choice runs so much deeper than the question of "judgment," for what and who one loves simultaneously reveals who one is and what one shall become. A person who would expose his children to such a spiritually toxic environment is unfit to be a father, much less president. And I mean that quite literally. I cannot imagine assaulting my son's innocence in such a manner.

I am also reminded of an insightful comment by Henry Kissinger that runs counter to conventional understanding. That is, we often hear about presidents "growing into the office," but according to Kissinger, it is the opposite. That is, by the time a man runs for president, he has acquired the bulk of his intellectual capital, and if he should succeed in making it all the way to the presidency, he will simply draw upon the existing capital, not add to it.

For one thing, there is no longer any time to think, to read serious books, or to reflect. This is why Obama seems to shrink smaller and smaller with each passing month, since he didn't have much working capital to begin with -- or, more problematically, it was just the unexamined funny money of the left. And even that seems to have been given to him due to contingencies such as race.

The Hermit "possesses the gift of letting the light shine in the darkness -- this is his lamp." And here is a critical point: "he has the faculty of separating himself from the collective moods, prejudices and desires of race, nation, class and family -- the faculty of reducing to silence the cacophony of collectivism vociferating around him in order to listen to and understand the hierarchical harmony of the spheres."

This reminds me of the task of the psychoanalyst, which is to listen to the patient with "even hovering attention" -- or with the "third ear" -- in order to hear into the deeper layers of the unconscious. One must "unlisten" to the explicit in order to hear the implicit; or delve beneath the plot in order to apprehend the theme. Bion said that one must suspend memory, desire, and understanding, in order to enter a state of faith, or what Bob symbolizes in the book as the receptive and anticipatory mode of (o).

But that is not all, because if it were, we would live in a kind of bloodless idealism which Christianity specifically reconciles with flesh-and-blood reality -- or, materiality, to be precise. In other words, the Hermit unites reality with matter within his own being. Or, you could say that he embodies the ideal, or principle, in imitation of the Master himself (and in whose absence the whole innerprize would be impossible). As UF writes, the Hermit

"possesses a sense of realism which is so developed that he stands in the domain of reality... on three [feet], i.e., he advances only after having touched the ground through immediate experience and at first-hand contact without intermediaries." This is none other than 〇-->(n), or the transformation of prior reality into experience.

So the Hermit is an archetypal reflection of the good father, behind or above whom is the Father in heaven. The Hermit is a little word from our nonlocal sponsor, so to speak.

As UF says, he also represents the method of obtaining valid spiritual knowledge, in that he is able to synthesize within himself the three great antinomies with which any thinking man is confronted, and which any efficacious philosophy must reconcile. These are the complementary pairs of 1) idealism <---> realism; 2) realism <---> nominalism; and 3) faith <---> empirical science.

I remember that when I first read this chapter, I finally appreciated the intellectual and metaphysical brilliance of Christianity, and just what a profound innovation it represents, for it beautifully resolves each of these pairs in a fruitful and dynamic "marriage." I also understood why it is ever a folly to the geeks and a stumbling block to the clueless.

Consider the first antinomy, idealism <---> realism. Most philosophers come down on one side or the other of this pair. It is their first "preconceptual" thought, upon which their subsequent intellectual edifice is built. But they never justify how and why they come down on one side or the other, nor can they ever justify it, because it is totally arbitrary.

Well, not totally. Rather, it will be based upon temperament, or inclination, or just acquiescence to cultural drift, like the eternal question of boxers vs. briefs. Surely it is no coincidence that Bob prefers the "third way" of boxer briefs, for in fact, this is what Toots Mondello was referring to when he spoke of the "sacred undergarment."

Put it this way: Plato was a boxer man, Aristotle a briefs man. But can we possibly fashion a new garment out of these two, one that is both spiritually comfortable but also offers intellectual support, and is not woven of a manmade substance such as polyester?

UF writes that "the idealist (e.g. Hegel) considers everything as so many forms of thought, whilst the realist (e.g. Spencer) affirms that objects of knowledge have an existence which is independent of thought." Where have we heard this before?

Yes. This is surely what Bob was referring to on Page the 26, where he asks, "Where in the world do we begin? Do we have any right to assume that the universe is even intelligible?... Of course we should start our enquiry with the 'facts,' but what exactly is a fact? Which end is up? In other words, do we start with the objects of thought or the subject who apprehends them? And just what is the relationship between apparently 'external' objects and the consciousness that is able to cognize them? Any fact we consider presupposes a subject who has selected this fact out of an infinite sea of possibilities, so any conceivable fact arises simultaneously with a subjective co-creator of that fact."

In the case of realism, "it is the world which bears the word and it is the human intellect which listens." But in the case of idealism, "it is the intellect which bears the word and it is the world which is its reflection" (MOTT).

Who is right? Boxers or briefs?

"Let us not prostrate ourselves either before the world or before the intellect, but let us prostrate ourselves in adoration of the common source of both the world and the intellect -- God: God whose Word is at one and the same time the 'true light that enlightens every man coming into the world' and the creator of the world -- 'all things were made through him, and nothing that was made was made without him" (MOTT).

The source of both world and intellect is the Word, or Logos, "whose objective manifestation is the world of prototypes underlying the phenomenal world, and whose subjective manifestation is the light or prototype of human intelligence." You see, the universe meets in the middle of the monkey, and you are the monkey in the middle of it all.

This formula resolves many philosophical pickles and arms us against many potential falls. For example, our scientistic jester would presumably say that a random contingency which can have no ultimate reality in his system -- the human subject -- is able to affirm valid knowledge of reality, which, as soon as one actually thinks about it, makes no sense.

Therefore, one must not think in order to continue believing it; or else engage in counterfeit thought. But why bother thinking anyway, since the subject isn't really real?

Nor could objects be really real, in the sense that we couldn't really know them. Not really. Rather, we would be trapped in Kant's phenomenal world -- ultimately just our own nervous system -- with no access to the noumenal. But with the Hermit's approach, both objects and the subject who knows them become really real, since they become real in the Word. In turn, assimilating this reality into the Word is to "redeem the world."

*For those who don't know, the "Herman" in the title refers to one of our founders, Herman Hildebrand.

To be continued....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

By the Power Vested in Me, I Declare Myself God

In Letter VII, the Chariot, our Unknown Friend -- although we are getting to know him better -- tells us that this arcanum has to do with that most subtle temptation, spiritual temptation.

It is subtle -- or tricky, cunning, and devious -- because the temptation results from one's very spiritual success, or one's interior freedom of movement, so to speak: "It is the temptation to act 'in one's own name,' to act as master instead of servant." Virtually the entire new age movement is ruled by this particular temptation.

This is why all authentic spiritual paths begin and end with moral development. If they sometimes exaggerate man's depravity, this is far preferable to its opposite -- the unqualified glorification of man -- since one of its purposes is to prevent the spiritual inflation that occurs when spiritual energies are mingled with the unredeemed man, a la Deepak and his ilk. Again, when this happens, one creates a demon, a monster. And it only happens again and again and again.

Schuon said something to the effect that man tests his faith by renouncing, while God tests it by removing. Renunciation has the practical effect of opening up a space where ego activity would otherwise be. Elsewhere in the book, UF says that while nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit requires one. This is in conformity with one of Meister Eckhart's recurrent themes:

"If this work is to be done, God alone must do it, and you must just suffer it to be." Nothing so resembles God "as the human soul. For this reason God wants this temple cleared that he may be there all alone.... Thus, to be receptive to the highest truth and to live therein," we must be "empty and free, receiving the divine gift in the eternal Now, and bearing it back unhindered in the light of the same," AKA the coonspiration of (↓↑).

Here again, the inverse of this would be to furiously deepak our own chopra and spank the Darwinian monkey via The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, or Creating Affluence, or Reinventing the Body, or Unlocking Your Potential For Greatness. He seems to have sold an awful lot of these books. So where are all these great people with reinvented bodies? By all rights we should be crawling with them.

To the extent that Chopra's magical ideas "work," it is because they harness -- or create, rather -- demonic energy. And to the extent that they continue working, it will depend upon how thoroughly one has vanquished the uncreated conscience -- i.e., become less than human, not more.

This is another example of the "negative transcendence" discussed in yesterday's post, and which is intrinsically fascist -- not in the usual insulting way, but literally, since it promises a new glorified man brought to you by... the old unredeemed man. It never works. See 20th century for details.

In a relativistic universe in which there is no difference between up and down, one may become a "superman" merely by obeying gravity. This is why Chopra is apparently regarded as a "wise man" by thousands, instead of the spiritual cancer that he is. For as UF says, "it is not desire which bears magical realization, but rather the renunciation of desire."

Or, one might say, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." One must not saturate the space where vertical energies operate. Rather, one must get out of the way.

Here is the key point: "For some the superman has more attraction than the Son of Man, because he promises them a career of increasing power, whilst the Son of Man offers only a career of 'foot washing.'" The ego obviously prefers the way of the superman, and it is to the power-seeking ego which all false teachers and deviant paths appeal.

UF writes that the best curative against spiritual inflation is worshipping that which is above us, which serves as a reminder of the distance between us and the goal. We must not confuse "what we are" with who or "what the worshipped being is."

True enough, in the ultimate sense "all is God." However, it is more accurate -- or less inaccurate -- to say that "nothing is not God." Nevertheless, to paraphrase Schuon, it does one no good to affirm that "I am one with God" until one appreciates the extent to which one is not. Two comes before Three and One.

UF writes that since the purpose of spirituality is the cultivation of height, depth, breadth, and profundity within the soul, inflation is the principle danger for all who would embark upon this path.

As such, this is why there is such an emphasis "on the cultivation of humility," for example, in remaining obedient to orthodoxy (or to the true Master), of systematic and continuous "examination of conscience," and on "the reciprocal brotherly help of members of the community." "Authentic experience of the Divine makes one humble; he who is not humble has not had an authentic experience of the Divine."

This, by the way, is the meaning of the true community of which left wing statism is a caricature. As Russell Kirk writes in Eliot and His Age, the left imposes an exteriorized welfare state that crushes the soul and robs man of his dignity rather than undertaking "the hard and austere labor of thinking through a program for restoring true community."

And because they are "progressive," they actively sever the living link between present and past, the result being that communion with our priceless repository of accumulated wisdom is impossible. To put it another way, the idea of linear "temporal progress" denies the spatial mode of civilization, the psychospiritual "container," womb, or matrix that has nurtured the West for several millennia.

President Obama is suffering from the identical spiritual inflation as Chopra. Note how UF saw him coming half a century ago:

"The reformer who wants to correct or save humanity easily falls victim to the temptation of considering himself as the active center of the passive circle of humanity. He feels himself as the bearer of a mission of universal significance, therefore he feels himself to be more and more important."

And why not, with deeply disturbed creatures such as this serving as his herald:

"You really only get a handful, a smattering, maybe three or four per lifetime if you're lucky or blessed or just so happen to be paying the right kind of deeper karmic attention. Historic events, I mean. Major shifts, upheavals, great leaps forward [!!!!! -- ed.], the Thing That Changed Everything.

"President Obama will be just such a shift, an extraordinary marker, a type and flavor of history that we as preternaturally jaded humans rarely get to experience anymore.... the sheer volume of expansive energy surrounding Obama's run has been absolutely astonishing, a global outpouring of positive interest and awareness like almost no other leader, no other potential slap of progress we've experienced in modern American history. From the international headlines down to the forgotten corners of our own culture we normally never hear from, the message is the same: Something is about to upend. Something seems like it's about to give way."

Yes, something is about to give way (and be taken away) alright. With an Obama presidency, we will now be governed by those least capable of governing themselves, which is a recipe for hell. [Say, how'd that work out, anyway?]

It would not be too difficult to name some politicians whose influence and impact agree very well with the classical concept of the "black magician." Indeed, is it difficult to name politicians who have exercised a deadly, suggestive influence on the popular masses, blinding them and inciting them to acts of cruelty, injustice and violence, of which each individual, taken separately, would be incapable... and who, through their semi-magical influence, have deprived individuals of their freedom and rendered them possessed? And is not this action to deprive men of their moral freedom and to render them possessed the aim and very essence of black magic? --Meditations on the Tarot

Or, if you prefer, straight from the hoser's mouth:

[T]he speech worked such magic.... In essence Sen. Obama's speech said, "I am America," and amazingly enough, people from all walks of life, political persuasions, faiths, and ethnic backgrounds believe him.... Watching cynical reporters and political commentators believe in him almost instantaneously is breathtaking.... If Barack Obama makes it all the way to the White House, it will represent a quantum leap in American consciousness....

True enough, but quantum leaps are not unidirectional.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Between Thought and Expression

Between thought and expression lies a lifetime. --Lou Reed, Some Kinda Love

That pregnant line pretty much encrapsulates the horror of totalitarianism, for what is the latter but a wall between thought and expression?

In the free world, between thought and expression lies exactly one lifetime. Or, the time of one's life consists in the expression of one's thought, precisely, i.e., the actualization of the soul's potential.

And even then, the time one is allotted couldn't possibly contain the expression, which is more or less "infinite." For example, had Mozart lived to 70 or 80 instead of 34, he would have no doubt continued transforming musical thought into sonic expression. It is not as if he -- or it -- would have run out. But he could have also lived to 200 or 300, and we could say the same thing.

Except that if such were the case, works of genius would be so common as to be completely disposable. A play by William Shakespeare would be as rare as a film by Adam Sandler, or a post by some logorrheic spiritual blogger.

There seems to be a cosmic sense of proportion guiding these matters, so that works of genius are accessible without being too common or too rare. To put it another way, in any aesthetic endeavor, 99% of what one encounters will be crap. But if the figure were less than that, we would soon have a glut of excellence, thereby deflating its value.

Back to this question of the nature of totalitarianism. Applied to Lou Reed's formula, we might say that between thought and expression lies a.... state. Or, authority, which is to say, raw power. Or sometimes the means of expression, say, literacy, or a printing press, or the internet. Any totalitarian system must control access to information. Just as it was a crime to teach a slave to read, free access to the internet is forbidden in the totAllahterrorist world.

Perhaps the most concise way of saying it is to reverse the terms: between thought and expression, a lifetime of lies.

This is indeed the peculiar thing about totalitarianism, and what distinguishes it from mere tyranny (or from contemporary authoritarian states).

Think of ancient Rome, for example. As far as they were concerned, you were free to think what you wanted, so long as it didn't threaten state power. There was no need for the tenured to come up with fancy ideologies to legitimize the lust for power, or to reach into the individual soul and try to control its very existence. No one was crucified for political incorrectness, nor were there any low-tech lynchings for having racially impermissible thoughts.

Therefore, one cannot say that a Stalin, a Hitler, a Castro, simply wanted "power." That they already had. For some reason, they also wanted to refashion man by controlling him from within. There was nothing logical about this, because if anything, it only made the regimes more fragile instead of more robust. After all, National Socialism lasted only a dozen years, the Soviet Union less than seventy (ironically, a "lifetime"). By closing off thought in this manner, there is no way for the soul to "let off steam." One either goes insane, numbs oneself (say, with drink), or becomes a rebel.

"The most totalitarian regime is the one where the penetration of the regime into the soul of the individual is complete." Taylor adds that "the people must be made to want what they are allowed to have or to behave as if they want what they have." Therefore, there is always a "pretend" element in totalitarianism, at least until one convinces oneself that the Lie is the Truth. One then lives in "an ideological universe of lies," but no longer recognizes it as such.

I should add that this can be a very subtle process, especially in the non-totalitarian west, where ideology, for the most part, isn't imposed, but rather, seduces and hypnotizes.

For what is ideology but a substitute reality, or anti-world? It is a pseudo reality, like scientism, or materialism, or leftism, something superimposed on the world. Eventually the world is no longer perceived at all. Either it is filtered through the ideology, or critical aspects of reality excluded by the ideology aren't even seen (say, the spiritual world).

I am reminded of a story about a visitor to Moscow who was standing in front of a large Orthodox cathedral. He looked down at the official government map in his hands, but the church was nowhere to be seen. It was forbidden by their ideology to exist.

That is a very ham-handed example of denying reality. But think of the multitude of realities that are forbidden to exist by political correctness. Ironically -- I guess -- there is nowhere in America where thought is more constrained than on a university campus. Between thought and expression lies... speech codes!

Any liberal democracy -- indeed, the very essence of liberalism -- is grounded in the opposite principle: that freedom of expression is the essence of our humanness. Between thought and expression is... everything. It is the potential space -- the transitional space -- where we spend most of our timelessness (assuming we are truly "alive" in the human sense).

One might say that between 〇 and (¶) lies not just a lifetime, but eternity, precisely. It is where we compose our lifetome.

Now, what is totalitarianism but a false absolute? If one's thinking is constrained by any absolute except the Absolute, then one is living under auto-totalitarian rule.

In fact, perhaps totalitarianism is "evoked" by the madness of relativism. Totalitarianism is a solution to a very real problem of modernity, that is, the sundering of a unified worldview into facts and values, quantities and qualities, vertical and horizontal. Totalitarianism "heals" that split -- or, more accurately, stitches the wound closed with barbed wire.

Since man was not made to exist in such an absurd and unintelligible world of absolute relativity -- and to the extent that he rejects the perennial wisdom that articulates the Absolute -- then he will be susceptible to the lure of the false absolute, i.e., the "totalitarian temptation."

This helps to explain the novel emergence of the political religions of the 20th century -- and why public enemy number one of any state religion is always real religion, whether one is talking about communism, Nazism, or the ACLU. If one has ever read a gimme letter from the ACLU, their immorality always comes clothed in a hysteric veneer of moral urgency and crisis -- the perpetual crisis of conservatives who don't want an intrusive state between thought and expression.

Reminds me of Himmler, who, in delivering his speeches to the elect, always did so in the heat of great "moral exhortation." With this kind of stark cosmic inversion, Taylor observes that "We are outside of the human realm..., as though standing before a negative transcendence" (emphasis mine).

This is the very definition of the demonic, in that "these acts were carried out in the name of a good, under the guise of a moral code." And this was a strict moral code. For example, one of the authors notes that German soldiers who routinely murdered Jews were punished if they were caught stealing cigarettes from the corpse.

(This brings to mind Taranto's column yesterday [last story], which stresses the importance of wearing a condom if you are going to have sex with an animal. This is precisely the kind of absurd morality that exists in a scientistic world of negative transcendence.)

As Himmler urged his men, "If we do not find this moral connection, which is the deepest and best connection because it is the most natural, we will never rise to the level necessary to defeat Christianity and to constitute this German Reich, which will be a blessing to the entire world.

"For thousands of years, it has been the duty of the blond race to rule the world and always to bring it happiness and civilization." Emphasis mine, because note the extreme irony of Germans depicting themselves as the chosen people who have the extreme burden of bringing happiness and civilization to the world.

And it was a burden for those poor Nazis. In another address, Himmler said that extermination of the Jews "for those who carry it out is the hardest and most difficult thing in the world." Nevertheless, "I think I can say that this was accomplished without our men or our officers suffering because of it in their hearts or in their souls. Even so, this was a real danger."

I think it is accurate to say that the underlying purpose of ideology is to render the wrong right and the lie truth. It magically allows the means to justify the ends, since the utopian goal is so beautiful.

While there is always a strong element of this in contemporary leftist statism and bureaucratic socialism, there is also the converse: the means justify the end.

What I mean by this is that leftists are not interested in the actual results of their policies. Rather, the policies are always self-justified by the good intentions behind them, for example, forcing banks to make loans to unqualified borrowers, which is at the epicenter of our current economic woes (that and the inevitable day of wreckening for European socialism, since you can toss out economic reality with a pitchforked tongue, but it always comes roaring back; and oddly enough, the burden is once again on the Germans).

To be continued...

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.