Monday, January 02, 2012

The Tyranny of Normality

Is there anything else we need to say about The Fool before moving on to The World? Yes, I think so. In The Spiritual Ascent, Perry discusses divine madness, the seeming mindlessness of many of those "who have transcended the purely rational faculties."

The Creator himself must be crazy -- or at least out of his mind, in the sense that, in order for there to be an independent creation, it must be relatively separate from him. In this foolish way of looking at things, there is a "fall," so to speak, within God, from being to existence -- or perhaps from beyond-being to being, i.e., the apophatic to the cataphatic God, or Nirguna to Saguna Brahman.

This was the opinion of no less a gnut than Meister Eckhart, who observed that "God's idiosyncrasy is being" (quoted in Perry) -- Being being the first exteriorization, or precipitate, of the creative Godhead beyond being. Which is why, as Plato expressed it, "the madness that comes of God is superior to the sanity which is of human origin."

Now, typically, it is the extreme bhakta -- the God lover -- who most exhibits the symptoms of divine madness -- weeping, pining, carrying on. But the way of the Raccoon is to filter that same madness through the jnanic, or contemplative, temperament -- which results in the sort of irritating linguistic post-normality you have come to expect from Dear Leader. Rules of grammar, or spelling, or sentence construction -- well, we just don't care. But we always break the rules from above, never below. Like the fashion-conscious dapper Dan, it is acceptable to break a rule, so long as one is aware that the rule is being broken.

If one regards culture as a sort of boundary -- a necessary boundary, by the way -- anyone who does not stay within the lines will be regarded as an outlaw, a retrobate, a moron, or a fool, irrespective of whether they fall below or above its expectations. The One Cosmos troll, for example, suffers from a nasty case of chronic, even terminal, normality. A Normotic Personality Disorder, if you will.

As a matter of fact, back when I myself was hoping to join the ranks of the normies, I considered publishing a paper on this topic, because it is something one routinely encounters in clinical practice, not to mention day-to-day life. In a certain sense, to be "normal" is to be partially dead, unless one is aware of the fact that one is only behaving normally in order to "pass." In Coonspeak, "if you're not eccentric, you're wrong." But we do not necessarily advertise our eccentricity in the wrong circles. That's not proper madness, that's just stupidity. Why act the fool with people who'll just think you're nuts?

Perry cites the example of Omar Khayam, "whose wisdom clothed in frivolity is opposed to Pharisaism clothed in piety." Or, as Schuon put it, "if religious hypocrisy is possible, the contrary paradox must equally be so." In other words, if we were to pretend to be normal, we would be a rank hypocrite.

The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas coined the term "normotic personality," which might very well describe the anti-Coon. On the one hand, therapists routinely deal with patients who are limited by a weak sense of reality.

But just as often -- actually, more often -- one encounters people who, as Winnicott expressed it, "are so firmly anchored in objectively perceived reality that they are ill in the opposite direction of being out of touch with the subjective world and with the creative approach to fact" (quoted in Bollas; keep this in mind when we discuss the next arcanum, The World).

Bollas elaborates on the concept, describing "a particular drive to be normal, one that is typified by the numbing and eventual erasure of subjectivity in favor of a self that is conceived as a material object among other man-made products in the object world." Hence, the oft-mentioned spiritual autism of our scientistic jester -- and all such jesters who, ironically, are "anti-fools."

You might call it a "blank psychosis," in that, instead of positive symptoms -- e.g., delusions, hallucinations, etc. -- these people have only negative symptoms that are characterized by their absence. As a result, a person who has these non-symptoms will be the last to gnosis, since they are "not all there." In order for them to become sane, they must first "go crazy."

As Bollas writes, the normotic person may enter therapy because "they are unable to resolve that psychic pain which derives from the annulment of internal life. They are usually aware of feeling empty or without a sense of self, and they seek analytic help in order to find some way to feel real or to symbolize a pain that may only be experienced as a void or an ache."

Notice that in order for a person to feel real, they must live in the very opposite of what most people take to be "reality," that is, the objective or material world. One can also understand how this type of person could be prone to various forms of addiction and pseudo-addiction as means to gain a spurious sense of freedom and subjective reality -- to escape their cramped prison for a while.

Speaking of which, because of the intersubjective magic of counter-transference, when you are in the presence of this kind of individual, you will notice that they cannot help psychically infecting others with a kind of persecutory banality. This is the real reason why newspapers and TV news are so odious to the Raccoon. Can you imagine anything as stultifying as having, say, Rachel Maddow, or Keith Olbermann, or Katie Couric, instruct you on the nature of reality -- i.e., what is "important" and how we should interpret it? Whatever else the MSMistry of Truth is, it is a hell of pure banality.

Katie Couric is no doubt normal. But it is strictly insane for such a person to "feel good about herself." Her first step toward recovery would be to feel as repulsed by her banality as we are. In other words, in order to get well, she must first make herself sick.

"A normotic person is someone who is abnormally normal. He is too stable, secure, comfortable, and socially extrovert. He is fundamentally disinterested in subjective life and he is inclined to reflect on the thingness of objects, on their material reality, or on 'data' that relates to material phenomena." Tell him that a child needs a mother and father, and he'll say "show me the data." Tell him that "homosexual marriage" undermines the basis of civilization, and he'll say "show me the study."

The normotic personality has a particular affliction that prevents him from appreciating the irreducibly poetic, analogical, and symbolic nature of reality. Instead, they project their own psychic deadness into the world, and then insist that the world is as dead as they are. In turn, they re-introject what they have projected, which, psychically speaking, amounts to eating rocks and expecting to be nourished.

This is one of the reasons irreligious people often worship at the altar of art, because they idealize the artist as someone who has escaped this trap. I know people whose houses are filled with expensive art, but whose heads and hearts are full of kitsch. As Bollas says, "such an individual is alive in a world of meaningless plenty."

What makes the normotic person such a burden to be around is that they cannot help treating you in the same manner they treat themselves and their world. As a result, to bear their presence is to have to live outside the full spectrum of your own psychic life. You know what it's like to have to be around people who cannot possibly make contact with you. Since they cannot resonate with, or conform to, reality in all its richness, in order to get along at all, you must conform to them and their little reality tunnel. This is especially tragic for children who must amputate the greater part of themselves in order to cope with their normotic parents. Tristan has a friend whom it is painful to be around, because his mother is slowly sophicating him.

The normotic person lacks genuine introspection, and even has a kind of automatic defense mechanism that deflects such inquiries. Bollas: "Such a person appears genuinely naive if asked to comment on issues that require either looking into oneself or the other in any depth." It is frustrating to deal with such a patient, because they constantly bring the subjective back to the objective, from interior essence to exterior circumstance.

Such a person may outwardly appear "unusually steady and strong." But outside their comfort zone, they soon betray their shallowness, whether it is in a discussion of art, religion, film, literature, whatever -- anything that requires subjective depth, i.e., soul.

The normotic person forecloses the Mystery and reduces reality to the superficial laws and regularities he is capable of comprehending with his object-mind. But what person with a minimal amount of education can't shoot down the imaginative and mythopoetic formulations of exoteric religion with a kind of rigidly applied profane logic? What's the point? Why not pick a fight with a God who is not one's own puny size?

Look at the childishly literal manner in which the radical atheist interprets revelation -- as if transcendence is a thing, of all things! The figurative accounts for the literal, not vice versa, otherwise the celestial message would be trivial. But instead of going off the deep end, the self-enclosed atheistic believer goes off the shallow end, head first. Which, if it strikes the concrete bottom, may result in paralysis from the heart in and ego up. Or drowning in a few inches of water.

9 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

But we do not necessarily advertise our eccentricity in the wrong circles. That's not proper madness, that's just stupidity. Why act the fool with people who'll just think you're nuts?

Heh - yes, especially when said people are those to whom one is closest...

1/02/2012 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Maybe that's what's bugging me about Mitt.

"But what raised my eyebrows was when Romney offered a list of his favorite funnymen to Wolf Blitzer that featured "Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges ... even the Keystone Kops."

(Well, to be honest, it's more likely jealousy on my part.)

1/02/2012 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

All politicians pretend to be normal. Virtually all are weird inside, but not in a good way.

1/02/2012 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Hence, the oft-mentioned spiritual autism of our scientistic jester...

The lack of playfulness was what caused me to lose patience. To not be able to engage reality through imagination is beyond boring, almost frightening. It's as if my grandson turned to me and said, "The toys aren't saying those things, you are." I'd probably run screaming from the room.

1/03/2012 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In that case, you'll both appreciate today's post.

1/03/2012 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"This was the opinion of no less a gnut than Meister Eckhart, who observed that "God's idiosyncrasy is being" (quoted in Perry) -- Being being the first exteriorization, or precipitate, of the creative Godhead beyond being. Which is why, as Plato expressed it, "the madness that comes of God is superior to the sanity which is of human origin.""

And what of the person who never chooses to be? If you never choose to grasp the world, to identify yourself through your ideas of it, and conform their relations to what truly is, do you ever really come to be? If you pass on the opportunity to be 'born from above'... will you be? If there is another side,will you be there 'on the other side', if you never stepped out and up into it?

Thank God for the mid-wives.

1/03/2012 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"The psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas coined the term "normotic personality," which might very well describe the anti-Coon."

aka anonymous, or as normally identified when speaking, aninnymouse.

1/03/2012 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"This is one of the reasons irreligious people often worship at the altar of art, because they idealize the artist as someone who has escaped this trap. I know people whose houses are filled with expensive art, but whose heads and hearts are full of kitsch. As Bollas says, "such an individual is alive in a world of meaningless plenty."

Reminded me of a fellow I know who has expensive art, kitsch, nude pictures, paintings, figurines, gold & silver bars & coins, weapons, toys, books... just all splashed about through every nook and cranny of his house, which he considers to be very 'edgy' of himself – though if you said that he’d give you a blank stare and say ‘Edgy... why?’. He will deliberately treat the valuable and invaluable alike... he actively seeks to convert the outlandish into the very normal, by way of ostentatiously treating it unostentatiously.

A very knowledgeable guy, in the sense that he actually can 'show you the study' about nearly anything. He's always fascinating to talk with (or to be talked to by), but more so because of what you realize about what it was he said, must have actually meant, than by what he meant by it.

I can't think of a better way to describe him than "such an individual is alive in a world of meaningless plenty."

1/03/2012 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of which, because of the intersubjective magic of counter-transference, when you are in the presence of this kind of individual, you will notice that they cannot help psychically infecting others with a kind of persecutory banality."

And chaos ensues. There is no harmony or balance nor can there be when normies are infected with persecutory banality.

1/04/2012 05:23:00 AM  

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