Tuesday, April 24, 2012

De-divinization, Dehumanization, and Radical Stupidity

The question of spiritual pathology is again tied in with the issue of universality, for only if man has a specific definition can there be deviations from that definition. Only if man is truly one can he fall short of his own manhood. And if man isn't essentially one, then truly, it is every man for himself.

In Hitler and the Germans, Voegelin asks the questions, "When was man as such discovered?" and "What was he discovered to be?" He focuses on two specific historical places and situations, which we might abbreviate as Athens and Jersualem.

For here we have two points "where what man is was experienced," followed by a generalization -- or universalization -- that becomes "binding on all men."

Thus, for example, a direct line can be drawn between these two points and our own "political genesis," which affirms that "all men are created equal." Note again that this is a definitional (and ontological) statement, in that it goes to what man "is." And it is obviously universal, in that it applies to all men at all times.

In what we are calling Athens, "man was experienced by the philosophers of the classical period as a being who is constituted by the nous, by reason."

Which is fine as far as it goes, but it is not enough to define man in his essence and totality. From Jerusalem (short for Israelite society) we have the additional experience of man as a "pneumatic being who is open to God's word." Man is the being to -- and through -- whom the Spirit speaks, with all this implies (i.e., truth, beauty, virtue, nobility, objectivity, etc).

Thus, "Reason and spirit are the two modes of constitution of man, which were generalized as the idea of man." This is a -- the -- definitive definition of man, because it cannot be surpassed, only fallen short of. Emphasizing one over the other, or one to the exclusion of the other, results in man being maimed at his ground and center: the dry rot of Moscow or the wet rot of Teheran.

Consider the French Revolution, or the leftist regimes of the 20th century, which started with very different definitions of man, ones that exclude his pneuma in general and his deiformity in particular.

Ironically, these latter are defined by the regimes in question as the essence of pathology: religion as opiate or mask for illicit power. Thus, before the guillotine falls or the gulags open for business, man is decapitated and imprisoned in an environment intrinsically hostile to man as such -- in which there is no spiritual oxygen, food, or water. And as he dies spiritually, he loses contact with the spiritual per se.

Now, it is not just that man is characterized by nous and pneuma, or intellect and spirit. Rather, it is obvious that neither of these could be their own sufficient reason.

Rather, they relate to something that precedes them, just as the wings of a bird relate to the surrounding atmosphere. And just as we don't expect to find wings in environments where flight is impossible, or eyes where there is no light, we don't expect to find intellect where truth is impossible, or pneuma where the spirit doesn't dwell.

So nous and pneuma are intrinsically related to their own sufficient reason, which is another way of saying that they are open to reality in a self-transcending manner. In each case, we reach out "beyond ourselves toward the divine in the philosophical experience and the loving encounter through the word [logos] in the pneumatic experience..."

For Voegelin -- and for Schuon -- this participation in the divine reality is the source of man's dignity. Thus, any definition of man that falls short of what we have outlined above, is always an assault on man's rightful stature: "The loss of dignity comes about through the denial of the participation of the divine, that is, through the de-divinization of man."

This is a key principle in how tyranny follows, because "dedivinizing is always followed by dehumanizing." Dedivinizing has enormous consequences, which maim not only spirit but reason, as history proves time and again. For "in both cases there occurs a loss of reality," and "if one closes oneself to this reality, one possesses in one's range of experience less of this part of reality, this decisive part that constitutes man."

Now, the divine reality doesn't just "disappear," any more than unconsciously repressed thoughts no longer exist. Rather, something must be elevated to the absolute, usually man. For Voegelin, this represents the essence of the problem of Hitler: 1 Dedivinization, 2, Dehumanization, 3, Endivinization of man. Hitler is the dedivinized, dehumanized, and endivinized man par excellence ("endivinize" is my term).

Bear in mind that we need to understand the universal principles beneath a Hitler, because if we focus only on his particular instance, we will be unable to learn anything intelligible, i.e., with wider application.

For example, in contemporary America we are ruled by what might be called an intellectual "rabble-ocracy," consisting of men who have lost contact with divine reality and who presume to appropriate more of our freedom on that basis.

But since they did not give us our freedom -- for it is a gift of the creator -- they have no right to diminish it in this crude way. That they feel they may do so is only further evidence of their loss of contact with reality resulting from their own self-maiming.

This is what Voegelin calls "radical stupidity." Again, it is not an insult, but a term of art. It refers to a man who, "because of his loss of reality, is not in a position to rightly orient his action in the world."

In short, "when the central organ for guiding his action, his theomorphic nature and openness toward reason and spirit, has ceased functioning, then man will act stupidly." And this stupidity will always result in increased societal disorder, because the radically stupid -- the stupid radicals -- are attempting to navigate with a map that is all wrong. If one has a defective image of reality, how could disorder not follow?

Another critical point, and one that is ably conveyed by our troll: that is to say, with the loss of reality comes the inability to speak of it, or to understand what is being said when others speak of it. Thus, "parallel to the loss of reality and to stupidity there is always the phenomenon of illiteracy."

Again, this has nothing to do with the mechanical ability to read and write, which virtually all westerners possess. Rather, it means that the illiterate in question will not be able to "express himself with regard to very wide ranges of reality, especially matters of reason and the spirit, and is incapable of understanding them."

In this regard, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion described a kind of "trinity of psychosis" revolving around aggressive stupidity, contempt, and triumph. Watch for it, because it is all around us.

To be continued....

14 Comments:

Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

just as we don't expect to find wings in environments where flight is impossible, or eyes where there is no light, we don't expect to find intellect where truth is impossible

In our individual evolution, Truth is a vital part of development of the organ of intellect.

Some folks think it's enough to just have a brain. There's the trouble.

4/24/2012 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes - in thinking that a brain is enough, the dedivinization begins. Much like saying that genes determine everything about a person. Either way, man is reduced to conscious matter, and of course matter can be manipulated any old way we please...

4/24/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Of course, if we don't mind,
it doesn't matter. . .

:o)

4/24/2012 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

man is decapitated and imprisoned in an environment intrinsically hostile to man as such -- in which there is no spiritual oxygen, food, or water

Cf. http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1349244?eng=y

"fully 59 percent of the world's population today lives with 'high' or 'very high' levels of restrictions on religious freedom"

Not all such restrictions are bad. Restrictions on Islamic beheadings are, we should think, rather good.

Who suffers most? Evidently, it's Christians.

sicut dixit

4/24/2012 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Dedivinizing has enormous consequences, which maim not only spirit but reason, as history proves time and again.

I was just thinking about this this morning.

They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground.

They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
(Psalm 74:7-8)

The intent was to deny the people of God their identity as a people. In the resultant chaos and despair, the godless hoped to dominate and control.

4/24/2012 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

It's amazing that Israel continued to dedivinize and endivinize itself, but it's even more amazing that God continued to shape that process, faithful as ever.

Finally, he laid Christ down as the bridge to himself not only to Israel but to all humanity. And we still refuse to walk across it! We even burn it! How many times have we ignored it, tested it skeptically, dumped stuff on it, talked it down, cut its suspensions, burnt its planks, and made it suffer countless little cruelties and neglect because ... why? Because it wasn't OUR bridge? Because we FELT bad? Because we couldn't SEE the other side clearly enough? Because we COULD?

Narrow is the way.

But even if religious freedom is restricted everywhere, the way is still open to every human heart.

The godless DO dominate and control, but they cannot touch our essence. God remembers his people, and he will remember them into resurrection.

4/24/2012 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

By the way, along these same lines, the C.S. Lewis blog has been doing a series on the Space Trilogy, especially That Hideous Strength.

4/24/2012 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

unearthed photo
Happier Days

4/25/2012 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Note again that this is a definitional (and ontological) statement, in that it goes to what man "is." And it is obviously universal, in that it applies to all men at all times."

Bill Clinton says: "Nuh-ah! Doesn't apply to me! You see, it depends upon what your definition of...."

Of course, if you don't know what a Man is, then 'IS' is right out of the question.

4/25/2012 05:58:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Thus, "Reason and spirit are the two modes of constitution of man, which were generalized as the idea of man." This is a -- the -- definitive definition of man, because it cannot be surpassed, only fallen short of. Emphasizing one over the other, or one to the exclusion of the other, results in man being maimed at his ground and center: the dry rot of Moscow or the wet rot of Teheran."

One of the prime ways to fall short of them both, is to search for their supposed causes, in a way that elevates those causes (mechanical, materialistic, natch) over what they supposedly caused... the search for an anti-principle that dissolves the thing sought, rather than one which deepens your understanding of that which is there to be found - if sought.

4/25/2012 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Ironically, these latter are defined by the regimes in question as the essence of pathology: religion as opiate or mask for illicit power. Thus, before the guillotine falls or the gulags open for business, man is decapitated and imprisoned in an environment intrinsically hostile to man as such -- in which there is no spiritual oxygen, food, or water. And as he dies spiritually, he loses contact with the spiritual per se."

Ok, I'd better stop before I repaste the whOle post... just wanted to see that again.

4/25/2012 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Somewhat OT, I concluded, ended, a year long conversation (of sorts) with someone yesterday, who can be summed up as "he dies spiritually, he loses contact with the spiritual per se", and equally so for intellectually... though of course he still aped the forms of both, but his real contact with them was knotted off and sealed with the most self-righteous of lies.

There was something not a little horrifying in the sense of righteous indignation which his preferred lie (that his blackness innoculated him against the racism which every white person is knowingly or unknowingly infected with - another of Obamao's Harvard professorsss students). There's something morbidly fascinating, from the point of view of a philosophical coroner I suppose, in seeing this seemingly functioning mind, that has been innoculated against reality, fiercely holding onto lies (and you can walk him through the truth of the lie, and still he denies it) as if they were salvational truth.

I'd known it was a lost cause for some time, but still had that hope that I could find that wiggle room in the knot for him, so that he could untie it from the inside, but this last made it clear that it was never even up to being a lost cause:

"I would hope to make a seemingly fellow intellectual understand that his being white is dispositive . Not only are you white but you're white in relationship to my being black which gins up some very worthy points of interest in this beloved country. "

What's really weird is that phrases like 'fellow intellectual' and 'honorable' he sprinkles about often, Screwy Louie-like, not for what they say about whoever he's talking about, but for the light he feels they cast upon him. Through a glass darkly....

This guy has a high level, well respected place in his community, and he is spreading the De-divinization, Dehumanization, and Radical Stupidity of his political faith, far and wide.

This year is going to be one for the history books.

4/25/2012 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, wow, Van. That's really a shame - obviously, the guy is literate and intelligent, but then again he's not. And it has nothing to do with color, but rather the willful blindness in assuming that his skin color and yours must necessarily make you at odds.

I've seen this mindset in my own family, too. The trouble is, certain experiences become taken for universal: this particular white person had a problem with that person's blackness and treated them poorly: this white person must represent how all white people feel, if not openly then secretly.

Once someone gets locked into that mindset, it's very hard if not impossible to shake them out of it.

4/25/2012 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger yikes said...

When humans developed the ability to choose between good and evil it made them a step higher.

4/26/2012 12:25:00 AM  

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