No One is Abnormal if there's No Such Thing As Normality
This whole business of coming to you "live" has been much on my mind lately, being that so many of us are soul-dead before our time. How does this happen? How is it that people can come into the world so vibrantly alive, only to be captured and domesticated by the conspiracy? Most people are lucky to make it to eighteen still half-alive, but then college finishes them off.
Frankly, this is something I've thought about ever since I was capable of thought. I won't bore you with details, and besides, only boomers of a particular age will relate. But if you are of that age, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that when the Beatles descended upon us in February 1964, it was quite literally a religious experience.
And when I say "religious," I mean it in the original sense of the word, of binding one to the Ground. The upshot is that they communicated freedom, spontaneity, joy, irreverence, and humor, in a way I had never seen adults do. I mean, my parents were decent people, but they never seemed to really be enjoying themselves, my mother especially. But even beyond them, contact with the wider world of teachers, of Sunday School, of most classmates, of extended family, and of grown-ups in general seemed to confirm my prejudice.
These thoughts are being provoked by my reading of Voegelin's Hitler and the Germans, which considers the phenomenon from some angles I hadn't considered, but which strike me as "universal," in the sense that they pertain to a spiritual sickness in modern man as such, not just to the Germans who made Hitler possible.
And when we say "modern man," we have a specific definition in mind. That is to say, for the vast majority of human history, cultures were organized around a spiritual ground -- what Schuon calls "the idea of Center and the idea of Origin." Voegelin tends to be much more wordy and elliptical, so it is useful to refer to someone like Schuon, who is so compact and essential:
"In the spatial world where we live, every value is related in some way to a sacred Center, which is the place where Heaven has touched the earth; in every human world there is a place where God has manifested himself in order to pour forth His grace. And it is the same of the Origin, which is the quasi-timeless moment when Heaven was near and terrestrial things were still half-celestial." Thus, "To conform to tradition is to remain faithful to the Origin, and for this very same reason it is also to place oneself at the Center..." (Light on the Ancient Worlds).
Now, one needn't be a believer to acknowledge the truth of Schuon's observation: that this is how civilizations arise, orient themselves to the wider cosmos, establish meaning, and provide an excuse to go on being. And we all recognize that something unprecedented has occurred in world history over the past 300 years, resulting in man being ousted from the center and cut off from his origin.
"Atheist" is just another name for someone fully exterior to the Center and Origin. While he retains an attenuated interior, it floats meaninglessly over the surface of nature, untethered to anything but a dying carcass. In the groundless and dis-oriented mind of the atheist, this is only proper and fitting, since there are no such things as Ground and Center, or their common source in Being. We'll come back to him later.
In any event, we can all agree that ideas have consequences, including the dominant metaphysic of the day, which pretends to do without the Origin and Center. This is no abstract discussion, for it very much defines the essential difference between left and right.
For example, conservatives regard the Constitution as embodying the origin and center of our political life; as such, it has a timeless and quasi-sacred penumbra, especially since it is by no means free-standing, but is in turn rooted in the cosmic Origin and Center, AKA God: its very purpose is to preserve and protect the human rights that flow directly from our deiformity to the Center, i.e., those rights endowed to us by the Creator.
Alternatively, the left, in rejecting the Origin and Center, reduces the document to a man-made, time-bound, relativistic, and conventional contract between state and man; that being the case, we can read into or out of it anything we wish.
You could say that there are these two schools of thought on constitutional law, but it would be more accurate to say that there is one school of thought and one playground overrun with bullies. We'll know in a month or two whether there are four of five such judicial bullies.
Voegelin promulgates what was then a unique take on the Hitler phenomenon, in that he turns the question around and asks what it was about the German people that made such a stupid, vicious, and spiritually bereft assoul possible?
I do not intend to invoke Godwin's law this early in the morning, because this is not my point. But unless we can get away from the uniqueness of Hitler, we won't be able to learn anything from what happened, because it will be too particular, and the essence of wisdom involves the discovery of universals.
This is why I say that Obama is not our problem. You will note that the "birthers" seem obsessed with the idea that if we can only rid ourselves of Obama, then our problems will be solved. This is silly, for it leaves untouched the spiritual rot of a people who could elect such a half-educated and nasty but (so they say) charismatic demagogue.
From the beginning of my graduate studies, I had a particular interest in psychopathology, or one might say the "philosophy of psychopathology," or perhaps "meta-psychopathology." I've discussed this in the past, but before one can identify psychopathology, one must begin by defining health.
And health is completely tied in with teleology -- with final causes -- in that it essentially means that an organ is doing what it was designed to do. For example, the heart is designed to pump blood. Anything that interferes with that function -- atherosclerosis, hypertension, arrhythmias, etc. -- is pathological.
Therefore, before we address psychopathology, we must first understand -- either explicitly or implicitly -- what the mind is designed to do. The problem here is that modernity, in rejecting final causes, is powerless to define human health. Add to this the malignant sophistry of relativism, and mental health comes down to "feeling good," irrespective of whether one deserves to.
Let's take an obvious case just to illustrate the nature of the problem. Al Sharpton, from all outward appearances, seems to feel pretty good about himself. Therefore, as far as the mental health community is concerned, he gets a clean bill of health.
But why on earth should such a foul human being feel good about himself, much less be given a national platform to spew his toxins? By all rights he should detest himself as much as others -- i.e., spiritually normal people -- do. Again, one cannot address this issue in a meaningful way unless there is some purpose Sharpton has failed to fulfill as a person. And again, he is only the symptom of a much wider problem, i.e., the type of people who would hire him and seek his political imprimatur.
That is all for now. Just getting warmed up for what promises to be a deep discussion of some fundamental questions: the whole subject of pneumopathology, or spiritual illness.