Monday, April 16, 2012

No One is Abnormal if there's No Such Thing As Normality

This is Bob coming to you live on tape, since I'm writing this Sunday morning in anticipation of having to leave early for work on Monday. I wanted to throw in that disclaimer just in case anything about the post seems unusual, or has that "not so fresh" feeling. Although one day old, I can assure you that it was picked straight from the vine and then flash frozen, so only the most discriminating or finicky readers will be able to smell the difference.

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.

21 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

This is why I say that Obama is not our problem.

Yes, indeed. If the people as a whole were more, well, whole, they never would have picked such a rotten, empty vessel to head up the body of the state. And any improvement after he's gone (whenever that may be) will just be another bubble, unless the people finally develop the will to make some tough decisions and do away with all of the unnecessary and intrusive entitlements that are killing us.

4/16/2012 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ah - my first guess on the previous post was incorrect. Such a "scintillating" and misplaced rebuttal is more likely to have come from William, not the Hole.

Bravo for managing to come up with such a non-sequiter non-sequiter; how meta.

4/16/2012 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

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.

I've wondered about that, from time to time: what was it about those days that a concert or a band could produce such an extreme ecstasy in its attendees that girls were screaming, crying and fainting as though they had just met god face to face? Of course, there are those who still react (or pretend to react) that way, for instance the fainters during the '08 campaign season.

If you're right about the general joylessness of the preceding generation (and I suspect you are, for the most part), it ties in nicely again with what I've just been reading in Tomberg where he describes the process of degeneration:

"The concept of degeneration... is a transformation in the direction of hardening, with a corresponding loss of elasticity and the capacity for adaptation; it is the path from the spiritual to the earthly. The way of degeneration is that of a gradual sinking into earthliness. It is a matter here of a process of gradual exteriorization. For example, when the experience of the breath of God becomes morality, and morality becomes legality, and legality becomes a system of outer customs and conventions - then the process of degeneration lies unveiled before us. 'Spirit and life' arrive at the 'dead letter.'In this process of degeneration the 'how,' the technique, replaces the 'what,' the essence. Thereby the living organism goes the way of change into a corpse, i.e., the way that ends in a complete transformation of the living organism into a piece of the outer world."

In other words, relating back to the prevailing culture during the '60s, though people were living according to the letter, there was a distinct lack of spirit for which the younger generation thirsted; they found it in music, but it seems most of them didn't follow that spirit back to the source. They did, however, manage to follow the path of degeneration all too well...

4/16/2012 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"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?"

Well, the French did it during the Revolution and Terror without any help from a Hitler-type.

Some of it has to do with Fredrick the Great and Prussia. There's nothing that says "I love you" quite like Fredrick's father.

"Interested primarily in music and philosophy and not the arts of war during his youth, Frederick unsuccessfully attempted to flee from his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, with childhood friend Hans Hermann von Katte, whose execution he was forced to watch after they were captured."

So I'm certain that love was shared with the Prussian people.

4/16/2012 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

It pleases me that the traditionalists, who presumably believe modernity is Hell in a handbasket, have decided to publish _Light on the Ancient Worlds_ in Kindle format, at less than half price and instant availability.

4/16/2012 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

To put my previous statement in context, I believe that modernity has been providential materially. There is a certain irony in this that without the fruits of modernity, I would not have been here in the first place. A naïve belief in automatic progress, however, is as dangerous as an automatic belief in automatic regress, if not more so.

I remember noticing in my teen years that many products were re-issued in a slightly modified version with the word NEW as the sole reason needed. If it was new, it was necessarily better. I suppose this is what politics have come to these days. As in the famous button "Vote Anyone but Bush". They got that, eventually.

4/16/2012 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

There's a lot of material benefit to certain aspects of industrial civilization (modernity).

I think a number of issues in the past couple of centuries come from throwing way too much energy into a human system that can only do so much that is useful, from a pyscho-spiritual perspective, with it.

The *NEW* aspect of consumer culture was a result. The energy had to go *someplace*. Might as well go into random new and improved consumer junk.

We got a ton of free energy and had no idea quite what to do with it. So we solved the problem of material poverty. And we keep solving it, over and over again.

4/16/2012 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I confess to not having had a religious experience related to the Beatles. I mean I understand how it hit people who lived in other places and in the staid suburban culture where folks were civilized.

My parents -- my father in particular -- never "grew up". He was a totally responsible, hard-working man who would literally kick you off the top of a wagonload of hay -- while it was moving -- for a laugh.

We would have professionals paint signs with humorous and/or embarrassing things on them then we would sneak out at night and put them up in front of the houses or on the property of friends and family members. And they, in turn, would do it to us.

We would throw people into creeks, ponds, and mudholes. We would glue tools to whatever surfaces they were left on. We would spray paint livestock.

It was like growing up in a cartoon. I lived a blessed and wonderful childhood.

I talk quite a bit about the world I grew up in, and that's why. We were different. The Three Stooges and the Road Runner made perfect sense to me.

4/16/2012 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Right, that doesn't sound like OT. He just likes to be silly. We get along pretty well.

Unknown sounds more like a humorless and not-very-bright jackass. If it's not Villie, it's somebody about like him.

4/16/2012 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"Unknown sounds more like a humorless and not-very-bright jackass. "

Yea. The Atheist using Science as their religion have forgotten that all hypothesis and theories are really educated guesses based on data collected.

There is a kind of arrogance bordering on hubris that comes from these types - especially when dealing with anything Religious.

A true scientist would never make the broad brush stroke claim that God doesn't exist: That would become ... hubris (which has religious tones to it).

The closest that a scientist could come to saying that God doesn't exist - and still stay within the boundaries of their discipline is:

"I don't know".

I truly respect that agnostic scientist as they are being truthful. I vehemently despise (As you have noticed) the hardened atheist (the beguiled ones are okay) as I have come to distrust their motives.

God ----> Secular Humanism ----> Atheism ----> Moral Relativity -----> Nihilism.

The progression, if it is not reversed is quite clear. Bob is right about their spiritual decay.

4/16/2012 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."

A point which, if you can tolerate the sometimes caustic Randian acid washing of your prior conceptions, Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels does an excellent job of showing that Hitler didn't corrupt Germany, the ideas that Germany had embraced for a century, had already contorted the German people to the point that Hitler seemed an admirable fit for them... and in that flattened, centerless cosmos, corruption was a rose by any other name.

The ominous parallels are that those ideas have been ruling in full measure, for about a century now. When he wrote it, in the 1980's, he was roundly laughed at.

Today? Not so much.

4/16/2012 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Boo.

4/16/2012 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"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. "

And didn't that, doesn't that, show in graphic detail, how far from our center, what we perceive(d) as being the focal point, the excitable location, of what we see as our centers?

From the 'Centered' interior of the sphere, to a central point on the surface, an eye of the latest huricane, sweeping up our coasts... 'sound a fury signifying...' that it's demanding our attention now, but will be gone soon, and will be replaced by another soon enough.

Now that's man-made GlowBull warming.

4/16/2012 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "Well, the French did it during the Revolution and Terror without any help from a Hitler-type."

I think you might be forgetting about the variety pack which the French have in Marat, Robespierre, etc, and finally Napoleon. And while they were closer to the source, Rousseau (whose near absence from Rand & Co's assessments, with a near demonic targeting of Kant(who has plenty of blame to share, but I can't see the self aware and deliberate intent, they put upon him) indicates a certain thinness in their diagnosis), they were also closer to and still in direct contact with powerful antibiotics, such as Locke, and a cultural expectation of civility and manners (at least on the part of the rest of the western world, if not France) etc.

4/16/2012 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brett_McS said...

"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..."

And this is a straw man argument.

Mark Gillar, Dianna Cotter, etc don't think this; they just think they have the evidence on their side. They are level-headed people.

I would suggest more thought along the lines of how well has the Alinksy tactic of mocking opponents actually worked? Very well, it would seem.

4/17/2012 02:46:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Brett, perhaps I miss your point -- I always get confused when people start talking about strawmen -- but I think you might have missed something as well.

Bob is certainly not saying that Obama is not "a" problem and that voting him out or removing him from office via impeachment would not be a good thing. He is saying that if you still have 53% of the population shallow and stupid enough to vote this idiot in in the first place -- after he is gone, politically speaking -- you still have problems.

4/17/2012 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, if we cannot defeat his ideas, getting rid of him is just brief delay of our cultural suicide.

4/17/2012 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger Brett_McS said...

Mushroom and Bob: In plain language: The determined avoidance of the issue of Obama's origins (and its constitutional consequences), to the point of mocking people who do look into it (calling them silly etc) is playing into the Alinksy tactic of targeting opponents with ridicule.

Just on purely academic grounds I thought the issue would be worth researching. I'm sure future historians (say in Romney's second term) will find plenty to chew on.

As for me, I'm Australian, and our Prime Minister was born Wales. Even Mel Gibson could become our PM in the future, and he was definitely born in Hawaii.

4/17/2012 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Bret_McS said "And this is a straw man argument."

It's only a straw man argument if it was made to distract attention away from a central issue being discussed and onto a silly stand in, in order to knock that down, and evade and step around the real issue.

You might want to double check the post, and the quote you selected - neither were concerned with either Obamao's legitimacy, or the legitimacy of anyone who has rational, legitimate questions about his legitimacy. The term "birthers", in quotes, obviously applies to those fringe folks who really do think that replacing Obamao, will solve our problems.

Maybe from Australlia the nutters are somehow filtered out of view so you only see the legit folks. Here, that's not the case.

The quote you referenced does not direct attention away from anyone who has legit questions, in order to tar all questioners with the silly sauce, it is concerned with, and only references, those who have the silly idea that replacing Obamao will solve our problem.

In short, if there is a straw man here, you brought your own straw and built 'em from scratch.

4/17/2012 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I see what you are saying, but I took it more as a warning than as ridicule.

I would agree that Obama's past associations and affiliations have been studiously ignored by the media. I have heard sensible people put forth reasonable evidence indicating that the last birth certificate shown was altered from the original. Why that would be done, I have no idea, except that the truth somehow breaks down the narrative his handlers wish to create.

4/17/2012 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"The determined avoidance of the issue of Obama's origins (and its constitutional consequences), to the point of mocking people who do look into it (calling them silly etc) is playing into the Alinksy tactic of targeting opponents with ridicule."

I am one of those Birthers, Brett (note the labels' similiarity to 'Truthers' - who are truly nuts)

The evidence remains unrefuted - but considering how the Preisdent 'Doubled-Down' with his mocking tone and attitude and the manner in which we were ridiculed by the press, I (and probably all of us collectively) felt that it is now pointless to continue trying to pursue this point of contention as they hold the main information conduits under their control (minus various internet venues)

One thing I DO know because of this experience is that the Liberals, who have control of the Democrat Party & the Mainstream Media, are hostile to Mainstream America and that the America we have known as children is gone. The country has lost its "New World" freshness. What we tried to flee from in the Old World (and its Demons) are now here on our shores.

I expect 'History' to start occurring here someday and have become an even stronger advocate of the 2nd Amendment.

My Faith in the government has been lost.

4/17/2012 07:11:00 AM  

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