Obama, First President of the USA (Unthinking Swarm of the Alienated)
It's not that it's especially difficult per se (although he's not an easy read), but rather, that it's too rich, too full of implications to digest in more than small portions. It's as if one must pause after every paragraph in order to note the implications. One of the purposes of posting about these experiences is to explicate, metabolize, and assimilate the unThought implications -- or chew, swallow, and digest.
Note the word "experiences." Right away this should alert one to the fact that this involves a very different kind of reading, because a book that provokes experiential knowledge is quite different from one that conveys knowledge only, as do most works of nonfiction. In our symbolism, it is the difference between (k) and (n).
But one can't just leave it there, because the metabolism of (n) calls into play a different part of the being. This we call (¶). It is fair to say that Voegelin's whole project -- all 34 volumes -- revolves around the development of (¶). In fact, as we shall see, a true philosopher -- a lover of wisdom -- is none other than (¶). His polar opposite in the phase space of being would be (T), or tenureman.
Indeed, Voegelin has a lot to say about (T), none of it flattering but all of it memorable. It alone provides some fine insultainment.
For example, he wrote in 1973 of how philosophy -- which inquires into the nature of man in perpetual tension with the divine ground -- has been displaced by a banal "climate of opinion," and of how the changed climate of our universities "is hostile to the life of reason." However, "not every man is agreeable to having his nature formed by the 'climate,' or, as it is sometimes called, the 'age.'"
Recall that what we call (•) -- the empirical ego, more or less -- is precisely the part of us that is "shaped by the environment." Conversely -- or complementarily -- (¶) is shaped by encounters with the ground of being. The former is local, the latter nonlocal (and therefore timeless).
Thus, it is not so much that we eliminate (•), which we couldn't do anyway so long as we are in the world (the latter of which includes the material body). But nor should we call upon (•) to explore the nature of being, because to do so is to ask it to do something it was never designed to accomplish -- like asking the feet to grasp objects or the hands to chew food.
Thus, a modern university education "is the art of adjusting people so solidly to the climate of opinion prevalent at the time that they feel no 'desire to know." It is "the art of preventing people from acquiring the knowledge that would enable them to articulate the questions of existence." Predictably, this form of miseducation pressures "young people into a state of alienation that will result in either quiet despair or aggressive militancy."
If you think about it for a couple of seconds, I believe you will agree that Obama is our first president to have been exposed to nothing other than this soul-deadening climate of elite opinion, which is why he has no desire to know, no ability to formulate questions outside this peculiar climate, and a strident and militant agenda that fundamentally appeals to the "alienated," of which he is the leader.
Truly, Obama is president of the USA: Unthinking Swarm of the Alienated. The OWS movement is what an unthinking swarm of the auto-alienated looks like. And smells like.
The alienation is real, they're just confused about the source. After all, the material ego (•) cannot perceive or understand any reality that isn't material, hence the blind transformation of alienation into a material construct. Thus, they wish to occupy "Wall Street," not reality. This is a quintessential example of the superimposition of a second reality over the first -- of ø over O.
This is why the reactionary left cannot help but reduce all existential questions to (bad and dysfunctional) economics. But "even the spiritually and intellectually underpriviliged who live by the bread of opinion alone" know that something is wrong.
However, they are powerless to name it: "the educational institutions have cut them off from the life of reason so effectively that they cannot articulate the causes of their legitimate unrest." This closed and static pattern aggravates their pneumapathology, the only cure for which is an open psyche (nous or pneuma) in contact with the ground of being, O.
There is too much here for me to digest or even organize at this point, so I think I'll just review some of the essays, beginning with one called Immortality: Experience and Symbol. In it Voegelin discusses one of his key principles of religion, which is that the latter begins in religious experience that is codified via symbolism.
Thus, "the symbols in question intend to convey a truth experienced," or (n). Unlike conventional symbols -- i.e., (k) -- they "are not concepts referring to objects existing in time and space but carriers of a truth about nonexistent reality." As such, the symbols are meant to facilitate "a consciousness of participation in nonexistent reality."
And when he says "nonexistent," he doesn't of course mean "unreal," but rather, immaterial and transcendent. For example, the statement "all men are created equal" is not derived from any empirical observation, but is nonetheless real and true for all time. And it is true even if no one has discovered it, or if people have forgotten it.
One of Voegelin's great concerns is what happens when the reality from which the symbols derive their meaning has "disappeared." To be perfectly accurate, this reality -- O -- obviously cannot disappear.
But the symbols can lose their metaphysical translucency, especially when they are overly reified in such a way that they exclude experience of the engendering reality that brought them about. Then religious symbolism becomes a kind of empty shell, or shadow of itself.
But this is not the last indignity suffered by Truth.
For when "misunderstood as propositions referring to things in the manner of propositions concerning objects of sense perception" (k), this provokes "the reaction of skepticism" which runs the gamut from hysterical atheist revivalism to "vulgarian agnosticism" to "the smart idiot questions of 'How do you know?' and 'How can you prove it?' that every college teacher knows from his classroom" and every pneumablogger knows from his trolls.
To be continued for, oh, about six months....