Friday, September 21, 2012

When Narratives Fail

It's too bad the term "narrative" is being beaten to death, because it's such an important concept. I'm afraid it's going to become so sullied by cynics and political manipulators that it will be synonymous with "lie."

Human beings are innately oriented to narratives; in other words, we are "story tellers," and we were telling stories to describe and understand reality long before there was such a thing as science.

Indeed, human beings cannot live outside stories, which is why for many people science itself has become their new, all-encompassing narrative, i.e., scientism. Scientism is simply science transposed to the key of myth, and draws upon deeper energies of which the believer is unaware and for which he cannot account -- which only makes him more, not less, irrational (think, for example, of Al Gore and his florid religion of scientistic paganism).

As we have discussed in the past, a neurosis is a kind of private culture, while pathological cultures are a kind of public neurosis. For vivid evidence of the latter, look no further than the insane behavior of the Islamic world.

True, that represents public psychosis, but the principle is the same. Psychosis often involves neurotic symptoms "writ large," so to speak, which is why studying the completely insane can provide insight into the more subtle workings of the less insane.

To put it another way, the neurotic is superficially much better adapted to reality than is the psychotic, but this doesn't necessarily mean he isn't just as disturbed underneath. You'd be surprised at how many "functioning crazies" there are out there. Imagine two identical houses with cracked foundations, one of which collapses due to an earthquake. The other house is just as vulnerable, but it will look fine so long as nothing comes along to expose the weak foundation.

One thing that unites the world of Islam and the world of the left is massive narrative failure. Only when a narrative fails are we privy to the irrational forces that called the narrative into being. In individual psychology this failure is called "decompensation," which refers to a failure of psychological defense mechanisms. Most anyone can suffer decompensation under sufficient stress, i.e., trauma.

I routinely encounter traumatized individuals in my practice, and one near-universal feature is the breakdown of their personal narrative, so to speak. Once the trauma breaks down their psychic defenses, you never know what you'll find underneath. A previously well-enough functioning individual might be swamped by unconscious material related to previously repressed life events.

So a narrative is not something to be casually toyed with. For many people it is their life preserver, their link to sanity. We all know people with fragile narratives, people we must humor and avoid provoking. We intuitively know that they cannot tolerate too much poking around at the edges of their narrative. In other words, they are defensive, which you will experience as a kind of brittleness in their presence. So you indulge them, as you would a child.

Another way this fragility comes through is via intense aggressiveness. Some people will instinctively respond to any threat to their narrative with a display of hostility that tells you to back off.

We all know liberals of this nature, since it has become such a common feature. First they reduce everything to racism, or homophobia, or class warfare, or corporations, or misogyny, or Citizens United, or Gitmo, or some other object of hatred, and then become outraged. The prior distortion legitimizes for them the release of primitive aggression.

In psychoanalytic parlance this is known as a "corrupt superego," corrupt because it greenlights a sanctimonious attack based upon a willful distortion. In other words, moral aggression is fine, so long as we are angry at the right things and do not call good evil and evil good.

Obama is a fragile individual (for example, if he weren't so fragile he wouldn't have to be so grandiose, grandiosity being a classic defense). He cannot be pressed too hard, or he is exposed as the stammering bumblefuck he is. It is difficult to know how much of the media's protection of him has to do with an awareness of this fragility. As alluded to above, we normally respond to such a fragile individual by backing off, because we don't want to shame and humiliate him. If you have any compassion, it's painful to watch.

Yesterday Jorge Ramos ignored Obama's fragility and plunged ahead anyway, with predictable results. Imagine if Obama had had to endure years of this kind of frankly journalistic treatment (as did George Bush, and then some) instead of just a few minutes.

What we call "political spin" involves the conscious effort to repair a narrative that is fraying at the edges. The problem with Obama is that he has been such a massive failure that the attempt to spin it just looks insane (cf. die chairhundt D.W. Schultz). Thus his campaign is reduced to two more primitive defense mechanisms: diversion and aggression.

Back to this notion of narrative. Remember a few weeks ago, when Obama conceded that his only real failure as president had been the absence of a good story to tell us? In other words, the facts vindicate his policies, but he just needs to assemble them in the right sequence. But even if he had been successful in conjuring such a Likely Story -- as was, for example, FDR -- this wouldn't alter the underlying reality (any more than FDR's superior political skills changed the reality of his failed policies).

There is, however, another way out. As we know, religion is man's proper vertical escape hatch from this messy world.

Postmodern thought provides another, albeit pathological, way to fly past the constraints of reality. For the postmodernist there is nothing outside the text. For such an individual, everything is spin, because there is no separate reality outside the text. Therefore, politics really does come down to a cynical battle between narratives. The leftist knows that he is simply propagating a narrative, and assumes -- insists, really -- that we are too.

As we know, it is essentially impossible to have a rational discussion with such an individual, because they have undermined the very basis of rational discourse. This is another way of saying that you can't argue with a false god, only the real one.

63 Comments:

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Example? Only 15 Percent Of Democrats Believe Economic News Is Bad. That speaks of a rather robust narrative, almost impervious to reality.

9/21/2012 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Indeed. I was wondering about that too. Could some of it be the result of which dems they ask? ...for, some dems can afford this economy.

And then, there were some in the gulag, true believers, who never stopped believing.

9/21/2012 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

RE the Obama interview, did you notice his body language in the photo on Drudge right now. It is practically fetal position. Where his right hand is..

9/21/2012 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Our rich aunt asked us why we're conservative, since it goes against our economic interests. I told her our goal is to some day be wealthy enough to vote Democrat.

9/21/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

One effect of the inert Obama is that Congress is gaining power at the expense of the executive.

I can't tell whether this is positive or negative.

9/21/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Knees together, hand in place -- I'd say a little castration anxiety.

9/21/2012 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"wealth" by the way, has become a dirty word on the left. It used to mean: what's left over after expenses. As a conservative, this qualifies: one penny under my mattress after meeting payroll. Now it means: gold bars stolen from the poor.

9/21/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I actually think Romney or Ryan needs to re-explain what we mean when we say "wealth". Because I think the default dem hears "wealthy = more than you need... distribute?, yes, good."

9/21/2012 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"...moral aggression is fine, so long as we are angry at the right things and do not call good evil and evil good. "

Right tool for the right job. Yea.

9/21/2012 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh. Apropos, yesterday on FB I saw people quoting the Obama campaign's latest lament, that those mean Republicans blocked a bill for a billion dollars to help veterans find work. The Narrative then became that the only possible reason Republicans would do this is because they "can't bear to let anything good happen in this administration." No other possible reason was even considered.

I wanted to stand up and cheer when a couple of people jumped in to give perfectly good reasons why the bill was unnecessary and why it might have been shot down. It would be nice to think that the counter arguments might sink in, but I very much doubt it.

9/21/2012 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. The economic news, the same people i mentioned above are completely oblivious, somehow. They buy gas, they have a house they need to sell but can't, they're getting older but can't look forward to retirement... but somehow, they still believe the economy is doing just fine. Then again, they do watch MSNBC unironically...

9/21/2012 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not only can't the choom gang shoot straight, they can't even lie straight.

9/21/2012 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

I haven't posted anywhere in a while. Although I have been a regular reader here since forever. But I post on another blog caught me in a frisky mood.
Human Sexuality and religious Norms

It happens to deal with why religious conservatives have not embraced the sexual revolution. As if the sexual revolution was some sort of good in itself. Sheesh.

9/21/2012 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the Choom Gang, good grief. The saddest part is that his followers will believe him, being exceedingly unlikely to have ever heard of Fast and Furious in the first place.

9/21/2012 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

From a few days ago -- I thought this was encouraging:

Randy Newman writes new satirical, political song

Not the stupid song is encouraging, but the reaction in the comments.
When I first went to it when it was linked on Drudge on 18 Sept, there were nearly 2,000 comments. They seemed to be overwhelmingly in favor of how stupid the song was, and Newman for doing it and thinking it was something to be proud of. Again. And after all we know.

9/21/2012 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh: this is what happens when the narrative of the selfish, mean, greedy Republican fails: Outrage!!!

9/21/2012 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Now that Hillary has come out and stated (finally admitted) that the attack on the US embassy in Libya was a terrorist attack (not a spontaneous riot based on a movie), I wonder if the narrative will change ... just kidding - I don't wonder that at all. The 9/11/12 embassy attacks narrative is already yesterday's news and everyone knows that Romney reaction proved he's unqualified to be POTUS. Nothing more to see here - move along.

9/21/2012 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

An interesting set of graphs
that breaks down Romney vs. Obama through the lens of religion.

Most interesting is the graph on those stating "no religion".

9/21/2012 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Contra Rebels said...

Man, I know. It all reminds me of McCain's nonsense about the economy in 2008, desperately protecting a false narrative. My how things spin about!
Oh, wait. That can't be right. He was a "conservative".

9/21/2012 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Keep working on it. You'll make it to vapid.

9/22/2012 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Bob,

How are you? I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now, but I generally refrain from commenting. My interests include history, mythology, religion, philosophy of: religion, politics, and mind. Apologies for going off topic.

I am an ex-postmodern agnostic that discovered the teachings of Tradition and the Perennial Philosophy several years ago. Since then, the focus of my studies has centered on Catholic Christianity, resulting largely from my increasing acquiantance with the Church Fathers and, most importantly, with the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas.

Interestingly, I've noticed that most traditional Christians are hostile to the Primordial Tradition, quick to make the charge of pantheism, monism, or even gnosticism. For most Thomists that I have read, the Perennial Philosophy is often rejected on the grounds of being a modern variant of "eastern mysticism" and that Tradition is antithetical to monotheism by blurring the line that separates man and the Divine.

If I may beg your indulgence, do you think that there is, possibly, a problem reconciling the classical theistic traditions of the West with nondualism and the doctrine of the Self?

Thoughts?


Best Regards,


Cassiodorus

9/22/2012 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good question. Very complicated, though. I have a lot of ideas on the subject, but no time to dilate on them at the moment. Actually, we have discussed this issue in the past, both in posts and comments, for example, the idea that Traditionalism is ultimately founded upon a Vedantin metaphysic that then tries to fit all religions into it.

In general, I think there is no gainsaying the idea that Traditionalists -- their denials to the contrary notwithstanding -- elevate their own ideas above revelation itself, which will be a non-starter for Catholics. For example, they would say that the Trinity cannot be "highest" on a priori grounds, on the basis that "beyond being," or nirguna brahman, must be highest. They also have a lot of a priori occult ideas about the nature of time -- its inevitable deterioration, specifically -- that cannot at all be reconciled to Christianity.

More as I think of it....

9/22/2012 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for the speedy response. I apologize for dropping a very big and subtle subject on you from out of the blue.

..they would say that the Trinity cannot be "highest"...

Yes, Stratford Caldecott, the Catholic philosopher, discusses this issue in his "The Deep Horizon". I think I would be correct in saying that Advaita Vedanta represents the fullest exposition of the Perennial Philosophy. But, I find myself somewhat puzzled. With regards to the Abrahamic traditions, I was under the impression that Perennialists embrace a "schemata" that corresponds with Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The "level" of "beyond- being" (Nirguna Brahman) understood as that of the Othodox Essence of the Palamite Essence/Energies. But as I understand it, for the Orthodox, the Father, the First Person, is the Essence of the Trinity and therfore not "below" the Divine Principle.

I'm sure I'm quite muddle-headed on this matter. But, I must confess, since it was the Perennialists that lead me to the Christian tradition, I think it important to have a clear view on how the Great Tradition sits with the Transcendent Unity of Religions.

Your thoughts would be very much appreciated.

btw, take your time thinking about.

9/22/2012 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Our reader Warren has often weighed in on this subject, but he hasn't been around in awhile.

I agree with you that essence/energies is a good way to think about beyond being/being. In the west, Meister Eckhart is the most helpful. I highly recommend McGinn's The Man From Whom God Hid Nothing for the best elucidation of Eckhart's thought.

Personally I am convinced that ultimate reality is intersubjective and therefore not nondual, because otherwise God couldn't be love. This also means that Ramanuja is more correct than Shankara, which contravenes the traditionalists, but is fully in accord with Trinitarian metaphysics. I wish I could refer you to the posts that have discussed all this, but I wouldn't know where to start....

9/22/2012 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The Onion on the narrative.

9/22/2012 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

The Renaissance was the collapse of the God-civilization that preceded it. A civilization based on mythologized presumptions of what was traditionally conceived (not perceived) to be spatially and temporally behind and above the world. The Renaissance destroyed that earlier form of civilization.

With the Renaissance, God-myth-based civilization was replaced with human-based civilization, or ego-serving civilization. A civilization based on the myth of the presumed separate egoic self. The ego-based civilization came to its essential end in the twentieth century. That civilization idealized the presumed separate egoic self, and it ended with a world of Godless egos destroying one another.

That destructive course is in fact still happening, and it must be stopped. But it cannot be stopped merely by force. Nor by any kind of attempt to revivify the pre-Renaissance traditions, because they each, in their own way, helped to create the current disaster which is now being dramatized all over the planet.

9/22/2012 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

Which narrative now controls the world on a 24/7 basis?
What is easily the most powerful formative influence on human culture on a world-wide 24/7 basis? An influence which shapes the minds, bodies, and emotions of billions of human beings.

TV of course.

The "culture" created by TV is now on the verge of destroying humankind and even the Earth itself.

The human world created in the image of TV has thus become a kind of insane sporting event, at which people threaten one another and carry on in an insane manner. It is madness, a now everywhere dramatized collective psychosis.

That absurd soap opera actually controls the destiny and experience of the total world of human beings. That soap opera is, in its root disposition, totally indifferent to human life, and to the world altogether.

The handling of any kind of real business is not being done. Everybody is always on the brink. The daily "news" is that. Everyone's daily life has become something like an insane sporting event, that is played to the death. The human world of now-time is like colossal Reality-TV. A dreadful mini-series, a few weeks until death.

If this collective insanity continues unchecked, the present time of human history will be the end of human time.

9/22/2012 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

That reminds me, we haven't had any comments from William lately...

9/23/2012 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Fred: The election is only for president, not savior. If you want to live in a medieval, god-based culture, move to Saudi Arabia or the mountains of Pakistan.

9/23/2012 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Frederick,

The question of worldview has been on my mind ever since my first real thinking during adolescence. I think there is quite a bit of truth to the scathing critique that Rene Guenon made with regards to modernity. I do believe that Solzhenitsyn presented a similar point of view at his Harvard address in the late seventies.

Nevertheless, I, personally, am somewhat conflicted and confused about the significance of what brought modernity into full swing- the Enlightenment. So much of what we today called conservatism is, of course, the core features of classical liberalism. I'm reluctant to say that limited government, free enterprise, due process, rights etc. were not advances and not a natural consequence of the Judeo-Christian worldview

I have always been something of a traditionalist at heart- the spirit of the ancien regime must have been planted in me by writers such as Tolkien and Lewis. The importance of justice and the defense of the meek, the antagonism to industrialism and commercial civilization and non-spiritual values all led me to align with postmodern liberalism because it was anti-modern. (I was sure in for a surprise.)

The "socialistic" development in the modern world seems like an attempt to recapture what was lost from the pre-modern world- a sense of belonging. If there is one thing that characterizes the dark side of modernity, I would say it is alienation. Once humanity expelled the Divine (I think it was Whitehead who said the universe was disqualified), all that remains is the sentimental pseudo religion of man. Spirituality becomes psychology.

But, I must confess, to the young person, the humanism of secular monist materialism is difficult to distinguish from authentic metaphysical humanism. Yes?

9/23/2012 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The problem with (capital T) Traditionalists is that they ignore the actual reality of what it was like to live as a human being in ancient or medieval times. They project a kind of sanitized fantasy onto it, and ignore the horrors, degradations, and miseries. They also overlook the fact that man is man wherever you find him, and that he will always manage to screw things up, even if you put him in paradise. It just makes them sound bitter, cranky, and incapable of appreciating the liberating miracles of modernity. Anybody can complain, and being unhappy is easy. See liberals for details. Also, for the record, Guenon had many fine things to say, but he often comes across as a clinical paranoid.

9/23/2012 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Secular humanism and religious humanism are quite distinct. That's another discussion we had some time ago, I think here.

9/23/2012 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Julie-

I had quite given up on the Onion, as it just didn't seem to have the same unsparing satirical bite anymore. This might have begun...hmmm, now let see here...just about 4 years ago or so.

Plenty of Biden gags. No problem there. Shooting fish in a barrel. Otherwise they appeared to have lost their nerve--by deeming our current President "off-limits" except to make "jokes" like this.



9/23/2012 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Fredrick says:

"The Renaissance was the collapse of the God-civilization that preceded it. A civilization based on mythologized presumptions of what was traditionally conceived (not perceived) to be spatially and temporally behind and above the world. The Renaissance destroyed that earlier form of civilization.

With the Renaissance, God-myth-based civilization was replaced with human-based civilization, or ego-serving civilization. A civilization based on the myth of the presumed separate egoic self. The ego-based civilization came to its essential end in the twentieth century. That civilization idealized the presumed separate egoic self, and it ended with a world of Godless egos destroying one another."

I think you have to engage in some existential cultural hypomania in order to further develop.

Individualism is one of the great spiritual products of the west.

The Rennisiance didn't "destroy" anything. It was the *product* of the High Middle Ages, which had already culturally exhausted itself.

As I point out here, High Cultures always transcend prior High Cultures.

I mean, there's always something new.

It's a feature, not a bug.

9/23/2012 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Jack - Agreed; I just came across this link via The Anchoress yesterday. I think I last really read their stuff more than a decade ago. But if this is a direction they're taking, they might be worth reading again, on occasion.

9/23/2012 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Julie-

Yes, if they could recover some of the fearlessness that at one point made them so enjoyable to read...I'd sign up again in a heartbeat.

Though you are right, sometimes there are signs of hope!

9/23/2012 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

OT, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/opinion/sunday/douthat-washington-versus-america.html?ref=opinion&_r=1 is perhaps the currently more effective case for limited government. Also, more comprehensively, here.

9/23/2012 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Sorry, first link here.

9/23/2012 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"The ego-based civilization came to its essential end in the twentieth century. That civilization idealized the presumed separate egoic self, and it ended with a world of Godless egos destroying one another. "

I thought the kernel of Mr. Froth's comment to have something of value as it has sparked some thought on my part(though other areas were a bit rough hewn - as some of you gently noted).

Its going in my archive.

thanks Fred.

9/23/2012 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Secular humanism and religious humanism are quite distinct. "

You covered this 2 years ago. Huh...

Reconciling the Spiritual Absolutes of the Church with the Temporal Realities of the State (of which timing, deadlines, catastrophic events all do not mesh well with a harmonious decision making process of doing the absolute correct thing to do (as time waits for no man - or holy man or leader of a state.)

The need of a Spiritual Church for which plums the depth of Absolute Truth and the need for a Temporal State (though beholden to the Spiritual Church) that deals with day to day 'Time Sensitive' realities that add complexity to the 'more correct, though untimely' and 'less correct and timely' solution to day to day affairs.

That balance was achieved when the Secular Humanists still were beholden to Chrisitanity in its early years, but that equilibrium is now broken with new and more 'modern' Political, Philosophical, and the quasi-scientific Ideologies/Religions that are now springing up which is really starting to destabilize Western Civilization today.

Perhaps a Civilizational Psychic Rupture may take place in the near future...

9/23/2012 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Bob, Chris referenced Palamite Essence/Energies and it brought to mind the different beliefs of theosis. With Romney in the spotlight, his church has been used to cast doubt in the voter's mind, albeit not as extensively as I thought it would have been to date. I think most have little or no understanding of the Mormon faith and specifically the difference between it and Christianity. One difference, as I understand it, is the process of devinization, of which theosis is one understanding. Have you covered this topic in the past and can direct me to archived posts?

9/23/2012 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Haven't covered it in a post, but a few commenters have discussed it.

I'm not really interested in a politician's theology, only their values. For example, Biden and Pelosi are Catholic. Ted Kennedy was Catholic. Likewise, Harry Reid and Romney are both Mormon, but have completely divergent values.

9/23/2012 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...


This really isn't the best blog to deal with civilizational/generational issues.

That's really not Bob's thing.

Although I think he can tell you about the 60's as someone who actually experienced the cultural spiritual awakening.

9/23/2012 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

I wasn't interested in the difference between Mormonism and traditional Christianity because of Romney or politics, only that mormonism is in the news because Romney is running for president and it seems to me that many consider Mormon a pejoritive term without knowing why.

9/23/2012 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

ER, in my experience people have a loathing of Mormonism for a variety of reasons; their idea of divinization is only one of them. Door-to-door proselytizing is probably the number one issue. Frankly, though, I'm surprised it hasn't been more of a problem for Romney given that so many people do have a knee-jerk reaction to Mormons and Mormonism.

9/23/2012 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

You've never really lived unless you've run out of gas because you were too busy arguing with your Mormon girlfriend her about her worldview.

I dislike Mormonism for the same reason that I dislike the Amish.

Their worlds are too closed.

9/24/2012 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Frithjof Schuon is certainly a proponent of the Transcendent Unity of Religions and Tradition with a capital "T". The world's civilizational religions are "one" in that they have their source in the unqualified Absolute (Nirguna Brahman) that transcends all relativity. Many folk misinterpret Perennialism as simlpy another strain of postmodernism because it seemingly relativizes theology.

I think it is interesting how this plays out in the modern political/social landscape and the so called "culture wars". Because the Perennial Philosphy is essentially a pluralistic perspective, the "religious right" tends to be antagonistic to Perennialists as just another breed of the New Age.
American conservatism is, of course, rooted in tradition, but in the Western tradition specifically. The Judeo-Christian heritage has always been regarded by the West itself as exceptional, particulary (as JP commented) the principle of the sacred rights of the individual (i don't know if JP would endorse "sacred"). In the modern culture wars, conservatives are the great defenders of the West- anyone who seems to be on the side of "multi-culturalism" or challenging the central elements of traditional Western civilization is part of the oppositon.

How can an American conservative, a defender of the Western Tradition, also be a pluralist and a proponent of "Tradition" as a Frithjof Schuon would understand it? Or can he/she?

9/24/2012 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't think it's possible. Schuon would be the first to say that his approach is not for everyone, and that the average mentality requires something more concrete. But you are certainly correct that there is a multiculturalism from below and one from above.

9/24/2012 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

..there is a multiculturalism from below and one from above."

Well said. But....

...the Perennialist elevates his own ideas above revelation itself...

Do you think that an "exoteric" traditionalist can be a "multi-culturalist" in any substantive way? If so, I suspect that this would entail an "inclusivist" view rather than a Perennialist one.

I think it was the Schuonian, William Stoddart, who said that one can believe in more than one religion, but one can practice only one. Do you think that this view subordinates orthodoxy to orthopraxy?

9/24/2012 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

I'll admit to being an average mentality cement-head, so I may not have the depth necessary to understand this ... but doesn't it boil down to the question of one path versus many paths? If there are more than one path, wouldn't that make Jesus unnecessary and invalidate the central tenet of Christianity?

9/24/2012 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Ebony R,

Good job at synthesis. No worries, I am definitely not a master, just a learner. Ever since I discovered Frithjof Schuon and the teachings of Tradition, I have certainly been partial to the Perennialist perspective. But I find it difficult to sustain, experiencing a "gravitational" pull to the poles of religious exclusivm or to non-traditional formless spirituality.


To your question, I would have to say "yes" and "no". For the most clear and concise discussion on this subject, google "Perennial Philosophy and Christianity" by James Cutsinger. Quite good.

9/24/2012 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Chris, I can grasp the Perennialist view but the part that seems at odds with Christianity, to me, is that Christianity is unique in that it requires and provides dependence for redemption. If Biblical teaching is true that man willfully separated himself from God in the pursuit to be God, and the only way back into a relationship with God is through the humility of dependence on God by having faith in the redemtive work of Jesus ... then I don't see the same redemption being demanded in the other religions and therefore find incoherence in Perennial theology.

Again - I fully admit I may have a blind spot or three - so I'm seeking to learn - not challenge.

9/24/2012 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

It is true that Christianity is the path of love par excellence, bhakti. But there is such a thing as Chrisitan gnosis, not to be confused with heretical Gnosticism of late antiquity.

When all is said and done, someone recently said to me "If you can explain the difference between participation in the Divine (theosis) "as opposed" to identity with the Divine (moksha), I'm all ears."

Faith and devotion is clearly the road for the many, but jnani, the razor's edge, not so much. And btw, I am not claiming any attainment.

9/24/2012 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Bob,

Why do you think that most contemporary postmoderns and New Agers, who reject metaphysical naturalism, also tend to be leftists?

In a similar vein, what's your take on secular-atheo conservativism, like a John Derbyshire?

9/24/2012 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wait a minute. I know why postmodern relativists are leftists. I was thinking specifically of those with a non-materialist worldview.

9/24/2012 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Chris, just to be sure I understand your response - are you saying my definition of Christianity is gnostic?

To clarify - I would say my beliefs are totally at odds with the idea I can "earn" my salvation through any method. I'm totally dependent on (1) the quickening of my spirit by the Holy Spirit to (2) have faith and believe that (3) Jesus, the second person of the trinity, redeemed me by His sacrifice and resurrection.

It is this belief that seems, to me, to be at odds with other Perennial religions because there doesn't seem to be this requirement of humble dependence for redemption.

9/24/2012 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

ER,

No, not at all. I am saying your definition of Christianity is bhaktic - a path of grace. Which, of course, it is.

But, the bottom line is that the doctrines of the world's religions cannot be outwardly reconciled with one another. Christians say God is triune and incarnate as Jesus Christ, Hindus say there are many Gods, Buddhists say it is a moot issue. Perennialists would remind us that Jesus is, indeed, the Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. However, they would

"conclude that it is a mistake to confuse the uniqueness of the only-begotten and eternal of Son of God with the alleged singularity of his historical manifestation in first-century Palestine. Without denying that there is one Son of God, or that he alone is the author of salvation, or that Jesus Christ is that Son, they contend that there are no biblical grounds for supposing that this one Son has limited his saving work to his incarnate presence as Jesus. On the contrary, as St. Athanasius and other early fathers insisted, though the Word 'became flesh and dwelt among us' (John 1:14), he was not confined to his body even during his earthly ministry.
- James Cutsinger

9/24/2012 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Cool.

9/24/2012 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Chris:

You've asked some very good questions that would require post-length answers.

--Do you think that an "exoteric" traditionalist can be a "multi-culturalist" in any substantive way?

I don't think so. That just ends in a lukewarm tolerance that goes downhill from there. Also, the exoterist is not aware of the principles that unify the revelations, so that also ends in fragmentation and multiplicity.

--I think it was the Schuonian, William Stoddart, who said that one can believe in more than one religion, but one can practice only one. Do you think that this view subordinates orthodoxy to orthopraxy?

I think you almost have to take it on a case by case basis. For example, there is only one Schuon. None of his followers come close to his stature, and in their mouths, some of the same truths can sound off-key.

--Why do you think that most contemporary postmoderns and New Agers, who reject metaphysical naturalism, also tend to be leftists?

Good question. A spirit of rebellion combined with unredeemed narcissism, I suppose. Man will always have spiritual needs, even if he pretends he doesn't. These needs then become merged with all sorts of other psychic energies, resulting in a Tony Robbins.

--In a similar vein, what's your take on secular-atheo conservativism, like a John Derbyshire?

They seem harmless enough. They just think up to a point, and then stop thinking. Or they keep their thinking within arbitrarily restricted boundaries. Metaphysicians they are not. Kind of anal as well.

9/25/2012 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"When all is said and done, someone recently said to me "If you can explain the difference between participation in the Divine (theosis) "as opposed" to identity with the Divine (moksha), I'm all ears."

Here are things that I've realized:

I'm not God.

I'm never going to be God.

I'm never going to be permanently absorbed by God.

I'm immortal, but I haven't always existed.

God has *always* been there.

9/25/2012 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

JP, nicely stated.

9/25/2012 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Yes, I agree- nicely stated.

But there is such a thing as Christian gnosis, which is about a certain subtle shift in consciousness. Gnosis and love are not two separate paths, nor is knowledge subservient to love, for they arise from the Divine Intellect. Neither is discursive , but in relation to the intellect one is active and objective, the other passive and subjective.

9/25/2012 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Yes, I agree- nicely stated.

But there is such a thing as Christian gnosis, which is about a certain subtle shift in consciousness. Gnosis and love are not two separate paths, nor is knowledge subservient to love, for they arise from the Divine Intellect. Neither is discursive , but in relation to the intellect one is active and objective, the other passive and subjective.

9/25/2012 03:55:00 PM  

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