Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Liberalism: The Key to Failure and Secret of Unhappiness

Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. --Churchill

I just wanted to say a few more things about Murray's Coming Apart, mostly for my own benefit. It's a very important book, not one to race through and toss aside.

One of Murray's most important takeaways is that for some fifty years our elites have been preaching a doctrine which legitimizes dysfunctional values and behavior, but which they themselves would never practice, except perhaps at the margins. In other words, they toy with certain degenerate behaviors and attitudes as a means of gaining "authenticity," but you generally don't see liberal politicians, CEOs, lawyers, and educators with barbed wire tattoos around their necks and six baby mamas.

Insofar as culture is concerned, when the elites sneeze, the lower classes catch pneumonia, the reason being that the poorer one is, the less margin for error there is in one's behavior; or, to put it the other way around, the more likely it is that one will receive negative feedback, i.e., punishment. The wealthy and powerful such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, or ___ Kennedy, can get away with years of dysfunctional behavior, where you or I would have long ago hit the wall financially, vocationally, legally, or medically.

Murray makes it clear with abundant statistical evidence that successful elites, to the extent that they are successful, do not practice what they preach or preach what they practice. If anything, they are more narrowly bourgeois and predictable than the conservatives of my acquaintance, but for some reason like to pretend that they are "liberated," or "free-thinkers," or "avant-garde."

Apparently there is some sort of guilt over being a successful conformist, so they must rebel in symbolic ways -- a discrete tattoo here, the trace of a pierced ear there, the proudly ignorant contempt for traditional religion, which is to say, religion. These are all status markers of the new elite, like an invisible code they all share.

Murray reminds us that another important part of the liberal elite code is nonjudgmentalism. We all know this is an empty pose, since they just shift their harsh judgmentalism to agreed upon targets:

"Nonjudgmentalism is one of the more baffling features of the new-upper-class culture. The members of the new upper class are industrious to the point of obsession, but there are no derogatory labels for adults who are not industrious. The young women of the new upper class hardly ever have babies out of wedlock, but it is impermissible to use a derogatory label for nonmarital births....

"When you get right down to it, it is not acceptable in the new upper class to use derogatory labels for anyone, with three exceptions: people with differing political views, fundamentalist Christians, and rural working-class whites."

A prerequisite of any successful culture -- in fact, culture, period -- is recognition of the morality that attaches to human sexuality. I have discussed this at length in previous posts, but it is clear that sexuality is a force that must be bound and channeled in order for culture to develop.

And to the extent that this obvious truth is denied, a culture or subculture will degenerate, as we have witnessed over the past half century. For example, for blacks, the problem of fatherless children absolutely dwarfs the problem of racism to the point of insignificance. We have identified the behaviors that almost guarantee poverty -- and intergenerational poverty -- but the left doesn't care.

It isn't just success that these behaviors bring about, but happiness. Naturally, studies show that conservatives are happier than liberals. A big reason is that liberals externalize agency and thereby internalize an attitude of passivity, helplessness, and dependence.

But Murray brings out other reasons, backed by statistical analysis. After sorting through all the variables, he identifies the four that are most likely to result in a self-report of being "very happy"; these are family, vocation, community, and faith (for the record, Murray is an irreligious libertarian). For example, he writes that "The relationship of marriage to happiness is as simple as can be. There's hardly anything better than a good marriage for promoting happiness and nothing worse than a bad one."

Now, note how the left has spent the past fifty years devaluing marriage as the telos of human sexuality and ideal for men and women. The result? Among the lower classes, marriage has indeed become the exception and not the rule, which brings with it the likelihood of unhappiness. Thus, it is no surprise that the Democratic party reaches out to these unhappy people, promising more of the very drug responsible for their unhappiness.

Yesterday I heard a statistic that 85% of single mothers vote Democrat, which makes perfect sense. Although "liberated" from men, these helpless women have simply married the state instead (which is a kind of perverse inversion of nuns who are "married" to Jesus). And this is progress?

The same applies to religiosity, to such an extent that it is almost as if God exists. In describing the statistical correlation between religiosity and happiness, Murray says that "Social scientists rarely find such an orderly relationship.... At the bottom, only 23 percent of the white adults who never attend worship services report they are very happy."

Putting the statistics together, Murray finds that if one is unmarried, dissatisfied with one's work, professing no religion, and harboring a low level of social trust, the probability of being "very happy" falls to just 10 percent.

Conversely "Having either a very satisfying job or a very happy marriage raised that percentage by almost equal amounts, to about 19 percent.... Then came the big interaction effect: having a very satisfying job and a very happy marriage jumped the probability to 55 percent." Toss in social trust and the figure rises to 69 percent. Top it off with religiosity, and we reach 76 percent.

Think of what liberals preach and the unhappiness it engenders, say, for blacks: a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Religion is nonsense. Our culture is fundamentally racist. White people hate you. Don't bother trying, because the cards are stacked against you. Wait for the white liberal massa' to bail you out.

Liberalism is indeed the key to unhappiness in general and black discontent in particular.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Abortion: Your Intrinsic Right to No Intrinsic Rights

Let's dispassionately analyze the question of abortion from the bottom-up -- or top-down, since, in either case, we're talking about first principles. In other words, even if one is a materialist, one's belief in materialism presumably transcends matter, on pain of self-refutation.

No materialist literally believes in materialism -- or believes in materialism literally. To the extent that he believes he does, it is only because he is uncritically lost in his own abstractions, a victim of what Whitehead called the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

This doesn't mean we have to bring religion into the discussion. However, for the vast majority of people, their religion is the primary means with which they are able to think about, embody, and discuss first principles. Although few people are metaphysicians, religion allows a person to be one, just as, say, one needn't be an artist to enter the world of beauty.

First principles are axiomatic. In a way, they are simultaneously where we begin and end. One might say that we are always either arguing toward or from first principles that are either explicit or, more likely, implicit.

Now, no one can reasonably dispute the idea that America is rooted in certain first principles that, by definition (i.e., because they are axiomatic), cannot be surpassed or overturned. Calvin Coolidge famously put the matter with a finality that is exceedingly restful when he wrote that

"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776.... But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers" (emphasis mine).

It can truly be said of progressives that the further they go, the behinder they get.

(In looking up the above passage, I found many similarly luminous insights from the same speech, all of which go to the idea of first principles. A few of them are appended below, at the conclusion of the post. But here is a sample:

"In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man -- these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.")

Since I was once very much "pro-choice," it might be useful to reflect upon how I arrived at that position. To be perfectly honest, I didn't. Rather, it was completely reflexive and mimetic. Although I was in high school at the time, I don't remember Roe v. Wade making a big impact in California, where abortion was already legal. And if nothing else, I was an unthinking product of my unthinking liberal surroundings.

If you had asked me to name the principle that enshrined abortion, I suppose I would have parroted the usual talking point that a woman has the right to control her own body. If confronted with the fact that we are talking about another body, I might have deployed word magic and responded that we were actually only talking about a "fetus," not a human being. It was only "potential life," so to end its life (sic) didn't impinge upon moral considerations.

But when you come right down to it, I was probably just obeying my hindbrain, which, like all testosterone-driven men, wants to enjoy sex without consequences (although I wouldn't have expressed it as eloquently as this thinker: “Let’s stop fooling around here. What we’re talking about is our right to f*** whoever we want, however we want, whenever we want.”)

The latter is a sexuality detached from anything transcending itself, and therefore no longer human sexuality at all. Interestingly, another part of me knew this all along, so I couldn't possibly be a happy hindbrain. And thankfully it is possible to recover one's innocence, so long as one hasn't strayed too far and made a complete commitment to the lesser world.

One of Arkes' ironic conclusions is that the belief in an intrinsic right to abortion -- as opposed to being a positive right -- inevitably overturns long-settled notions about the source of our rights, and ultimately eradicates their ground.

For example, let us ask the question: supposing a woman has the unlimited right to an abortion, when and how did she obtain this right? When does it become operative? Surely it can't be in the womb, so it cannot be a natural right. And yet, the left treats it as if it is a natural and even sacred right. That is to say, they treat it as a first principle, an axiom with which they begin and therefore end the argument.

The principles upon which our nation was founded are, of course, very different. These principles affirm that our rights are not "positive" -- i.e., given by the state -- but natural, i.e., "in the nature of things." Thus, there is no point in our temporal development that we "acquire" them. Rather, they literally go with the territory -- or somatory -- of being human. We have them by virtue of existing, and that is all.

Therefore, it makes no sense to argue that we have a right to abortion as a consequence of our existence, for human existence is precisely what the abortion advocate claims the right to terminate.

And with this maneuver, we remove "the very logic and substance of rights. For what we call 'rights' then are simply things declared to be right by the opinion that is dominant in any place." And any such scheme "can be put into place only by denying, at the root, the logic of natural rights. In that event, this grand 'right' is evacuated of its moral substance" (Arkes).

Thus, in a very real sense, one can only have an intrinsic right to abortion if human beings have no intrinsic rights at all.

*****

More cool Calidge:

"It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound."

"The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them."

"[I]t is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say 'The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven.'"

"[W]hen we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence.... They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit."

"[T]he Declaration of Independence.... is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Eradicating the Cosmic Law at the Moral Root

Let's talk about the culture war in general and about abortion in particular, since the latter is one of several major flashpoints, where two elements come into contact to produce combustion.

This article (HT G the VdL) summarizes a few of the areas of truly irreconcilable conflict, irreconcilable because their differing first principles can under no circumstances be brought into harmony -- any more than one could harmonize, say, the logical principle of non-contradiction with its converse (although Raccoons understand that the two modes of logic actually exist harmoniously in vertical consciousness, where symmetrical logic rules the night; but that would take us far afield, so let's just stay down in secular 4D for the purposes of this post).

Now, one could say that our first principles are embodied in the Constitution, but that wouldn't be quite correct. For in reality -- and this should be axiomatic -- the Constitution itself reflects certain first principles for which its very purpose is to protect, e.g., life, liberty, religion, property.

And to the extent that the state fails in its duty to preserve and expand these rights, we also have an intrinsic remedy called "revolution." This was the very remedy the Founders exercised in declaring independence from the crown. It is not something to be spoken of lightly, for it is the nuclear option. It is when a culture war goes hot.

In each case of conflict, the flashpoint is caused by the aggression of the left, an aggression they like to call "progress." For example, for them, a reversion to pre-Christian, pagan polymorphous sexuality is "progressive," whereas for us it is just irony.

One of the principle acts of cultural aggression occurred with Roe V. Wade, which involved a handful of elites running roughshod over the democratic process.

Before that, the most egregious example of judicial tyranny might have been the Dred Scott decision, and we all know where that led. In each case, a few men from a narrow class of elites declared that certain human beings were beyond the pale, and not entitled to any legal protection. In so doing, they conjured a kind of non-existent being, since even animals have some intrinsic rights.

And just as in Dred Scott, the decision was entirely arbitrary, and simply deployed legal and metaphysical sophistry in the service of arriving at the desired end.

What I mean is that, if there were no such thing as abortion, it would never have occurred to anyone that a fetus is anything other than a human being. Obviously, crushing, dismembering, and sucking the brains out of a baby is by no stretch of the imagination "natural," and yet, for the left, it is their bedrock right, the one for which they will go to the mat every time if you should want to limit it in any way, shape, or form.

Without the least fear of polemicism, it can be affirmed that this represents a complete inversion of the first principles that animated the Founders. The left may well be correct in rejecting these principles, but they should at least be honest about it, as was, for example, one of our ur-progressivess, Woodrew Wilson, who spoke openly of his contempt for the principles embodied in our founding documents.

Rather, Wilson was an avowed Hegelian and Darwinian, meaning that, like everything else, the Constitution was subject to evolution. It reflected no permanent truths about human nature or about political philosophy, for the simple reason that there is no such thing.

Now, like many of you, I began life as a doctrinaire and unthinking abortion advocate. To this day -- and I want to be completely honest -- I have some residue from that era which I don't quite know how to resolve, more on which as we proceed.

Actually, allow me to present these while I'm thinking about them. We can all agree that the Holocaust was a great evil, so great that anyone would have been morally justified in killing a Nazi in order to try to end or limit it. Why would this be justice? Because of the sanctity of innocent human life, for starters.

That being the case, since a fetus is the quintessence of innocent human life, why is it evil to kill abortionists? There is a tiny fringe of activists who apparently believe that it is acceptable. I believe they are wrong, but why are they wrong? Since I want to be completely logical, this is an area where I have difficulty accepting the implications of my own first principles.

Outta time. To be continued...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

An Important Announcement

Nah, not really. Just that I'm back from my tour of duty in Sarasota, having successfully pacified the in-laws and negotiated a framework for additional frank discussions of my shortcomings.

And to be honest, I've lost the plot. Where were we? Charles Murray, right? Just read the book. I've already moved on -- and on -- and on: one book on the way to Fla., one on the way back, and now three more in the mail.

By the way, this book by Hadley Arkes on Natural Rights and abortion is the most robust and penetrating analysis of the issue I've ever encountered. Pretty much compels assent, unless one is a moron or psychopath. After reading it, I don't see how any rigorously logical or intellectually honest person could ever promulgate the constitutional right to a dead baby, irrespective of whether or not one is religious.

Some readers have reported difficulty keeping up with me and trailing behind my doublewide sillybus, but so do I. Slippery fellow. Where'd ego!

I expect a resumption of abnormality tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy this complementary open thread.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Government Of, By, and For the Ungovernable

Apologize for the Sun Ra freakout yesterday. Obviously my wires got crossed as a result of trying to blog while watching the Holder thingy, and that's what came out. Although Ra appears regularly in the 'Coon Club Au Go-Go showroom, I do not advocate him to the uninitiated.

It did form quite a contrast, however -- the penultimate retrograde reactionary establishment negro overseer of the Victim Plantation vs. the only-begotten post-racial interplanetary musical transponder of happy tomorrows: the entirely predictable type vs. the unprecedented and unrepeatable individual. I suppose Holder must have provoked his opposite number in positive space.

But none of this is actually irrelevant to our topic, which involves the limits of freedom. Much of Charles Murray's Coming Apart -- which is a must read -- revolves around the same subject, which ultimately comes down to the question of how a people can remain free if they reject the virtues -- i.e., the intrinsic limits -- that undergird the very possibility of freedom.

Murray cites various founders and foreign observers who were acutely aware of this. Indeed, in order to not know it, you must have either attended graduate school or else be among the underclass victims of the toxic ideology of our academic elites.

This is indeed one of the striking conclusions of the book, that our elites, instead of preaching what they practice -- i.e., the behaviors and attitudes that resulted in their own success -- preach exactly the opposite. In THE NEW CLASS: PROFITING FROM DECLINE, PowerLine links to a piece at Falkenblog that relieves me of the need to lay the foundation:

"Murray argues the well-off should set a better example by not apologizing for their squareness, but rather, by advocating their lifestyle and scorning those who fail to live up to it -- we need more of what is usually called ‘blaming the victim.'"

Nevertheless, the lower classes never stop hearing of "how great it is to be a victim, how noble it is to be poor, powerless, or discriminated [against]; to be wronged is the ultimate in righteousness." But this is not something our hyper status-conscious elites would ever indulge in themselves:

"Alas, successful people are ashamed to assert they have better genetics, values, and habits -- even though they quietly believe it to be true -- and so are content to let the media and intellectuals push the delusional idea that success is like when Paris Hilton had sex on a digital camera and built a career out of it: luck, connections, and chutzpah, but no discipline, ingenuity, and perseverence. With such examples it becomes defensible to suggest most of the rich are like that -- mere lucky hacks in the game of life. The flip side is that those who are unsuccessful are suffering for no fault of their own" (Falkenstein).

Speaking of Falkenstein's monster, the whole thing is a weird and twisted academic experiment in reverse-prometheanism: a misguided attempt to make man better by making him worse, or transcendence via regression.

I know many successful liberals who are full of covert (and not so covert) narcissistic superiority, which they deny through assimilation of the liberal sensibility described above. There is nothing empathic or compassionate about them. They live their own lives in a conservative, even blandly bourgeois, manner, and yet, advocate an entirely different set of values for the unsuccessful.

These unsuccessful victims of someone else's success function only as props in the liberal's personal psychodrama. They have no interest whatsoever in understanding the actual behaviors that result in poverty or in success. Indeed, they need the poor in order to elevate themselves, which helps explain their dogged adherence to policies that are guaranteed to create more of them.

Murray attempts to distill the cardinal virtues that resulted in America's unprecedented success -- which for him are marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity -- and in so doing, show how unique they were to America.

In fact, this is something everyone once knew, both here and abroad. He cites an example from 1825, when a European observer wrote that "no government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States, with a different code of morals."

Furthermore, our Constitution "can only suffice a people habitually correct in their actions, and would be utterly inadequate to the wants of a different nation. Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter of the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government" (Francis Grund, emphasis mine).

How extraordinarily prescient! Yes, the ACLU is a strict adherent to the Constitution -- the perverse Constitution that results from a complete rejection of the spirit and values that inspired it.

Murray cites various founders, such as Madison: "To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea."

Franklin: "only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

Patrick Henry: "bad men cannot make good citizens.... No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue."

Tocqueville: "travelers who have visited North America.... all agree in remarking that morals are far more strict there than elsewhere."

Even Jefferson (not that his erratic thought process should hold any particular weight, except that he seems to be the perennial favorite of the adultolescent left): "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?"

One could go on and on. The point is, self-government requires first and foremost government of oneself. But with the symbolic ascendence of Obama, we have reached the dangerous tipping point of a government of, by, and for the ungovernable. Or, perhaps of the insufferable over the ungovernable, the former enabling the latter with a poisonous and destructive ideology that is guaranteed to produce more of the victims that justify the ideology.

Again, all of the above goes to the ninth of our Ten Universal Principles, which concerns the limits of freedom. I couldn't possibly express it more clearly than Tocqueville, who is quoted by Murray:

"Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from" doing so. The latter "must be regarded as the first of their political institutions," for "Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other."

But as we have said before, leftism is quintessentially "the possibility of the impossible," endeavoring always to bring about what can never be, through ideas and principles that should never have been.

To be continued, but no posts for several days....

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Thank God Almighty, I'm Unfree at Last!

I'll be honest. I'm distracted by Eric Holder's dramatic (in a soap opera sort of way) testimony before congress. Very difficult to listen to it while blogging. It's not something I've ever before attempted. Kind of giving me a headache. Probably not healthy to divide one's attention in this manner.

We've already established that human beings have an intrinsic right to freedom. But freedom in the absence of limits reduces to nihilism, just as, say, absolute musical freedom -- in which there are no scales, no melody, and no rhythm -- can produce nothing more interesting or involving than sonic chaos.

But sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between chaos and a very high degree of order.

For example, Sun Ra himself, the interstellar ambassador, said "I can write something so chaotic you would say you know it's not written. But the reason it's chaotic is because it's written to be. It's further out than anything [my musicians] would be doing if they were just improvising."

In fact, when a new player came into the band, he first had to serve time in the "Ra jail" and learn the cosmo-musical rules: "Freedom wasn't Ra's bag. In his view, the rhetoric of freedom was the downfall of black America" (John Corbett, When Angels Speak of Love). Could a brother from Saturn have been correct about this? What can he know of the struggle of black people on earth?

In 1970 he said: "I couldn't approach black people with the truth because they like lies. They live lies… At one time I felt that white people were to blame for everything, but then I found out that they were just puppets and pawns of some greater force, which has been using them… Some force is having a good time [manipulating black and white people] and looking, enjoying itself up in a reserved seat, wondering, 'I wonder when they're going to wake up'" (wikipedia).

What Ra was talking about is the mind parasites that can only operate because man is free. To put it another way, they exploit man's freedom and hijack the host in order to do their will.

This is not some type of neo-Gnosticism, at least as far as I am concerned. Rather, it is a very objective and experience-near description of what's happening here on earth.

Since they aren't free, other animals can only do so much harm. But man's capacity for evil is as (relatively) infinite as is his capacity for freedom. Thus, if we don't recognize the divinely authored limits to freedom, then limits will be imposed by lesser forces and factors of which we often aren't aware, say, "political correctness."

Leftists often pride themselves on being "free speech absolutists." That they can say this with a straight face only shows the extent to which they are unaware of the constraints they are under.

For example, a white man from saturn could never get away with suggesting that he "couldn't approach black people with the truth because they like lies. They live lies." In fact, the other day, a black man from Florida said something similar, which resulted in a white man from Virginia revoking his blackness.

The third of Spitzer's three universal principles of justice and natural rights goes to this question of the limits to freedom: One person's (or group's) freedoms cannot impose undue burdens upon other persons (or groups).

An immediate corollary of this is that "governments should not grant freedoms to one group of individuals that will likely create undue burdens for others or threaten the safety of others."

For example, does Roe v. Wade, in granting a new constitutional right to women, result in an undue burden being placed on the condemned children who will be deprived of their lives?

Spitzer reminds us that our rights do not emanate from government but from the Creator. Is it possible that the Creator meant for us to have the intrinsic right to kill our unborn children? I suppose it's possible. But that would argue for the Gnostic idea of a renegade, evil god that rules this world. Frankly, I wouldn't trust him.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pleasure (Not Necessarily in that Order)

We are up to the eighth of our Ten Universal Principles. This one goes to the issue of how we resolve a conflict of rights, say, my right to property and your freedom of assembly.

Spitzer calls it The Principle of the Fundamentality of Rights: The more fundamental right is the one which is necessary for the possibility of the other; where there is a conflict, we should resolve in favor of the more fundamental.

This makes sense to most Americans, but not to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the one percent who insist that their right of assembly trumps the right to private property.

What this ultimately means is that the OWSers believe they have a constitutionally protected right to crime. Which they do. Like all Americans, they can apply for a job with the government.

You might say that there are necessary rights and sufficient rights. As in logic, a sufficient right is one "with which," whereas a necessary right is one "without which." Thus, the most Necessary Right of all would be the right without which no other rights are possible. Is there such a right? I don't know yet. Let's find out!

As we know, the Declaration of Independence mentions three such rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And of course, for the founders, "happiness" has a specific meaning. It has nothing to do with its contemporary usage, but with the idea of actualizing our potential and perfecting our human nature. You might say that it doesn't connote transient states but permanent traits.

But of those three, is there one that is more necessary?

Well, let's see. It looks to me as if Life must trump the second two, since without it, we cannot be free, much less perfect ourselves. Compared to Life, liberty and the p. of h. are reduced to sufficient rights, i.e., rights with which Life may aim the teloscope at its own celestial coonsteliation and achieve its end.

Of course, when the Declaration speaks of Life, it is not referring to plant life, or to that stuff growing in my bathtub. Rather, it obviously means human life, since back then, people weren't yet stupid enough to confuse animals and humans. Animals do not have rights. Rather, human beings have obligations toward them.

Thus, in order to understand the "right to Life," we must first define what we mean by human life -- or a human for short. After all, we're talking about living humans, not dead ones. But even there, a subtle caveat is in order, since we are talking about the totality of human lives, past, present, and future.

Which means that we have an obligation to future generations, something even liberals believe, so long as the future generation isn't unlucky enough to be in the womb. That generation has no rights. Unless the fetus in question is homosexual. Then you have no right to kill it.

We also have an obligation to the past. It seems that this is something the temperamental conservative is "born knowing," whereas the temperamental liberal almost defines himself in terms of not knowing it -- or at least not respecting it.

This is one of the virtues of studying history -- no, not the kind of ahistorical history promulgated by the tenured, but real history. For example, I recently read biographies of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln, and was reminded all over again how much I owe these great men. It's a debt I can never repay, but one I must always be mindful of.

I've mentioned this before, but I remember walking out of the theatre after watching Saving Private Ryan, and thinking to myself, "how can I ever repay these people," especially the ones who are buried somewhere on the coast of France? To think in these terms is a quintessentially human thing to do. To forget our obligation to the past is to render ourselves less than human.

So man qua man is entitled to the pursuit of the natural perfection of his nature. That's my opinion, anyway.

Now, when we say "right to life," we mean that we have a right to ourselves. Every human being is being-for-himself and master of his domain. But the essence of humanness -- for it is a condition without which humanness is impossible -- is our intersubjectivity, or our trinitarian nature.

As such, when we talk about the second right, liberty, there is an ineluctable complementarity to it, which essentially involves responsibilities, duties, and obligations to go along with our freedom. To talk about the latter in the absence of the former is to speak of a monster, not a human being.

Thus, we may only speak of the "yoke of liberty," for man is condemned to freedom. And we use the word "condemned" advisedly, for liberty means different things to different people and cultures. For example, in Islam, freedom doesn't mean what people think it means:

"[M]ost Americans still do not know that hurriya, Arabic for 'freedom,' connotes 'perfect slavery' or absolute submission to Allah, very nearly the opposite of the Western concept." Ironically, the primary complaint of, say, the Muslim Brotherhood, is not over the denial of (Western style) freedom, but the repression of Islam (Andrew McCarthy, National Review, 1.23.12).

McCarthy estimates that maybe 20% actually long for the type of freedom we enjoy in the west. Here again, this is one of the points where leftism and Islamism converge, i.e., the devaluing of freedom and its progeny, the individual. If there's one thing they can't stand, it's the intolerance of intolerance.

The bottom line is that on any objective or logical basis, "the right to life is more fundamental than the right to liberty and the right to property, and the right to liberty is more fundamental than the right to property."

Actually, it is difficult to disentangle those last two, but just ask yourself, would you rather go to jail (lose your liberty) or pay a fine (give up some property)? And would you rather go to prison or the gas chamber?

Note also that for the left, the pursuit of transient happiness trumps the right to life, with the result that their most necessary right is convenience or expediency. Which is why theirs is a philosophy of barbarism.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Declaration of Independence is Unconstitutional

In our review of Ten Universal Principles, we've covered three that pertain to epistemology (the true) and three that apply to ethics (the good). What about the collective good, i.e., politics?

Here again, Spitzer outlines three principles with which any normal person should be able to agree.

We might go so far as to say that this is one of the things that defines a person: the ability to arrive at abstract and universal truths. Obviously, no mere animal can do this.

Or, to paraphrase something E.F. Schumacher wrote, a human isn't just an "animal plus X"; rather, the animal is "human minus X." This is because one cannot get from contingent to universal, or accident to essence, by simply adding some measurable quantity to the former. Contingent + Contingent ≠ Universal.

But what is X?

I would suggest that X is the absolute, although it goes by many names. As Spitzer describes elsewhere, man is always and everywhere aware of "the unrestricted, the unconditional, and the perfect," not just in truth, but love, goodness, beauty, and being as such.

To put it another way, man is always in communion with O, or, in other worlds, suspended somewhere between relative and absolute. Animals are wholly in the relative; God is wholly Absolute; a proper man has one foot in the former, one in the latter. An improper man has one foot in his mouth and the other on a banana peel.

Spitzer lists some of the names of O: Creator, Pure Being, Unconditioned Existence, Being Itself, First Cause, Ground of Being.

To which we might add Unmoved Mover, Tao, Brahman, Primordial Slack, Escape from the Planet of the Clocks, Something for Nothing, SomeOne for Nobody, Same Old Ombuddhi, the Free Launch, the Error in My Favor, the Found Money, the Beautiful Genie, Barbara Eden, the Womb with a Pew, the Tippling Point, the Last Day of School, the Summa Vacation, etc.

Spitzer's first principle of justice and natural rights is: All human beings possess in themselves (by virtue of their existence alone) the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property ownership; no government gives these rights, and no government can take them away.

There. How difficult was that?

Very difficult if history is our guide and Obama is our example. For instance, did you know that Obama has the power to override your first amendment right to freedom of religion? It's true. I'm not sure who or what grants him this extra-constitutional authority, for he's never disclosed it.

Please note again that this principle is by no means "natural," for if it were, then the Declaration of Independence wouldn't have represented such an audacious haymaker right in Satan's breadbasket.

To this day, the vast majority of governments and people do not accept this principle. Indeed, any secular, materialist, or atheistic person cannot accept it, on pain of immediate self-contradiction.

For the intellectually honest liberal -- surely one must exist somewhere? -- the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional, pure and simple.

But so too is the Constitution unconstitutional, since one of its reasons for existence is to "secure the blessings of liberty," and blessings come from God. Unless you're a liberal, in which case they emanate from the penumbra of the state.

Spitzer references the old-school Jesuit Francisco Suarez, who adds that the purpose of law -- which is the scaffold of a free government -- is "the due preservation and natural perfection or happiness of human nature."

In other words, the Law has a telos, which is the actualization of man's potential and free discovery of his end. Thus, the state has no right to limit, let alone terminate, your real personhood (which is what all leftist tyrannies do, which is to say, permit only one type of person or none at all; the same goes for speech).

Note that governments do not have "rights." Rather, they have only powers. This obviously goes for states as well, which is why it is absurd to argue for "states rights" in order to bypass the Constitution and restrict human rights.

Which is why the Confederate assouls who used "states-rights" as a pretext to restrict and deny the rights of human beings were anything but conservative. For only a leftist could believe that the state has a supernatural right to strip man of his natural rights.

To be continued....

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cosmic Rules of the Road

We're discussing the Ten Universal Principles with which you can't go wrong -- or, more like it, without which you will definitely go off the realroad.

Why is the cosmos built in this "negativistic" manner? Because if it were not so, free will would essentially be impossible. In other words, if there were a one-to-one relationship between action and outcome, the world would be just one big operant conditioning chamber, or Skinner box, as in the helpful illustration below:


Think of yourself as the rat, the response lever as the Divine Law, and the food dispenser as instant gratification. In such a set-up, there is no real possibility of growth, risk, learning, development, etc. Rather, you'll just keep hammering the joystick. Better to provide a wider field of action, with boundaries indicated by various Don't Go Theres, or Thou Shalt Nots, so you don't fall off the edge of the cosmos and into the abyss in the course of your terrestrial sojourn.

This is the purpose of the system of ordered liberty devised by our founders, in which we are free to do all sorts of things that are impermissible. Conversely, the left always wants to force us to do things it regards as the only things permissible, for example, to discriminate on the basis of race, to fund Democratic campaigns by stealing from future generations, or to purchase certain products of which it approves.

Think about how you raise a child. Now that Future Leader is almost seven years old, I've been exposed to a fair sample of children, and there is a certain quality that always attracts me, or at least doesn't annoy me. To put it simply, these are children who are well behaved and yet full of spontaneity, adventure, fun, and imagination. This is in sharp contrast to children who are well behaved but repressed, so that the life force is quashed; or children who are full of life, but who are obnoxious.

So the problem is, how do we introduce "rules for living" that don't end up making life a crashing bore? Clearly, there is some truth to the liberal caricature of this type of person, e.g., Ned Flanders.

We'll address that question as we proceed. Yesterday we discussed the three principles of epistemology, or of evidence and truth: 1) The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data, 2) Valid opinions and theories have no internal contradictions, and 3) Nonarbitrary opinions or theories are based upon publicly verifiable evidence.

Next up are three principles of ethics, or of how to behave toward others. Note that they aren't at all repressive, so long as one has truly internalized and assimilated them.

In fact, that's not quite right, because it is more the recognition of a reality that is already there, not something that is radically extrinsic to us (for if it were extrinsic, we could no more learn it than can a rattle snake or grizzly bear). It is a kind of "intrinsic morality" that nevertheless needs to be modeled in order to awaken and actualize. And the best way to model it is in interacting with one's child, day in, day out.

The first principle provides a minimal ethic that would nevertheless, if it were respected by everyone, result in a kind of terrestrial paradise: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

Notice that this is not the "golden rule," but rather, the silver rule; instead of asking us to do good, it merely enjoins us to do no harm. You don't need to be a saint. Just don't be an assoul.

But again, to the extent that this principle is internalized -- or recognized -- it is rooted in a kind of deep intersubjective empathy through which we are able to put ourselves in the place of the other, and understand that "my brother is myself."

Once one is capable of reliably intuiting this, one doesn't have to be reminded or goaded into not gratuitously hurting people. Rather, it just "comes naturally," even though it is what would more accurately be described as a "supernaturally natural" capability.

As Spitzer explains, this principle is "the most fundamental of all ethical principles, because if it fails, then all other ethical principles fail as well." He points out that the logic behind the principle is as cogent as, say, the principle of non-contradiction.

Why? Because denying it immediately introduces a kind of primordial injustice, i.e., "I am permitted to harm you, but you are not permitted to harm me," and acquiescence to the latter principle would render civilization impossible. It would reduce to a Hobbesian war of each against all. Conversely, "if others are obliged not to harm us unnecessarily, then we are obliged not to harm them unnecessarily."

The second ethical principle is the consistency of means and ends, i.e., the end does not justify the means. The only exception to this rule -- and it is an important one -- is that "one can use an objectively wrong means (such as lying) to prevent a greater evil (such as murder)" (ibid.).

This is a principle that secularists (obviously) and many religious people get wrong, the former because they imagine that the exception proves morality to be entirely relative, the latter because they concretize the rule so as to deny the exception.

Dennis Prager often discusses this, and he gets a considerable amount of disagreement from the fundamentalist crowd, i.e., that there are degrees of sin. (Lower case o) orthodox Christians have no difficulty with this idea, but a lot of fundamentalists seem to occupy a kind of unambiguous either/or, saved/damned universe, which goes back to what was said above about obsessive-compulsiveness masquerading as religiosity (there is a considerable amount of this religious OCD in the Islamic world as well).

The third ethical principle is full of implications that I won't have time to fully explicate, but it is The Principle of Full Human Potential: Every human being (or group of human beings) deserves to be valued according to the full level of human development, not the level of development currently achieved.

This principle results from the fact that man is always simultaneously himself and not himself; rather, he is always "on the way" to himself, from the moment of conception to the moment of death, and we have no right to impose some arbitrary time slice and insist that anything less is not a human being. Which is why, for example, the entire legal basis of abortion is completely illogical.

For it is pure sophistry to define a human being by one of his stages instead of by his totality.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Truth and Consequences

The irony, of course, is that we can never have objective knowledge of the objective world, whereas we may have objective knowledge of the subjective world. In other words, the cosmic situation is exactly the opposite of what materialists imagine.

What I mean by this is that -- for starters -- Gödel's theorems render any totalistic scientific explanation strictly impossible.

And frankly, I don't even think we need Gödel to tell us that any scientific theory is going to contain premises for which it cannot account. The most complete "theory of everything" is, by definition, going to have a gaping omission.

After all, one has to start somewhere, and one must arrive at this somewhere prior to one's eventual explanation. Thus, the bottom line is that any merely scientific account is going to be either consistent or complete, but not both. D'oh!

As we have mentioned in the past, many postmodern types who do not understand Gödel use his theorems as a bulwark against absolutism. Since no theory is complete, all theories become equal, and we descend into the nihilism of deconstruction.

But that is not what Gödel meant. Here again, we do not need Gödel to remind us that human beings know any number of truths which cannot be proved with mere logic. Gödel was not saying that objective truth doesn't exist because logic cannot prove it; rather, that there exist truths beyond logic.

After all, logic cannot furnish its own materials, but requires an alogical -- or translogical -- being to do so.

So the first axiom of logic is not the law of identity, or of the excluded middle, but: the middleman, the human being, who, by definition, transcends the logical system he deploys. If he doesn't, then man cannot actually prove anything, for he can never escape the closed circle of logic.

Nevertheless, many people use Gödel as an excuse to plunge into subjectivism, relativism, multiculturalism, and all the rest. The reasoning apparently goes something like this: if even science cannot prove any ultimate truth, how much less is religion entitled to make such a claim?

On the surface this sounds plausible, but if we look a little deeper, we can detect the systematic stupidity of the tenured. For Spitzer puts forth ten principles that he suggests are undeniable by reason. Or, to put it another way, these are ten principles that any reasonable person -- and a "person" is a being endowed with reason -- will accept as true.

Some of them touch on "science," others on virtue and on the very possibility of civilization. As Spitzer explains, "Three of them concern evidence and objective truth, three of them concern ethics, three of them concern dignity and treatment of human beings within civil society, and one of them concerns personal identity and culture."

Now, what is truth? Well, for one thing, it is the thing that results in bad stuff happening if we fail to appreciate it. This applies to every level of reality, from the lowest (i.e., physics) to the highest (i.e., spirit). Ignore the law at your own peril, whether it is the law of gravity ("I can fly!") or the law of humility ("I'm a god!).

So, we are always free to disobey the law. But "Failure to teach and practice any of these principles can lead to an underestimation of human dignity, a decline in culture, the abuse of individuals and groups of individuals, and an underestimation of ourselves and our potential in life."

And "Failure to teach and practice several of these principles will most certainly lead to widespread abuse and a general decline in culture" (Spitzer).

Take the example of the Islamic world. Why is it so systematically f*cked up? Conversely, why is America that shining city on the globe? The latter (mostly) obeys the law (or used to, anyway, before the ascendence of the left). The former is a metacosmic scofflaw.

Let's start with the first three principles, which apply to evidence and objective truth. Notice that one is always free to ignore them, but that doing so will result in less freedom and a more dysfunctional adaptation to life.

Principle 1: The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data.

I mean, right?

Principle 2: Valid opinions and theories have no internal contradictions.

You know, like "This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy," and "except the Keystone pipeline." That's what you call an "internal contradiction." Another one is "we reject supply side economics" and "feeding a massive top-down state is the key to economic prosperity."

Principle 3: Nonarbitrary opinions or theories are based upon publicly verifiable evidence.

All tyranny begins and ends with violation of this principle, e.g., "Jews are an inferior race," "poverty causes crime," "the constitution is a living document that means what we want it to mean," etc.

Without question, truth is the most important value of a civilization: "No bias, ostracization, marginalization, or persecution ever occurred without someone claiming that their biases were the 'truth'" (ibid.). Once the lie is accepted as truth, then horror follows, owing to man's innate respect for truth. For man so loves truth, that he will commit heinous acts in defense of it.

For example, if it is really true that the black man has no rights the white man is bound to respect; or that a fetus is not a human being; or that men and women have no essential differences; or that America is the "great satan," then people will act on these "truths" in good conscience.

To be continued....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stuff Not Even a Liberal Can't Not Know

Underneath it all, the fundamental division among Americans is between relativists and absolutists.

Which, of course, makes no sense -- it is absolute nonsense -- because who is more certain of the truth of his convictions than the sanctimonious liberal who knows all conservatives are racists, or the naive Darwinian who can explain everything but the explainer, or the hammerheaded atheist who regards God as the big nail in the sky?

So the real division is between absolutists and people who pretend not to be. Which means that there is always this make believe element to leftism, in that the leftist must pretend to not know things one cannot not know. In many ways, a college education -- I mean a thorough one -- systematically trains one to deny the undeniable and therefore promulgate the unthinkable. By which I mean sling the bullshit.

What distinguishes man from the beasts is this knowledge of the Absolute in all its forms. We may think of the Absolute as a kind of central sun, with its rays extending down into creation. Each ray is a "mode" of the absolute, for example, with regard to truth, beauty, virtue, justice, etc. "Judgment" is what allows humans to determine where a particular instance falls along the ray.

For example, to say that this is more beautiful than that is to locate the entity in question higher up on the spectral ray. Thus, the existence of absolute truth necessitates the existence of relative truth.

But the converse could never be true; and in fact, it could never be at all. In other words, absolute relativity is a contradiction in terms, because the relative is always testimony of the absolute.

The moment one realizes this -- assuming one really and truly does -- one understands that the human state is not and cannot be any kind of Darwinian "extension" of the animal state, but something fundamentally inexplicable on any materialistic basis.

Yes, there is continuity, of course, and it is the task of science to explain this continuity. But there is also irreducible discontinuity, and to the extent that science ignores this, it will generate ambiguity, absurdity, and paradox.

For example, let us say that man and chimp share 99.6% of their DNA, or whatever it is. Far from explaining the continuity, this only shows how DNA is powerless to account for the shocking discontinuity between man and beast -- unless one wishes to argue that all the painting, poetry, and music, all the novels, symphonies, games, and jokes, all of the science, religion, mathematics, and genetics is in that little accident of biology.

Is the study of genetics genetic? No, of course not. Humanness is in fact the gate of exit out of mere animality -- indeed, out of the relative cosmos itself. Humans are the "hole" in creation that permits knowledge of the whole of creation; in our heart is a mysterious absence that potentially holds all the Presence. To put it another way, man is an incomplete completeness, which is another term for our neoteny, or endless childhood.

Please note that there is this critical relationship -- and all religions speak of it -- between the absence and the Presence, the relative and the Absolute. Animals do not know this absence, which amounts to the recognition of one's relativity, hence one's dependence. But to be aware of absence is to know in an instant that one stands in relation. To what? Or, more to the point, Whom? I AM, for starters.

Having said that, it is eminently possible for human beings to deny the absence, which results in two conditions, both fatal. First, it forecloses knowledge of the absolute; second, it inserts a false absolute in the space the real one should occupy. In short, this is the zone of the graven image that exiles one from eternity.

For in knowing absolute truth, human beings may participate in eternity on this side of manifestation -- in the relative world. We do this by 1) aligning ourselves with truth, and 2) assimilating truth.

By "assimilating," I mean that we must metabolize truth so that it is interiorized and becomes mingled with our own psychic substance. We must "eat and breathe" truth in order to become it and live it.

Some people think Catholics are primitive, but we all practice theophagy in one form or another, even -- or especially -- coprophagics (and let's not even talk about chopraphagics. Disgusting!).

Now, the typical irreligious yahoo does indeed believe in the absolute, even if his metaphysic denies its possibility. For example, physicists believe there must be a "theory of everything" that unifies all physical forces and explains creation without remainder. Likewise, many biologists believe natural selection to be a universal principle that doesn't only apply to biology, but even to cosmology.

Indeed, most of us don't have difficulty with the idea that there are universal scientific truths such as E=MC² or the second law of thermodynamics.

But what about the moral law? And what about beauty? For some reason, even as science has penetrated more deeply into the physical laws that govern matter, people have backed away from the idea that man can also draw nearer to virtue and beauty (with exceptions, for example, physicists and mathematicians who are guided by a sense of "explanatory beauty" in their equations).

Since I'm almost out of time, I guess that was a longwinded introduction to Ten Universal Principles, by Robert Spitzer. In the thoughtful words of the ubiquitous Professor Backflap,

"How do we make sense of life? How should we treat others? How should we reasonably be expected to be treated by others? When human life is at stake, are there reasonable principles we can rely on to guide our actions? How should our laws be framed to protect human life? What kind of society should be built?

"Many people rely on their religious beliefs to answer these questions. But not everyone accepts the same religious premises or recognizes the same spiritual authorities. Are there 'public arguments' -- reasons that can be given that do not presuppose agreement on religious grounds or common religious commitments -- that can guide our thoughts and actions, as well as our laws and public policies?

"In Ten Universal Principles, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer sets out... ten basic principles that must govern the reasonable person's thinking and acting about life issues."

And so he does. And so we will. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Success Like Failure

This post evidently brings to a conclusion our three month excursion into Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, which began last October, some 70 posts ago. I wonder if that makes the exegesis longer than the book, the echo longer than the echee?

I suppose that would be typical of any great book, which generates far more verbiage than that contained within its covers.

One might say that a timeless work of genius cannot be contained within itself, precisely. Nor could a mere threescore and ten toptypsical renderings expend what our friend penned, for every crookward feller has his own meandertalltale to tell, and no other soul can toll your own bell.

The previous post concluded with the observation that "if vulgar Darwinism is the integral truth of man, dreadful consequences necessarily follow -- not the least of which being the impossibility of absolute truth and objective morality."

That Darwinism can satisfy the cramped and barren intellect of contemporary timedwellers and ideobots is a statement about their desiccated intellect, not about Truth.

At the very least, these spiritual ungreats have no idea what religion has done for them, because it has all been done collectively and subliminally through a kind of cultural and historical osmosis.

But to be unaware of the extraordinary spiritual sacrifices others have made in order to make your otherwise insignificant life possible is to live as a barbarian. Your whole miserable life is lived in borrowed -- no, stolen -- Light, which you cannot even acknowledge.

As alluded to in the book, culture is analogous to a little clearing in a vast forest. Without culture, we are in total darkness. But different cultures permit varying degrees of light to enter. Some are still mostly forest, while others have cleared enough of the surrounding vegetation to take in the light from distant stars.

Thus, in a certain sense, light is space, perceptually speaking. To an animal without eyes, its "space" consists of whatever it is touching in that moment (let's leave ears to the side for the purposes of this example). It literally lives in a two-dimensional world. With eyes -- which specifically register light -- we suddenly inhabit a three-dimensional sensorium.

But this introduces a new problematic, for how vast is this sensorium? Is it infinite? If so, space merely introduces man to his own insignificance, as he is a kind of absurd projection of infinite finitude, which we symbolize ( ). Note that the symbol implies "containment," but of nothing, so that man's very existence mocks itself.

So man tells stories in order to contain himself and allay anxiety of the infinite, which results in (•). Among other things, that condensed little dot stands for saturation, the consoling absence of ambiguity that results from any ideology, whether Darwinism, scientism, leftism, feminism, Islamism, Christianism, whatever.

But man cannot contain himself. This is true of every level of being -- quintessentially so of the spiritual level, from which the others are declensions or projections. To say that man must love is to say that he must exist outside himself -- or that the other must exist within him. This is precisely what we would expect to see in a creature who is in the image of a trinitarian godhead.

Truth is both timeless and universal, so that what is true will always be so. Scientific fads and fashions will come and go, but Man will always be in the image of the Creator, a meta-cosmic truth from which our rights, our duties, and our dignity flow. An undignified man has no rights, and a man with no rights has no dignity. Likewise, a man with no obligations is not a man. (We are not speaking legalistically, of course, but morally, or better, ontologically.)

Man's obligations are prior to his rights, for if the reverse is true, man makes himself a god. This is the upside-down god of the left, for it is the undignified man who is entitled to his rights, which are actually your obligations. But to be forcefully obligated in this manner is to be treated in an undignified manner, so we end in a tyranny of the undignified. See contemporary culture for details.

Only man can -- and therefore must -- live by the light of eternity, so that all we do, say, write, create, and think, can resonate with what surpasses itself, and thus "pass the test of time":

"Artists, like esoterists, are obliged to make their works pass the trial of time, so that the poisonous plants from the sphere of mirages can be uprooted, and there remains only the wheat -- pure and ripe" (MOTT).

When we write so much as a measly blog post, we would like for it to stay written. We are always scribbling from the standpoint of eternity, not because we are grandiose, but because it is the least we can do, cosmic etiquette being what it is.

Nor are we suggesting that we succeed, only that to even attempt to do this is the privilege of a lifetome. Or painting. Or photograph. Or musical composition.

Otherwise, there is no point whatsoever in putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, at least regarding the matters we discuss here. This is not supposed to be an exercise in (•), but an exorcism thereof, a verticalaesthetic and a gymnostic.

In order to properly do one's omwork, one's writing must be "objective," even while being "transparent," or perhaps "translucent," in that it must be both solid and capable of trasmitting the Light. Why? Because this is just the way the Divine Spirit rolls. Deal with it.

To leggo the ego is merely a means to try to transcend all pettiness, all that is timebound, all that refers back to oneself instead of pointing beyond. I must decrease so that He may increase: one "becomes poor, so as to be able to receive the wealth of the divine spirit..."

This is -- to come full circle -- "the gesture of actualizing below that which is above" (MOTT), so that one's very life becomes a work of sacred art -- which is again to be transparent to that which transcends oneself. Thank God it's impossible.

Adieu, dear unknown friend.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Matter Über Alles and the Elimination of Man

Before we risk sticking our foot in the mouth of the sacred river,

"The rule of every serious esoterist should be to be silent -- often for a length of years -- concerning every new illumination or inspiration that he has, so as to give it the necessary time to mature, i.e., to acquire that certainty which results from its accordance with moral consciousness, moral logic, the totality of spiritual and ordinary experience -- that of friends and spiritual guides of the past and present -- as also with divine revelation, whose eternal dogmas are guiding constellations in the intellectual and moral heaven" (Meditations on the Tarot).

Consider the fact that even Jesus spoke scarcely a word of these matters to another human being until around age 30. Proof of this is found in Luke 2:41-50, in which the 12 year old Jesus runs away, and three anxious days later is found by his parents in the temple, hashing things out with the rabbis and amazing his parents with his spiritual knowledge. Who knew? Not Jesus! (This will become clear as we proceed.)

Interesting that on the threshold of manhood -- 13 in the Jewish world -- the boy Jesus disappears for -- what else? -- three days, only to reappear, now capable of matching wits with the best and brightest menschen. His parents are amazed at the transformation, and frankly confess to not understanding his oblique explanation.

Luke 2:47 notes that his interlocutors were "astonished" at his answers and his understanding, which obviously cuts both ways -- like a newborn baby who looks just... breathtaking!

Knowledge is one thing, understanding another. Sometimes there is an overlap, while often -- especially the higher up the epistemological food chain one proceeds -- the less this will be the case. For example, there is pretty much of a complete overlap between the form and content of radical Darwinism. To know it is to understand it.

Conversely, one may know virtually everything about religion, and yet, understand none of it. Not to get sidetracked, but this was one of Bonhoeffer's consistent themes, and it was indeed a... breathtaking thing to say in a Lutheran culture that tended toward bibliolatry. For this reason, Bonhoeffer uttered many Eckhart-worthy statements that... astonished his fellow theologians, for example, in his advocacy of what he called "religionless Christianity":

"What Bonhoeffer meant by 'religion' was not true Christianity, but the ersatz and abbreviated Christianity that he spent his life working against." He warned that "the time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, was over..." Rather, "God always required something deeper than religious legalism" (Metaxas).

Thus, in another Eckhartian orthoparadox, he commented that "every sermon must contain 'a shot of heresy,' meaning that to express the truth, we must sometimes overstate something or say something in a way that will sound heretical -- though it must certainly not be heretical" (ibid.).

Along these lines, Bonhoeffer said that in order to become "fully human," we must bring the Creator into our "whole life, not merely into some 'spiritual' realm" (ibid). But only a willful moron would take this to mean that, say, an embryo, or infant, or disabled person, isn't "fully human," as did the Nazis.

Another one: "Where God tears great gaps, we should not try to fill them with human words." The same applies to the psychological dimension, especially in more intelligent, literate, and articulate patients, who have a rapid-response ability to paper over such gaps.

The "intelligent atheist" operates in just this manner. It's all so glib, but apparently self-satisfying in a way that is difficult for the more open-minded person to comprehend.

One wants to say: "Okay, let's assume your analysis is correct up to the point you have carried it. But why are you arbitrarily stopping there? Why not take the next step, to that for which your manmade explanation does not and cannot account?" In short, why not dive into the deep end of 〇 instead of standing there in the wading pool?"

Just because one can read, it hardly means one understands. Rather, it merely gives the illusion of understanding. Plenty of liberals have gone to law school, and yet, do not understand the point of the Constitution.

Nor do atheists understand religion, to which they stand as living proof. Only a kind of cosmic narcissism or spiritual autism allows them to convert a disability into a virtue, to elevate a confession of ignorance to a vehicle of truth. It's transparently childlike, really, for children are also unable to stand back from their immediate perceptions, appreciate their limitations, and take a more objective and disinterested view. I mean, if human knowledge is the ultimate, then knowledge is nothing, right?

Once detached from the vertical, one is in what unKnown Friend calls the "zone of mirages."

Now, just because this zone isn't real, it doesn't mean it isn't "creative." It's just that it is a kind of lesser creativity (the world of the infertile eggheads) that bears on no eternal truth or beauty transcending itself. It is "art for art's sake," which is no better than "science for science's sake," for it is a chicken swallowing its own egg. But at least it answers that eternal question of which came first, the chicken or egg: neither!

Conventional leftists imagine that conservatives are "anti-science" because we understand that science has obvious limits, and that it must always converge upon something higher than itself, at risk of becoming demonic. One can never derive values from science -- the ought from the is. Or, one can, but at risk of instant dehumanization and rebarbarization.

This is indeed the monstrosity -- the monstrous element -- of reductionistic Darwinism: not that it is "true" in its own limited way, but that it replaces the Truth of which it can only be a tiny reflection.

For if vulgar Darwinism is the integral truth of man, dreadful consequences necessarily follow -- not the least of which being the impossibility of absolute truth and objective morality. I won't even bother to catalogue all of the consequences of a blind materialism, but Bonhoeffer himself was one of its victims -- a victim of matter über alles.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Drifting in the Moment and Putting Down Roots in the Eternal

[W]e live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is a journey out of time and into eternity. --Kallistos Ware

Two posts back, our unKnown Friend was speaking of the joy that accompanies movement of any kind.

Whoosh!

Again!

Which brings back fond memories of the sacred Road Trip. Back in our college daze -- which, to our dismay, lasted only four terms (Ford, Carter, Reagan, and a slice of Nixon) -- we would load up the vehicle with a few cases of beer, get on the road, and take off for parts unknown.

It seems to me that it was more the sheer movement we craved. It didn't matter where we ended up, so long as we ended up in an altered state and not in a holding cell somewhere in the coastal mountains of California.

Unlike earlier phases of childhood, there was no clamorous Are we there yet?! For truly, there was no there there -- at least no abstract there that could compete with the vibrantly present here here now!

Now, just translight that last sentence into a general principle for living, minus the intoxicants (or deployed in a more sober manner).

There is a veiled reference to this on p. 206 of the Coonifesto, where it speaks of the frantic effort to chase after artificially induced episodes of (?!). This pretty much went with the erritory of being an adoltolescent Baby Boomer in the mid '70s, after the draft had safely ended and the pretentious efforts to save the world from American aggression turned inward, toward the ongoing struggle to make the world safe for infantile narcissism (which had been the true motive-force to begin with):

"Such Dionysian characters often attempt to terminate (•) with extreme prejudice. Although it would be misleading and sanctimonious to dismiss this approach as fruitless, it does not present itself as a sustainable lifestyle, nor may it be consistent with the relatively long life required to achieve a stable (¶).

"For other, more sober types, these tantalizing flashes of an alternative reality may become the initial motivation for a more methodical spiritual practice that attempts to follow (?!) back upstream to their source in 〇. Only through spiritual development can these metaphysical freebies evolve into a more conscious relationship to something that is felt as a continuous presence."

Which, when you think about it, is another kind of "movement," from one state of mind to another; or, more to the point, from a transient state of mind to an enduring state of being. From my first taste of satan's balm at the age of 17, I well remember this sensation of psychic movement. Technically speaking, I never really cared for being intoxicated. Rather, I enjoyed the movement in that direction. Once one was there, the movement -- and fun -- was over. Which is also why I shunned wine and hard liquor: too fast.

I remember back when I was in film school, we talked about the idea that there are two archetypal American characters, one of whom put down roots, the other of whom jes' kept on a-movin'.

The latter was one of the great things about America, the mobility. America is all about mobility of various kinds -- not just social and economic, but intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual as well. (When my father first emigrated here from static England, the first thing he did was drive cross country, stopping place to place for temporary employment.)

While most immigrants come to America for the economic movement, there was a time that the majority came for the possibility of spiritual movement. Then there are the whordes of fraudulent slack peddlers, 'deepack of wily liars who combine the two by marketing a worthless version of spirit, or an expensive version of cheap grace.

I'm no big fan -- or even fan -- of Jack Kerouac, but I just googled him for a quote, since his On the Road has become the adolescent archetype (or at least resonates with the original archetype) for the peculiarly American joy of sheer movement, or the exteriorization of inward mobility:

"What is the feeling when you're driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -- it's the too huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

I remember Seinfeld touching on this in one of his routines. His hobby is driving. Why? Because one can be both outside and inside, sitting and moving, stationary and hurtling, at the same time.

I agree. Although I am now more of an extreme indoorsman, my favorite exterior hobby might well be driving my jalopy through the canyon roads on the way to and from work, with the CD player blasting. It seems to me that this activity is a sort of miracle, and yet, it's so common that people don't seem to fully appreciate it. Flying through space with Sun Ra in your ears, playing for you from saturn via his cosmic funkmanship? Remarkable.

I think "progressives" must confuse the road trip with politics. That is, at the end of the day, despite all of the frenetic movement, the progressive still hasn't gotten anywhere. Rather, he's just blown the money tree leaves (HT American Digest) from one place to another, minus the government's hefty vig.

Indeed, the whole point of a real road trip is to go from somewhere to nowhere, just for the thrill of getting lost. But in order to do this, one must have maps and boundaries. In other words, to go off the map, one must first have one. For the extreme seeker, the groomed slopes are needed to get to the ungroomed slopes. Which is why the drifters need the settlers, and vice versa. They are a function of one another.

But look at the Obama cultists, a disproportionate number of whom are the young and stupid. Why? Because they want change, AKA movement. They didn't vote for a president, but for a driver for their childish political road trip. What's wrong with these kids today? Haven't they ever heard of drugs? Or is mass leftism their only hopiate?

Don't do as the hypocritical Obama says, but do as he did, and spend your college days sucking on a bong. At least you'll only harm yourself instead of taking the country down with you. Don't be like the boomers, and try to get high off politics! You'll only end up addicted.

Now, there are two kinds of spirituality that mirror the drifter and settler, which you might say reflect the "static" and "dynamic" aspects of God. The further east you go -- psychospiritually speaking -- the more you see the divine stasis, the eternal rest, the unmoved mover, the idea of entering nirvana, which literally means to "extinguish the light."

But the same holds for Christianity, in that Eastern Orthodoxy prides itself on the fact that it hasn't changed since the time of the apostles. For them, the Catholics are the Protestants.

On the other extreme, you have all of the Christian movements that have arisen here in the United States. Why? I imagine a big part of it has to do with the idea of movement as it pertains to the American psyche. We will never be a majority Catholic or Orthodox nation for the same reason we reject public transportation. We want to travel about in our own vehicles. Is it possible to do this without being hopelessly heretical and narcissistic, like the new agers and integralists? Is it possible to be an "orthodox drifter," a straight hobosexual?

As a matter of fact, I think UF does a pretty good job of describing this person in Letter IX, The Hermit. For isn't that what the Hermit is, a spiritual drifter making his way from day-to-day to this or that temporary shelter?

Come to think of it, what's the subtitle of MOTT? A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. And will you be, like, happy, when the journey's over? Or eager to take off again on the next same one?

One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, St. Sarapion the Sindonite, traveled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life -- for he was himself a great wanderer -- Sarapion called on her and asked: "Why are you sitting here?" To this she replied: "I am not sitting, I am on a journey." --Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cheap Grace and Cheaper Intelligence of the Left

It occurred to me this morning at 2:10 AM, when I opened my eyes to a fully formed post, that one of the central appeals of modern liberalism for the dead-from-the-neck-up white male is the cheap grace it offers via its institutionalized political kitsch.

Now, I'm quite sure I'm not the first person to have noticed this connection. However, it is the first time I have noticed it -- or at least thought of it in these terms -- undoubtedly because I'm reading this moving biography of Bonhoeffer, an exemplar of the kind of expensive grace that only costs one's life.

A number of other strands came together in that 2:00 AM post. I asked Petey if it could wait until morning, but he was noncommittal as usual, and now here I am trying to put the pieces back together. I have the fragments, but not the whole.

One of the strands had to do with the execrable Chris Matthews, who not only exemplifies the usual sanctimonious cheap grace of the left, but the cheap intelligence that accompanies it.

As we all know, in order to be considered moral or intelligent by the left, one simply has to conform to their ideological template, e.g., demand side economics, global warming, women as victims, political opponents are racist, etc.

In commenting on Newt Gingrich's smackdown of Juan Williams during the debate of two days ago, Matthews said the following:

"I thought we were past all this, didn’t you? You know, the talk about Welfare Queens and phrases like that. Well, you either get the message or you don’t.... this whole conversation isn’t about poverty, but about race. It’s about a candidate who knows just how to make his point to appeal to a certain kind of voter...."

What kind of voter would that be? Ironically, it is about Matthews and his ilk, that is, people who are obsessed with race. In technical terms -- assuming he is being genuine and not just manipulative -- it is a reaction formation, through which the person converts an unacceptable unconscious thought into its conscious opposite.

Thus, "what's with all these black welfare queens?" becomes "why are conservatives so filled with racial animus?" The whole thing has taken place in Matthews' fat head, but it comports with public liberal ideology, so he has no insight into the process -- similar to, say, an anti-Semitic German in the 1930s. Hey, doesn't everyone hate Jews?

This is a preview of how the upcoming presidential campaign is going to be all about race, despite the fact that we specifically elected a "post-racial" president in 2008.

Indeed, despite his spectacular failures, if Obama had only delivered on this promise, his presidency might have been worthwhile, since it would have neutralized this most poisonous and destructive of the left's weapons.

But alas, it was not to be, and we have the most race-conscious and race-baiting administration since perhaps Woodrow Wilson's, that father of modern progressivism. And there's not a thing we can do about it, since allowing a lie to stand is to agree with the lie. But for the liar, defending oneself from their lie is proof of a guilt-ridden defensiveness, so there is no way out. As Vanderleun writes, Obama

"needs to cling, bitterly it may be, to a phalanx of voters who are not African-American in order to win. He can do this with love, with agreement, with fanaticism, and/or with guilt. Of these, the largest segment he can call on would be that powered by guilt. Knowing this the Obama machine can be counted on never to really let up on the 'they hate him not because of the content of his character but because of the color of his skin'" (emphasis mine).

In short, Obama will need to rely on the usual cheap grace and cheaper intelligence of liberal white males in order to defeat the white racist 1950's father of his dark fever dreams.

Well, I got about 20% of the 2:00 AM post down, and now I'm out of time. I'll try to recover the rest tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Become Fully Human and Triple Your Pleasure!

Our unKnown Friend poses the question, "Does not the very idea of movement -- biological, psychic or intellectual, it does not matter -- presuppose an affirmative impulse, a conscious or unconscious 'yes,' self-willed or instinctive, at the basis of all movement that is not purely mechanical?"

Indeed, if this cosmic Yes were not at the basis of things, then "universal weariness and disgust would have long ago put an end to all life." Nor would it have been the last bloomin' word of Ulysses ("yes I said yes I will Yes") or the last word of the penultimate paragraph of OCUG ("A Divine child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes").

Yes, it reminds me of something Bernard Lonergan wrote of the distinction between man and animals, and how Darwinism is powerless to account for it (another example of the truism that the intellect explains Darwinism, not vice versa; which is not to say that the latter is wrong, only incomplete, for if it were complete, we couldn't know it).

"[I]t is only when [animals'] functioning is disturbed that they enter into consciousness. Indeed, not only is a large part of animal living nonconscious, but the conscious part itself is intermittent. Animals sleep. It is as though the full-time business of living called forth consciousness is a part-time employee...." (in Spitzer).

Spitzer continues: "When animals run out of biological opportunities and dangers, they fall asleep. When you stop feeding your dog, or giving it affection and attention (biological opportunities), and introduce no biological dangers (such as a predator) into its sensorial purview, it will invariably fall asleep."

Human beings could hardly be more different, for we not only respond to biological opportunities -- i.e., food, sex, and government handouts -- but to intellectual and spiritual uppertunities. At least some of us.

What this means is that the cosmic Yes that unKnown Friend posits as the basis of non-mechanical movement, shades off into the patently non-mechanical domains of intellect and spirit, or knowledge and truth. And the Spirit moves where it will.

Another way of saying it is that animals, outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, have no slack. For example, we have a Great Dane who, when food, walks, and affection are not in the offing, is asleep. That amounts to about 23 hours a day, and sleep is not slack unless one places it in the greater context of slack as such.

Conversely, look at what humans do with slack -- which is pretty much everything: "when human beings run out of biological opportunities and dangers, they frequently ask questions, seek purpose or meaning in life, contemplate beauty, think about goodness (or imperfections) of their beloveds, think about unfairness or injustice and how to make their situation or the world better, and even think about mathematics, physics, philosophy, and theology -- for their own sake" (ibid).

The operative phrase is for their own sake, which is synonymous with a stance of disinterestedness. Thus, ironically, animals are only capable of "interestedness." When there is nothing of biological -- which is to say, Darwinian -- interest, the animal goes into energy conserving mode, like your computer.

Only human beings awaken to an interesting world of disinterested interest -- which is the only possible approach to truth, since truth is only sullied (or Sullivaned) by desire, fear, ambition, etc. Ultimately this results from the fact that the intellect as such is of the substance of truth, and only like can know like.

Now that I think about it, virtually all forms of mental illness have as a central feature a lack of movement, or a "stuckness" about them (or else a kind of meaningless agitation that goes nowhere). For example, when someone is depressed, it is not just that they are sad -- everyone has their moods -- but that they are in a kind of static, heavy, and occluded state of mind. There is no movement. Or, if there is movement, it's all arbitrary. Nothing is any better or worse than anything else. There is no convergent meaning, as everything goes "flat."

Let's take another example, the pathological narcissist. The narcissist typically develops a "false self" or "as if" personality to negotiate with the outside world. While he will use people to prop up and mirror the false self, in reality, there is no deep exchange with others, i.e., no L (love) or K (knowledge) link.

Rather, the clinical narcissist uses people in order to maintain a kind of static equilibrium, so as to avoid intolerable emotions, in particular, shame. In other words, the narcissist may outwardly appear to have a strong ego, but it is actually quite brittle. The very purpose of his narcissistic defenses (i.e., the false self) is to protect the unthought true self from an emotional catastrophe.

But such a person slowly dies from within, because if one cannot suffer pain, one cannot suffer pleasure. In order to maintain the closed system, the narcissist also closes himself to real love, which causes the soul to wither from within. He eventually dies of his addiction to the false mirroring he craves.

When people hear the term "narcissism," they often think of it in terms of physical attributes, but it can equally apply to the intellect (or to any other positive attribute, for that matter). Academia is full of "brilliant" people whose intelligence has been hijacked in the service of their narcissism, the result being that their minds eventually become closed and therefore no longer susceptible to real organic growth (vs. a kind of mechanical accumulation).

Obama's anti-science advisor, John Holdren, comes readily to mind, but one could think of hundreds of others.

In all forms of enduring psychopathology, portions of the personality can become sealed off, frozen, and autistic, and therefore highly resistant to change -- like giant boulders, or sometimes fine sand, within the soul. Other times it is felt as a kind of icy glacier. The underlying reality is essentially joyless because it does not flow.

Some people who appear to be open are actually tightly closed systems who are merely interacting with their own disavowed projections. One thinks of the mythifolkers who suffered through Bush Derangement Syndrome, and who now constitute the OWSers -- the rabble without a clue -- and their academedia sympathizers.

It's fascinating when you think about it, because these people are under the delusion that they are interacting with the outside world, when it couldn't be more obvious that they are really just trapped in their own absurcular errspace. To withdraw psychic toxins from George Bush and reproject them into "Wall Street" is just a case of new whines in the same battle.

And here is another key point: this state also brings a kind of pseudo-freedom that conceals actual enslavement to the projected object, from which the projector cannot escape. It reminds me of the Taoist principle that if you want to control a bull, just give it a large pasture.

In America, "freedom of speech" is precisely that large pasture, in which people are free to construct their own fences and define their own arbitrary psychospiritual limits, which then provide the subjective illusion of real freedom. But Raccoons -- by their very nature -- are very quick to identify these intellectual and spiritual fences, which we don't so much trespass as transpass. For us, a wall is a challenge, not a limit. Build one and we'll just stand on it to see further.