Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Radical Stupidity and the Second World of the Left

One of the keys to understanding the left is Voegelin's concept of "second reality" or "orientation toward the unreal." It is one obvious reason why leftism always fails and always must fail, because one can banish reality with a pitchfork, but it always comes roaring back.

But what is the deeper principle by virtue of which this process of unrealization takes place? And why is it that, alone among the animals, man has this capacity to inhabit his own abstractions and relax in the comfort and safety of his own delusions?

It isn't only leftists who do this, of course. Rather, it is the essence of any ideology -- of ideology as such -- to create an inverted world of which the real world then becomes mere shadow. This is quintessentially true of Marxism, but one can say the same of Islamism, scientism, positivism, evolutionism, and most forms of radical atheism (i.e., anti-theism as opposed to indifference).

There are also people called "right wingers" (not classical liberal conservatives) who live in second realities, e.g., the Ron Paul cult (not the casual voter, but the hardcore messianics), certain fundamentalist groups, and some of those Lincoln-hating southern agrarians.

The first and last step of unrealization involves reducing the world to a single level and pretending that the other levels don't exist. Again, think of a neo-Marxist such as Obama, for whom the world is always seen through the simplifying lenses of racial grievance, class envy, or an omnipotent and tyrannical "social justice" that justifies the exercise of raw power.

When the world becomes wholly immanent, it loses all sense, precisely. This is the metaphysical irony of the left -- that it robs the world of its intrinsic meaning in order to impose a faux substitute. They pretend to have reduced reality to a single world, oblivious to the fact that this ideological switch has taken place, and that they are living in a world of phony transcendence. Hence their counterfeit spiritual virtues such as sanctimony over sanctity, state appropriation over charity, scientism over wisdom, and idiot compassion over spiritual discernment.

The plain fact of the matter is that we live -- on pain of not living at all -- in certain irreducible mysteries, which include existence, life, man, and history. To pretend that these mysteries don't exist, or that any ideology satisfactorily "explains" them, is to inhabit an unreal world. Any unambiguous explaining-away of the Mystery leads to tragic falls, for the answer is the disease that kills curiosity. What is really real is O; we are all just special cases.

All spiritually normal men know that "the end of all human action does not lie within this world but beyond it," and that the fulfillment of time is beyond time. There is simply no way to get around this formulation and remain "man." "Man, while existing in time, experiences himself as participating in the timeless." Again: ideologues only pretend to violate this principle, for no one is more beholden to a transcendent fantasy than the ideologue.

Speaking of what took place in pre-Hitler Germany, Voegelin writes of a specific type of spiritual decline resulting in "radical stupidity," which is the "radical refusal to actualize one's participation in the transcendent." (I remember reading somewhere of another definition of fascism, the violent rejection of transcendence; since the Jews are responsible for bringing this awful transcendence into the world, it makes perverse sense that they would be the prime targets of primitive immamental cases. The more things change....)

To turn it around, as we were saying last week, our most quintessentially human capacity involves "the quest for the truth of the right order of existence and for living justly in accord with that truth." In short, we bow before reality, not try to dominate it with some simplified scheme, for reality is always more complex -- and real! -- than any such scheme.

Note that when the world is collapsed to a single level, the possibility of (real) transcendent truth is denied in favor of its faux substitute, whether leftism, scientism, evolutionism, etc. Perhaps without even knowing it, the ideologue replaces truth with will, which is for Voegelin the "fundamental stupidity," for the de-divinization of man "leads all too quickly to a dehumanization."

I hope this isn't overly abstract. To the contrary, the "big story" of the 20th century was this de-divinization and therefore dehumanization of man, so that as you read these sentences you should be having images of millions of bodies stacked like cordwood in common graves. In fact, ideologies have consequences, usually grave upon grave.

Please note that (proper) Christianity cannot be an ideology, because it isn't an idea at all. Rather, it is a person, and a person is a rational being intersubjectively linked to others via transcendent love. A person is trimorphic logophilia incarnate; realizing this is the cure for ideology, and for pneumopathology more generally.

The ideologue replaces this ontological fact with a Lie, such as that man is merely another animal, or that religion is an opiate, or that class determines consciousness. This Lie, because it is tied up with Will, becomes a real power, and assenting to it becomes a way to partake of worldly power. To become an "elite" generally means to assimilate the Lie and reap its rewards, such as they are.

Thus, the Lie "is a social power which heavily burdens each of us and threatens each with lasting spiritual deformation." Resistance to it "demands a corresponding measure of spiritual passion, intellectual discipline, and hard study," but this is only a "first step" in extricating ourselves, for "it must be followed by the passionate work of daily resistance against the lie of existence -- the work is lifelong."

In a letter to Thomas Mann, Voegelin wrote that "Resistance to a not merely ethically bad but religiously evil satanic* substance can be performed only by a similarly powerful, religiously good force. One cannot combat a satanic force with ethics and humanity alone."

And Satan said to him: All these things I will give to you if you will fall down and worship me.

*Voegelin has a specific definition of satanic in mind, which has to do with the creature essentially claiming ownership of transcendental goods that can only come from the Creator (think of Adam "becoming as God"). Again, it is the radical stupidity of collapsing the world hierarchy and reducing truth to power.

(All of the quoted material is taken from Voegelin's Hitler and the Germans)

Monday, April 16, 2012

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

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

This whole business of coming to you "live" has been much on my mind lately, being that so many of us are soul-dead before our time. How does this happen? How is it that people can come into the world so vibrantly alive, only to be captured and domesticated by the conspiracy? Most people are lucky to make it to eighteen still half-alive, but then college finishes them off.

Frankly, this is something I've thought about ever since I was capable of thought. I won't bore you with details, and besides, only boomers of a particular age will relate. But if you are of that age, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that when the Beatles descended upon us in February 1964, it was quite literally a religious experience.

And when I say "religious," I mean it in the original sense of the word, of binding one to the Ground. The upshot is that they communicated freedom, spontaneity, joy, irreverence, and humor, in a way I had never seen adults do. I mean, my parents were decent people, but they never seemed to really be enjoying themselves, my mother especially. But even beyond them, contact with the wider world of teachers, of Sunday School, of most classmates, of extended family, and of grown-ups in general seemed to confirm my prejudice.

These thoughts are being provoked by my reading of Voegelin's Hitler and the Germans, which considers the phenomenon from some angles I hadn't considered, but which strike me as "universal," in the sense that they pertain to a spiritual sickness in modern man as such, not just to the Germans who made Hitler possible.

And when we say "modern man," we have a specific definition in mind. That is to say, for the vast majority of human history, cultures were organized around a spiritual ground -- what Schuon calls "the idea of Center and the idea of Origin." Voegelin tends to be much more wordy and elliptical, so it is useful to refer to someone like Schuon, who is so compact and essential:

"In the spatial world where we live, every value is related in some way to a sacred Center, which is the place where Heaven has touched the earth; in every human world there is a place where God has manifested himself in order to pour forth His grace. And it is the same of the Origin, which is the quasi-timeless moment when Heaven was near and terrestrial things were still half-celestial." Thus, "To conform to tradition is to remain faithful to the Origin, and for this very same reason it is also to place oneself at the Center..." (Light on the Ancient Worlds).

Now, one needn't be a believer to acknowledge the truth of Schuon's observation: that this is how civilizations arise, orient themselves to the wider cosmos, establish meaning, and provide an excuse to go on being. And we all recognize that something unprecedented has occurred in world history over the past 300 years, resulting in man being ousted from the center and cut off from his origin.

"Atheist" is just another name for someone fully exterior to the Center and Origin. While he retains an attenuated interior, it floats meaninglessly over the surface of nature, untethered to anything but a dying carcass. In the groundless and dis-oriented mind of the atheist, this is only proper and fitting, since there are no such things as Ground and Center, or their common source in Being. We'll come back to him later.

In any event, we can all agree that ideas have consequences, including the dominant metaphysic of the day, which pretends to do without the Origin and Center. This is no abstract discussion, for it very much defines the essential difference between left and right.

For example, conservatives regard the Constitution as embodying the origin and center of our political life; as such, it has a timeless and quasi-sacred penumbra, especially since it is by no means free-standing, but is in turn rooted in the cosmic Origin and Center, AKA God: its very purpose is to preserve and protect the human rights that flow directly from our deiformity to the Center, i.e., those rights endowed to us by the Creator.

Alternatively, the left, in rejecting the Origin and Center, reduces the document to a man-made, time-bound, relativistic, and conventional contract between state and man; that being the case, we can read into or out of it anything we wish.

You could say that there are these two schools of thought on constitutional law, but it would be more accurate to say that there is one school of thought and one playground overrun with bullies. We'll know in a month or two whether there are four of five such judicial bullies.

Voegelin promulgates what was then a unique take on the Hitler phenomenon, in that he turns the question around and asks what it was about the German people that made such a stupid, vicious, and spiritually bereft assoul possible?

I do not intend to invoke Godwin's law this early in the morning, because this is not my point. But unless we can get away from the uniqueness of Hitler, we won't be able to learn anything from what happened, because it will be too particular, and the essence of wisdom involves the discovery of universals.

This is why I say that Obama is not our problem. You will note that the "birthers" seem obsessed with the idea that if we can only rid ourselves of Obama, then our problems will be solved. This is silly, for it leaves untouched the spiritual rot of a people who could elect such a half-educated and nasty but (so they say) charismatic demagogue.

From the beginning of my graduate studies, I had a particular interest in psychopathology, or one might say the "philosophy of psychopathology," or perhaps "meta-psychopathology." I've discussed this in the past, but before one can identify psychopathology, one must begin by defining health.

And health is completely tied in with teleology -- with final causes -- in that it essentially means that an organ is doing what it was designed to do. For example, the heart is designed to pump blood. Anything that interferes with that function -- atherosclerosis, hypertension, arrhythmias, etc. -- is pathological.

Therefore, before we address psychopathology, we must first understand -- either explicitly or implicitly -- what the mind is designed to do. The problem here is that modernity, in rejecting final causes, is powerless to define human health. Add to this the malignant sophistry of relativism, and mental health comes down to "feeling good," irrespective of whether one deserves to.

Let's take an obvious case just to illustrate the nature of the problem. Al Sharpton, from all outward appearances, seems to feel pretty good about himself. Therefore, as far as the mental health community is concerned, he gets a clean bill of health.

But why on earth should such a foul human being feel good about himself, much less be given a national platform to spew his toxins? By all rights he should detest himself as much as others -- i.e., spiritually normal people -- do. Again, one cannot address this issue in a meaningful way unless there is some purpose Sharpton has failed to fulfill as a person. And again, he is only the symptom of a much wider problem, i.e., the type of people who would hire him and seek his political imprimatur.

That is all for now. Just getting warmed up for what promises to be a deep discussion of some fundamental questions: the whole subject of pneumopathology, or spiritual illness.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What to Pack for Your Terrestrial Sojourn

When we say "one cosmos," the emphasis is always on both words: One. Cosmos.

"Cosmos" implies -- actually, it literally means -- order, not just of a superficial kind, but the deepest and most unitive structure of existence. And when we say "One," we obviously don't mean it in any numerical sense, but rather, in a qualitative way signifying the ultimate synthesis or integration of all particulars, both subjective and objective, spatial and temporal.

The two words are closely related, however, in that when we awaken to the Ground we discover the One, and this One is not a chaotic agglomeration but an integral whole. When we are in the Ground we are close to the One, and when we are at One we are floating in the Ground.

You might say that the adversary has a "divide and conquer" strategy, only with regard to individual souls. Which is why the prime directive of our liberal media is to always foment a state of impassioned division within ourselves -- usually via things that are none of our business -- never peace, contentment, tranquility, gratitude, etc.

The Ground is also indistinguishable from the Center, the Center which is always present in the heart of every human being. Our task and our vocation is to live from this Center, which grounds, organizes, and unifies (which are all aspects of the same thing).

Although we live in the finite, our home is in the Infinite. All men understand this, even when they deny it to themselves. A man who fails to transcend himself has failed to become one, precisely.

To say "transcendence" is to say openness to the Infinite. One could say that man reaches out to the Infinite, or that he cultivates a space within so as to allow its ingression.

Either way, this transitional space is where we live and where we are meant to live, not in some desiccated scientistic flatland.

Now, unity is always in the direction of inwardness; this is not to imply a pathological withdrawal from the world, but rather, the plain fact that oneness implies interiority.

Again, an "exterior one" is just a pile of stuff, so to speak, with no interior relations; its oneness is just our own projection, not anything intrinsic. But any complex whole -- say, the human body -- is characterized by an irreducibly complex system of internal relations, in which everything is "within" everything else.

Love unifies. Hate divides. Or, perhaps we could say that the deep unity we discover everywhere in the cosmos is what Dante was referring to when he spoke of "the love that moves the sun and other stars."

For Schuon, man "is capable of a love exceeding phenomena and opening out to the Infinite, and of an activity having its motive or its object beyond terrestrial interests."

Elsewhere Schuon has written to the effect that life is quite simple: we are to know truth, will the good, and love beauty. Each of these three -- love, truth, beauty -- is a transcendental, meaning again that man's innate "cosmic direction" is beyond himself -- into, or toward, what surpasses him.

One might say that "horizontal life" is subjective and self-interested, while vertical life is disinterested and therefore objective (objectivity and disinterestedness amounting to the same thing). Now, there is no truth -- or knowledge of truth -- in the absence of these two.

Which is why the Way of Truth is a kind of sacrificial offering in which we transcend the passions and petty interests of the ego. To acknowledge a primordial truth is to die a little. But in a good way, since we die to fragmentation and are "resurrected" into unity. "A saint is a void open for the passage of God," and "To give oneself to God is to give God to the world" (Schuon).

Of course, you are free to try to be fulfilled within your own little absurcular orbit, but "It is a fact that man cannot find happiness within his own limits; his very nature condemns him to surpass himself, and in surpassing himself, to free himself" (ibid.)

I might add that we are condemned to surpass ourselves both horizontally and vertically. That is to say, our deiform nature means that we are trinitarian right down to the bones, so that even the most horizontal among us wants to escape from himself in the form of, say, a passionate love.

But love of man divorced from love of the Creator always ends badly, since no fellow human being can possibly embody the transcendence we seek. Bitterness, disillusionment, and recriminations follow, all for the inevitable discovery that every human is all too.

Only the prior loss of God could transform an inevitability into a surprise: the surprise in discovering one's own idolatrous nature. Remembering God is our task, but forgetting God our hobby.

In Purcell, I came across a comment about St. John of the Cross, to the effect that his writing is "like a winding staircase always revolving around the same center, always recurring to the same topics, but at a higher level."

Again, this is the inspiraling "shape of man" that we've been discussing lately.

Schuon says something similar, that "Fundamentally there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence." And with intelligence, "the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite."

Thus, intelligence is already a kind of "union with God" (i.e., Truth), as are virtue and beauty. Each shines through this otherwise sophicating blandscape, and brings us back to our ground and center, our origin and destiny. If truth is the "food" of the journey, love is the living water, and beauty the otherworldy perfume.

(All of the Schuon references are from his Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, which I guess must be echoing through me. It'll do that.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Logosphere and Idiolotry

Purcell raises a subtle but critical point about our common Quest -- that it is not just something personal and idiosyncratic, but "universal." In other words, just as in science, we are dealing with an objective world that therefore yields "public" information.

Indeed, when a spiritual journey goes wholly "private," so to speak, into the realms of personal imagination and fantasy, this is not just the way of Error, but of (oc)cultism, gnosticism (religious and/or political), and potential tyranny, because tyranny occurs whenever we are forced to bow before a truth that we cannot prove to ourselves.

America, for example, is rooted in natural law, which posits universal moral principles that any normal person can discover and confirm for himself, e.g., that all men are created equal. In fact, when you think about it, the entire category of morality must be quintessentially "scientific," in the sense that it deals with principles that are both abstract and universal. A "private morality" is no morality at all.

In other words to affirm that morality is relative is not just the opposite of morality as such, but renders morality strictly impossible. If morals are relative, then there is no such thing -- just as if there are no laws of physics, there is no physics.

At present we see a dangerously media-inflamed lynch mob of the left in an uproar over a man who allegedly defended his life against a budding criminal who was beating his head against the sidewalk. Undoubtedly additional and perhaps even contradictory facts will emerge through the legal process, but why a moral relativist should be offended by the law of the jungle is a mystery, to say the least, for if there is no universal morality, there is only power, i.e., "might makes right."

Conversely, conservatives know that there is a universal moral law. If, therefore, it turns out that the facts are not as we know them, and that Zimmerman victimized a wholly innocent person, then we will be the first to express moral outrage and to demand justice, because it is a first principle of morality that one doesn't harm innocent persons unless one has a damn good reason, e.g., self-defense.

Purcell discusses a psychological phenomenon that made the ascent of Hitler possible. He references Voegelin, who escaped Nazi Germany and was therefore in a position to understand what was going on there.

Voegelin gave the phenomenon one of those extremely long German names, but it essentially comes down to a willful blindness, a refusal to perceive, a deliberate avoidance of "understanding what was going on." He traces the malady as far back as Heraclitus, who wrote that "those who refuse to ask questions of existence... are (spiritually) asleep."

The key point here is again a detachment from the Real, usually accomplished through what Bion called "attacks on linking" (the word "attack" is apt, for there is always an element of intra-psychic violence in this defense mechanism). That is to say, the easiest way to maintain the Lie is to sever any cognitive links that lead to Truth. This all happens unconsciously in a rapid and pre-emptive manner, which is why it is so difficult to correct.

In other words -- and this should go without saying -- in order to promulgate the Lie in a systematic manner, one must on some level be aware of the Truth. If one isn't aware of the Truth, then the lying won't be at all organized, but just ad hoc, chaotic, and scattershot. One might say that leftism is a systematic lie, hence its "robustness." It attacks truth at the very root, which saves a lot of time and trouble.

But for the same reason, it is not susceptible to correction until reality exacts a terrible vengeance, for example, in the slow-motion collapse of European socialism, or the Obama debt-bomb that imperils our future. The longer one ignores reality, the more severe the retribution tends to be, for the cosmic scales must be balanced. Way it is.

The source of our common reality -- and the possibility of intelligibility and meaningful communication -- is, of course, the logos. But as Voegelin explains, "many live as if they had a wisdom of their own. Those who are awake have a world [kosmos] one and common, but those who are asleep each turn aside into their private worlds" (in Purcell, emphasis mine).

This results in the pseudo-doctrine -- the absurd principle-of-no-principle -- represented by relativism, i.e., "perception is reality." If perception is indeed reality, then again, there is no possibility of an intelligible cosmos, neither scientifically nor morally. Man is then reduced to animal, but then again, not really, for animals are at least guided by an unerring instinct universal to the species. Man alone would be condemned to his own private hell.

Voegelin continues: "Through spirit man actualizes his potential to partake of the divine," which "is that which all men have in common..." Conversely, he "who closes himself against what is common, or who revolts against it, removes himself from the public life of human community. He becomes thereby a private man, or in the language of Heraclitus, an idiotes" (in Purcell).

To live inside this private idiosphere is to live outside the logosphere, which is again our common world. This very much reminds me of a discussion in Maritain's Degrees of Knowledge, about what are called "beings of reason."

That is to say, the mind of man "does not conceive only real beings, i.e., beings capable of existing." Rather, it can also construct "objects of thought that are incapable of existing outside the mind... which the ancients called beings of reason..."

Maritain points out that "God does not make beings of reason." Rather, they are products of the human mind, and are always intrinsically contradictory. An example would be Marxism (and all philosophies derived from it), which can only exist in the mind in general or the university in particular, never in reality. It can be forced upon reality, of course, but again, reality eventually takes its vengeance.

Better stop. Getting late....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Becoming a Simple-Minded Heavyweight

Continuing with yesterday's post, if we could ascribe a "shape" to man, it would be a kind of inward spiral. Purcell says much the same thing; beginning with the ancient Greeks, "we make our own self the object of a quest," and this "odyssey within and beyond ourselves is a lifelong one, with the quest itself leading to a substantial deepening of who we are."

And substantial is the operative word, because it does indeed result in a kind of existential "heft" that is quite palpable when we encounter it, and more or less synonymous with (or even the measure of) real depth.

Conversely, we all know "lightweights" of various kinds -- intellectual, emotional, spiritual, artistic, political, ethical, etc. We routinely deal with so-called intellectuals who have no heft whatsoever, the types who generally compose our media and academic elite. The illusory weight they throw around results from mutual mirroring, or, to use the technical term, transactional fellatio.

As I've mentioned before -- and I'm not even sure how this works -- you can usually tell when you are dealing with one of these lightweights within a death sentence or two of their writing (following the Church of the SubGenius, I call it picking up someone's soul-stench, but you can call it what you want; perhaps "minus ≈" would be a good pneumaticon, in contrast to the resonant ≈ of the genuine saint, sage, or artist).

How are such persons able to instantaneously transmit so little with so little? Obama comes to mind. Probably because of the upward winds of affirmative action -- a perverse caricature of the inspiraling process -- he has never come close to discovering his own vacuity.

Which would also explain the absence of irony, wit, or self-awareness generally. And the nastiness, of course, since anyone who dares to notice the new emperor's empty suit is targeted as an Enemy of the People. The Democrat war on men never ends.

It's quite a nice little racket one has, when accurate perception of oneself is immediately transformed to racism (or sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and all the rest).

This would be an example of a collective defense mechanism protecting a cultural mind parasite; it results in a kind of impermeable barrier to truth, and greatly impedes the progress of the groups who engage in it. It is hardly a coincidence that blacks have been the most damaged by Obama's policies, and yet, continue to support him, similar to how abused children will vociferously defend their parents.

Back to the inspiraling process as the shape of human existence, Schuon -- who is the opposite of the existentially heftless, since he communicates substantiality with striking economy -- agrees that

"The way towards God always involves an inversion: from outwardness one must pass to inwardness, from multiplicity to unity, from dispersion to concentration [read: heft], from egoism to detachment, from passion to serenity."

This serenity is not a "blandness," which is what I imagined it must be when I lived at the periphery, where "excitement" is really just restlessness and agitation in disguise.

Rather, "In order to be happy, man must have a center; now this center is above all the Certitude of the One. The greatest calamity is the loss of the center and the abandonment of the soul to the caprices of the periphery. To be a man is to be at the Center; it is to be Center" (Schuon).

I know what you're thinking: how does this differ, say, from the alarmingly egocentric Obama, for whom delusions of adequacy would be a great improvement? We can illuminate the difference quite easily with just three words: attractor, ego, and O.

As we have discussed in the past, there is clearly (for anyone can phenomenologically prove it to himself) something analogous to "gravity" -- or gravitational force -- in psychospiritual space. Just as, say, the moon is drawn into the orbit of the earth-attractor, and earth into the sun-attractor, vertical space is populated with a host of transpersonal attractors, to such an extent that it can truly be said that "you are what (or Whom) you orbit."

The very first step of the spiritual life -- for all subsequent steps follow from it -- is to leave one attractor for another. Call it what you will -- from the outer to inner, periphery to center, ego to nous, or just (•) to (¶), this is in a sense our "perpetual practice," in which we are always beginners, because we are always taking that first booby step over and over.

And why do we have to keep taking the first step? Because taking it by no means eliminates all the other attractors. There is still a fallen world, there are still seductive lies, there is still our own dubious nature capable of self-deception and ocular auto-pullwoolery.

Schuon raises a subtle but orthoparadoxical point, to the effect that there is a kind of good and bad movement at both the periphery and center. On the one hand, the "spiritual immobility" of the infinite Center is "opposed to the endless movement of external phenomena." But on the other hand, there is a kind of higher "spiritual movement" which "is opposed to the natural inertia of the fallen soul."

To put it in plain language, the people whose lives seem so full of activity are often the most static, whereas the Raccoon is never moving more swiftly than when he is just sitting still, say, banging out a blog post. No one could look at me at the moment and know that I am soaring on wings of slack, least of all my son, who is eager for me to play with him because he is bored sitting still (it's Easter vacation).

In his case the boredom is a good thing, because it means that he cannot be satisfied with the faux movement provided by the TV. For young children -- especially boys -- because their hardware is still being assembled and coming on line, they need external movement to feed the inspiraling process. For man -- chronologically, ontologically, and collectively -- discovery of the outer precedes discovery of the inner.

Here is another apt observation by Schuon:

"The soul must withdraw itself from the dispersion of the world; this is the quality of Inwardness. Then the will must vanquish the passivity of life; this is the quality of Actuality. Finally, the mind must transcend the unconsciousness of the ego; this is the quality of Simplicity. To perceive the Substance intellectually, above the uproar of accidents, this is to realize Simplicity. To be one is to be simple; for Simplicity is to the One what Inwardness is to the Center and what Actuality is to the Present."

Gotta run, but to summarize: Inwardness, Actuality, Simplicity, Present, and Center = heft. Don't worry, you'll see it when you know it.

(All the Schuon references are from his extremely pithy and yet weighty Echoes of Perennial Wisdom)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Human Progress and the Metabolism of God

If we are going to search for the origins of humanness -- and more to the point, the origins of you or me or I -- we're going to need to know what we mean by "human," aren't we?

True, we can take the easy way out and say that a human is someone who can mate with another human and produce human offspring, but that's both circular and meaningless, in that we share that characteristic with every other mammal and reptile. We could take the liberal approach, and say that a human is someone whose mother doesn't want to abort him, but that is way too subjective, not to mention bereft of even rudimentary logic.

For Purcell -- following Voegelin -- there are three major pulse points in history, when humanness dramatically emerges like the big bang it is: "in the Hebrew Bible, in classic Greek philosophy, and in the New Testament."

This troubles me right away, because in my book I trace the big bang of human consciousness to around 50,000 years ago, as evidenced by the sudden florescence of all that beautiful art in those early mancaves.

Obviously we must be operating with a different definition of humanness. I would agree that something quite unusual occurred to the ancient Greek and Hebrew peoples, but I regard it as somewhat analogous to a celestial "solar flare" that was picked up and assimilated in different ways by different cultures. Furthermore, man had to already be there in order to receive the transmission, as opposed to the transmission "creating" him.

I'm thinking of Karl Jaspers' axial age, which saw the downloading of various revelations and realizations, from Plato to the Upanishads to Lao Tzu, Buddha, and the Jewish prophets. This diverse logogenetic activity culminates in the logos actually taking on human form. In other words, it is first dispersed more widely into cultures before being narrowly focused in a particular person.

I notice that the wiki article also references Voegelin, pointing out that he "referred to this age as The Great Leap of Being, constituting a new spiritual awakening and a shift of perception from societal to individual values. Thinkers and teachers like the Buddha, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Anaxagoras contributed to such awakenings which Plato would later call anamnesis, or a remembering of things forgotten."

Remembering of things forgotten. This is another way of saying "vertical recollection," which, in the Raccoon view, is simply the inverse of psychoanalysis. In other words, just as there is a lower vertical -- the unconscious -- there is a higher vertical -- the supraconscious -- which it is man's vocation to colonize. Hence, the more being we colonize, the more humanness we manifest or actualize. The psyche is a kind of hyperdimensional space, but it is up to us to explore as much of it as possible, for its horizons are endless.

To put it another way if God is, as Thomas suggests, "pure act," then by the law of inverse correspondence in the herebelow, man would be something like "pure potency." This would account for Man's relative infinitude which must be actualized in time, whereas God's "infinite infinitude" is present all at once in an atemporal (i.e., eternal) mode.

This also makes sense of one of the favorite wisecracks of the early fathers, that "God became man so that man might become God." Or, more simply, we can just say O (↓) so that (¶) (↑), culminating in ʘ. ʘ is when your divine adoption papers become final.

As we have discussed on many occasions, man is an open system, both horizontally (obvious) and vertically (evidently not as obvious, at least to the tenured). With respect to the axial age outburst -- or perhaps inburst -- alluded to above, Bergson called these "the opening of the soul" (in Purcell). Purcell adds that this was "the period when human beings first reflected explicitly on their own nature and origins, breaking more or less decisively" with myth (emphasis mine).

This is another useful way of looking at it, one touched upon in my book. That is to say, Life Itself emerged when that first molecular entity "wrapped around itself," so to speak, in a time-binding defiance of entropy. Likewise, humanness is clearly characterized by consciousness -- which animals obviously possess -- wrapping around itself in a recursive manner, which one might say is the basis of our self-consciousness, and with it, the possibility of a progressive mental metabolism.

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion called this mental recursiveness "alpha (α-) function," in the absence of which we cannot metabolize experience. In fact, one could say that when a person enters psychotherapy, it is almost always because of some failure in α-function. The patient is "suffering" some sort of experience that cannot be metabolized, converted to linguistic meaning, and deposited in the memory bank.

Thus, instead of the recursive and soul-building spiral, the soul is trapped in the body's neural circuitry. At the extreme this becomes obsessive compulsive disorder, but we are all prone to the occasional "neural eddy," if only in the form of an earworm from a song we can't get out of our heads.

My most recent obsessive-compulsive patient is a case in point vis-a-vis the failure to metabolize experience. For example, before leaving her apartment she had to kiss her cat repeatedly -- I'm talking dozens of times -- and even then had to simply tear herself away in order to get out of the house.

Exploration revealed that this ritual revolved around unresolved feelings of abandonment and separation. Because she could not face -- and metabolize -- the latter, she lived it out symbolically at the expense of her cat. Kissing the cat would temporarily diminish the anxiety, but it would always return.

Interestingly, the patient was deeply ambivalent about taking medication to resolve the problem, because she was afraid it would cause her to become insensate to the feelings. This demonstrates how the OCD concealed something "vital" to her being, which she was not prepared to give up.

I want to add something about α-function and the apprehension of the metaphysical/theological One. Among other things, α-function is able to resolve a mass of data into a higher unity. Thus, the move from mythic polytheism to strict monotheism represents a psychic achievement and purification of the first rank (not without backsliding, of course), and sets the stage for the later emergence of science, which assumes the oneness of creation.

In any event, at around the same time, expressed in different ways, we see the "discovery of the One" -- or Absolute -- among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Upanishadic sages.

But there is nevertheless this -- what to call it? -- abyss between the One and the many, God and man. In my opinion the gradual "closure" of this abyss is man's vocation, precisely, and is the very measure of our earthly quest. It is why we are here, you might say, for it seems that most everyone, whether atheist, agnostic, or theist, wishes to be in conformity to Truth, and we all have a deep intuition that this Truth is ultimately One, whether we call it O, or God, or the physicist's chimerical TOE (theory of everything).

Must stop. Running out of time. To be continued....

Monday, April 09, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Person

To review: there is more difference between man and ape than ape and planet, being that when cosmic evolution crosses the threshold of Man, it enters a vast and inexhaustible Within that might as well represent a second cosmos. And yet, there can be only One.

This second cosmos is somehow "within" the existing one, and yet, transcendent of it. Thus, in his own way, man has a similar relationship to the cosmos as does God, i.e., both immanent and transcendent. Which is what it means to be a mirrorcle of the absolute, i.e., microcosmos, and why nothing short of the absolute quenches man's innate thirst for absoluteness.

As Schuon writes, "One of the keys to understanding our true nature and ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing."

Now this vast and protean cosmic interior is bound up with the universal Quest. Obviously no material object embarks upon a quest to discover its origins and destiny, nor does a dog give a hoot about where it came from so long as it is fed, watered, and walked. And yet, if one is a strict materialist, man's quest would have to be considered utterly quixotic and as doomed from the start as that of any other dog.

Yes, a houndfool of auto-condemned souls conclude that human existence is absurd, and leave it at that (even fewer can actually consistently live in such a desiccated fantasy world without constantly barking at the ghosts they deny). But man is not built this way, and it goes against human nature to imagine and project an absurd cosmos. Rather, meaning is everywhere and at every level of existence.

That being the case, it shouldn't be a surprise that existence is ultimately meaningful. Indeed, to say that meaning is everywhere except in the whole is analogous to affirming that every part of an object is white, but that the object itself is black, like Obama.

So everyone has a story, a story that confers meaning upon the person who tells it. And if this story gets you through the night, hey, who are we to argue? Just don't try to impose your father's gin-soaked dreams on the rest of us, okay?

Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery is his own story, his own attempt to situate himself within our 13.85 billion year cosmodrama. As it so happens, this is impossible to do without recourse to thousands of other cosmodramas.

In fact, this is one of the most baleful effects of living in any kind of totalitarian regime: that only one drama is permitted, e.g., the drama of Darwinism, or of scientism, or of Marxism, or of White Oppression. Yes, you are "free" to discover your life's meaning, so long as it is approved by the state and doesn't cramp its lebensraum.

"Mass education" is a key to facilitating the kind of concentrated power lusted after by the left, for if everyone thinks the same way -- lives in the same narrative bubble -- this makes their job a lot easier. "Thought," such as it is, runs in only one direction, converging upon the almighty state. There is a reason why so many of the wealthiest zip codes in the land encircle D.C.

Conversely, a liberal education is anathema to the state-media narrative of the left, because people might discover a meaning that clashes with state interests. Thus, for the state to "allow" school vouchers is as likely as the IRS operating on the honor system. Without coercion -- whether intellectual or economic -- there is no left. One cannot claim to be "against bullying" while sending money to the DNC.

One of the keys to life is discovering the useful narratives. One might even say that this is the ultimate purpose of an education. How can it be that one can complete thirteen or seventeen or nineteen or twenty-four years of education without having encountered a multitude of these? That was me: after twenty-four years of schooling and one Ph.D., I was pretty much just starting out. But at least they put me on the dayshift.

Purcell writes that as he embarked upon his quest to explore the inner dimension of the cosmos (i.e., humanness), he discovered "a thousand and one mirror quests" in "the multiplicity and variety of quests of other individuals and cultures" down through the ages.

What this means is that, as we set out on our quest, our primary data is not the world per se. In other words, none of us starts from scratch. At the very least we are given a language, a culture, a tradition, a particular family, etc. But for the person who wants to go beyond the given, our data includes the "quests" of a multitude of others, separated in time and space by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Man is a temporal mountain range containing many peeks behind the veil.

This is a key point raised by Chesterton in his Orthodoxy. That is, mankind is one, not just in space but in time. By no means are we permitted to consider the dead as mere links to us -- as if their only purpose was to serve as stepping stones to something better. If one is an evolutionist, that is the inescapable conclusion: nothing simply "is," but is always on the way to something else. Including the evolutionist.

But just as it is immoral to treat a living person as a means and not an end, treating past generations as means robs them of their dignity as persons: "If we don't respect those who have gone before us, who will respect us when we are gone?" This is why no one in the future will respect, say, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. They will be tossed on the same rubbish heap as the persons they denigrated and disrespected in life. Except those folks won't be there. D'oh! What dreadful company.

For Purcell, "meditative re-enactment of the expressions of the quests of others, animates our existence with a heightened sense of the worth of human existence -- our own and others -- and grounds a sense of human family that is universal across space and time." Another word for this is tradition, which is essentially the temporal prolongation and iteration of an essential truth.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Tinkling into the Void

As I was saying yesterday before the conspiracy snatched the pencil out of my hand, "Same here. In my case, I -- " was puzzled by the most basic ontological distinction in the cosmos between subject and object -- specifically, how the I AM of the former relates to the IT IS of the latter. In no way could I understand how one could ever derive the I from the IT, unless it -- meaning I -- were somehow there with IT to begin with.

A casual and eventually thoroughgoing acquaintance with science and philosophy establishes the fact that most thinkers don't actually deal with the issue, but rather, simply stop asking questions at some point, thus violating the principle of sufficient reason, which says that any effect requires a cause adequate to account for it; which is a fancy way of saying that you can't get blood out of a turnip.

Another way of looking at this question is to say that before we look for an explanation, we have to first decide what would constitute one. Therefore, if you're following me, one not only has to have an idea of what would constitute truth, but this idea must lie outside or "above" the explanation itself.

This is where evolutionists and materialists in general run into so much trouble, eg: man is just another animal, animals are just the expression of selfish genes, and that's the truth. One of these statements is not like the others!

Bryan Magee has a good analysis of the problem in his fine biography of Schopenhauer:

"It is possible for us to pose some sort of Why? question with regard to anything. As Schopenhauer puts it: 'The validity of the principle of sufficient reason is so much involved in the form of consciousness that we simply cannot imagine anything objectively of which no 'why?' could be further demanded."

Now, the core of any discipline, whether science, philosophy, history, or law, revolves around this question of sufficient reason, of which there are different kinds. For example, physical causation is not the same as moral causation. If Al Gore defenestrates Keith Olbermann, and Olbermann falls on and kills a pedestrian below, we do not hold Olbermann responsible for the death. Yes, he is the direct material cause, but that is not a satisfactory moral account.

For Schopenhauer there are four main kinds of sufficient reason: the type of direct physical causation that occurs, say, between billiard balls; mathematical determination; logical entailment; and the sort of "motivated action" that can only arise from a free subject, or mind.

In each case, philosophical questions arise, but the first three categories are not nearly as problematic as the fourth. But even then, if you really want to be a noodge, you can ask a physicist, for example, "but what exactly is energy?", or "what is the cause of mathematics?" "[T]he scientist gestures in the direction of the philosopher," who then pretends to answer the question. The metaphysical theologian raises his hand and says "I know I know I know," but they refuse to pick him.

The bottom line is that "science is, in a serious sense of the term, occult, in that it explains everything else without itself being explained" (ibid). Ironically, this is one of the definitions of God, i.e., the uncaused cause.

Equally ironic is that, at the end of the day, after all the science has been, er, settled, "the mystery of the world as such would be as great at the end of the process as it had been at the beginning" (ibid). Why? That's why: because we can still ask why?

In lieu of the above, we could probably save a lot of time with a one word, all purpose protest: Gödel!, proving once again that you can't crack the cosmic egg without breaking out the umlaut.

For "the laws of logic, like the basic concepts of science, and the axioms and the rules of mathematics... must involve circularity, since they themselves generate the justification procedures in their universe of discourse" (ibid).

But interestingly, we all recognize the flaw in this approach when it comes to moral justification. Our whole legal system is -- or was, before liberals hijacked it -- built around the idea that we do not allow people to get away with crimes just because they felt morally justified in doing so.

This whole discussion hits rather close to home, because, as a forensic psychologist, I am routinely asked to give a precise opinion as to what "caused" a patient's "psychiatric injury."

The problem here is that there is an utter conflation between the kind of causation that applies to matter with the kind of causation that is adequate to explain mental events. In no way am I permitted to provide fully comprehensive explanations appropriate to the subject -- for example, the percentage of causation that may be attributed to man's fallen nature, or just the fact that life is hard, so deal with it. Rather, I must pretend that the all mental causes are as discrete and proximate as those in a game of billiards.

In any event, as Magee explains, "there is a point where natural science, and indeed every branch of knowledge, leaves things as they are" and "does not go beyond this point."

Looked at this way, the belief that the "big bang" ends the discussion of our origins is no better than the belief that the cosmos was caused by the god Witoto taking a leak into the void. Neither one satisfies me. I mean, I certainly prefer the former, but it's not as if it's a self-sufficent explanation.

For example, where do all those elegant equations governing the big bang come from? Who knows, maybe Witoto tinkles them into the void.

Or maybe, just maybe, as reveiled in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, it was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 05, 2012

How Did I -- Of All Things -- Get Here?

I have exactly 35 minutes to my nameless. Maybe I can manage this time-squeeze I'm under if I just speed-type my spontaneous bobservations without pausing to reflect.

Let's do this thing. Go!

About that comment yesterday to the effect that there is more difference between a man and a monkey than between a monkey and an inanimate object. I would go even further and say that there is sometimes more difference between men than between men and animals.

One needs to be cautious here, because by no means does it imply that every person isn't of infinite value. But I was thinking of JWN Sullivan's remark to the effect that -- musically speaking, of course -- there is a greater distance between Beethoven and the average man than between the average man and a dog.

There are indeed a handful of men who tower above the rest, whether saints, or scientists, or novelists, poets and painters. Why is this?

I believe that it is essentially a necessary consequence of the ontological category of "man," who contains within himself all the hierarchical degrees of being, and spans the entire cosmos in both space and time, vertically and horizontally.

That being the case... Put it this way: it is analogous to the biosphere, in which there are no gaps whatsoever.

In other words, wherever one goes on the planet, from the deepest depths of the ocean, to the north pole, to the hottest desert, to the wastelands of MSNBC, there is some form of primitive life that has found a way to adapt itself to environmental conditions. It has found its niche.

But there is also a vertical space uniquely inhabited by man. This space too is populated wherever one travels within it. Indeed, one can go to hell and back -- Dante proved this -- but one will always find footprints of our predecessors and/or contemporaries (and occasionally descendants from the "future").

Even if one regards "hell" as a metaphor of the Freudian unconscious, this dimension was well-traveled even before Freud came along. It's just that he demythologized it and attempted to fit it into a scientific/mechanistic paradigm. But that is impossible, for the same reason religion cannot be so contained.

In fact, religion as such bears upon the ultimate container, not the contained. To imagine that one could ever be the former is to 1) misunderstand religion, and 2) create a narcissistic monster. Science becomes scientism -- and evolution evolutionism and politics religion -- when it presumes to be a self-sufficient explanation.

Back to the Beethoven-man-dog thingy, the point is that vertical space is densely populated, with some people near the top, others closer to the bottom.

But man possesses such protean gifts, that almost everyone has something that places him near the top, even if it is only -- only! -- kindness, or mothering, or decency, or sincerity. For example, although Beethoven was in the stratosphere musically, his interpersonal skills were evidently closer to a junkyard dog.

More generally, saints are not usually sages, scientists are not philosophers, celebrities are not political scientists, community organizers are not statesmen, etc.

Interesting, however, that someone like Thomas Aquinas was indeed both saint and sage, and at the highest levels. In his case, this convergence was necessary, because there is a kind of personal purity needed to disclose the realities he touches upon.

I think I have mentioned in the past that the ultimate question motivating my book was: how is it that I am possible? And I don't necessarily mean that in any special way, rather, just the naked fact of the most unexpected thing one could possibly imagine in a cosmos.

It turns out that in order to answer the question, you can't just say, for example, "my parents just happened to stumble upon one another, and you know the rest."

Yes there's that, but there's also cosmology, history, anthropology, linguistics, etc., etc., etc. It turns out that Purcell is motivated by that same question -- the very Question that defines man:

"What led me back to philosophy from psychology was a sense that, as a human being, I myself wasn't really, at least not exclusively, 'an object,' the kind of a thing a science could wholly encompass [read: contain] and explain."

Rather, "I realized I'm something other than a world-immanent thing -- a subject -- and that there's an inexhaustibility to the within-ness that marks me out as a human being as distinct from a galaxy, an ecosystem, or an animal."

Same here. In my case, I-

STOP! Please lay down your pencil, return to time, and prepare for work.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Man and His Endless Jnani Quest

No, that's not just a strained pun. Look it up: knowledge, specifically, knowledge that is "inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total reality or supreme being." (A jnani is on a quest for jnana.)

You see, occasionally English lacks the mot juste -- mot juste being another -- to describe certain things, including spiritual realities. And even if we did have such a word, it would probably be saturated by now, which is where our sacred wordplay, or punnishantics, come in, so as to remystify the language. In short, it helps us keep the good news new and our nous to the groundstone.

According to Purcell, there is a universal Quest "that summons all true human beings to the heart of the human mystery." Are "quest" and "question" etymologically related? I don't know, but Purcell says that we are not the answers, nor is "the source of the summons even... clear to us." In short, there is no self-sufficient explanation for the mystery of man and his wonderlust about the Mystery.

To back up a bit, if you don't recognize that man -- i.e., your existence -- is a mystery, then you are dismissed. You are way beyond -- or before -- my capacity to help you aggravate the mystery or shed any further obscurity on matters.

In a letter, Dostoyevsky wrote that "Man is a mystery. One must solve it.... I occupy myself with this mystery because I want to be a man" (in Purcell).

Isn't that a bit t-t-tautologous? Man is a mystery, but the pursuit of this mystery is somehow intrinsic to what it means to be a man. You're a mystery, Mister O! And the worst thing you can do is perform a mysterectomy on yourself. Rather, leave it to the experts: the tenured.

Now, you might suppose that a standard autobiography is a kind of transparent plunge into the mystery, but that approach usually leads nowhere if it fails to link up with the Source. In other words, the individual self is literally a kind of inexhaustible mystery, but this "inexhaustibility" provides a clue to the Big Mystery, since man is a kind of "finite infinitude" which mirrors the infinite infinitude of O.

Therefore, if you imagine that your bullshit will ever run dry, you're only fooling yourself. You'll never find God that way, because you're already in the ocean searching for water.

Now that it is understood that man is embedded in a cosmic drama extending back no less than 13.85 billion years -- that History is much longer than anyone ever supposed -- it is frankly impossible to write a comprehensive autobiography without taking into consideration, say, the big bang, the evolution of life, and the emergence of human consciousness; and on a more micro level, one's prelinguistic development (before the age of five), which is itself a vast undiscovered country, an infinite ground in its own way.

By which I mean that if we are deprived of certain ground-floor experiences during this sensitive period, our quest for the Ground will be compromised later in life. The psychoanalyst Michael Balint wrote of the "basic fault" (as in "fault line"), which can even be seen as one way in which man perpetuates his ancestral Fall from generation to generation. A person haunted by the Basic Fault often spends his life in pursuit of what might be called "dark mysteries," or thrilling perversions and secret compulsions of various kinds.

Pardon the abrupt transition, but I am glad to see another writer tackling the "discontinuity problem" of human beings. In fact, Purcell makes a useful distinction between the fact of evolution and the ideology of "evolutionism," which is analogous to the critical distinction between science and scientism, of which every educated person should be aware.

The dogma of evolutionism maintains that there is no ontological distinction between man and animal, an absurd metaphysic that immediately runs aground for reasons Darwin himself intuited:

"With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

The answer is no, of course not. That being the case, where is the line in nature at which point monkey convictions become reliable and trustworthy? The ideology answers -- and disproves -- itself if one is honest.

Recall that in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, the individual chapters are so arranged as to be both discontinuous -- i.e., discrete and numbered, just like any other book -- but also continuous and flowing, apparently unlike any other book. This complementarity signifies a number of things, including the ontological discontinuity -- the evolutionary leap, which evolution supposedly cannot do -- of man.

Yes, we are aware of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, but that is merely another attempt at a natural explanation to "save the appearances" of what is clearly a transnatural phenomenon.

One of the themes that runs through From Big Bang to Big Mystery is that human beings "are both continuous with the evolutionary process and discontinuous with it." I for one know exactly what he means when he references Walker Percy's observation that there is "more difference between a human and an animal -- let's say an orangutan -- than between the animal and the planet Saturn."

Everything thus far has been introductory. Details will be filled in as we proceed down this mysterious rabbit hole.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Scoping the Cosmic Competition

First of all, take a look at the cover:

Look familiar? We're obviously describing the same object:

His is just a little more sloppy, or impressionistic, or sloppy drunk, that's all. Same bang, same torus-shaped object emanating outward from a central point of infinitude, which is both source and destiny, alpha and omega. Both are renditions of O. Truly, we have been drawn into the same attractor, right down to transformations of the same invisible visual image to convey it.

We are of course talking about Brendan Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution, which, like our One Cosmos, attempts to pack the whole existentialida -- the whole cosmic drama -- into a combo-plate in the head of about 300 pages. It is the only other recent book of which I am aware that synthesizes everything from physics to anthropology to paleontology to biology to history to mysticism to theology to mind parasites into one convenient narrative -- but in a non-stupid manner, since anyone can do it the other way.

There are differences, however. I would estimate that his bibliography is about twice the size of mine. Hard to tell because of the different sized fonts, but his runs to over 20 pages, whereas mine is only 11. However, this quantitative difference reveals a qualitative difference, in that mine has much more of a "top-down," synthetic approach, whereas his is much more of a bottom-up endeavor.

In my case, I was guided by a clear and distinct vision and narrative that organized the material below, whereas his relies more on an overwhelming amount of scientific data, from which an attempt is made to discern the overarching pattern stretching from 13.7 billion years ago to the present moment. Perhaps that's why his cover art is so much more sloppy. You might say that mine suggests the supernatural order of Dante's realism, whereas his is more postmodern.

Who is this Brendan Purcell? According to Professor Backflap, he is an ordained priest who is currently adjunct professor of philosophy at Notre Dame. His previous book was called The Drama of Humanity: Towards a Philosophy of Humanity in History, while he also co-edited Voegelin's classic Hitler and the Germans. In fact, he is hugely influenced by Voegelin, whom he knew personally. In his bibliography there is more Voegelin than anyone else, essentially the complete works, which would probably take about five years to get through, assuming one has other responsibilities and a slight streak of masochism.

Speaking of whom, our bibliographies contain many of the same names. This is not an academic observation, since it reveals the "clues" we both regard as significant. In other words, faced with the infinite mass of data before us, we both honed in on particular sources.

At the same time, we had some mutually exclusive influences, including some who are quite central to my approach, thus accounting for differences in sensibility and emphasis.

For example, I don't expect that too many other people -- well, none actually -- will share my enthusiasm for W.R. Bion, Allan Schore, Robert Rosen, Valentin Tomberg, James Joyce, and Fritjhof Schuon, especially in combination. You'd think the combination would make for one weird stew, and perhaps it does. Yes, that would explain a lot. The elusive "royalty check," for starters.

I think it's safe to say that Purcell's approach is much more mainstream, both scientifically and religiously. Obviously we are burdened -- or liberated, depending upon your EQ (eccentricity quotient) -- by the whole Raccoon thing, from which we could not escape even if we wanted. I think Purcell would say that he wants to "engage" the other side, not wage a polemical and unproductive battle with them.

But from our more bobnoxious perspective, this has as much chance of success as attempting to reason with a liberal, which we all know is as productive -- and perverse, frankly -- as milking a bull. As we say, liberalism cannot be argued out of, only awakened from.

That being the case, it is only more true of Spirit, to which we must also awaken, not be argued into. Arguing helps, of course, but only if one is dealing with an intellectually honest and uncorrupted spirit who is inclined to accept the evidence and willing to humble himself before Truth.

This is just a very short intro, since I'm already pressed for time, so let's start with the big picture, and get into details later. This Big Picture is the idea that all human beings -- even the wrongheaded ones we don't like -- are motivated by the same Quest, which is none other than the Cosmic Adventure, the search for the Eternal Ground.

Although their metaphysic will not allow them to admit it to theirproudselves, even -- or perhaps especially -- Marxists, leftists, metaphysical Darwinists, doctrinaire atheists, secular fundamentalists, and positivists of various kinds are all seeking the same ultimate Truth, except in a self-defeating way that assures failure. However, this hardly means that we can't benefit from this or that genuine relative truth they discover, since all truth is of the Holy Spirit.

Damn, I think I'll just stop now, because it will be too frustrating to stop once I get started. Gotta wake the boy in five minutes, and then drive him to school. To be continued....

But first, another snapshot of the cosmos, just because:

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Limits of Leftism: Death, Tyranny, and Grown-ups

Just a brief thoughtlet, more worthy of a tweet, whatever that is.

The Supremes obviously want to know what the "limiting principle" is behind Obamacare, but they're about 75 years too late, since they will search in vain for any such principle in leftism.

To put it another way, leftism is the principle of unlimited government, so it has no intrinsic limitation. It is omnipotent, omniscient, and utopian, hence "offended" by your petty -- and probably evil -- objections. You can't get too much of Never Enough. And there are no moral or rational limits to a Limitless Science.

The Party of NO! just spoils the Party of Hearty. But the latter can never be independent, dammit, because they require all that cash from productive adults in order to keep the party rolling.

Get Out of My Life, Rethuglicans! But First Could I Borrow About Ten Trillon?

The left does, however, have an extrinsic limiting principle. It's called "conservatism." Conservatism is the only limit on unlimited government, the adult "no" to the infantile "more!"

Which goes back to the bobservation cited by the hysterical Kosbag in yesterday's post, because the situation is indeed very much analogous to the parent/child dialectic, in which children need parents to set limits and boundaries. A child without boundaries soon enough becomes a monster in some form or fascism.

If one fails to internalize these boundaries, then a whole range of pathology results, both personal and, more problematically, sociological. It wouldn't bother me so much if boundaryless people only destroyed themselves. Sad, maybe, but Darwin is a cruel master, and the least fit among us are often permitted just one big mistake.

If one cannot behave like a civilized human being, one is much more likely to encounter a limit in the form of a jail cell, a dreadful disease, a bullet to the chest, etc. ***cough***trayvon***cough cough AKA "No Limit Nigga." What a dramatic way to discover one's limit. D'oh!

Fatherless children often find a rigid and punitive father later in life, in the form of cold iron bars or hot lead projectiles.

What is the limit of homosexual acting out, of having thousands of anonymous sexual encounters, like Patient Zero? In his case, the limit was the free-swinging scythe of AIDS. Once that condition is controlled, you'll see a recrudescence of the same sort of behavior that caused the virus to flourish.

Indeed, what is the limit of male heterosexual acting out? It used to be something called "female discrimination," also known as "taste," "standards," or "a future." Eliminate these, and manhood soon enough devolves to Andy Warhol's definition of art: what you can get away with.

Actually, there is another limiting principle of leftism: reality. But if reality isn't respected, it exacts a terrible vengeance, so it is more than just a limit.

It's very much like science, in that we obey nature in order to control nature. Disobey nature -- including human nature -- and the account will be balanced, one way or another, sooner or later, by God or by Darwin -- and sometimes by God through Darwin.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Godding About the Voicinity

No, I'm not yet caught up with my work. Made some progress, but I still need more time to get my existential account out of the dread and into the slack.

For my own edification I've been trawling through the arkive, trying to see where the live bodies are buried. I'm only six month in, but the good news is that I haven't found much that's worthy of eternity prior to April 2006, so don't waste your time back there.

If memory serves, there was some point that I gave up trying, which is when the quality improved. Once out of my own way, I could express things more in my own way. Or, maybe each post is a new attempt to "get it right," so that anything before today is obsolete.

I did find one item of comedic value, when a diarrheist at Dailykos bestowed upon me the title of Most Obnoxious Man In America:

"No, it's not Bush and it's not Cheney. It's Robert Godwin. Not heard of him? Well, this man, a clinical psychologist, continually attacks the left and liberals as mentally ill, as having pathologies, of being sick in their soul. He does this in a beautiful way, as he is undoubtedly intelligent, just severely severely skewed.

"Go ahead and check out his latest post on his blog. Sample quotation:

Leftism continues to be a children's crusade against the adult world, and we are in desperate need of adults who will stand up to the children and not worry about trying to be their "friends." As a parent, you simply must do what you need to do, because children don't really know how to raise themselves. The spirit of rebellion that animates the Left is oedipal to the core, so to gratify it is to create a monster.

Here are some of the more articulate comments at Dailykos:

by gad
what a pompous twit.

by bumblebums
some people should never be educated
they just spew nonsense with fancy words and that fools the REALLY dumb people

by RumsfeldResign
how much does he get paid to say that filth? And by whom?
Follow the money!

by Tamifah
i think he does it from a sense of duty which is perhaps more worrying than doing it for $$$. it is a disorder.

by kingfelix
Are you sure it's not a sense of "doody"? He's a mean, mean, doody-head. Doody, doody, DOODY!!!

Seriously, even if he's sincere, the party of the rich always has enough money to see to it that their mouthy little spokesturds like him never have to eat ramen or worry about the rent. Follow the money, indeed. There's always enough to keep scumbags like him and Tucker Carlson in clean bowties.

by drewfromct
Thanks for highlighting the circus sideshow named Godwin.
Gads these guys are scary.

by Cool Blue
A sophmoric twit for sure, but the most obnoxious man in America, for the 18th consecutive year, is Pat Robertson.

by Olds88
given his professional capacity and his erudition, it makes him more a full blown obnoxious fascists than robertson , limbaugh, o'reilly, and falwell.

by kingfelix
This shrink guy is just an embarrassment to his profession.

by Olds88
yeah, but if the caysh was'nt there he'd be sellin some other snakeoil, or some line of bs. Ain't none of these guys doin any of that stuff for nothin'. I bet you he's into porno and hookers.....and wears women's lingerie when he's psychologizin'.

by Manix
We could temporarily revoke, uh, Godwin's Law, and compare this guy Godwin with members of a certain German political party.

by Manix
whenever I think about this guy, I can't help but do a Nazi salute.

by lazybum
This guy's bad. And Pat Robertson and his ilk are bad too, but I wouldn't say obnoxious. Awful pieces of dog shit who are dangerous to America, yes. But obnoxious implies that certain nails-on-the-blackboard kind off effect when you hear their voice and their comments.

That post has its historical basis in the way white southern men viewed themselves as Cavaliers, noble and pure in soul, as opposed to the debased and wretched northern Puritans. Opposition to slavery was the prime example of Puritan soullessness.

by YellowDogBlue
his hatred is obviously self-hatred directed outward at those he secretly admires.
Conservatives are mentally ill. He is a classic example.

by theyrereal
An egregiously bad writer.
Stick to your day job, Robert, whatever it is. And the next time you feel the compulsion to write, lie down until the feeling goes away.


I also found the following, which I like:

I think it’s fair to say that on this side of manifestation, God in the cataphatic sense is a verb, whereas the apophatic God-beyond-being must be a noun. That latter "dimension" of God is called silent, still, unchanging, unqualified, etc., whereas the only God we can know must be “Godding” somewhere about the vicinity, or we couldn’t know about him.

In fact, the only way we ourselves can know about God is by religioning. A religion is not primarily something one “has” or “knows.” Rather, it must be something one does -- like playing a musical instrument in order to make music present.

I always say that one doesn't generally become religious after deciding with the mind or ego whether or not God exists. Rather, one becomes religious in order to find out for oneself. Just as science is the appropriate means with which to study the properties of the natural world, religion is the means with which we study the properties of Spirit.

Whatever the quantum world is in itself, science cannot say. Looked at this way, it’s a particle. Looked at that way, it’s a wave.

It is just so with religion. Religions are ways to look at (and even “through”) God in order to reveal different aspects and dimensions of him. But this doesn’t mean that the entire enterprise is subjective, any more than quantum physics is subjective just because knowledge of the subatomic realm depends upon the way we look at it.

So the question really isn’t whether or not God exists. The existence of God can easily be proven to someone who is inclined to believe the evidence. To someone not so inclined, no amount of evidence will suffice.

Being that God is real, how do we actually make him ex-ist? That is, the literal meaning of exist is to “stand out.” Thus, in this way of looking at things, something can be real but not exist.

While we cannot manufacture grace, we can do many things that interfere with its operation or which facilitate our awareness of its presence.

Which is why it is so helpful to associate with “men of ascending tendency.” Of course, there are many neutral or descending relationships we cannot avoid, which is all the more reason to be part of ascendiation of people who are serious about the spiritual life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Closed For Isness

I apologize to anyone I haven't offended, but I'm just too far behind in my remunerative work to continue posting. The patented One Cosmos method of applied non-doodling isn't possible -- or realizable -- if I cannot see before me that vast, trackless desert of slack extending over the purplish-pink ultra-human horizon, i.e., the summa vocation. Hopefully, normal isness upperations will continue once I catch up.

You could say that slack is the nonspecific ether through which we fly with wings of repose. Yeah, something like that.

Even reposting takes time, time needed to get things done in clockworld. Unlike my household gnome, I am embodied, and that's just the way it is.

The Raccoon is not so constituted as to grovel at anyone's surface. Squeezed for timelessness, it's like being rushed through your sleep -- as if, if you really hurry, you can complete eight hours of sleep in just six hours. When that happens, you eventually start dreaming during the day. Conversely, when the Conspiracy impinges, it's like being forced to wake while you really need to be dreaming.

Pretty soon you're completely "awake," but not in the good way. Rather, in such a way that all of the vertical springs, all the interstices of mystery, are bottled up with that familiar tenuro-media excreta that is somehow indigestibly concrete and adhesively slimy.

So, consider this an open thread, if you wish. Here is something to start the conversation, an email from a reader:

"As a longtime reader and fan of yours, I am attuned to your unique style. Yet occasionally I have trouble getting the point of a particular post (assuming there is one) reading it in the conventional top to bottom manner. When that happens I have found better results reading them backwards, not literally, but starting with the last paragraph and working up. Have I hit on something here? A useful technique for reading comprehension? An undiagnosed disability perhaps?"

To which we responded off the top of our head from the center of our cloud: "That is a provocative thought. I think I'll pass it on to readers for comment. Could be because I myself have no idea what the post is about until it somehow wraps itself up at the end, which it does nine times out of ten. The post just kind of finishes itself and says "I'm done. You can get on with your life now."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Circular Logic and Absolute Stupidity

When progressives talk about "progress," they cannot mean the same thing we do, for objective progress is precisely what is rendered impossible in their metaphysic.

One can approach this from various angles, but the result is always the same, for a determined stupidity at the start of a journey assures stupidity at the end -- like insisting that if only one travels far enough, one can prove that parallel lines meet, and then setting out for points unknowable.

Since there is no "fixed point" in leftism, it can claim no truth and hence no measure of progress. Schuon hits the troll on the head in his usual pithy style: "To claim that knowledge as such could only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute."

Either that thought will appeal to you, and be used as a stepping stone to higher things, or you will literally find it "repulsive," in that it will repel you onto a relative and therefore subjective, idiosyncratic, and ultimately arbitrary path. Mal voyage!

Once on that false path, no matter how rigorously one otherwise applies reason, one will be in a world that is fundamentally unreal. Therefore, one will be apportioning clouds, sowing the wind, spanking the monkey, etc. That is the bad kind of cosmic circle -- as the French put it, the cirque du jerkeil.

The cosmos is, of course, "structured," so to speak, as a circle, but it is a benignly inspiraling one, not a viciously repetitive one, i.e. an eternal return, or a Neitzsche you can't scratchy. When I first realized this, I thought I had hit on something kind of unique. Now I wish I had compiled all of the statements I've stumbled upon that affirm the same thing.

For example, this one, by Schuon: "There are basically but three miracles: existence, life, intelligence; with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring which in reality has never parted from the Infinite."

In fact, even prior to the establishment of the first Raccoon lodge on March 4, 1355, Thomas Aquinas had used exactly this organizational structure for the Summa: a chain of interior and exterior certitudes forming a Great Circle of Being:

"In the emergence of creatures from their first source is revealed a kind of circular movement, in which all things return, as to their end, back to the very place from which they had their origin in the first place."

There is a two-way journey; one can call it out and back, or down and up, or many and one, or conspiracy and slack, or just ø and O.

In any -- and every -- event, there is a "Journey away from Home, where creatures actively unfold their diverse dynamic natures as finite participations in the divine perfection and as centers of self-expressive and self-communicating action and interaction with each other, thus forming a universe, that is, a system of many real beings joined together by their interaction to form the community of all existents -- the ultimate of all communities. This part of the journey was called the exitus (journey out)" (Clarke).

This is accompanied by the journey back toward the Great Attractor, O, whereby creation is "drawn by this same Source through the pull of the Good built in to the very nature of every being through the mediation of final causation," or what Bob calls the the personal telovator or cosmic eschalator.

The bottom -- and top -- line is that this "ultimate One now appears as both the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and End, at once the Source and the Goal of the restless dynamism of all nature, of all finite beings."

It's just that in human beings, this restless longing, this passion for wholeness, has become conscious, and this consciousness, you might say, is the initial "spark" (?!) that occurs when two tingles mingle and abysses meet, i.e., the Divine and human:

"There is religious conversion which is 'being grasped by ultimate concern. It is an other-worldly falling in love....' The outcome of such conversion is that the Holy Spirit and the human spirit encounter profoundly" (Norris).

Love at first Light.

Monday, March 19, 2012

God's Endless Search for Man

The problem with the left is not a bad philosophy, but no philosophy at all. The left is truly "post-philosophical," which is what allows them to routinely hold views that are internally inconsistent, and more generally, to appeal to expedient principles -- an oxymoron -- as the need arises to defend what can only amount to raw power and self-interest.

No, this is not just polemical, because this is precisely what the more sophisticalated among them aver, without so much as a fig leaf over their straight faces. We are indeed in a "post-metaphysical" age, which is indistinguishable from a post-philosophical age, which in turn results in a post-serious thinking age, or what Dennis Prager calls "the age of stupidity."

When the tenured break out the "post-metaphysics" canard, what they really mean is post-Western civilization in general and post-Judeo-Christian in particular. The only way to jettison those two obstacles to their aspirations is to discredit them entirely. Not to seriously engage them, because to engage them would be to leave oneself beclowned (just as engaging the Constitution would put an end to the left's schemes).

Therefore, these more venerable ideas must be dismissed with a kind of a priori contempt, as if man learned nothing at all during his first 200,000 years on the planet. If nothing else, the mere presence of a species for 200,000 years argues for an essence or nature that defines the species. But this is not a problem if one's post-philosphical and post-intellectual outlook tosses aside the whole notion of essence.

Rather, if man is but the effect of wholly random causes, he has no essence. That being the case, we are free to turn him into anything we wish. For example, if we raise a boy as a girl, he will become one. For the left, the only thing in man that is absolutely fixed is homosexuality. That and the right to a dead baby. Unless the baby is homosexual. Then it's murder.

The only way to overcome what man has learned about himself over the eons -- much of it rather unflattering -- is to adopt an attitude of abject cynicism. Now, as we see in our troll, this attitude is one of extreme corrosiveness, in the sense that it naively prides itself on being able to dissolve any argument before reaching its conclusion. This is why I refer to it as "negative omniscience."

Unlike positive omniscience, or "knowing everything," this is the negative capability of knowing nothing. One routinely encounters it in clinical practice, among paranoiacs (in a more crude form) and narcissists (in more subtle forms).

Most of you have probably been around a hard-bitten paranoiac or conspiracy theorist with whom you simply cannot reason. If you carefully explain to them with facts, evidence, and logic, say, how implausible it is to suggest that George Bush "lied us into war" -- or, for that matter, that Bill Clinton is a mass murderer, or Barack Obama is an Islamist agent -- they will roll their eyes and dismiss you as hopelessly naive. But their blustering self-confidence is always brittle at the core, and rooted in fear and doubt, which is why they cannot tolerate ambiguity.

As Clarke discusses, "The very notion of constructing a unified systematic philosophical inquiry into being as a whole... has been abandoned by contemporary philosophers." An exception to the rule is Whiteheadian process philosophy, which is how I initially got into the racket. In fact, I don't think he can be surpassed if one is attempting to construct a metaphysic on merely scientific grounds, i.e., to draw out the metaphysical implications of modern science.

But man is obviously not restricted to the scientific mode of knowing. Rather, as Schuon writes, "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence." For "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing."

I don't regard this statement as remotely poetical, or romantic, or "in a manner of speaking." Rather, everything must have its sufficient reason, and the only sufficient reason for man's restless search for the Absolute is the Absolute. This is the real reason why science never rests content with any hypothesis (with the exception of manmade global warming, which, like homosexuality and the right to abortion, is another absolute).

But if man were only provoked to seek out the Absolute from the short end of the cosmos, this would be a cosmic itch he could never scratch, for it is not possible for a finite being to reach the Infinite.

Therefore, just as man is on a perpetual search for God, history reveals God's perpetual search for man. If one prefers, one may express it in abstract terms, and say that man, everywhere we find him, is characterized by (↑). But likewise, culture, everywhere we find it, is imbued with traces of (↓).

In the end -- as we shall see -- man's search for God is God's search for man, for there is no other way of looking at it, assuming God is God.

To put it another way, every culture is characterized by a search for the ground, the ultimate principle, the unchanging. As Norris describes, this is the "search from below." He references Cardinal Newman, who remarked that "all the nations" seek God, and that "by feeling their way toward him, succeed in finding him." However, it is necessary to discern the principial truth within "the corrupt legends" with which it is inevitably mixed.

However, the story of the people of Israel is not just another story of (↑), but more importantly, a -- the -- story of (↓): "it is not we who seek God, it is rather God who seeks us out." And for Christians, (↑) and (↓) meet -- or Cross paths -- in the person of Christ, who is both ground and destiny: "Here the human search from below, in its many different modalities and incarnations... effectively meets the divine descending search..."

Thus, "the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face." More to the point, "dialogue" becomes the possibility of "union" when the Absolute crosses "the ontological abyss separating the infinite and infinite." Again, to say that man cannot accomplish this union in the absence of (↓) is a truism.

Which is where the Holy Spirit comes in, for he may be fruitfully thought of as an ongoing form of (↓), so that our sincere search is never in vain. The Holy Spirit "is the finisher and polisher of divine revelation with regard to us." Norris references an illuminating passage by the Orthodox bishop Ignatios of Latakia:

Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
the Gospel is a dead letter,
the Church is simply an organization,
authority a matter of dominion,
mission a matter of propaganda,
the liturgy no more than an evocation,
Christian living a slave morality.

(↓) is indeed the cosmic vertilizer spread over the ground. Which is why so much fruit grows in these parts. And why it just lays there uneaten, rotting on the grounds of your typical university, in favor of their highly processed, manmade junk metaphysics.