Tuesday, April 24, 2012

De-divinization, Dehumanization, and Radical Stupidity

The question of spiritual pathology is again tied in with the issue of universality, for only if man has a specific definition can there be deviations from that definition. Only if man is truly one can he fall short of his own manhood. And if man isn't essentially one, then truly, it is every man for himself.

In Hitler and the Germans, Voegelin asks the questions, "When was man as such discovered?" and "What was he discovered to be?" He focuses on two specific historical places and situations, which we might abbreviate as Athens and Jersualem.

For here we have two points "where what man is was experienced," followed by a generalization -- or universalization -- that becomes "binding on all men."

Thus, for example, a direct line can be drawn between these two points and our own "political genesis," which affirms that "all men are created equal." Note again that this is a definitional (and ontological) statement, in that it goes to what man "is." And it is obviously universal, in that it applies to all men at all times.

In what we are calling Athens, "man was experienced by the philosophers of the classical period as a being who is constituted by the nous, by reason."

Which is fine as far as it goes, but it is not enough to define man in his essence and totality. From Jerusalem (short for Israelite society) we have the additional experience of man as a "pneumatic being who is open to God's word." Man is the being to -- and through -- whom the Spirit speaks, with all this implies (i.e., truth, beauty, virtue, nobility, objectivity, etc).

Thus, "Reason and spirit are the two modes of constitution of man, which were generalized as the idea of man." This is a -- the -- definitive definition of man, because it cannot be surpassed, only fallen short of. Emphasizing one over the other, or one to the exclusion of the other, results in man being maimed at his ground and center: the dry rot of Moscow or the wet rot of Teheran.

Consider the French Revolution, or the leftist regimes of the 20th century, which started with very different definitions of man, ones that exclude his pneuma in general and his deiformity in particular.

Ironically, these latter are defined by the regimes in question as the essence of pathology: religion as opiate or mask for illicit power. Thus, before the guillotine falls or the gulags open for business, man is decapitated and imprisoned in an environment intrinsically hostile to man as such -- in which there is no spiritual oxygen, food, or water. And as he dies spiritually, he loses contact with the spiritual per se.

Now, it is not just that man is characterized by nous and pneuma, or intellect and spirit. Rather, it is obvious that neither of these could be their own sufficient reason.

Rather, they relate to something that precedes them, just as the wings of a bird relate to the surrounding atmosphere. And just as we don't expect to find wings in environments where flight is impossible, or eyes where there is no light, we don't expect to find intellect where truth is impossible, or pneuma where the spirit doesn't dwell.

So nous and pneuma are intrinsically related to their own sufficient reason, which is another way of saying that they are open to reality in a self-transcending manner. In each case, we reach out "beyond ourselves toward the divine in the philosophical experience and the loving encounter through the word [logos] in the pneumatic experience..."

For Voegelin -- and for Schuon -- this participation in the divine reality is the source of man's dignity. Thus, any definition of man that falls short of what we have outlined above, is always an assault on man's rightful stature: "The loss of dignity comes about through the denial of the participation of the divine, that is, through the de-divinization of man."

This is a key principle in how tyranny follows, because "dedivinizing is always followed by dehumanizing." Dedivinizing has enormous consequences, which maim not only spirit but reason, as history proves time and again. For "in both cases there occurs a loss of reality," and "if one closes oneself to this reality, one possesses in one's range of experience less of this part of reality, this decisive part that constitutes man."

Now, the divine reality doesn't just "disappear," any more than unconsciously repressed thoughts no longer exist. Rather, something must be elevated to the absolute, usually man. For Voegelin, this represents the essence of the problem of Hitler: 1 Dedivinization, 2, Dehumanization, 3, Endivinization of man. Hitler is the dedivinized, dehumanized, and endivinized man par excellence ("endivinize" is my term).

Bear in mind that we need to understand the universal principles beneath a Hitler, because if we focus only on his particular instance, we will be unable to learn anything intelligible, i.e., with wider application.

For example, in contemporary America we are ruled by what might be called an intellectual "rabble-ocracy," consisting of men who have lost contact with divine reality and who presume to appropriate more of our freedom on that basis.

But since they did not give us our freedom -- for it is a gift of the creator -- they have no right to diminish it in this crude way. That they feel they may do so is only further evidence of their loss of contact with reality resulting from their own self-maiming.

This is what Voegelin calls "radical stupidity." Again, it is not an insult, but a term of art. It refers to a man who, "because of his loss of reality, is not in a position to rightly orient his action in the world."

In short, "when the central organ for guiding his action, his theomorphic nature and openness toward reason and spirit, has ceased functioning, then man will act stupidly." And this stupidity will always result in increased societal disorder, because the radically stupid -- the stupid radicals -- are attempting to navigate with a map that is all wrong. If one has a defective image of reality, how could disorder not follow?

Another critical point, and one that is ably conveyed by our troll: that is to say, with the loss of reality comes the inability to speak of it, or to understand what is being said when others speak of it. Thus, "parallel to the loss of reality and to stupidity there is always the phenomenon of illiteracy."

Again, this has nothing to do with the mechanical ability to read and write, which virtually all westerners possess. Rather, it means that the illiterate in question will not be able to "express himself with regard to very wide ranges of reality, especially matters of reason and the spirit, and is incapable of understanding them."

In this regard, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion described a kind of "trinity of psychosis" revolving around aggressive stupidity, contempt, and triumph. Watch for it, because it is all around us.

To be continued....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spiritual Pathology and the Freedom to F*** Up

In reviewing these verbose volumes of Voegelin, it has occurred to me more than once that some innerprizing fellow needs to develop a system and gnomenclature of spiritual pathology, otherwise the field -- such as it is -- will remain as undifferentiated as the spiritually compacted individuals to whom it applies. (Recall that Voegelin frames human progress as an engagement with the ground of reality, moving from a state of compaction to one of ever-increasing differentiation and synthesis.)

The problem is analogous to the field of psychopathology prior to Freud. Among other things, Freud demythologized and systematized mental illness, and gave us a way to categorize various forms and levels of psychopathology.

Just as Aristotle defined and developed most of the scientific and philosophical categories that are still with us today, Freud did the same for psychology, giving us words and concepts (or else defining them in a stable way) such as neurosis, id, ego, superego, hysteria, paranoia, unconscious, projection, introjection, displacement, condensation, transference, internalization, idealization, repression, regression, denial, sublimation, acting out, and many more. Each of these words and concepts is still widely used today.

Is there anything analogous in the field of pneumopathology? In medicine there is the ICD, and in psychology we have the DSM -- the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In fact, there are some very useful systems of spiritual pathology, for example, the seven deadly sins -- which is especially helpful, since it is mirrored by seven virtues which are the very markers and measures of spiritual health, e.g., prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude -- not to mention the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. (One also thinks of the eight-fold path of buddhaflaw correction.)

So the field is actually already pretty differentiated -- or at least was, before the barbarous wave of modernity de-differentiated it again. For if there is evolution -- progress -- there must also be devolution, and no progress is completely secure, especially on the human plane, where it must be won again and again, even by each generation.

Nor were America's founders unaware of the problem of spiritual pathology, which was one of their primary motivations in differentiating the realms of spiritual and worldly power. The sad history of Europe shows how the realm of spirit is corrupted when a particular denomination is merged with the state -- even though that merger of necessity existed everywhere and everywhen prior to man's differentation of the two realms.

With the 20th century came the general de-differentiation of spirit, and with it, a re-merger of church and state in the form of the political religions, e.g., National Socialism, communism, leftism, "social democracy," etc.

This was another of Voegelin's enduring concerns, and one might even say his central concern, since a political religion -- an ideology -- is a modern substitute for contact with the ground, while explicitly forbidding any actual contact, unless it is in an orgiastic or paganistic manner. Hence the new-age mush of the Oprah- and Chopraheads, which necessarily leads to political mush as well. The obliteration of spiritual distinctions is the doorway to barbarism.

We can look at this question of pneumo-political pathology in a very concrete and experience-near manner.

Let's take, for example, the predicament of blacks vis-a-vis the Democratic party. As we have discussed in the past, for human beings, the discovery of the exterior precedes the discovery of the interior. Viewed from a world-historical perspective, it took Homo sapiens a long time to discover the "enemy within," i.e, the internal saboteurs we call mind parasites.

Quintessentially, psychotherapy -- and psychological growth in general -- involves smoking out and disempowering our internalized mind parasites, so they don't exert an unconscious influence on us in repetitive, dysfunctional, and deviant ways.

Now, let's say I attend college, or watch a lot of TV news, and internalize a doctrine that teaches that all of my persecutors and saboteurs are outside my head, and consist of "white people." I cannot be a failure. Rather, I was enfailed, and unjustly!

Please note that it actually doesn't matter whether the perception is accurate or not, because personal development will still be stymied.

Let's take an extreme case, the situation of a Jew in Nazi Germany, or a black in the Jim Crow Democrat south. When one has real enemies and persecutors, one hardly has the luxury of introspection into one's own psychic impasses. A Jew couldn't very well go to his analyst and say, "gee, Doc, I don't know what's wrong with me. I constantly feel like all Germans hate me and are out to get me." That can only become fodder for introspection and analysis if Germans don't hate him.

Now, the left argues that blacks have real enemies, and that the existence of these enemies is the principle reason for any failures on their part. As we all know, no amount of sociological evidence can sway the leftist from this belief, because it is not based on evidence; or, to be perfectly accurate, the evidence of (contemporary) racism is expanded out of all proportion, in such a way that it dwarfs more serious problems afflicting the so-called "black community," e.g., out-of-wedlock birth, drop-out rates, fatherlessness, horrible schools courtesy of the liberal education establishment, etc.

The ubiquitous accusations of racism (you aren't conservative if you haven't been falsely accused of racism) are either cynically rooted in political need -- white Democrats cannot win national elections without 85% to 90% of the black vote -- or a transparent defense mechanism against acknowledgment of personal failure.

Let's take the example of a fatherless black kid who drifts into a life of crime. Let's also say he's very angry. What's he angry about? Could it be paternal abandonment, or perhaps a pathological attempt to separate from the maternal sphere, since he has no intimate male role model for the healthy development of manhood?

Ever since the 1960s, there has been a kind of systematic effort on the part of the left to avoid such questions, and to externalize them onto society. To the extent that someone is seduced into this mindset, their personal growth will again be thwarted and success stymied -- unless one is an Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, who reap great material reward from wealthy whites in exchange for keeping blacks on the Democrat plantation.

The same can be said of homosexuality. Is homosexuality ever pathological? The very question will be scurrilously attacked on the basis of "homophobia," which is an interesting irony in itself.

Or consider the mystery of how 15 million Jews are somehow responsible for the failures of a billion or so Muslims. While that sort of thing has happened -- as when a handful of Brits controlled the Indian subcontinent -- I don't know if it speaks well of the culture that can be so easily cowed and pacified. Too bad Muslims can't imitate the Jews, in the same way India has profited from imitating British law and other institutions. Hey, I have no shame whatsoever in acknowledging the great benefit of having been a British colony!

Likewise, so long as unappealing feminists imagine that men are the reason for their unhappiness, they will remain deeply embittered and unhappy, and this unhappiness will only fuel a more entrenched and pathological war on manhood.

So I think it is entirely accurate to say that the left systematically externalizes our agency and locus of control, whereas a conservative would say that the greatest obstacle in our life is ourself. For this reason the left doesn't mind diminishing our freedom, since they either don't believe it exists, or realize that people will use it in ways that displease the state.

Thankfully, -- at least since the age of six or so -- it has never occurred to me to externalize my failures, which you might say is one of the ironic privileges of whiteness: the freedom to be a fuck-up without any bogus excuses.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Photosynthesis, Pneumosynthesis, Logosynthesis

It is impossible to respond to a simpleton who imagines that because one is religious one is somehow "anti-science," because the person who makes such a statement is living in an ontologically closed world, and therefore cannot escape his own little self-imposed prison. The assertion itself is profoundly anti-science, if by science we mean something based upon logic and evidence, but this is another of those ironies lost on the vertical amnesiac.

I'd like to complete our journey From Big Bang to Big Mystery before getting back to Voegelin. Bearing in mind what was said in the first paragraph, Purcell references a remark by Wittgenstein, who, in a lucid moment, observed that "even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, our problems of life remain completely untouched.... One keeps forgetting to go right down to the foundations. One doesn't put the question marks down deep enough."

Right? Right. Either one gets this, or one doesn't, so there's nothing to argue about. It couldn't be more clear, so if you don't understand it, you are cosmically retarded and beyond help. You are ø, and you have no one to blame but your(•).

Now, why this statement should be controversial is beyond me, and it seems to me that the only objection to it would be on the grounds of a blind hatred of religion, for religious metaphysics picks up where science leaves off, and certainly not just in terms of the old "God of the gaps" canard.

Rather, religion primarily deals with being, whereas science can only cope with existence. Obviously, existence is a "special case" of being, and science, in order to operate at all, must take being for granted.

Conversely, metaphysics begins with principles of being; it is higher up the cosmic food chain, so that nothing that occurs in science can violate it, say, the law of non-contradiction, or of sufficient reason, or of not walking the first batter of an inning.

The other day we spoke of spiritual and intellectual wet and dry rot. Both of them occur as a result of a conflation of being and existence. Scientism, for example, which is the quintessential form of dry rot, confuses what it can affirm about reality with all that can be affirmed about reality, which is why it is so anti-intellectual to the core.

For one of the first things the scientistic worshiper must jettison is the intellect per se, which of necessity (for him) reduces to something less than itself, on pain of a self-refuting contradiction. And in the absence of the intellect (nous), no higher realities can be perceived at all, so the result is a closed circle of ideological fantasy.

Conversely, wet rot occurs when existence is confused with being, so that things that pertain to the vertical are mindlessly transposed to the horizontal. In this regard, Voegelin points out that we have indeed seen a beneficial differentiation within the Ground over the centuries.

In other words, man first awakens to a kind of compacted realm of being, and our journey through history allows us to unpack and map its dimensions and coordinates, both horizontally and vertically. Things were pretty jumbled at the start of history, for the same reason that things are pretty jumbled for an infant.

One doesn't have to travel too far back in time to see a conflation of science and religion to the detriment of both. For every kooky religious idea there was an equally kooky scientific idea, say, the theory of blood-letting that for so many centuries made a visit from the doctor a deadly gamble.

Probably the most detailed map ever made of the totality of reality was by Thomas Aquinas. Naturally, parts of it are now obsolete because of the state of 13th century science, which has evolved so dramatically since then.

But nothing that has occurred in science has posed any fundamental challenge to Thomas's metaphysics, given some tinkering at the edges. To the contrary, something like the Big Bang would be a necessary consequence of his metaphysics (although he also allowed for the possibility that the cosmos has no horizontal boundary, so long as one bears in mind the priority of atemporal, vertical creation).

One might say that science can only take a view from "inside" the cosmos, whereas metaphysics is able to take the wider view from the perspective of being as such. Now granted, few people are metaphysicians, hence the beauty of revelation, which conveys the essential truths -- the one thing needful -- to those who are open to them. These truths resonate on a level much deeper than the conscious ego, which is why they evoke (and deserve) our faith.

You might say that being pertains to the Center, science to the periphery. Now, everywhere we look, we see signs of the Center poking through the periphery, and one might even say that it is our duty to be aware of this phenomenon as much as possible, for it is the essence of maintaining an open and wide stance to the queerness of reality.

Again, for Voegelin, all forms of pneumopathology involve spiritual and intellectual closure. To put it the other way around, our task is to maintain noetic and pneumatic openness to the world and to experience (for there is no unexperienced world; or, it won't "ex-ist" until someone experiences it).

I remember back in grade school, learning about biology. I don't know if it is still true today, but back then photosynthesis was a big mystery. And this is no mere peripheral concern, because photosynthesis is the very engine of life.

"Photo," of course, is light. Does anyone really understand how light is converted to the energy and information that powers the whole biosphere? I mean, I fully realize that there are scientific explanations, but do they bring the question marks all the way down to the foundation? Because I personally find it peculiar beyond words that sunlight can be transformed into plants, animals, symphonies, poetry, stupidity, everything.

At any rate, if we transpose this mystery to the level of man, we see something analogous, which I call pneumosynthesis and logosynthesis, or the transformation of spirit and reason, respectively. However, we could also just call it photosynthesis, since both of these organic mechanisms, just like their biological cousin, involve transformations of Light -- spiritual Light and intellectual Light.

One problem -- and this is addressed by Voegelin, just as it is by Schuon -- is that we no longer have proper words for these higher human functions, since they have been confused with lower ones. As Voegelin put it, we can no longer use words such as "intellect," or "spirit," or "reason" in the manner of a Plato or Thomas.

For which reason I developed those abstract symbols for them, so we wouldn't imagine we know what we are talking about just because we have words for them.

Note that this linguistic pathology is the result of a devolution, which, instead of taking us from compaction to differentiation, takes us in the opposite direction, back to compaction. Someone like our troll William lives in a compacted and de-differentiated world, which again accounts for the breezy confidence he has in his own stupidity.

Obviously, in order to describe reality we need words, but if these words become corrupted, then the ability to perceive reality is compromised.

For example, on a mundane level, if you confuse "liberal" with "leftist," you will lose the ability to perceive political reality. Likewise, if you fail to understand the distinction between male and female (in the spiritual sense), sexual reality is lost to you (or you will only exist on a quasi-animal sexual level).

The question is, is this attack on language intentional or just a result of stupidity? Hard to tell, but I suggest we judge them by their fruits. I do sense a kind of deep malevolence behind the attacks from elites, but the rank-and-foul leftist often has a good spirit that has just been manipulated by elites and hijacked by bad ideas. Such people are educable and correctable, and grateful for the heads-up.

I suppose that would be the key: the non-malevolent person can be helped, because deep down he remains open to reality in all its fulness, and hate hasn't supplanted love (for one who doesn't love truth will never know it).

Many are the times I've given a spontaneous spiel to one of these individuals, which has prompted a flood of vertical recollection which then sends them on a path back to themselves and back to reality. I've got the letters and emails to prove it.

To be continued....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

From Ideological Prison to the Wide Open Frontier of Consciousness

I never did finish the discussion of Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery before veering into Hitler and the Germans, but the two are actually intimately related, in that Purcell's whole approach is deeply indebted to Voegelin, who is without question one of the most wide-ranging thinkers who ever lived.

One reason Voegelin is qualified to describe and analyze the spiritual and intellectual pathologies that made Hitler possible, is because he spent his life trying to understand the logospheric and pneumatic conditions that make humanness possible. Again: unless we know what health is, we won't be in a position to recognize, diagnose, and treat pathology.

Also, Voegelin himself embodied the very quest he describes, without in any way compromising his scholarship. Analogously, it takes a mystic to write about mysticism, which is precisely what is wrong with most academic works on mysticism, or even on religion in general.

As described in the Coonica, it is the difference between mere (k) and (n), or ego-based knowledge and nous-centered intellect-vision. Clearly, when it comes to religion, anything other than interior, experiential knowledge is an abstraction. This is not to say that certain things cannot be a matter of faith, but faith itself is tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered realities, or it is not worthy of the name.

And a deep and secure faith is already a kind of confirmation that resonates through the being and yields a harvest of its own. In other words, it is creative -- one might say organic -- never static.

This is also the difference between good and bad dogma, or just dogma properly understood. Dogma is a tool, not just a static system to be superimposed on the intellect. It is a probe with which we poke around in the suprasensible dark, in the way a blind man uses a cane to innervisualize the space within which he moves.

Now, is dogma -- and religion -- misused and misunderstood? Please. Grow up. This is like asking if humans are humans, which they tend to be. Everything touched by humans can be and is misused and abused -- science, art, religion, democracy, sex, grog, music, education, baseball (the DH), my comment section. There is no end of things that are goods in themselves until humans get their hands on them.

Why is this? That would require a very lengthy explanation (which I've already done), hence the virtue of dogma, i.e., man's fallen condition, which is a kind of compact and shorthand wisdom that gets one straight to the bottom lyin'. Most people don't have the time or the mental capacity to think this through on their own, which is unnecessary anyway if they just take it on faith that yeah, man is pretty f'ed up, okay? So don't imagine otherwise, or you are headed for a very rude awhackening upside the head.

Consider America's founders, who were so imbued with the idea of man's dubious character that they hardly needed to make it explicit. Rather, the question was what to do about it, i.e., how to create a government that could overcome, or at least compensate for, the fact that it would be run by men, of all people. One often hears complaints about how difficult it is to "get things done in Washington," or lamentations of "why can't they just get along?"

Uh doy. The whole system was designed to prevent an authoritarian clusterfuck such as Obamacare from ever seeing the light of day. That it was only rammed through in the teeth of bipartisan opposition via bribery, bullying, kickbacks, and legislative trickery, tells you all you need to know. Even leaving aside its plain unconstitutionality, it violates the very spirit -- and wisdom -- upon which the nation was founded.

To jump ahead a bit, Voegelin defines the essence of health as a condition of intellectual and spiritual openness. Just as there are intellectual illiterates, there are spiritual illiterates.

And when Voegelin uses the term "illiterate," he doesn't mean it in the sense of merely being unable to read. Rather, especially in a mass-educated society such as ours, the ability to read has little to do with actually being literate, as our troll ably proves every day with the breezy self-assurance of the dense. For Voegelin, it is not just the failure to assimilate good literature, but the inability to even recognize it.

For our troll, some cut-and-paste nonsense pulled up from the fringes of the internet is as deep and learned as, say, Voegelin, or Plato, or Eckhart, or Thomas, or Schuon, or the Upanishads, or Tomberg, or Balthasar, or the whole host of magnificent thinkers who have graced mankind by illuminating and mapping the transcendent order.

I was about to say that without them we'd be in a deep hole, but that wouldn't be quite correct, because in a two-dimensional world there are neither holes nor peaks, just... desires and fears, or pleasure and pain.

Which is certainly one way to order one's life, but it doesn't in any way correspond to the wider order of the cosmos, and the whole point of life, if we could express it in a single sentence, is to conform oneself to the order of reality. For what is the alternative? To order oneself to illusion? That works too, at least for a time, but reality has a way of breaking through the little manmade orders we impose upon it. And killing lots of people in the process.

Ironically, to think in so simplistic a manner -- i.e., God isn't real because science supposedly says so (itself a gross misunderstanding of, and insult to, science) -- is so deeply anti-human as to beggar belief, because in one cretinous wave of the grubby hand it eliminates all that is best and brightest in man's 50,000 year quest to understand his ground and destiny.

This was Voegelin's main beef with academia, and it is identical to our own mockery of the tenured. In his book Amanesis, he discusses this from up close, since he spent 50-odd years in that environment, and was in a position to know. He writes of how postmodern ideologues -- whether beholden to Marxism, positivism, scientism, evolutionism, Freudianism, whatever -- all share the same characteristic of being closed systems which lose the ability to perceive reality over -- or under -- their own projections.

In other words, once one assimilates an ideology, percept follows concept, to such an extent that this second reality places a kind of blanket over first reality, which is never seen again. It is still there, of course, and continues to be unconsciously recognized. Thus, the ideologue senses this real reality -- in the same way that the person of faith senses real reality, except that the ideologue works feverishly to deny the perception.

This is why there can be no leftism in the absence of political correctness or some similar coercive structure to enforce their version of reality, since maintaining the second reality requires a kind of systematic advance-warning system to prevent people from traveling down certain chains of observation or reasoning. If that happens, the whole swindle collapses.

Voegelin asks -- and this was back in 1977 -- "Why do they [the tenured] expressly prohibit anybody to ask questions concerning the sectors of reality they have excluded from their personal horizon? Why do they want to imprison themselves in their restricted horizon and to dogmatize their prison reality as the universal truth? And why do they want to lock up all mankind in the prison of their making?"

That was for you, Barry: Why? What makes you qualified to do this, aside from a cosmic narcissism that is simultaneously outlandishly grandiose and childishly petty? A mind as small as Obama's can only appear capacious to someone living in an intellectual hovel.

I repeat: this is not the open spirit in which this nation was founded, which was fundamentally a spirit of liberty, or one might say "spiritual freedom."

Now what is this "spiritual freedom?" Well, for any flatlander, such as our troll, it is a nonsense term. There's nothing we can do for him. But from the Raccoon perspective, it is all about vertical freedom, although vertical freedom is impossible, or at least quite difficult, in an atmosphere deprived of horizontal freedom. The damage that socialism, statism, and communism do to economic reality is one thing, but the more tragic and enduring damage is to the soul, which can again lose contact with the spiritual environment because of the systematic denial imposed by the regime.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are none other than the irreducible prerequisites of a spiritually and intellectually open stance toward the cosmos. The first two are obvious, since you won't get very far in your quest without your life and the freedom to live it in the manner you see fit.

But nor will you get very far without pursuing happiness, by which the founders certainly didn't mean pleasure, or convenience, or power. Rather, they meant it in the classic Greek sense of actualizing one's powers -- one's gifts -- in the direction of virtue. That is life. That is liberty. That is happiness. That is firing on all cylinders in hyperspace.

In the course of his journey among the primitive tribes of the tenured, Voegelin discovered a kind of restrictive horizon "similar to the consciousness that I could observe in the political mass movements" of the 20th century. Of course, one can only recognize the restriction if one is coming from a wider and more open horizon, which Voegelin surely was.

In the United States, he noticed the now obvious problem of people such as our troll, who are educated well beyond their intelligence, i.e., "the populist expansion of the universities, accompanied by the inevitable inrush of functional illiterates into academic positions in the 1950s and 1960s." Far from Santorum's characterization of Obama's "elitism" for believing everyone should go to college, it is quite the opposite, for when everyone goes to college, everyone will be as functionally illiterate and anti-intellectual as Obama, and everyone will be a Democrat.

Regarding this openness to the subjective cosmic horizon, Voegelin writes that navigating it "is a ceaseless action of expanding, ordering, articulating, and correcting itself.... It is a permanent effort at responsive openness to the appeal of reality, at bewaring premature satisfaction, and above all at avoiding the self-destructive phantasy of believing" that reality "can be mastered by bringing it into the form of a system."

To say that reality is much richer than the ideological fantasies of the tenured is simultaneously obvious and yet necessary, since we are all victims of these fantasies in one way or another. Our human duty is to rebel against any system that attempts to imprison us in some manmode idiotolatry. This means to be in solidarity with man as such, and to acquaint oneself with the best man has to offer in his encounter with open existence over the centuries.

For history is the chronicle of consciousness exploring and differentiating itself in continuous dialectic with the Ground, with O, the source of order. Alternatively, one can just say, "duh, science say only matter real," and be done with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intellectual Dry Rot and Spiritual Wet Rot

Again, the theme of Hitler and the Germans is the idea that something had gone dreadfully wrong with German culture -- both intellectually and spiritually -- to allow a cretin like Hitler to rise to power. In the absence of this more widespread problem, Hitler's faults would have remained personal rather than public and eventually world historical.

World-historical. Think about it. How on earth do the problems of a single man become everyone's problem? This is not the same as asking how a single person can become a problem, which any assoul can do. As they say, any idiot can make history, but it takes real genius to write it. Rather, we need to get beneath Hitler's "problem," to the deeper problem of a people blinded to the fact that, hey, this guy has a problem.

And when we say "German culture," there were, of course, exceptions -- people who saw through Hitler from the moment they laid eyes on him. Everyone would like to believe they were one of those clear-sighted volks, and in 1945 there were many more of them than there were in 1933, for the same reason that every Frenchman was a retrospective member of the tiny French resistance, or so many Americans now claim to have been "fooled" by Obama.

People don't want to believe they were party to a lethal failure of judgment, but even in 1946 "a majority of Germans held the opinion that National Socialism was a good idea but badly implemented," and it was equally widely believed into the 1950s "that without the war, Hitler would have been one of the greatest statesmen in German history."

Among other things, Voegelin wanted to debunk the self-serving idea that Germans were simply seduced by a charismatic demagogue, because not everyone responded to Hitler's so-called charisma, and many people were repelled by him. Voegelin, for example, escaped Germany in 1938.

To cite some examples closer to home, we are routinely told by the MSM that a Bill Clinton is "charismatic," or that Jimmy Carter is a conspicuously "good and decent man," or that Barack Obama is unusually bright. All of these are not just lies, but gross distortions for anyone with spiritual and intellectual discernment. Each of them makes a normal person slightly ill, in different ways.

I say this because no normal person appreciates being crudely manipulated in the manner of a Clinton, or scolded in the manner of a hateful, petty, and sanctimonious Carter, or talked down to by a half-educated affirmative action hire with a few fixed ideas he picked up in college.

Voegelin traces the rot in Germany to a distinct spiritual decline which he attempts to describe both empirically and theoretically. To back up a bit, recall what I was saying a couple posts back about psychopathology (mental illness). In order to define mental pathology, we must begin with an implicit or explicit notion of psychic health. What exactly is a healthy psyche? What was it designed to do?

I know my answer: to know truth, to love beauty, to will the good, and to create in such a way that the eternal pierces the temporal.

Right away you see the problem for any consistent materialist, since for them the psyche can have no purpose. Rather, it is just a meaningless side effect of the struggle to pass one's genes along to the next generation. From a purely biological standpoint, anything that gets the job done is "healthy," which is to say, adaptive: deception, rape, misogyny, polygamy. In fact, this is precisely why rape has survived, because it is indeed one effective way for losers to propagate their genetic material.

Hitler was just such a consistent materialist, but unlike most materialists, he actually drew out the ultimate implications of materialism, so give him credit for that. He was no hypocrite or waffler, that's for sure. He did not pretend to be elevated above his nature, because nature is all there is. Again: the utter rejection of transcendence.

Voegelin quotes one writer who observed that "no one before Hitler had actually made the consequences deduced from Darwin the basis of state policy, and no one before Hitler so consistently and ruthlessly carried those biological premises to their ultimate conclusions and put them into practice."

For as Darwin wrote, nature is "immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts," the difference being that Darwin was too constrained by Christian civilization to take this idea seriously and start killing his biological inferiors.

To say that Hitler was influenced by Darwin is, of course, to give the former way too much credit, since, like our troll, he was an anti-intellectual who never read a serious book in his life.

And besides, Darwin himself borrowed the phrase "survival of the fittest" from Herbert Spencer, the father of "social Darwinism." Thus, ironically, survival of the fittest is actually "biological Spencerism," which shows us how ideology -- i.e., second reality -- contaminates first reality, and is then taken as a simple "fact" of nature. But the most rigid and unambiguous facts are often, as is this one, just projections.

His ignorance of Darwin notwithstanding, Hitler was nevertheless a true metaphysical Darwinian and evolutionist, proclaiming that "the entire universe" is "ruled by just this one idea, that an eternal selection takes place in which the stronger in the end maintains the right to live, and the weaker falls. One will say that nature is therefore cruel and merciless, but the other will grasp that nature is thus only obeying an iron law of logic." Selfish genes, and all that.

And note how natural selection is now indeed being applied to the cosmos, in order to get around the problem of the big bang, which implies a creative intelligence. If we are just the beneficiary of natural selection applied to multiple universes, the problem is solved. (Not really, of course, but it is kicked a little further down the ontological road.)

When the intellectual barbarian collapses the world to a single level, the distinction between Is and Ought is obliterated, for the Ought is quintessentially and irreducibly transcendent. And once you've accomplished that, then anything goes, for nothing is impermissible.

This raises an interesting point about the nature of spiritual rot. It occurs to me that there are two main types, what we might call "dry rot," and its seeming opposite, "wet rot." But the two actually go together, and in many ways define one another.

For example, the rationalist or scientistic atheist, who suffers from spiritual and intellectual dry rot, is always doing battle with people who are characterized by a kind of religious wet rot. In yesterday's thread, for example, you will see someone suffering from dry rot using this blog as a vehicle to lash out at some neighbors who have religious wet rot. We, of course, do not advocate either form of rot.

Modern liberalism is a loose affiliation of people who have either wet or dry rot, both intellectually and spiritually, or noetically and pneumatically. Deepak Chopra, for example, is a quintessential case of wet rot, but the entire liberal media also falls into that category. Most of liberal academia suffers from wet rot -- we are speaking of the humanities, of course. Conversely, a scientistic academic such as Richard Dawkins might as well be the poster child for dry rot.

Man is situated in a hierarchically organized universe of meaning. That being the case, of course science is one vehicle for disclosing universal meaning on a particular level. But to suggest that science is in any way capable of disclosing the meaning of higher levels is the essence of postmodern barbarism: it is dry rot.

Conversely, a creationist yahoo who insists that the world is 6,000 years old is a case of wet rot. But both wet and dry rot come down to severe anti-intellectualism, since neither understands the book they pretend to criticize or embrace.

Now, just as there is psychopathology -- obviously -- there is, and must be, what we shall call "logopathology," i.e., the failure of intellect in the original sense of the term (nous), and "pneumopathology," which is the failure of spirit. For Voegelin, the essence of cultural pathology -- of the kind of pathology that made a Hitler possible -- is in these two areas.

In short -- and this is the key -- there is Reason (i.e., logos) and Spirit (pneuma), and our task is to maintain an open system in both realms. Conversely, to be intellectually or spiritually closed -- or closed off from logos and pneuma -- is a bad, bad, thing, as we will further discuss tomorrow.

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...