Monday, May 07, 2012

The Cause and Cure of Causes and Cures

For the last several weeks we've been elliptically circling several subjects that appear to be implicitly related, otherwise we wouldn't be circling them.

The fact that we keep flitting from topic to topic -- along with the discontinuous nature of the flight (which is a little like trying to resume a dream the following night) -- may obscure the fact that we have indeed been orbiting around a center and trying to zerʘ in on it. It's just that this center is what is called a strange attractor, in fact, the strangest of all attractors, specifically, O.

In other words, I'm sure I have a point, or rather, that the point has me (in its orbit). The wiki article includes a helpful image of a strange attractor, which looks something like this (although each one is necessarily unique, which suggests to me that each individual human person is none other than a strange attractor).

As you can see, it's a little like a roller coaster in hyperspace. Which is a good metaphor for life.

You may recall that this strange and complex thread began with Brendan Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution, but eventually homed in on Eric Voegelin, beginning with his Hitler and the Germans. After that I leapt with both feet into Voegelin's oceanic corpus, where many men have drowned. It seems that all he ever did was think and write, and no thought was left unwritten.

He also changed his mind in fundamental ways that affect all his previous work, so it's not as if you can just grab one piece out of context and run with it. Rather, it's more like the Bible, in which one must have a view of the whole in order to comprehend the particulars.

And the Whole is precisely what we are dealing with in this thread (indeed, this blog), which is to say Cosmos and Man, or Macrocosm and Microcosm, or Time and Eternity, or ultimately -- to express it in a completely unsaturated manner -- O and ʘ. That latter equation is irreducible to anything less, because there is always man and ground, however one formulates it.

As mentioned in the book, the cosmos is either absurd or it is not absurd. Indeed, we can begin with a kind of flow chart, with that question at the top.

But if you deicide at the outset that the cosmos is absurd, then you may stop. Game over. Philosophy is not possible. Thinking is a waste of time because reality is unknowable. The cosmos -- and Darwin -- is finished with you, assuming you have passed your genes on to the next absurd generation. Or not, depending upon your fitness for genetic duty.

However, if the cosmos is not absurd, then this is where things get interesting, for we are thrust into the strange attractor referenced above. If I grasp Voegelin rightly, it was his purpose to actually describe this attractor in as much detail as humanly possible. He called the attractor order, hence the title of what many people feel to be his magnum opus, the five volume Order and History.

Now, bear in mind that exhaustively describing this order -- i.e., containing it -- is precisely what man may never do, since this transcendent order contains us.

But man doesn't like this idea, and has had difficulty swallowing it ever since Genesis. There we learn that it was All Good, so long as man subordinated himself to the cosmic order, and didn't try to invent one of his own.

Thus the birth of ideology, which is always wrong, only more or less demonically so. An ideology is any system of thought that superimposes a second reality on the first, which has the practical effect of severing man from the ground in more or less coercive or violent ways. Ideology ends in the murder of man, either physically or spiritually (and usually both).

One important point of, er, order. It is quite clear that man's lust for ideology is, or might as well be, intrinsic -- as if we are all infected with Adam's mind parasite. Thus, there is nothing that cannot be "ideologized," including the very cures for ideology, e.g., Christianity or American (not European) style conservatism.

A useful point of entry into Voegelin is his Science, Politics, and Gnosticism. One reason it is so helpful is that in it he recovers a certain transtemporal unity of man, in tracing the modern ideologies -- e.g., scientism, positivism, Marxism, fascism, progressivism (but I repeat myself), socialism, etc. -- all the way back to antiquity.

And "prior" (ontologically or vertically) to antiquity is mythology. Myth occurs at the horizon of history, and tells us vital things about ourselves that cannot be recovered through the historical method. Again, Genesis would be a prime example.

If we are aware and respectful of the cosmic order, then it is a kind of unknowculation against ideology. Properly speaking, Christianity, for example, should not be an ideology, but rather, a ground-level encounter between persons. "Dogmatic order" is obviously important, but is posterior to the Person and all it implies.

Nor should conservatism be reduced to an ideology, but rather, should simply be a healthy respect for the Nature of Things, whether human, societal, economic, political, spiritual, or in any other way. The point is, reality always comes first, not the ideology (very much what Gerard means by American.)

Voegelin is responsible for the bold claim that the "essence of modernity is gnosticism." What did he mean by this?

Well, we're out of time again, so we'll have to resume this dream tomorrow. Meanwhile, have a good day, and don't let the headbugs blight.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Getting Off the Cosmic Dreadmill

Recall yesterday's opening salvO: the human vocation is to become in fact what we are in principle.

Obviously, for man as we find him, there is a gap between Fact and Principle, or what is and what ought to be. The former is the shadow-world of contingency, at the extremes of which we cross from twilight to darkness, into the netherworld of frank pathology.

As mentioned later in the post with regard to psychopathology in general and mind parasites in particular, "the creature seeks out its creator, only in this case, it is a strange demigod of the nursery, i.e., an exteriorized and projected mind parasite." Which is why some people are attracted to, and compulsively seek out, what is bad for them. And why your mind parasites are just as clever and crafty as you are, except they are all serpent and no dove.

You might say that a mind parasite is a crystalized center of contingency, or a kind of distant echo of the actual Center. It is the very "essence" of a false god, and the realm of idolatry more generally.

I hope this doesn't sound too abstract, because it is actually quite experience-near. It was lucidly confessed by Augustine back in the day, with his many wise cracks about knowing the good and yet willing something less, up to and including evil:

"We sin from two causes: either from not seeing what we ought to do, or else from not doing what we have already seen we ought to do. Of these two, the first is ignorance of the evil; the second, weakness." And to paraphrase Homer's Idiossey, my one weakness is that I'm weak!

Actually, Augustine leaves out willfulness, which is consciously choosing an action we know to be wrong. It seems to me that this is worse than ignorance and weakness, because it is the presence of a negative, not a deprivation of a good.

Or in other words, there is free will, on one side of which is weakness, the other willfulness. And yet, willfulness is a weakness, isn't it? Or, weakness masquerading as strength. I've known a few of those types in my day.

Again: this all has to do with our contingency, which is mingled, so to speak, with absoluteness. In the book, I used a couple of symbols to demarcate this situation. You might say that (•) is that part of us which primarily partakes of, and is oriented toward, contingency, whereas (¶) is that part which partakes of, and is oriented toward, the Absolute; the former is primarily horizontal, the latter vertical.

Thus, as Schuon writes, the human subject "seeks both the contingent and the Absolute; both the finite and the Infinite...." Furthermore, he "seeks the contingent because [he] is [him]self contingent, and to the extent that [he] is so" (emphasis mine).

In other words, the contingency in us seeks the contingent which fathered it, which is only natural. Obviously, this is a self-perpetuating cycle, which is precisely why the most frivolous among us are so frivolous, and becoming more so all the time. They wouldn't know absoluteness if it struck them in the nous, AKA (¶).

Schuon writes that "outwardness is a right, and inwardness a duty." Nevertheless, "the outward is the dimension of accidents [or of forms], the inward, that of substance [or essence]."

So the real duty, it seems to me, is a kind of harmonious balance between the outward and inward, each "inevitable" in its own way. Contingency is always breaking up the substance, just as the substance is always exerting a kind of organizing pull on contingency -- like a planet that is temporarily knocked out of orbit, but then "seeks" its own orbital center of groovity again. Indeed, this might even be the basis of evolution, i.e., the vertically rhythmic dialectic of entropy and order (as developed by scientists such as Ilya Prigogine).

If we think of man as composed of intelligence, will, and sentiment, we see that intelligence has a much easier time of it than will. And to the extent that it doesn't, it is because the intelligence has been infiltrated by willfulness and passion. Thus, there is willful intelligence and stupid willfulness. But enough about our troll.

Augustine writes that "The mind commands the body and is instantly obeyed. The mind commands itself and meets resistance," so what's up with that?

He elaborates without arriving at an answer: "The mind commands the hand to move, and it so easy that one hardly distinguishes the order from its execution. Yet mind is mind and hand is body. The mind orders the mind to will. The recipient of the order is itself, yet it does not perform it.”

The mind commands itself and meets resistance. What is the nature of this resistance?

Well, it depends. If the mind commands me to do an evil, and I resist, this is strength, not willfulness. But to the extent that I know the good and struggle to translate it into action, that would again be a matter of contingencies mucking up the process.

Conversely, "the very perfection of a man" is "to find out his own imperfections" (Augustine). And "without good character -- one that is normal and consequently noble -- intelligence, even if metaphysical, is largely ineffective" (Schuon).

And what constitutes character? For Schuon it is essentially composed of what we will and what we love. Therefore, willing what is wrong and loving what is evil or ugly is both the negation of intelligence and the maiming of character. I said, enough about our troll! Are you deaf?!

Let's take an everyday example, marriage. The marriage ritual recognizes certain intrinsic goods of male-female relations, which the will pledges to live by. Results, of course, may vary, but there must have been some recognition of the truth -- to say nothing of beauty -- however attenuated, in order to be attracted by, and enter into, the condition.

But why, BG? Maybe you can tell me how a love so right can turn out to be so wrong?

I can and I will. Off the top of my head I can think of at least a couple of reasons, but really, they come down to an absence of insight, self-awareness, and self-understanding; or, a failure to understand that a good marriage is designed to facilitate just these things, or in other words, growth, and growth is merely expansion or metastasis if it isn't oriented to an end that isn't itself contingent.

Contingency -- what Schuon calls dissonances, fluctuations, and enigmas -- are always coming into play, the world being what it is. It doesn't mean we must be conquered by them, for this would elevate contingency to absoluteness, and besides, isn't the Arc of Salvation all about reversing that nameless dreadmill? I suppose love conquers all, but especially contingency, and cures what inevitably fails us.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Reality is in the We of the Beholder

This is an interesting way of expressing it: the human vocation is to become in fact what we are in principle. Which itself is just a twist on the old wise crack of the early Fathers, to the effect that Creator becomes creature so that creature might become creator.

As we have discussed in the past, religion embodies sophisticated metaphysical principles clothed in mythopoetic language. Particularly vivid examples of this occur in Genesis, vis-a-vis the origins of man and cosmos.

There we learn that man is (the present tense is important), among other things, created in the image of God. Man is the last creation of the Creator, but this particular creature is unlike the others, since it partakes of the essence of the Creator in some mysterious way. But don't just take it on faith! I mean, you can, but enquiring minds want to know.

Please note that the text is rather unsaturated -- which is as it should be, so as to facilitate higher thought -- plus we don't yet know all that much about this Creator of whom we are said to be the image. But interestingly, the text goes out of its way to depict God in the plural: Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.

Since anything other than strict monotheism is ruled out -- unless you want to make your bubby cry -- this seeming plurality cannot imply polytheism.

Rather, it must mean that ultimate reality is not an I but a We; or, more to the point, there can be no I in the absence of the We. This is certainly true of human beings; in fact, we might say that it is quintessentially true, in that an isolated human being, cut off from intimate communion with others, is literally inconceivable. And I do mean literally.

To say that man is in the image of the Creator is another way of saying that the manifestation is in the image of the Principle.

That being the case, real knowledge of this particular manifestation -- i.e., man -- should yield knowledge of ultimate reality. Bear in mind that we are not referring to any particular intellectual "content," but rather, the mere presence of man as such.

This is something I attempted to convey in the book -- that if we take a truly disinterested view, man is without question the most astonishing fact of the cosmos. Frankly, nothing else comes close, for whatever else we can think of is obviously being thought of by a human being.

Indeed, that anything is astonishing is itself astonishing, just as it is wonderful that we may spend our lives in a state of wonder.

The point is, if a human being is at bottom an irreducible We, then -- if the metaphysics of Genesis is correct -- then ultimate reality -- or whatever you wish to call it -- must also be a We.

Although the I surely exists, it is posterior to the We. In fact, you can't really get from the I to the We, not in the human sense of the term. For example, there is no We in a pile of rocks, even though they are "together."

And yet, on another level, there is a We in that pile of rocks. We call this We being. Obviously, anything that exists has at the very least this ontological substrate of We-dom, which is why it is knowable, precisely. Anything that is knowable -- i.e., anything that exists -- possesses, or rather, "radiates," potential knowability in a subject.

Thus, to exist is to exist in and for -- at least in potential -- an Other. Put simply, there is no intelligence in the absence of intelligibility, the latter a kind of "giving over" from inhere to in here.

Our own existence isn't "potentiated," so to speak, unless and until it is confirmed by the Other, or more precisely, the m-other (either real or symbolic, but really always both). We come into being in the infinite space between infantile neurology and this nurturing other. Only after the We is established do we discover the I. Otherwise, it's just not safe to come out.

Of course, results may vary, depending upon the quality of nurturing. For some, the We is so maimed by the exigencies of infancy -- abandonment, neglect, abuse, etc. -- that a stable I fails to emerge, and this enfeebled I compulsively seeks communion in a pathological We.

Even here -- i.e., in psychopathology -- the creature seeks out its creator, only in this case, it is a strange demigod of the nursery, i.e., an exteriorized and projected mind parasite.

Now, how would one characterize the nature of a healthy We? Well, for starters, we would say that it is imbued with Love. True, but that's insufficient to describe the phenomenology of what occurs. That is to say, there is a "flowing presence" that is somehow generated by the We, and yet, contains the couple.

The "healthy We" is also characterized by knowledge, beauty, and creativity. For example, recall what was said above, about how anything that exists is intelligible "for" a subject. Thus, to know a truth -- any truth -- is to commune with reality in an intimate manner. For you can't get more intimate than reality giving itself to your head in this manner.

Likewise beauty, where the connection is even more obvious and intimate. For to be touched by beauty is, well, to be touched, isn't it?

And creativity clearly results from a happy and productive internal couple working in harmony. Take what I'm doing at the moment. I don't assume you're having the same experience I am, but this thing I'm creating is very much emerging in the space between me and -- and what?

I don't think we need to define it, but it is clearly a close encounter of some kind, a We, which is a common experience of any creative persons. "How did you write that song?" "I don't know. It was just given to me, I guess." Something like that.

Further confirmation of our metaphysics is found in Proverbs, for example.

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the depths were broken up....

When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep..., then I was beside him, as a master craftsman; and I was his daily delight.

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you....

Say to wisdom, "You are my sister."

They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge.... they shall eat the fruit of their own way and be filled to the full with their own fancies.

And all those who hate me love death.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

MacrO and MicrO

The following observation of Schuon is interesting, because it goes directly to the nature of O, and therefore man, the latter of whom we might call the micrO, God or whatever being the macrO.

(We use the term "whatever" advisedly, because we don't want to scare away the unbelievers, who should just think of this post as a typical exercise in re-cognition, i.e., a verticalisthenic.)

As Schuon writes, ultimate reality is "on the one hand Immutable, which determines us," but "on the other hand it is the Living, which attracts us."

Please note that that is it. Schuon provides no further explanation, so it is for us to unpack and decipher.

Which is good. I like unsaturated, because it is analogous to a "blank structure" with which we must fill in the content. Indeed, like life. Or maybe this post.

First of all we confront the reality of a Reality that is simultaneously Immutable and Attractive. How's that?

One way of looking at it is to say that humans are always subject to two temporal "forces" or "streams," which we call Fate and Destiny (we have posted on these two rascals in the past).

Both words imply That Which Must Be, but it seems that it is indeed possible to turn away from, or be denied, our Destiny, hence the reality of tragedy.

Those two words -- Immutable and Attractive -- also remind me of Absolute and Infinite, and therefore Male and Female in their cosmic dimensions.

Immutable is what? Strength, majesty, nobility, firmness, stability, authoritative, unwavering, rock, shelter, unconquerable, indomitable, incorruptible. Particle. Justice. Word.

Attractor is what? Radiant, beautiful, luminous, appeasing, liquiescent, dissolving, melting, nurturing, encompassing. Wave. Mercy. Music.

All human beings are descended from one male and one female. Might we say the same of our vertical descent?

Interesting that as the soul ascends toward the source, it too becomes simultaneously Immutable and Radiant, i.e., attractive.

For me, the "community of saints" -- and sages -- serves this function, for they are like fixed stars that radiate and attract us from above. They never compel, they attract.

Thus, they are "compelling," but compel our assent in such a way that our freedom is never compromised. Indeed, our assent to this radiant attraction is the height of freedom, for it is freely given assent to truth.

The Immutable Attractor defines the contours of existence, since it also implies the circularity that constitutes the human journey. For the Immutable is detachment, elevation, and eternal, in the shadow of which our lives are just inevitable ephuneral arrangements and fleeting lessons in evanescence.

But there is elevation and there is compassion: "by elevation it withdraws from things, and by compassion it comes back to them" (Schuon).

Which is reminiscent of the bodhisattva principle, whereby the enlightened being renounces liberation until every person is so freed of his existential entanglements and ontological coagulations.

Or in other words, love overcomes death and returns to the battlefield of existence.

I'll just leave off with this luminous passage by Schuon, which goes to Immutability and Attraction:

God has opened a gate in the middle of creation, and this open gate of the world toward God is man; this opening is God's invitation to look towards Him, to tend towards Him, to persevere with regard to Him, and to return to Him....

Unbelief and paganism are whatever turns its back on the gate; on its threshold light and darkness separate....

[W]hat a waste and a suicide -- to slip through the human state without truly being man, that is, to pass God by, and thus to pass our own souls by...

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Freedom and Truth, Intelligence and Reality

No time for a new post, but just slackenough for a peerback on what was happening in the Cosmos five years ago this month.

One of the consolations of secular humanism is that since a human life has no intrinsic -- which is to say, transcendent -- purpose, it isn't possible to waste one's life.

Nor, if absolute truth doesn't exist, is it possible to be intrinsically wrong and therefore cosmically stupid.

And of course, if virtue is reduced to an arbitrary cultural agreement -- say, about whether or not it is a good idea to leave a woman attached to her clitoris -- then a culture cannot be bad, much less evil, only "different" and probably oppressed and victimized to boot.

If human beings are not free to know truth, then neither freedom nor truth can be said to exist. In other words -- no, the identical words, only italicized for added oomphasis: if human beings are not free to know truth, then neither freedom nor truth can be said to exist.

These two categories -- freedom and truth -- are so fundamentally intertwined, that any diminution of one leads to a negation of the other. Therefore, it should be no surprise that a philosophy such as leftism, which does not value liberty, should be permeated with so many lies.

And it is not just that these lies represent bad or faulty information, subject to correction. Rather, these are vital lies which one is compelled to believe, often in spite of common sense and hundreds and even thousands of years of collective experience. In other words, one is not free to believe otherwise.

Perhaps you remember the seemingly mundane but illustrative example of the high school cheerleaders who were compelled by law to root equally for both boys' and girls' teams. As Dennis Prager wrote at the time, "almost no one directly involved wants this -- not the cheerleaders, not the fans, not the boys' teams, and not even the girls' teams. But it doesn't matter: The law coerces cheerleaders to cheer at girls' games."

And it all begins with a vital lie of the left, that men and women are identical. Since no normal person believes this, it must be mandated and pressured into us by force.

Put another way, the state -- and this is just one of dozens of examples -- makes it against the law to be normal. (Other examples that come readily to mind: in California it is against the law to "discriminate" against a cross-dressing employee, and in our public school textbooks it is forbidden to depict any culture in a negative light.)

Once a vital lie such as this is accepted, freedom must be constrained in a thousand ways -- not just for men, but obviously for woman as well, since a normal girl has no spontaneous interest in being a cheerleader at a girls' softball game.

For that matter, at least back when I was in high school, no boy with his chromosomes in order wanted to be associated with the words Yell. King. Might as well say shrieking pussy. Or just William Yelverton.

I mean, what an intrinsically undignified designation for a young man. Real men don't yell (except when necessary), any more than they whine, quibble, needlessly complain, pose as victims, or contact the authorities when a troll hurts their feelings.

If you would be a king among men, you must not only refrain from all pettiness -- which is only the absence of a negative -- but possess a genuine center of power. This power may be in the realm of knowing, or doing, or being, but a man, in order to be one, must conquer something in one of these realms.

Furthermore, with respect to knowledge, one can't just know "anything." Rather, you must know truth; and, most importantly, you must defend it, just as you would defend your family. Nor can you do just anything. Rather, you must courageously do what is virtuous in a fallen world.

And you certainly cannot be just anything. Rather, your being must radiate the calm presence of Being itself, which undoubtedly supersedes, or at least infuses, the other two powers. This center of Being is also the center of Power, since it is a terrestrial prolongation of the celestial center of Truth, Virtue, and Freedom.

Prager notes what should be a truism, that "Of all the myths that surround Left-Right differences, one of the greatest is that the Left values liberty more than the Right. Regarding a small handful of behaviors -- abortion is the best example -- this is true.

"But overwhelmingly, the further left one goes on the political spectrum, the greater the advocacy of more state control of people's lives.... It is astonishing that this obvious fact is not universally acknowledged and that the Left has somehow successfully portrayed itself as preoccupied with personal liberty with regard to anything except sexual behavior and abortion."

Again, since the left does not value real liberty, their version of "truth" must be coerced, never arrived at freely. As Prager notes, "Most activists on the Left believe that they, not only their values, are morally superior to their adversaries. Therefore, coercing people to adhere to 'progressive' values is morally acceptable, even demanded. It is thus quite understandable that laws would compel high school cheerleaders to cheer at girls' athletic events as much as at boys'. And true to leftist totalitarian models, not only is behavior is coerced, but emotions as well."

In other words, in compelling one to have certain emotions, the left even tries to shape you "from within," or "beneath" cognition. This is one of the purposes of political correctness, as it compels people to identify with, and express, false emotion -- for example, hysteria over Arizona merely enforcing Federal immigration laws.

Again, consider the pettiness of the left, which leads to an insect-eye-view of the world. Regarding the cheerleaders, leftist activists insist that they should "attend girls' and boys' games 'in the same number, and with equal enthusiasm' as part of its five-year goals.'"

Is it not Orwellian to require "equal enthusiasm" of anyone over anything? Ironic, since "enthusiasm" comes from en theos, or to be in-spired by God. How could enthusiasm be compelled, and still go by the name? Isn't that like "forced spontaneity?"

Besides, for a true leftist, shouldn't genuine en-thusiasm of any kind be against the law on the grounds that it violates the so-called separation of church and state? So too inspiration (spir = spirit) and charisma ("divine gift"). My own field of clinical psychology has many similarly illiberal demands mandating, for example, that I "respect" diversity. Why? Why not the Absolute, or One? Why the pluribus but not the Unum?

Because so-called progressives cannot compete in the marketplace of ideas, it is critical that they hijack the judiciary, so that their policies can be imposed on an unwilling populace, whether it is the redefinition of marriage, or government enforced racial discrimination, or acceptance of illegal Democrats, or compelling citizens to purchase health insurance.

It is simply axiomatic that "The more secular the society, the more laws are needed to keep people in check. When more people feel accountable to God and moral religion, fewer laws need to be passed. But as religion fades, something must step into the moral vacuum it leaves, and laws compelling good behavior result" (Prager).

Natural law is eclipsed by unnatural law, which ends up producing unnatural men -- which is to say, either feminized males or developmentally arrested boys. Or, you could say that the denial of natural law creates merely natural men; which is to say, animals. And for the left, this is "mission accomplished."

The truth is not at your service. Rather, vice versa. Only by virtue of this constraint -- the yoke which is paradoxically easy -- are you free. Not to mention, intelligent. Which is to say, real.

Man is so made that his intelligence has no effective value unless it be combined with a virtuous character. Besides, no virtuous man is altogether deprived of intelligence; while the intellectual capacity of an intelligent man has no value except through truth. Intelligence and virtue are in conformity with their reason for being only through their supernatural contents or archetypes; in a word, man is not fully human unless he transcends himself, hence, in the first place, unless he masters himself. --F. Schuon

Monday, April 30, 2012

Catch a Falling Man

I believe we were discussing man's sufficient reason, i.e., why we are here. This reason needs to be proportionate to the phenomenon, and although natural selection is sufficient to explain some aspects of man, if pushed too far, it quickly becomes absurd and ultimately self-refuting.

Again, in taking a moderate, realistic, open-minded, and non-dogmatic stance, we must battle illiterates at both extremes, whereas those two extremes only have each other to hector and harass (i.e., William and his literalist demons). So our job is more difficult, in that we must wage a two-front war against two types of illiteracy.

Or, looked at vertically, we could say that the Williams of the world -- the transmitters and enforcers of cultural convention -- always have a two front war, in which anyone who doesn't stick to their narrow map is persecuted, punished, or marginalized, irrespective of whether they are above or below.

For example, consider the utter contempt with which the left treats a black person who matures beyond leftist dependency or a woman who has no need of feminist paranoia and bitterness, to say nothing of a homosexual who doesn't define himself by his sexuality, and who therefore has a sense of proportion (and of propriety). Since they threaten the entire liberal fantasy, they must be either ignored or attacked, starved or suffocated.

Think of all the brilliant bloggers out there, and compare them to the best and brightest of the liberal media. If you could combine the depth of Tom Friedman with the anger of Paul Krugman and the inanity of Maureen Dowd, you'd have the perfect liberal.

Come to think of it, in my entire life I don't recall encountering a deep or serious discussion of religion in school or in the MSM, which is quite an indictment.

For this represents a rejection of depth itself, with catastrophic consequences, because, as alluded to above, we end up with shrill and shallow anti-religious bigots of William's intellectual caliber against shrill and shallow specimens of, say, Pat Robertson's pedigree. No wonder they hate each other. They certainly deserve each other.

Now, a human being testifies to no less than three miracles: of intelligence, of free will, and of love.

The sufficient reason for intelligence must be truth, while the sufficient reason for our freedom must be goodness itself, hence our ability to distinguish good from evil in the dimension of virtue. And the sufficient reason of love must be beauty itself, hence the love of all things beautiful, both objective and subjective.

Or, to turn it around, human intelligence is "absolutely meaningless" (if such a thing may be conceived) in the absence of the Absolute, just as our freedom is absurd in the absence of a transfinite end, and love deprived of truth and beauty becomes demonic.

Hitler no doubt "loved," but what did he love? Surely not beauty or decency, let alone truth. As such, he was lovelessness personified, just as the person who embodies intelligence and virtue is the sage and/or saint, which is to say, the apex of humanness.

As usual, Schuon expresses it in an extremely compact manner that is both intellectual and practical: "the sufficient reason for human intelligence" must be "knowledge of the Sovereign Good, and in consequence all that refers to it directly or indirectly"; for free will it must be "the choice of the Sovereign Good and in consequence the practice of all that leads to it"; and for human love, "love of the Sovereign Good and all that attests to it."

Which is why we are to love God with all our mind (as intelligence loves truth), with all our strength (as the will loves virtue), and all our heart (as the soul loves beauty).

No one but One accomplishes this "perfectly," which is to say, integrally, but our own integration and actualization depend upon it; in other words, we are to simultaneously become what we are and all we are. Only man has the great privilege of failing to accomplish this, since other animals "are what they are," and nothing else. Which is why all men are in need of mercy.

In short, man is duty-bound to surpass himself, but clearly, on pain of absurdity, this is something that no man can do unaided. For in the absence of God, a man is just a man, if that! Cows don't fail to "measure up," any more than William does. He is what he is, and no man can save him.

Or, he has already saved himself, and thus condemned himself to the two-dimensional paradise of the human bovine, where there is plenty of grass and one doesn't notice the fences. In any event, failure to surpass oneself is to sink beneath oneself.

In reality, just as man's intelligence testifies to metacosmic intelligence as such, our own undeniable transcendence testifies to the Transcendent, i.e., the Sovereign Good.

Thus, we can only transcend ourselves by virtue of God's prior "pouring out" of himself, which is grace. You might say that grace searches for man until a man catches it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Boredom Kills

There is something in human beings that not only allows us to be objective, but without which we could hardly be human.

Animals, for example, cannot be just -- nor can they be unjust -- because they cannot take a disinterested view of things. If my dog is eaten by a mountain lion, it may be sad, but not unjust. Conversely, it would be unjust if she were eaten by Obama.

Schuon defines objectivity as "the perfect adaptation of the intelligence to objective reality," or "conformity to the nature of things” in a manner independent "of all interference of individual tendencies or tastes." You might say that objectivity is subjectivity minus passion, desire, interest, and perspective.

But we really cannot define objectivity in isolation from subjectivity, because the two obviously co-arise and are complementary. There is also paradox here, in that only a subject may be objective.

Likewise, all objects have a degree of subjectivity (however attenuated), which is to say, "depth," but this depth only becomes self-aware, or "luminous," in human beings.

Now, science partakes of objectivity, but it cannot account for it, nor can it ever be truly (i.e., literally) objective, first, because science is the adequation of theory to phenomena (not noumenon), and second, because no scientific theory can account for the existence of the scientific subject.

Failure to appreciate this leads to the irony of a scientism which imagines it not only possible but desirable to subtract the scientist from the science, and ultimately intelligence from cosmos. Then you have a science that applies to everything but reality.

In short, the "perfect science" would exclude the scientist entirely, but this should be understood as a practical ideal, not a real possibility, for even at the level of quantum physics we know that facts are determined by perspective (e.g., the wave/particle complementarity).

To imagine we can rid ourselves of the subject is a little like turning off the light and trying to jump into bed before it gets dark.

Science simply presumes the scientist, which is fine, because it is not the role of science to penetrate to essences or to being as such. Only by collapsing this hierarchy can science presume to be an objective account of reality.

In other words, it is easy to be comprehensive if one simply omits everything one's metaphysic cannot account for. But that can hardly be called objective or disinterested.

For example, scientists who are conspicuously interested in eliminating the spiritual dimension of reality -- the atheistic evangelists -- are hardly objective.

Rather, their passion comes through loud and clear. As I said in the book, it is more interesting to ponder the source of this ironic "passion for meaninglessness" than it is to contemplate their absence of meaning.

It reminds me of something Dennis Prager said about being on a particularly boring date with a woman. In order to deal with the boredom, he would try to get to the bottom of why the person was so boring. This would generate interesting theories on the phenomenology of boredom.

Prager doesn't know it, but the phenomenology of boredom is actually conceptualized in psychoanalytic theory. In psychoanalysis, there is the "transference," which involves the patient's unconscious feelings toward the analyst, and the "counter-transference," which involves the feelings provoked in the analyst by the patient.

Some patients are flat boring. Why is this? Often it is not pathognomonic per se, just the result of, say, low intelligence, inadequate education, poor vocabulary, or undeveloped imagination.

Interestingly, these people are almost like "objects," analogous to the animals you might see grazing in a landscape. Frankly, it's like conversing with a cow, and just as edifying. (And don't pretend you don't have any bovine acquaintances.)

But there are other instances when the counter-transferential boredom is pathological. Put it this way: whenever two subjects are together, a (potentially) vibrant space is created between them.

For some patients, the transmission of boredom is a kind of preemptive attack that collapses or warps this space, so that certain areas become off-limits.

This kind of enforced boredom can have the appearance of stupidity, but it's worse than that, because it aggressively encloses you in their boring and unimaginative world. (Think of the liberal narrative, which is simultaneously tedious and obnoxious.)

In extreme cases, there is a condition called "alexithymia," which essentially involves a complete detachment of subject from object, and an inability to ascribe words to emotions.

There is clearly something analogous in the spiritual dimension. I think of someone like Schuon, who is able to make such exceedingly fine and intelligible distinctions on these planes, using language in a clear and compelling -- and objective -- manner.

Conversely, I think of a boredom-inducing troll who eliminates and deluminates this impossibly rich reality with a crude and childlike "there's no such thing!"

The other day I read something to the effect that poetry speaks of imaginary ponds with real toads. This species of toad dumps toxins into the pond, and then claims that toads don't exist.

Boredom does as boredom is. Which is to say, dead.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We Don't Need No Steenking Sufficient Reason!

Time only for a brief post. Gotta run. But it shall be continued...

Schuon is -- to express it in a breezily non-Schuonian way -- very big on the principle of sufficient reason, which simply means that things happen for a reason, and that this reason -- i.e., cause -- must be proportionate to its effect.

Or, to put it the other way around, if you're going to try to explain an effect, the cause needs to be sufficient to do the job.

Gee, sounds kind of obvious when you put it that way, Bob. What's your point?

Right away I can think of a couple of potential pitfalls with this principle. For example, one of the things that drives conspiracy theorists seems to be the disconnect between cause and effect, for example, vis-a-vis the JFK assassination.

In that case the effect was of world historical significance, but the cause was nothing more than a chronically embittered leftist worm. Hence the search for causes more proportionate to the effect -- the CIA, the Mafia, Castro, LBJ, etc.

Another area of potential misunderstanding has to do with natural selection. Darwin coined the term "exaptation" to describe characteristics and traits that are selected for one reason, but end up being used for another.

For example, although noses hold up eyeglasses, that is not why noses were selected. Likewise, my hand fits perfectly around a beer bottle, but they tell me that that is not why hands were selected. Who knew?

But the theory of exaptation -- like Darwinism in general -- quickly becomes absurd if pushed too far. For example, the above linked article suggests that our pursuit of truth might be an exaptation of "the human ability to use logic and reason [which was] originally evolved to win arguments and convince others."

Now, does this explanation pass the test of sufficient reason? Did it win the argument and convince you? This is an example of how Darwinism eats its own entailment and paints itself into a logical coroner. It's like suggesting that baseball was invented in order to win games, which any Cubs fan knows is untrue.

As we all know, I do not believe that natural selection provides sufficient reason to account for the human state, which is characterized by such things as truth, free will, love, objectivity, disinterest, beauty, and nobility of character, not to mention sanctity, valor, wisdom, mystical union, etc. It has nothing to to with religion per se, just the minimal demands of logic.

The Darwinian fundamentalist will respond that his theory does indeed account for these things, but then again, he is admittedly just using logic and reason because it was naturally selected to win arguments and convince others, surely not because it is true, of all things. For to believe otherwise would put the horse before the cart, and we all know that horses were invented to pull carts.

Echoes of Perennial Wisdom is by far Schuon's most compact book, and he has a literary style that is already as compact and precise as it can possibly be. No one, in my experience, says more with less, which makes him the anti-archetype of the tenured, the ultimate instance of which being deconstruction, which tells us everything about nothing.

What if we affirm, with Schuon, that "Truth is the reason for man's existence"? This cuts right to the chase, and says that nothing less than Truth can be the sufficient reason -- an adequate explanation -- for man as such. Could it be true?

Well, let's define our terms, beginning with truth. What is it? It is conformity between subject and object, or intelligence and reality; it is to discern the substance in the accident, the essence in the form, the principle in the manifestation, the center in the periphery, indeed, the cause in the effect (to bring us full circle).

Personally I am more partial to love being our sufficient reason, but as we shall see, it is impossible for a man to love lies and remain a proper man.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Your Call: TransCosmic Plenitude or Infrahuman Nihilism

Before continuing in our effort to develop an objective definition of spiritual normality -- and therefore pathology -- I want to address an objection raised by a troll; not his objection, mind you, since that would require gifts he doesn't possess -- but the plagiarized sentiments of a John Wilkins, who is of the belief that "science is not a metaphysical system of thought," but rather, "deals precisely with objective experience. Personal views of scientists do not define the results of scientific work."

This reflects the philosophically untutored perspective of a naive and pre-critical scientism that doesn't trouble itself with looking beneath the phenomena, or thinking about thinking, or considering the sorts of assumptions that are built into science (and without which science cannot function).

For to say that science "deals precisely with objective experience" is to affirm something that cannot possibly be true. In order to say it, one must have no idea what the words "objective" and "experience" mean.

Science, by its very nature, deals with things that are relative and therefore contingent. In other words, it deals with the way things are, but it doesn't pretend that the way things are is the only way they could be.

There is nothing studied by science that couldn't be otherwise. Indeed, change one little variable in one of those helpful equations governing the big bang, and neither we nor the cosmos as we know it would be here.

Likewise, to paraphrase Stephen Gould, if one little inconvenient mudslide had occurred back in the days of the Burgess Shale bio-explosion, the wholly contingent evolutionary line leading to us might have been broken.

Indeed, we can all be traced to a common mother, Ms. Mitochondrial Eve, and according to Nicholas Wade, it is possible that we are related to as few as 5,000 people who were wandering around in North Africa 50,000 years ago. If they hadn't been extra-careful about wearing their sweaters in the cold or not running around with scissors, who knows?

The point is, from the perspective of science, the emergence of man is a freakishly unlikely accident. Remember, Darwin purloined and redefined the word "evolution" -- which had an entirely different meaning prior to that -- and applied this theretofore respectable term to the meaningless and contingent process he thought he had discerned in nature.

Even leaving that aside, it is naive in the extreme to suggest that man may penetrate to the objective realm on the plane of phenomena. How could this ever be?

As we have discussed in the past, man is always limited by what Schuon calls four "infirmities." To summarize, we are "creature, not Creator," which is to say, "manifestation and not Principle or Being." Or, just say we are contingent and not necessary or absolute.

Second, we are men, and all this implies, situated somewhere between absolute and relative, God and animal -- somewhat like a terrestrial angel or a celestial ape.

Third, we are all different, which is to say, individual, and there can be no science of the utterly unique and unrepeatable.

This is a critical point, because as far as science is concerned, our essential differences must be entirely contingent, just a result of nature tossing the genetic dice. Suffice it to say that this is not a sufficient reason to account for the miracle of individuality. Well, individual jerks, maybe. But not anyone you'd want to know.

Lastly, there are human differences that are indeed contingent and not essential or providential. These include negative things such as mind parasites that result from the exigencies of childhood, but also the accidental aspects of culture, language, and history. In order to exist at all, we must surely exist in a particular time and a particular place.

Elsewhere Schuon summarizes the accidents of existence as world, life, body, and soul; or more abstractly, "space, time, matter, desire."

The purpose of metaphysics is to get beneath these accidents, precisely, and hence to a realm of true objectivity and therefore perennial truth (even though, at the same time, we must insist that existence, life, and intelligence especially represent a continuous reminder, or breakthrough, of the miraculous).

Now, what do we mean by objectivity? It must be a stance uncontaminated by contingency, passion, or perspective, for starters. There is contingent science -- or the science of contingency -- and there is the "science of the Absolute," which is none other than metaphysics.

Thus, objectivity begins with the soph-evident existence of the Absolute, which is what confers value and meaning upon human existence, which is to say, intelligence (for humans are a kind of incarnation of the logos, which is what it means to be "in the image of the Absolute").

You might say that humans are "subjectivized intelligence," in that there is surely evidence of objective intelligence in the cosmos prior to our arrival, e.g., DNA or the laws of physics. One needn't say "intelligent design." Rather, just intelligence will do the trick, so long as we know what intelligence is.

As Schuon points out, "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing." What he means by this is that man's own intelligence demands a sufficient reason, and this reason is the Absolute. Remove the Absolute, and nothing makes sense, or can make sense, except in a wholly contingent and therefore senseless manner. This is why we insist: God or Nothing, TransCosmic Plenitude or Infrahuman Nihilism.

This same human intelligence "testifies irrecusably to a purely spiritual First Cause, to a Unity infinitely central but containing all things, to an Essence at once immanent and transcendent." Around these parts we simply call this O, AKA Unity Central.

Another helpful wise crack by Schuon: "To claim that knowledge as such can only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute."

And if that crack provokes a guffah-ha! experience in you, you're well on the way to being cured of your existential infirmities.

To be continued....

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.