Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ultra-Darwinists and Infra-Religionists

Turns out that Darwin wasn't necessarily the vulgar Darwinian his disciples and detractors make him out to be. For example, Purcell quotes a letter from 1870 in which he wrote that "I cannot look at the universe as the result of blind chance."

To another author who had published a book in 1881 that "defended evolution and theism together," Darwin wrote that it "expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the universe is not the result of chance." Indeed, for Darwin, "the rationality and moral probity of God underlay the rationality and meaningfulness of science" (Gillespie, in Purcell).

Which only goes to show how fundamentalists and extremists in both camps -- ultra-Darwinists and infra-religionists -- get it wrong.

I attach the prefix "ultra" to the former because it conveys the idea that they over-interpret the theory, and push it beyond its rightful limits. And I apply the prefix "infra" to the latter, because in my opinion they fall short of the deeper meaning of religion by rigidly applying a manmade framework on God, just because God must speak in a certain way in order to make himself known to human beings.

I mean, I must speak in a certain way in order to make myself understood by my seven year-old. But it would be an elementary, if understandable, error on his part to assume that I have the mind of a seven year-old who's just bigger than he is. While I don't patronize him, neither do I gratuitously toss in words and concepts he can't possibly understand.

In fact, both types -- the ultra and the infra -- make the error referenced in yesterday's post, of imposing an ideological grid on reality in order to make the mystery go away. Of all people, you'd think that postmodern folks would be aware of the irony of engaging in this futile enterprise. But it seems that one of the properties of ideology is to blind the ideologue to its presence. Or just say that some people have a hard time recognizing their first principles -- especially people without any.

One of the dangers of ideology is that it doesn't just operate like a static map one uses to navigate the world. Rather, it is much more like a mind parasite, in that it actively hijacks the thinking process and thereby restricts the scope of reality.

In his Tyranny of Clichés, brother Goldberg quotes Orwell's famous essay on Politics and the English Language, in which the latter writes of "the special connection between politics and the debasement of language."

It is easy to see how parasitical clichés can "construct your sentences for you" and "even think your thoughts for you," while performing "the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself" (Orwell) A political cliché operates "like a pill with a pleasant protective coating" which "conceals a mind-altering substance within" (Goldberg).

Although that might sound like a cliché, it is critical to realize and understand that it is literally true. The human mind cannot function in the absence of an "operating system," of some way to organize reality and convert experience into ideas, the question being "which one?"

For example, I've mentioned in the past that when I first began studying psychoanalysis, it was liberating at first but eventually became restrictive and confining, because, once internalized, I couldn't help interpreting everything in terms of its principles. I lost my perspective, so that the tool started to become the man. Come to think of it, that's how you become a tool, isn't it?

This is what ideology does. You might say that it results in damage to, and sometimes annihilation of, the human person.

To the extent that the Raccoon has an "ideology," it would have to be called "Mysterian," in that it holds the human mystery to be the axis around which it revolves.

But this human mystery does not, and cannot, stand alone. Rather, for reasons articulated in yesterday's post (and many previous ones), the "human substance" is not just some featureless and isolated blob, but has certain distinct properties, the most important ones being relation and sanctity.

Those latter two properties are a consequence of our deiformity -- or microcosmology if you prefer. By which I mean that the source of our dignity, our wisdom, our freedom, our greatness cannot be from within ourselves. If we do locate the source there, it doesn't turn us into gods, but rather, monsters -- like domesticated animals that revert to ferality (which ought to be a word) in a generation or two. Again, see history for details.

de Lubac writes that "It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God."

Rather, "what is true is that, without God, he can ultimately only organize it against man." In other words, as we have discussed on many occasions, "exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism" (ibid.), because its very first principle rids the world of God in order to claim a greatness that only God can confer, and without whom we are hardly "everything," and not even nothing, really. At which point you can get away with anything.

As Schuon writes, "Respect for the human person must not open the door to a dictatorship of error and baseness, to the crushing of quality by quantity," or to over-valuation "of the crude fact at the expense of the truth."

We are immersed in a sea of change, so it is natural that we seek reliable landmarks and fixed lighthouses to navigate our journey. Ultimately these landmarks must concern origins (where we set off from); our present situation (where we are); and our course (where we are going). Thus there are elements of both space and time, the latter of which being especially relevant to "where we are going," which naturally takes time to get there. For in the words of Kerouac, walking on water wasn't built in a day.

But ideologies tend to spatialize time, for the same reason they immanentize the transcendent. Schuon characterizes certain deviant paganisms as "reactions of space against time." This can be seen in the reactionary leftism -- or cliché guevarism -- of Obama, for whom it is always 1933.

Having said all this, it is nonetheless true that, from a certain perspective -- and largely in reaction to the errors and superstitions of the infra-religious -- "it must be admitted that the progressives are not entirely wrong in thinking that there is something in religion which no longer works," and that its "individualistic and sentimental argumentation... has lost almost all its power to pierce consciences."

This is because the "usual religious arguments" simply don't probe "sufficiently to the depths of things," since past editions of man, unburdened by ultra-science, didn't really demand such explanations. The whole thing made sense intuitively, and there wasn't even really a framework in place to understand it in any other way.

Which leads back to our mission and blog-hobby, which is to deploy arguments of a higher order to illuminate the lower, and to make religion once again relevant to the ultras and more efficacious or integral for the infras.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Miraculous Journey to the Heart of the Living Cosmos

It seems to me that what we call modern or postmodern thought doesn't actually eliminate the miraculous, but just kicks it down the road; or rather, just paves the road over it.

Looked at another way, this form of thought conceals an unthinkable anti-thought that restricts our view of reality, such that the miraculous is consigned to the black of beyond. You know, sweeps it under the rug that can never pull the room together. Whistles past the graveyard of unexamined ideas. Or puts its hands over its ears and sings LALALALALALALALALALA!

Again, as well-cosmoed students of reality know by now, there are no less than four miracles that cannot be eliminated (but actually many more). At the very least there is existence; there is life; there is subjectivity, and all this implies; and there is salvation.

But there's also love, truth, intelligence, beauty, and science, which iterate in so many directions: music, painting, poetry, faith, virtue, nobility, selflessness, progress; miracles of sound, rhythm, and color; or the sheer miracle of the present, which is to say, conscious awareness, or being-for-itself, the providential loophole in creation, the ultimate guffah-HA! experience.

And being-for-itself doesn't even properly exist, for it is always being-in-relation, which might be the rock-bottom miracle of them all.

Or, to quote W. Norris Clarke, to be is to be substance-in-relation. Behind or within the I AM is always the WE ARE. Being is always twogather in threeness, which is why you need to take existence personally.

mir•a•cle \ [ME. fr, L miraculum, fr. mirari, to wonder at -- more at SMILE]

Yesterday we spoke of scotomas and scotosis, i.e., scientistic holes in the whole of reality, which render it less than wholesome, which is to say, healthy. The failure to appreciate the irredcible WE of the subjective horizon would have to constitute the most conspicuous hole in the materialist metaphysic.

Indeed, even if you disagree with me, you need someone with whom to disagree, AKA ME. I know. Ironic.

Clarke writes of "the experience, without which none of us could be truly human, of knowing other human beings as equally real with ourselves....

"This experience can be condensed as follows: I know that we are, that we are like each other, that we can engage in meaningful communication with each other." In short, subjectivity is always intersubjectivity, so that in a way, love is simply the radical ratification of being. Or in other words, it is good!

And please note that the existence of this WE could never be known unless first lived. To live outside the WE is no more conceivable for us than trying to imagine the consciousness of a reptile, or an MSNBC host. One might say that autism is a failure of the WE, genuine love its crowning achievement.

Reminds us of the old joke about the I asking for directions to the WE: the smiling O-timer responds with a knowing wink, you can't get there from here.

Not that it matters in terms of the truth which cannot not be, but it is interesting that science is catching up with the trinitarian nature of a cosmos that is substance-in-relation, or "self-communicating active presence."

This is laid out in a recent book called Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion. I don't know that I can recommend it, since it doesn't affirm anything that isn't covered in our bʘʘk in a much more thoroughly silly manner.

The scientific upshot is that the primordial we of the mother-infant dyad is gateway hug to "more complex social, cultural, and representational abilities." Not I think, therefore I am, but we are, therefore I am, and can think about it to boot!

Speaking of miracles, of the self-expression of being, and of the cosmic journey, yesterday I read a fascinating article in the latest National Review about a contemporary American composer and pianist named Michael Hersch. You'll want to read the whole thing, but here is a man who seems very much in awe of the miraculous gift he has been given:

"He sits down to play his massive and monumental piano work The Vanishing Pavilions.... It is apocalyptic, visionary, and staggering. And it takes approximately two and a half hours to play. Hersch does not play it all, in this pre‑concert concert. He plays excerpts, a little suite. And he plays it with his prodigious technique, one that draws gasps. Apparently, his fingers can do whatever his brain commands."

He was not a child prodigy, and didn't discover his gift until the late age (for classical music) of 18, at which time it was somehow waiting there, not only fully formed but unspoiled by the kind of drudgery that might have been imposed by more agenda-driven, or less child-centered, parents:

“I didn’t look at it as, ‘I have so much to catch up on.’ People sometimes say, ‘You started so late, it must have been daunting.’ But I wasn’t thinking in terms of chronology or lost years. I was just overjoyed at my luck. I had found this world, and I had it all to explore.”

'His parents, he says, have "caught a lot of flak from people who think, ‘What if he had started at four or five?’ Well, maybe I would have burned out.”

Remarkably, he doesn't have to practice in order to play even the most difficult pieces, nor does he "struggle to compose, but he does need time. He cannot be rushed. He works on a piece in his head until it’s ready. Then he writes it down, with no revision. It took almost a year to write down The Vanishing Pavilions, which runs more than 300 pages."

Hersch speaks of how "the music is lying dormant, waiting for you. You can activate it anytime, simply by engaging with it”; and of how "it just anguishes me that there are so many people out there, possibly, who could have been like me, or are like me, who weren’t fortunate enough to have a brother who would say, ‘You need to sit down and listen to Beethoven.’ What about all the people who are just as talented as I am, or more talented, and didn’t have the opportunity?”

Now, there's a guy who isn't wasting his shot at a miraculous journey to the heart of the cosmos.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

From Un-Cosmoed to One Cosmoed

Just as there are people we call uncultured, there are folks we would call un-cosmoed. Ironically, more often than not, it is the most cultured person who is the least cosmoed.

Likewise, uncultured people often retain their cosmic perspective, which is one of the reasons why so many middle- and working class folks are repelled by contemporary liberalism; which, you might say, is "worldly," but at the expense of universality.

Contemporary liberalism is provincial, ahistorical, and unphilosophical in the extreme, which is why there is usually so much more wisdom in a simple person of faith than there is in the tenured herd and the media mob.

An uncultured person is what? Related words include countrified, unlearned, unrefined, unsophisticated, roughhewn, raw, -- but also, in a wholly positive sense, natural, unartificial, guileless, pristine, unsullied. Likewise, we know the positive connotations of cultured, but the latter can also veer into sophistry, intellectualism, artifice, decadence, and, in these latter days, mere conformity to intellectual fashion.

So much of contemporary debate can be cast in these terms of cultured-uncultured. It is a major source of the left's toxic arrogance, and why they simply cannot conceal their contempt for those they wish to court.

Now, what is an uncosmoed person? I would think that first and foremost it is someone who imagines he can enclose the cosmos in some little manmade ideology -- who imagines he has demystified the cosmos just because he has memorized a few words and concepts such as "big bang," or "DNA," or "natural selection," or who simply fails to draw out the implications of everyday words such as "person," or "love," or "truth," or "beauty," or "universe."

Each of the latter is an irreducible mystery, in the sense that we only imagine we have banished the mystery by saturating them with some readymade ideological content.

But mystery itself is a mystery, in that it is a mode of knowledge, not a problem to be solved. Indeed, life without mystery would be unendurable. Even if I had all the answers, I would immediately forget them just for the joy of searching after them. Much of spiritual development involves a kind of movement from the mystery of childhood, to the demystification of adolescence, to the proper remystification of real adulthood (or from uncosmoed to One Cosmoed).

Here is how Schuon defines mystery. See if you don't agree:

"By ‘mystery’ we do not mean something incomprehensible in principle -- unless it be on the purely rational level -- but something which opens on to the Infinite, or which is envisaged in this respect, so that intelligibility becomes limitless and humanly inexhaustible. A mystery is always ‘something of God’" (Gnosis: Divine Wisdom).

Again: mystery is a mode of intellection, but not a mode the typical intellectual will endorse, since it is an affront to the narcissistic co-opting of the intellect for purely egoic -- or defensive -- purposes.

In the past I have discussed how, just as there are psychological defense mechanisms that apply to the lower vertical, there are what we might call "pneumatological defense mechanisms" that apply to the upper vertical, e.g., pride and envy. I'm a little surprised that I was the first to discover, or at least articulate, this idea, but it is no doubt implicit in various folk psychologies of the uncultured.

In any event, "intellectualization" is one defense mechanism that is deployed in both directions, the upper and lower vertical. Wiki defines it as "a defense mechanism where reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress, by 'using excessive and abstract ideation to avoid difficult feelings'. It involves removing one's self, emotionally, from a stressful event. Intellectualization may accompany, but 'differs from rationalization, which is justification of irrational behavior through cliches, stories, and pat explanation.'"

One can glean at a glance how both intellectualization and rationalization would apply to the upper vertical, in particular, vis-a-vis the New Atheists armed with their rationalistic "cliches, stories, and pat explanations." Behind this is the attempt to flee from the stress and conflict associated with confronting -- or being confronted by -- one's nonlocal conscience, and then following where -- or to whom -- this might lead. Better just to cut it off at the knees. Then kneeling is impossible.

Which leads us back to where we were on April 3, before we got sidetracked down one of those compelling cosmic arteries. You may recall that we were discussing Brendan Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution, which then veered into an extended Voegelinapalooza.

By the very title, one can appreciate that the author is a deeply cosmoed man coming from a cosmic perspective. I just opened the book to page 98, where we seem to have left off in our discussion, and Purcell (borrowing from Lonergan) is discussing what he calls the "scotosis" of scientism, which is to say, its wee ontological blind spot, i.e., "the non-occurance of relevant insights for whatever reason," and "the reality eclipsed because not questioned."

In short, in any form of scientism, there is a hole where reality should be, but which is filled with ideology -- similar to the scotoma we all have in our field of vision, where the optic nerve connects to the eyeball. Without even being consciously aware of it, our brains just paper over the hole and create the illusion of continuity.

Think of the scotosis that results from any attempt to reduce the cosmos to its mathematical elements; to do so is to reduce quality to quantity, semantics to syntax, and ultimately subject to object. But then there's no subject left to understand and appreciate the mysterious and beautiful math. Nor taste the delicious irony. (Note also that the scotoma of scientism can fashion a prison or serve as an escape hatch, once the hole is recognized.)

A more balanced and reasonable -- not to say nuanced -- view would be closer to the one enunciated by Pope John Paul II in 1991 (quoted by Purcell):

"Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and from false absolutes. Each can help the other to enter into a more complete world, where both can prosper."

Here it is not just a matter of rejoining left and right brains and east and west hemispheres, although that's no doubt part of it. Rather, the real action is vertical and hierarchical, and lies in keeping things in perspective. The uncosmoed person always lacks perspective, since the cosmic is the ultimate perspective (excluding the perspective of God, since we can't see from that particular vertex).

Or in oscar words -- but turned bright-side up -- we are all of the stars, but some of us are looking from the gutter.

To be continued...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Top Ten Cosmo-American Musical Artists

I just recently picked up a cheap used copy of the spectacular Bob Dylan mono recordings box, and it got me to thinking. I suppose this is just an invitation for an argument clinic, but I was wondering to myself, Who would constitute the top ten Cosmo-American musical artists?

By the way, one of the reasons these mono recordings are so superior, is that the stereo versions of some of the early acoustic albums have the vocal coming out of the center, and the guitar and harmonica coming out of either speaker. It's amazing how much more powerful they are coming right at you; or how powerful one man with an acoustic guitar can be. Even Mrs. G. could tell the difference, and women don't have the audiophile gene/illness.

Back then, in the 1960s, stereo was still mostly a gimmick, so you had this very unnatural presentation, as if it is possible to play the guitar ten feet away from where you're playing harmonica. You could only do that if you were eighteen feet tall and laying down. But then, where's the voice coming from? The diaphragm, I guess.

Back to our list. Should I even bother to define Cosmo-American? Maybe after the list. But in order to make the list, your music must be quintessentially American, which implies provinciality, and yet, cosmic in scope.

For example, Bach is obviously cosmic in scope, but not American. Conversely, rap is quintessentially American, but not cosmic.

It seems to me that there are certain artists that must appear on anyone's list, even if one isn't a big fan of that particular artist. Indeed, although I have some personal favorites, I just don't see how they could elbow their way in. Here are some of the artists that come to mind immediately and would have to appear on any list:

1. Louis Armstrong

2. Frank Sinatra

3. Ray Charles

4. Bob Dylan

5. Elvis Presley

Just for sheer influence, those names have to be there, for each, in a way, is the originator, or at least popularizer, of a whole genre. After them there may be a little wiggle room, some allowance for taste, but not much. Personally I would add

6. Miles Davis

7. Aretha Franklin

8. Muddy Waters

9. James Brown

Who's number ten? Think of the luminaries we might have to leave out: Jerry Lee Lewis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Brian Wilson/Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Brubeck/Desmond Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Sun Ra.... I imagine a lot of country folk would say Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Patsy Cline, or the Carter Family...

I have an idiosyncratic and changing list of personal favorite Cosmo-Amercan musicians. I recognize that these don't deserve to be in the top ten, but they are nevertheless quintessentially American and cosmic in scope:

1. Bo Diddley

2. Pharoah Sanders

3. Harry Nilsson

4. Buck Owens

5. Sonny Boy Williamson

6. Art Pepper

7. Dexter Gordon

8. Jackie McLean

9. Howlin' Wolf

10. Byrds

So, who's on your list?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Paradise Lost and Found

At least in the Christianized west, it seems that we are all, religious and secular alike, influenced by the implicit idea that time has a particular shape and direction. This form runs from paradise to time to paradise; or from being to existence to being; or from eternity to time to eternity; or absolute to relative to absolute; or, we could just leave it unsaturated and symbolize it P1 --> T --> P2.

The form is quite simple, but people insert different content into it. With this scheme, one can see, for example, that Marxism (and progressivism more generally) is simply a Christian heresy. Nonetheless, it is clearly Christian. It's certainly not pagan or Buddhist or Hindu or Islamic.

And although the form is simple, any number of variations can occur. Just off the top of my head I can think of a big one that might be symbolized: P1 --> T --> P1. In this absurcular situation, there is a push for "progress" back into the state of infantile omnipotence and entitlement. But enough about the Democratic party.

Other variations include the P1 --> T <-- P2 (see below), P1 <-- T (the solution of most primitive, ahistorical, and pre-Judeo-Christian cultures which idealize the past and regard time as purely dissipative and corrosive), and plain old T, which would be the existential/scientistic variant, somehow devoid of both immanence and transcendence; it ultimately reduces to ø.

You could say that the P1 --> T --> P2 journey reflects psychological development, in particular, the vicissitudes of attachment, separation, and individuation. We begin life merged with the m-other, and only gradually separate from this edenic state in order to find out "who we are," as we encounter the vagaries of the wider world.

This wider world is fraught with peril, just like a dark and stormy night and other cliches. Again, there is being and there is existence, and the world is associated with the latter. As Voegelin writes, there has never been a time that man hasn't been aware of the perils of existence, at least prior to the 1960s, since which time we have seen a concerted effort to deny the problems of existence, partly because we have been so successful in mitigating them.

To back up a bit, the list of evils in this world "has been familiar since antiquity," and includes "poverty, sickness, death, the necessity for work, and sexual problems," to which we might add war and governance, i.e., the tyranny of the state. These are not things we would have chosen if given our druthers, but there they are and there they shall remain.

Except for the political gnostic. It hardly takes a genius to imagine a world without these things, but it is a characteristic of the gnostic to "draw up a comparatively lucid picture of the desirable condition" while being "concerned only vaguely with the means of bringing it about." This desirable condition has never existed, and never will exist, existence being what it is.

Well, it has existed, but only back in P1. One of the reasons we have children and love having children is that they remind us of P1, and allow us to relive it, so to speak. Indeed, our primary job as parents -- certainly prior to the age of seven or so -- is to protect P1 from impingement from the world, or in other words, to protect our child's innocence of same (in-nocens implying the pre-lapsarian state of being without knowledge of good and evil).

For Voegelin, man always lives in this ambiguous area between paradises, so to speak. Note that we can deny P2, but this will by no means eliminate it. If man were truly to eradicate all notions of P2, he would sink beneath himself and revert to animalism. Others pretend to deny it while trying to force it, which is another characteristic of the gnostic: there's no such thing as paradise, and we're gonna create it right here on earth!

Man always lives in the light -- or shadow -- of this "third realm," which "is in fact a ruling symbol in the self-understanding of modern society." Nor should we any longer be surprised at the regular appearance of political pests who attempt to bring P2 "into existence by revolutionary action." (Think OWS.)

As there is a new world associated with P2, so too is there a new man to go along with it. These are the übermenschenables, the very ones we've been waiting for.

This is a variant of the messiah principle (we are not using this in a Christian context, but more an anthropological one), and the messiah appears in different guises, depending upon the needs of the day. In the past, he was generally associated with war and conquest, but nowadays we tend to think of him as The Man With All the Answers.

For example, Voegelin writes of "a German and Italian literature in which Hitler and Mussolini are at times glorified as the leaders foretold by Dante." In any event, "the process by which the superman is created is closely related to the movement of the spirit," whereby mystics "drew into themselves the substance of God and transformed themselves into the 'godded man,' the divinized man."

This pattern becomes pneumapathological when applied to politics; it might be symbolized P1 --> T <-- P2. Through it, O is "brought back from [the] beyond into the human soul.... the divine substance is reincorporated in man, and man becomes superman."

Again, there are different types of superman, including the progressivist superman, the positivist superman, and the "Dionysian superman of Nietzsche," which is more fun than the first two, at least as long as it lasts.

Voegelin detects a new variety of superman in western history, the secular intellectual "who knows the formula for salvation from the misfortunes of the world and can predict how world history will take its course in the future." The weather hysterics would fall into this category.

Of course, predicting stuff is hard, especially the future. Thus, forget about Obama's old four-year plan. Let's focus on the new one. P2 is just around the corner.

But here's something the political gnostic doesn't know: "in truth the hereafter is far nearer than the future," for the Eternal is "found at the heart of all temporal development," and is precisely that "which gives it life and direction" (de Lubac). This is the only progress that always and truly is.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Peacocks and Propheteers of the Left

We left off yesterday with the assertion that the lofty program of the mystico-political gnostic is pretty much half-baked if not half-assed, and that his actual goal "need not be understood very precisely."

In fact, this gaseous mystagoguery isn't optional for the political gnostic, since both the goal and the means will be seen as dangerous or cuckoo if spelled out in detail. It's not a bug but a feature. ("You have to pass the bill to see what's in it.")

Expressed another way, the political gnostic needs to arouse and enlist emotion without engaging the critical intellect. Or, if intellect is involved, it must be in conformity with deeper emotional prejudices.

This is why I am convinced that political differences have much more to do with culture than with fact and logic. We talk about a "culture war" as part of a wider political conflict, but it's really the other way around: the political war is a subset of the culture war. It explains why, say, Jews and blacks overwhelmingly vote Democrat against their own values and interests.

The Democratic party surely helps some individual blacks through its corrupt system of victim patronage and racial spoils, but it cannot be seriously argued that leftist policies help blacks as an aggregate, as most recently witnessed by the disparate impact of the Obama economy on blacks and other minorities.

And Jews are so successful in any context that they are almost a case of the "peacock's tail," or handicap principle of evolution. The useless extravagance of the male peacock's tail is said to signal a kind of "conspicuous consumption" on the part of the cock, as if he is saying to the cockette: "Hey baby, look at me. I'm so genetically fit that I can squander my precious genetic inheritance on this crazy tail!"

Likewise, Jews -- and any affluent liberal, really, e.g., actors and rock stars -- telegraph various cultural signals via the adoption of extravagant, wasteful, and inefficient liberalism.

To take just one obvious example of how this might work, it is routine for anti-Semites to accuse Jews of greed, or money-grubbing, or selfishness (or Palestinian hatred, for that martyr). What better way to deflect this oogedy-bigotry than to adhere to a philosophy that pisses away trillions of dollars in the name of altruism? (To paraphrase someone, "my goal in life is to be wealthy enough to vote Democrat.")

I just recently read a book called Four Cultures of the West that adds some useful insights, one of which is that the cultural container is just as important as the content -- almost a variant of "the medium is the message." It explains how, for example, there can be prophet-based cultures that seem opposite but actually share the same deeper structure.

Looked at in this way, a wild-eyed "scientific prophet" such as Al Gore has more in common with the style (style, not content) of Martin Luther or John the Baptist than with Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein.

This also sheds light on a previous episode of cultural conflict, the European religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. In reality, religion was just a pretext to unleash violence and barbarism that had more to do with cultural differences than with religious doctrine. As O'Malley explains, different cultures were "doing battle with one another under the cover of religious polemics."

That line struck me, because I think it applies equally to the present, in which sub-cultures are battling one another under the cover of political polemics. This is much easier for a conservative to appreciate than it is for a liberal, since liberals are always blinded by the conceit that their ideas and policies are completely rational, "reality-based," and universal.

It is difficult for a liberal to recognize that he's actually part of a tribe (it was much more obvious in the 1960s), and that his intellect is influenced by deeper springs of kinship and xenophobia. This is why, even when they are trying to be charitable, they always regard conservatives as some sort of alien species.

Consider this typical example dissected by Taranto yesterday (second story down), a "lurid fantasy" penned by some liberal hysteric who imagines that the people who disagree with him constitute a tiny and irrelevant minority fit only to inhabit reservations. In other words, half the country should confine itself to self-enclosed ghettos. What's especially ironic is that we already have self-enclosed ghettos crawling with political eccentrics and batty moonorities. But maybe he never went to college.

Indeed, it is an enduring theme on the left that the mere fact of conservatism requires some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation, since the ideas and principles it promulgates needn't be taken seriously. Thus, the two cultures are often operating on different levels. Conservatives argue fact and logic, but liberals ignore this in favor of a hermeneutical/deconstructive approach that "interprets" what conservatives are "really saying."

For example, when we say that we cherish the liberal principle of racial color-blindness, they interpret this as a cover for racial bigotry. Or, when we suggest that it is a dangerously radical thing to redefine the essential unit of civilization, they interpret this as "homophobia." When we say that we don't believe women are an oppressed minority, they interpret this as misogyny. Fighting for our natural rights under the first amendment is just the nefarious business of a shadowy right wing cabal.

Here again, the left wages a culture war without even knowing it. They do not engage on the plane of ideas, but only pretend to do so. There is no need to actually do the math to determine if a punitive tax on the successful will do anything to mitigate our fiscal calamity. Rather, this is just another liberal dog-whistle that only the envious can hear.

The four cultures described by O'Malley are the prophetic, the academic/professional, the humanistic, and the artistic. These days the academic/professional mostly goes under the name of science, while the humanistic embodies literature. Ironically, there is a huge culture war between these two that goes mostly unacknowledged, at least on the left.

For example, there is no way to reconcile the goofy relativism and deconstruction of the humanities departments with the type of pompously unambiguous truths churned out by popular science. This leads to all sorts of interesting conflicts, for example, the pseudo-scientific idea that sexual orientation is genetically fixed, vs. the subhumanistic idea that gender is just a cultural construct that is imposed upon us. (Someone -- can't remember who at the moment -- reminded us of the Monty Python skit in which the new father asks the doctor if it's a boy or girl, and he curtly responds, "It's a bit early to begin imposing gender roles, don't you think?")

One could also the cite the Darwinian idea that homosexuality is the one thing that should never occur in a system that revolves around reproductive success, vs. the romantic idea that there can never be anything unnatural about homosexuality.

Obama is a classic case (at least in 2008) of the prophetic genre, even though he and his acolyteweights like to think that they are all about Reality.

Of the prophetic idiom, O'Malley writes that "fundamentalists both religious and secular are comfortable here," for "it is the culture, above all, of the reformer decrying injustice and corruption in high places."

It is the culture that denounces the existing order, while holding out vague but grandiose "promises of better times to come," i.e., weaponized hopenchange. It is "the culture of great expectations, expectations that surpass anything that seems humanly possible." And it is usually gnostic, since it is "revealed to the few, hidden from the many." Which brings us full circle and ends this post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wizard of Washington and His Cowardly Lyin'

Just as the American economy is so robust that it takes a genius to screw it up, the concept (never mind reality) of God is so deep and enduring that it generally takes a dyed-in-the-woolyheaded gnostic to oust him from the cosmos.

"By gnostic movements," Voegelin is referring to such ersatz religions as "progressivism, positivism, Marxism," not to mention "communism, fascism, and national socialism." He tosses in psychoanalysis, which is only half-true (but more true when this was written in 1960), and would require some lengthy qualifications, so we won't go there. At least for long.

Suffice it to say that there was a time that psychoanalysis took on the trappings of a hierarchical, gnostic cult that had all the answers to life's conflicts and enigmas, with analogous rituals such as sacrifice (of money), descent into the netherworld, forgiveness, rebirth, and initiation. It can become a kind of closed world, which is precisely when it becomes pneumapathological (as is true of any open system).

For me, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion provided the means of escape from psychoanalysis without invalidating it. It's too bad something analogous can't happen with Darwinists and other reductionoids, since it is simply a statement of fact that no ideology can enclose the soul, unless the soul wants to be enclosed, which is to say, swaddled in twaddle, muffled in piffle, and cocooned in buffoonery. When one realizes this (?!), it is either liberating or terrifying, depending on one's politics.

Bion: "I shall use the sign O to denote that which is the ultimate reality represented by terms such as ultimate reality, absolute truth, the godhead, the infinite, the thing-in-itself. O does not fall in the domain of knowledge or learning save incidentally; it can 'become,' but it cannot be 'known.' It is darkness and formlessness but it enters the domain K when it has evolved to a point where it can be known, through knowledge gained by experience."

Similarly, "the reader must disregard what I say [that means you!] until the O of the experience of reading has evolved to a point where the actual events of reading issue in his interpretation of the experiences."

See how that works? I am never just writing, always provoking (especially myself). Or at least that is the I-deal I've made with mysoph. I haven't succeeded if I haven't "irritated" something in you, although whether the irritation is interpreted as pleasurable or painful is on you.

O "stands for the absolute truth in and of any object; it is assumed that this cannot be known by any human being; it can be known about, its presence can be recognized and felt, but it cannot be known. It is possible to be at one with it. That it exists is an essential postulate of science but it cannot be scientifically discovered.... The religious mystics have probably approximated most closely to expression of experience of it. Its existence is as essential to science as it is to religion" (ibid).

Those two extended quotes come close to expressing our overall credo, or telegraphing our open stance toward this queer cosmos.

You can see how Bion would be considered "controversial" among fellow analysts, especially the old-school ones of the time who were well up in the hierarchy of the Church of Psychoanalysis. The peevish poobahs whose pride and identity revolve around their superior intellect don't generally like to be informed that they not only know nothing, but that what they know is a kind of cowardly lie in the face of the uncontainability of O. Silence!

Back to Voegelin. He writes that none of the above-noted gnostic gruesades "began as a mass movement." Rather, they always begin with some intellectual clown, or posse of clowns, who tries to enclose O and thereby drink the ocean. If their arguments were compelling, then no one would have to be forced to accept them, which shows the lack of intellect at the heart of this destructive intellectualism.

You will have noticed that Obama always speaks as if everything he says, believes, and prescribes is self-evident (which it no doubt is to the provincial tenured and indoctrinated media). But again, if it were true, then no one would have to be forced to accept it. If he actually had faith in truth, then he would simply express it and wait for others to nod in agreement, as they did back in college.

But to employ legislative and judicial treachery to force transformative political and cultural changes down our unwilling gullets, implies a lack of faith in both truth and in Americans. He is sowing seeds of dissent and conflict that will long outlive him, just as occurred with the judicial perversion of Roe v. Wade (for just as there is pneumapathology, there is what might be called "lexopathology," to almost coin a term).

One conspicuous irony -- and this is vividly displayed in the rantings of Obama's spiritual mentor -- is that these types of political religions are ultimately "modifications of the Christian idea of perfection" (Voegelin). For the Christian, life is a pilgrimage shaped by its telos-attractor beam, which is not attainable in this world, even though it is the source and vector of meaning in this world.

But gnostic man simply transposes this journey to the immanent plane, which thereby becomes both his axis in space and his destiny -- or fate -- in time. Indeed, this is precisely what it means to be a "progressive." It is what Obama is saying when he subtly proclaims that "white peoples' greed runs a world in need." Doesn't get simpler than that, nor is the solution more self-evident once the premise is accepted.

They call it "black liberation theology," and it is definitely liberating, after a fascion. But to be liberated from O is like being liberated from gravity -- exciting at first, until the oxygen -- and money -- runs out.

When the teleological component is immanentized, the chief emphasis of the gnostic-political idea lies on the forward movement, on the movement toward a goal of perfection in this world. The goal itself need not be understood very precisely; it may consist of no more than the idealization of this or that aspect of the situation, considered valuable by the thinker in question (Voegelin).

You don't say. Breaking news from 2008!

I'm a good wizard, just a very bad president.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Here Comes the New Man, Same as the Old Man

So: if one wants to make sure that God's not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead, one must somehow go after and eradicate the psycho-pneumatic matrix out of which God emerges. One must sow the divine ground with salt, so to speak (which apparently doesn't work, btw), so nothing grows and nothing grows (except the state) .

For Marx and his contemporary heirheads, God can be nothing more than a human projection. Therefore, our task is to withdraw the projection -- to break off negOtiations and summon our I-AMbassador from the divine embassy -- and thereby re-become that which we have dribbled away via projection. In short, the best way to kill a god is to become one.

Ironically, both religion and anti-religion posit a new kind of man, a novel cosmic development. For example, in Ephesians, Paul advises us to take off the old man and put on the new.

Indeed, remaining in the old man's shoes is identified with mental futility, while shedding the old coot is both cause and effect of vertical renewal.

Just so, the (hello,) NewMan of the left isn't just devoid of religious delusions, but "has taken God back into his being. The 'non-man,' who has illusions, becomes fully human by absorbing the 'superman'" (who is like totally gay, btw).

Hence the breathtaking arrogance of the left, which they truly cannot help. After all, when one is the center of the universe, it's a little difficult to hide one's light under a bushel.

An essay by the brolific Doctor Zero, The [lower case r] republican virtue of humility, touches on this theme. You might say that the new man of the left barters away his abstract freedom in exchange for something a little more concrete -- either power, cash, or other valuable prizes.

Doing so is "only natural," whereas placing ultimate value in something as nebulous as "negative liberty" is only supernatural. Thus, under our Constitution you cannot choose to be a slave, but you can get around this by choosing to have masters.

Back to Voegelin. He writes (quoting Bottomore) that "The struggle against religion is therefore a struggle against that world of which religion is the spiritual aroma."

This is why leftist culture is every bit as iconoclastic as the Taliban thugs (but I repeat myself) who blew up those magnificent Buddhist statutes. The left does the same thing, but since we live in a verbal culture, they naturally carry it out with linguistic TNT, but the end result is just as barbarous.

Again, fascism involves the violent rejection of transcendence; although I suppose we should qualify that, since Islamofascism -- or most any other kind of "religious fascism" -- involves a violent rejection of immanence.

In any event, for the liberal fascist, "once the world beyond truth has disappeared," it is necessary "to establish the truth of this world" (Bottomore, in Voegelin). Never mind that truth is always transcendent. That's none of your damn business. Just grab your hoodie and get with the pogrom, okay?

For once the center of power has shifted from God to man, from transcendent to immanent, "it seeks not to refute but to annihilate" (ibid.).

And this is where the real action -- or acting out, rather -- begins, for "Here speaks the will to murder of the gnostic magician.... critique is no longer rational debate. Sentence has been passed; the execution follows" (ibid.).

The new man of the left, because he has taken what is beyond back into himself, "experiences himself as existing outside of institutional bonds and obligations." No shit. That's just how we roll in Chicago. What, you got a problem with multiculturalism?

As in the French Revolution, things can get out of hand pretty quickly, as the will to murder lashes out in all directions Willy-Hilly, and the fickle finger of fatwa falls on whom it will: George Zimmerman. Koch Brothers. Bain Capital. Stay-at-home moms. The Catholic Church. Fox News. Talk Radio. Millionaires and billionaires. Clarence Thomas. There's no logic to it except for the underlying will to murder.

Which no one is permitted to name or acknowledge, hence the institutional amnesia of the media-academic complex, which restricts consciousness to the momentary in time and the immanent in space.

In other worlds (Voegelin's), "the being of the world and ego is restricted to the knowledge of the immediate or existent." It is not just "radically anti-philosophical" but "a work of magic."

On the grave of the murdered God the golem is celebrating a ghastly ritual.... The goal has been attained.... This is the closing act of the order of being when gnostic magicians lay hands on it. --Voegelin

Monday, May 21, 2012

Deicide: This Time No Screw-Ups!

In his parable of the madman, Nietzsche implies that one must be both a little crazy and ahead of one's time to recognize that God is dead -- like a wild-eyed prophet, really, bearing the stark news that men are not yet prepared to accept:

"The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. 'Whither is God?' he cried; 'I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers.

"But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns?

"'Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"'How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us -- for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.'"

Again, Nietzsche is refreshingly candid, not to mention poetic, about the implications of deicide. I'll take a deicidal literary genius any day over an atheistic mediocrity, because at least the former points up in spite of himself.

The problem with our contemporary atheists is that they are shaped by an altogether different culture than was Nietzsche, essentially the cramped world of scientism instead of the wider world of art, letters, and literature. You might say that the styleless style of atheism that flows from vulgar scientism is just too facile to be true. With a little education, anyone can believe it, which our trolls prove.

Being a consistent atheist poses as much -- if not more -- of a challenge than being a consistent theist. After all, a theist has the aid of heaven, whereas the atheist must accomplish his promethean -- not to say sisyphean -- task on his own. (Interesting that no matter where man goes, myth has been there first, from stealing light to rolling stones. Myth always comprehends man more than man comprehends myth, unlike, say, science, where this relation is reversed.)

In a way, the mythic situation sketched out by Nietzsche parallels the situation of Adam, or, if one prefers, the first man who awakened to his manhood and thereby became one. These questions confront any man qua man, e.g., Where are we moving? Is there any actual direction, or is this a meaningless question? Is there any up or down, or any vertical at all? Are we not floating, as through an infinite nothing? And how shall we comfort ourselves? What means of atonement, what sacred rituals shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of man too great for a mere man, an unimpressive biped who learned to yap just yesterday and hasn't shut up since? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

If it is true that myth shapes man -- that there exist preconceptual categories through which thought courses -- then each man is heir to the ontological inclinations of all men, irrespective of whether one calls it theism or atheism. Thus, we have "prophets of atheism" such as the above madman, who has more in common with the prophet of God than with the contemporary atheistic scribbler.

Now, man in his natural state is spontaneously oriented to God. This is something no one could deny, because the anthropological evidence proves that there is no culture without the conception of an absolute that accounts for the genesis of the cosmos, the purpose of existence, and the means of salvation.

That being the case, in order for the madman prophet of atheism to succeed, he must not only murder God, but destroy the very conditions that make God necessary. Because if he doesn't eliminate those conditions, then they will continue to evoke God.

Consider a physiological analogy. You can ban sweets, but so long as human beings have a sweet tooth, they will keep discovering and being drawn to sweets.

Continuing with the analogy, the dietary madman can't just ban sweets, but flood the world with anti-sweets propaganda, so that a kind of unnatural aversion is superimposed over the natural attraction.

Ideology functions in the same way, for example, vis-a-vis the homosexual agenda. In order to transform something everyone knows is unnatural into something natural, the instinct of aversion must be displaced, which is how and why "homophobia" was invented. I suppose there are a handful of true homophobes with psychological issues of their own -- people with an irrational animus toward homosexuals -- but the real purpose of homophobia is to shame and pathologize normalcy.

So in order to truly eradicate God, we must amputate, excise, or in some way annihilate that part of man that is spontaneously oriented toward his creator and source. We have seen how this works in America over the past seventy-five years or so, whereby the legal system now functions in this way.

To take just one absurd example that comes to mind, a few years ago the County of Los Angeles was forced by the court to remove a tiny cross from its official seal, which required millions of dollars to track down every last seal on every car, every office door, every building, every piece of stationery. The cross had always been there, as it is a banal historical fact that the territory was settled by Spanish missionaries, but as always, history must bow before ideology. Plus, you know, the government has so much money anyway, we don't know what to do with it.

In Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, Voegelin explains how it all goes down. It is the task of the ideological historian,

"... once the world beyond truth has disappeared, to establish the truth of this world. Thus, the critique of heaven is transformed into the critique of earth; the critique of religion, into the critique of law; the critique of theology, into the critique of politics" (Bottomore, italics in original).

Note that this is no longer a disinterested quest for truth as we have come to understand it, but a kind of mental activism; it is no longer theory, but practice:

"Its subject is its enemy, which it seeks not to refute, but to annihilate.... It no longer acts as an end in itself, but only as a means. Its essential emotion is indignation; its essential task is denunciation" (ibid).

Boy, is that true. In another book I was reading this weekend, I came across this little wise crack, that "Indignation usually erupts into exaggeration." I'm thinking of George Zimmerman, or the Duke Lacrosse team, or that lazy bitch Ann Romney, or Obama's whole reelection campaign, really. State and class enemies everywhere!

To be continued...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blasting into Upper Space On Genesis 1

No time for an all new post, so here's one from several years back, when Obama was still Kenyan and Elizabeth Warren was still Cherokee:

While metaphysics is exact, it generally must be expressed in inexact terms in order to convey the depths of its exactitude.

As Sells explains, we begin with the "unresolvable dilemma of transcendence." Although it is beyond names, in order to unname it, we must give it a name. As such, we must always be mindful of the fact that this name cannot function as a "container" in the way normal words do.

Rather, the transcendent name -- or the name of the transcendent -- is more like a placemarker; it designates a "hole" that we must fill through grace-infused experience, lest we saturate it with a lot of preconceived ideas.

To put to put it another way, the word must simultaneously convey presence while at the same time evoking its own absence; this corresponds to the realm of mystery, which is the quintessence of present absence and absent presence, or like the "dark radiation" of faith.

It is not just God that must be discussed in this manner. The most intense human realities shade off into the ineffable and uncontainable, so that we risk trivializing them if we try to reduce them to some mechanical formula (which, for example, all bad drama and poetry do). Sex, death, love, and winning the Stanley Cup are all uncontainable, even though we obviously have words and even trophies for them.

But for those of you who have, for example, lost a loved one, you no doubt remember how you entered an alternate reality in the presence of Death, a reality that was entirely separate from the common use of the word. Among other things, the nature of time changes, and you are in the realm of the sacred. It's difficult to appreciate until you're in it.

Or perhaps you recall the intensity of the first time you fell in love, of being plunged into a reality that is beyond familiar words and concepts. It is then that you realize, "Oh. This is where all those stupid songs come from."

Likewise, modern people who imagine they are most sophisticated about matters of sexuality are usually the most naive. Human sexuality is like a signifier that cannot be signified or contained, but it can be "channelled" upward and inward, which is one of the esoteric purposes of marriage.

As a perceptive reader pointed out to a sightless troll the other day, one of the purposes of this kind of language is to to set up a seemingly paradoxical or binary opposition that vaults the mind upward toward a nonlocal "third."

For example, you will see a number of these in the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections of the Coonifesto. Such orthoparadoxical language is a common -- but inadequate -- adequation to the Real, which is always just beyond the horizon of articulation, and well beyond the possibility of book sales.

The purpose of such spontaneous descryptics is to render our normal understanding of speech inoperative, so as to lure the mind in, up, and out. It is a "creative destruction" of language, very different from the mostly "destructive destruction" of deconstruction.

The distinction we are making is hardly postmodern. Rather, it is transmodern (at a light angle to time and history), and has always been understood by the most sophisticated theologians, e.g., Philo, Plotinus, Dionysius, Origen, Shankara, John Scotus Eriugena, and certainly Eckhart, who may have been the greatest genius in his startlingly fresh and novel uses of language to properly deutsch the undeutschable and eff the ineffingbelievable.

Recall that yesterday we spoke of the fundamental opposition -- or complementarity -- within scripture between its inner and outer meanings, or the spirit and letter; another balance it must maintain is between transcendence and immanence, for it is always both.

Again, scripture must simultaneously convey and yet only "suggest" in a provocative manner (here again, the sayings of Jesus are exquisitely constructed in this regard; not surprisingly, the balance he achieves is "perfect").

In fact, this is one of the ways to instantly recognize true from false revelation. For example, if you have ever read one of those incredibly dopey Scientology brochures, they contain the most leaden and almost retarded prose you could imagine. In fact, it is retarded, for just as one can be intellectually or morally retarded, one can be spiritually retarded.

You also see the opposite, that is, the use of pseudo-forms of religious speech toward wholly unholy absecular ends. Someone who is familiar with these techniques recognizes them in an instant in the vacuous rhetoric of Obama. It is clearly religious speech, but in the absence of the religious object (since it is essentially aimed at religious retards, and therefore, proglodytes who most hunger after transcendence without realizing or being able to acknowledge it).

As dangerous as an L. Ron Hubbard is, a B. Hussein Obama is infinitely more so, being that he is so much more skillful than Hubbard at aping religious rhetoric, including its "rhythms." Hubbard essentially engages in religious pornography, leaving nothing to the (higher) imagination.

Obama, on the other hindleg, specifically misapporoprates the higher imagination (after all, he learned this technique from a pneumapathic master, Rev. Wright). There is plenty of "space" in his rhetoric for the irreligiously religious hysteric to "fill in the blanks," which is a formula for infinite mischief. It is essentially a pseudo-verticalisthenic exercise in bait and switch -- of baiting the religious instinct and then switching the religious object to the almighty state.

In other words, Obama is simply recycling the same old lies of the left, except that he is able to skillfully communicate them as if they represent not just novelty or "change," but transcendence, of all things!

Anyone with spiritual discernment can see that his rhetoric does not point "up" and beyond itself toward the Real, as his hypnotized wackolytes imagine. Rather, it ultimately points down and out, something that becomes increasingly obvious as the campaign wears on. I am as sick of him already as I was of Clinton after eight long minutes.

But we're getting sidetracked. What I really wanted to do is to enter the linguistic wayback machine, which also happens to be in the same loquation as the wayup machine (i.e., Creator and Redeemer are One and the Same).

First, an invocation to announce that we are leaving secular time behind and below, and venturing into the nonlocal origins of All, which can only be discerned in the now, since that's when it was first accompliced for the last time; to quote Eckhart, the beginning of all things "also means the end of all things, since the first beginning is because of the last end."

In The Beginning....

This has all happened before; it will all happen again....

Once Upon a Time....

At the beginning of the beginning, even nothing didn't exist....

One's upin a timeless, without a second to spore....


Somehow, this story, no matter who tells it, always involves water and oceans. Most obviously,

And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

But how about,

From the Light there came forth a holy Word, which took its stand upon the watery substance. (Hermes)

Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector. (Mundaka Upanishad)

Unfathomable as the sea, wondrously ending only to begin again, informing all creation without being exhausted... (Chuang-tse)

For nor before nor after was the process of God's overflowing over these waters. (Dante)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Now, as Sells mentions with regard to poetry, drama, or most any other form of art, the deeper meaning "risks being trivialized when its meaning is defined and paraphrased discursively" -- like trying to explain the meaning of a joke, which defloats its whole porpoise.

As such, scripture is intended to have a punchline, except that it must be a guffah-ha! experience. There is a fine line between skillful exegesis and simply spoiling the joke of scripture, like a bad straight man who steps on your fine line.

The end.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

We're the Deiciders!

On purely logical and dispassionate grounds, it seems to me that in the absence of God -- however conceptualized -- the existence of thought is a cruel hoax.

Except it can't be cruel, since there is no one responsible for this impractical joke. Rather, it's just an unnecessary, superfluous, and annoying activity that interferes with the real action of existence: food. Sex. Grog. Power. Or pleasure, for short.

It is therefore ironic that the people who most insist that thought has no ultimate significance are the most certain of the ultimate truth of their own thought. For the restavus, we have only faith, not certitude, (o) not (ø).

The world seems so obviously defective, why should it make sense? In other words, perhaps all the disorder in and around us results from the fact that the disorder is built in. We look for truth, for meaning, for order, but in vain, since there is none to be had.

That's certainly one way of looking at it, and we actually respect the person who looks at it this way, so long as he truly lives by it -- Nietzsche, for example.

One of Nietzsche's finer qualities was that he at least had the good sense to merely go insane, instead of trying to impose his insanity on the rest of us, as have so many other existentialists.

If you want to go nuts, hey, go nuts! But what gives you the right to impose your insanity on the collective? What, are you nuts? What if I don't want to be rescued by a bunch of statist nuts?

This gets to the nub of Voegelin's argument in Science, Politics, and Gnosticism. In it he has a chapter called The Murder of God. It's funny that something that doesn't exist needs to be murdered at all, but that's just one more irony lost on the left. Shoot first, ask questions never.

In order to solve a murder, you need what? Motive, means, and opportunity. What could be the motive for this deicide? Hatred? Yes, but of what? Can't be God, can it?

Voegelin writes that the aim of political gnosticism "is to destroy the order of being, which is experienced as defective and unjust, and through man's creative power to replace it with a perfect and just order."

Now, if there is no God, then there is no intrinsic order, not to mention any basis for justice. Therefore, injustice and disorder are precisely what we should expect to see, and we have no right to expect otherwise. There's no crying in Darwinism. Deal with it.

Conversely, for the believer, order is necessary, disorder contingent. In fact, disorder has its own necessity -- "relative necessity," as it were -- because it is not the Order, precisely. Everyone and everything necessarily falls short of its ideal, since we are creature, not Creator.

Therefore, for us, the existence of disorder is a banality, not a crisis per se. Indeed, most of us learn by the age of seven or eight that "life's not fair," and move on. Others become Democrats.

The task of man is indeed to "repair the world" (ticoon O'lam), but this is because there is an ideal, precisely. It is not for us to reinvent the world order, because that's not repair, it's destruction. We are to be jehovial witnesses to this ideal, not witless juvenile idealists.

But for the gnostic, "the givenness of the order of being must be obliterated." The order of being is "essentially under man's control," and "taking control of being requires that the transcendent origin of being be obliterated: it requires the decapitation of being -- the murder of God."

That's a pretty bold statement. Are we seriously charging the left with deicide? Not necessarily. It could be abortion, i.e., killing him in the womb of speculative thought, for the gnostic insists that "man should stop creating gods because this sets absurd limits to his will and action; and he should realize that the gods he has already created have in fact been created by him" (Voegelin).

Beneath the destructiveness there is envy. Envy is built into man, but if unacknowledged and forced underground, it can take on literally cosmic proportions. Thus, one of the motives in deicide is envy of the Creator: "If there were gods, how could I endure not being a god!" Therefore, there are no gods, and I am he!

In the Marxist version, man is a product of nature, which is a process through which man is gradually revealed to himself. Thus, the final apocalypse of man leads to the murder of God, for this bang ain't big enough for the both of us. God and socialist man cannot coexist.

Now, to kill God is to kill man. Except the man survives the operation. But in what form? There is the trembling little man, murder weapon in hand, blood dripping from the blade. Now what?

First, get ahold of yourself! Don't you see what you have done! You have killed god, and only a god can kill a god! Thus "The madman does not go backward, he goes forward," like MSNBC. "[I]f the deed is too great for man, then man must rise up above himself to the greatness of the deed" and become the Olber-man.

But.... "the nature of a thing cannot be changed; whoever tries to 'alter' its nature destroys the thing. Man cannot transform himself into a superman; the attempt to create a superman is an attempt to murder man. Historically, the murder of God is not followed by the superman, but the murder of man: the deicide of the gnostic theoreticians is followed by the homicide of the revolutionary practitioners" (ibid).

In five days we are going to fundamentally transform America!

For we are the ones we've been waiting for, and we are the deiciders!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Triumph of Non-Thought Over Thought

It is difficult to conceptualize the differences between thought and its competitors, because if one hasn't thought about thought (thought² for short), it will look quite similar, if not identical, to non-thought. Non-thought is not no-thought, the latter of which is just stupidity. MSNBC is non-thought. Local TV news is no-thought.

Non-thought is an active perversion of thinking, and often exhibits a great deal of intelligence. It is a type of thinking that is detached from its proper object, -- or end -- which is reality in all its inexhaustible richness and depth.

I first began thinking about thinking, o, about 27 years ago, in the spring of 1985. And now that I'm in this gnostalgic mood, I just pulled a book from the shelf, Second Thoughts, by W.R. Bion (not recommended to the laity). The title is a play on words, because it is Bion thinking about his own thinking, providing "second thoughts" about various papers he had written over the previous fifteen years or so. The book first presents the paper, followed by his second thoughts and re-servations.

I see that one of the papers is called A Theory of Thinking. His first thoughts begin with the idea that his theory covers the same ground as various philosophical theories, with one difference: his theory was intended for use (i.e., clinical work leading to growth), analogous to the difference between, say, abstract theories of meteorology vs. whether you need to take an umbrella to work today (or, leftist economics vs. economics).

For Bion, thinking is "dependent on the successful outcome of two main mental developments." The first of these is "the development of thoughts." That pretty much happens automatically, unless one is in a coma. The second involves the development of "an apparatus to cope with them." Thus, "thinking has to be called into existence to cope with thoughts."

This theory reverses the usual way we think about thinking -- as if thinking produces the thought. But for you thinkers out there, you know that thoughts just come to you, and that you couldn't create one via thinking any more than you could create life in a test tube or Obama could create wealth in any context.

Thus, "thinking is a development forced on the psyche by the pressure of thoughts and not the other way around." Psychopathology may occur at either end, with the creation or management of thoughts; in other words, there may be "a breakdown in the development of thoughts, or a breakdown in the development of the apparatus for 'thinking' or dealing with thoughts, or both."

Now, thoughts are not just of the same order. Rather, they arise on various planes of consciousness which we call "vertical." We can have empirical thoughts, sensory thoughts, spiritual thoughts, emotional thoughts.

Some of our thoughts are quite primitive, and we clearly do not have control over them, as they are essentially "pre-human." Men, for example, beginning at a certain age, are bombarded by sexual thoughts. It's as if a primitive part of the psyche is unleashed, and now the mind has to develop a way to cope with these thoughts. Much of Arab culture revolves around the wrong way to do it.

There are also "empty thoughts," which is to say, categories of thought awaiting "realization." These consist of a kind of space awaiting fulfillment via experience. Jung called them "archetypes," but you could also just call them "human nature."

As Bion describes it, "when the pre-conception is brought into contact with a realization that approximates to it, the mental outcome is a conception." Thus, it is as if there is an implicit or nonlocal thought that only becomes explicit and local through experience -- somewhat analogous to the wave/particle complementarity in physics, where observation pulls the latter from the former.

Some thoughts are "unwanted," which means that emotion has clouded the picture. In other words, what happens if we have a true thought that we nevertheless don't want? The mind has a number of mechanisms to deal with this exigency, just as the body has ways to deal with unwanted invaders.

But just as the body can mistakenly attack itself -- what are called autoimmune disorders -- the mind too can mistakenly attack its own substance. For example, if man is in the image of the Creator, then any form of vulgar anti-theism would represent a psychic autoimmune disorder (with predictable consequences).

There are several mechanisms to avoid thinking unwanted thoughts, ranging from the primitive to the more sophisticated. The most primitive include denial, splitting, and projective identification, which, working in concert, displace the unwanted thought (or thought fragment) into the environment, usually in other minds. This doesn't actually eliminate the thought, but it is preferable to feel persecuted from outside than inside the head.

Some important implications follow this psychic expulsion of thoughts, touching on what was said yesterday about the will to power replacing the search for truth. On some level, the person who manages thought in this pathological way must feel superior to reality: instead of discriminating between true and false, "omniscience substitutes... a dictatorial affirmation that one thing is morally right and the other wrong."

Bion has just described the mechanism of political correctness, which again forbids certain avenues of thought through moral condemnation. And again, I don't want to pretend that this doesn't occur on the "right," because it does, especially with certain fundamentalist types.

Let's flip ahead and find out what sorts of second thoughts Bion had about all this.

Hmm. Not too many, really. Or rather, too many: "the ramifications... are so considerable that I require another book to attempt elucidation."

Along these lines, he warns of how the thinker might seize onto a "sense of security" in order "to offset and neutralize the sense of insecurity following on the discovery that discovery has exposed further vistas of unsolved problems -- 'thoughts' in search of a thinker."

In other words, reality never stops speaking just because we have stopped listening, or because we have some little theory to make the mystery go away and stop bothering us. A theory of thinking is not the same as the unending project of thinking.

Which leads right back to Voegelin's Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, because this is precisely what the gnostic has done: stopped listening to reality. Consider this little gem from Karl Marx's crocktoral dissertation:

"The confession of Prometheus, 'In a word, I hate all the gods,' is its own confession, its own verdict against all gods heavenly and earthly who do not acknowledge human self-consciousness as the supreme deity. There shall be none beside it" (in Voegelin).

Later in the book Voegelin outlines what might be thought of as the cure for such gnostic omnipotence: "Thus, 'actual knowledge' is reserved to God; finite man can only be the 'lover of knowledge,' not himself the one who knows.... If a thinker attempts it, he is not advancing philosophy, but abandoning it to become a gnostic."

In short, for the gnostic, "In the clash between system and reality, reality must give way."

Or, non-thought must triumph over thought.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There Is No Truth, and Only the Left Possesses It

I wonder how many of those who like to call themselves "progressive" are consciously aware of its mytho-scientistic roots?

Voegelin characterizes Marx as a "speculative gnostic" who grounded his politico-economic framework in an evolutionary vision of nature. In this scheme, all of nature is "in the state of becoming, and in the course of its development it has brought forth man: 'Man is directly a being of nature.'"

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea that nature is developing, except that this can have nothing to do with Darwinian evolution, which describes only change, not progress. More to the point, Marx re-buries man in nature, so that what is actually distinct in man, and belongs to his trans-nature, is annihilated.

Thus, "When 'socialist man' speaks, man has to be silent," which is a rather polite way of putting it. In any event, it is why the left would like for us to shut up, why they impose speech codes, why political correctness abounds, and why they hate God and religion. This is described in the last paragraph of yesterday's post, in reference to those special assouls who know exactly why

"their opinions cannot stand up under critical analysis and who therefore make the prohibition of the examination of their premises part of their dogma. This position of a conscious, deliberate, and painstakingly elaborated obstruction of ratio constitutes the new phenomenon" (Voegelin).

So if you want to talk about progress, this systematic assault on truth is indeed something new under the sun.

But it's not just the children of Marx who have progressed in this deviant manner, for truth is also forbidden by the specter of "positivist man." This humanoid beastling can also be called scientistic man, atheist man, or Darwinist man, for each of these, in his own way, pretends that materialism exhausts the meaning of human existence.

Now, minimal acquaintance with philosophy establishes the truth of a Marx, a Darwin, a Dawkins. Thus, one needs a little more than the minimum to debunk them, which I suppose is why philosophy is not taught in public schools, in favor of multicultural bunk.

Or, to be perfectly accurate, philosophy is taught, except that its assumptions are buried elsewhere, and never spoken of explicitly. This has provoked a backlash of "creationists" in certain quarters, but the real problem is metaphysical, not theological.

Wherever there is leftism, there is the suppression of certain questions and avenues of thought. As we have discussed in the past, just as a neurosis may be thought of as a "private culture," a culture may be thought of as a public neurosis. Now, a neurosis always involves the suppression of an unwanted truth.

Just so, the neurotic culture of the left has many defense mechanisms in place, so that alarms go off as soon as anyone approaches a dangerous truth. Examples are too numerous to chronicle, but just last week we saw what happened to someone who exposed the truth of black studies and its "left-wing victimization claptrap." Off with her head! (More on this undisciplined pseudo-discipline.)

Voegelin describes the deeper structure of this process. It begins with "a thinker who knows that his construct will collapse as soon as the basic philosophical question is asked." The intellectually and spiritually normal person recognizes this, and abandons the construct. Not so the leftist, who merely prohibits the question.

But why? What has happened to the person who is no longer interested in truth, and yet -- without irony -- imposes one version of it: There is No Truth, and Only I Possess It.

Voegelin called it an "intellectual swindle," which is an excellent way of putting it. For to exchange truth for ideology isn't just a bad deal, it's suicidal. Which wouldn't necessarily be so bad if it weren't also homicidal.

But again, why? Man has an innate epistemophilia, so what has happened to this transnatural instinct in the ideologue?

As we have discussed before, man is composed of intellect, of will, and of sentiment. To deny truth is to maim the intellect. But that doesn't kill the body. Rather, it seems that the will to power comes in to fill the vacuum. This perverse will

"has a violence and cruelty that go beyond the delight in masquerade and in the deception of others." It also "turns on the thinker himself and unmasks his thought as a cunning will to power."

Let's take another example from just last week, when President Obama decided to express his support for the redefinition of marriage. It is a matter of public record that this was merely a power play, in that wealthy donors were threatening to withhold funds if he didn't openly embrace their agenda.

For Newsweek to then proclaim Obama the "first gay president" is completely absurd, in light of the fact that he is just another statist with a transparently cunning will to power.

To believe otherwise one must want to believe otherwise, which is itself another instance of the will-to-power genre, except that it doesn't accrue to the power of the rank-and-foul self-deluder, only to the powerful. In reality it is but a "graceless disorder of the soul" rooted in a "demonic mendacity" (ibid).

(All quoted material from Science, Politics, And Gnosticism.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ideological Intolerance of Reality and Metastatic Hope

Sounds complicated, but you can see how one would lead to the other, or how the two are dialectically related. Presumably someone wouldn't reject reality unless they were hoping for something radically better. Nor would they live in a state of cancerous -- which is to say, radical -- hope unless reality were intolerable.

Hope itself isn't the problem, properly understood. After all, it is a theological virtue. I have here a handy little book called The One-Minute Philosopher, which distinguishes between Hope and Wish.

The former "involves the conviction that, despite appearances to the contrary, truth and goodness will prevail." Thus, it is not at all easy to maintain hope in the teeth of this decayed world, which is precisely why it is a virtue.

Please note that the hope is for this world, not for a magical one dreamt up by ideologues. Any tenured yahoo can imagine something better, but that isn't what we're talking about.

Rather, we're talking about accepting the world for what it is, and committing ourselves to its betterment. If we do not accept the world for what it is -- and human beings for what they are -- then our hopes will be completely misplaced. They will be reduced to wishes, and wishes to ashes.

And what is a wish? It "involves the fancy that, despite appearances to the contrary, our desire will be satisfied. To wish is to invoke fortune to bring us what we want, even when what we want is not good" (Brown).

Consider some of the implications drawn out by Brown: "hope is creative," but "wish is imaginative." While "I can wish for anything, I hope only for what is possible. My hope looks to the future, but is rooted in reality as it is."

And importantly, "what we hope for, we are also willing to work for." Thus, working for Obama's re-election so that the state will provide me more of what I desire, is not hope. I wish I could play tenor sax, but I realize Obama can't help me there.

That's a wish. A wish "has no particular bond with reality as it is, but feeds on fantasy.... Wishing is like dreaming: it is not confined to reality as it is, nor is there any good reason to believe that my wish will come true.... [U]nlike when we hope for something, we are not necessarily willing to work for it. We wish for all sorts of unattainable and frivolous things" (ibid.).

The left wishes socialized medicine would work, that the welfare state wouldn't bankrupt the nation, that we could borrow our way to prosperity, that members of the same sex could marry each other, that racial discrimination could end racial discrimination, that human fetuses aren't human, that women aren't women, that men aren't men, that palefarces were Indians, ad gnoseam.

But none of these things can be. We can try to force them to be, but the system will crack under the pressure of the denied reality. And it must remain cracked in order to continue "functioning."

I heard someone make a good point about this on the radio. Why have our Supreme Court hearings become so contentious? One reason, really. It is because of the twisted pettifoggery of Roe v. Wade.

Today, we are all supposed to bow before this grotesque example of judicial wishery, so that only those who reject reality are acceptable to liberals. This is bound to create tension, to put it mildly. The same will happen with regard to the redefinition of marriage if it is forced upon us by the court.

The marketplace of ideas is supposed to be a struggle of truth against truth, or, more accurately, a struggle for or toward truth. But what if it becomes a struggle for and against truth? For Voegelin, that is precisely what the political struggle involves, because it is the same struggle that is "waged on every level of human existence."

For example, it is axiomatic in psychology that pathology results from one part of the mind being at war with another. An unwanted truth is denied, repressed, or projected, and the lacunae is unconsciously filled with the wish, the desire, the preferred state of reality.

Likewise, we enter dangerous pneumapolitcal terrortory when confronted "with persons who know that, and why, their opinions cannot stand up under critical analysis and who therefore make the prohibition of the examination of their premises part of their dogma. This position of a conscious, deliberate, and painstakingly elaborated obstruction of ratio constitutes the new phenomenon" (Voegelin).

I wish it weren't so, but it is what it is. Or isn't, to be exact.

To be continued....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Creation: It Looked Good on Paper

Not really enough time for a post made of all new materials, but enough to revisit and recycle what was going on in the Cosmos four years ago. Since new readers will never catch up with the Arkive -- I realize that 2,000 posts is a major commitment to a mere blogger -- it can't hurt to whip out an old one every nowandagain. Besides, even if you're a venerable O'timer, something like 1,200 posts have passed under the bridge since we started, and maybe you missed this one.

I'm still making my way through the 1,100 page The Spiritual Ascent, a "compendium of the world's wisdom" organized into three main sections that mirror the universal stages of purification, illumination, and union, but with dozens of subsectional byways.

In a way, you could say the book is fractally organized, in that each section is a part of the whole, even while the whole is in each part. Likewise, every day of our lives is a microcosm of the lifelong spiritual adventure, i.e., an ongoing process of purification, illumination, and union, at least if we are consciously aware of this onetime uppertunity to right our wrungs on Jacob's ladder.

Like life itself, the book gets off to a very promising start, with chapters on divine creation, the process of manifestation, man's primordial birthright, and similar felicitous topics.

I suppose this is only fitting, being that the Creator's main excuse for the creation was that "it seemed like a good idea at the time," i.e., "God saw everything he had made, and indeed it was very good." But you know what they say about how the beast waylaid the plans of lousy men. Very soon the karmic wheels fell on the creation, ironically due to its crowing achievement , homo sleepy one. Soon enough paradise is paved over for this barking lot of mongreloid idiots.

This remands us to the prism of Finnegans Wake, which begins with a sentence about Adam and Eve ("riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay"), but by the third paragraph is in fullfall ("the fall of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all Christian minstrelsy"), and by the fourth paragraph is ringing in the full scale war of each against all ("arms apeal with larms, appalling. Killykillykilly: a toll, a toll").

Similarly, The Spiritual Ascent hits a bit of a rough patch with the chapters on illusion, sin, suffering, sacrifice, damnation, hell, and the like.

Nevertheless, these sections do emphasize the existential stakes involved, as well as the fact that "purification" is somewhat analogous to the manner in which a diamond is made. Just take a lump of coal, put it through unimaginable fire and pressure in the middle of the earth, then chip and chisel away what is impure and unnecessary, and you've got a luminous little gem fit for eternity.

What a bi-cosmic coincidence that the name diamond derives from the ancient Greek adamas and that most of them originate from Africa. Reminds me of the Johnny Cash song (written by Billy Joe Shaver):

I'm just an old chunk of coal / But I'm gonna be a diamond some day.... / I'm gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self / 'Til I get rid of every single flaw / I'm gonna be the world's best friend

I just finished a couple of fascinating sections, Pilgrimage -- Descent Into Hell and Holy War. The section on Holy War is particularly interesting, as it emphasizes that jihad is not just for jihidiots. Rather, there is Jewhad, Buhad, and Crusad, in both the interior and exterior senses, as well as above and below. Quite simply, war is not just inevitable but necessary, with roots extending deep into the very structure of the cosmos.

Conversely, it is pacifism that is not only unnecessary but highly narcissary to boot; sanctimonious pacifists are usually just people unaware of their viciousness and cruelty, like, say, Jimmy Carter. Pacifism is essentially to surrender -- not just in war, but in the struggle of existence itself. For as written in Exodus, The Lord is a man of war; or in the words of Jesus: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword; or in the words of Krishna: Nothing is higher for a [member of the warrior caste] than a righteous war.

In his introduction to the subject of Holy War, Perry cites Guenon, who wrote that the essential reason for war -- legitimate war -- is "to end a dis-order and re-establish order; in other words, it is the unification of a multiplicity, by use of means which belong to the world of multiplicity itself.... War understood in this way, and not limited in an exclusively human sense, thus represents the cosmic process of the reintegration of the manifested into the principial unity." This reintegration necessarily involves destruction, as catabolism is to metabolism.

Guenon continues: "The purpose of war is the establishment of peace, for even in its most ordinary sense peace is really nothing else than order, equilibrium, or harmony, these three terms being nearly synonymous and all designating under slightly different aspects the reflection of unity in multiplicity itself.... Multiplicity is then in fact not really destroyed, but 'transformed'..."

In another sense, legitimate war is none other than justice, being that justice is really an "equilibrating function" which is "directed against those who disturb order and [has] as its object the restoration of order." The reason we catch and punish bad guys is ultimately to restore order -- to the community, to the wronged individual, within the disordered psyche of the perpetrator, and ultimately to the Cosmos itself.

Compare interior warfare to the Black Liberation Theology which so attracted the weak-souled Obama: "Many have been asking what Liberation Theology is all about. Well, it is not very complicated! It is the simple belief that in the struggles of poor and oppressed people against their powerful and rich oppressors, God sides with the oppressed against the oppressors."

Thus, it precisely inverts the true meaning of holy war, in that it imagines that God sides only with "the poor" instead of the righteous, or that he is angry at the wealthy instead of the evil (we should say that the righteous side with God). The "great holy war" is the struggle of man "against the enemies he carries within himself, that is to say, against all those elements in him which are contrary to order and unity" (and dynamic unity is not unicity, the latter being top-down coercion and conformity).

In short, our "unity candidate" is anything but. We will become the ones we've been waiting for only once we become more like the One who's been waiting for us.