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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rules for Radicals and Nostrums for Gnostics

As mentioned a few posts back, what is especially interesting about Voegelin's writings on modern political Gnosticism is his attempt to trace the phenomenon back to antiquity, and to outline the continuity between premodern "religious" and modern "political" varieties.

If he is correct on this score, this would have to represent the ultimate rebuke to self-styled progressives, who are perpetually building a bridge to the past -- and not even a real past, but rather, a myth-drenched one. Indeed, they are building a bridge to the lower vertical, which anyone can see by the primitive behavior of the Wall Street occupiers.

Superficially Voegelin's approach makes sense, since man = man everywhere and everywhen, and must be vulnerable to the same temptations and stupidities from age to age, even, or perhaps especially, when we imagine we have transcended them -- the tendency toward idolatry being one obvious and enduring example. Envy would be another. Each age finds a new way to legitimize what is called constitutional (i.e., innate) envy.

Man is man for at least three reasons. First, we share a common genetic heritage. Second, we all have a rational soul. And third, our existential conditions do not change, at least at the center: mother, father, brother, sister, love, death, loss, illness, need, children, mystery, etc.

For example, we have extended the average lifespan, but we nevertheless live in the shadow of death. We imagine ourselves to be "sexually liberated," but that hardly resolves the conundrum of human sexuality. We live more comfortably than the nobility of old, but this only fuels envy.

For this reason, there always have been, and always will be, cosmic snake oil salesmen who promise a cure for existence. But there are no cures for existence short of death. There is treatment, to be sure -- more on which later -- but no final cure in this life. We must learn to live amidst a welter of tensions, trade-offs, enigmas, reversals of fortune, raw deals, blown saves, buzzer beaters, etc.

The would-be Gnostic simply cannot accept the conditions of existence. He refuses to admit that they are "in the nature of things," and imagines that they are caused by some willful and systemic malevolence.

For example, the ancient Gnostics theorized that this world was created by a kind of renegade god, and that the snake in Genesis is the hero, not the villain of the story. The snake was simply trying to tell the humans to wise up to this fraudulent cosmic usurper.

Likewise, modern forms of political Gnosticism always require an easily identifiable enemy who is responsible for the unfairness and injustice of the world. Obama's mentor, Saul Alinsky, was very much aware of this need -- and I'm not one of those who (Gnostically!) overemphasizes his importance, as if he is the mystic key to understanding the Enigma of Obama; Alinsky simply articulated how radicals and revolutionaries think, and what they always do anyway.

Indeed, in the book's epigraph, Alinsky is self-aware enough to give an ironic shout out to Lucifer himself, as "the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins -- or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom" (emphasis mine).

However, Alinsky was not self-aware enough to realize that his whole life revolved around conformity to this very mythic structure. Too ironic by half.

Note how the task of the community organizer is not to help people adjust to reality, but to fuel their messianic hopes that reality can be changed: "They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution" (Alinsky).

Thus, the goal of the organizer is to present a vague cure -- always vague, on pain of being recognized as magic -- for the very despair he provokes: "the organizer must begin the task of agitating: rubbing resentments, fanning hostilities, and searching out controversy." This essentially involves "a process combining hope and resentment."

Regarding the latter, since human beings are so myth-prone and susceptible to simplistic and morally satisfying narratives, it is necessary to "pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." This is the person or organization responsible for our obviously f*cked up existence. It is the One Percent, Fox News, Hate Radio, Creationists, Corporate Greed, Stay-At-Home Moms, Right Wing Christians, Zionist Hoodlums, Institutional Racism, etc.

Perhaps I should emphasize that conservatives are prone to the same sort of Gnostic narratives. A real conservative should have no delusions about what would happen with even the ideal political and economic conditions, for he has vertical recollection of paradise lost.

To locate salvation in politics is a grave error on the right, but a sacred principle on the left. When Obama is dispatched to Chicago come November, I will feel only relief, not joy (beyond the momentary). To react otherwise is to not know the ways of the world. For starters, if you think Jimmy Carter is a nuisance...

Now, the revolutionary, since he has already determined that the existing order is a result of willful malevolence, has no compunction whatsoever about destroying it. This is a very dangerous form of pneumopathology, and it is precisely what motivates the Islamists.

For once one has determined that the world is evil, then it legitimizes and disinhibits any form of violence or cruelty. One can gleefully destroy the system -- with all the "collateral damage" it entails -- in good conscience.

This is about as far as man may descend in the cosmos, where death is conflated with life; and woe unto them who call evil good and good evil. Indeed, woe unto those who even call the-best-we-can-do-under-the-circumstances evil, for it is easy to make matters worse, and impossible to make them better without trade-offs, unintended consequences, and unaccountable feedback from human nature.

Here is how Voegelin describes it: "Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless. The structure of the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it. The attempt at world-destruction will not destroy the world, but will only increase the disorder in society."

See history for details.

To be continued....

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Permanent Cootie Protection from the Left

In his introduction to Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, Ellis Sandoz writes that Voegelin's new science of politics -- you heard me: science -- "can be used to diagnose maladies of contemporary political existence and offer remedies within the modest limits of reason and science." Or in other words, it deals with the cause and cure of various political pathologies.

Consider the analogy to medicine. In the West, we have settled on allopathic medicine as the most useful approach to the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. But there are also other systems: homeopathic, osteopathic, ayurvedic, humorism, traditional Chinese medicine. Each of these posits a different etiological, classificatory, and therapeutic system for physical illness.

Since the mind is obviously more ambiguous than the body, there are even more treatment approaches to the psyche, veering from the completely biological to the completely psychological, from the collective to the individual, and from theories that consider everyone neurotic to crazy psychiatrists who conveniently consider abnormality normal.

Body. Mind. What about spiritual disorders? First of all, you can disabuse yourself of the notion that there is "no such thing," because each religion -- like the different schools of medicine -- provides a kind of diagnosis and cure for man's spiritual condition. Sometimes these are presented in mytho-speculative language, but they are no less penetrating for it.

Consider, for example, the Bhagavad Gita, which is none other than a dialogue between the troubled patient, Arjuna, and the spiritual doctor, Krishna. Likewise, the Buddha clearly diagnoses mankind (the four noble truths) before offering the cure (the eight-fold path). In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali does the same, and Jesus frankly compares himself to a physician.

In short, all religions recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with man. And in our view, one of the things that is fundamentally wrong with man is his tendency to become a closed system. Please note that this is true of every level of existence, the material, psychic, and pneumatic.

Of Voegelin, Sandoz writes that he "evokes the philosopher as physician of the soul." This is not philosophy as understood by the tenured rabble, i.e., cosmo-psychic masturbation, but rather, a way of life; for it is "the love of being through love of divine Being as the source of its order" (Voegelin).

In this context, Sandoz notes that "protecting philosophy against perversion is vital to the larger task of protecting human existence itself against perversion and tyranny."

Especially in a free society such as ours, right thinking is our main line of defense against tyranny, which is precisely why it is attacked and undermined by the irrational and dis-ordered forces of the left. The left imposes a system in which lies either become compulsory, or in which the proper conclusions cannot be drawn from the allowable data.

The essence of modern tyranny involves prohibiting questions that might undermine the credibility of the system, which is why there is no place in America where speech is less free than on a college campus. No surprise there.

In the book, Voegelin outlines "three major types for whom a human inquiry has become a practical impossibility," including "socialist man," "positivist [e.g., scientistic, Darwinistic, reductionistic] man," and "national-socialist man."

Now, as there is philosophy (in Voegelin's sense), there is anti-philosophy. Political Gnosticism is an instance of the latter, which Voegelin defines as a perverse desire for "dominion over being; in order to seize control of being the gnostic constructs a system."

Thus, instead of a spiritually open engagement with reality and truth -- which is philo-sophy, or love of wisdom -- the gnostic closes himself to this ground and constructs a closed system based upon the Answer known only to elites such as himself, quintessential examples being Marxism on the political plane or metaphysical Darwinism on the scientific plane (and this is the kind of perverse and simplistic science -- i.e., scientism -- preferred by the left in order to bolster its enfeebled image of man).

Each of these denies transcendence up front, which has the practical effect of murdering man. As Sandoz explains, modern forms of Gnosticism are characterized by their "renunciation of 'vertical' or otherworldly transcendence and [their] proclamation of a 'horizontal' transcendence or futuristic parousia of Being -- that is, intramundane or worldly" salvation. In short, a dreamworld of hope and change.

But in imposing this absurd doctrine of worldly salvation, the parousia must be perpetually postponed. For the gnostic, it is always right around the corner, the endless Recovery Summer. The War on Poverty is not a Keynesian quackmire, but actually winnable with one last surge of obscenely profligate spending on our pet projects and political allies!

Thus, although the Obama campaign is less flamboyantly gnostic this time around, it will nevertheless be asking us to ignore what has actually happened to the economy over the last four years. Rather, look ahead, to the glorious future that is promised by Dear Leader's new Four Year Plan, which looks suspiciously like the old Four Year Plan, except for the unseemly aggression toward people who notice that.

To be continued....

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

From Uncertain Truth to Certain Untruth

Okay people, we've got a big problem, and it has to do with truth.

The way I sees it, one first has to establish that the world is intelligible and that man may know it (which are two sides of the same coin).

This is another way of saying that we must first determine whether or not this cosmos is ultimately absurd -- or, more to the point, if there is a cosmos (an all-encompassing order) and not just a chaosmos.

If we're in a big chaosmos, then we don't have a problem, and certainly not the problem addressed by this post. However, if it is true that this is a chaosmos, then you have another sort of logical conundrum you'll need to resolve on your own. Good luck with that.

Next, one needs to propagate that truth to others.

No, I take that back. Rather, one can always just horde the truth and keep it to oneself. More for us! But interestingly, virtually no one wishes to do this. Instead, when a normal man stumbles upon a truth, he has an intrinsic desire to share the joy with others. Indeed, truth radiates, just as does beauty, but in a slightly different way. I would say that truth partakes of the Absolute, beauty the Infinite. Truth doesn't need to be compelled by force, as the left believes, because it compels assent by its very nature. Only lies are compulsory.

As an aside, wouldn't it be nice if some people would keep the truth -- or what they regard as the truth -- to themselves? If they had just done that, then there would have been no Soviet Union, no Nazi Germany, no Islamism. We'll return to this topic later, i.e., the impulse to propagate the Lie, and what it means.

In any event, in order to propagate truth, man must be able to formulate it in his head, put it into words, and transmit it to others. Right there you've got another problem, because, as it says in Vanderleun's comment section, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SPEAK IN SUCH A WAY THAT YOU CANNOT BE MISUNDERSTOOD. Did you understand that? Good. That means that some simple things, at least if you if you say them slowly and loudly, can be understood. Communication is difficult but possible.

But what about the complex things, like the truth of man? When we say "truth of man," we have several things in mind, but they essentially come down to three areas: our origin, our destiny, and our present purpose. Or in other words, where did we come from, where are we going, and what should we do? Or even more simply, Who (are we), Why (are we here), and What (are we supposed to do with our lives), respectively.

Now, any sane man acknowledges up front that ultimate -- or transfinite -- truth is impossible for a finite being. Unless, of course, this truth is somehow communicated -- which is to say, revealed -- to man from outside, above, beyond, or behind the cosmic system. Some will say this is impossible, and leave it at that. However, if you have senses of irony and humor, you will recognize that only a god would be in a position to affirm such a thing. Or in other words, if God doesn't exist, only he knows it.

Back to our problem. What if someone 1) discovers a critical truth, 2) formulates it, 3) publishes it, and 4) no one but a few fertile eggheads pays attention?

What I specifically have in mind is Voegelin's Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, which strikes me as densely packed with vital truths about man. And when I say "vital," I mean that man cannot survive -- not as we know him, and not in the long run -- without knowing them.

First, we should point out that Voegelin is hardly the only person to discover truths that no one wishes to hear. But more importantly, if this is the truth, then it is doubtful in the extreme that he would have been the first to discover it.

Indeed, Voegelin once quipped that one of the hallmarks of truth is unoriginality. Just as animals come equipped with various mechanisms of defense, man's intellect has always been able to arrive at certain salutary and guiding truths (to paraphrase Schuon, as unwavering instinct is the animal's intellect, unwavering intellect is man's instinct). But since we also have free will, we can ignore these truths.

This lines up with something else Schuon said, to the effect that everything has already been said, and even well said, but it still needs to be discovered anew by each generation. And as mentioned above, when discovered, there is an intrinsic joy associated with sharing it, i.e., the cosmic Woo Hoo!

One of Voegelin's themes is that when a man moves from faith to ideology, he falls from uncertain truth to certain untruth. Obviously, man has a lust for certainty, but this must be a means, not an end. If this passion does become an end, then one has entered a state of pneumopathology.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Voegelin made the statement that "the essence of modernity is Gnosticism." What did he mean by this?

First, let's discuss what impels a man to Gnosticism. First, the would-be Gnostic "is dissatisfied with his situation," which, in a certain sense, is neither here nor there, for all men are dissatisfied with their situation. This is just another way of saying that man is a finite being with infinite appetites. Life is tough. Deal with it.

Ah, but that is precisely what the Gnostic refuses to do, which is to say, accept reality. For the Gnostic does not consider the constraints of existence, let alone the nature of man.

Rather, he concludes that the community of man is just "poorly organized," and that "salvation from the evil of the world is possible." No one doubts that things can improve, but everyone should doubt that, say, an Obama has it in his power to do such a thing, especially with no unintended consequences, no losers, no trade-offs, no victims, etc.

But the Gnostic believes "that a change in the order of being lies in the realm of human action" and "that this salvational act is possible through man's own effort." Remember Obama's 2008 promise -- or was it a threat? -- that he intends to fundamentally change this nation. But of course, it has always been known that any idiot can make history by changing things.

Usually the Gnostic has his own personal issues, which he avoids by inflicting them upon the rest of us. I mean, no one cares if Obama thinks he can save the world. It only becomes a problem for the rest of us if he is given the power to try.

To be continued...

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Cause and Cure of Causes and Cures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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