We Came Through
Fire the guns, and salute the men who died for freedom's sake....
The Religion the Almighty & Me Works out Betwixt us
multi-undisciplinary circumnavelgazing around the whole existentialada!
with • Neotraditional Retrofuturism • Mental Gymgnostics • Verticalesthenics • Dilettantric Yoga • Leftwing Ridiculism • Freevangelical Pundamentalism • Advanced Leisure Studies • Comparative Nonsense • Flaming Homilies • Jehovial Witticisms
The Cosmos is our school, The Intellect our Faculty, Truth the first Principal
I can say this, however. It is definitely a Mighty Strange Attractor (a well known mathematical concept that apparently no one else has ever thought of applying to the spiritual dimensions), in that people have been falling into its slipstream for as long as people have been people.
After all, one of the primary purposes of religion is to align the soul with the trans-cosmic Absolute, which is why all men, as men, are in need of it in one way or another.
Indeed, the opening of the "cosmic perspective" would have to be one of the attributes that defines the emergence of man as such. For even when he is just marveling at the starry heavens or dwelling in the beauty of our terrestrial home, man is cogitating the cosmic context and meditating on the metamatrix.
As mentioned before, Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery is clearly caught up in the dynamic morphopneumatic field of this same cosmic attractor. Of necessity, he will see and describe a somewhat different landscape than do I, for the same reason that two people on different white water river-rafting expeditions to the sea will be exposed to different sights and sounds.
The fact of diversity hardly invalidates the descriptions, because this diversity is a necessary condition -- and consequence -- of individuality. If we were genetic robots, we would all have the same experience, but since we are oriented to a transcendental telos, we all come toward it in different ways. Hence the diversity of religions and revelations despite the single ocean. To reduce God to having just one way to make the same point is to make him less than a person.
This doesn't mean there aren't better and worse descriptions, because here again, just as in science, there must be more and less comprehensive and complete models of the natural world. Evolution and progress are only possible because there is a goal, an end.
And vertically speaking, there can be no hierarchy without a top, which, by the way, is another way of presenting one of Aquinas' classic proofs of God. It doesn't matter whether the horizontal universe has been here forever, or came into being with a dramatic big bang. The more important point is that it cannot exist without a vertical cause. The First Cause is not in- but outside time. Or in other words, no amount of horizontality can account for verticality.
Purcell quotes a couple of well-known paleoanthropologists, who come close to the wider cosmoanthropological perspective in writing that, "unlike even our closest relations, Homo sapiens is not simply an extrapolation or improvement of what went before it... our species is an entirely unprecedented entity in the living world, however we may have come by our unusual attributes." So you're not alone in feeling very unlike your closest relations. All Raccoons feel this way.
Again, what makes man different is that he is astonishingly fit for the cosmos -- not just the earth, and certainly not just some highly restricted Darwinian niche.
Since this or that man can be anything from a novice to an extreme seeker, he is always free to confine himself to the green diamond trails of science, or venture onto the blue diamond trails of philosophy and theology, or take a chance on the black diamond trails of metaphysics -- not to mention the ungroomed slopes of mysticism and infused contemplation. Whoosh!
Man's existential "nothingness" -- which is a correct intuition, as far as it goes -- is a consequence of being pre-adapted -- at least in potential -- to everything. For to even say that it all began with a Big Bang that can be reduced to a mathematical formula is to insist that man's mind is a priori in conformity to the everything and the all.
Just as there are and must be genetic birth defects, there are pneumatic second birth... well, not exactly defects, for they are usually more willful and self-unslackted. Call them birth defenses, similar to what we were saying the other day about pneumatic defense mechanisms. Some people prefer a womb of rationalism or positivism or scientism or Marxism to the great wide open.
Our miroculous ʘpenness to the great wide Open goes by the name of faith, and faith cannot be transcended. Rather, in the words of de Lubac, it can only "grow deeper, that is to say, find itself more completely, to realize itself more thoroughly, as faith ." Yes, it yields a harvest, but no amount of food can replace the need to eat. And no amount of the wrong type of food is conducive to growth. Nor, for that matter, can one live on vitamins, i.e., abstractions from the total I-AMbodhiment of divine (corpo)reality.
De Lubac describes a middle-zone of "superficial clarity" which exists between "two infinities." This is also the "non-religious zone," and it isn't difficult to understand why some people would prefer to huddle on its shores than to take the plunge into the Infinite, especially without a kenosis. But these two Infinities are not identical, although they are often conflated, by both religious and irreligious -- trolls and hyperliteralists -- alike. De Lubac writes that
"There is the sacredness of myth which, like a vapor rising from the earth, emanates from infrahuman regions; and there is the sacredness of mystery, which is like peace descending from the heavens. The one links us with Nature and attunes us to her rhythm but also enslaves us to her fatal powers; the other is a gift of spirit that makes us free."
The latter presence would be the Cosmic Zone, and man's true happitat.
To be continued...
Still, a brief introduction is warranted. I'm short on time again, so I decided to pluck an old one from four years ago. This ended up taking longer than anticipated, because no suitable candidate from June 2008 could be found. I then jumped back to June 2007, but again wasn't terrible impressed.
I eventually settled on this one from five years back -- #640, as it turns out -- finding it to be the least annoying. But in the time it took to wade through the arkive, I could have probably written a new one.
Anyway, either there is an Absolute or there isn't. But if there isn't, there is, since that's an absolute fact. So let's all, believer and non-believer alike, just acknowledge its existence. Don't worry, it doesn't mean you have to identify it with the Judeo-Christian God, or that you need to worship it. You can still be an assoul.
Now, the Absolute necessarily shades off into the relative, but at a point that is more or less impossible to identify precisely. Thus, it is difficult to say exactly where orthodoxy turns into heresy, morality turns into immorality, or a true American turns into an anti-American.
But in each case, people who fall into the latter categories use the existence of this continuum as a pretext to argue that the former are illusions and that "all is relative." In turn, this abolishes the idea of sin, error, and truth, since they imagine that they have eliminated any objective standard.
This is a hopelessly unsophisticated ontology, for it assumes that higher realms are mathematical in their precision. In reality, they are not so much like mathematical equations as they are like, say, magnificent granite monuments. The greatest theologians are somewhat like painters who evocatively can convey an image of this monument with clarity and resonance, but it is nevertheless an image and not the thing-in-itself.
This is what I meant the other day when I said that revelation is the closest we can come to an objective representation of O. Revelation is like an image of the monument, given by the monument itself. Nevertheless, each person's angle on the monument is necessarily going to be different.
Analogously, if you put thousands of people with cameras at the base of the Matterhorn, the photos are all going to be slightly different -- in other words, there will be the illusion of diversity despite the fact that there is only one Matterhorn. With respect to itself, it is not relative but absolute. In short, our view of the Absolute is necessarily relative, but only relatively so -- it is "relatively absolute." There is no such thing as absolute relativity, on pain of total absurdity.
A photograph is not just a literal translation but a transformation, as is perception itself. To perceive something is to transform an object in such a way that certain abstract coordinates and relationships are preserved, while others are distorted.
If you consider the modern art of the early 20th century, for example, artists were attempting to stretch the coordinates between object and image in creative new ways. The invention of the camera was one of the main reasons for this, after which painting became increasingly liberated from the object.
One could say that James Joyce did the same with language. Instead of trying to use it like a photograph to map reality in a 1:1 manner (which is impossible anyway), he used language in a new "holographic" way, so that it in turn mirrored the hyperdimensional nature of consciousness itself. He was actually using language to alter consciousness in such a way that a new view of reality emerged.
For example, let's take the first sentence of Finnegans Wake:
rivverun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
At first blush, this sentence appears to nonsense about nothing. In other words, it is difficult to apprehend the object of which this sentence is supposed to be a representation.
Nevertheless, like the hyperdimensional object scripture endeavors to disclose, this sentence is an adequation to a reality that transcends the senses. This reality is called "history," which in turn is thoroghly entangled with consciousness itself -- the same consciousness that is both the subject and the object of history. For Joyce, history was literally like a dream (or nightmare), in the sense that there is the Dreamer and the dream, but in the end, the two must be one and the same.
Therefore, it is very difficult -- impossible really -- to actually write "straight (or what Joyce called 'wideawake and cutandry') history" and imagine that the historian is not actually its dreamer. We are all in this thing called "history." History surely exists. And yet, we could no more objectively and exhaustively describe it than we could objectively describe the content of a dream. Rather, we can only take our photographs of the Matterhorn.
For one thing, where is the line between the dreamer who dreams the dream and the one who experiences it? In this regard, a dream is very much like a spider's web, which the spider spins out of its own substance and then proceeds to inhabit. Human beings are no different, only on a more abstract plane. Do you really think that the web a leftist spins out of his psychic substance and then inhabits is anything like your web? Or an atheist? Or an Islamist? Each of these, in his own way, is un-ironically entangled in a psychic web they take for reality.
How to extricate oneself from the psychic webs we create? "History," wrote Joyce, "is the nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." When I watched the Democrat debate the other evening, I could see how each of the candidates offered their "prescription for a nightmare." The nature of leftism prevents the one and only true cure, which is to say, "just wake up."
Rather, leftism as such is the philosophy of creating newer and stronger soporifics in order to maintain sleep [see Europe for details]. In so doing, it aggravates the symptoms it is supposedly treating, and simply makes the nightmare worse. Plus, people get hooked on leftist prescriptions, and require more and more of them in order to stay asleep, just like an addict. Rule One of the left is that the state must always grow. Like a shark, it dies if it stops moving Forward.
I am currently reading an outstanding book entitled A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which attempts to be a corrective to all of the noxious deconstruction that really got under way in the 1960s. Back then they called it "revisionist history," which sounds innocent enough, but which in reality was highly agenda driven, and attempted to rewrite history in such a way that the English speaking peoples were the villains rather than the (literally and repeatedly) (lowercase s) saviors of history.
It is interesting how easy it is to trace the roots of today's rank-and-foul leftists in a straight line back to their academonic source. For once history is deconstructed, it is very difficult to put it back together again. Thus, the left is operating in an upside down world first made possible by the early revisionists who, among other things, argued that America's founders were just a bunch of greedy white males protecting their economic interests, or that capitalism is pure exploitation instead of an extraordinary liberator of human potential, or that the colonized did not benefit from colonialism, or that America was at fault in the Cold War, or that Roosevelt's economic policies helped rather than aggravated and prolonged the great depression, or that poverty causes crime, or that it was wrong to drop the atom bomb on imperial Japan. These and similar ideas proliferated exactly like a toxin, infecting all of the academic rivers and then flowing downhill into the streams of journalism and politics.
What is so striking about the book is how America has remained constant, while the left has changed so dramatically -- and gained so much cultural power. For example, there is no moral difference between the way Roosevelt responded to the fascist threat of his day and the way President Bush is responding the Islamo-fascist threat of our day. The only difference is that America's motivations have been so undermined by the left, that it is as if we are dealing with two entirely different countries. But when did the "good" America of Roosevelt and the "greatest generation" transmogrify into the evil America of President Bush? It never did. Again, it is exactly the same fundamentally decent country. Only the left has changed.
Actually, one other thing that has changed -- for the worse -- is how utterly ruthless men such as Churchill and Roosevelt were in pursuit of their war aims. If it had been revealed in 1943 that some German or Japanese soldiers had been mistreated in an American prison camp -- which some no doubt were -- I cannot believe that any American would have wasted two seconds anguishing over it. Whatever we did could never approach the barbarity of the Germans, Japanese, and Soviets. And besides, there is no moral equivalence whatsover between what America and her enemies do, any more than there is an equivalence between the police and criminals just because they both shoot people.
To call Gitmo a "gulag" represents a kind of moral stupidity that is satanic in its implications. One of the most horrific consequences of leftist thought insinuating itself into our discourse it that it prevents one from speaking simple moral truths. It undermines everything -- not just morality, but even the ability to speak about morality. I believe this is because, following Descartes, it elevates our capacity to doubt to the highest wisdom. Thus, it ends up with cynicism as the highest ideal: a philosophy of stupidity, including moral stupidity.
Returning to our original metaphor of the monument and the mountain. The leftist notices the unavoidable fact that different people have different views of the monument. Therefore, the monument doesn't objectively exist. Furthermore, anyone's view of it is just as good or bad as anyone else's. As such, Truth is abolished and raw power rushes in to fill the void. The leftist always speaks power to Truth. Always.
In conclusion, this blog represents my ongoing effort to describe the cosmic monument as comprehensively as possible. In short, I am not advancing an argument but re-presenting a vision of what I see. It is a single object, but there are many views of it. I guess this would be #640 so far. Tune in tomorrow for #641.
Obviously there were plenty of great groups and artists in the British invasion of the 1960s, and in many ways this movement remains the gold standard of rock music in general. But most of them were more American than Americans, e.g., early Stones, Animals, Yardbirds, Small Faces, Dusty Springfield, Them, Hollies, all of whom were slavish devotees of Cosmo-American music.
The Kinks, however, were different. You will notice, for example, that most of the great British groups didn't sing with a British accent. In fact, one of the reasons the Beatles were such effective rockers is that the Liverpool accent is closer to American. In particular, they pronounce a hard "a"; imagine how different it sound if it were I Want to Hold Your Hond or It's Been a Hod Days Night, or Kant Buy Me Love. It's difficult to sing rock with a lilt in your voice.
Peter Noone also sang with a conspicuous British accent, but Herman's Hermits don't quite make the cosmic cut -- although they are definitely underrated, or unfairly maligned. They especially served a niche that opened up when the Beatles started producing more serious music in 1965, with Rubber Soul, and then 1966, with Revolver. The Monkees then rushed in to provide that service in late 1966, ousting the Hermits from the stage. Teen idolatry is a vicious and unforgiving idiom.
Another British group that definitely sounds British is the Zombies. In fact, they threw some American soul and R & B into their sets, which always sounded a little silly. Imagine Harry Potter singing I'm a Road Runner, Honey!, or I Just Want to Make Love to You.
The Who had some British elements and concerns, for example, Quadrophenia, the subject of which -- Mods vs. Rockers -- was a wholly British phenomenon. They were also fairly ineffective at trying to reproduce straight covers of American R & B, and didn't come into their own until they developed a unique style of bombastic order from chaos. But that style was greatly influenced by the emergence of the heavier sound of Hendrix in early '67.
David Bowie was pretty British, especially early on, in that he retained some Kink-like elements of British "music hall" style (e.g. Hunky Dory). I would also nominate Fairport Convention, who were to British folk what the Byrds were to American folk; and Pentangle, who also threw in some jazzy elements, forging a unique blend of British folk-jazz.
I first became a big-time Kinks fan with the release of the Kink Kronicles in 1972. They had hardly been heard from in America during their golden age between 1966 and 1972, so the album came as a revelation. The music they produced during that time didn't sound anything like their contemporaries, which is one reason why it still sounds fresh. Like most great composers, Ray Davies created his own unique musical world which is at a right angle, so to speak, to profane time.
Kompulsive Kinks kollectors are all akwiver about this upcoming six-disc box set of BBC performances, from the mid-'60s all the way to the 1990s. (This is without question the best existing Kinks kompilation.)
I stumbled on the following video this morning. It's touching where Davies gets choked up at the beginning of Days, since the performance was dedicated to his recently departed bandmate, Pete Quaife, the original Kinks bassist:
This is because creation as such is not an exercise in futility, but is infused with an otherwise superfluous and inexplicable hopefulness, the latter of which, on the human level, might be described as a kind of persistent "evidence of things unseen." It is the temporal shadow cast back by the fulfillment we hail from afar. Or so we have heard from the wise.
In the absence of this evidence of things unseen, progress would be impossible because unthinkable. Hope and change always go together, except in the faithless liberal who forgets that beneficial change is only a hope, not a certainty, and certainly not something man can accomplish unaided (if you don't believe me, just look at his grisly track record of trying).
If Obama had proclaimed "faith and love" his message wouldn't have been as popular, at least among his target audience whose immanentized and absecular hope is evidence of things unsane.
Simianly, think of the poor primate proto-human, sitting around and hoping for things to get better. But in a strictly Darwinian framework, what is he hoping for -- or, more specifically, for what does our aloftreeous furbear have any right to hope?
One thing: a random mutation that doesn't weaken, sicken, or kill my ass, but somehow results in a beneficial change. However, the fundamental change cannot have actually occurred in him, but only in his genetic predecessors, in an infinite regress. Which is why Darwin "jotted down as a stern reminder to himself the note 'never use higher and lower'" (in Purcell).
Which is also why intellectually consistent Darwinists would be the last to say that a Darwinian is somehow higher than a creationist -- unless the former are more successful at getting their genes into the next generation, which is not the case, otherwise the erstwhile Christendom of Europe wouldn't be undergoing slow motion demographic death. Supernatural selection in action!
Now this business of becoming human -- of evolving -- the thing about it is, unlike any other creature, it cannot just happen on the species level, as if the species does all the dogged, trial-and-error work of evolving, from which we passively benefit. No other animal has to learn how to be that animal, notwithstanding a limited repertoire of tricks the mother might pass along to her brood. And certainly no other animal needs to be born twice in order to undertake post-biological evolution.
But for human beings, each generation needs to fulfill the human journey anew. In the old days, philosophers and metaphysicians spoke of man as the microcosm who mirrors the macrocosm. That's true as far as it goes, but it implies a kind of static view, as if man is a once-and-for-all fact instead of a constantly evolving being.
Here again, Clarke's idea of reality as "substance in relation" is helpful, for with it we can posit the microcosmology of man in more dynamic terms, as a movement or action which is in turn the self-revelation of being. Therefore, evolution itself redounds to the self-revelation of being. Who knows what goodies lurk in the heart of being? Even time takes time, to say nothing of eternity. Or, time takes an eternity to get it all out.
Bearing in mind the above, when we say that man is the image and likeness of O, it means, in the words of Clarke, that "all finite beings, which are imperfect images of the Source, bear within their very natures this same divinely originated dynamism of active self-communication to others." In this way, we are simultaneously rich and poor -- or, contra Darwin, high and low -- in that
"every finite being insofar as it is... rich, pours over to share its perfection with others; but insofar as it is poor, deficient in the full plenitude of being, it reaches out to receive enrichments of being from others, sharing in their riches" (ibid.).
This is just another way of saying that man is an open system, both vertically and horizontally, and that God, the Absolute, O, the toppermost of the poppermost, must be understood in the same onederful way.
For what is the Incarnation but God "making himself poor," in which context we may understand certain paradoxymorons regarding the meek inheriting the earth, the last being first, and the blessedness of holy poverty.
Now, this interior activity of the Godhead, how to describe it?
Sorry, can't do that. That's well above our praygrade. We can, however, undescribe it, which we might symbolize something like (↓ ↔ ↑) to convey the total circulation of metacosmic energies in the perpetual now.
But if I were to reduce it to mere wordlings, I don't think I could do better than Schuon:
"If by 'science' we mean a knowledge that is related to real things -- whether or not they can be directly ascertained..., religion will be the science of the total hierarchy, of equilibrium, and of the rhythms of the cosmic scale; it takes account, at one and the same time, of God's outwardly revealing Manifestation and of His inwardly absorbing Attraction (emphasis mine), and it is only religion that does this and that can do it a priori and spontaneously."
Amen for a child's job.
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.
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.
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...
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
So, who's on your list?
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.
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.
"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!
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
"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...
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!