Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Nameforms that Bitch Birth and Dog Death

Just a little flutterblast, since I'm short on time.

To review: existence is not a fact. Rather, "if anything," it is "the non-fact of a disturbing movement in the in-Between of ignorance and knowledge, of time and timelessness, of imperfection and perfection, of hope and fulfillment, and ultimately of life and death" (Voegelin).

For some reason, a passage from Finnegans Wake just popped into my melon. I'll pass it along without comment, just in case it's relevant:

In the ignorance that implies impression that knits knowledge that finds the nameform that whets the wits that convey contacts that sweeten sensation that drives desire that adheres to attachment that dogs death that bitches birth that entails the ensuance of existentiality.

If the ensuance of existentiality is a movement, then this movement extends in different directions: in, out, up, down, forward, back, etc. I would suggest that our freedom -- human freedom -- is synonymous with the movement that is possible within this pregnant space, i.e., the womb of time.

Socrates says that the true philosopher -- the lover of wisdom and seeker after truth -- endeavors "to make a reasoned choice between the better and worse life, with reference to the nature of the soul" (in Kimball).

Better. Worse. Freedom. What else is there?

Well yes, there is ObamaWorld, which consists of Better and Coercion, or you'd better!, for short. There is "what Obama thinks" and "what you must do about it." In the one minute monument to mendacity he's running during the Olympics, he says it's fair to ask the wealthy to give a little more to the state. I agree. That's fair. Ask away!

Unfortunately, the Chicago Way involves "asking" with a gun to the head.

Note that the left always promises "emancipation" from this or that external circumstance, even while removing or constraining our real movement, e.g., "be tolerant of all points of view, or else!", or "we believe in relativism, absolutely." Every left wing "freedom" is purchased at the cost of chains that bind the recipient elsewhere and elsewhen. Who knows how much my son is going to end up owing Obama?

At any rate, within the fulsome space of subjectivity there are not only directions but dimensions. For example, as we have discussed on many occasions, dreaming takes place in a hyperdimensional space that is governed by non-Aristotelian rules of logic.

Likewise, the upper vertical -- the "spiritual dimension," as it were -- cannot be reduced to a four-dimensional space with external relations and linear causation.

Once one understands this, then much of the otherwise inexplicable phenomena that accompanies the spiritual life has a context in which it not only makes sense, but is somewhat "inevitable," given the total structure of things. (To be clear, the "possibility" of spiritual phenomena is inevitable, not this or that particular phenomenon.)

To put it another way, things happen -- they are necessary and/or possible -- because of principles. Spiritual events are possible because of spiritual principles, just as physical events are possible because of immaterial principles, e.g., the laws of physics, or of chemistry, or of plumbing, whatever.

A specialist in any field should have a grasp of the principles governing it, but this is usually not the case. Most people fail to articulate their principles, with the result that they are bound by implicit assumptions of which they are unaware. This ends up limiting the space of freedom mentioned above in paragraph two.

Actually, there are times that things happen because of an absence of principles. But enough about Harry Reid.

Besides, there is a larger principle at work in Harry the unrepentant pedophile, which is: no human good goes unpunished by the left.

To cite one obvious example of how implicit principles limit one's vertical freedom, every doctrinaire atheist begins with materialist assumptions which result, in machine-like fashion, in materialist conclusions. Thus, all the atheist "proves" is that he is a faithful materialist, but we knew that already. Frankly, such pseudo-reason is irreligulous.

Any kind of linear reasoning is, in a sense, a tautology: tenure in, garbage out. If the universe actually worked this way -- this way only -- then we certainly wouldn't be sitting here in this hyperdimensional womb of timenow, would we then?

Of poetry, Eliot wrote that it communicates "before it is understood" (in Kimball again). This is quintessentially true of the spiritual dimension, but it is also true more generally.

For example, this "pre-understanding" is what guides the scientist's intuition that this this or that that would be a more fruitful avenue of research (this sort of intuition is what distinguishes the grade A scientist from the worker B). It is as if there is tacit foreknowledge of an as-yet-undiscovered reality. Another word for this is "faith," i.e., "evidence of things unSeen."

If only we called things what they are, by their proper names!

And O how well & truly fucked / When first we feign to deconstruct!

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Answer and Its Perennial Search for Good Questioners

Next up in our threewheeling trialogue with Voegelin is an essay called Equivalences of Experience and Symbolization in History.

Wait! Don't go. It's really interesting.

The problem with Voegelin -- if I may be so impudent -- is that he seems to have been a bit isolated from normal chitchat with others. For example, although he spent his life in academia, I read somewhere that he accepted no graduate students, and instead focussed all of his time on research, writing, and the occasional lecture. I've known academics like this, and they can become so isolated that they start losing the ability to... to just GET TO THE POINT, WILL YOU!

This is distinct from the typical pseudo-intellectual masturbatory jargon that emanates from the jerk circles of the tenured. Rather, I compare it more to a musical genius such as Thelonious Monk, who penetrated so deeply into the foundations and architecture of music that he came up with a kind of private musical universe.

However, once one acclimates oneself to this new musical world, one finds that it is actually quite universal, traditional even. He may have discovered a new form of beauty, but in the end, beauty is beauty. Superficially it sounds "radical," but it's really a continuation; it is only radical in the literal sense of the term, which connotes a return to the "root" of things.

Another way of expressing it is furnished by Roger Kimball, who adduces the following quote from a Jean-François Revel: "The history of philosophy can be divided into two different periods. During the first, philosophers sought the truth; during the second, they fought against it."

FYI, we're living through the second phase.

Voegelin obviously falls into the first camp, which is why he isn't much discussed by those in the second. But since the vast majority of philosophers (and contemporary thinkers more generally) fall into the latter campf, it seems to me that he composed a lot of private music that few people have heard or take the necessary time to understand. Sure, it all makes sense to me. But the same people who dismiss Voegelin wouldn't even dismiss me, to put it moldily.

Kimball provides another helpful quote, this one from Henry Kissinger (BTW, even beyond the exceptional lucidity of thought, Kimball's essays have a wealth of brainiacal quotes and dozens of unfamiliar and sometimes even useful words such as "fustian," "minatory," and "purlieus"):

"We have entered a time of total change in human consciousness of how people look at the world. Reading books requires you to form concepts, to train your mind to relationships. You have to come to grips with who you are.... But now we learn from fragments of facts. A book is a large intellectual construction; you can't hold it all in mind easily or at once. You have to struggle mentally to internalize it. Now there is no need to internalize because each fact can be brought up on the computer." But "information is not knowledge."

So to actually assimilate someone as deep as Voegelin -- or a world as deep as this -- one must form a real and vibrant relationship with him/it, meaning that there is a kind of two-way vector extending into his psyche and ours; or between (¶) and (¶).

And it seems to me that each side limits or expands the other. In other words, we can only "come to grips" with him to the same extent that we come to grips with ourselves. This is the nature of any vertical knowledge.

Horizontal knowledge, because it is merely objective, requires no such introspection, assimilation, or transformation, because it's analogous to placing an object -- a fact or bit of knowledge -- into the space of the mind and filing it away somewhere. The type of thinking that results is similar to a computer, in that it is mainly limited by the amount and speed of memory.

Voegelin is not the first author we have treated in this manner. Others we have spent weeks or months exploring have included Tomberg, Balthasar, Pieper, Eckhart, Ratzinger, Wojtyla, and, of course, Schuon. Again, these are not mere "books" but encounters. Absent the encounter, there is no way to access what is contained in the book, because it is contained in being, not knowledge (or, it is a different type of knowledge that reaches up and down into being, i.e., [n] vs. [k]).

One more quote, this one from Chesterton: "The well-meaning person who, by merely studying the logical side of things, has decided that 'faith is nonsense,' does not know how truly he speaks; later it may come back to him in the form that nonsense is faith."

Back to the essay alluded to above. One reason it interests me is that it confronts one of the problems addressed in the bOʘk, which is to say, the equivalence of experiences that use diverse symbols to describe them. Because the symbols differ, people may be misled into believing they are describing different realities. Or, the experiences may be reflections of a larger category: one person eats an orange, another an apple, but both have experienced fruit. (Oddly enough, yesterday reader Gandalin asked a question that touches on this very issue, even though this post was mostly written on Saturday.)

Voegelin writes that "What is permanent in the history of mankind is not the symbols but man himself in search of his humanity and its order" (emphasis mine). Too often, I believe, we either conflate symbols that are distinct, or else distinguish symbols that are roughly equivalent.

For example, the Allah of whom Islamists speak is obviously not the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Conversely, Schuon maintained that Buddha had the experience of God even if he rejected the name. In a sense this is not controversial, in that every experience in O is going to be "unique" even though "universal."

How do we use symbols in such a way that they convey the universality without denying the uniqueness? Again, that's why I created my little family of pneumaticons: O, Ø, ʘ,(¶),(•),(•••),(↑),(↓), (o), (---), and all the rest. Based upon yesterday's thread, I need to come up with a symbol for vertical emissaries, i.e., angels. How about (¡). I like this, because our reaction to (¡) is often (!). I wonder if they also get a little freaked out? If so, (¿!).

You might say that there is a space element and a time element. The space element is more universal, the time element more particular. For example, one might say that the archetypal man -- Adam Kadmon -- is in "vertical space," while we each embody and elaborate the archetype in our temporal lives. Absent the latter, we have no access to the former. At the same time, Aquinas (and Augustine before him) would say that the archetype -- or idea -- is nowhere else other than in man, just as the blueprint is "in" the house and the DNA is in the cell it orders.

Voegelin criticizes the so-called philosopher who deforms himself "by adopting the belief that the truth of existence is a set of propositions" which are "demonstrably true and therefore acceptable to everybody." "In vain he will look for the one set of true propositions," for which reason we can "hardly blame him if in the end he decides that skepticism is the better part of wisdom and becomes an honest relativist and historicist."

Again, this is because, for example, if one merely examines outwardly the diverse symbols of religion -- instead of experiencing or "undergoing" them -- it is the work of a moment to dismiss them as incapable of universal assent. In reference to yesterday's thread, we might say that since people have different ideas about angels, they must not exist.

But ironically, it is the non-believer who exiles himself from any possibility of transcendent unity. For at least the believer holds passionately to the idea (or experience) of unity, even if he believes his symbol of unity is better than the other guy's symbol. Which it may well be. As in art, some works are better than others. It would be foolish on this basis to conclude that beauty doesn't exist.

That was Saturday. It is now Monday morning, and in the brief time I have left, I'd like to skip forward and add something that directly addresses yesterdays lofty thread, and illuminates my approach more generally. I'm not saying it is the right way, only that it works for me because I seem to be Built This Way. It's kind of a thread that has followed -- or organized -- me ever since my (¶) started to come on line in my mid-20s.

I don't know if I'll be able to find the exact passage I'm looking for, but in truth, it informs Voegelin's whole search for the Ground. For example, he writes that "The Logos has been operative in the world from its creation; all men who have lived according to reason, whether Greeks or barbarians, have in a sense been Christians" (Augustine said the same thing).

It all begins with O and with (?!), or with Reality and the the shocking experience thereof. Voegelin writes that "man the questioner" is prompted "to ask the questions that will lead him toward the cause of being.... in the act of questioning, man's experience of his tension toward the divine ground breaks forth in the word of inquiry as a prayer for the Word of the answer."

So, religion is already the answer to our prayers. The Torah, for example, chronicles centuries of engagement with, and experience in, O. One might say that it is the contrail of this ongoing engagement (although looked at another way, it is the vehicle itself).

"Question and answer are held together, and related to one another, by the event of the search." However, Man "can also deform his humanity by refusing to ask the questions, or by loading them with premises devised to make the search impossible.... The answer will not help the man who has lost the question."

This reminds me of something Schuon said, to the effect that there is more Light in the intelligent question than in the deficient answer. For example, there is far more light in the question, "I wonder if this is all evidence of a higher intelligence?" than in the crude answer that it's all physics and Darwin. In a way, the Answer is always in search of a good question(er), because existence is not a fact, and neither are you.

What are we, then? For Voegelin we are a kind of "non-fact," a "disturbing movement in the in-Between of ignorance and knowledge, of time and timelessness, of imperfection and perfection, of hope and fulfillment, and ultimately of life and death." Thus, "the search... imposes a form even when the substance is lost."

Which is what often saves us in spite of ourselves.

I didn't really have time to find the passage mentioned above. I don't even have time to make sure all my words are properly misspelled. Obviously, to be continued if not beaten to death...

Friday, August 03, 2012

You Can't Handle the Truth. Or Freedom.

In the past we have discussed the "messiah" as understood by W.R. Bion. He used the word as a term of art to denote a general principle that operates across diverse domains, from psychology, to politics, to science, to art, and, of course, to religion.

The messiah is the one who upsets the established order based upon a new insight into, or contact with, the truth of being. As a result, the true messiah always clashes with the establishment, and things usually don't end well for him. Real messiahs have authority but little power. They attract but do not compel.

Conversely, it is as if the prince of this world holds open the door to the corridors of p. for the false messiah. For this knave, the skids are always greased and the action is always affirmative.

For example, the character of R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is an archetypal messiah who injects new life into the tyrannical, suffocating, and soul-crushing environment overseen by the controlling Nurse Rached.

Indeed, even McMurphy's initials -- RPM -- convey the idea of revolution, while "Rached" evokes the rachet, a tool with sharp teeth that permit movement in only one direction.

Thus, McMurphy and Rached exemplify the perennial duality of Slack <---> Conspiracy, or of O <---> Ø. For which reason it has always been in my top five religious films.

Looked at in this world-psychohistorical manner, all can agree that Jesus was a quintessential messiah; even if one doesn't regard him as the Messiah, he is nevertheless the most messianic figure in all of human history, for no one has upset the establishment more than he -- including, ironically, establishments that have attempted to contain and domesticate him.

(On the other side, we would probably nominate Marx for the honor of most destructive messiah, or MVP -- Most Virulent Pneumapath.)

In a very real way, Jesus -- or, let us say the Christ, or Word -- cannot be "organized," even though he must be; this requires a delicate balance, so veering too far in one direction or the other results in Error.

For this reason, it is valid to speak of the eternal complementarity of the Church of Peter and Church of John, even though they are, and must be, the same Church.

Dostoyevsky famously depicted the conflict between messiah and establishment in his parable of the Grand Inquisitor, who arrests Jesus and lets him know that his services are no longer needed. Frankly, he has become a nuisance and just gets in the way:

"[T]he Inquisitor thinks that Jesus has misjudged human nature. He does not believe that the vast majority of humanity can handle the freedom which Jesus has given them." Rather, the grazing multitude must be guided by a vanguard of elevated souls advanced enough "to take on the burden of freedom."

Sound familiar? As I said, it pervades politics. You can't handle the freedom. Let Obama, or Justice Roberts, or Rahm Emanuel, or Mayor Bloomberg, or Harry Reid, or the Chick-Fil-A douche handle it for you. And even without such ratchet-wielding assouls, we also have several protective layers of political correctness to twist people in the necessary direction.

The Inquisitor advances his argument "by explaining why Christ was wrong to reject each temptation by Satan. Christ should have turned stones into bread, as men will always follow those who will feed their bellies."

In the vertical, breaking news from 30AD is still breaking in 2012. Only the names have been changed.

Anyway, Voegelin discusses the messiah principle in his own way, writing that "Every prophet, every philosopher, every enlightened person like a Buddha, a Confucius, a Lao-tse with his doctrine of the Tao, the way, comes as an element of disorder in his society, because he has received an insight into the true order, which is different from the established order.

"Thus, every new insight into order is the beginning of a revolution of more or less considerable dimensions."

As you can see, for the establishment, salutary order will always appear as dangerous and threatening disorder. This is why, for example, the left sees the properly ordered people of the Tea Party as disordered, and the disordered (to put it mildly) children of OWS to be rightly ordered. But only one of these movements can be messianic in nature, because only one of them is organized around a genuine insight into the true order.

We don't see too many political ads here in California, since the state is so deeply disordered that it is considered to be in the bag for Obama. But last night I saw an Obama ad while watching the Olympics. In it he properly notes that we all have a big decision to make in the forthcoming months, one that transcends both candidate and party. Rather, this is a choice between "two very different plans for our country."

Correct, as far as it goes. What he really means is that we have a choice between two different orders, or between order and disorder. In turn, this choice is rooted in the very nature of things.

Our founders had a deep insight into this order, and weaved it into the foundational law of the land.

In other words, it is the purpose of the Constitution to preserve the messianic insight of those who simultaneously declared our independence from tyrants, and our dependence upon the Source without whom our rights are as alienable as the state wants them to be. This is a gift for which we can never hope to repay them, unless it is by preserving it -- in all its explosiveness -- for unborn generations, as they did for us.

But if the founders were to somehow turn up at his door, Obama would undoubtedly school them on the error of their ways -- after all, he is, unlike them, a Constitutional Scholar -- and let them know that the vast majority of Americans cannot handle the freedom they bequeathed to them, and that these feckless incompetents require a vanguard of elevated souls who are wise enough to take on the terrible burden of freedom.

Don't worry. It's covered under Obamacare:

The Nurse will see you now:

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Your Passport to the Promised Land

Yesterday we introduced the idea of the vertical interior exodus, or "esodus," for lack of a better term. I already don't like it. Let's just call it (↑).

For Voegelin, Augustine formulated the problem in a way that has never been surpassed, probably because it cannot be.

This makes sense, for just as God -- O -- is by definition the ultimate category, movement toward O -- (↑) -- would have to be considered the "ultimate activity," so to speak, of existence, since neither can it be surpassed (although one may proceed faster or slower, and passing is allowed on the right).

Augustine writes that within the soul there are two "organizing centers," which he calls "love of self" and "love of God." And "between these two centers there is continual tension: man is always inclined to fall into the love of self and away from the love of God."

Thus, "Exodus is defined by St. Augustine as the tendency to abandon one's entanglements with the world, to abandon the love of self, and turn toward the love of God" (Voegelin). This is "a movement of the heart," a "departure from Babylon" (Augustine).

In terms of chaos theory, we might think of these as as a kind of bivalent phase space of subjectivity in the familiar "crazy-cOOneye," drunken TOOts, or infinity pattern, like so:

It could also be symmbolized O <---> Ø.

Again, for human beings, it is the in-between that counts. We must tolerate this tension, for it is where "new insights into order occur." In turn, these insights give direction and pattern to the vertical exodus.

Outside this tension, "progress" of any kind would be literally inconceivable, for one would either be plunged into the nescience of Ø or into the omni-science of O. Not for nothing does Moses "see" the promised land but never arrive there. If he had, then world history would have ended right then and there.

So "the tension between the established order and the new insight yields a new order of higher validity"; and it is "higher" because closer to O. However, we can never "see" the closeness per se; rather, we can only harvest the fruits of the insight, so to speak.

Analogously, imagine a pre-scientific people that stumbles upon a superior method of agriculture. They have no idea how it works. All they know is that if they keep doing it, they have a more abundant yield. I think this accounts for a certain tendency in religion for ritual to devolve to what amounts to obsessive-compulsiveness.

We'll discuss this in more detail later, but elsewhere Voegelin speaks of how religious symbols -- which are intended to memorialize and engender experiences in O -- may gradually become metaphysically "opaque," and fail to do the job. In a sense, we might say that the tension between O and Ø is lost, and O becomes "contained" by the latter.

This is the well-known problem of the spirit being vanquished by the letter, Word by words, pnuema by pnuemababble. It is also what permits one to deepak one's chopra before the spiritually naive. Walk on hot coals and Unleash the Power Within!, and all that. Such charlatans always promise some magical way to collapse the tension between O and Ø.

Think I'm exaggerating? In his latest assault on grammar, the windi hindi attempts to explain why we aren't immortal, and how we might become so via Good Thoughts:

"The human body consists of hundreds of billions of cells that function perfectly, and if we were single-celled creatures, immortality would be normal." As you can see, he has no idea whatsoever what the word "immortality" means. He also inverts the cosmos, placing algae above human beings. He is half right, of course, since some human beings do fall beneath the level of innocent amoebas.

Back to the †ension and its alternatives. Voegelin points out that for most people, since they don't consciously think about it, it is "objectified by various imageries" or "depicted in very definite colors and incidents."

This is especially problematic for the two-dimensional atheist who has no intuitive feel for scripture, and approaches it more literally than the most abject literalist, i.e., "the world is not 6,000 years old, so God does not exist. QED."

Here is where a great deal of mischief arises, because man has been known to try to eliminate the Tension in ways that are extremely destructive.

There are really two principle ways to accomplish this. The first is much less harmful, as it posits a kind of nonlocal existence beyond this world (e.g., moksha, nirvana) through which one may inscape via egobliteration. There are a number of problems with this approach, one being that you can spend your whole life sitting on a pillow meditating, and achieve nothing. Conversely, if you are successful, you also achieve nothing.

The second type is far more dangerous to the collective. It encompasses "the modern apocalyptic visions of the perfect realm of reason, the perfect realm of positivist science in the Comtian sense, or the perfect realm of Marxist Communism" (Voegelin).

Notice that the political religions of the left always appeal to the "pain," so to speak, of the Tension, and offer a promise of release from it. They have a special insight into the cause and cure of this fruitful tension.

The cure is simultaneously prosaic and sterile -- like Deepak's words above, or Obama's words whenever -- but pernicious in the extreme, for the same reason that it would be dangerous for a physician to pretend to vaccinate people with a fake vaccine. The physician looks for all the world like a genuine healer, and yet, is covertly assuring the spread of disease and disorder.

I need to wrap this up. Let's just say that there is no horizontal cure for existence, because human existence is an orientation in being and not a disease to be overcome.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Exodus and Esodus

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it would probably take six months for me to explicate everything that has been provoked by my encounter -- and it is an encounter -- with this single book of essays by Voegelin. Some of my recent posts are based on only a sentence or two, so it's been slow-going. And even then, I'm only hitting the personal highlights.

I'm tempted to dilate on the meaning of such evocative "richness," since the vast majority of prose is safely dead before it even soils the page. But I think I'll just move on to the next chapter, which is called Configurations in History -- of which one might well ask: "are there any? Or do we simply conjure and superimpose a bunch of likely stories over the riot of the past, and try to squeeze timepast into a teapot?"

Whatever history is, human beings are without a doubt in it, if not fully of it. Which is why, for example, political campaigns spend millions of dollars in the effort to convince us to accept one historical narrative over another.

Obama's stenographers in the MSM, for example, desperately wish for us to believe that Romney's recent journey to Europe and the Middle East was a gaffe-ridden disaster instead of a righteous pimp-slap to Dear Leader. Once one bows before the narrative, the facts take care of themselves. Some appear out of nowhere, like a ghostly electron in a quantum field, while others vanish in the same way.

Come to think of it, Bohr's complementarity principle might be fruitfully applied to historiography, in that the past essentially consists of a kind of infinite field that has no pattern until we consciously observe it.

But clearly, no person could ever access "the" total pattern of history, any more than he could understand the total economy -- or even the totality of his own mind. The only exception to this would be revelation, i.e., a vertical memo from "outside" or "above" the system.

Among other barriers, history is obviously still happening, and it is impossible in principle to understand the meaning of a process until it is completed.

Indeed, Voegelin cautions us that "if any present solution to problems is taken in a doctrinaire manner, as giving the ultimate truth about history, this is one of the gravest misunderstandings possible" (emphasis mine). Why so grave? For starters, there are about 100 million graves from the 20th century that stand as mute testimony to the gravity of such doctrinaire "solutions." It takes a lot of human eggs to make a leftist omelette.

Socrates' famous wise crack about "knowing thyself" is of course sound and timeless advice. But like all other kinds of knowledge (as discussed in yesterday's post), we can only know ourselves at all because we cannot know ourselves completely. But someone must know us, or self-knowledge would be inconceivable.

Could history have the same structure? Yes, but only for the believer, who is indeed vouchsafed an intuition of the total meaning of history, for as Christ is "Word made flesh," he is also, and quintessentially, "future made present." This doesn't mean that history stops per se -- a common misunderstanding of the first generation of believers -- but that the end is "present," so to speak, and accessible within time.

So history is obviously "incomplete," since it "extends into an unknown future." And yet, via such modalities discussed in yesterday's post -- e.g., faith, hope, and love -- we hail the future from afar with a kind of ontological confidence that the unbeliever can only match with either hypocrisy or a comforting fairy tale.

Speaking of escapes -- and inscapes -- from reality, Voegelin focuses on one particular category of history that has dominated the West, exodus. Generally speaking, "When a society gains a new insight into the true order of personal and social existence, and when it [abandons] the larger society of which it is a part when it gains this insight, this constitutes an exodus."

This pattern may be traced back to father Abraham, who embarked upon "the first formal exodus of which we have any knowledge."

Is that true? Yes, in a mythopoetic or "deep historical" way. But there were also a number of purely anthropological or even "Darwinian" exoduses prior to that, for example, the exodus from the trees to the open savannah, or the exodus out of Africa 100,000 years ago, give or take.

More recently there was the American exodus from Europe, which was indeed based upon "a new insight into the true order of personal and social existence," i.e., that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

This wasn't a new insight per se, but the first time a human group broke off from the larger society of which it was a part, and explicitly defined itself in this manner. For this very reason, Jefferson suggested a design for the Seal of the United States depicting the children of Israel being led out of the larger society of Egypt based upon their own "new insight" into the nature of reality and a fabulous recipe for cheesecake.

This pattern has a more general continuity with natural selection, out of which new species are supposed to emerge based upon geographical, behavioral, and/or temporal separation and isolation from the main group.

I can only speak for my own species, but this is certainly how Raccoons emerged, via intellectual and spiritual separation -- what we call exodeus -- from the larger group. Which would also explain my tiny select readership.

Because of our evolutionary divergence, Coon food is inedible for most humans (it causes severe gas, from what I've been told), whereas we couldn't last two weeks on a strict diet of typical human food offered by the MSM or grown by tenured subsistence farmers in the parched groves of academia.

Supposing one has a new insight into the true order of reality, what is one to do? First of all, "there is always the question whether to emigrate from the present order into a situation in which the new order can become socially dominant..." The South, for example, decided to found a new confederacy based upon the insight that it is good for one man to own another. But was it true? No, that would be impossible, for if all men are created equal, it is not possible that some men are born in chains.

Meanwhile, what was once an exodus -- an exterior phenomenon -- has now become an... what would be word? Esodus, I suppose. This is convenient, because in certain ways it parallels the important distinction (but not separation) between exoteric and esoteric religiosity, or outer and inner, respectively.

At any rate, "The completion of this idea occurs in Christianity, in which this conception of the exodus has become a fundamental catagory..." (Voegelin).

Way out of time. To be continued...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Immortality, While You Wait!

About that dimmer switch described in yesterday's post: what the dimmer actually attenuates is the process of immortalization. This is the word Voegelin uses "to characterize noetic life [¶] as a habit of action by which man can, and ought to, increase his potential immortality to its full stature."

Thus, instead of the simple dichotomy of mortal/immortal, we see an immortalizing process that takes place in the irreducible "in-between" that is human existence.

Voegelin reminds us of the orthoparadox that the Nous -- which we symbolize (¶) -- "is both the god beyond man and the divine entity within man." Thus, as described yesterpost, there is always a temptation to collapse this tension if the two aren't "held firmly apart." Indeed, it is the temptation, if we may be so bold. Or if Genesis I is correct.

For what was the source of Adam's fall? Really, it was a result of presuming to ascend too high, thus collapsing the existential tension between O and Ø. In pretending to become more than what he is, he becomes less than that: "you shall be as gods" = "you are cursed more than all cattle." In other words: for trying to steal all the slack, I give you none! For dust you are, and to dust you shall return, (•) to Ø.

If this seems overly harsh, you probably haven't understood what has occurred. And is occurring, since Class I revelation such as that found in Genesis I-IV is as close as we can come to describing not what happened once upon a time, but what happens every time (i.e., "one's upin a timeless").

For the Creator isn't really doing anything to you; rather, he's just giving you the courtesy of letting you know what happens when you do it to yourself. If it has never happened to you, you haven't assimilated the memO, so it will keep happening until you do.

Do what? Stop collapsing O and Ø, ya' knucklehead!

The hyper-promethean Hegel might have made the most audacious -- or at least unreadable -- attempt at this, and not for nothing may the modern left trace its genealogy back to him, since Marx merely stole Hegel's dimmer switch and adjusted it to Ø instead of O.

I'm afraid I'm going to gradually lose all my readers with this symbolic jargon, but that is literally -- or symbolically, to be literal -- what happened. For Hegel, "the two Nous entities... blend into the one Geist." Instead of a permanent tension between O and Ø, Hegel converts them to two poles in the dialectic, which are synthesized in -- how convenient! -- Hegel himself.

Marx then tossed Hegel out of the equation and replaced him with "history," which ends in socialist man -- i.e., of "God damn America!," of "I just want to spread it around," and "you didn't build that!" The descent to pure Ø is complete, and Genesis has been fulfilled yet again.

Voegelin: from this "state of confusion [con=fusion], there rather emerges the new type of system which transforms experienced participation in the divine into speculative possession of the divine. The system has had prodigious success, and still has, because it furnishes the intellectual apparatus for the various ideological and theological attempts at bringing God and the world, society and history, under the control of man" (emphasis mine).

Even so, there is no failure like success, since it is axiomatic that Ø can never contain or eliminate O. Voegelin points out that man has developed "a wealth of symbols" to describe the "nuances of existential tension" between O and Ø, such as love, faith, and hope.

Each of these describes "a search from the side of man and attraction from the side of God." In the absence of the latter, it would be absurd and unintelligible to even conceive of the search. In short, the search must already be a reflection of the love, faith, and hope, which "grow" as a consequence.

Via the O <---> Ø dimmer switch, we might say that God is gradually "humanized" while man is slowly "divinized" (Incarnation and Theosis, respectively). Note that at one end of the spectrum lies mortality, at the other, immortality, i.e., Death and Life. Thus man, because he lives in the in-between, is aware of Death and of Immortality like nobody's isness.

Therefore, the immortalizing process described above in paragraph one must involve some kind of metabolism of Life, or of Immortality. Could this be possible? If so, it would certainly shed light on Holy Communion, among many other things.

Perhaps an analogy from the world of psychology may be helpful. When a patient comes in for treatment, he is almost always having a problem with what is called "mentalization." In fact, a "symptom" might be thought of as a failure to mentalize; or a "failure to communicate" between one part of the psyche and another.

When we mentalize something, we convert experience to symbol, allowing us to "think" about it. In the absence of the symbolic transformation, the thinking, such as it is, takes place, to a greater or lesser degree, in the body only.

Let me provide a brief example. A couple of decades ago, I saw a patient who, about five years prior to that, had been robbed at gunpoint and shot in the belly. Traumatic, to say the least.

Fast forward five years. He is at work in a factory of some kind, and a couple of coworkers decide to play a little joke on him. One of them raises a metal bar and holds it like a rifle, aiming it directly at the patient. The other coworker claps a couple 2 x 4s together, which produces a loud cracking noise which sounds more than a little like gunfire.

The patient instantly falls to the floor and believes himself to be bleeding from the gut. Physical reactions take over -- he is crying and shaking uncontrollably in a kind of agitated trance. He is taken to the ER and given a sedative, which brings him back to reality. Nevertheless he required additional psychotherapy in order to make sense of -- to mentalize and metabolize -- what had happened to him.

The first thing you will notice is that Freud was correct about the timelessness of the unconscious mind. In historical time the two events were widely separated. But in psychological time, they were not only close but "identical," so to speak.

Likewise, this is what it means to say that Genesis speaks of things that "happen every time." Looked at one way, Adam lived 40,000 or 100,000, or 200,000 years ago. Looked at another way, he is right here next to us. Correction: he is us, for Adam means man "collectively (mankind), individually (a 'man'), [and] gender nonspecific ('man and woman')."

So our vertical fall is "mortalization," while our endless re-ascent is indeed "immortalization."

Good news, bad news. Mankind is free...

F-

--A

---L

----L

-----I

------N'!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dim and Dimmer

To review: we've been discussing man's 40,000 year search for order, an order which has personal, social, political, and spiritual dimensions. That being the case, it wouldn't surprise us to discover that these various orders are -- or should be -- a reflection, instantiation, or declension of the One Tall Order.

We laft off with a description of the leftist (or any other ideologue, left or right, up or down) who refuses or suspends the Search in favor of a special gnostic formula -- what Voegelin calls a second reality -- which he then attempts to impose upon the world. Which looks something like this:

Voegelin describes such an ontic eclipse -- in which the celestial light is blotted out by human darkness -- as follows: "the time in which the ideologue places his construction is not the time of existence in tension toward eternity, but a symbol by which he tries to pull the timeless into identity with the time of existence." This is a key principle, and one you will need to bear in mind as we proceed over the subsequent terra firma and infirma.

For us, the most adequate way to express this point is via unsaturated symbols, otherwise, ironically, we will end up making the same mistake as the ideologue, and reduce reality to some simplistic and precogitated formula.

Thus, we say that man lives -- and must live -- in the space between Ø and O. Indeed, this is what it means to be a man. A pessimist would say we are condemned to this space. The optimystic calls it a gift, or an open presence (more on which below).

O is the realm of the eternal, of perpetual creation, of vertical forms and energies, of God. We can all agree -- both theist and infidel alike -- that no man can be identical to it, even while no man can be radically apart from it.

In other words, whether or not God exists, we can all stipulate that you and I are not That. Where we differ with the infidel is over the status of Ø. For him, Ø is all there is, and O is none of our isness.

But for us, human existence specifically takes place in this luminous space between time and eternity, between O and Ø. O provides direction to, and confers meaning upon, life (i.e., the Search), even if (or because!) we can never reach it -- any more than we could reach "music" as such, as opposed to simply creating and/or enjoying more of it.

Thus, one could say that we know God exists because we can never reach him. Only the atheist believes otherwise, although he obviously wouldn't formulate it in this manner; nevertheless, it is axiomatic that if God doesn't exist, only He knows it.

We're not just being cute here. Rather, this is essentially identical to Aquinas' point about the possibility of knowledge. Only because things are created are they intelligible; and only because things are created are they not ultimately intelligible (by us). We can always know more and more, without ever reaching the limit. In the absence of our divine sponsor there would be nothing to know and no one to know it.

In other words, the human station gives unique access to truth, even while placing constraints around it. Conversely, the person who rejects the principle of (vertical) creation simultaneously rejects intelligence and/or intelligibility, which, in our world, amount to the same thing (i.e., are two inevitable sides of the same fact of Creation).

Or, put simply: if everything is Ø, there is no reason to believe that anything is true, because there is either no truth to be had or no possibility that human beings could ever know it (or know if and when they know it).

So, here we are, stuck in the middle: Ø <---> O

As most of you know, there is also a "center of gravity" at either end -- an Attractor. Thus, the spiritual life involves first and foremost applying oneself to --> O, which is really (↑). This is repentance, or metanoia, or being vertically "born again" (or the cosmic reorientation of a formal rebirth into the vertical).

The ideologue essentially squeezes Ø and O together, in what might be schematized Ø --> • <-- O. Instead of a harmonious relationship of love in the space between O and Ø, one might say that O is "raped" by Ø -- literally taken by force (instead of loved and revered).

For the ideologue, this tightly fused • becomes "everything" (recall the Oclipse pictured above). In other words, even though O is denied at the outset, it unconsciously informs • (notice how the Light still emanates at the edges) and gives it a religious character that comes out in the form of the all-too-familiar self-righteousness, sanctimony, fanaticism, demonology, conformity, heresy, pressure to convert, etc. It is what happens when Ø is elevated to O or O is reduced to Ø.

Continuing with the above passage by Voegelin in paragraph three: although "the reality of tension between the timeless and time is lost," "the form of the tension is preserved by the dream act of forcing the two poles into oneness. We can characterize the ideologue's 'post-Christian age,' therefore, as a symbol engendered by his libidinous dream of self-salvation." (The dream is libidinous, or grasping, so to speak, because it doesn't preserve the love that guides -- and is the fruit of -- the passionate search for O.)

Sometimes -- or maybe even always -- these insights are better expressed via poetry, since one might say that poetry is the language par excellence of the Luminous Space that profane language alone has difficulty reaching. Thus, Voegelin quotes Eliot, who wrote of how History is a pattern of timeless moments, and the point of intersection of the timeless with time.

The latter is precisely how I would express it. Only man has a history -- and knows it -- because only man has access to this point of intersection between time and eternity. Only man "partakes of both time and eternity," and therefore "does not wholly belong to one or the other."

Let's try to bring this down a couple of notches, and give it a more phamiliar phenomenological phlavor. In this luminous space we inhabit -- which we symbolize (o) -- "There appears to be a flow of existence that is not existence in time." Voegelin uses the term presence "to denote the point of intersection in man's existence; and the term flow of presence to denote the dimension of existence that is, and is not, time."

Therefore, so long as we are human, we exist in this "flow of presence" we call time and history. It is obviously where "evolution" and "development," i.e., meaningful and progressive change, take place. But what exactly is "developing"?

If we consider this space vertically, I would compare it to an adjustable lamp switch -- a dimmer, if you will. Or a brighter, if you will in the other direction.

Let's look at this familiar model, which has a dimmer switch above a standard on/off switch. To live in an ideology is to turn the bottom switch off and be done with it. The Search is over. Now it's just a matter of converting everyone else.

The believer, however, lives with his invisible hand on the dimmer switch. Right now, for example, as I write, my dimmer switch is turned way up. But pretty soon I'll have to go to work and turn it down. Not all the way, mind you, unless it turns out to be an unusually bad day.

But the image of that particular dimmer switch is misleading because it is too linear. In point of fact it is circular, like so:

And that reminds me of something Voegelin said on p. 65: God alone knows who is nearer to that end that is the beginning. Since we are not O, we cannot stand outside O and objectively see how close or distant we are. How do we get around this? Two ways, mainly: "know them by their fruits" and the "plentiful harvest." The former give a kind of orientation, the latter a forward momentum.

Regarding the proximity of end and beginning -- or alpha and omega -- Voegelin notes that this is why "Christ is both the 'historical Christ' with a 'pre-' and 'post-' in time, and the divine timelessness, omnipresent in the flow of history, with neither a 'pre-' nor a 'post-.'" You know, before Abraham was, I AM.

Indeed, Matthew 1 presents a kind of standard horizontal genealogy, in which so-and-so begets what's-his-name, whereas John 1 presents the perpetual vertical (or circular) logoalogy that occurs outside time, at the brightest end of the dimmer switch ("the Word was with God, and the Word was God").

One might depict this circular activity as the ceaseless flow of (↑↓).

And if you're still with me, this would explain why the Fathers attempted to "express the two-in-one reality of God's participation in man, without either compromising the separateness of the two or splitting the one," and because "the reality of the Mediator and the intermediate reality of consciousness have the same structure."

You might say that the Platonist (or Vedantin) attempts to leave the dark cave for the bright light, whereas Christ installs a dimmer switch in each mancave -- i.e., the so-called cave of the heart.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Order of Obama's Disordered Mind

For those joining the program in progress, we've been searching after the order of the cosmos, which is what humans are always doing anyway. The only difference is that we are explicit about it. For example, Obama's belief that we didn't build this isn't just ignorant, it's positively tenured.

But beyond that, it is also a statement about the order of reality, about first principles and primary ideological commitments. You will have noticed that Obama was quite passionate when he made the statement, and that the audience was whooping it up and egging him on -- as if he were auditioning to replace the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in the First Church of the Perpetual Victim.

Yeah, all you millionaires and billionaires out there who pull down 250K -- okay, $167K after taxes to pay for roads and teachers -- you may attribute your success to brains and sweat, but there are plenty of smart and hardworking folks out there, so you're just wrong -- not to mention, greedy and selfish.

Are there people who are just lucky? Of course! That is not a bug but a feature. Thanks to the freedom that is built into the market, it's not like some kind of linear machine, whereby you insert intelligence at one end and extract cash and other valuable prizes at the other. Sometimes intelligence and hard work will pay off. Sometimes they won't. Rule #1: Life isn't fair.

And sometimes a crass idiot -- say, Barack Obama -- will reach the pinnacle of success. But do I believe we need to tear down and reform the whole system just because this dimwit makes more money than I do? No, not at all. Thanks to this feature of the system, it gives hope to every moron that they too can make it in America. Imagine the despair if this weren't the case?

In places where self-appointed elites who are smarter than the rest of us attempt to impose a "fairer" order from on high, it never results in more fairness, or justice, or general affluence. Thanks to the Wisdom of Crowds, the unruly crowd demonstrates more wisdom than the pinheads who imagine they know better -- for which reason William F. Buckley famously resnarked that he would prefer to be governed by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.

The critical point is that the Order of Things is not static but dynamic. This dynamic order, as Mises and Hayek recognized, contains an infinitude of intelligence, dispersed throughout the system. In this context it is perfectly acceptable to say you didn't built that. Why? Because the hidden hand of the marketplace converts your intelligence, your ideas, your desires, even your greed, into social goods.

This is something the leftist refuses to believe: that order emerges from chaos. Instead, he believes that order emerges from order -- specifically, his own special insight into the order of reality. This is the impulse that prompts the leftist to believe that he can design a medical system superior to what the market would produce (if it were allowed to do so instead of being distorted by the state), or that he can steer the entire macroeconomy -- at no cost and with no unintended consequences -- simply by stealing from the future and pouring it into the present.

Why does the leftist refuse to believe in the order of reality? Pride would appear to play a predominant role. In particular, the tenured class is perpetually aggrieved at the fact that its economic station doesn't reflect its brilliance, whereas some businessboob lives on his own tropical island with a stable of supermodels. It's not fair!

Which only goes to show their own intellectual shallowness, because the privilege and pleasures of the life of mind -- of the true philosopher -- greatly exceed those of the sensory nervous system (to say nothing of the "pleasures of spirit," so to speak, or, even better, when all three -- body, mind, and spirit -- are integrated, which one might say is the "unsurpassable order" for human beings. Nor would the Raccoon exchange this proper dynamic order for anything in the world).

Taranto discussed this the other day. He was pondering the question of what seems to be eating at the perpetually embittered former Enron advisor Paul Krugman -- who would appear to have it all, except for sanity, charm, looks, and non-beady eyes that don't dart around like Scrat searching for his missing acorn:

"Status anxiety, that's what. He is part of America's intellectual elite. By the measure of his credentials -- Ivy League professorship, Nobel Memorial Prize, New York Times column -- he arguably is at its very pinnacle, the elitest of the elitists and, thanks to the Times, one of the most famous. He is also, as any observer can attest, a very self-important person."

So in a just world, Krugman's economic acumen shouldn't only be acclaimed by all, but by all rights he should be running our lives, no?

"It's common for eggheads to nurture ressentiment against fat cats. Intellectuals are apt to hold a self-serving belief in cognitive meritocracy, in the idea that the brightest are also the best. They envy the rich because wealth is a concrete measure of status that is out of proportion to what the intellectual believes to be true merit. If they're so rich, how come they're not smart?"

At the moment it's a little difficult to imagine a more frightening scenario than the order of the world reflecting the order of Paul Krugman's head.

Let's get back to Voegelin. He directly addresses the issue we've been discussing, writing of how symbols become erected into the "entities" of ideology, which is to say, how reality -- which is always a verb -- is transformed into the nouns of ideological doctrine (which is an instance of Whitehead's fallacy of misplaced concreteness).

Intellectuals are obviously much more prone to this fallacy than the ordinary intelligent person, say, a businessman, who, if he were to operate his business along Marxist lines, would be out of business in a week. Sure, Marxism works: in the land of the tenured, where one is generously compensated for producing ideas that do not work in the real world because they are detached from said world.

Such a thinker "pays for his intellectual cleanliness the price of denying truth altogether." But actual truth only exists in the messy field of tension between knower and known. Or, as Voegelin explains, truth is not "a bit of information that has escaped" the notice of others, but "a pole in the tension of order and disorder, of reality and loss of reality."

Man's epistemophilic instinct actually has two components. On the one hand we are repelled by disorder, on the other, moved by a kind of longing for truth. You might say that there is an attractor, O, which provokes our desire and pulls us toward it; but also a kind of "inverse attractor" (Ø) that repels us, even though we must always tolerate it on pain of magically eliminating the tension between Ø and O via some defective dogma.

One of the most adequate formulations of this tension was set forth by Paul, who called it the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. To imagine one may reach the other side of this tension is to convert truth into a kind of "absolute object" that derails us into "doctrinaire existence."

For those who subsist in such an impoverished and unhappitat, "the subfield is a closed world; there is nothing beyond it, or at least nothing they care to know about, should they uneasily sense that something is there after all." But truth remains: "When it is excluded from the universe of intellectual discourse, its presence in reality makes itself felt in the disturbance of mental operations," i.e., a state of pneumapathology.

Just to wrap this up, we know that Obama didn't build you didn't build that. Rather, this defective idea was built by a quintessential man of tenure, George Lakoff. Now, Lakoff is the same intellectual who counsels those on the left to counter conservative arguments by placing their hands over their ears while chanting LALALALALALALALA!!!

In other words, don't just do something about reality. Shout over it!

Lakoff hasn't discovered anything new, since denial is a well known psychological defense mechanism. But shifted to the intellectual and spiritual planes, it results in "a whole class of phenomena" being "denied cognizance" and therefore existence. Which wouldn't trouble us if not for the fact that "every now and then, there happens along" an assoul

"who takes himself seriously and faces everybody else with the alternative of either joining him in his intellectual prison or being put in a concentration camp." Thankfully we don't have concentration camps. Rather, we just toil for the state for several months of the year, or are herded into the leftist seminaries called "public schools," or are corralled into "insurance exchanges" on the way to socialized medicine.

There is another alternative for the ideologue, but this "would release a flood of anxiety, and the dread of this flood keeps the doors of the prison closed.... The alternative to life in the paradise of his dream is death in the hell of his banality."

And yeah, he built that.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Obama and the Authoritarian Enlightenment

As mentioned at the top of yesterday's post, man's existence is a search for order. Throughout most of history, and in most civilizations, this order was (and is) imposed from on high.

While these orders may have initially emerged spontaneously, they eventually become crystalized around things other than the engendering truth(s) they are supposed to reflect. Voegelin's entire corpus is the residue of his search for order -- as is the Knowa's Arkive and Seer's Catalogue of soiled bobservations.

At issue in the current presidential campaign is two fundamentally different orders, one that relies on liberty, individual initiative, self-mastery, and the spontaneous order of the free market; the other of which champions an order imposed upon us by the state, which consists of elites who have a special insight into the order of things, and who do not trust the individual to arrive at this order on his own.

This dialectic has been present throughout history, the reason being that it is present in each human subject. For just as society is man writ large, man is a micro-society. There are various ways to describe this tension in man, but it essentially comes down to individualism <---> socialism, which I would suggest is ultimately rooted in male <---> female (or, more abstractly, contained <---> container).

For example, when people speak of a "nanny state," they are intuiting and expressing a genuine truth about the deep order of things.

Due to a semantic confusion introduced over the past several decades, there has been a reversal of what the words "liberal" and "conservative" signify. As a result, it is conservatives who are champions of change and progress (especially via the free market), liberals who wish to resist change by imposing a static, top-down order on the rest of us.

Let me provide a historical example. As mentioned a couple of days ago, I'm reading this history of Prussia, and last night was learning about the revolutionary movements of the mid-19th century.

Among other things, what these liberals -- radicals -- were demanding was a fixed constitution, freedom of expression, and a political order rooted in common language and values, rather than one imposed by a distant state.

Furthermore, "liberals argued that industrialization and mechanization were the cure for, not the cause of, the social crisis, and called for the removal of government regulations that hindered investment and obstructed economic growth."

"Conservatives," on the other hand, were what we now call leftists: they -- ironically, along with the Marxists (or left Hegelians) -- argued "that the responsibility for arresting the polarization of society must lie with the state as the custodian of the general interest."

Some were proponents -- sound familiar? -- of authoritarian enlightenment, and "favoured the use of illiberal means to achieve progressive ends."

From the peculiar psyche of Hegel came the argument that the state "was an organism possessing will, rationality and purpose. Its destiny -- like that of any living thing -- was to change, grow and progressively develop. The state was 'the power of reason actualising itself as will'; it was a transcendent domain in which the alienated, competitive 'particular interests' of civil society merged into coherence and identity."

Most people don't know this, but when Hegel died of cholera in 1831, he was working on a book with broader appeal, called You Didn't Build That!

Hegel was the first assoul to suggest that "the state had a quasi-divine purpose; it was 'God's march through the world'... by which the multitude of subjects who constituted civil society was redeemed into universality." The state is "the highest expression of the ethical substance of a people, the unfolding of a transcendent and rational order..."

Now, just subtract "God," and you have the modern left. Or, more precisely, imbue the Dear Leader with divine-like properties.

What did Evan Thomas say? "I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God."

Newsweek was almost right: we're all Hegelians now.

For Obama is not some America-loving cretin, like Reagan: rather, he is all about "‘we're above that now.’ We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial. We stand for something.... He's going to bring all different sides together.... He's the teacher. He is going to say, ‘now, children, stop fighting and quarreling with each other.’ And he has a kind of a moral authority that he -- he can -- he can do that."

And so he has.

I've suddenly been called away to work. The end

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obama, the Malfunctioning Pharaoh

Man's existence is a search for order. Back in the day -- we're talking ancient times -- man sought order via alignment with the cosmos. This approach survives today, for example, in the form of astrology, or new year celebrations, or the search for a mythical TOE (theory of everything) that would reduce all existence to an elegant equation.

Hence the excitement over the apparent confirmation of the "God particle" -- as if metaphysics may be reduced to physics. Why not just enjoy the science on its own level? Failure to curb one's titanic enthusiasm here is tantamount to winning an Oscar and imagining this crowns one "king of the world."

But if one has exiled oneself from the Ground, this doesn't mean one will cease searching after it. Doesn't work that way. It's just that the search will be displaced, no different than, say, the neurotic person who compulsively searches for his father's love via repeated homosexual encounters. The compulsion is fueled by virtue of the fact that no amount of the latter substitutes for the former, for you can never get enough of what you don't really need.

Likewise, it is beyond obvious to say that God -- or the Ground -- is much more than the sum of the parts of the universe, just as no amount of two-dimensional planes adds up to a three-dimensional object. God is capacious enough to contain all possible universes, let alone this one, just as the mind can conceive any number of truths. Don't worry, your mind will never run out of real estate. Unless you aren't real astute, and end up building your own wall around it.

Remember, a cosmos isn't just a cosmos. Rather, "cosmos" is simply the word we use for the existence of the total order at any given time. We always have a sense of this total order, even if the vision or content change from century to century. Today, for example, most people go on living in a pre-Einsteinian cosmos in order to prop up a disordered and defective worldview, e.g., atheists or literal creationists.

Anyway, back in the old days, the ruler was seen as the living link, so to speak, between the celestial (i.e., cosmic) and terrestrial orders. In ancient Egypt, for example, "the Pharaoh is supposed to be the mediator of this order to society" (Voegelin). Thus, if there was disorder -- if things were falling apart and getting too out of hand in the herebelow -- it was "because of the Pharaoh's malfunctioning."

Before you laugh at Egypt for having made no psychospiritual progress in the past 5,000 years -- okay, after laughing -- realize that we do the same thing, albeit in a more or less mature and sublimated manner. If you think back to 2008, the left spoke as if the existing Pharaoh had become so toxic that the cosmos itself had strayed from its axis. In fact, ever since then, Taranto has had a running gag called Everything is Seemingly Spinning Out of Control, based on an epically silly AP headline from that year.

If Obama was good at one thing, it was at exploiting this longing on the part of the left for a new and improved Pharaoh to realign the cosmos. Unfortunately, now that he himself has become the malfunctioning Pharaoh -- i.e., the Emperor's New Empty Suit -- he has been shorn of this one acknowledged skill.

If the Pharodent were to encourage such absurd flights of infantile phantasy this time around, it would simply expose the freudulent hate-and-switch at the root of his previous success. And few figures are more forlorn than a fading pharaoh falling from the fictional pyramid he so fleetly flew up just a few years back.

Remember the immortal self-beclowning of Mark Morford? "[I]n response to... those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae -- or no antennae at all -- to all those who just don't understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama's aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe."

Hold it right there. No one has accused Obama of cheating on his wife.

"To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?"

Hmm, let me think. Joe Biden said he was clean, and Harry Reid said he didn't talk like a negro. Is it that?

"No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm [sic], didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity."

I see. A Pharaoh then?

"Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence..."

Well, at least you're not the last person to get burned by Tony Robbins.

I don't know. This all sounds a little... what's the word?

"... gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul."

Now, not only do I not see Obama as an Evolutionary Lightworker who is attuned to my Deeply Spiritual Being, but rather, as a plain old Presidential Failure. But that's all he is: a failed president. Sure, that's bad, but imagine how bad one must feel in the wake of a failed god.

That equates to an ontic collapse, a complete failure of cosmic order -- similar to how the collapse of the Soviet Union left historian Eric Hobsbawm heartbroken. But the heartbreak was misplaced, because it should have been over an utterly wasted life spent using one's god-given talents to defend evil. That is heartbreak, especially when it occurs so close to the night, when no man can work.

Just to wrap this up, on the ontological plane we are discussing, the principle of the cosmological ruler/mediator was eventually displaced -- at least for some -- by the Christic God-man who embodies the trans-cosmic order -- the logos -- in a more direct and personal -- rather than political and collective -- manner. He, of course, cannot be surpassed. But the left will never stop trying, for it is What They Do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Space: The Final Up-, Down-, Back- & Frontier

Within this space "Man discovers his existence as illuminated from within by Intellect or Nous" (Voegelin). The latter is both a part of existence -- obviously -- and yet transcends it in such a way that it may search after knowledge in various directions: up, down, forward, back, and laterally.

For example, "up" is the realm of metaphysics, theology, intellection, and the most general and universal principles; "down" is the plane of sensation, physical law, and empirical knowledge of things; "lateral" involves especially the human world, rooted in introspection, empathy, and natural reason; "back" is, of course, history, prehistory, and mythology, all the way down to the upagain of metaphysics and revelation -- to the origin and ground that is simultaneously meaning and end.

All of these areas -- and more -- are illuminated in the space of (¶). Furthermore, everything we have said thus far is already known by you, even if you don't yet consciously know it, or refuse to acknowledge it for reasons unknown only to you.

Truth remains evertrue, even if it is known by no one. It is your cosmic birthright -- at once gift and limit, for while these categories permit us to think, we cannot think beyond or outside them. So, in the words of Socrates, it's a good nous/bad nous situation.

When one refuses, or is in revolt against, truth, one has entered a state of pneumapathology. As we have disussed in the past, psychopathology is more of a lateral or horizontal phenomenon, rooted in disturbances either in the nervous system or in human relationships.

But pneumapathology is more of a vertical phenomenon rooted mostly in spiritual relationships, and secondarily in the body.

I won't spend too much time on the latter, because it's a rather murky subject area, but the literature is rife with vivid accounts of spiritual energy run amuck in the body. Most people on a spiritual path are familiar with its whims.

Voegelin describes pneumapathology as "a loss of personal and social order through loss of contact with nonexistent reality," i.e., the "up" alluded to above.

In fact, I would say that it is man's primary vocation to allow this nonexistent reality to ex-ist, which means literally to stand-out, march forth, and come into being.

This nonexistent reality is necessarily no-where until we render it some-where. Thus, the human being is analogous to a lens or prismhouse through which the light of (↓) is refracted into various spiritual "colors," e.g., love, truth, beauty, compassion, wisdom, and all the rest.

If you look closely, you can actually see this light in certain people, just as you can see the darkness in them. With eyes not made by Darwin, of course.

Now, (¶) is ultimately the divine presence in man. No, make that penultimately, because we need to preserve a little space for ʘ, more on which later. Actually, it is more a matter of degree or of development, analogous to the difference between a child's ego and an adult ego. You know the story -- when we were children, we spoke and thought and reasoned as William Yelverton.

Looked at from a certain angle, one can discern in history the repeated pattern of explosive encounters with O, gradual loss of O, and then sudden reacquisition (so to speak) of O. O is, among other things, what Voegelin means when he refers to "order," specifically, the human order (about which we will have much more to say as we proceed).

For example, just yesterday the pattern was revealed in this massive History of Prussia that I'm reading for some reason. Wait a second -- let me go fetch it.

By way of context, areas of Prussia were hotspots in the religious wars of the 17th century. It was here that Lutherans broke from Catholics, and that Calvinists broke even more radically with Lutherans. For example, "At the heart of the most committed forms of Calvinism was a fastidious disgust at the strands of papalism that survived within Lutheran observance."

But the real issue beneath the outward historical pattern is loss of contact with O. Man cannot live without this contact, which explains the passion and urgency of the actors. One offshoot of Lutheranism was Pietism, just one of many religious movements that longed for a more intense and committed encounter with O, as it were:

"Pietism was about living to the full Luther's 'priesthood of all believers'; Pietists cherished the experience of faith; they developed a refined vocabulary to describe the extreme psychic states that attended the transition from a merely nominal to a truly heartfelt belief.... Perhaps because it was driven by such explosive emotions, Pietism was also dynamic and unstable" (Clark).

True dat. You see, the state craves one kind of order, while (¶) craves another, and these were generally at odds until the establishment of the United States, which was founded on the principle that all men have the intrinsic right to pursue O -- or not -- in their own way. This was the American creed until 2008, when President Obama openly declared that the order of the state trumps the order of O.

That's enough Prussia for the moment, but one thing this demonstrates is that the problem was not with Catholicism per se, only the extent to which the Church had become ineffective in helping people maintain contact with O. This is what produces the offshoots.

But today, due to the same force (↑), people are abandoning many of the mainstream churches and returning to Catholicism and Orthodoxy for a more intense religious experience (which was clearly one of the purposes of Vatican II). Now that the latter two are no longer mixed up with the state, they can focus more purely on O.

This sure is going slowly. No wonder there are 34 volumes of it. Out of time again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penetrating to the Core of Leftist Rot: Rules for Ridicule

This brief blast (unfortunate choice of terms for a Unabomber victim -- let's say righteous rant) by David Gelernter touches on some of the matters we've been discussing lately. As lucid as it is, it cannot penetrate to the core in the way Voegelin does, for he is still operating in the realms of fact and opinion rather than the Truth beyond which there can be no truther (although the book, America Lite, no doubt takes the argument deeper and higher).

For it is not sufficient to be conservative and therefore "correct" about this or that public (and private!) policy. Rather, this correctness needs to be grounded in something much deeper, otherwise (among other problems) it will have the tendency to merely provoke -- and even feed -- its reactionary opposite among leftists, who may not know much, but at least know who they hate.

There is a kind of conservatism that is in perpetual duality with the left, another kind that flies above -- and below -- it. (In other words, it is both transcendent and immanent, whereas leftism is pure "middle range," which renders it absurd and ungrounded.)

This is why (lower case) reason is powerless to explain how Obama remains politically afloat; and "even more surprising than his political super-buoyancy is the resurrection of big-government, 1930s-style economic thinking in the Democratic party long after it was taken out with the trash along with Jimmy Carter, and once more (for good measure) after Gingrich smashed Clinton in the ’94 midterms. The failure of central planning and state-managed economies is one of the big themes of the 20th century. But Obama’s handlers have yet to tell him" (Gelernter).

Why would they? They don't know it either (the tenured? Of all people!), plus he'd refuse to believe them anyway, just as is true of at least half the citizenry. And anyone with a financial interest in the status quo will be impervious as well -- the millions of state employees, bureaucrats, public school teachers, state college administrators, and other assorted dependents and rent seekers; and more generally that half of the population that is able to tax the other half for what it imagines is a lifetime of free lunches.

Even so, these people are motivated as much by creed as they are by greed. Human beings are not only epistemophilic, but cannot help "loving" the truth. Anyone is susceptible to living a lie, but almost no one willingly does so. Human beings are oriented to the good, true, and beautiful, so even when they aren't, they convince themselves that they are.

As Gelernter observes, "You might think that Obama makes a poor intellectual: he doesn’t seem to read; ideas evidently mean nothing to him. But notice that he governs on the basis of theories and not facts. And he graduated from Columbia and Harvard. Case closed" (emphasis mine).

Here again, these are not theories in the way you or I would understand the term, i.e., disinterested maps of reality, always subject to feedback and revision. Rather, the PORGIs discussed by Gelernter -- POst-Religious Global Intellectualistas (or Gnostic Internationalists) -- by the very nature of this designation, have converted their ideology to a religion rooted in faith and sentiment (which is an insult to the latter; instead, let's call them stupidity and emotion).

It's also an insult to religion more generally, because it implies that leftism is just another religion, like any other. First of all, in not recognizing itself as such, it is intrinsically confused about where it is coming from and to where it is going. For religion has to do with "ultimate reality" as such (O), not dogma per se, which can only be "O once removed," so to speak.

It is bad enough that the left doesn't understand this, but at least it has an excuse (i.e., an anti-intellectual climate of elite opinion that ordains materialism, reductionism, and scientism). There is no excuse for religious conservatives to get this wrong, for doing so is in direct violation of universal commanishad (or upanishalt) #3, which has to do with engaging in the kind of empty and vain pneumababble that makes God look stupid (see p. 235).

For when God and religion look stupid, this legitimately fuels the misgodded epistemophiliacs of the left, because even they know that truth, whatever it is, can't be stupid. The left feeds on this stupidity to build up their illusory intellectual superiority and self-righteous amoralism. But for every Voegelin, there are a thousand or more Joel Osteens who teach the same wish-drenched "prosperity gospel" as the left, minus most of the envy, hate, and scapegoating. Which is a start...

But it nevertheless reduces God to a banal horizontal cause on the same level as any other material or efficient cause. As Voegelin explains, "The modern reader, unless he is an expert in metaphysics, will have difficulty understanding" the principle that divine causation "does not have the meaning of cause which the modern reader associates with it."

For it is not the horizontal cause-and-effect of the natural sciences, but rather, the type of vertical causation that obtains in any hierarchical structure in which the lower is derived from the higher.

Religion "takes place" in this vertical space between...

I need to pause here for a moment, in order to introduce some symbols into the mix. We all know about O, which is simultaneously the "top" and "ground" of the vertical hierarchy. This form is definitional; it cannot be surpassed, but it can, of course (and must be) filled with the content of religious experience.

One might say that this vertical space is everything, for it is where existence becomes "self-luminous," irrespective of creed. The instrument of this luminosity is symbolized (¶). I think this is fair, because we can all agree that (¶) exists, even if our metaphysic cannot account for it. But whether one is religious or secular, this Light -- this illuminated space we call consciousness -- is again everything. It is why science illuminates so much, even if it can never illuminate itself on its own terms.

"Illumination" is in many ways indistinguishable from transcendence, because there is Light, but also someone who needs to witness it. These two -- witness and Light -- are of the same substance, which is to say, Truth. This is why something like, say, doctrinaire Darwinism, cannot possibly be true, since it has no rational basis whatsoever to affirm the truth of anything, let alone everything.

In short, if man is pure contingency (instead of partaking of the substance of Light and Truth), he has no access whatsoever to the necessary -- to the absolute, the universal, the eternal.

The point is that man both "spans" and "inhabits" this vertical space that runs from O to what we symbolize Ø. Critically, Ø is not to be understood as "falsehood," or as a kind of "opposite" of O. Rather, it only becomes falsehood -- even the essence of falsehood -- when conflated with, or elevated to, O.

To cite the most obvious example, the Darwinian referenced above begins (without admitting it to himself) by reducing O to Ø, and then concludes that Ø is all there is. But if this statement is true, it is obviously no longer Ø. Rather, it is coming from the mysterious vertical space -- the vast realm of potential enslackenment -- between O and Ø.

Thus one of Petey's Rules for Ridicule of the left: To deny slack is to steal it.

Sorry we didn't get too far, but I'm running late. We'll continue tomorrow.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Some Place, No Place, One Place, Every Place

As mentioned a couple of days ago, this particular collection of essays by Voegelin might be the most dense with implications of any book I've ever read. It's a little overwhelming to even know where to start. I'm tempted to jump ahead to what I just read yesterday, but that might make the task more daunting, so I'd better just proceed from the beginning, page by page. One of the purposes of doing so is to try to wrap my mind around this unruly beast.

Okay, just one quote from yesterday's lectio divina. It's from a lecture called Wisdom and Magic at the Extreme; in it Voegelin speaks of a time -- this would be 1973, so it's only worse today -- "when all of us are threatened in our humanity, if not our physical existence, by the massive social force of activist dreamers who want to liberate us from our imperfections by locking us up in the perfect prison of their phantasy" (emphasis mine).

"Even in our so-called free societies not a day passes that we are not seriously molested, in encounters with persons, or the mass media, or a supposedly philosophical and scientific literature, by somebody's Utopian imagination."

See what I meme? It reminds me of jazz, in which one can improvise for twenty or thirty minutes over just a couple of choice chords.

Why did this happen, and why is it happening still? Why are we being harassed by utopians who are driven by a strange passion to (dis)order our lives before they have even ordered their own? And why is it being done to us by the most privileged, educated, and cultured members of society? How did things -- the things of the mind and spirit -- ever become so corrupted?

The first order of business is to cross the border of isness, into the space where engagement with reality can actually occur: "We have to break jail, and restore the philosopher's freedom of reason..." One is tempted to say that one must Tune In -- to reality -- Turn On -- to O -- and Drop Out -- of unreality, or Ø.

Eu-topia means, of course, no-place, or Ø, precisely. Since we can never have it, we always want it, which is perhaps the major source of the left's energy. In other words, the left takes advantage of the intrinsic tension that forever defines the human station, between the Way Things Are and the Way We Wish They Were. In order to make progress of any kind -- personal, societal, historical -- this tension must be respected, not annihilated.

For example, this is the tension that drives a market economy, and causes an inventor or entrepreneur to create something that didn't exist before. Thus, this is the same tension that Obama devalues because he deeply resents it: you didn't build that!

To which one wants to respond: You didn't say that. Somebody else built that teleprompter.

When you give something to someone, you eliminate this tension. But that's only on the material/economic plane, where it's bad enough (unless we're talking about the legitimate entitlement-state of childhood).

The consequences are even more devastating when applied to the psychological and spiritual planes (although the three are very much related, something recognized by the Founders, what with their emphasis on the sacred rights of property, without which it is difficult if not impossible to secure any other kind of right; in the hierarchy of being, rights come from up above but they are secured from down below, backed ultimately -- when push comes to shove or ideologue comes to steal -- by legitimate violence).

To paraphrase Voegelin, oppressors such as Obama have a theory of oppression which assures a monopoly of oppression to themselves. Thus, with a straight farce he can say that no one founded General Motors but that He saved it.

Again, Utopia is no-place. It doesn't exist because it cannot exist, at least not on the macro/collective level. Certain pockets of sanity and decency can come pretty darn near to it, until the barbarians find out about it.

For example, believe it or not, the university was once a pretty good place to obtain the beginnings of an education. Tenureman (T) is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the 20th century, for example, the greatest philosophers were mostly just curious and wonderfilled civilians, not credentialed idiots.

According to Voegelin, this permanent idiot class, or looniversity bin, really didn't become institutionalized until "the populist expansion of the universities, accompanied by the inevitable inrush of functional illiterates into academic positions in the 1950s and 1960s." The fringe is now the core, and vice versa, which is why discussion of reality is one of the few grounds for denial or revocation of tenure.

Of course, it is still permissible to be in contact with reality, but there is strict adherence to the policy of "don't ask, don't tell." Don't advertise this contact or you are toast.

How did Voegelin get away with it? That's a long story, but some of the details are instructive. One of the disturbing trends he noticed about the academic world was its "violently restrictive visions of existence that... surrounded me on all sides..." Therefore, "Something had to be done. I had to get out of that 'apodictic horizon' as fast as possible."

Apowhatnow?

Yes, you know -- the bovine certainty of such soul-killing ideologies as Darwinism, scientism, positivism, Marxism, Keynesianism, atheism, behaviorism, feminism, etc. All that dreary monolithic diversity to which we have become accustomed.

Horizon?

That would be mysterious "subjective horizon" to which your cosmic bus driver often alludes, i.e., GAGDAD BOB, FLOATING IN HIS CLOUD-HIDDEN BOBSERVATORY, JUST BEYOND THE INTERIOR HORIZON OF THE UNITED STATES OF MIND. This is where we live and where we write. It is where the bus is headed, the filial deustinocean that we can never quite reach.

Importantly -- and why is this controversial? -- this horizon is infinite. Therefore, to deny it is to live in NO PLACE. But there's a twist to it, because this latter is really a man-made SOME PLACE that doesn't actually exist. Rather, it is one of the many restrictive "second realities" discussed by Voegelin.

In reality, there is only ONE PLACE, one human happitat but numberless unhappy ones, more on which in a moment. Allow Voegelin to just complete his thought as to why he felt so compelled to escape the apodictic horizon of academia. For whatever reason, "I was attracted by 'larger horizons' and repelled, if not nauseated, by restrictive deformations."

Now, about that SOME PLACE that is NO PLACE and the ONE PLACE that is EVERY PLACE. I know this might sound cutely paradoxical and all, but it is truly orthoparadoxical, a rock-bottom truth beyond which there is no truther. It is the one truth that permits all the others that ceaselessly flow into this ONE PLACE.

Flow?

Yes. Recall the intrinsic tension alluded to above in paragraph seven. I'm starting to run out of time, so I'll be brief, but don't worry, we'll be returning to this foundation again and again. Voegelin speaks of

"the horizon that draws us [read: Attractor] to advance toward it but withdraws as we advance; it can give direction to the quest of truth but cannot be reached." Within this space certain "moving forces" become luminous, essentially "a human questioning and seeking in response to a mysterious drawing and moving from the divine side."

In other words -- or beyond words -- at the antipodes of this space are O and (¶), and within this space are ( ↑) and (↓).

These ladder "are experienced as the moving forces of consciousness.... Hence, the process of reality becoming luminous is further structured by the consciousness of the two moving forces, of the tension between them, and of the responsibility to keep their movements in such a balance that the image resulting from their interaction will not distort the truth of reality." (I symbolize this balance [↑↓] .)

For "one cannot know the mystery of the horizon and its beyond as if it were an object this side of the horizon." To do this is to violate Commandments one and two (which often topples the rest), which is the intrinsic heresy -- which we call ideolatry -- of the left in general and of Obama in particular.

This ideolatry always ends in tears and blood, because nightmares do come true. In other words, when falsehood enters history it takes on a deadly reality, as it destructively careens down the corridors of time (HT Vanderleun -- who has also advised all and sundry to pass along the following gem inspired by Harvard's Gift to Comedy and curse to economics: