Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The DNC: Deinstitutionalized National Census

Democrats launched the deinstitutionalization movement back in 1963, after which state mental hospitals began closing one by one, and the chronically mentally ill began dispersing into the streets, under bridges, and into the faculty lounge.

So in this sense, the DNC is a welcome event, because it is the only time we have so many of these lost souls in one place, and can therefore get a handle on the depth and scope of the problem.

In other words, the DNC is an uninhibited celebration of florid pneumapathology, in which we are privvy to a rainbow of disordered thought concerning just about everything and anything, so long as there's a pot of government gold at the end of it.

Viewing the proceedings is very much like peeping through the two-way mirrors that were once deployed in state mental hospitals, through which patients could be observed without disturbing their spontaneous behavior. Your television is like the invisible fourth wall of the insane asylum. But you don't need the quadrennial DNC to peek in, since MSNBC is available five days a week.

We are all familiar with Einstein's theory of imbecility, which involves doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. And in the next few days, we will hear all about why voters should do the same Obama again, even while expecting different results.

Now, man is one. But in what way is he one? Genetically? No, that only accounts for a very superficial oneness of form, not content. Genetics never stopped anyone from bashing in the other guy's skull and eating his brain.

Rather, the true oneness of man derives from the Logos -- the transcendent Reason -- we all share. In the absence of this Logos, no agreement is possible because no unity is conceivable.

To put it in more mythospeculative terms, men can only be brothers if they share the same Father. For the left, fatherhood is unnecessary and probably oppressive. A taste for patricide is not the cause of their exile from the Law; rather, alienation and self-exile render them patricidal, since they feel unjustly excluded from the father's table.

"The Logos," writes Voegelin, "is the common bond of humanity." In its absence there can be only a multitude of private worlds consisting of passion + imagination.

And since there is no father to come down and sort things out -- to pull the cosmic bus over and knock some heads together -- it leads to perpetual brother-on-brother violence -- i.e., sibling rivalry -- in which the more powerful brother prevails. And which leaves sisters completely out of the equation, except as booty. Or, women are acceptable so long as they are a flock of flukes, flakes, and flaks for a phony feminism that simply envies the brothelhood of vulgar menfolkers.

The Logos is the only light we have, or which illuminates us all. For Voegelin, there is inevitable conflict "between the men who lead a waking life and the sleepwalkers who take their dreams for reality."

"I have a dream," said Martin Luther King. It was an eschatological dream -- the same one that animated America's founders -- in which "one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

Only a severe literalist would take this as a political program. But then the EPA would never permit such actions against hills, mountains, and other rough places.

Again, only brotherhood -- and therefore a descent from common fatherhood -- makes this dream even dreamable: "With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood" (King).

Obama and his fellow pneumapaths profess and practice precisely the opposite: only by provoking the jangling discords of racial resentment and class envy can his band of homeless (groundless) and fatherless (Logo-less) orphans secure power for another four years.

King's dream is not about the vulgar world of politics, but about the proper ground of politics. And "in turning away from the ground man turns away from his own self; thus, alienation is a withdrawal from the humanity that is constituted by the tension toward the ground" (Voegelin).

In other words, man, being uniquely aware of imperfection -- and therefore the superior and the Perfect -- lives in the tension between the way things are and the way they ought to be, the latter of which is articulated via the eschatological dream that lures us in its wake.

In The River, the political moron Bruce Springsteen asks, duh, "is a dream a lie if it don't come true?" No. It is a lie if it does come true, because a dream is a dream and reality is reality. When Obama tries to make the dream from his twisted father come true, it results in a multitude of private nightmares.

In other words, when a person insists that the irrational is rational, he is beyond help. Obama invites us to join him in his alienation from the ground, and to band together with fellow misfits to steal it back from whoever supposedly appropriated it -- millionaires and billionaires, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, Ann Romney, or whoever is the personalized and frozen target of the week.

For Voegelin, those who represent the hostile rejection of reality "aggressively claim for their mental disease the status of mental health."

Even so, "man cannot live by perversion alone" (ibid.). We can only take so much harassment from malignant utopians and daydreamers in high places. These are the dangerous idealists who want to inflict their dream

"of perfection by violence on everyman's humanity. In the activist's language, Utopianism has become the great symbol that is supposed to justify any action, whatever its human cost, if it pretends to overcome the imperfection of man's existence."

But one thing you can say about the attempt to get to reality via unreality: you can't here from there. For

The man that is will shadow / The man that pretends to be. --Eliot

Monday, September 03, 2012

President Snowball: Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

(PeoplesCube didn't build that.)

The Nightmare of Political Identity Disorder

Are we better off than we were four years ago?

I say yes. For one thing, unlike those folks, we aren't staring into the maw of a future with an empty suit occupying that vacant chair at the top. So we got that going for us.

But let's dig a little deeper and find out exactly where we were four years ago. It was here, in this post, which touches on thoughts and how they get that way, and on those political invertebrates we call "independents."

A few preluminaries before we begin. Like you, not all my thoughts come into the world fully organized and integrated with the rest. Rather, I have my share of strays, orphans and lone wolves that deserve to have their little moment in the sun, even if they can't make it into a full post. Open your Coonifesto, page 294, footnote 76:

"Evidently, we play host to about four thousand distinct thoughts in a typical day, one hundred million in an average lifetime. Now we know how many thoughts it takes to fill the average soul (I'd love to turn them off)."

In the case of my thoughts, I actually wish two things for them.

First, I would like them to be internally related, or to cohere into a unified "whole," or seven-dimensional view of the cosmos, both internally and externally.

Of course that is impossible, but one never stops trying. What's the alternative, to live with a hundred million independent thoughts cluttering one's mental space?

No, that won't do. It's no wonder people hold so tightly to bogus religions and ideologies such as Darwinism in order to lend a false coherence to their minds. It's preferable to the anxiety of being persecuted by all those independent thoughts flying about. But this is also what makes leftists, or feminists, or metaphysical Darwinists so brittle, so unable to take a joke at their expense.

True, the purpose of material science is to reduce multiplicity to unity, but only insofar as it pertains to the horizontal. In the effort to forge unity, it a priori reduces the vertical to the horizontal, so that it necessarily ends in a forced pseudo-unity and therefore a false religion -- a graven image.

Now, the second thing I wish for my thoughts -- and it is impossible in the absence of the first thing -- is for them to ascend higher toward their ultimate source, which constitutes the Life Divine, as opposed to the Death Material. Our consciousness does not come from "matter," except insofar as consciousness is first involved (as in involution) in the creation.

No, this is not to build a Tower of Babel, which would be analogous to trying to ascend in a mechanistic or linear way, whereas we want to do so in an organic and organismic way, which is impossible in the absence of the divine telos that meets us more than halfway.

As reader Susannah pointed out the other day, we till the soil, remove the weeds, plant the seeds, etc., but there is an x-factor to all organic growth that is well beyond our pray grade.

And spiritual growth is most assuredly organic growth, only on the vertical plane. If it isn't organic, then you will eventually be headed for a fall, back down to your true level of spiritual development, which will have an intrinsic degree of stability and robustness. Which might be what happens when we die, i.e., our true level of spiritual growth is revealed.

Wait, I just remembered. There's a third thing I wish for my thoughts, and that is for them to actually be mine. Because I'm sorry to say that the average person never even has an original thought in his entire life.

Rather, it has been my experience that most people simply inhale thoughts from the atmosphere, thoughts which are largely mimetic -- meaning in plainspeak that they merely think what others are thinking. (This is one of the reasons the left was so demonically prescient in taking over the educational system, so they could normalize abnormal thoughts and turn them into conventional wisdom enforced by political correctness.)

It is critical to bear in mind that thoughts come from two broad directions. That is, they can emanate from O; or, they can come from Ø. The former are what Bion called "thoughts without a thinker." The latter have been precogitated by someone else, and are like viral memes looking for a human host, where they can settle in, reproduce, and infect other minds. The cultivation of the Silent Mind is our best defense against them, in which we repel them from our center. Boo!

Unfortunately, this is what is presently going on with both campaigns. As we know, there are people who are even more confused than liberals, and these are called "independents" or "moderates."

I mean, if you don't even know whether you are a liberal or a conservative, you are either an ignoramus or a nutcase. It's like not knowing if you're a boy or a girl. Here's a clue: if you don't know whether you're a boy or a girl, you're a liberal. Chas Bono, for example, like Obama, spent much of his early life a broad. That makes him a liberal, not a sexual independent.

There is no atmospheric meme that could induce me to vote for a leftist, as I am opposed to them politically, spiritually, philosophically, scientifically, cosmologically, economically, morally, educationally, psychologically, linguistically, culturally, ontologically, aesthetically, hygienically, and in just about every other -ally.

And I hope that, after 1074 2022 posts, you can see how all of the above categories are organically related -- which goes back to my own attempt to organize my psyche horizontally and vertically.

So the next eight weeks of the campaign are not going to be aimed at you or me. Tactically, that would be a foolish waste of resources, wouldn't it? Rather, the main strategy must involve courting these so called independents -- who are actually quite dependent upon accident and contingency.

In a way, it is quite sad, because what is a human being? There are other definitions, but I've never found a better one than this by Don Colacho: what we call a person is "the permanent possibilty of initiating causal series."

Or in other words, man is a local branch of the First Bank of the Unmoved Mover that is God.

But the independent allows himself to be moved by ephemera, trivia, rumors, wild accusations, passing fancies, drive-by shoutings, etc. Which, in a way, makes him the substance of nothing.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Satanic Fecundity of Envy

Yes, it's a hoot to watch MSNBC's coverage of the RNC, but it does raise some important questions, because these methodical fact-chuckers are obviously not trying to be ridiculous.

Specifically, the shocking gulf between the MSM and Realville demonstrates that our political divide has gone way past the point of who is right and who is wrong, or whose explanations and policies are more likely to succeed.

Rather, one of us is flat crazy, and I don't mean this in any trivial, polemical, or merely insultaining way. No, there is only one reality, and someone's not in it. That being the case, one side is castigating the other for failing to inhabit their "false reality," or what Voegelin calls a "phantasmagoria of deformed existence."

Theoretically this shouldn't be all that difficult to sort out, but we all know that reason is generally not only the slave of the passions, but that passion is what lends rationalization the kind of triumphant sanctimony we see in, for example, doctrinaire atheists, global warming fanatics, and New York Times columnists -- or the mediarabble-wackademia complex.

But genuine reason is calm and centered, like truth itself. It has only to stare down a bad idea to make it wither or turn tail. Unless the idea is a sociopath, in which case it will simply stare back like a hungry reptile.

Interestingly, MSNBC and the Obama campaign share the same slogan: forward. For the godless, "forward" is a god-word, a term that unconsciously partakes of the religious energies it consciously denies and denigrates.

Indeed, the word can have no meaning whatsoever in a flat and horizontal universe drained of hierarchy and transcendence, any more than "improvement" can result from natural selection. So why can't all human beings, rational and transrational alike, agree on this truism?

For if there exists an objective measure of improvement, it obviously lies outside natural selection. And natural selection cannot produce beings (or just say Being) that negate itself, for the same reason that God cannot create a rock so heavy that he couldn't lift it. Religious people understand this. Why can't the irreligious?

For the leftist, "forward" and "progress" can only mean what I want, and nothing else; or in other words, desire and the will to bring it about, which in turn reduce to power, full stop. Why dress up the will to power with such benign-sounding god-words?

To ask the question is to understand the convoluted mind of the leftist.

In reality, to go "forward" is to go intellectually deeper and spiritually higher. These are the true contours of the human adventure.

For every leftist god-word there is an equal and opposite demon-word. Again, these words are not deployed to convey meaning as you or I understand it. Rather, their purpose is to convey sub-linguistic meanings rooted in primitive physical reactions such as disgust.

The left specializes in conjuring grotesque caricatures of evil, which they proceed to attack in a kind of frenzy -- e.g., Bain Capital -- in order to "justify the good they proclaim" (Don Colacho). But if the ideas were actually good -- or if Obama's record were actually praiseworthy -- this exercise in demonization would be unnecessary.

Dis-gust is related to "gustatory" and the like, and means literally to spit something out because it is so vile. Really, it is man's most primitive defense mechanism, because we all need to be able to taste what might harm or kill us in order to expel it from the body.

Just so, survival mandates that we also be viscerally disgusted by genuinely disgusting ideas, ideas like child abuse, incest, rape, torture, the Rosie O'Donnell Show, etc. But it is a permanent project of the left to make us disgusted by ideas that are not remotely disgusting, and to not be disgusted by things that are.

For example, until a few historical moments ago, virtually all Americans would have been a little disgusted by the idea of "homosexual marriage," or late-term abortion, or public employee cartels extracting dues from their members in order to elect Democrats who will steal from the public trough in order to give them more cash and other valuable prizes in order to elect more Democrats.

The properly brainwashed leftist will no doubt respond: some people were also disgusted by blacks, or Jews, or Asians! To which we will say: our point precisely. You don't know the difference between right and wrong.

In America, we have the freedom to try to rise to the level of our abilities and ambitions. You'd think this would be a good thing, but it cuts both ways, at least. This is because it bakes hierarchy into the cake, and necessarily results in some people being at the top, others at the bottom. Way it is. The only way to avoid this outcome is via some form of injustice and tyranny that forces lions to dine on lettuce because that's what rabbits eat.

Until relatively recently, Americans understood and tolerated this. And in order to tolerate it, they must tolerate their own envy, not indulge in it.

Or, if the person is excessively envious, he must at least try to put it to good use, and not just use it to tear down someone else in order to appease a frustrated sense of entitlement. The person who is truly motivated by envy won't actually be happy once he achieves his persecutory dream, but at least this is preferable to attacking and parasitizing someone else's.

Tolerance of envy is a marker of emotional maturity. For the same reason, indulgence in envy is a prime characteristic of immaturity. And envy flourishes when there is an absence of gratitude. Thus, the cultivation of gratitude is critical to both personal happiness and a functional society.

But this will not do for the left. While we should all be disgusted by envy and the envious, this would put the kibosh on the schemes of the left, which must tap into the human well of envy in order to gain any traction at all.

Instead of "You shall not covet," the left insists that there is something wrong with you if you do not covet the wealth of "billionaires and millionaires." We need to have fewer of them, so that we will have less envy. It never occurs to them that envy is a personal failing that cannot be satisfied by feeding it, and that every violation of a cosmic duty gives birth to a new right.

Which ends in the irreversible victimocracy we can hail from just this side of the historical knife-edge, and which requires just one more little push to be terminal. In November we will know if we have fully plunged into that dark new world.

(By the way, there are far fewer millionaires and billionaires today than there were when Obama took office. So why isn't the left overjoyed? Because when envy succeeds, there are two losers instead of one, and it's a win-win for the Evil One. Note that the disease tends to spread exponentially, so loser + envy = loserpower². In short, the left knows everything about wealth except how to create it. See socialist regimes for details.)

America's wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions. To vivisect it for redistribution is to kill it.... [G]overnment managers of complex systems of wealth soon find that they are administering an industrial corpse, a socialized Solyndra.... The belief that wealth consists not chiefly in ideas, attitudes, moral codes, and mental disciplines but definable static things that can be seized and redistributed -- that is the materialist superstition . --George Gilder, Unleash the Mind

Thursday, August 30, 2012

MSNBC: Not Monstrous Jokers, Just Ahead of the Curve

For Voegelin there is one permanent order, or structure, of human existence, which is the "tension between truth and deformation of reality," or between what we call O and Ø. O cannot be possessed but it can be realized within the flowing presence we call history. Ø, however, can be possessed, which is the problem, precisely, because soon enough one is possessed by it.

Man lives in the tension between "perfection and imperfection, time and timelessness... order and disorder, truth and untruth, sense and senselessness of existence... between the virtues of openness toward the ground of being such as faith, love, and hope, and the vices of infolding closure such as hubris and revolt; between the moods of joy and despair; and between... alienation from the world and alienation from God."

As mentioned in yesterday's post, we are woven of "determination and indetermination," hence we are free. And our freedom lies within the vertical space of this O <--> Ø continuum.

To deny this structure -- to pretend to live outside it -- is to "lose consciousness and intellect," to "deform our humanity and reduce ourselves to a state of quiet despair or activist conformity to the 'age,' of drug addiction or television watching, of hedonistic stupor or murderous possession of truth..." (ibid).

In short, "dream life usurps the place of wake life." Darkness displaces light, but like a bat, the little darkling learns to rely on other senses to get him through his self-imposed night.

Which reminds me of an image: when we look at a star, we are seeing the past, depending upon how distant the star. In a certain sense, astronomy is cosmic history.

Now, imagine the time it takes for the darkness to arrive after a star has gone dead. It could be years, centuries, or millennia. What about human darkness -- or the time it takes for the darkness to dawn after the human light has been extinguished?

This is precisely what Nietzsche, the last intellectually honest atheist, was driving at. To say "God is dead" is to say that the light has gone out of the cosmos. But how long will it take for the darkness to arrive?

As far as Nietzsche was concerned, he was the first person in whom the darkness had fully registered -- or who could tolerate its implications -- in all its naked gløøm and døøm. He was the Prophet of Darkness, the Antichrist, if we understand Christ as the primordial Light of the world.

There are prophets of Light, obviously -- those human fleshlights who not only bring us the good nous, but who embody it. Nietzsche was the first self-confessed Darkworker and Nightbringer, as it were.

In Experiments Against Reality, Roger Kimball notes that "Of all nineteenth-century thinkers, perhaps only Karl Marx surpasses Nietzsche in his influence on the twentieth century," to such an extent that "much of what makes the modern world modern also makes it Nietzschean."

Like how? Oh, how about his "glorification of power and his contention that 'there are altogether no moral facts.'" These are certainly "grim signatures of the age. So, too, is his enthusiasm for violence, cruelty, and the irrational" (Kimball).

Nevertheless, Nietzsche is to be admired, first for his literary panache and his vivid description of the darkness, but mostly for his profoundly honest acceptance of the implications of the death of God. We would take atheists more seriously if they took their own doctrine as seriously as did Nietzsche, all the way into nihilism, amorality, and madness.

Speaking of which, I am always amused by modern sophisticates who posit religion as nothing but a kind of individual and collective defense against madness (which it sometimes is, e.g., Islamists). Given the pervasiveness of religion, this would have to mean that man is pervasively mad. Could be.

But if this is true, the only way to confirm it would be to "reverse imagineer" the containing structure of religiosity, and experience the intrinsic pre-religious madness that afflicts man. In other words, in order to be more than an idle pneumababbler, the irreligious person would need to descend to the level of madness that brought religion into being.

Here again, this is why I give credit to Nietzsche, because this is what he did. It's very easy to talk bravely of godlessness in a culture founded upon and permeated with Christian values and assumptions. It would be another thing altogether to celebrate atheism in a completely atheistic environment -- say, a prison for the criminally insane. In that case, you'd be desperate for the monsters around you to grasp some dim notion of obligation to transcendent demands, like "it's not good to strangle a guy for his cigarets."

But if God is dead, then this is what the world is reduced to: a prison for the criminally insane. It is a prison because there is no vertical exit, not even via death; and it is insane because there is absolutely no measure of sanity, not to mention decency, beauty, truth, or anything else. Rather, what there is, is power and will.

If God is dead and atheism is the case, then Nietzsche is quite correct that man is necessarily "beyond good and evil." But Nietzsche would have had nothing but contempt for the current crop of weak-willed neo-atheists who casually adopt such an explosive idea.

As Nietzsche said, I am no man, I am dynamite. Again, quite true. A true blue atheist can't just stand in the luxury liner built by Christians, while condemning it and the passengers. Rather, he needs to dive headlong into the deep, and say Yes to the cold truth of absolute negation!

Think of the Joker in the Dark Knight. Now there is a true Nietzschean with the courage of his absence of convictions: "You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve." And "the only sensible way to live in this world is without rules."

The Darkness will have fully incarnated when it reaches the Last Man, by which time the cannibalism will be well underway: "The event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude's capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of having arrived yet" (Nietzsche, in Kimball).

When it does arrive, then out goes the childish nightlight of Christian morality, and we are finally free of God and his perverse concern for the meek, the weak, the vulnerable, the children, of all things! Hellelujah!

But "who or what will take the place of God? What prodigies will fill the vacuum left by a faltering morality?"(Kimball).

Let us count the waves of barbarism, of idolatry, of credentialed stupidity and tenured apes!

Here is what tears a person such as Nietsche apart from the inside out. As Erich Heller wrote (quoted in Kimball), Nietzsche "had the passion for truth" but "no belief in it"; and "this is the stuff from which demons are made" (emphasis mine).

This is a critical point, for all men come factory-equipped with a passion for truth -- which is, of course, one of the markers, or logoi, of our createdness. But it is hard to think of anything more dangerous and destructive than a passion for truth in the absence of truth, or of religious impulses in the absence of religion.

Think just of the bloody 20th century, and all of the wholesale murder and destruction caused by truthless men with a profound passion for truth. But don't let these enormities distract you from the deep structure of the problem, or cause it to go unnoticed when it is happening in slow-motion.

(What slow-motion darkness looks like: A Party of Trolls)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who is I AM and What Does He Want From Me?

The penultimate chapter of From Big Bang to Big Mystery is entitled The human person's limitless orientation to horizons of beauty, meaning, truth and goodness. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

No? Let me try.

I am first reminded of Schuon's compact formulation, that "The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute." We might say that the child, or first fruit, of the Absolute, is the Infinite, analogous to the sun and its radiation. Indeed, God radiates light, which is another way of saying that his goodness is infinite.

But we cannot think of this in horizontal terms, because the two co-arise, like Father and Son, or Mother and Child: "to say Absolute is to say Infinite, the one being inconceivable without the other" (ibid).

So there is a kind of linear implication in this verbal description, even though it is an atemporal reality, very much like the orthoparadoxical "timeless activity" within the Trinity.

Absolute entails Infinite but implies relative; for the same reason, Man, who is relative and dependent, implies God, who is neither.

Man, who is contingent, knows the necessary, but if there were only the necessary, then error could not exist, and we'd really be screwed. Thanks to the possibility of error, we are free to know the truth. O felix culpa, and all that.

"Like the Universe," writes Schuon, man "is a fabric of determination and indetermination; the latter stemming from the Infinite, and the former from the Absolute."

Note that there are numberless "rigid errors" which are none other than relativism irrationally (or merely rationally) partaking of, and masquerading as, absoluteness, e.g., Darwinism, Marxism, multiculturalism, and leftism more generally.

So when Purcell speaks of man's limitless horizons, he is speaking of our participation in the Infinite, which, of course, no other animal can do. In all animals, however, there is a relationship between what they are and what they may know.

In the case of man, our mind is not conformed merely to the physical environment, but to realities that far surpass it. To put it another way, a man who is only adapted to the natural world is not a man but an animal, precisely.

"Man is made for what he is able to conceive; the very ideas of absoluteness and transcendence prove both his spiritual nature and the supra-terrestrial character of his destiny" (Schuon).

But only if you are open to proof, i.e., if your infinitude has room for some absoluteness, your contingency for a little necessity. You know what they say: spare the Absolute, spoil the Infinite!

Reminds us of an aphorism: "Only God and the central point of my consciousness are not accidental to me" (Don Colacho).

Or just say O and ʘ. You might say that the Adventure of Consciousness -- of human life -- is the journey from (•) to ʘ. For the non-believer this adventure is just an inconvenience at best, plus it never happened anyway.

Back to what Purcell was saying about our infinite horizons. Note that the infinite "is not determined by any limiting factor and therefore does not end at any boundary; it is in the first place Potentiality or Possibility as such, and ipso facto the Possibility of things..." (Schuon).

Thus, this is where man himself manifests his deiformity, his creative plenitude, to which there can be "no end," although, orthoparadoxically, there must always be a standard. Art, for example, without a standard, is like math with no answers.

And contrary to the toxic relativism that pervades our culture, man cannot furnish this standard, or it is no standard at all:

"To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative....

"Once man makes of himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all his meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses" (Schuon).

So man has a "limitless orientation to horizons of beauty, meaning, truth and goodness," so long as we bear in mind that this limitlessness is not without limits.

If we are literally without limits, then we end with, say, the art of Robert Mapplethorpe, the ethics of Peter Singer, and the politics of Obama. Or: ugliness, brutality, and the various forms of tyranny, from the soft and seductive to the hard and merciless (or the infantilizing and animalizing, the smothering mother and the brutal father, respectively).

But man, if he is to be one, must know the True, will the Good, and love the Beautiful. Thus, anything that denies or interferes with this vocation is the essence of subhumanism, de-personalization, and re-barbarization.

There is a horizontal Big Bang and a vertical Big Mystery, both of which are happening now. And the biggest mystery of all is the human person, who is the two-way door into the Infinite.

Each person is the fresh re-conception of being, and each child is a new opportunity to both confer (by proxy) and receive what infinitely surpasses us. We must all open this divine presence, but it is worthless unless we regift it.

Always a catch!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Will Someone Please Thrash Chris Matthews (in a manner of speaking)?

So: conservatives are at an inherent disadvantage, because we can at least endure ourselves, and therefore don't have an issue around trying to dominate others instead.

To put it another way, since we appreciate the accomplishment of self-mastery and self-control -- of transcendence, in a word -- we have no illusions that the state could do this for us, or for anyone else.

Of course, transcendence is difficult if you reject it up front. But simply ignoring transcendence doesn't eliminate it. Rather, such a person "transcends" others by way of domination. Dominance is transcendence by proxy, which is why it has been said that fascism involves quintessentially the violent rejection of transcendence.

Thus, "to transcend oneself," writes Schuon, "is the great imperative of the human condition; and there is another that anticipates it and at the same time prolongs it: to dominate oneself. The noble man is one who dominates himself; the holy man is one who transcends himself. Nobility and holiness are the imperatives of the human state."

And true charity begins at home, with ridding "the soul of illusions and passions" and therefore freeing the world "of a maleficent being" (ibid). The gift of your own self-transcendence is one that keeps giving, because it helps rid the world of pettiness, narrow-mindedness, and self-serving dishonesty.

Until the state mangages to get its own chaotic affairs in order, it has about as much credibility as -- speaking of passions, illusions, bigotry, and an intellectually slovenly absence of nobility, dignity, and self mastery -- the bellowing and spittle-flecked Chris Matthews, who thinks everyone else is a racist because when he hears the word "welfare" he thinks "lazy negro."

In fact, in granting the mere markers of self-mastery, the state robs the individual of the attributes required to master himself. We saw this in the economic meltdown of 2008, which was rooted in the idea that "home ownership is good." The state then went about creating this happy outcome while ignoring the personal attributes that make home-ownership possible -- little things like economic literacy, financial stability, responsibility, a job, etc.

The state does the same with education, hence the coming "higher education bubble." In short, you do not make an idiot any more intelligent by granting him a college diploma. And you certainly won't make people healthier by "giving" them free healthcare.

As we know, the state never gives anything without taking something away. Ultimately it must take away intelligence, which we define as disinterested openness to reality. Intelligence is the luminous space in the flux of presence known as history. It's all we have, at least from our end.

For starters, the state is deeply interested -- specifically, in perpetuating and expanding itself -- so it cannot be open to truth, or to a truth that contradicts this imperative. This explains why there is no place less intellectually free than a liberal university campus, since this is where one learns to be a statist and to love one's masters.

Speaking of toxic psychospiritual atmospheres, Purcell quotes the Hungarian writer Sandor Marai, who describes how things felt in his country circa 1948:

"I began to suspect that what surrounded me was something worse than the brute force present... not just organized terror but an enemy more dangerous than anything else, an enemy against which there is no defense: stupidity... I was living among individuals who learned by rote and parroted breathlessly that the One idea is eternal... But no one dared speak about this, [of] that raging and idiotic egoism which wanted to force a society, a people, to live in a way contrary to human nature..."

Again, think of the bellowing idiot, Chris Matthews. How is one supposed to respond to such stupidity without looking stupid in the process? To paraphrase Roger Kimball, you don't argue with sickness. You resist it.

This sickness -- or pneumapathology -- again involves the eclipse of reality, a scotoma, "a willed avoidance of self-awareness, a deliberate choice not to know" (ibid).

A few days ago a reader asked about the distinction between a scotoma and a mind-parasite. What is interesting is that both involve reactions to a truth that must be known on some level in order to be denied. The narcissist, for example, must unconsciously know that he feels small and inadequate in order to construct the outer facade of superiority and grandiosity. But enough about Obama.

One always sees this process in various totalitarianisms of the left. As someone once said, you can always tell when a country is a tyranny when it has "Democratic" or "People" in its name: the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea"; the "Islamic Republic of Iran"; the "Republic of Cuba"; the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela"; the "Syrian Arab Republic."

The tyrants who rule these regimes know as well as anyone else that a republic is a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. The truth is in the lie, and vice versa.

Now to deny truth is to deny freedom, for truth can only be freely discovered, and freedom is truth lived. The Marxist dialectic -- in fact, any dialectic that denies transcendence -- also denies free will.

Think about the extent to which government is a system of incentives and punishments to coerce citizens to do this or that. The leftist mindset that regards government as the ultimate puppet master is rooted in this infrahuman psychology.

And yet, someone must be free -- not to mention, privy to Truth -- in order to pull the correct strings. As Purcell explains, "For my denial of freedom to be convincing, there must be at least one exception: I at least must be freely denying freedom, or why should anyone take me seriously?"

The bottom line of this post is provided by the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, who was speaking of Nazi Germany, but who captured something universal:

Everywhere the one who administers the beating is precisely the one who deserves it.

So who will administer a thrashing to the richly deserving Chris Matthews? Metaphorically speaking, of course. And who shall be thrashed next?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fumigating the Liberal Pestocracy with Truth

I've got this growing pile of books on my desk -- my blogging in-box, as it were -- that I'd like to whittle down, beginning with From Big Bang to Big Mystery, which is what started us down this road last April. Usually I'm able to keep the book-to-blogging ratio at roughly 1:1, but the former has raced ahead of the latter over the past six months, so there are at least a dozen important works on which I'd like to pontificate.

Maybe it's because the books are important that I've fallen behind. Unimportant books are just obstacles in the path, and one normally has to plod through a lot of those in order to find the occasional gem. Too many gems. That's what it is. That and not enough time.

Once I review a book, I can let it go. But if I don't review it, it's like I never read it. Or at least I don't consciously remember much about it. There is no intrinsic virtue in mere reading, since most of what people read is as disposable as television. But the Raccoon reads with a purpose and a goal. Call it wide-angle lectio divina.

Let's begin with an observation by a renowned scientist, who candidly -- and appropriately -- muses about his "horrid doubt" as to "whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

So wondered Charles Darwin. If only contemporary Darwinians could be so refreshingly Darwinian! But they have left their master behind -- or ahead, rather -- in favor of a kind of belligerent certitude to which no self-styled monkey could ever be entitled. If only they could grasp this critical -- self-critical, to be exact -- aspect of Darwinism, so many barrels of monkey mischief could be avoided!

To look at it from a philosophical angle, the Darwinian monkey reduces the whole question of epistemology to a biological problem: biology is not just destiny, but epistemology, because what we claim to "know" is a claim made by the genes, and genes don't actually claim anything. Thus, it's just an absurcular route back to nihilism, i.e., a nul-de-slack.

Purcell: "if human knowledge is simply one among the many expressions of zoological evolution, it can hardly claim to be knowledge in any meaningful sense at all."

Rather, just as each species has its unique physical form, it would also have its own distinct form of knowledge. Just as there is bee knowledge, lion knowledge, and snake knowledge, there is human knowledge. While there may be more of it, the underlying structure cannot be any different, otherwise there is an ontological rupture in existence, which absolutely cannot be explained with recourse to Darwinism -- or to profane science more generally.

In other words, there is nothing in Darwinism that permits us to draw a fundamental distinction between human and any other kind of knowledge. If there is such a distinction, then the theory falls by its own lights.

Conversely, if man is fundamentally distinct from -- even while continuous with -- other animals, then so too are biology and epistemology distinct. Importantly, unlike the Darwinian fundamentalist, we do not take a radical position on the matter.

Rather, we are happy to accept the evidence where we find it and to follow where it leads. Thus, there are some human traits and capabilities that do seem to be adequately explained by natural selection, others which cannot be so explained, to such an extent that you will look like an ass if you try.

I mean, c'mon. What makes it intellectually satisfying to reduce Mozart to monkey noises? I would contend that it is not intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- satisfying, only emotionally satisfying, so in that regard it is indeed more chimpish than human.

Think about a person who is willing to die for truth. Surely it is no coincidence that the foundation of western civilization rests on, and is perpetuated by, such individuals, e.g., Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Paul, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andrei Sakharov, and so many others. What can Darwinism make of the man who is ready to die for truth instead of just food and reproductive success? Is he an aberration, some kind of genetic defect? A fool? Insane?

Socrates, for example, devoted his life to "openly seeking the truth and encouraging his fellow citizens to do the same" (Purcell). Just as he "stayed at his post when doing military service," so too was he faithful to his charge "when God appointed me, as I supposed and believed, to the duty of leading the philosophic life, examining myself and others." To abandon this wisdom-loving guardhouse would be as cowardly and dishonorable -- albeit understandable -- as if he had let down the city by turning tail and fleeing his military post.

Purcell quotes the Polish thinker Stanislaw Brozowski, who wrote that "Our life, our self, is a sentry post; when we abandon it, the whole of humanity loses it forever." For what or who are we guarding against when we man this post? What is the battle, and who are the combatants? And what is the nature of this "territory" for which the two sides are contending?

I would suggest that it touches on the epistemological discontinuity alluded to above, vis-a-vis Darwinian infrahumanism and true humanism. Looked at from a certain angle, it becomes evident that the very nature of humanness is under assault from various directions. (You will see some of them discussed in the comments of the previous post.)

In the struggle to colonize the human space, there are fronts in virtually every field and discipline: law, politics, medicine, psychology, journalism, art, literature, even religion, for there is surely a kind of sub-religious religiosity as articulated by such illuminaries as Deepak Chopra or Jeremiah Wright or Oprah Winfrey.

Who could even count the number of human beings who have been martyred for truth, for refusing to bow to the lie? Truly, God only knows, and each sacrifice is of infinite value, even if it prevented them from passing their genes along and thereby achieving Darwinian success. Purcell mentions one, Sophie Scholl, who, with her brother, did what she could to tell the truth about the Nazi regime (by distributing leaflets), and was executed for it in 1943.

Who was this anonymous martyr, and what motivated such foolishly un-Darwinian selflessness? Her letters and diaries reveal a young woman who was already on "a profound quest for living in the truth," and for which she paid the ultimate price. Her Nazi interrogator even gave her the opportunity to recant and save her life, but she refused, telling a cellmate that their precious ideas, "in spite of all the obstacles... will prevail. We were permitted to be pioneers, though we must die early for [their] sake."

To live in Truth is to carry a cross, at least in this world. Stupidity seems to have so many advantages, beginning with the raw numbers. Purcell quotes the German writer Robert Musil, who wrote of the "higher stupidity" that afflicts the tenured. This "is the real disease of culture," and "reaches into the highest intellectual sphere." It is "active in every direction, and can dress up in the clothes of truth."

Lies come easy, but Truth must be endured, and the person who cannot endure it cannot endure himself (and vice versa). Thus, Musil writes of that well-known pest, the person who becomes a revolutionary because he "has been unable to endure himself."

Thus, we have to endure them by proxy. Until we put them out of our misery this November.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don't Look a Gift Cosmos in the Mouth

In these intellectually desiccated times, it is nearly impossible to speak of the natural -- or supernaturally natural -- relationship between love and truth, or reverence and knowledge, except to a scattered remnant of bOhemian neotraditional retrofuturists.

But that hardly makes the relationship any less real, for it can only be sundered by death of one of the principles. In other words, like its terrestrial analogue, the union of Mr. Truth and Mrs. Love -- or absolute and infinite, in a manner of speaking -- shall last until death do they part.

Now, husband and wife only come into being upon the new condition of marriage. What was a man now becomes a husband, even though it is the same man. And man-woman is not the same as husband-wife, any more than consecrated bread is mere bread.

Likewise, truth-love is not the same as truth and/or love alone. For example, what is a love based on lies? Is it really love when we love an illusion? Or is that just narcissism by proxy?

And is it possible for a person who hates the world -- and his life along with it (which amount to the same thing) -- to know the truth of things? Or does hatred and bitterness exile one from reality?

Can someone who hates America -- say, Noam Chomsky -- really understand anything about it? What about (presumably) less extreme haters, such as our current president? As his bitter half said, ours is a country that is "just downright mean" and "guided by fear."

Really? I won't argue the point. What is more interesting is that this is no doubt how she truly perceives things, because this is who she is: narrow, bigoted, ungrateful, and more than a little thick. So thick that one laments the unfairness of a system that eases such a defective intellect through its most elite universities, just so liberals-of-palor can feel good about themselves. But it is not good to feel good about a lie, since this implicitly sunders the above-noted relationship between love and truth.

I can't help contrasting this with Chesterton, whose spiritual biography I just read. Whatever else he was, this was a Happy Man in love with the world.

Conversely, the ranks of the left are filled with unhappy people who detest the world and want to change it into something it isn't -- and man into something he can never be. The conundrum for the leftist is how to hate the world "enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing" (Chesterton).

You cannot simultaneously love this country and want to "fundamentally transform" it, as Obama promised. If you don't believe me, try saying it to your wife, and see how it goes over: "honey, I love you. But I sure wish you were someone else."

The most perfect system dreamt up by the left cannot redeem man, first, because it will have been dreamt up by a man, and second, because any system that requires perfect people in order to function is doomed to failure. In contrast, our wise founders devised a political system based upon man as we actually find him, not as we wish him to be. This is appropriate skepticism, in contrast to the ubiquitous combination of cynicism and gullibility found in the left.

The reason we divide state power is to prevent anyone from acquiring it undiluted. Not for nothing do liberal fascists such as Obama or Thomas Friedman envy the freedom of the Chinese autocrat to do as he pleases.

Chesterton's gratitude extended not just to his nation, but to all of creation: "You should not look a gift universe in the mouth." Yes, you -- you who "criticize the cosmos / And borrow a skull and a tongue to do it with"!

And you, who superciliously vilify the nation that has beclowned your head with worthless but remunerative degrees from Princeton and Harvard to lend an egregious prestige to your screeching impeachment!

Way before he was a Christian, Chesterton was in love with the world, with "the tremendous Everything that is anywhere." Two things one can say about this: yes, he was a Christian, he just didn't know it; or, this attitude is precisely why he was attracted to a world view that reflected his view of the world:

"The spike of dogma fitted exactly into the hole in the world -- it had evidently been meant to go there -- and then a strange thing began to happen. When once these two parts... had come together, one after another, all the other parts fitted and fell in with eerie exactitude.... Instinct after instinct was answered by doctrine after doctrine."

Isn't that a perfect description of the Way It Is? Or do I speak only for myphilo and itsoph?

Here is another subtle point raised by Chesterton: none of us, when we assent to a "theory of life," do so because it has been "proven" to us with mere logic. That's just not the way the world works. For example, no one accepts natural selection because he has personally examined all the empirical evidence and concluded that the theory is true.

Rather, such a person -- myself included -- provisionally accepts the general theory because it does a good job of tying a lot of disparate phenomena together and making sense of things. But do I therefore accept it as a universal law that explains everything about life -- and more to the point, about human existence? Of course not. Only a terribly cramped soul could ever do that.

It is the same with a theology. Like Chesterton, I never accepted religion and then deployed it as a kind of cognitive grid to superimpose upon reality. Rather, I simply had experiences and insights that were not only mirrored in Christian tradition (surprising enough); but then that tradition provided an even deeper and richer framework to organize the phenomena (which it also generated more of).

As Chesterton notes, "A stick might fit a hole or a stone a hollow by accident. But a lock and a key are both complex. And if a key fits a lock, you know it is the right key."

Chesterton wrote about these matters in such a congenial and informal way, that it is easy to not take him seriously. But that is exactly how it is: I first discovered this interior horizon of contours, of dimensions, of lights and shadows; and then I stumbled upon this key -- that obviously pre-existed me and my so-called discoveries -- that corresponds perfectly to the lock. How freaky is that!

So you cannot "prove" Christianity in the usual way; it cannot be illuminated from the outside, because it illuminates everything else, from the inside out.

And of course, we do not mean to exclude our Jewish friends, who have no doubt had an analogous experience (as I too have had, having a foot, or at least several toes, in that camp).

Better stop now... to be continued...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Intellectual's Crapbook

I want to switch gears for a moment, while this is fresh on my mind. It involves a conclusion that forces itself upon one after reading Kimball's highly raccoomended Experiments Against Reality and Lives of Mind: The Uses and Abuses of Intelligence.

The two books are similar, in that they mainly consist of short but extremely rich -- not to mention beautifully written -- biographical essays or book reviews concerning various cultural luminaries and illuminaries. We are particularly interested in the latter, first because they are so influential, second because they are so completely nuts.

In this regard, we will treat it as axiomatic that it is not a good thing for a culture when its Founding Fathers are, yes, brilliant perhaps, but also certifiably cuckoo.

I couldn't help contrasting these fellows -- names will be named below -- with, say, Thomas Aquinas, who was quite literally about as far from nuts as it is possible to be, at least if you believe that sanctity lies at the farther shore of pneuma- and psychopathology. Does this matter, or is truth independent of the flawed medium?

I say, it depends. For example, Gödel was clearly one dot shy of an umlaut, but that doesn't make his theorems any less true. On the other hand, I would hesitate before seeking psychological counsel from him, or more generally, advice on how best to live one's life.

In fact, in Lives of the Mind, Kimball says that he considers his subjects both "in terms of their fidelity to truth and their quotient of what one might call spiritual prudence: their healthy contact with reality" (emphasis mine).

Schiller made an apt observation along these lines (quoted by Kimball), that "extreme stupidity and extreme intelligence have a certain affinity with each other" in that "both seek only the real and are wholly insensible to mere appearance."

Marx, for example, and Schuon, both saw through appearances to an underlying world of permanence and unity. But how different the visions of that permanent reality -- or of reality and unreality, O and Ø.

Recall from past discussions that prudence is indeed the cardinal virtue, because in its absence the other virtues are rendered dubious or nul. For example, it no doubt takes a degree of courage for a Palestinian terrorist to blow himself up in his depraved quest for dead Jews and live virgins. But it also requires a complete absence of prudence.

Even truth handled imprudently can become dangerous and destrutive. To cite a contemporary example, the classified information the Obama administration has leaked to the press appears to be true, but most people presumably don't think it prudent to subordinate national security to Obama's desire for political power.

"It is one of the guiding themes of this book that intelligence, like fire, is a power that is neither good nor bad in itself." Rather, it is "like freedom" or "any human grace," in that it "can be abused as well as used."

Obvious when you think about it, no? So how come few people do? For example, Noam Chomsky, the Last Totalitarian, probably has a higher IQ than, say, Ronald Reagan. Can we conclude from this that the United States is therefore an evil empire?

Although he doesn't aim his deadly pen at the target-rich Chomsky -- where's the sport in that? -- Kimball's essays take down many other giants of academia, and form the highly insultaining "scrapbook of an intellectual pathologist."

Intellectual pathologist. This is -- or should be -- a subtle vocation, because it is all too easy to pretend to undercut an argument via a kind of sublimated or rarified ad hominem. I know this, because I used to engage in it myself. Any psychologist can take a figure whom he doesn't like, and cut him to ribbons with the misguided application of psychological theory, for example, this credentialed bozo.

But the intellect is distinct from the self. We think of it more as a function than a person (although in the healthy person it should be integrated with everything else).

And even then, we must draw a distinction between the function and its content, so to speak. As they say, even a broken cock will crow once a day. I suppose what I'm driving at is how it is possible for a brilliant person to be systematically wrong, in such a way that virtually everything he touches turns to falsehood.

Here is one of the threads that runs through these figures, and really jumped out at me. Kierkegaard, for example, in "an early journal entry" wrote of a party at which "everyone laughed and admired me," but afterwards wanting "to shoot myself." And in what may have been his last journal entry, he described himself as having been "bereft of all lust for life." So at least he was consistent.

Bertrand Russell wrote that during his adolescence he "hated life and was constantly on the verge of suicide," and the latter half of his life was spent in the sheer kookery of various political wackdivisms. Today he would no doubt be right there with the OWS crowd if only their hygiene were a bit better.

Similar to Chomsky, Russell said of JFK and Prime Minister Macmillan that "they not only want to kill all the Jews but all the rest of us too. They're much more wicked than Hitler.... They are the wickedest people that ever lived in the history of man."

So claimed the co-author of one of the most important books on cold logic ever written. Interestingly, his co-author, Whitehead, was a happy family man who forged a philosophy that has much to recommend it to the average Raccoon. I don't agree with all of it, but none of it is offensive, let alone insane.

Likewise, Wittgenstein "was the epitome, almost the caricature, of the angst-ridden genius" who was frequently preoccupied with suicide. He made his fellow eccentrics at Cambridge appear almost normal by comparison: "his emotional life was always edged with anguish" and with "a certain coldness and unbridgeable self-absorption that made him unresponsive to the feelings, one might even say the reality, of others."

This is going to be especially problematic if reality involves an irreducible element of subjectivity, e.g., the dynamic love of the Trinity.

Now that I think about it, the following odd hominems were all unmarried and childless: Sartre, Nietzsche, Kant, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Foucault, obviously; Descartes had a child by a servant girl, who didn't live long. Almost none of the men discussed by Kimball had happy or even remotely normal personal lives.

Out of time, and I've hardly begun... to be continued...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Absent Presences and Present Absences

Continuing with Friday's post, we were discussing the psychological phenomenon of the "scotoma," which essentially involves the development of a lacunae, or hole, in the fabric of reality: something that is there and should be seen, isn't seen. But no one leaves their hole empty. Rather, it is unconsciously filled with content of various kinds, emanating from various levels of the psyche.

Scotosis refers to the resulting form of pneumapathology, in which "the deformed sectors of the field acquire the status of true reality, while the sectors of true existence are eclipsed by the imagery of deformation" (Voegelin).

Now, it is the work of an instant for the leftist to dismiss the entire idea of scotosis, because if there is no objective reality, there can be no holes in it. Multiculturalists, for example, insists that no one's version of reality is any better or worse than anyone else's, and that there exists no standard to make such a determination anyway. Likewise moral relativism.

But ironically, if you should fail to acquiesce to this doctrine, you will find yourself being accused of having a gaping hole in your own sensibilities. Or in other words, if you imagine that your vision is superior -- that it has fewer holes than the other guy's -- then you are what is known as a fascist.

BTW, a commenter asked, "How does a scotoma relate to a mind parasite?" This is a good question, and there is no simple way to answer it, since there are different kinds of holes and parasites at different levels of the psyche, and the hole itself can take on the attributes of a parasite.

As I mentioned in a comment, it is literally a kind of "present absence," or perhaps "nameless dread." Its annoying child is anxiety, apprehension, foreboding, or heebie-jeebies. Without them there would probably be no such thing as ghost stories and the like, because we would have no subjective frame of reference.

How to summarize without getting too sidetracked?

First of all, bear in mind that what follows is a model, not the thing itself -- a useful way to organize and think about reality, analogous to, say, the theory of natural selection. No need to commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a theory of thinking and knowing in which knowledge first arises "in primitive emotional experiences related to the absence of the object," i.e., the mother, or even prior to that, the subjective experience of the "good breast." Imagine an infant whose every need is met in a seamless and harmonious way. But under the best of circumstances, the baby will eventually have the disturbing experience of a lack, an absence of food, of comfort, of warmth, of emotional connection, of predictability, whatever.

Note that the infant has no concept of hunger, let alone the word. Rather, the absence -- hunger -- will be experienced as a presence within the field of awareness. Only much later will this experience acquire the name "hunger." And even then, for many people, emotional absence (alone-ness) easily translates to physical hunger; or hunger -- say, in an anorectic -- becomes a way to deny the need for others; for the anorectic, to be hungry is to maintain an omnipotent denial of dependence upon others.

Let's fast forward to adulthood. Take the example of love. In a certain sense, love is a name we give to an absence we feel at the center of our being. Orthoparadoxically, only the loveless -- those aware of the hole, and capable of tolerating it -- can both love and be truly grateful for the love received.

There are two common forms of psychopathology that revolve around this hole. On the one hand, there are people who have what is called borderline personality structure, who essentially cannot tolerate separation and therefore catastrophize it into abandonment. At the other end (but really, it's just an iteration of the same situation) are narcissistic personalities who cannot tolerate real intimacy, and who use and discard people without a backward glance.

As it so happens, borderline and narcissistic folks often get together, and that is when you see the sparks -- or dinner plates, or fists, or bullets -- fly.

A quintessential example is the insanely intense -- or intensely insane -- relationship between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. It's been a long time, but I remember the film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf being a depressingly vivid depiction of the dynamic. In fact, some might ask of the Burton & Taylor performances: what acting?

A somewhat frivolous but illustrative example comes to mind. It must have been at least a decade ago, but I remember seeing Angelina Jolie being interviewed by Larry King, and revealing to him that she had suffered a kind of nervous breakdown -- a psychotic break -- when her then boyfriend Billy Bob Thornton had to absent himself in order to film a picture.

And now that I review her wikipedia page, I see that there is quite a bit of evidence of a primitive borderline personality (unless, of course, she just wishes to be known as a psycho). For example, for one of her weddings she wore a t-shirt with the groom's name written in her blood; she acknowledges her confused sexual identity (bisexuality); she impulsively married old Billy Bob, and sealed the deal by "wearing one another's blood in vials around their necks"; she and BB then abruptly separated -- as borderlines are wont to do -- "because overnight, we totally changed. I think one day we had just nothing in common."

That last quote is a giveaway, in that the "total change" of which she speaks is a result of flipping from one sub-personality to another. One side of the personality has a psychotic fear of abandonment, while the other can evacuate an intimate relationship with a chillingly instantaneous finality. If you are their unlucky therapist, you can go from Jesus to Hitler in under a second. In graduate school I learned the adage that one should never treat more than one borderline personality at a time, unless one is a masochist. Although I might make an exception for insanely wealthy celebrities who have a tendency to idealize.

Admittedly, if one is bored with life, a relationship with a borderline personality is going to spice things up. Let's just say they're on the intense side. In fact, I remember a headline on Drudge some time back, to the effect that Brad Pitt found life with Jennifer Aniston to be a bit of a snooze. Nowadays he probably has to rest -- as Big Joe Turner sang -- with "one one eye on my pistol / And the other eye on my trunk."

Rambling. I'm not sure that was helpful. Let's just say that there is and must be a genuine absence at the foundation of the personality, and that it is necessary to tolerate this absence in order to love or to know. And there is something known as the basic fault, which essentially results from the psychic hole being too vast to bridge or not being tolerated.

And of course, in the ultimate sense, we all have a "God-shaped hole" at the center of our being, and this is what Voegelin has in mind when he speaks of the "in-between" state that man inhabits here on earth and in time. Again, we symbolize this necessary hole Ø <---> O.

Let's get back on track. We're all familiar with Thomas Kuhn's idea of "paradigm shifts" in science, say, from Newtonian to quantum mechanics, or from the geocentric to the heliocentric theories of orbit.

But we all inhabit a much vaster paradigm, which we might call the "climate of opinion," or "temper of the times," or "liberal agenda." As Whitehead wrote in The S & M World, "Every philosophy is tinged with the colouring of some secret imaginative background, which never emerges explicitly into the trains of reasoning," and revolves around "intellectual positions which its exponents" do not "feel it necessary explicitly to defend."

For Voegelin, this system is the order; and naturally we want this microcosmic order to reflect the macrocosmic Order as much as possible. One thing we don't ever want to do is superimpose our own little order over the Order (which is again a kind of lunar eclipse, or the blocking of the central sun by means of lunacy, i.e., assault & moonbattery).

At no time in my life has the gulf separating the orders been more vast; for example,

--"You didn't build that!" vs. "And you built what exactly, aside from 10 trillion in debt?"

--"They gonna put y'all back in chains!" vs. "No, we actually want to deactivate that shock collar the Democratic party has around your neck."

--"If you don't spring for birth control for abortion activists, you hate women" vs. "Hey, we just want to stay out of your bedroom, and we certainly want to keep our hands off Sandra's Fluke."

--"You're anti-union" vs. "What kind of idiot is in favor of the collusion between elected officials and state employees to expand the size of government?"

--"Obama is a genius and an evolutionary lightbringer" vs. "Obama is an arrested undergrad who unfortunately took his professors seriously."

--"I need to tell a better story" vs "Don't underestimate yourself. It's not possible to be better bullshit artist."

--"Let's party now and send the bill to our great grandchildren" vs. "THERE. IS. NO. FUCKING. MONEY!"; etc.

In each case, the president and his sympathizers either see something that isn't there, or don't see something that is. Absent presences and present absences.

[F]or we all have had our encounters with men who, sternly rejecting their humanity, insist on being modern men and, in so-called discussion, try to bury us under the rhetoric of deformed existence. --Voegelin

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Scotosis of the POTUS, or A Hole in the One

"History," writes Voegelin, "is not an unbroken stream of existence in truth." Rather, it "is interrupted by periods, or is shot through with levels, of deformed existence."

And that is not all. For such a period of deformation "can impose itself so massively on a man that he conforms to it and consequently deforms himself by making deformed existence the model of true existence." Like a pine tree at the equator or a palm tree in Alaska, we can become deformed -- or uninformed -- by virtue of being planted in the wrong (or less than human) environment.

This isn't just a problem, but might well be THE problem with mankind. When we speak of man as fallen, this may be what he has fallen into, i.e., a deformed existence in exile from truth; and one deformation leads to another, 32 feet per second per second. It may or may not be in the genes, but it is certainly in the memes.

Note that Voegelin speaks of levels of deformed existence. Since man is spread across all levels of existence, from matter (and below) to God (and above, so to speak not) -- or from Ø to O, if you like -- then he can be the picture of health on one level but quite sick on another. Or, he may not manifest at all on this or that level.

We all know perfectly intelligent -- even brilliant -- people who are, say, intellectually or spiritually autistic, or who have no taste in music or literature, or who have the kind of body that no animal other than the human being could ever devolve to.

A lion, for example, can eat whenever and whatever it wants. So how come we don't see any fat lions? And Michelle Obama seems to have a healthy diet, but what ugly flab above the neck and behind the eyes!

I don't mean to be hard on human beings, because being human is hard. For one thing, we have many more levels to manage than does any other animal: emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, interpersonal, political, historical, genetic, economic, spiritual, religious, archetypal, physical, metaphysical, dietary, cultural, sexual, psychosexual, etc. It is easy for one level to get confused with another, or for the legitimate needs of one level to be displaced to another.

To cite an obvious example, it is extremely common for people to substitute food for emotional sustenance, just as it is common to conflate spiritual and intellectual need, or to try to patch up an interpersonal deficit with political or economic power. Indeed, it is fair to say that such fevered displacements, unfortunately, "make the world go 'round."

Why, for example, does Obama seek power over us? This is a difficult question to answer, in part because I'm quite sure he doesn't know. While he will no doubt provide reasons -- to give us free stuff, for example, or to prevent Mitt Romney from murdering us, or to keep y'all from being put in chains -- we can dismiss such pretexts. We know Obama is deformed. But how is he deformed? Which level is confused with which?

These are not questions to be asked in 2012. Rather, they should have been asked in 2008. For just as a period of deformation "can impose itself so massively on a man that he conforms to it and consequently deforms himself," something even worse can happen: the deformed man, given sufficient power, can impose himself so massively on the collective that it is forced to conform to him. Then the collective becomes as deformed as the deformed fellow at the top. See history for details.

This is not a matter of speculation or subjective opinion. Rather, there are real, measurable, and lasting ways that we (including unborn generations) are all being forced to conform to Obama's deformations. But when you think about it, isn't this the very essence of the left? Isn't this what they do?

The leftist has an idea of "how things ought to be," as indeed do we all. The difference is, we do not have the arrogance, self-righteousness, and presumptive wisdom to impose our vision on everyone else. This is supposed to be an empire of liberty, not an empire of dependence. The leftist grasps that liberty is a dreadful thing -- otherwise everyone would cherish it -- but seems constitutionally incapable of perceiving the dreadful deformities engendered by dependency.

I will be the first to admit that I don't know exactly what is best for you, since I'm busy enough trying to make moment-to-moment decisions about what is best for Bob and his immediate family. I realize that Obama wants to help, but I already have a mother-in-law, and besides, she's actually helpful.

It seems that the nation is roughly 50-50 with regard to the percentage of deformed reformers vs. well-formed normals. Again, because we value liberty, we usually don't care about what goes on in our neighbor's head, so long as he doesn't try to include us in his delusion.

The problem is that "the deformed sectors of the field [of experience] acquire the status of true reality, while the sectors of true existence are eclipsed by the imagery of deformation" (Voegelin). But enough about the educational establishment...

The result is a "scotosis of truth," which is a very handy image, since it conforms nicely to the primitive psychic defense mechanisms that prevent us from seeing a reality that is right before our eyes. A scotoma is a hole in the field of vision, as in where the optic nerve connects to the back of the eye. We do not consciously notice this hole because our mind fills the space, leaving no visible scars at all.

Now, transpose this concept to all of the other levels alluded to above. For example, we all have a rough idea of "history," with categories such as neolithic, ancient, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, industrialization, modernity, postmodernity, etc. But every time I read a good history book, I discover another huge scotoma that was invisibly sitting right there before and behind me.

Gee, do you think Obama has, say, an economic scotoma or two? A religious scotoma? A constitutional scotoma? A racial scotoma? A budgetary scotoma? An ethical scotoma?

"Without scotoma" is a fine apophatic, or negative, definition of God, i.e., the whole-in-one. Thus, the most frightening being on earth -- because the most destructive -- is the man with vast power over others, who imagines he is without scotoma.

They gonna shoot y'all, and put a hole in your soul!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Obama: Postmodern, Post-Literate, Post-Reality

This is timely: a WSJ editorial on our first Postmodern President. Yes, ideas have consequences, but so too do anti-ideas such as postmodernism.

Similarly, communism and fascism were and are anti-ideas bearing no (truth) relationship to reality. But this hardly renders them any less destructive. Rather, most of our really serious problems are a consequence of the rigorous application of anti-ideas by anti-intellectuals.

The anti-idea is not the same as a mere bad idea, just as the anti-intellectual can be quite intelligent, brilliant even. Everyone has bad ideas, and life consists in either honing one's ideas or establishing more effective ones.

The anti-idea, however, is purely reactionary, in that it is always rooted in a hostile rejection of, and attack upon, reality. In short, instead of being a tool to understand reality, the purpose of the anti-idea is to omnisciently vanquish reality and replace it with an ideology.

The anti-idea is usually held unconsciously and for unconscious reasons, which makes it all the more difficult to detect and eradicate. Right now tenurmites could very well be eating away at the foundation of your intellectual edifice, but you won't know unless you check.

Bad ideas are subject to testing and rejection, whereas anti-ideas are like conspiracy theories, in that no amount of evidence can refudiate them.

Rather, the mind of the conspiracy theorist operates exactly like that of the paranoid, in that contradictory evidence is converted to evidence of the conspiracy. If you disagree with a paranoid, he finds a way to either include you in the conspiracy, or else will roll his eyes and dismiss you as hopelessly naive, as in Don't you know that anyone who disagrees with AGW is bought and paid for by the oil companies?

On to the editorial, after which we'll try to weave it all into Foucault, Sartre, Derrida, Nietzsche, and ultimately back to Voegelin. This will be like making grand rounds in a vast mental hospital, so I don't know how far we'll get today.

"President Obama spent his formative years in academia, so he's no doubt familiar with postmodernism, the literary theory that rejects objective reality and insists instead that everything is a matter of interpretation and relative 'truth.' At any rate he's running the first postmodern Presidential campaign, now organized almost exclusively around allegations about his opponent that bear no relation to the observable universe."

Thus, in the anti-world of the Obama campaign, "Mr. Romney is to blame because of decisions he didn't make at a business he didn't run that may or may not have set in train a series of random unconnected events many years apart that included Ilyona Soptic's illness. Even more culpable is the butterfly in Peking that flapped its wings and forever altered the course of history."

Likewise, for Nancy Pelosi it is a fact that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years. Why? Because the well-known pedophile Harry Reid "made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact." Pelosi gives tautology a bad name.

In other words, Reid asserted "with zero proof that Mr. Romney got away with paying no taxes for a decade, which is 'true' because he says an anonymous investor called to say so. If the food inspectors ever went by Reid-Pelosi evidentiary standards, we'd all be dead." (That last line is a gag, but note again that the rigorous application of such an anti-idea does lead to death and destruction.)

The bottom lyin' is that instead of tryin' to persuade anyone to vote for him based upon his own record, Obama is simply inventing an alternate reality. But this is what postmodernism "does." If you are, say, a greedy feminist who wants more money and power to which you are not entitled, you invent the myth that women are paid sixty cents to the dollar in comparison to men. It never seems to occur to them that if this were true, it would be insane for a greedy corporation to ever hire a man.

We need to waste a little more time discussing the theories of postmodernism, lest you be tempted to think I'm merely exaggerating or being uncharitable. For one thing, I know I'm not being uncharitable because I once believed these sorts of things.

"Believed," however, is probably too strong a word. Rather, I simply assumilated them in the course of four -- okay, eight -- years of college and seven years of graduate school. In Kimball's phrase, they were simply part of the "ambient pollution" of academia.

As a result, I never really reflected upon them, since they were the context of everything else. Instead of reflecting on them, I simply burrowed more deeply into them -- somewhat analogous to how a fly lays its eggs in a big pile of dogshit.

Once you accept this context, then the most outlandish pile of steaming academic braindroppings becomes plausible.

In his discussion of Derrida, Kimball reminds us that his ur-idea is that "there is nothing outside the text." This is a fine example of a LIE, which, if assimilated, ends in the destruction of reality: psychic, spiritual, and physical. For the phrase is "shorthand for denying that words can refer to a reality beyond words, for denying that truth has its measure in something beyond the web of our language games." In this defective way of looking at the world, there is no objective reality, just the endless play of signifiers.

One of the seductive things about this mental pathology is that it is half-true even though all false. As we have been discussing vis-a-vis Voegelin, man indeed lives in the "in between" space where meaning is constantly being discovered and sometimes tossed aside. Within this space we are oriented to truth, which provides both its ground and telos. The deconstructionist simply tosses aside the ground but preserves the search.

But what is a passionate search with no possible object or destination? Yes, you could call it insanity.

Like any other insanity, deconstruction "is an evasion of reality." For the same reason, it is "a reactionary force," because "it hides from rather than engages with reality" (Kimball). But again, the evasion is never benign, because there is always an implicit attack "on the cogency of language and the moral and intellectual claims that language has codified in tradition" (ibid).

Once one is freed from language, one is also emancipated from the rigors and demands of truth, reality, and virtue. It's more than a little like being Adam in the Garden, but imagining that the outcome will be different, because this time Adam is prepared to smite God with the Molotov crocktale of deconstruction.

Let's wrap up our little discussion of Foucault. What is personally interesting about Kimball's review of The Passion of Michel Foucault is that I actually read the book when it came out in 1993.

At the time, I was still in the clutches of the tenured, still breathing the polluted air of academia. Being that Foucault was so famous and so acclaimed, I just assumed that he was important and that I needed to understand this brilliant man. Indeed, Miller describes him as "perhaps the single most famous intellectual in the world." As such, it would be an anti-intellectual faux pas to ignore him.

I don't know if I still have the book. I may have inflicted it upon the library. Let me nose around the Closet of Forbidden Works, where the ghosts of oldbob are hiding.

Nah, can't find it. Which is too bad, because I wanted to see what sorts of things he highlighted, which would have been a kind of snarchaeological dig into the ruins of my former belief system. It would have also answered the riddle, when is a highlight a lowlight?

Remember what we were saying the other day about the need to find one's "idiom" in order to articulate and elaborate the self? Well, Foucault believed just the opposite: he kept the idiom but threw out the self (again, there is only the free-floating text that refers to nothing outside itself): "I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same..." (Foucault, in Kimball).

Okay. But why should I read you if you are nobody writing about nothing?

You know the left-wing cliche that everything is about power? Foucault seems to be the one who put it into heavy circulation, for "He came bearing the bad news in bad prose that every institution, no matter how benign it seems, is 'really' a scene of unspeakable domination and subjugation..." (Kimball).

This is how feminists came up with the idea that being married or being a housewife is "oppressive," or how the Jesse Jacksons of the world came up with their conspiracy theory of "institutional racism," or how California should really be a part of Mexico, or how AGW skeptics are tools of the oil companies, etc.

For someone who saw malevolent powers under every bed, Foucault sure seems to have been a sucker for malevolent power, so long as it was on the left: "He championed various extreme forms of Marxism, including Maoism; he supported the Ayatollah Khomeini," and wondered "What could politics mean when it is a question of choosing between Stalin's USSR and Truman's America?" (ibid).

What indeed. Just flip a coin, I guess, since oppression is oppression.

A key principle here is the difference between (n) and what we will call (-n). (n) is an empty symbol I use as a placemarker for experiential spiritual knowledge. But there is also invalid spiritual experience, or pseudo-spiritual experience that is sought by people who have rejected the reality of the spiritual.

As it so happens, Foucault was all about this specific form of experiential knowledge. Kimball suspects that this was a big part of his appeal as an "academic guru," and I believe this is quite correct. Certainly this is the sort of thing that appealed to me back in the daze of oldbob. I went in for all that counter-cultural stuff: Leary, Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), Watts, McKenna, anyone who seemed way out there but also seemed clever and witty about it.

For Foucault, man's future was being revealed to us via "the recent experiences with drugs, sex, communes, other forms of consciousness and other forms of individuality. If scientific socialism emerged from the utopias of the nineteenth century, it is possible that real socialization will emerge in the 20th century from experiences" (in Kimball).

Which only proves that no amount of (-n) leads to O, and the attempt merely leaves one jaded, burned out, cynical, and bereft of any saving innocence; for such a person has simultaneously seen nothing and too much.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Roger Kimball and the Art of Fine Insultainment

Yesterday we spoke of the seemingly uncontroversial notion that you and I are somebody and not just anybody, let alone nobody.

In other words, we are created with a unique but implicit pattern of selfhood which guides our choices, passions, and preferences in order to bring itself into being -- from implicate to explicate, or nonlocal to local, or potential to actualization.

As it so happens, this idea is not controversial. This is because it has been rejected by the ideological fascinistas of the day. In fact, for the left, it hasn't so much been rejected as banished from consideration.

As is true of so much totolerantarian leftist thought, what was once common sense is now indefensible and even offensive, and probably racist and sexist too. So don't even go there if you want to pass this class.

But make no mistake about it: for the left, the idea of human essences has got to go, because essences place limits on what the state can do to you. The left cannot remake man if man actually is something, and not just a shapeless blob for them to mould via social fantaseering.

For example, if men are men and women are women, Title IX isn't just crazy -- which of course it is -- but also unjust, cruel, and even monstrous (because only an androgynous leftist castrato would prefer hybrid sexless monsters to real men and women, with all their wonderful differences).

These academically incorrect thoughts were provoked by Roger Kimball's Experiments Against Reality, which addresses just this issue. In particular, he has several chapters devoted to philosophers who were and are extremely influential on the left, including Foucault, Sartre, Nietzsche, and Mill (and he also touches on other familiar illuminutti such as Derrida and Rorty).

Kimball is such wonderful and entertaining writer, that I would just urge you to get the book. I can only hit the highlights. Indeed, this is the finest of fine insultainment. I'm afraid he makes me look as vulgar and crude as an Obama ad.

First of all, Experiments Against Reality. Does that not say it all? For what is leftism but an experiment against reality?

Not on reality, mind you. That would be a different thing altogether. If that were the case, then, for example, the left of us would conclude with the rest of us that the experiment LBJ called the "War On Poverty" has failed, and that it is time to try a new one. The War On Poverty turns out to have been a War On Affluence (not to mention cultural integrity), but hey, whatever. The tenured sneeze and the poor catch cold. Or AIDS. Or get murdered, either by each other or by the state.

Or, President Obama might conclude that Keynesian economics isn't all it's crocked up to be, and that perhaps we should call that Austrian kid Hayek from the bench. After all, the left is all about fairness and diversity, isn't it? Eighty years is enough. How about giving another economist a chance to play!

As I've mentioned before, Kimball's books provide so many provocative quotes that they are worthy on that basis alone. For example, Richard Rorty: "I do not have much use for notions like 'objective value' and 'objective truth.'"

Oh, really?

In that case, You. Are. TENURED!

Which proves once again that tenure travels halfway 'round the bend before truth can get its boots on.

Recall what was said above about being Somebody and not just Anybody or Nobody (which amount to the same thing). If we are the latter, then it follows that truth consists of Anything and Nothing.

Of course, the tenured nobody will still assert the truth of this or that, even while having undercut its very possibility. This is in order to reassure parents who naturally don't want to think they are shelling out fifty grand a year to maim their child's soul.

Thinking back on it, this is how my poor father must have felt. Being that he was the recipient of only an eighth grade education in rural England (or the equivalent today of a BA), he must have thought to himself: "Well, the boy is in graduate school. Sure sounds like unvarnished bullshit to me, but there must be something to it."

Jumping ahead a bit, the chapter on Foucault is priceless. In it Kimball reviews an acclaimed biography of the man, The Passion of Michel Foucault.


You don't mean...

Oh yes he does. If nothing is sacred, then everything is, up to and including the subject of a book that Kimball tells us Miller relied upon for his sublime analysis of Foucault's sadomasochism, called The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole.

You'd think it would be easy to insert a gag here, but some things truly are beyond parody. Besides, I am gagging a little.

Speaking of inserting gags, Foucault was deeply attracted to one of the idyllic infraworlds of San Francisco, which featured such elevated practices as "gagging, piercing, cutting, electric-shocking, stretching on racks, imprisoning, branding..."

Er, why? Was he just, you know... a pervert?


Kimball: "Miller presents Foucault's indulgence in sexual torture as if it were a noble existential battle for greater wisdom and political liberation."

This makes a lot of sense, because it would explain more generally why so much political wisdom emanates from San Francisco, that bathhouse -- or perhaps petri dish -- of leftist experimentation.

Here is how Miller characterizes Foucault's passion (in Kimball): "Accepting the new level of risk," he joined "in the orgies of torture, trembling with 'the most exquisite agonies,' voluntarily effacing himself, exploding the limits of consciousness, letting real, corporeal pain insensibly melt into pleasure through the alchemy of eroticism...."

Such "punishing ascetic practices" allowed Foucault "to breach, however briefly, the boundaries separating the conscious and unconscious, reason and unreason, pleasure and pain... thus starkly revealing how the distinctions central to the play of true and false are pliable, uncertain, contingent."

Yes, I can see that. One wonders how it eluded the Founding Fathers.

One thing I would like to ask Professor Miller is: how do you know? Tell us about your own risky and exquisite self-transcendence at the limits of consciousness where true and false are effaced by that pounding sensation in the Temple of the Butthole. If this is your god, what are hemorrhoids, stigmata?

Barely started here, but it very much touches on our ongoing discussion of Voegelin. To be continued, although we'll be on hiatus most of next week.

Excellent interview of Kimball on his latest book, The Fortunes of Permanence. It's as pearlescent as all his others, meaning that it would be pointless to throw it to the PORGIs of academia (Post-Religious Global Internationalists).