Saturday, September 15, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Metastatic Liberalism in the Body Politic
Likewise, when you explain to liberals that Romney is doing the same thing Obama did in 2008 (albeit more honestly and with less hysteria), when the latter excoriated Bush's foreign policy, they respond, "that's different. That was Bush."
Paul Krugman has made a career out of praising or excusing Obama vis-a-vis the same things for which he condemned Bush -- e.g., the deficit, the national debt, the threat of inflation, the so-called "jobless recovery," the gap between rich and poor, etc. More generally, the left is silent about everything that had them so exorcised about Bush: renditions, drone attacks, Gitmo, military tribunals, alienation of our allies, hatred around the world, signing statements, executive overreach, etc.
Yes, you could mark it down to garden-variety hypocrisy or stupidity, but I think it's something worse. There are no doubt cynical elites who are consciously aware of the manipulation, but I think the majority of liberals who believe what they do are sincere in their beliefs.
Which makes them more, not less, frightening -- for the same reason the cynical manipulator Clinton is less frightening than the true-believing Obama. (That Clinton could support Obama, of all people, while having approvingly declared an end to the "era of big government" tells you all you need to know about him.)
This kind of thinking is the manifestation of a collective disorder. But a collective disorder is nevertheless rooted in something individual, some identifiable pathology. What is it? And why is it so hard to cure it?
Let's try to calmly and dispassionately figure this out together, shall we? I mean you, me, and Voegelin.
In the essay we've been discussing, Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme, he writes of "the relations between the truth of reality, the truth of language, and the truth of man's existence."
Right away we've opened a pandora's box of potential complications, especially for the person who believes reality is perception, truth is relative, and language is a closed system incapable of disclosing the truth of the world.
It is axiomatic -- for us, anyway -- that we may respond to truth or resist it. Freedom, baby. It is what it is, and there's not a thing we can do about it.
Knowledge is dependent "on reality becoming luminous" to itself via man, and on the deployment of "language symbols expressing its truth." Furthermore, we must first be receptive to reality, and allow language to "emerge from the loving quest of truth in response to the loving and illuminating drawing... from the divine Beyond." In traditional metaphysics the soul is always regarded as the feminine pole in this primordial relation (although there is no doubt that O, the Divine Attractor, has its "seductive" side as well).
In symbolic form we have O, which is reality and all it implies; and (¶), or the intellect, which is both "in" and "of" O, while not, of course, being identical to it. And in between the two we have the "loving truth" that results from genuine encounters with O. Yes, you could say Father/Principle/Source, Son/Logos/Manifestation, and Holy Spirit/Love/Truth.
Voegelin, following Plato, affirms that it is impossible to cure the symptoms of existential disorder -- to restore order -- via "any amount of special legislation."
Here I am reminded of an aphorism: "The democratic ruler cannot adopt a solution as long as he does not receive the enthusiastic support of people who will never understand the problem" (Don Colacho). In short, behind a "brilliant" Obama there must be millions of imbeciles to boost him aloft on wings of journalism.
The rank-and-foul leftist is like "a sick man who wants the physician to cure him by treating the effects of dissipation without giving up his way of life."
Think of the many ways Obama does this: forgiving foolish college loans, placating greedy public employee unions, mandating that "children" remain under their parents' health insurance to age 26, accumulating more debt than all previous presidents combined, etc. Most of his policies are predicated on a determined refusal to acknowledge reality. I'll give him that.
Unfortunately, the "sick character will hate most the man who tells him the truth" that can cure his disorder. Why?
Because this truth is a little like chemotherapy, in that it burns. It burns because the tissue of lies has, like metastatic cancer, woven its way into healthy tissue. A quintessential example of this would be Obama's perverse brand of "Christianity," into which Marxist spores have spread and grown. How to kill the Marxism without destroying the host?
Of course, it is possible to be a superficial leftist, in which case the transition to health isn't nearly as perilous -- analogous to a simple skin cancer. But in any event, truth cannot save unless the man accepts it: "The magic of the saving Word is as dependent on man's openness to the order of love as is the magic of the disordering word on his inclination to resist and hate truth."
Note that the two varieties of "magic" are quite different. The healthy kind recognizes, and is founded upon, "existence as neither transfigured nor untransfigured but as engaged in a transfiguring movement from imperfection to perfection" -- i.e, the immortalizing project that runs from ensoulment to death.
Conversely, the sick type of magic -- and it is the collective magic of pathological politics that concerns us here -- promises to "transfigure his worldly existence into a state of perfection." To paraphrase Voegelin, such men do not want to hear that they aren't proper men. Nor do they want to hear that they are mere men. So what are they, besides empty chairs?
The human station acquires its nobility and grandeur in the reflected light of our deiform nature. But at the same time, recognition of the deity that makes this possible renders us acutely aware of a compensatory humility.
Yes, man is without a doubt the most exalted thing in creation; which, if properly understood, should be an occasion for the deepest humility in the face of that reality in comparison to which we are nothing.
The leftist turns this fruitful dialectic between God and man into a vulgar dispute between men. The activist dreamers of the left cast their opponents as the "satanic force that causes the discord and must be exterminated, if the harmonious order projected by the activist is to prevail."
We see this process quite transparently in our Islamist enemies. But what to make of leftists and their eliminationist rhetoric about everything from Fox News, to the Koch brothers, to supporters of marriage, to the successful, to whoever or whatever impedes the glorious March toward Progress?
This long march, in order to reach its fanciful destination, requires the elimination of everything that is permanent in man -- not the least of which being man himself, or human nature. Oh well. Omelets and eggs.
But to paraphrase Orwell: what omelet? And do you really have to steal my great-great grandchildren's eggs to make it?
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Logopathology, Talking Heads, and Political Hatred
Say, why do we have free speech, anyway? Isn't most of it inane if not counterproductive? Perhaps, but first of all, man would go insane without the ability to let off steam by serially discharging his interior world.
The other day we jokingly made a $50 bet with our seven year old that he couldn't go all day without speaking. He took us seriously, and was disappointed when he only lasted about five minutes. To shut him up would be like trying to push back against a volcano.
Where does this interior pressure come from? Why the incessant blah blah, which hasn't stopped since the day he was born? For all of us, even when our mouth isn't moving, our gums are flapping away in our heads, aren't they? Freud tried to reduce it all to "instinctual energy" -- as if speaking would be unnecessary if only we had enough instantaneous food and sex.
No, in order to understand man, we must consider humanness on its own level. Yes, man includes material and biological planes -- obviously -- but he also encompasses and expresses emotional, spiritual, cognitive, aesthetic, moral, mystical, and other planes and modes.
Ever since the scientific revolution there has been an attempt to understand the phenomenon of man by reducing him to something less than he is. It works, except you eliminate man in the process -- like cutting open someone's head to see where the thoughts come from.
trephination, which involved drilling a hole through the skull. This was prehistoric man's first form of psychotherapy, and you can understand why. Presumably mental illness was as common then as it is today -- although I suspect it was actually more common. In any event, for pre-literate human beings with extremely concrete thinking, it would make sense to drill a hole in the head in order to allow the persecutory thoughts to escape.
In fact, this explains the contemporary phenomenon of self-cutting. When such an individual slashes himself, he subjectively feels a relief of interior pressure.
But more generally, modern man has innumerable outlets to relieve the build-up of psychic pressure. As I've mentioned before, human beings are probably no healthier than they were, say, 100 years ago. It's just that they have so many more means available to act out their illness, which also relieves pressure.
A hundred years ago, for example, a Madonna would be just a typical gorgon-variety sexual hysteric instead of a sad quinquagenarian flasher. Neither solution is preferable, although for some reason the latter is considered "liberated."
For good or bad, this is often what politics comes down to. To paraphrase someone, politics involves "the organization of hatreds," and this isn't far from the truth, certainly for the left.
In fact, this is one of our problems with our leftist friends: we try to engage them with ideas, but they just want to hate us. As such, we are a necessary part of their psychic furniture, similar to the function Jews serve in the Arab mind. If not for Jews, all that hatred would be stuck inside Arab heads, for which reason they'd probably have to resort to trephination (or else mutilate more females than they already do).
When you listen to someone articulate your own hatreds, it provides a sense of relief. And sometimes this is helpful, as in Churchill's speeches during WWII, or Reagan's vis-a-vis the Evil Empire. To paraphrase something Kimball wrote in the latest National Review, temper should be deployed, not lost. And "one should be angry at the proper things, in the proper degree, for the proper duration." Sober, in other words, not just indulgent.
We're getting a little far afield here. What I wanted to discuss is the logos, which is the real reason man's interior life "overflows" in the way it does. It does this because we are in the image of the Creator, who has the same "problem," as it were. All a part of being Infinite.
Voeglin writes of "the power of the logos as a cosmic force that can be used by man for good or evil purposes in accordance with order or disorder in the psyche."
One reflection of the logos is of course speech, which can be "a great and powerful master; it operates with magic force on man; the spell of divinely inspired language can swerve the soul when it is weakened, by passion or lack of knowledge, toward opinion in conflict with truth..."
Indeed, "the power of the logos over the soul can be compared to that of a drug over the body; as the drug can heal or kill, harmful persuasion can drug and bewitch the soul."
But enough about Obama. Besides, Clinton has the same effect on the susceptible, through which people long to be magically healed via soothing and self-serving lies and distortions. Which never works, at least in the long term. But MSM journalists never stop trying.
In short, "speech is a powerful thing... that can form or deform the order of man and his actions, while in their turn the movements of the psyche can move language toward truth or nontruth."
And the slave is any person who can neither order himself "nor respond to the order of mature men."
In conclusion, a few words about the true order of the psyche. Properly ordered, it is engaged in "the loving quest of truth in response to the divine drawing from the Beyond; the divine-human movement and countermovement of love is the source of man's knowledge concerning his existence in truth..." Or just say O <--> (¶).
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Wisdom and Magic at the Edge of the Expressible
"We are here at the limit of the expressible; it is the fault of no one if within every enunciation of this kind there remain unanswerable questions.... [I]t is all too evident that wisdom cannot start from the intention of expressing the ineffable; but it intends to furnish points of reference which permit us to open ourselves to the ineffable to the extent possible, and according to what is foreseen by the Will of God."
Thus, universal metaphysics, despite being the closest we can come to an essential description of reality, is obviously not the thing itself; it is still the map and not the territory, the menu and not the meal, even if it is a gourmet one. Indeed, this is in accord with wisdom itself, which knows -- or should know -- the unavoidable distinction between creator and creature. Only an atheist could believe himself to be God.
Despite their limitations, we shouldn't devalue these precious "points of reference," firstly for their own intrinsic value, but secondly because if properly understood, they always implicitly point beyond themselves to that which they cannot explicitly express. This is quintessentially true of the points of reference we call revelation. One might say that revelation is not God, but God is revelation, at least in terms human beings can comprehend (which indeed is its raison d'être).
Now, science too provides us with points of reference. And these are obviously legitimate so long as they are confined to their appropriate bounds and do not transgress what was said above about the dictates of wisdom. For clearly, even in the most perfect scientific theory imaginable there will still remain "unanswerable questions" that lay at the foot of the inexpressible and cannot breach the walls of the ineffable.
Nevertheless, this doesn't mean we cannot know of the ineffable, for it surely communicates its effing reality from its end of things. "Ineffable" hardly means "non-existent." It just means unglishable, translogical, or mythsematical. O by its nature "radiates," and this radiation can be translighted to cutandry speech up to a point.
This is the point where faith begins -- where we leave language below and plunge heartlong into the Mystery. Or, just call it keeping an open soul (o). Doing so will still provoke language, but the language will necessarily be of a more poetical nature and therefore make perfect nonsense in spite of myself. Or so one hopes.
A brief aside: the above considerations shed some additional darkness on the phenomenon of evil. What is consistently striking about evil is its utter incomprehensibility. When we think about, for example, the Holocaust, the Gulag, or the enormities of Mao, our minds go blank, so to speak. This is not just because of Stalin's adage to the effect that a million deaths is just a statistic, but because even a single murder is a tragedy of unsurpassable proportions. It is truly "unspeakable" because incomprehensible. We can never "wrap our minds around it."
But the incomprehensibility of evil is very different from the ineffable, again, because the latter radiates itself into a receptive part of ourselves. The same is not true of evil, which is more like a black hole, or dense wall, or thick miasma of darkness. It is dead, not living.
Today, for example, is the anniversary of the Islamist attack on America. Can anyone really claim to understand what motivates such beasts? Whatever you -- or the terrorists, for that matter -- can come up with is just a pretext, not a reason. As the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of, the heartlessness of Evil has a lack of reason which only the unreasonable "understand."
"The truth of reality," writes Voegelin, "is not an ultimate piece of information given to an outside observer but reality itself becoming luminous in the events of experience and imaginative symbolization." Evil and systematic falsehood represent the opposite of this process of reality-become-luminous to itself.
How do we know we're facing the right way? Which way is up? In other words, how do we know when our quest is oriented to truth and not something less?
Voegelin: "the human intentionality of the quest is surrounded by the divine mystery of the reality in which it occurs. The mystery is the horizon that draws us to advance toward it but withdraws as we advance; it can give direction to the quest of truth but it cannot be reached; and the beyond of the horizon can fascinate as the 'extreme' of truth but it cannot be possessed as truth face to face or within this life." What Moses said.
Evil also draws us, doesn't it? Yes, but the difference is that it can be reached in this life, especially by the dead. Conversely, truth is characterized by its radiance-within-mystery. This living radiance reveals but never exhausts the Mystery -- like an alluring veil that simultaneously hides and reveals. Evil, like pornography, shows everything while revealing nothing.
Voegelin speaks of a necessary "balance of consciousness" that we symbolize (↑↓). These two "are experienced as the moving forces of consciousness." Thus, "the process of reality becoming luminous" is structured by "the tension between them" as well as "the responsibility to keep their movements in such a balance that the image resulting from their interaction will not distort the truth of reality."
Too much (↑) is promethean, and soon degenerates to the "desire to know the mystery of the horizon and its beyond, as if it were an object on this side of the horizon."
Conversely, an excess of (↓) may "thwart the desire to know by assuming objects this side of the horizon to belong to the sphere of the mystery" -- e.g., pantheism, paganism, and deepaking the chopra more generally.
No, "a thinker must remain aware of his consciousness as permanently engaged in balancing the structuring forces" of (↑) and (↓). Anything less is magic, propaganda, and dreaming.
For which reason we would be wise to heed the words of Shakespeare, who wrote of the fortitude necessary To shun the heaven that leads men to hell (quoted in Voegelin).
Monday, September 10, 2012
How the Cosmos Works, Part One
"You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
Which they are. Evil is sadly inevitable if there is to be good. But good is necessary if evil is to exist, since the latter requires something or someone to parasitize and feed off of.
A mature person is resigned to the inevitability of evil, even while resisting it. But evil is "charged up," so to speak, by the existence of the good. How else to explain, for example, the crusading pettifuggers of the ACLU, or the morally twisted Israel haters, or the unseemly enthusiasm for unlimited abortion to the point of undisguised infanticide?
There is a clear line of demarcation -- or medarkation -- that separates the left from reality. It is the metaphysical principle of creation, which entails numberless implications. Indeed, if we were to draw a cosmic flow chart, the first fork in the descending road would be creation versus... versus what exactly?
A vast cosmic accident? No, that can't be, since the contingent presupposes the necessary. Okay, necessary? No, that makes no sense either, because it would render such things as novelty, evolution, progress, and free will impossible.
Hmm... Chaos? Here again, chaos is parasitic on order.
Let's just move on and allow the anticreationists to sort out their own metaphysic. We will add, however, that the first move into this leftward antispace permits of countless "solutions," some perhaps vaguely plausible but all ultimately false, with no way to adjudicate their veracity anyway. Yes, you could call it metaphysical masturbation.
It so happens that this weekend I was doing some heavy lifting -- specifically, lifting from Schuon, as usual. Nothing new, any more than a shower is new, but you still need one every day, just as you need your daily verticalisthenics to fight the spiritual flab and keep from going soft. Entropy, like it's cussing cousin, evil, is an inevitable consequence of existence, which is why decency requires us to swim against the worldly tide.
I'll begin with my own bobbalism, but one shared by kabbalists: that for the creationist, the world is necessarily a kind of "negation." Why negation? Because the affirmation of the world requires a "divine withdrawal" ("tzimtzum" in Hebrew, "bupkis" in Yiddish), or partial negation of God. God, of course, cannot literally negate himself, for anything that is is of God, the converse being impossible and inconceivable.
You know the wise crack: "be in the world, not of the world"? It's similar with God vis-a-vis the creation. The world is God, but God is not the world.
Here is a heavy passage lifted from the wikipedia article: "Prior to Creation, there was only the infinite or Ein Sof filling all existence. When it arose in G-d's Will to create worlds and emanate the emanated... He contracted Himself in the point at the center, in the very center of His light," which left "a void, a hollow empty space, away from the central point..."
But wait! From there he projected a lightline that extends from Creator to creature. You might say that the vertical world to which man properly belongs is in and of this river of light. Also, this light "loops around," so to speak, in man, and returns to its divine source (analogous to the curved space of the cosmos, where every journey is a return to the beginning).
Note that God begins with both an affirmation ("I am the Lord your God") and a denial ("no other gods before Me"). The first corresponds to the creative principle, the second to the manifestation of said principle. In other words, if we elevate the world to its own self-sufficient principle, we not only violate the first commandment, but have entered one of the leftward anti-worlds.
However, we do not fall into a mirror image of their error, and deny the reality of the world. No, the world is indeed real, because its source is the ultimate Real. It is even a kind of mirror of the Real, analogous to a magnifying glass with man at the center, where the light is gathered into a punpoint of pintensity.
Man is not "other than God," but the person who knows this is also aware of the vast (vertical) distance between Creator and created, principle and manifestation. Hence humility amidst the most grandiose good news one could imagine.
Analogously, we are all "inside the sun," there being no objective line one could ever draw between the sun and its rays. Or, we "see the sun," but only because the sun sees us first. Thus, to be good is to both see and be seen by the light of God.
On one level we are all composed of transmuted sunlight via photosynthesis. Likewise, the spiritual life comes down to an exercise in pneumasynthesis for those whose wood beleaf.
The sun itself stands for the Absolute -- there it is, up above -- while its rays signify the infinite -- here they are, shining everywhere and on everyone. The two terms also correspond to transcendence and immanence, also to unity and multiplicity, or One and many.
"To say radiation," writes Schuon, "is to say increasing distance, and thus progressive weakening or darkening," this explaining the "phenomenon of what we call evil." If you have a better idea, I'd like to hear it, but this one strikes me as not only plausible but necessary in its own way. We don't say that evil is literally necessary, any more than we would say sunburn is. Nevertheless, it's bound to happen, isn't it?
True enough, everything ultimately comes from God, so if you want to be perverse about it, you could say that God causes evil. But this is like saying language is evil just because the New York Times exists.
Light above and light below; thus the possibility of revelation and science, the latter having to do with revelation in the key of matter. In fact, for man there exist three principle sources or modes of revelation: Revelation as such; the world; and the intellect that knows both (I'm paraphrasing a half-remembered fragment of Schuon).
Note that Man -- actually Woman -- or better yet, their Infant -- is the last act of creation: "What in principle is of the highest order must be manifested... last of all" (Schuon). And since man is in the image of God -- and thus a co-creator -- what is highest in man is also manifested last, hence the reality of "development," or spiritual maturity. (Not for nothing is the brit milah celebrated on the eighth day of life, signifying the initiation of an olden pneumagain creative cycle.)
In fact, more generally, I think this accounts for the reality of evolution in the literal sense of the word, not the watered-down version offered by Darwinian fundamentalists who can't even account for themselves, let alone everything else.