Friday, November 16, 2012

Man: Putting the Quest in Question

I know, I know, enough with the throat-clearing. Let's get on with it!

The problem I'm having is that I don't yet feel qualified to discuss Rahner, since I keep thinking that I'm going to get his overall point, which will then organize the hundreds of pages I've slogged through already.

But it's not happening. In Bion's terms, there is no PS <--> D.

What is PS <--> D? That refers to a critical psychopneumatic process whereby a mass of seemingly unrelated material suddenly discloses its inner coherence, and the outward "many-ness" resolves into an internally related One. Or, it could just mean you're paranoid.

It's complicated enough when you're just dealing with space, more complex when you toss time into the mix, and even more so when you're talking about what amounts to hyper-dimensional chess.

Or again, think of what we were saying about a person who spontaneously produces all those musical notes while simultaneously searching, so to speak, for their interior unity.

For those of you who are new to the incoondescent luminareum, blah blah blah, this is what I was attempting to do in the book of the same flame.

In short, we moderns are aware of the fact that everything is situated in history -- that history didn't just begin when we started writing stuff down, or when man split off from the Homo Yelverton branch of protohumans and began thinking for himsoph.

Rather, we now know -- or at least think we know -- that history has been going on for 13.7 billion years -- next month, if my calendar is correct. This means that it isn't just possible, but really necessary, to tell OneStory that encompasses the whole existentialada. To do less than this is to approach the task in a completely arbitrary manner.

For example, think of contemporary Darwinism. It is certainly a historical science. And yet, it arbitrarily starts its history with a bright line between organic life and its cosmic matrix.

As I wrote in the book -- and I wasn't kidding -- who's to say that biological life isn't just what we see in a sufficiently mature cosmos? I mean, there are very good reasons why it couldn't get going more than 3.85 billion years ago, because the cosmos simply hadn't reached puberty. Once it did, the planet became a hotbed of biological activity.

As it so happens, this is precisely the approach Rahner takes. You can say that Christianity starts with the Resurrection, or the Incarnation, or in Genesis, but each of these presupposes an awful lot of stuff that we need to take into consideration, at least if we want to go beyond a mythopoetic understanding.

Again, the latter is fine, except it won't necessarily speak bo diddley to a modern mind rendered barren by scientism, college, and TV.

Anyway, Rahner is trying to do this, but I'm not sure he's succeeding. Again, it seems to me that he's putting it all out before having completely digested and assimilated the material, so that too much work is required on the reader's part.

Nevertheless, we'll try, dammit. At least we'll try.

He writes in the preface that the purpose of the book will be to "try as far as possible to situate Christianity within the intellectual horizon of people today." As such, he doesn't "begin with a faith in which everything is completely settled and simply repeat what is in every catechism." That's an entirely different task which has already been done thousands of times, so there's no need to do it yet again.

This task is a more difficult one, and "is going to require some rather strenuous thinking and some hard intellectual work." He even warns off the looky-losers and spiritual thrillseekers: "Anyone who is just looking for religious inspiration and shies away from the demands of patient, laborious, and at times tedious reflection should not enter into this investigation."

Think of all the disciplines and subdisciplines one must deal with in order to do justice to such an endeavor: "philosophy of knowledge and the philosophy of language," "sociology, history, phenomenology and philosophy of religion," not to mention biology, cosmology, anthropology, neurology, psychology, and more. And let's not even talk about the fragmentation within theology, nor the extrinsic fragmentation produced by awareness of other faiths.

Who but a metaphysical b'atman would be brash enough to even try! Readers who are not up to the task can "only be referred to the church's catechism and told that they should simply believe what is taught there and in this way save their souls" (which he is by no means trivializing).

In short, Rahner wants to provide "an intellectually honest justification of Christian faith," one that is again geared toward modern sensibilities (or prejudices, if you want to be less charitable).

First of all, the task might not be as daunting as it appears to be at first blush, because although many people in the modern world have convinced themselves that they are wholly rational and bow to the scientific worldview, absolutely nobody actually lives, or could live, in that cold and dark world. Every sane and decent person recognizes the limits of science, even if he pretends otherwise.

Rather, we always inhabit a human world, and religion is addressed to just this world. In other words, it is not addressed to animals, because they wouldn't understand it. It is not about the world of physics, nor is it about some other hypothetical cosmos. Rahner addresses the book to the person who is Christian or who wants to be, and who wants to situate his Christianity within "the totality of his own existence."

First of all, we must begin where we are, which is to say, in the human form. But what is a human?

Ah, good question! If you are intellectually honest, the first thing you will acknowledge is that man is a mystery to himself, period. Yes, we can learn more and more about ourselves, but this is a vessel that can never be filled.

Therefore, Rahner posits man as "the universal question he is for himself." You might even say that man is the original (?!), or the sacred WTF!

I mean, right? Isn't it obvious when you think about it? And isn't it immediately apparent that such godforsaken disciplines as evolutionary psychology and behaviorism are just so much whistling past the graveyard, just fairy tales the tenured tell themselves so they can sleep at night?

To jump ahead more than a bit, Rahner later suggests that Christianity is first and foremost the mysterious Answer to the mysterious Question that man is.

And in fact, we can jump even further ahead, and suggest that the figure of Jesus will represent both the Question and its Answer in the same being. But we will first have to do a lot of preluminary gruntwork to get there.

To be continued. Another entirely different kind of gruntwork beckons.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Secret Plan of the Tenured to Torture Readers Revealed!

I don't mean to complain so much, but one of the difficulties with this book -- Foundations of the Christian Faith -- is that it's so disorganized and repetitive. Could have definitely used another run through the Rahner brain before letting it fly out the piehole, in order to render it a bit more linear and coherent.

Yeah, yeah, I know it's a challenging -- the most challenging -- subject, but still, the only excuse for being so non-linear is a particularly beautiful literary style, which is lacking here.

I mean, I enjoy free jazz as much -- or more, if you want to believe my neighbor -- as the next guy, but playing it properly requires intense discipline, the reason being that one must find the compositional center, or "container," so to speak, even while one is spontaneously producing the content.

This requires, on the one hand, a kind of surrender, but on the other, the ascent to, or descent of, a higher order. It frankly requires a kind of mating between ♀ (container) and ♂ (contained), but let's keep this clean, okay?

What this means is that whatever comes out must be placed in a higher and deeper context, just as in a normal melody, only at a much higher level of abstraction. The alternative is just blowing notes with no internal coherence, which is hardly the same thing (similar to the difference between liberty and freedom, as discussed a couple of posts back).

It reminds me of something a particularly brilliant friend of ours wrote to Mrs. G, which I'd apparently filed away for just this moment. She writes of "a huge gulf between being able to play the piano in a technically brilliant, dazzling way, and the people through whom the music literally lives and breathes. For the latter very small group of pianists, making music is a very spiritual experience, and playing the piano is like opening up a window into their soul."

More: "It's difficult to describe, but when you play piano you can enter a kind of transcendental state where you feel at once both entirely disconnected from, and at the same time almost controlled by, the music you are making.... The physical actions of playing don't require any thought at all. You don't think about technique or how to play, and your mind is entirely free to go anywhere; meanwhile your hands are playing the music and it keeps just appearing as if by magic. In fact, if you try to think about where it's coming from or how you are doing it, then it's impossible and the magic stops. Often I've sat at the piano and started to play, and it's been 3 or 4 hours later before I know what's happened.... Each piece leads seamlessly to another and it's like my mind went on a vacation to another place."

As I said, brilliant. But what about the restavus slobs? I think I know the feeling, because writing can definitely engender a similar experience, especially this type of writing, which is completely, er, spontaneous. But if it were only spontaneous -- i.e., self-indulgent -- then why would anyone want to read it?

Oh, right. That explains a lot.

The key, it seems to me -- and it is clearly not something within our conscious control -- is to "be controlled by the music you are making." Sounds paradoxical, and it is. Orthoparadoxical, to be precise, meaning that it is, among other things, an irreducible mystery.

Therefore -- well, as usual, Don Colacho has a piquant aphorism made to order: The writer who has not tortured his sentences tortures the reader.

Ah, Don Colacho. Now there is a man who knew his lumitations. Of his own gnomic style, he writes that The reader will not find aphorisms in these pages. My brief sentences are the dots of color in a pointillist painting.

That is an apt description, for each aphorism is a free-standing gem of its own, and yet, throw them into a big pile and a whole sensibility emerges. In fact, I would say that the soul of this person, Don Colacho, appears before us.

In this context, each aphorism is a fractal, or microcosm, of the macroman, like spiritual DNA. Indeed, "The only pretension I have is that of having not written a linear book but a concentric book" (DC). And his center is everywhere in those pointillist dots that constitute the circle.

Hmm. I wonder what other advice he has for the aspiring blogger?

"To write honestly for the rest, one must write fundamentally for oneself."

Yes! Now maybe my in-laws will finally believe me that it's not just morbid introspection.

"The first step of wisdom is to admit, with good humor, that there is no reason why our ideas should interest anybody."

I am unworthier than thou!

But also, if you're going to toss yet another book onto the existing pile of millions, you'd better have a damn good excuse.

"Only he who suggests more than what he expresses can be reread."

See, I told you I wasn't just being vague and evasive.

"A phrase should ruffle its wings like like a falcon in captivity."

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

"Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas."

Ouch! I'll let you field that one, Professor Rahner.

"A writer should know that only a few of those who look at him will actually see him."

Hello? Is this thing on?

"Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader's soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond."

Ah. That would explain William Yelverton.

"Clarity is the virtue of a man who does not distrust what he says."

Call me credulous, but at least I got that going for me.

"The fewer adjectives we waste, the more difficult it is to lie."

So true. In the back of my head I always hear the stern voice of Professor StrunkWhite: Omit needless words! That and Do not affect a breezy manner!

No, I am not affecting one. Rather, it's genuine.

"Mere talent is to literature what good intentions are to conduct."

In your face, Shakespeare!

"Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick."

Well, if that's the way you feel about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Bigger the Mansion, the Deeper the Foundation

I remember reading that Schuon, although German was his mother tongue, preferred to write in French, because he found it much more conducive to expressing highly subtle metaphysical ideas with clarity and precision. He felt that German simply wasn't up to the task. Which might well explain the problem with KantHegelHeideggar et al.

On the other hand, they say that Schopenhauer was a fine stylist who expressed himself clearly despite being burdened by the German tongue. He absolutely detested the bloviating Hegel, and wasn't afraid to say so. Here are some of his greatest hits:

"[If] I were to say that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage, I should be quite right."

That is a rather overlong sentence, though.

Moreover, "If I were to say that this pseudo-philosophy has as its central idea an absurd notion grasped from thin air, that it dispenses with reasons and consequents, in other words, is demonstrated by nothing, and itself does not prove or explain anything, that it lacks originality and is a mere parody of scholastic realism and at the same time of Spinozism, and that the monster is also supposed to represent Christianity turned inside out, hence, ‘The face of a lion, the belly of a goat, the hindquarters of a dragon,’ again I should be right."

Hey, that's what I said about the Democratic platform!

"Further, if I were to say that this [Great Philosopher] scribbled nonsense quite unlike any mortal before him, so that whoever could read his most eulogized work... without feeling as if he were in a madhouse, would qualify as an inmate for Bedlam, I should be no less right.”

Calling Professor Krugman!

Finally: Hegel is "a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to achieve the intellectual corruption of a whole generation.”

Now there is a singular feat. In order to accomplish the same corruption in America, it required the entire leftist educational establishment.

Anyway, toward the end of his life Schuon reverted to German, but this was when he essentially wrote nothing but poetry. For the purposes of the latter, German was the more effective vehicle, presumably because it burrowed all the way down to his most primary experiences -- the types of primordial thingys beyond, beneath, behind, and above speech.

So I guess we're stuck with Rahner and his German, and we'll just have to deal with it. You can pretty much open a page at random and be faced with a wall of impenetrable semantic something. What makes it especially funny is that --

Put it this way. You know how I'm always *helpfully* saying in other words? A reader once commented on this, and thanked me for it (I think he even said that the blog ought to be called In Other Words, which is not a bad idea).

Anyway, this quaint expression is supposed to be a tipoff that what follows is going to be the same idea presented in a more digestible form. No, not "dumbed down," but if anything, "dumbed up." I often do it for my own benefit, because if you can vividly and spontaneously describe the same thing from various angles -- as if it's standing right there before your mind's eye -- you can be pretty sure it's really there.

But when Rahner says "in other words" -- or the German equivalent thereof -- it's just more words, and there's a fifty-fifty chance that they are even less clear.

This whole thing about clarity of expression. Is it overrated? One would think so, given the appalling quality of writing one finds in academia.

But I am of the belief that if one really and truly understands something, one should be able to express it in a clear and convincing manner, in such a way that a person of average intelligence should be capable of understanding it (assuming, of course, genuine curiosity, good will, and intellectual honesty on the reader's part; and a pinch of grace, of course).

I know what you're thinking: "you should talk, Bob, what with all the mystagogic homophonia, sub-Joycean pundamentalism, and general portmanteau much of a good thing." I see your point and I'll even raise you a nickel, but that's getting into the whole Raccoon doctrine of Perfect Nonsense, and we don't have time for such nonsense at the moment.

On to Rahner. As alluded to in yesterday's post, he doesn't start his analysis of the foundations of Christianity with Christianity. For many faithful this no doubt sounds suspicious, but I think he's absolutely correct to do so. For starters, how does one -- especially in the no longer homogeneous modern world -- talk about Christianity in a way that isn't just solipsistic?

In other words, it isn't really intellectually honest -- if that's the right word -- to ground Christianity in Christianity, because it begs the question. Obviously there are millions of Christians who do this, and that's fine. It's perfectly valid for purposes of salvation (is that all?), but not really optimal for communication. For example, if someone asks how you know Christianity is "true," it's not going to impress your interlocutor to respond, "because it says so."

Think of the fundamentalist who says that every word of the Bible is literally true. How does he know this? Not only does the Bible nowhere say this, but it is entirely accurate to say that the Bible knows nothing of this thing called a "Bible." What, do you think that when Paul was dashing off his letters he knew that someone would later come along and put them in a book that includes not just the Torah and prophets but also the Gospels which were composed after he died?

As far as I can discern, one of Rahner's central concerns is this issue of helping Christian theology make sense to a mentality that is entirely different from the mentality which prevailed when it was developed.

Sure, you can keep expressing it with the same old cognitive tools, but in the long run it's probably not going to work. Or there will be an intolerable split between religious cognition and other forms of cognition, both within the individual and in the wider collective.

It no doubt helps explain why we have this dreadful being in the White House, because his most vocal supporters obviously know nothing of God (and are proud of it). But it's not entirely their fault, since they are the passive victims of an infrahuman culture that made them what they are (and more importantly, aren't). Their primary sin is this spiritual and intellectual passivity, but we can see that passivity soon enough transforms to a disordered activity in order to fill the void. That is how you create a liberal. (Note the more subtle point -- that we are all created; the leftist is a creature of his horizontal matrix no less than we are of the vertico-horizontal nouscape.)

So Foundations of Christian Faith starts with five chapters before it gets into anything specifically Christian. It is not until chapter VI that he gets to "what is most specifically Christian in Christianity, Jesus Christ." But there are excellent reasons for this, and I've never seen anyone approach the issues in such a, well, fundamental way.

That is to say, before we can have this phenomenon called Jesus Christ, we must assume -- or establish, rather -- a certain ontology, cosmology, anthropology; we must understand the nature of language, of space, time, and history, of why man is in need of this thing called "salvation," how such a thing could even be possible, and how man could recognize it if it were.

We must ask what it could mean for God to "become" something other than what he is, or indeed how the changeless can "become" at all. We must understand how the infinite may clothe itself in finitude, and how it is possible for man to understand communications from God (whatever that is), and what kind of understandable category the "godman" falls into.

This post was deusrupted by having to take the boy to school. To be continued....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Beginner's Guide to the End of All Existence, or Unfathomable Depth for Dummies

Because of last week's annoying vexcitement, I've lost the plot again and wouldn't know where to find it if I tried. Male-female relations, wasn't it? In the context of the group/individual complementarity or something?

Oh well. Time to dive straight into the cold and bracing waters of O and see what we can pull out. For we are not nuts, we are fishermen! And we are the fish we catch.

For those who glance now and then at the sidebar in order to see what Bob is up & into, I've been trying to slog my way through this Karl Rahner person, whoever that is. (I removed the book from the sidebar as soon as I concluded that it is not for everyone.)

I'd bumped into him frequently in my transdimensional peregrinations, and found that he was often described as the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th century, or at least among the toppermost of the poppermost, along with such fertile eggheads as Balthasar, de Lubac, Maritain, and Congar.

Now, the first thing you need to keep in mind before we begin this strenuous verticalisthenic -- and I know you will -- is that I am neither a Catholic nor a theologian, just a guy with a blog. And as Jean Paul Sartre might have said, hell is other people's blogs.

Frankly, I'm not even a lay theologian, but I will cop to being a ¶lay theodoxian, which is to say, a guy who just fOʘled around and fell in Love, and has a lot of unsolicited opinions about it.

Note that I just used the word "strenuous" up there. It definitely applies, because this is without a doubt some of the most strenuous reading ever engaged in by the Gagdad melon, which is disinclined to what the conspiracy likes to call "work" but we just call slavery.


Oh yes. We are referring specifically to what is said to be Rahner's magnum opiate which is definitely not for the masses, despite its innocent-sounding title: Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity.

"Introduction?" "Foundations?" Ho! C'mon, Karl. You really need to get out of the fane more often. I mean, we just had this ratification of stupidity we call an "election," and to imagine that this grazing multitude of knuckleheaded conformists could grasp the first sentence of your Introduction is to overestimate the average man's yelvertonian intellect by an order of magnitude.

Maybe he was being ironic? If so, he needs to telegraph it a little more. Otherwise you end up like Andy Kaufman or Joaquin Phoenix, who push the joke so far it can start to grate. Gotta be a little more like Spinal Tap, Larry Sanders, or Iowahawk, so the audience can be in on the joke. Why not call yourself something like "Gagdad Rahner" or Coolhand Karl to create the right mood?

Nineteen reviews on amazon, with an average of 4.5 stars, so there are obviously some people ready for such an advanced introduction. Haven't read them yet. Let's see if any resonate...

Yes, this is good: "I bought this book used and it came in great shape. I am currently trying to muddle my way through it."

My experience has been quite similar, except that my used copy has a cracked spine. Should have been rated "acceptable" instead of "good," but I decided to let it go. Life is short and eternity long, and all that.

Ah! Another reader with whom I see eye-to-eye: "I am new to studying Karl Rahner, but this book is difficult to read, confusing, and if the reader is not very careful, can easily misconstrue the author's intent."

This is helpful: the reviewer speaks of Rahner's "rambling German sentence structure, but once you understand that this text, like all of his published works, was written from dictation, you will begin to understand just what is missing from the printed word."

Nevertheless, it is difficult to "capture the characteristic vocal inflections that made the rambling sentences concise and clear. The reader must supply the drama of the words, understanding that not a word that was uttered has been left out of print."

"Thus, Rahner is not to be read so much as to be experienced [what we call (n) vs. mere (k)], and this will take some work. But in this way, the reader will suddenly discover what Rahner, in his persuasive and vastly diverse way, is attempting to say. This book is well worth hearing, for those who have ears."

The problem is, Rahner is attempting to condense "50 published works into one 400 page book" (as one reviewer puts it). What if someone were to ask me to boil down the previous 2069 posts into a 400 page book? Nocando. That's for someone else to attempt. Any takers? I didn't think so.

This review comes close to what I'm getting from Rahner: "A mystical theology for the future" and a "marriage between intellectual thought, deep spirituality, and a home in tradition."

Now, why is he controversial (which he apparently is)? I think I know why, and we'll get into that as we proceed. One reviewer mentions "the perennial conflict within Catholicism between a theology inspired by Thomas (based on Aristotle) and Augustine (based on Plato). The representative of this latter theology is the Swiss theologian Von Balthasar, who wrote his magisterial 'The Glory of the Lord' in response to what he saw as Rahner's 'dilution of the concept of Revelation,' amongst other things."

I can't vouch for that, and have no idea whether it's true.

The reviewer continues: Pope Benedict "is a firm supporter of Von Balthasar's theology, which makes Rahner somewhat unpopular in Vatican theological circles today. Rahner, in contrast to the entire Catholic approach to theology of the past 2000 years, does not start his understanding of Christianity by elaborating upon the tenets of revealed faith, but starts from 'below,' i.e., from mankind as a species which is open to the supernatural in its very essence..."

Now we're brushing up against Coonland, because I definitely have a similar approach -- that is, I start from the facts of existence, not necessarily from revelation.

But the most important fact of existence is without a doubt the human subject, and I am in complete agreement with Rahner that the human subject is inconceivable in the absence of "God" -- which I place in scare quotes because, as emphasized by Rahner again and again, the word is simply too saturated -- including by later revelation -- to serve as an adequate placeholder for what we are attempting to convey -- what Rahner simply calls the Holy Mystery, or what we call O.

As we have demonstrated in so many ways in so many posts, it isn't difficult to prove the existence of God to the intellectually adequate. But as to what God is actually like -- this can only be furnished by revelation, faith, and grace. More on which later, but it's an important distinction, which comes down to the difference between "I" and "AM."

The reviewer notes that "A further difficulty for the traditionalists is that Rahner tries to make evolution an integral part of his understanding of faith." The reviewer properly notes that "placing any scientific theory as an integral part of theology exposes it to the risk of collapse should the theory prove to be false or is replaced by another theory," but I don't see Rahner doing this.

Rather, he seems to make it clear that experience trumps theory. He's just trying to situate the transcendent experience of the presence of the Holy Mystery within the context of an adequate metaphysic that accounts for everything, including the truths of science. Here again, much more on this as we proceed. Which I guess we'll do tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Died for What?!

This is a continuation of Friday's post. But it's Veteran's Day, isn't it? So let's consider what follows in light of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the sacred principles espoused therein, because I seriously doubt that many of them did so for food stamps, high taxes, low standards, illegal immigration, corrupt and greedy public employee unions, free birth control, homosexual "marriage," and millions of pathetic women betrothed to the state.

Or, if they did make such a sacrifice, it wasn't a necessary one, because it's much easier to achieve the goals of the left by simply hijacking the educational system, the media, and the Supreme Court. Then, after having produced a couple generations of educated idiots and tenured apes, you will have won the culture war -- the war on culture -- without firing a single shot. No body is killed by a hostile enemy, and only the soul dies by its own hand.


In an election, we are not just choosing a candidate, but affirming what we believe to be The Case -- not just the facts, but the metaphysical paradigm for interpreting them. When truth and intent coincide, then progress can occur. But if there is a rupture between them, then democracy easily becomes the method of its own demise, as in my state, which just voted to raise taxes again in order to funnel more of our hard-won public treasure to our millions of fat and lazy parasites.

Almost all liberals presumably have good intentions. The question is whether their intentions are in accord with reality. For if we could only discern what is true, then voting would be seen not so much as a choice but a ratification of the obvious. In the end, you cannot really vote to reject reality. Or you can, but you’ll lose every time. As I said, let us just hope that the catastrophe comes sooner than later, and that it is swift and sudden rather and long and drawn out, and thus "deniable."


Although we are individuals, we are immersed in a collective mentality out of which our individuality must be won. As along as we live, the group is always trying to pull us back down and out of ourselves -- which makes sense, because excessive individualism would be a problem for human beings, who simply cannot exist as isolated monads (except in fantasy).

On the horizontal level, our “groupishness” is anterior to our individual self, while the reverse is true vertically.

In other words, while the group is existentially prior, the self is ontologically prior. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that we have a political system that reflects the primordial complementarity between social-ism and individual-ism. This in itself is inevitable and not necessarily a reflection of spiritual illness, any more than sexual polarity is a problem just because hateful feminists turn it into one.

For there is, so to speak, a “left hand” faction of horizontality, groupishness, and rebellious pseudo-indvidualism; and a “right hand” faction of verticality, inwardness, and individual development.

Many consequences flow from this initial bifurcation of mankind. Right hand man, because he sees his earthly vocation in the journey toward vertical transcendence, masters himself and loves doing so. Because of this (super)natural vector, he doesn't require a heavy-handed government to compel him to do the right thing.

In such an individual, the conquest of even a trivial impulse is a victory for God if it brings him closer to his true Self, a Self that can only be discovered and developed in an environment of liberty. For vertical man, society is useful to the extent that it helps the person realize his reason for being. A society is more or less sick to the extent that it doesn't embody, preserve, and foster verticality.

Vertical Man believes that our primary obligation is to defend man from himself -- that our greatest enemies and obstacles are from within -- whereas Horizontal Man believes that his primary obligation is to generate social conditions that allow a man to indulge his desires while remaining beneath himself.

As such, Horizontal Man has no interest in mastering himself, for doing so is identified with judgmentalism, repression, and delayed gratification. He naturally celebrates what is most common and coarse, for there is nothing higher to aim at. Rather, the only “higher” is more freedom, which is a debased liberty understood only in its horizontal aspect.

In other words, while liberty is freedom oriented toward a spiritual telos, horizontal freedom is mere license to express one’s whims and impulses without spiritual consequences. The former is objective and radiates; the latter is subjective and encloses. Vertical liberty leads to Truth, Beauty and Goodness; horizontal freedom leads to “my truth,” to moral relativism, and to ugliness and barbarism masquerading as art. Or in short, nowhere and nothing.

If truth is relative and perception is reality, then no one’s ideas about the world are any better than anyone else’s. Fact is reduced to opinion and conformity to opinion is ultimately maintained by the group or institution that has the power to enforce its version of reality.

But this quickly redounds to the opposite effect intended by its liberal proponents. That is, if we cannot judge the merit of competing ideas by assessing their value in light of an absolute standard, then either everyone will have their own private truth, or truth will be enforced by the state or some other powerful collectivity.

On college campuses, for example, no one is unsophisticated enough to believe that absolute truth exists; however, you'd better not utter the wrong truth, or you will come face to fist with the raw power that enforces absolute horizontal relativism.

Horizontal man is condemned to live beneath himself because that is all he can do. This pretty much tells you everything you need to know about "popular culture."

In this desiccated environment, quantity must somehow make up for qualities that can only be found in the vertical, which is why horizontal man can never get enough of what he doesn't really need, and why no economy could ever be “good enough” for him. Reality simply cannot compete with horizontal man's undisciplined imagination.

By definition, horizontal man can only measure progress empirically, but even then, empiricism must ultimately be ignored because it doesn't speak to the unrecognized non-empirical needs of the soul. Thus, the impoverished soul, with no other outlet to express itself, will do so in the language of quantities -- the many variations of the infant’s “More! More! More! Again!”

The horizontal/vertical divide can also be seen as a reflection of the division between id and superego, or impulses and standards. Based upon a profound misunderstanding of Freud (if a misunderstanding can be called profound), a horizontal psychology emerged in the 1960s to go along with the horizontal ideology of the left, in order to legitimize what in any traditional context would be regarded as the essence of soul pathology.

Major leftist intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse and N.O. Brown developed a beastardized version of Freudianism to argue that people only imagined they were happy, but that they were actually living "inauthentic," repressed lives. In order to be "real," they had to express themselves in an uninhibited and unrepressed manner.

Thus followed the idealization of the primitive in all its ghastly forms. For horizontal man doesn't actually remain horizontal. Rather, he simply removes the impediments to his own fall -- which can admittedly feel exhilarating until one eventually reaches a realm that is without light, warmth, and cash. And when that happens, you just blame angry white men or something.

Regarding our horizontal groupishness, multiculturalism devalues the concept of the individual in favor of the ethnic group, while socialism in all its voracities favors the large and powerful state that "unites" us all. But no such bullying can actually unite us. Rather, it can only push us together like so many anonymous bags of wet cement -- which should describe that uncomfortable feeling you've been having since last Tuesday. No normal person wants to be treated like that.

Deconstruction throws all objective meaning into question, so no one has to have the disappointing experience of being wrong or denied tenure, no matter how sick or stupid one's ideas. The burden of personal responsibility is mitigated, because one's being is determined by accidental factors such as race, class and gender, rather than one's owns values, decisions, and actions.

Skillful knowledge acquired by intense effort is replaced by an obnoxious, hypertrophied, and omniscient adolescent skepticism that knows only how to question but not to learn. It is grounded in a sort of bovine materialism that is not the realm of answers, but the graveyard of meaningful questions. The primitive is idealized, because it is within everyone's reach; it is painful to have standards, because not everyone can attain them. Horizontal man just lowers the target, which amounts to punishing those who aim higher -- for example, via racial quotas and campus "diversity."


The purpose of religion is to become human. Biology will only take us so far, which isn't very far at all. A merely biological human being would also be a monster, a misfit, something grotesque.

In our bOnes we know this. In Genesis, the first thing Adam and Eve realize upon attaining self-consciousness is their nakedness, of which they are ashamed. They know instantaneously -- another one of those things we cannot not know unless we are highly educated -- that they are not like the other animals and that there is something shameful in behaving like one.

In so many ways the contemporary left presents a teaching that is completely at odds with our divine clueprint. How does this happen?

Leftism, in all its forms, is a revolt. Specifically, it is a revolt against our divine-human nature. With the 1960’s came the pervasive message that one could be an authentic human only by being subhuman, by rejecting all of society’s hypocritical mores and values. Therefore -- in a complete inversion of the cosmic order -- the purpose of life was to become “unrepressed” and to overturn tradition, which was simply an illegitimate means of control and domination.

This is why the left cannot help aligning itself with movements -- no matter how vile or evil -- that further this goal of overturning Western Values, which is to say universal virtues.


The establishment doesn't require the rebel but the rebel requires the establishment, in the same way that the adolescent requires his parents to act out his rebellion. Therefore, leftism isn't just reactionary, but it is a dance of projective identification in which the leftist projects the most human parts of himself outside and then rebels against them. This is what allows him to live without guilt, for the guilt is converted into the imaginary “right wing fascism” (or whatever) that persecutes him.

Ultimately, radical secularism fails as a religion because it has no God, only demons: George Bush, Christian fundamentalists, Israel, tax cuts for the rich, waterboarding, Halliburton, Fox News, Abu Ghraib, corporate profits, disparities in wealth, strict constructionists, parental notification, talk radio, and so many more.

On the other hand, the sort of classical liberalism to which we ascribe -- now embodied in the modern American conservative movement -- recognizes that politics must aim at something that is not politics -- something higher, not lower. The alienation of the world can be healed -- or at least treated -- but not in the flat and horizontal line of secular history, nor in the endlessly recurring cycle of primitive fusion with nature. Rather, it can only occur in the ascending, evolutionary spiral.

The secular world is a value-free flatland of nihilism and urgent nonsense, whereas the vertical world accessed by authentic spirituality is a world of hierarchical values to which we are perpetually drawn.

It is here that the luminous horizon of salvolution lies, for so long as there are free individuals endowed by their Creator with an orientation toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, there will always be upward frontiers, not just horizontal edges. And there will always be something worth dying for. But only if we live up to the ideals worthy of such sacrifice.