Power & Farce
Letter XI, The Force, is a timely symbol for the events of the day, as the farces of the left ascend on the political wheel of fortune.
However, we can draw consolation from the fact that -- being that leftism is a closed intellectual and spiritual system -- it is already on the way down as we speak, outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
In short, its end is in its beginning, as the poet said. The higher it ascends in its intoxicated (over)reach for power, the further it will fall. The concrete fact of Obama shall soon enough kill the vacuous idea of Obama. Nature hates a vacuum, while the left requires one, into which they can project their dreams and fantasies. But you need a bigger void than Obama to contain an alternate universe.
The following passage by Tomberg is perfectly apt today: "Plato has never had success as a revolutionary and never will do so. But Plato himself will always live throughout the centuries of human history... and will be in each century the companion of the young and old who love pure thought, seeking only the light which it comprises." In other words, you can never have a mass revolution of individuals oriented to truth, since it requires converting one assoul at a time.
But the left is by definition a mass movement aimed at mass men, which automatically condemns it to mediocrity and banality. It is led by a herd of self-styled elites who cluelesslely imagine themselves superior, but nothing could be more mundane -- and self-contradictory -- than the idea of "mass excellence."
In contrast to Plato, Karl Marx has enjoyed over a century "of astonishing success and has revolutionized the world. He has swept away millions -- those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to the prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners."
Really, can you name another philosopher who has enjoyed such a literally smashing and grabbing success in such a short span of time?
The point is, "Plato illumines, whilst Marx sweeps away." Obviously, it is impossible to imagine a person with the slightest spiritual maturity getting caught up in the Obama hysteria, but equally impossible to imagine such a person being caught up in any kind of political hysteria. It is one of the reasons we can never match the diabolical energy of the left. Since the leftist is condemned to the horizontal world, he channels his spiritual energy into politics. As we wrote a couple of years ago [November 2006],
"Regardless of what happens Tuesday, it shouldn’t greatly affect the spiritual equilibrium of the Superior Man, whose invisible combat will continue as usual. Indeed, this is what distinguishes us from the agitated multitude of horizontal men who locate their salvation in politics. Whatever the outcome, our lives will continue to center around our own perfection and salvation, not for narcissistic reasons, but for the simple reason that it is not possible to save others unless we have first saved ourselves. Needless to say, horizontal Republicans will not save us from horizontal Democrats.
"The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can lie in its usefulness to the individual -- again, not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose -- i.e., to be useful to the Creator."
"Horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine authority. Taken to its logical extreme, this manifests as the demagogue, the cult of personality, or the dictator-god who expresses the vitalistic will of the people. But all forms of leftism lie and never stop lying on this continuum, because leftism revolves around a false absolute and a counterfeit vertical."
As Eliot said, the leftist dreams of a system in which it will be unnecessary for anyone to be good. But man is the being who can -- and must -- choose between good and evil.
Likewise, "the moment we talk about 'social conscience,' and forget about conscience, we are in moral danger" (Eliot). Eliminate the idea of moral struggle, and "you must expect human beings to become more and more vaporous."
Since man is placed at the crossroads where he is free to choose between good and evil, this again eliminates man. You might say that for the leftist dreamer, man is strictly unnecessary. In fact, he just gets in the way of the Dream.
For horizontality goes hand in hand with exteriority and outwardness, which is the initial direction of the fall: first out, then down, and gravity takes care of the rest. Horizontal man is down and out, whereas our salvolution lies up and in.
The leftist lives in a semi-conscious narrative only a degree or two above blind instinct. Only man -- inexplicably and miraculously on any scientistic grounds -- can exit the closed system of his own neuro-ideology and enter higher worlds, worlds of truth, beauty, and virtue.
To be in contact with these higher worlds is to be Man. To neglect or deny these anterior worlds is to destroy man, precisely. It is to starve and suffocate man’s spirit by laying waste to his proper environment, the only environment in which he can actually grow into full manhood.
You cannot replace the holy grail of Spirit with the lowly gruel of flatland materialism and expect it to feed the multitudes. Human beings do not draw their spiritual nourishment from outside but from above -- which in turn “spiritualizes” and sacralizes the horizontal.
Vertical man is not susceptible to the leftist's state of perpetual hysteria. As Eliot wrote, "we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph."
Nevertheless, vertical man naturally frets about the deteriorating conditions of the collective interior of the human world -- AKA the ambient culture -- and its seemingly unimpeded slide into barbarism, spiritual exhaustion, scientistic magic, neo-paganism, self-worship, the cult of the body, abstract materialism, and a vapid and rudderless subjectivism.
It is a truism that vertical man paradoxically lives close to the ground, as he has internalized the cautionary tales of Eden, of Icarus, of Babel, and of various episodes of the Honeymooners. In contrast, horizontal man seizes what does not properly belong to him, not just recapitulating the fall but enshrining it in his ideology. It's no longer a bug but a feature.
But when you cast your vote for horizontal man, you are unwittingly chipping away at the foundation of the very tower in which horizontal man is privileged to sit despite his metaphysical ignorance. For in reality, we only have the luxury of superfluous and slumbering horizontal men because of the vertical men -- real men -- who came before and built our civilization brick by brick (except for the cornerstone, which was not made by human hands).
Thus we can see our own possible future by casting our gaze at Europe, which is too high and top-heavy for its own long-forgotten foundations, and is well into the process of toppling into dust. For when horizontal man falls, he doesn’t actually fall far, only back down to the ground where vertical man awaits him.
So render unto the horizontal the things that belong to the horizontal, but do not store your treasures there, where myths corrupt and chickens roost. As always, be as wise as the horizontal serpents who stand on their bellies, but innocent as vertical doves who kneel on wings.
A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom. --Russell Kirk