Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Government Of, By, and For the Unhappy Losers

I would like to discuss human happiness vs. what is typically thought of as "success." Sometimes they go together, but the older and wiser one becomes, the more one recognizes that there is no necessary correlation between the two. Indeed, all you have to do is read a few biographies of the rich and famous to find out how tortured, or driven, or persecuted, or conflicted, or tormented, or insecure, or unsatisfied they were.

Part of the problem is that an unhappy person tends to project happiness elsewhere, into other people. In other words, the unhappy person sees happiness in the people he envies. This is obviously not a true -- or even conscious -- idea of happiness, just a fantasy, often allied with projection of other primitive impulses, such as greed.

When a leftist complains about all those greedy and happy people, you can be sure he's just projecting, and that if he knew how to be happy he'd just be happy without any need to obsess over the projected emotional muddleman. In reality, no matter how much money X has, it has no impact whatsoever on my personal happiness. It can only have an effect in fantasy, and this fantasy needs to be rooted in some personal lack. For every fully functioning man has the means to happiness.

This pathological mechanism almost defines the left, since the left reduces reality to material and economic terms. Now, matter is not nothing, but it clearly isn't everything. Nevertheless, the left has managed to convince the majority that human happiness can be reduced to a crude economic metric, and that it is the task of government to force this metric up via transfers of wealth.

How's that working out? Trillions of dollars spent on the war on poverty, and the needle of human happiness hasn't budged an inch. Not only that, but because people in the meantime have bought into leftist philosophy, they imagine that the government isn't spending enough on the insane project of making them happy (instead of preserving the conditions which allow happiness, more on which below).

There is no question that the welfare state directly undermines happiness by short-circuiting its causes. To cite one obvious example, a big part of happiness involves a feeling of accomplishment for an achievement of something genuinely difficult and worthwhile. At the opposite end we have state-mandated affirmative discrimination, which can confer the effect of achievement on blacks or women or hispanics, but not the cause. But what is an achievement with no cause?

That's right: it's just narcissism, or self-deception, or theft, or cheating. Clearly it's not the real thing, and on some level, every so-called beneficiary of affirmative discrimination knows this. The only way to preserve one's dignity in such a situation is to attack the entire system as corrupt, so that genuine achievers are thought to be just lucky, or connected, or greedy, etc.

I think Obama falls into this category -- a weightless mediocretin who was effortlessly wafted to the top on the winds of white liberal guilt. A man that is literally not permitted to fail can never find true happiness, for what has he achieved? Nothing. If Obama really thought about this -- that is to say, if he were normal -- he would be embarrassed or ashamed. I mean, Ben Carson he is not, and how embarrassing for him to even be seen in the same photo.

Indeed, Obama is Carson's antitype in more ways than one, in that Carson is a man of singular accomplishment who has devoted his life to saving babies, while Obama is a vacuous demagogue and corrupt politician who has devoted his life to murdering them. (And let me emphasize that I have some sympathy for aspects of the pro-choice argument, but I cannot imagine ever being "proud" about it, nor can I imagine being so delusional as to think that abortion isn't a grave evil, irrespective of whether or not it is legal.)

Much of Obama's outlook can be attributed to his implicit awareness of the fact that he has ascended to the top of a system he thinks of as absolutely corrupt. Therefore, in order to preserve his dignity, he will be the one who "fundamentally transforms" this rotten system. He is like someone who becomes a mafia kingpin, and then decides to make the organization legitimate.

The problem is that such a person doesn't really "know anything," so he'll ultimately fail at whatever he tries. In the real world, corporate CEOs aren't just greedy and corrupt mafia godfathers. As Thomas Sowell says, if all it requires to be rich is to be greedy, then we'd all be rich. Problem solved.

Now, any system -- even the very best system in the world -- will be regarded as rotten by those who fail in it, but who cannot take responsibility for their failure. This is just human nature. Few people are brave and insightful enough to say, "I'm a loser and it's my own damn fault," especially when an attractive ideology is available to tell them that nothing is their fault. In a democracy, this can easily lead to a situation in which we have a government of, by, and for Self-deluded Losers, which was precisely one of major headaches of the founders.

In his classic Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bailyn writes that "faith ran high" among the framers

"that a better world than any that had ever been known could be built where authority was distrusted and held in constant scrutiny; where the status of men flowed from their achievements and from their personal qualities, not from distinctions ascribed to them at birth; and where the use of power over the lives of men was jealously guarded and severely restricted." Only with such a distrust of political authority could institutions spontaneously emerge to "express human aspirations, not crush them" (in Murray, emphasis mine).

The founders were quite aware of the fact that something in a man changes when he goes from private to public -- in short, when he is suddenly given access to political power. Such men are to be profoundly distrusted, especially the ones who seek it. For starters, just what personal defect(s) are they attempting to conceal or compensate for?

That one's for you, Obama.

What? You only want to "help"? Why you passive-aggressive bastard. What about the half of us who not only don't want or need your help, but regard it as destructive even to those you presume to help? When I say that I despise Obama and everything he stands for, I am obviously speaking for millions, not just the imaginary "one percent" of wealthy malefactors who have caused all our problems.

We can be sure that Obama has never had the thought, "what if the founders of this great nation were wiser than I am?" Because to even think the thought would create a contrast so odious, so ridiculous, that he'd banish it from consciousness. It would be like sitting in the shadow of Ben Carson. That won't happen again! Better to just stick with what cognitive heavyweights such as Andrew Sullivan or Chris Matthews feel about him. Ahhhh, that's better!

The founders weren't only aware of the danger of ambitious but mediocre men with power, but concerned about the source of this destructive power. In the past we have called this Loser Power. In nature, a being with no power has no power, period. There's no way to get around it. Only humans can convert loserhood into genuine political clout, making it a farce multiplier. In a quantitative world of majority rule, qualities literally do not count. If 51% believe 2+2=5, it's a done deal.

For which reason a central message of the Federalist is that Loser Power is "a danger so great and so unending that all the structures of the government must be arrayed against them," because "republics collapse when a faction is able to use the state to impose its vision of the good on the rest of society" (Murray).

Are we there yet? Or, is the left correct: that the federal government is just too small and unobtrusive?

To be continued....

Monday, February 11, 2013

Title IX, Benedict XVI, and the Absolution of Liberal Guilt

Given the surprising news of the deity, I think I'll fast-forward a few chapters, to the Pope. Like, what is he? Or in other words, by virtue of what principle is such an institution not only possible but necessary?

Other pack animals have top dogs. Is that what he is, just a vertical alpha? Postmodernists would likely say "yes," which is precisely (they say) why we need to eliminate this authoritarian atavism, or at least not take it seriously.

More generally, postmodernism, is opposed in principle to hierarchy (or pretends to be), which is the secret to why it cannot recognize or tolerate quality in any dimension, right down to the most trivial activity. It is why all the kids on my son's baseball team are forced to engage in the ritual of receiving a meaningless trophy at the end of the season.

Talk about a fake benediction! Humans don't have the power to forgive bad baseball playing.

This refusal to acknowledge hierarchy is also how the the left can confuse a person with a single meaningful accomplishment or ability with Obama.

All of the children on my son's team are, of course, aware of the inevitable Hierarchy of Skilz, unless they're either dense or afflicted with delusionally high self esteem.

So, who came up with this loony idea of pretending no one is better than anyone else, so that everybody equally sucks?

The left, that's who. You wouldn't think that anti-Catholic bigotry and children's sports are linked, but they most certainly are.

Indeed, the same sickness extends to adulthood, for example, vis-a-vis Title IX, a federal law that forces us to pretend we give a fuck about women's sports that don't feature scantily clad nubileans frolicking about. While we're at it, how about a federal law that forces us to watch male beauty contests?

Bear in mind that I'm not coming at this from a Catholic angle, but from a metaphysical one. And the plain fact of the matter is that if there is a hierarchy, there is a top. Indeed, there is only a hierarchy because there is a top. Simple as.

Recall the subversive wise crack of the old Soviet Union: we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us. Thanks to the left, Little Leaguers can now say: we pretend to win, and grown-ups pretend to give us trophies. Or, as it pertains to Affirmative Discrimination, we pretend to be intelligent, and they pretend to give us degrees. But a degree in sociology or education or women's studies is worth less than a Little League trophy.

It reminds me also of music. There's probably a proper term for it, but if you think of, say, the much-copied ending of Take the A Train, it goes dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-DA. The way the song is set up, our minds anticipate that last DA. It couldn't end with any other note. Until someone like Monk came along and played with musical expectations.

But that's the point: a Monkish surprise only works because we're anticipating something else. Indeed, that is why someone called jazz "the sound of surprise." It's always tweaking our musical expectations. It is also how comedy works.

Are there bad hierarchies? Of course. But the left pretends to treat all hierarchies as if they were bad. A bad hierarchy has no intrinsic legitimacy, but is fraudulently rooted in the human need for status, recognition, and power.

I suppose old-fascioned European style "conservatism" did the opposite: glorifying sometimes illegitimate hierarchy just for its own sake. But modern conservative classical liberalism is (or should be) the champion of legitimate hierarchy -- or, in a word, excellence, and let the chips fall where they may. If UC Berkeley is 100% Asian and Jew, that just means that other cultures need to imitate them, not discriminate against them by handing out a lot of phony parchment trophies.

It reminds me of all those tyrannies that officially refer to themselves as "Democratic" or "Republic" -- Iran, Cuba, China, North Korea, etc. Ironically, these regimes explicitly pay tribute to what they implicitly deny, but that is what the left always does. The left by definition superimposes rigid, top-down, freedom-denying hierarchies over spontaneous and self-organizing ones. Obama's "signature accomplishment" was just such an attack on the field of medicine.

The result will surely not be more medical excellence, but rather, a more equal distribution of medical mediocrity, or worse. The Cosmic Law mandates that medicine will become more expensive (because there is no longer a rational means to determine price and an efficient way to drive down costs), more scarce (because of increased demand, plus potential doctors gravitating toward other fields), and diminished quality (which the left doesn't care about to begin with, since it implies one of those nasty hierarchies).

Better get on to the Pope before we run out of time. There he is, to your right:

Tomberg says that the key principle here is "the presence of the act of benediction." But just what is this transfer of vertical energies? "What is its source and its effect?" And "Who has the authority to bestow benediction?"

Well, no mere man does, for starters. That way leads to madness of varying kinds, everything from religious cults to the cult of celebrity to the cult of Obama (but I threepeat myself).

In contrast, real benediction is "the putting into action of divine power transcending the individual thought and will of the one who is blessed as well as the one who is pronouncing the blessing."

Here again, this "impersonality" is the key. Really, we're talking about a vertically open system between man and God, or as I prefer to unsay, between (¶) and O.

There are two main ways the process can be disrupted: by the ego of the benedictee misappropriating the energies; or by the ego of benedictor claiming a unique power and ability to transmit them. But no human has this right or this ability.

Rather, he can only be the channel for such. Unless you don't believe in hierarchy, in which case every man is not just his own priest, but his own deity. And then we're back to the left, and "may the baddest god win." For the leftist, we are all of the same race: the race to the bottom.

Now, the universal principle of man's "pontifical" nature (in which our feet are in the many but our heads in the One, so to speak) is unthinkable in the absence of the (↓↑) vertical energies. Tomberg describes it as "a double movement, ascending and descending, similar to the circulation of the blood."

This is symbolized in the card, where one of the acolytes below has his left hand raised, the other his right hand lowered. This corresponds to the right and left brains respectively, which makes sense, because the right brain "reaches up," so to speak, toward synthesis, unity, love, and mercy, while the left brain "reaches down" into law, order, and "severity."

With regard to the overall circulation of (↓↑), Tomberg says that it is as if the "blue blood" ascends and is detoxified, returning down as the ʘxidized "red blood" of benediction and mercy.

As it so happens, my son had his first "reconciliation" (read: confession!) last Saturday. What is this ritual but a rather precise reenactment of just the cosmic principles we are discussing?

In which case my son undertook the task of searching his conscience for "impurities," so to speak, and these are in turn "detoxified" through (not by!) the Priest. Really, it was a beautiful thing to behold, and yet, it isn't difficult to imagine the multitude of ways human beings could screw up such a divine slackrament.

Nevertheless, abusus non tollit usum (the abuse of a thing does not take away from its legitimate use). Otherwise Obama would be an argument for abolishing both the presidency and the Constitution, when he's really just an argument against the cheap grace of absolving liberal racial guilt via electoral trophies to the unqualified.

Next time, do us a favor: just go to confession instead of imposing your penance on the rest of us. We have our own sins to worry about, but racism isn't one of them.

The end. Out of time.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Metamorphosis: Just Say No to Bugs!

As mentioned yesterday, I want to clear a few items from my head before we continue with MotT. As they say, bloggin' out your noggin keeps the bean clean.

As you know, I don't like to just read a book -- in this case, James Schall's The Modern Age -- and toss it aside without further re-flection. The following are just spontaneous impressions, not any kind of formal review. Some of them go to yesterday's comment thread, in which the question was raised as to whether man is evolving (in the vulgar Darwinian sense) or whether he has a fixed nature.

Our position has always been that we are orthoparadoxically evolving toward our fixed nature, both in general (i.e., "humanness" as such) and individually (i.e., a deepening of our unique personal identity, which is ultimately only possible within the intersubjective space between person and Person, ¶ and O). Man's puzzling charge is to become who you are! (emphasis God's).

True, there are other theories, but they don't interest me because they don't account for my life and my experience. I concede that these theories my well apply to insects or bats or atheists or progressives.

Which reminds me -- one of the literary touchstones of the 20th century is Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Its famous deadpan opening line very much expresses the bleak existential tenor of the times, and proved to be an eerily prescient meta phor the nightmares to come:

One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

Yes, one of those days. Or centuries, rather. Or administrations.

"What's happened to me," he thought. It was no dream.

Devolution in action! Or evolution, rather, because if metaphysical Darwinism is "true" (which it cannot be, but just for the sake of argumentativeness), then man has exactly the dignity and value of an insect, no more, no less. In that case, Kafka is not just a neurotic schmendrick with terribly low self-esteem, but a prophet.

Millions of European Jews of the 1930s woke up with exactly this experience, having been transformed overnight by evolutionist Nazi ideology into "monstrous verminous bugs."

But the Jews, as always, were the canaries in the world-historical ghoulmind. In the long run -- as promised by the Creator -- things never turn out well for those who persecute the Jews.

Indeed, a very handy way to locate the center of evil is to find out where Jews are being persecuted and dehumanized. Today it is within Islam, academia, and the international left.

Unfortunately for us, the disease has now spread to the White House -- unfortunate because those who curse the Jews are cursed in return. What a way to fritter away divine protection. And for what? So jihadis and liberal fascists will finally love us?

The bottom lyin' looks like this, which I just randomly stumbled upon while looking for an image of Gregor. Just say no to Bob!

No O, no I. No me, no thee, no we, no three. No ʘ and no pilcrow (¶) either.

The only way to retain our Slack and cultivate our Higher Sanity -- and avoid being transformed into an insect -- is to completely reject and bypass the postmodern Creepy Crawler bugmaker machinery.

My son is at that age -- almost eight -- when he is really into dinosaurs. We've been reading dinosaur books at bedtime, but it has never occurred to me to remind him that the ultimate lesson here is that human beings are no different from the dinosaurs, just another meaningless freak of evolution that will soon enough depart from the terrestrial stage, only to be replaced by another freak. And with any luck, this freak will be less destructive to the Mother Gaia than human beastlings are. You know, as if it matters what the fuck happens to the planet if we aren't here to enjoy it.

In other words, I don't transform him into planetary vermin. Which is what would surely be happening if he were being subjected to a secular brainwash in one of our intellectually and spiritually devolved public schools, where one learns how to be a compliant insectoid member of the statist hive.

All of the above occurred to me -- implicitly, anyway -- upon reading a sentence from The Modern Age. Schall makes a passing remark about the forced materialism of the Soviet state, and about how this compulsory misosophy "is a sign of imprisonment in this world not only by a coercive regime but by modern thought itself" (emphasis mine).

One might as well say: One morning, while sitting in poli sci class, Gregor Samsa was disabused of his humanist fantasies of dignity and meaning, and told that an infallible herd of half-educated tenured apes had determined that he was a random and meaningless product of natural selection.

Or: One dreary November morn, Gregor Samsa was dismayed to learn that he had been changed overnight into an anonymous cog in Obama's collectivist machine.

Or: One morning, Gregor Samsa was roused from holy innocence and charged with the vague thought crime of being a guilt-stained and verminous Enemy of the People.

Again, I'm trying to spare my son from all these idiocies, and from an infrahuman fate more generally, i.e., forced materialism. For the truth is much, much stranger. Something like:

One fine morning, as humanoid primates were just waking up from some weird enough prehistorical dream, they discovered that they had been transfigured into an image of God, with all this implies.

Or: One morning, Gagdad Bob awakened to an empty procrustean bed and realized that his professors had been lying to him, and that he wasn't an insect at all. Rather, he woke up to the surprising deuscovery that he was a hooraysurrected mirrorcle of the Abbasolute!

Truth is much stranger than fact.

Whoops, where'd 'ego?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

If This Post Doesn't Make You Want to Vomit, There's Something Wrong with You

Moral indignation is not truly sincere unless it literally ends in vomiting. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

This is not just a blog, and sometimes not even that. Rather, it's just an all-purpose clearing house for the thoughts that come into my head. In other words, blogging helps to keep my melon clean and empty, as it should be.

But sometimes these are just one-off thoughts, unconnected to anything else -- you know, as in Larry King's head. I could always tweet these fragments, but I found that medium to be more taxing than it's worth. Besides, if people want me, they know where to find me. No need to irritweet them with constant reminders that I'm here.

So before we continue with the Magician, I just want to offload a few pieces of my mind.

The other day, a commenter asked what my main beef is with Ken Wilber. Well, one would surely be that he is an evolutionist and I am not. This has nothing to do with belief in evolution or natural selection, but rather, whether we are just a stage or a phase on the way to something else, something "better" or "higher." True, as soon as you think about it it makes no sense, but it is nevertheless one more pestilent pneumapathology that must be confronted.

I have several objections to such a metaphysic. First, if true, it robs man of his intrinsic value and dignity, because it means that all of the human beings who preceded us weren't only "incomplete," so to speak, but just a means to arrive at us, the better and more important people.

Yes, everyone likes to feel like a VIP -- a Very Impressive Primate -- but the immediate corollary is that we are just a means to some superior end -- to the Better Sort at the end of the evolutionary rainbow. You know, people like Wilber, or that quintessential Evolutionary Being of Light, King Barry himself.

This is another example of a "bad infinite," because it actually ends up depriving us of any standard, and relativizes everything. There can be no final, unalterable truth, because we can always evolve into something better tomorrow, or in a hundred or a thousand years. With one exception: "The progressive believes that everything soon becomes obsolete, except his ideas" (Don Colacho's aphorisms).

For which reason the leftist also sees the irony in everything but himself. The ridiculousness of the left? Forget about it. They're not sufficiently evolved to know about that.

But the classical liberal tradition -- and the Western tradition more generally -- is founded upon certain final and unchanging truths that preserve and protect man's infinite value, for example, that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights. If the evolutionist metaphysic is "true," then the immediate implication is that human beings are neither created nor equal. We are better than past humans -- woo hoo! -- but future humans are better than us -- d'oh!

By what standard? Oh, you're not supposed to ask that. Remember, for the evolutionist, all is in flux, so there can't actually be any standard. This is not to suggest that they won't try to slip one in the back door, hence, a dreadful Deepak will be the first to tell you that he is more "evolved" than those evil conservatives who believe in absolute standards through which to measure evolution. To put it another way, either evolution explains man or man explains evolution.

Which leads to the other problem with the evolutionist metaphysic: that it simply doesn't see what man is. For man can only know the absolute because he partakes of the absolute, which is again the source of his dignity, his value, and his purpose.

Don't try to fool yourself here, because this is very much an either/or question: either man partakes of the absolute, or he is nothing. I think once you realize this central truth, you can never be an evolutionist or a progressive leftist. And you probably haven't fully realized it if these two ideologies don't make you want to vomit. The realization should be that powerful.

For us, any man at any time has access to absolute -- and therefore saving -- truth, for this is what defines man. Man is surely "in between," as suggested by evolutionists, except we are not between what we presently are and some future mutation. Rather, we are first and foremost between matter and God. In between man and God there is a further vertical hierarchy, but it is fixed, not some epiphenomenon of random terrestrial mutation. Hence, for example, the necessity of angels, of the community of saints, of the Fellowship of Post-Biological Raccoons who reach across the great divide and throw us the occasional bone from on high, etc.

Here Schuon expresses the point in a way that is both exceptionally clear and beautiful: the object of man's existence

"is to be in the middle: it is to transcend matter while being situated there, and to realize the light, the Sky, starting from this intermediary level. It is true that the other creatures also participate in life, but man synthesizes them: he carries all life within himself and thus becomes the spokesman for all life, the vertical axis where life opens onto the spirit and where it becomes spirit. In all terrestrial creatures the cold inertia of matter becomes heat, but in man alone does heat become light."

Here is a more concise way of saying the same thing: "The very word 'man' implies 'God,'" just as "the very word 'relative' implies 'Absolute.'”

Here it is from another angle: man "is intelligence; and intelligence -- in its principle and its plenitude -- is knowledge of the Absolute; the Absolute is the fundamental content of the intelligence and determines its nature and functions" (emphasis mine).

In other words, in the absence of the Absolute, then all of man's thoughts are just so many shadows that reveal nothing about reality.

The following goes to the absolute poverty (and we absolutely mean this literally, not polemically) of any form of evolutionism: "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, emphasis mine).

Which is again why, if the left doesn't make you want to vomit, there is something desperately wrong with you. To repeat, this is not at all polemical but objective. The left DESTROYS MAN because it first annihilates (in fantasy) the Absolute. Thus, the evolutionist or progressive does not transcend man, but rather, fails to ascend to him.

What is an antonym for transcend? You could say that the progressive evolutionist fails man, or loses man, or worsens man. And if you don't see that, just look to history, to all of the politico-ideological states that have been premised on the improvement of man: fascism, Nazism, communism, etc. When you deny man's infinite value up front, you have already excused yourself for the genocide that will surely follow, as night follows day.

One irony of Obama-style progressivism is that it violates its own spirit by pre-emptively attacking future generations. While the latter are supposed to be more evolved than us -- making us just an evolutionary stepping stone to them -- Obama is undermining them in such a way that it will be very difficult for them to overcome the financial catastrophe he is bequeathing them.

For they are the ones the low-information progressive herd is waiting for: the ones who will pick up the tab for Obama's drunken power spree. Obama has truly given these future subjects a bargain they can't refuse, since most of them aren't yet born. Long after Obama passes from the scene, these patsies will be financially obligated to him.

I was about to say that leftism is a Foistupon bargain between private bullies who want stuff and public bullies who want power. Or, as Don Colacho sez, To corrupt the individual it suffices to teach him to call his personal desires rights and the rights of others abuses. Thus, Obama makes no demands upon his envious flock, only upon the unborn who will foot the bill (for which reason you'd think he'd have a little respect for the unborn).

Yes, there is always a forgotten man in the bargain, or, in this case, forgotten generations, both past and future. What it really represents is man forgotten (as in the nature of man). And to forget this is to fall yet again.

Oh well, those future brains will be much more evolved than ours, just as we are more evolved than Aristotle, Aquinas, Madison, Washington, and Lincoln. They'll figure it out. I mean, just imagine a world full of Deepaks and Wilbers and Gores! What won't they be capable of, if not intellectually, then at least morally? When lawlessness disguises itself as law, anything is both possible and permissible. Right to the throat, good and hard.

You could say that for the reactionary, the past justifies anything; for the hedonist or psychopath, the present justifies anything; and for the leftist, the ideologue, or the evolutionist, the future justifies anything.

In contrast to these defective visions, our metaphysic begins with the principle that man is made in the image of the Absolute. Period. To imagine you can do better than this is to ensure hell on earth, or haven't you noticed?

Damn, that was supposed to be like one or two sentences. Oh well. To paraphrase John Lee Hooker's mama & papa, the boy's got it in him, and it got to come out somehow.

To say that man is made of intelligence, will and sentiment, means that he is made for the Truth, the Way, and Virtue. In other words: intelligence is made for comprehension of the True; will, for concentration on the Sovereign Good; and sentiment, for conformity to the True and the Good. --Schuon

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Mining for Nous Gold

No time for an all new post, so I've ransacked the knowa's arkive and pulled out these past meditations on the magician. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, has changed about ultimate reality since these nuggets were first excavated in 2008.

We eliminate the warm-up act, and join the post in mid-thought:

It will require a good couple of months to fully unwind MotT, but even then, riffing on one card every day or two does a disservice to us all -- you, me, and our Unknown Friend -- since it should be more of an organic and interior-directed process that proceeds at its own supernatural pace.

That is to say, one needs to "dwell" "in" (emphasis on both words) the book in order to actualize its pneumacatalytic powers. You must get into it in order for it to get into you, very much like the old onetwo of (↓↑). To paraphrase UF, the tarot images are like "enzymes" that facilitate growth when sprinkled over the sincere and open soul. You know, like the yeast in the bread.

I suppose I've read the book cover to cover maybe four or five times. I know this because I have two copies, each with different colored highlighting. And yet, each time I read it, I get something new out of it. I know this because new passages are highlighted on subsequent grow-rounds.

Also, as mentioned in a comment the other day, the first time I tried to tackle it, I got nowhere. It was just too difficult; turns out we were both too dense. And when I say "dense," I mean this in a kind of literal way, in that its light could not penetrate me. It was there, of course, but without a receptive agent to transmute it, it was just another brick in my wall of mostly ordinary books.

But by the time of my second attempt a year or two later, a transwarmation of some sort had taken place that allowed me to understand it -- or rather, melted whatever it was that was obscuring the light.

Indeed, it was like entering a vast cathedral, only this time with the lights on. In other worlds, without the Light, an infinite space will appear as a black wall, which is essentially the predicament in which the atheist finds himself. He imagines he's telling us about an objective barrier, when he's really just describing the back of his manmode I-lid. It's difficult to imagine a worldview more banal and lacking in elementary curiosity.

There is a reason that all spiritual traditions speak of "illumination." The visible light we see with our eyes is an analogue and symbol of the light we perceive with the intellect (and of which the intellect is composed, for light comes from Light).

In other words, the intelligibility of the world is and must be prior to its materiality. To be sure, the spiritual world is an intelligible world, but in order to perceive it, you will need to partake of the uncreated light of the awakened intellect, the nous (or, to paraphrase Joyce, the part so ptee that does duty for the holos).

Without activating the latter, you will again be staring at a blank wall (or you'll just have to take someone else's word for it). Jesus will just be a community organizer, if he existed at all. Miracles will merely be statistically rare events instead of edifying vertical ingressions. The Bible will be a collection of myths instead of simultaneously urgent and timeless memos of infinite depth from Soph to self, O --> (¶).

A couple of important points before we begin. The book is not about Tarot reading, nor does it have anything to do with the occult or new age. We're not just deepaking the chopra here.

Rather, the author, who is Catholic -- indeed, the afterword is by none other than Balthasar, and I've seen him name-checked by Ratzinger -- merely uses the twenty two major arcana of the Tarot as a basis for what we call spontaneous verticalisthenics, or theodidactic soul-jazz. It's almost as if he free associates and uses the cards as fixed forms, or unsaturated archetypes, to explore his own incredibly fertile spiritual imagination.

But his ideas are for the most part completely orthodox and intelligible to others, unlike, say, occultists, who may or may not speak truth, but clothe it in idiosyncratic and obscure ways that can be extremely difficult to decode, verify, or replicate. Our unknown friend always appeals to the universal intellect.

While earlier in life the author (who was born in 1900 and died in 1973) was a follower of Rudolf Steiner, he broke with that group and converted to Catholicism at the age of 44. In fact, he was booted from Steiner's Anthroposophical Society for being too independent of Steiner (who died in 1925).

As always, there is no doctrine more radical than Christianity, so it will always make ideologues, pneumalogues, and newage do-it-yoursophers uncomfortable. Anthroposophy is yet another instance of a spiritually gifted but erratic occultist whose fluid ideas are reified by his generally mediocre followers into an orthodoxy: the master ruins the disciples and vice versa.

Importantly, this is a dynamic that afflicts virtually all groups, as Bion recognized in some of his early papers. Indeed, it is precisely what had happened to Bion's own field of psychoanalysis, as Freud the explorer became Freud the inerrant prophet of a pseudo-religious infra-mystical order.

In relation to orthodoxy, Bion himself was analogous to the "messiah" (a term of art) or mystic who brings new life to the deadened forms, but only in order to return it to first principles. Similarly, Tea Partiers are aptly named, since they are simply re-animating the timeless principles of the Founders, principles that have been systematically undermined by the left.

Truth that isn't regularly rediscovered and lived is subject to entropy, just like everything else. To be perfectly accurate, it is not truth that dissipates, only the person who falls away from it. You might say that the space of the spiritual world, like the natural world, is curved, so without the rocket booster of effort, you'll merely go around in circles.

The author worked on MOTT in his 60s, and it was originally published posthumously in 1984 (in English in 1985). Although the identity of the author is known, he wished to remain anonymous, so we will respect his wishes and refer to him as Unknown Friend (UF), which is what he calls himself.

UF truly is our friend, and a precious one at that -- a trusty guidekick for any serious spiritual seeker from now until the end of time. And it is very much a "brotherly" relationship, despite his obvious spiritual eminence.

With regard to my post the other day about the person who was asking for spiritual guidance, UF is a fine example of how one may form a living relationship with a saint, sage, mystic or mentor, despite the person no longer being an active biological concern. The fact is, these persons are very much alive, but they will only come to life in the dynamic transitional space between you and them (or "I and I," as the ganjafarians say). But how is this different from any other deep friendship? Or just getting stoned?

It's about the living space. For example, we naturally love our family, but we also love the space it simultaneously creates and exists in. This can go unappreciated, but it is the background context of our whole life. It is the space in which we live and breathe. I suspect we'd feel rather hemmed in and oppressed without the yoke of this sphere & chain. Not all freedom is liberating, to put it mildly.

One thing we like about MOTT is its jazz sensibility, of which Bob has written in the past. To improvise means to stand up and play "over" the group. But to produce great jazz, one must simultaneously be a part of the group even while transcending it. This complementarity is the key, and I think it embodies a general lesson, almost a koan. That is, Man is the group animal whose very groupishness is the matrix out of which his individuality emerges.

To be an individual is to live on the surface of the group, so to speak, but with roots deep within it. A narcissist fails to appreciate the importance of the group in making the individual possible, as if he could exist without it. And yet, the collective could never be the "end" of our existence, as leftists believe. Which is why the left is such a graveyard of true individuality, an anonymous (in the negative, pre-personal sense) pack of dogmatic barketypes.

Yes, this is one of the first principles of our politics, since a libertarian overvalues the individual while the leftist insect naturally overvalues the hive. The cosmically correct position is to appreciate the family as the unit of civilization. Or, as in the Bible, maleandfemale he created them. When God says "let us create man in our image," this is what we's talking about: the unity within the plurality, and vice versa (and of course, baby makes threeness, and vice versa too).

I suppose it's somewhat analogous to the body/mind relationship. One cannot have a mind without a body, but to reduce the mind to the body is to do away with the person and our very reason for existence. Or again, one could say that this reflects the exoteric/esoteric, or inner/outer, complementarity of religion.

Anyway, we're just going to riff on UF's riffing, and see where it takes us.

But this is starting to get overly long, isn't it? Plus I'm late for work.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Flowgorrhea & Wordplay

We have arrived at Rule One: Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

Tomberg says you can take it in several ways, so long as you take it seriously: clue, wise crack, advice, threat, etc. In any event, play is a very serious isness, fit only for amateurs (amo, of course, referring to the love that motivates the ama-teur).

The sentence may be broken down into three clauses, the first involving "effortless concentration." Tomberg provides a useful definition of the latter, which is "fixing the maximum attention on the minimum amount of space."

Imagine the concentration necessary to hit a little ball traveling at 100 mph. Or a wide receiver focusing on that ellipsoid flying object while knowing full well that he is going to endure great pain if he so much as touches it.

That sort of focussed attention "is the practical key to all success in every domain," and it is best accomplished by calmness and silence , or what we more or less symbolize (o) and (---).

(o) signifies a state of patient openness, while (---) is unhurried silence. These also happen to be the keys to allowing the softer voice of the right brain to speak, which is no coincidence, for the left brain is a loudmouthed know-it-all.

Just as not-knowing must precede knowing -- or emptiness fullness -- silence is anterior to (↓).

Tomberg then draws a critical distinction between interested and disinterested concentration. For example, it isn't difficult for most men to focus their attention on a Victoria's Secret catalogue. In a way, in order to practice disinterested concentration, we must liberate ourselves from the typical things that are always vying for our interested concentration.

This interested concentration arises from various planes of being, e.g., genetics, evolutionary psychology, mind parasites, cultural mimesis, cash and other valuable prizes, etc. As Tomberg says, gluttons and misers -- not to mention perverts and other activists -- are quite attentive to the objects of their interest, just as Obama has a laser-like focus on expanding state power and diminishing yours. He makes liberal fascism look so easy!

In fact a truly "liberal education" involves acquainting oneself with the entire domain of reality that exists outside necessity. Indeed, a key to happiness is doing things just for the hell of it -- i.e., for their intrinsic pleasure -- rather than for some identifiable payoff. Studies have even demonstrated that if you pay a person to do something he intrinsically enjoys, he will derive less enjoyment from it.

I found that last nugget in Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, which I'm reading for some reason, apparently because it relates to this post. He highlights the "paradox" that Americans are no happier today (and probably less happy) despite a historical increase in wealth over the past 50-60 years. What gives?

There are a number of reasons, but one is surely that the accumulation of wealth involves a great deal of interested concentration, when we've already established that a key to happiness and fulfillment is a lot of disinterested concentration, i.e., play. Murray points out that for most of western history we implicitly agreed upon an Aristotelian definition of happiness, whereas today we have one that is more Lockean.

The former revolves around the idea that we derive the most happiness from exercising our most fully realized capacities; in the book I discussed this in terms of realizing our potential, but the point is the same. We all have some sort of gift(s), and happiness very much involves using and developing the gift. Importantly, the rewards from doing so are intrinsic, unrelated to any secondary payoff.

This is what we call slacktivity, because it is the essence of higher nondoodling. It is a way of simultaneously doing nothing and something. You could also call it multi-slacking, which is what I am doing at the moment: several types of passionate nothing all in the same timelessness.

And no, that last crack wasn't just superfluous, because real slacktivity results in temporal dilation. That is to say, the present moment "widens out," so to speak, so the garment of the now isn't so tight and binding. More like one of those pirate shirts with the billowy sleeves.

Murray brings in a discussion of the unfortunately named flow -- unfortunate, because the word makes it sound like something Deepak might have come up with, instead of being a serious concept. It was coined by a man with the unflowing name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, but his initial term sounded more serious: autotelic, meaning "self end," or an end that is both by and for the Self (not "ego," I might add).

Consider Murray's description of flow: it is action joined to awareness, such that "you know exactly what you're doing, but you are not thinking about the fact that you know." Like me right now. One thing I never do while blogging is look down, because if I do, I'll lose my balance and fall from the ground.

You could say that we are in flow when we are concentrating without effort, turning work into play, and multi-slacking. And flow has no purpose but to just keep flowin'. Which reminds me of Eckhart's notion of "living without a why."

I believe it is fair to say that Professor Cz%$^*&@yli's idea of flow, when applied to the spiritual dimension, illuminates what we call the "divine spiral" of (↓↑), as we are effortlessly pulled into the Great Attractor.

Now rhea means flow, and this pointless logorrhea must now cease its flow for the day.

Monday, February 04, 2013

I Don't See Any Method At All, Sir

Continuing with Friday's post -- we're discussing Letter I of Meditations on the Tarot -- Tomberg points out that in order to become fertile, two things are necessary, one positive, the other negative.

First we must become receptive, or "poor in spirit." Secondly we must avoid what he calls "the most serious spiritual malady," self-complacency.

This latter pneumapathology falls under the rubric of acedia, which has no direct translation but means something like "spiritual laziness." Thus, Tomberg is affirming an orthoparadox here, to the effect that we must be simultaneously active and passive, or one might even say male and female (in the metacosmic sense). Obviously conception -- and the Second Birth -- can only occur with male and female.

This Second Birth has resonance with metanoia (the cosmic turnaround), except that the latter is more "effort based," so to speak. Tomberg refers to "a change of the entire spiritual and psychic motivation," which is obviously more active and related to the will.

However, this willed turnaround is associated with "a complete change of the plane of consciousness," which mere will could never bring about on its own. I would say that the will is necessary but not sufficient. Rather, something else must meet it halfway. The mystery and the mirrorcle is that someone actually does!

This naturally segues into a discussion of what we can do from our end, and what we could never accomplice in the absence of grace. There is no such thing as a do-it-yoursopher, no lifting ourselves by our own buddhastraps. Thus "it goes without saying that nobody initiates anyone else." Rather, the initiation "is operative from above" because "the Initiator is above."

Now, any initiate, to the extent that he is a true initiate, recognizes this simple Law, and this recognition is the very substance of humility (and of the spiritual emptiness alluded to above). A Raccoon, of course, instantaneously recognizes the soul-stench of a fellow Raccoon, but it would never occur to us to suggest that one is the master, the other a disciple. Rather, "there is only one sole Master, who is the Initiator above."

I remember Schuon telling a correspondent something almost identical -- that he would agree to take him on as a student so long as he remembered that Christ is his Master, not Schuon. There is a dangerous temptation at work here for both parties, and it almost defines the newage.

Think of the luminous archetype of John the Baptist, who is obviously a vertical initiate but who humbly insists up front that There comes One after me who is mightier than I.

Compare this with the bloomin' ass darktype of a Deepak, who dumbly boasts -- without irony -- of being one of Time Magazine's "top 100 heroes and icons of the 20th century"; and who, just moments ago, tweeted that "You create the universe in every act of perception," once again proving that cosmic narcissism is as cosmic narcissism does.

Why would state-run media elevate this wicked man to virtual sainthood? The question answers itself. He's like a one man war on spiritual poverty.

So: "Amongst Christian Hermeticists nobody assumes for himself the title and the function of 'initiator' or 'master,'" not even Toots Mondello himself. Rather, everyone learns from everyone, because "each is a master of each in some respect -- just as each is a pupil of each in some respect."

It's not about the master-pupil dialectic, but rather, simply about the circulation and flow of grace, bearing in mind what we said a few posts back about the (↓→) wondercurrent of grace.

I believe that all Raccoons can recognize "quality" in a human being. Yes, a man is a man is a man -- and sometimes even worse -- but there are some men who properly evoke a sense of reverence (not worship) in us. Or, we might say that the proper response to such a lumin being is reverence. This reverence creates a kind of dynamic tension that goes to what was said above about the relationship between effort and spiritual emptiness.

Tomberg makes reference to St. Gregory the Great, who, despite -- or because! -- of his greatness, "subjected himself in all sincerity to the pious men whom he visited and made it his endeavor to learn for his own benefit just how each was superior to him in zeal and ascetic practice." He would then assimilate in himself "what he had obtained from each and devoted his energies to realizing in himself the virtues of all."

Again, it all starts with recognition of spiritual quality, or what I call recognosis (i.e., vertical thou & I sight). This recognosis can never be reduced to some objective standard. Rather, it can only become spontaneously present on an interior level, and it is very important that one follow this "instinct."

It very much reminds me of what Mouravieff says about identifying and cultivating "B" influences (apparently discussed in these previous posts).

Tomberg then goes into an illuminating discussion of head and heart as applied to religion. "Hermeticism," he says, attempts to listen to and hear "the beating of the heart of the spiritual life of humanity." This very much relates to our recent series of posts on right and left brain differences, the former being more oriented to "hearing" in the spiritual sense.

You could say that the exterior church hierarchy is more of a left brain construct, more in the head than heart (and Tomberg is at pains to emphasize that this is by no means to minimize its importance).

But the heart is much more fluid, more interior, more "blowing where it will," so to speak. Therefore, it is spontaneously drawn to and attracted by "the mystery of the communal heart which beats within all religions, all philosophies, all arts and all sciences -- past, present and future." This is because it is oriented to O itself, in whose attractor field all those modes -- truth, wisdom, beauty -- come into view.

Looked at in this manner, almost everything is a theophany and an occasion for inwardness. Put another way, every out has an in and is even the manifestation of a hidden in. We might also say that the In is the Is, or the essence, while the Out is the existence or appearance. Everything is whispering secrets of God all the time! We call it the Gossipel of Nature.

Tomberg then moves on to a description of the first arcana, the Magician (and I would be curious to know how many of the elements are present in all these different versions).

But the bottom line of the card is the First Principle that undergirds all the others, and speaks to the rapport of personal effort and of spiritual reality -- or let us say of (↑) and O. It is not about doctrine as such, but rather, about method. And this method is as follows:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

What, work at giving up? Thanks for the tip!

One thing is for sure: if you're going to successfully transform work into play, you're really going to need to get off the hedonic treadmill and reduce your overhead, because a simulated life is quite expensive.

To be continued...

Friday, February 01, 2013

Magic = Spirit x Birth²

A gnote of order before we begin: in discussing this letter -- and the whole book, really -- I will be "attempting" to demonstrate its meaning -- and the meaning of its meaning -- in real timelessness. Yes, the old Raccoon Promise: eternity while you wait! (Or double your lousy karma back.)

I place "attempting" in scare quotes, because one of the central points of this first letter is that no such attempt is possible. For one cannot try to play. There is no such thing as compulsory spontaneity. Except maybe at an Obama rally.

Really, the best I can do is to simply give up and find out, with the rest of you pslackers, where the windbag blows, because I sure don't know.

Nor do I have any authority, if that's what you're thinking! (And only a troll would think that.) To the extent that "authority" becomes present, I can assure that it's not coming from me. However, that doesn't mean the authority isn't fully real, if you catch his draft.

Thus, Letter I, the Magician, begins with the following well known crack by this mysterious master named Jesus: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you have no idea where it comes from and not a clue where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

What is the context of this puzzling statement, and what does it have to do with the Magician? Jesus has just explained that seeing what he calls the "kingdom of heaven" requires undergoing a "second birth," this one of spirit, not of water.

Now -- little sidebore here -- the further back in history we travel, the more concretely and palpably words such as pneuma, psyche, and nous are understood. In his classic The Discovery of the Mind, Snell writes that psyche, for example, is "the force that keeps the human being alive" and "forsakes man at the moment of death" (d'oh!). It is "breathed forth" and exits through the mouth or through a wound.

Likewise, nous may often "simply be translated as 'to see.'" Thus, Homer can say that the nous of a god such as Zeus "is ever stronger than that of men," which implies that it -- the divine intellect -- is a kind of "mental eye which exercises an unclouded vision."

More generally, Snell makes the important point that, instead of translating Homer to contemporary English, we really need to translate our own speech -- and by implication, our own way of thinking -- into the language and thought of antiquity.

The same holds true of biblical language, for when Jesus uses a word such as "wind" it has a palpable link to spirit and soul (breath). We don't know -- nor does anyone else -- where thoughts come from and where they blow.

So, as to how the Master knows these things -- i.e., the source of his mysterious authority -- he says that he simply speaks of what he knows and describes what he sees. You might say that the kingdom of heaven is what the awakened or illuminated intellect (nous) sees; or, this dimension called heaven "comes into view" with the second birth. There is no need to strictly define it before the birth, any more than you want to plan your child's life before you even meet him.

Spirit, birth², authority, heaven, intellectual vision. I guess we'll have to get to the end of the chapter to fully understand how these relate to the Magician, but in any event, Tomberg says that Jesus's words here are the key to opening this image, and that this image is the key to all the others. To put it inversely, the meaning of this image -- and of all the others -- is closed to the onceborn.

Tomberg says that the purpose of the arcana is to awaken the deeper layers of the soul. The image that immediately blows into my mind is the earth's atmosphere. Herebelow the air is usually pretty stable, punctuated by breezes and zephyrs, with the occasional hurricane or tornado thrown in.

But this is just an illusion, because not too far overhead we have the howling vortex of the jet stream blowing wherever the hell it wants to, and there's not enough xanax in the world to stop it.

Tomberg points out that the arcana are not just allegories, but authentic symbols. An allegory is a figurative and concrete representation of an abstract notion, and therefore involves the opposite of the cognitive movement Snell describes above. In other words, we want to go from abstract to concrete, not the other way around.

An authentic symbol, on the other hand, will simultaneously "conceal and reveal" (what I call "reveil") its essence, depending upon the depth of vision. (Remember Jesus's statement that he is simply describing what he sees, and the etymological link between sight and nous.)

So none of this is "secret." Or, to be perfectly accurate, it is an "open secret," but a secret that protects itself. The image comes to mind of a hybrid CD, in which one layer has the standard CD encoding, while a deeper layer contains the SACD encoding. A standard machine will read the CD layer, but know nothing of the SACD layer. It's there, of course, but for the standard player it may as well not exist.

You playa's out there may want to give that some thought, because there's a whole world of highdef information you're missing out on.

Now these highdef secrets are not "out there," so to speak, but rather, they inhere in here. This "kingdom of heaven" is within, don't you know.

However, it's like a field or a womb, a kind of generative matrix. And, just like a field or a womb, it needs to be fertilized. Yes, things grow in there, but not unless we become fertile. No fertility, no harvest, no bread, no eat. Again, very concrete, not abstract at all.

Assuming fertility, in order to conceive we will need a seed, a ferment, an enzyme, a catalyst, some yeast. Little help, please! The presence of these will stimulate our "spiritual and psychic life." Bearing in mind those literal meanings, they should make the windbelow a little more gnosisable.

Fertility should lead to birth. But that's not the end of it. Rather, as you parents out there realize, it's only the beginning. Furthermore, birth -- and prior to that, conception -- is the quintessential mystery, isn't it? And we are of course speaking both literally and literally, i.e., of both persons and of spiritual ideas (and their consequences!).

Again, spiritual ideas don't just come from nowhere. Rather, like people, they come from somewhere, we just don't know where. What we do know is that in both cases we need fertility (preconception), fertilization (conception), birth (concept), and nurturing (growth).

For Tomberg there is only one Mystery. We shall call this Mystery O for short. When our light strikes O, it breaks out into a rainbow-like prism, and this indeed is our proper prismhouse with all those mansions.

This prismhouse contains all the slackraments needed for further growth into and toward O. Each slackrament is a color in the heavenly reignbelow, and each color has virtually infinite shades.

I don't know why, but I am always entranced by this palette of colors, and our freakish ability to make these tiny distinctions in the realm of light.

Look at the many types of blues, for example. I remember Willie Dixon saying that you can get one type of blues from your girlfriend leaving, another kind when she comes back. One kind from being unemployed, another kind from having a job. You cry when you're born, but dying is no picnic either. That's just how it is down here in this world of fluctuation and enigma.

Well, we really didn't get too far today, did we? Oh well. You know what they say about the wind.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Brief Message from Beyond the Grave

I don't have much time for a post this morning, so let's get right into it. The foreword to Meditations on the Tarot (and you may want to snap up one of those cheap used copies before they're gone) begins with a letter personally addressed to you, the Unknown Friend for whom the book is written, and through which you will acquire "definite knowledge" of Christian Hermeticism.

This is part of the book's charm, since it's a little like the wisest man you've ever met telling you all he knows about the deepest things. Moreover, the author "has said more about himself in these Letters than he would have been able to in any other way." No, not just via the content, but, as we shall see, via his incarnation right before your three eyes.

And what is Christian Hermeticism? It is none other than the venerable Raccoon tradition through which we unite "a spirit of free research with one of respect for the tradition." In this regard it is very much like jazz, which again requires the strictest adherence to musical principles in order to freely and spontaneously explore musical space, or the phase space of musical possibility.

The author says that his purpose is to "incarnate" into the above tradition by becoming "an organic part of it." This is indeed a key principle, not just for this book but for Christianity as such. After all, what are the key principles of Christianity? One is obviously incarnation, the principle whereby the ultimate Principle takes on human flesh.

Therefore, the "imitation of Christ" is more than just an exterior sort of impersonation. Again, think of a musical analogy. One could imitate, say, John Coltrane, and play a note-for-note copy of A Love Supreme. But in another sense, that would be the exact opposite of imitation, because Coltrane didn't copy anyone, and never played the same way twice. Therefore, a more profound imitation of 'Trane would involve the incarnation of his total approach to music.

Can we usefully apply this analogy to spirit? I think so, so long as we truly respect the tradition, and "play" within its rules and boundaries. Tomberg's purpose is to immerse himself in this "millennial-old current of thought, effort, and revelation," so as to help you do the same: to embody the tradition, not just "think" about or imitate it. To the extent that the book contains a lot of spiritual know-how, its real purpose is to facilitate spiritual be-who.

Another important principle to bear in mind involves the verticality and horizontality of Tradition. Revelation is a quintessentially (↓) phenomenon, but it does not, and cannot, remain there.

Rather, it is "received" by human receptacles, who are not angels but men living in this world. Our task, as it were, is to prolong the vertical message forward (→) into time, history, and culture. Indeed this horizontal prolongation is the very essence of Tradition.

However, at the same time, (→) must never be detached from (↓). This occasionally -- okay, more than occasionally -- happens, and when it does, the message is drained of its transformative and otherworldly power. The Word is reduced to mere words, or pneumababble, and becomes more meaningless than profane language, which is at least still connected to its object.

The solution to this problem is again incarnation. When Tomberg refers to various "masters of the tradition," he doesn't do so in order to impress you with his erudition, but so "they may be present with their impulses of aspiration and their light of thought." In other words, it's not about their words per se, except insofar as the words make the reality they symbolize present.

This reality involves light and aspiration. The former is "free" but the latter will cost you. We -- that is, I -- symbolize aspiration as (↑), whereas the light is a manifestation of (↓).

Right here you can see that we totally avoid the pseudo-conflict between grace and free will, because our task is to freely coupperate with grace in the divine spiral of (↑↓). It is through this spiral that we assimilate so as to incarnate, if that makes sense to you.

The (↑↓) is also the essence of what we call verticalesthenics and gymgnostics. As Tomberg says, the book comes down to "twenty-two spiritual exercises, by means of which you, dear Unknown Friend, will immerse yourself in the current of the living tradition, and thus enter into the community of spirits who have served it and who are still serving it."

In short, this is your esoteric bar mitzvah and baptism, through which you jump into the stream of living waters in order to bring it down and carry it forward. And in order to keep it, you must give it away. But only to the sincere and the qualified. The insincere and unqualified will just make a mess of it.

As an upright and tumescent member of the Mystic Circle of Cosmic Raccoons, you do not internalize a doctrine but I-AMbody "an invisible community of spirits" that persists "from age to age," and will shadow the visible Church until further gnosis. Offer void in academia.

There remains nothing more to say in this introduction to the Letter-Meditations on the Tarot, because all other questions concerning them will find a response in the Letters themselves.

Your friend greets you, dear Unknown Friend, from beyond the grave.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yeah, I'm Totally Useless. What's Your Point?

In an interview, Schuon was asked about the distinctions between philosophy, religion, and metaphysics.

Philosophy, of course, "operates only with reason, hence with logical assumptions and conclusions." The trick is that its effectiveness is contingent upon starting with correct premises (or first principles), which philosophy itself cannot furnish.

For that you'll need the uncommon gift of common sense. Thus the old saying, "garbage in, tenure out." Which simply means that if you don't start with reality, your philosophy can never reach it.

For it is written: from bullshit you are, and to bullshit you shall return.

Religion adds several dimensions to the picture, including revelation, grace, wisdom, and salvation. You might say that it provides man with fixed premises that he himself could never have arrived at without supernatural assistance -- say, Torah, or Exodus, or I AM, or Incarnation, or Person, or Trinity, or Resurrection, or Judgment.

Schuon highlights another important purpose of religion, which the modern secular world has, by definition, forgotten: "to establish a realistic social dimension."

It is a truism that the left's secular vision is unrealistic and unworkable in the real world, but people usually focus on the economic pathologies, e.g., krugmania, marxophrenia, obamanoia, etc. But these are all just fancy euphemisms for being broke and not knowing it, or else rationalizations for generational theft.

Much deeper than this is its social/cultural insolvency and moral bankruptcy. Only when the left has succeeded in completely destroying what only Judeo-Christian values could build, will some of them finally appreciate -- like the clueless Colonel Nicholson -- the enormity of what they've done. But most of them will find a way to displace the blame, because being on the left means never having to say you're wrong, sorry, sick, insane, lazy, broke, perverted, greedy, or lying through your teeth again.

So, why metaphysics? Which is a little like asking a monkey, "why the banana?" Human beings are built in a certain way and therefore have specific needs. Schuon says that metaphysics simply "satisfies the needs of intellectually gifted men." However, he isn't talking about profane metaphysics, which is just another branch of philosophy, and therefore not really metaphysics at all.

Rather, to engage in real metaphysics is to touch the divine. This must be so, since metaphysics is the study of being qua being, and God is.... No, let's just leave it at that: God is, period.

Metaphysics is the quintessential business of isness, and God is isness as such. Therefore, "metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but penetrates also to our whole being." As such, "it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word." Perhaps we should call it transphysics, because it is both above and beyond the call of nature.

Back to the monkey and his banana. A monkey, goddammit, has certain intrinsic needs, and to deny him the object of those needs would be a cruelty. So hand over the banana already!

Likewise, man has certain intrinsic needs, and to deny these is to make a monkey out of him. However, man's needs are not limited to the biological sphere, or even the social sphere, although food, grog, and sex is certainly a good start. But no man can live on bananas alone, nor even on human love.

Rather -- and this is a key to appreciating what man is -- man has a need of truth and of salvation. Allied with these is a need for morals, which represent truth in action, or, say, truth prolonged into the social sphere.

Man also needs, according to Schuon, spiritual practice, which, you might say, is a systematic way to assimilate and embody truth and morality. In short, in order to get anywhere he needs Truth and Way, or Doctrine and Method, or Ass and Roadmap.

I know, I know, MOTT. Don't worry, we'll get there. The spirit blows where it will, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Besides, this post is going somewhere, I just know it. And if it doesn't? Well, that'll just prove that the title of the post is apt.

Now, the following may require a bit of a leap, and this does indeed veer or careen into esoterism, depending upon how carefully you derive. For Schuon, an authentic religious tradition already embodies metaphysics, and this may be sufficient to satisfy the average believer.

For example, as we were saying yesterday -- or was it Friday? -- Genesis is chock full of metaphysical arguments and insights, and there is no intrinsic reason why an intellectual explication of them is superior to an implicit, right brain understanding.

I mean, it's all there: radical creation (and the goodness thereof), deiformity, vocation, destiny, judgment, woman trouble, sibling rivalry, and much more.

In fact, this "much more" is precisely what we'll be getting into with MOTT. Much of MOTT is spent unpacking the esoteric or "hidden" knowledge packed into revelation and tradition. Some oddballs have a legitimate need for this sort of thing.

Which is why most people are not my readers. They just don't have that itch, so my scratching would just annoy them. The Unfathomable Lucidity of the B'ob? No thanks.

Now, all of these preluminary meditations have a reason, I'll bet. The reason is that I am attempting to rationalize my peculiar existence. Because let's face it, I am a completely useless man.

What I mean is that this writing I am doing has no practical purpose whatsoever. I don't make any real money off of it (I do receive a nominal sum from you thoughtful folks who click through to amazon and buy something), and I am in a a career in which I could readily earn more money by... by, you know, working more.

I don't usually think about it in these terms, you ungrateful bastards, but this blogging isness does consume an awful lot of time. Over seven years, in excess of 2,000 lengthy posts, thousands of comments. Why do I do it? Why don't I do something more productive and remunerative with my time? That's right, Why don't you make yourself useful, ya' lazy bastard?

Monkeys and bananas, I suppose. I'm not "making up" this need I have. Rather, I'm just pursuing (indulging?) it in the most natural and spontaneous way immarginable. Always been this way, at least from my mid-twenties or so, when my personality fully came on line (yes, it took that long for me to recover from the initial shock of being here).

When I was younger, I used to think it was simply because I was an enlightened sphere walking amongst the grazing multitude of somnolent cubes. But I no longer look at it that way. People are just different, that's all. Strokes and folks. Speaking of which, I don't want to be like my cardiologist, but even less do I want him to be like me!

On the other hand, the historical ubiquity of religion proves that it answers and speaks to a genuine need in man, because to think otherwise is to posit an effect with no cause. What this suggests to me is that all of the irreligious cubes in this world are deceiving themselves. They have the same needs man has always had, because man is man, a self-tautology.

In order to be unaware of the pain caused by this unfulfilled need, they must engage in all sorts of distractions, displacements, replacements, and substitutions. But still the need will be there because the void will persist, a void that cannot be filled by the world, any more than the need for human companionship can be satisfied by food.

The bottom lyin' is that human beings try to evade their uselessness by doing something useful. But reality is utterly useless, which is to say, it cannot be reduced to some pragmatic, goal-directed activity.

The Great Useless, or Big Empty, cannot be measured by the useful. It is our reason, but in itself it has no reason; or in other words, it alone has no extrinsic causes, but just IS. Therefore, it seems to me that the last word in deiformity is to become equally useless, at least for as much timelessness as we can manage.

Look at God himsoph. What does he do? He makes himself useful with six days of creativity. But the proper telos of all this creativity is the sabbath, on which we are enjoined to enjoy utter uselessness.

I remember reading a book by Stanley Jaki, in which he expressed the opinion that this is the whole point of Genesis 1 and 2: its principle lesson concerns the sabbath, our great Day of Focussed Unactivity, Higher Non-Doodling, or slack.

Ultimate truth, like its divine sponsor, just is, and has no reason. And we cannot rest until we are conformed to it, and made equally useless. As useless as, say, a baby. We all need a touch of infanity.

Well, this post is over. Unfortunately, I have to go out and make myself useful.

According to the "physics" of the spiritual order, the more one draws on the divine life, the more one receives that life.... when one receives a gift, one must give it away, since it only exists in gift form, and when he gives it away he will find more of it flooding into his heart. --Robert Barron

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On the Necessity of Esoterism

Before embarking upon our journey into Meditations on the Tarot (which seems to have gone out of print again), I'd like to begin with a discussion of the meaning and purpose of esoterism more generally, since so much of it can appear a little dodgy, as if we're just deepaking the chopra rather than engaging in the Eternal Science (or the science of eternity).

However, it has always been understood that, for example, scripture is susceptible to multiple levels of meaning: the literal or plain meaning; the allegorical, or implied meaning; the conceptual meaning; the moral meaning; the more abstract and esoteric meaning; etc.

I just found this helpful post on the Four Ancient Assumptions of Biblical Interpretation, which points out that, not only is the full meaning of scripture "hidden" or cryptic, but harmonious despite superficial inconsistencies. But in my opinion, the only way to harmonize the inconsistencies is via esoterism. Which is why fundamentalism is entirely soph-defeating, because to insist "that the surface or literal meaning of the text is always relevant and never contradictory requires great skill in sophistry."

Here is one way of looking at it. As we have said many times -- either because or in spite of its obviousness -- human beings uniquely span all the vertical degrees of creation. Rather than representing a point of light, we are more like a line of light, extending from the Source at Raccoon Central all the way down "below" matter, and into the infrahuman realms inhabited by criminals, psychopaths, MSNBC hosts, etc.

The light is naturally brightest at the top, but becomes less luminous the further it descends from the source. I might add that there is more coherence at the top, hence, identity and individuation. The further from the source, the more anonymous, collective, reactionary, conformist, etc. There the differences (to preview Letter IX) blend into -- or are hidden by -- the darkness of the Black Point.

Paradoxically, the Light still shines there but the little darklings can't see it. Nevertheless, darkness is always a function of Light (for the converse could never be true), so the shadows they worship down there are still a kind of left-handed tribute to the BrightOne.

One must also realize that our human home is a kind of middleworld which we inhobbit. Especially with the development of modern science, we can all see for ourselves that we are immersed in "other" hidden worlds, say, the worlds of modern physics, or DNA, or quantum cosmology.

We can of course "tell the story" of our DNA -- or evolutionary biology can attempt to tell the story of human beings via DNA -- but the most complete possible genetic story will never describe man as he is, any more than an analysis of photons entering your eyes at this moment will tell you anything about what those photons mean.

For these are message-bearing photons that I have personally encoded with a weightless semantic freight. This cargo has no effect on the speed of transmission, which is why we say that in this cosmos, by God, thought travels at the speed of light.

Now, anything that exists is intelligible, or it wouldn't exist: to exist is to be the instantiation of an intelligibility. Or in other words, in order to be anything you have to be something, or else you're just nothing: every is is a what. If this weren't the case, then everything would be all mixed up with everything else and completely unintelligible, like the mush in Deepak's head.

Some religions don't like such intrapneumatic divisions and boundaries, which is why the cultures resulting from them are stuck in history and go nowhere. Such religions are defensible, of course, so long as one of your core values is going nowhere.

In other words, in such a metaphysic time is not just illusory, but a kind of cancer on the body of eternity. This was the error (or virtue, if you swing that way) of Parmenides, but it also applies to Muhammadanism and to aspects of Buddhism.

Some of our best friends, the Jews, thought otherwise, and voted for an enthusiastic embrace of history. Which is why time is on their side. Since then every contemporaneous ancient civilization has exited history: Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, etc.

And yet, the Jews are still here -- despite being the most persecuted people in history -- now prolonged into Christianity and the American founding. Notice too how the left's ceaseless attack on America (and its Judeo-Christian tradition) is an iteration of the same dreary attack that has been going on for roughly 5773 years. Get in line, Barry. We'll survive you too, assoul.

And make no mistake: it is not just an attack on Judeo-Christian values, but on history, on morality, on intelligibility itself. For absolute relativism (and there is no other kind) absolutely negates the Absolute from which all these good things flow: truth, meaning, virtue, unity, love, beauty, etc.

Now, a big part of the leftist negation of truth and reality revolves around its crude materialism. I myself am an enthusiastic and even crude materialist, but that is not all I am. Again, for us, matter is just one of the vertical degrees of being. It's a great place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live there.

But as it so happens it is the easiest one for us to negotiate, since it is so sensual and ponderable. Other realms are just as intelligible but not as sensible, and this applies to both the above and the below. For example, the quantum world isn't sensible -- or even imaginable -- but it is surely intelligible.

Likewise the spiritual world. It too is obviously intelligible, but not necessarily on its own terms. Rather, in order to encode and communicate it, we must generally use language borrowed from the sensible world. Hence the power of myth, which embodies a truth (or multiple truths) that are difficult to express in lingo that is fully wideawake & cutandry.

Or, consistent with what we've been saying about left and right brain differences, there is a certain manner of speaking to and from the right brain that completely eludes the left (which may even denigrate the wisdom of the right, depending upon how far left it has fallen). Just last Sunday I attended a religious ritual -- a baby naming -- that quite effectively bypassed the left brain and went straight into the heart via the right. Either that or I'm just getting soft.

Of myth, James Schall writes (in Pieper) that it "seeks to find a truth that does not seem to be expressible by philosophic argument."

You will have also gnosissed that we learn from myth or parable "from hearing," and "not from argumentation." Or, the myth is the argument, only in a different mode. Genesis surely involves many sophisticated arguments, but fully explaining them -- at least for most people -- may actually be less effective than simply hearing them.

Indeed, this is why the myth survives: because it is a true story that never happened but which happens every time. Pieper speaks of an "original revelation" that seems to be embodied in world myth, and people such as Jung, Campbell, and Joyce would certainly agree on that score.

"Could it not be the case," asks Pieper, "that the reality most relevant to man is not a 'set of facts' but is rather an 'event,' and that it accordingly cannot be grasped adequately in a thesis, but only... in the presentation of an action -- in other words, in a story?"

Note also that man cannot actually live without myth, which is precisely why the myth of leftism persists despite a total lack of logic and practicality, and an unblemished record of failure. Many thinkers (such as Voegelin) have seen that the left is essentially a secularization of the ancient myths, which is why the initial "denial of eternity" soon enough begets "the effort to replace it by political or scientific movements in this world." At which point the bodies begin piling up.

Much of what human beings urgently need to know cannot be conveyed in purely abstract, left brain terms. As the title implies, the author of MOTT meditates on the universal-mythological images of the tarot in order to deepen our understanding of Christianity. Thus, it is fundamentally the type of R --> L --> R brain verticalisthenic we've been discussing in recent weeks.

Just as science takes place in the space between the human mind and its object of study, the science of theology takes place in the space between man and O. Revelation too takes place in this space. If you think about what revelation is, it is a divine message that must be clothed in human terms in order for humans to apprehend it. But again, arguments aren't the only way to encode the message. It can also be encoded in stories, historical events, parables, a book, and even a human being.

As Socrates remarked, "it is difficult, my friend, to express higher things without recourse to sense images. In this we are like the person who knows everything in a dream and in waking no longer knows anything."

You might say that the myth or image is a way for the Dreamer to directly convey what he knows. Thus, as Pieper writes, the "heavenly realm" can be spoken of as a banquet, a wedding, a treasure buried in a field, a fishing net, a mustard seed, a day of reckoning, etc. It is simultaneously each, all, and none of these things.

In the beginning, writes Plato, man "has the shape of a sphere," which has connotations of wholeness, perfection, and eternity. But soon enough we lose that wholeness and enter the linear world of the left brain.

Our task is to help the prodigal brain return to its mythic sphere, now enriched by its novel adventures among the straights and cubes.

Bottom line: I don't think esoterism is necessary for everyone. Maybe just people who are too bright for their own good.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Clear Spheres & Rubish Cubes

"When two or more independent insights cross," wrote Henri Bergson, "a new philosophy is born."

That little gem was plucked from Gilson's Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge, which I would like to transfer from the cerebral inbox to the blogging outbox so as to move on to the next subject, which will likely be Meditations on the Tarot. But probably not Monday, since I'm going in for a nuclear treadmill early that morning. (It's my tri-annual Immortality Reassurance Tour.)

I can't say that I would commend TR & the C of K to your noggin, since it has an awful lot of inside beanball, meaning that he responds to critics of his Methodical Realism by chucking some chapter-length verbal heat right under those wagging chins.

However, history has already knocked these mediocretins off the plate by consigning them to the great Bin of Irrelevance, so it's like throwing chin music to Mario Mendoza. Why bother? Let Clio even the score. She's like Greg Maddux: looks easy to hit, but few thinkers can get it past the infield.

Now, that quote at the top goes to what we've been saying about the R --> L --> R --> L --> R brain-to-brain spiral movement. We routinely find ourselves in the position of harboring a couple of independent insights in the left brain. But how to reconcircle them?

Seems to me that it can only by accompliced via the right, which, according to McGilchrist, can take the left into consideration, while the left cannot reciprocate.

This is because the left brain is more linear, while the right is more spherical, so to speak, and you can fit any number of lines into that sphere (which, we should point out, is not a closed sphere, but open, so that its center is everywhere even while its circumference is nowhere, man).

Indeed, this is one of the reasons why O looks like an O, why my book is shaped the way it is, and why the slang term for the non-raccoon is "cube" -- as in "Richard Dawkins. What a cube!"

Conversely, some famous spheres -- in addition to Thelonious -- would be Pseudo Dionysius, or Maximus, or Eriugena, or Eckhart. Each of these men is quite spherical, and a couple of them got into some real trouble with the religious (and musical) cubes of their day.

Eckhart: "Being is God's circle, and in this circle all creatures exist." Or "In my flowing-out I entered creation. In my Breakthrough I re-enter God."

Similarly, Ruusbroec speaks of how "giving birth and flowing back into unity is the work of the Trinity"; or Eriugena of "the unexhausted diffusion" of the Godhead "from itself in itself back to itself."

Bernard "Bernie Mac" McGinn, Mr. 2000 Years of Christian Mysticism: "In the circle of love that forms the Dionysian universe we have a God who becomes ecstatic in procession and a universe whose ecstasy is realized in reversion."

I could go on and on, and would like to, but I'm starting to run out of linear time. Let me conclude with McGilchrist's circular argument for a commodius vicus of cosmic recirculation:

"The left hemisphere loves straight lines, not curves or circles."

In contrast, "the processing of the right hemisphere is that of the circle, and its movement is characteristically 'in the round,' the phrase we use to describe something that is seen as a whole, and in depth.... There are strong affinities between the idea of wholeness and roundedness."

Also, "the images of movement within stasis and of stasis within movement, are reflected in the circle, as they are in the movement of water, ever flowing, and ever reflected in the circle..."

Van Gogh: "life is probably round."

Yeah, probably. But not in a Nietzschean way, which he may not have realized, or else he wouldn't have tried to end it.

A musical dream of Thelonious Sphere:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Have to be All Man to Know the Whole Truth

What is reality?

First of all, even the ability to pose the question is fraught with implications. No other animal can ask the question. Therefore, we might say that reality is the thing human beings are able to ask about.

Here is why the question is not like any other question, and not susceptible to a cutandry answer: reality, whatever else it is, is singular, similar to the UNIverse. Now, our senses reveal to us the singular, but there is no knowledge of reality -- of totality -- at the level of the senses.

Conversely, the intellect deals with universals. But reality is not an abstract universal. Rather, it just is.

So, if we can't know it with our senses or with our intellect, how is it that we even have the word?

Along similar lines, Gilson asks "Why is there existence at all, seeing that the existence we directly know does not seem to have in itself a sufficient reason for its existence? And if it is contingent, does it not postulate a necessary existence as its cause and explanation?"

Yes or no?

We say yes, and we call this necessary existence O. If not for the Necessary, we wouldn't even have the word contingent. In the absence of O, literally nothing makes any sense, and yet, O is again neither an object of the senses nor a concept in the melon.

But at the same time, O is -- in a manner of speaking -- the Concept without which there are no concepts. Or, call it the orthoparadoxical "empty concept," so to speak -- a sort of "structured nothingness" which we spend our lives exploring and unpacking.

O has diverse degrees and modes of manifestation, but it is the unity within the diversity; or, in the words of Gilson, it joins "the diverse modes of existence to Him" -- Him being I AM, one of the names of O. One God, one Reality, one Truth, one Love, one Mind -- each of these is necessarily related to the others.

If we invert the cosmos and try to begin with thought, there is simply no way back to oneness except in fantasy, for oneness is something we could neither invent nor discover in the absence of the real One.

Indeed, to even be wrong about God is to prove his existence -- hence Eckhart's crack to the effect that he who blasphemes praises God. The Divine One "is a negation of negations and a denial of denials." He is the light that shines in the darkness of every mind, and in the absence of which there is only darkness upon the deep.

Sure, you can run around with that little candle looking for darkness, but the only thing you'll ever find there is tenure.

About that implicit two-way pre-structure of world and thought: "It is a characteristic of thought to be faced by what is opaque," writes Gilson.

But "as soon as that wall of opaqueness becomes translucent, there is always a similar one behind it," such that "thought progressively assimilates what is intelligible in a world given to it from without."

We do not create -- nor could we ever create -- "the intelligibility and existence of that world." Nevertheless, Deepak will be happy to sell you a very expensive bridge that ends in a shadow world where you can relax in the comfort of your ownan delusions.

Speaking of which, "the birth of the concept presupposes fertilization of the intellect by the reality which it apprehends. Before truth comes the thing that is true" (emphasis mine). Our mental womb must be penetrated and fertilized by a, you know, thing, pardon my French.

To put it another way, we must begin with O, "with the whole in order to distinguish the parts." We cannot begin with one of the parts, "to be posited as the pre-condition for the existence of everything else."

This very much comports with what we were saying last week about left and right brian differences. We begin with the holistic experience of the right brain, not with the abstractions of the left.

If we try to start with the left, we are essentially trying to get from thought to being, and that is like trying to capture a sphere with a circle. All the circles in the world don't add up to one lousy ball (hey, didn't Himmler have something similar?).

Oh. About how we know reality exists even though it is neither sensation nor concept. Very simple. In the real world, there is neither sensation nor intellect. Rather, there are men, and it is the whole man who apprehends being.

You will have noticed that we don't actually find human sensation or human intellect existing abstractly, separate from one another.

For the same reason, it would be absurd to state that a heart, isolated from the body, "pumps blood." In reality, the whole human body pumps blood.

As with the interior of the godhead, we can speak of distinctions but not divisions: "Properly speaking, neither the senses nor the intellect knows; it is the individual man who knows by means of the senses and the intellect."

There is only the "one subject, one being who possesses distinct yet harmonious powers and produces these diverse actions": one man and one cosmos under one God.