Friday, August 16, 2013

All Politics is Nonlocal

I'm guessing Tip O'Neill -- Chris Matthews' mentor, proving that the road apple doesn't fall far from the horse's ass -- must have been drunk when he let the secret of liberal electoral strategy out of the bag -- that "all politics is local."

First of all, what does this even mean? I was about to say it means nothing to us, for whom all politics is nonlocal. When politics becomes local -- when government is in our face, our pocketbook, and our healthcare choices -- it's more or less a nuisance.

In other words, the reason for the establishment of the federal government -- the very purpose of its existence -- is to secure nonlocal rights enshrined in the Laws of Nature and conferred by Nature's God. You can look it up.

Preservation of these rights is the end -- the telos -- of government, to such an extent that failure to preserve and protect them triggers another natural right: the right of revolution, i.e., "to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form..."

But for the left, all politics is indeed selfishly local, and essentially comes down to the state showering the voter with gifts -- ObamaPhones, free birth control, healthcare on someone else's dime, etc. -- in exchange for one's natural rights, most especially, freedom.

And as Toqueville recognized at the dawn of this experiment in self-government, once more than 50% of the voters realize that politics can be made local -- in the sense that they can hijack the state to force the makers to subsidize the takers -- the experiment is mortally threatened. It is one of the most common reasons for the failure of democracy, e.g., Detroit, which of course went bankrupt because the takers eventually sucked the makers dry.

The same thing has occurred in California, where future makers are on the hook for billions in unfunded bribes to pay off state employee pension funds. And of course, Obama has committed the same electoral fraud, only on a more massive scale, raiding the coffers of the surviving unborn to fund his systematic bribery of constituents.

The conservative is obviously at a disadvantage here, which is why there are so few true conservatives in government. Few people can get elected these days by promising voters they will secure their nonlocal rights, but not bribe them with gifts.

We now pause for some timelessly timely aphorisms from someone at antipodes to the vicious and vulgar buffoon Tip O'Neill, Nicolás Gómez Dávila:

"The modern state is the transformation of the apparatus which society developed for its defense into an autonomous organism which exploits it."

Right? Like every institution, it eventually undermines the reason for its existence, in favor of merely pursuing self-preservation and self-interest. Which is why the state never gets smaller or less intrusive.

"Each day we demand more from society so that we can demand less from ourselves."

The credo of the selfish and myopic man for whom all politics is local. Existence is also local for animals, since they have no conscious access to the nonlocal.

"The modern sensibility, instead of demanding the repression of envy, demands that we suppress the object which arouses it."

Yes, where would the left be if the tenth commandment were understood to be a natural duty, complementing our natural rights?

"Compassion is the best excuse for envy."

And liberalism is the best excuse for idiot compassion.

"The left claims that the guilty party in a conflict is not the one who covets another’s goods but the one who defends his own."

That's right: the selfish envier is the noble party, which is why his bullying is always hidden behind a veil of sanctified victimhood.

"Democratic elections decide who may be oppressed legally."

In this case it was decided prior to the election, as the state didn't want to take any chances with nonlocalist Tea Partiers who can't be bribed. Ronald Reagan once characterized Tip O'Neill as "a round thing that gobbles up money." Tea Partiers now well understand that if you pose a threat to the business end of Leviathan, its teeth are very real.

"Liberal ideas are likable. Their consequences ruinous."

Likable for self-centered children, I guess.

"Conservatism should not be a party but the normal attitude of every decent man."

Bearing in mind that decency is a bare minimum, not any great virtue. Then again, a world of decent people would represent heaven on earth, so it's way too much to ask for or expect. Better to blame "institutional racism," "the patriarchy," "global warming," "income disparity," etc., than to diagnose the real problem -- which politics cannot cure, and leftist policies only aggravate.

Oh, and happy 26th anniversary to Mrs. G., who must be one of the least envious people around, since she doesn't feel entitled to anyone better than me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On the Organ of Spiritual Perception

I personally don't have an issue with the distinction between gnosis and Gnosticism, but since the question keeps coming up, perhaps we should settle the matter once and for all by handing down some definitions ex cathedra, i.e., from the front of the bus back.

For starters, one could just say that gnosis is to nous as perception is to the senses, or reason to the rational mind. Gnosis is what the nous "does" or "receives" -- the nous essentially being our organ of spiritual perception and discernment (to paraphrase Aristotle, it is that part of us that is divine, or at least closest to it).

If we didn't have this faculty -- or it us -- there would be no realistic way to discern spirits, to read the signs of the times, to deeply understand scripture, or to even operate this bus, really. In its absence we are spiritually autistic, as it were. And we all know spiritually autistic people. They pretty much run the show, don't they?

A related problem is when the nous is appropriated by lower regions. For example, many self-styled gurus and spiritual hucksters presumably have an activated nous, except it's merged with the ego (or lower), which drags it into the mud. That pattern is similar to, say, a psychoanalyst who has valid knowledge of the unconscious mind, but who lacks insight into his own motivations, and ends up seducing a patient.

But for clarity of thought in this upper atmasphere of the soul, I don't think it's possible to surpass Schuon, so let's see what he has to say. Conveniently, one of his books is called Gnosis, with the subtitle Divine Wisdom. So gnosis is divine wisdom, in contrast to, say worldly knowledge.

And if that is too saturated, you can always just say (n) vs. (k) to distinguish the one from the other. But in some form or fashion one must make this distinction, because if one doesn't, one becomes either an atheist or literalist -- which amount to the same thing, since both apply the wrong category of thought to the spiritual dimension. It's a ubiquitous problem, for "Men tend not to live on anything but the ground floor of their souls" (Nicolás Gómez Dávila).

More from Dávila: To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place of which the poet sang. To put it another way, religion can surely be understood rationally, but not only rationally.

Rather, one also needs an uncorrupted imagination, which "is the capacity to perceive, through the senses, the attributes of the object which the senses do not perceive" (NGD). Thus, "The imagination is not the site where reality is falsified, but where it is fulfilled" (ibid.).

For "When things appear to us to be only what they appear to be, soon they appear to be even less" (ibid.). For example, "The Gospels, in the hands of the progressive clergy, degenerate into a compilation of trivial ethical teachings" (ibid.). But in reality, "Faith is not assent to concepts, but a sudden splendor that knocks us down" (ibid).

Back to Schuon. The lone reviewer pretty much says what we just did, that gnosis represents "the highest aspect of the Intellect -- and is not to be confused with the lower faculty of rational thought [while not negating it, I might add]. Gnosis deals with intuitive contact with the higher level of the Self, while mere rational thought deals with the strictly human level/profane intelligence for a profane world."

"Gnosis," according to Schuon, "refers to supra-rational, and thus purely intellective, knowledge of metacosmic realities. Now this knowledge cannot be reduced to the Gnosticism of history," nor can it "be held responsible for every association of ideas or every abuse of terminology." As is true of any religious concept -- or any concept, frankly -- improper abuse does not negate its proper use.

That's right, what Bob said: "the fact that an imposture necessarily imitates a good, since otherwise it could not even exist, does not authorize charging this good with all the sins of the imitation" (Schuon). Might as well condemn religion because of Deepak, for "To claim that all gnosis is false because of Gnosticism, amounts to saying, by analogy, that all prophets are false because there are false prophets" (ibid.).

Nevertheless, "It is a fact that too many authors -- we would almost say: general opinion -- attribute to gnosis what is proper to Gnosticism and to other counterfeits of the sophia perennis, and moreover make no distinction between the latter and the most freakish movements, such as spiritualism, theosophism and the pseudo-esoterisms that saw the light of day in the twentieth century" (ibid.).

So, what is Gnosticism? Pretty much "a fabric of more or less disordered speculations, often of Manichean origin; and it is a mythomania characterized by a dangerous mixture of exoteric and esoteric concepts." I'm sure you're all familiar with the parable of the ice cream and the dog doo.

So, when does gnosis go off the rails? I can think of several pitfalls, pride being foremost among them. There is also the danger alluded to above, of conflation with an unredeemed imagination, or with one's own mind parasites. For this and other reasons, it is always best to channel the of flow gnosis -- or O --> (n) -- between the banks of an institutional or traditional river. It's the difference between, say, a Meister Eckhart vs. a William Blake or Emanuel Swedenborg, the latter two being too much a mixture of dream and reality.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Power Politics vs. Truth Politics: How to Tell a Clenched Fist from an Open Mind

So, why all the Voegeling? Because in recent months I've raced through number of huge volumes of his, and if I don't write about the experience, then it is soon forgotten, covered over with the next layer of mulch.

However, I'll try to liven things up with some parallel aphorisms of Nicolás Gómez Dávila (NGD), since the two were often on the same page, and he can say in a pointed sentence what Voegelin can in a dull 600 page book. (The ideas aren't dull, of course, but to paraphrase NGD, the writer who doesn't torture his sentences ends up torturing the reader.)

Yesterday we mentioned that it is a scientific fact that man, qua man, forever exists in tension toward the divine ground-attractor. In a letter, Voegelin writes that "the creation of the gods has something to do with true humanity." In fact, "the meaning of humanity was fixed in the process of separating the human from the divine," so "as soon as the meaning of the divine becomes unclear again, the meaning of humanity becomes correspondingly confused."

Voegelin calls the distinction between man and God a movement from compaction to differentiation, which is why the Hebrew discovery of the one God is such an important development.

In other words, prior to that there is no differentiation between the cosmos and the gods (e.g., wind, water, fire, fertility, etc.), with the result (among others) that history cannot be discovered (or created, if you like). History still "happens" of course -- in that time doesn't really stop -- but the ancient Hebrews were the first to see it as playing out in the tension between man and the divine ground, instead of just going around in immanent cosmic circles.

Which is why no form of dogmatic atheism can represent progress, because it expresses the backward movement to a de-differentiation between man and God. God, however, hardly disappears. Rather, he simply reappears in Gnostic man. Dávila:

"The radical negation of religion is the most dogmatic of religious positions." Such atheism "does not dispute the existence of God, but rather His identity." Which is why "He who does not believe in God" generally lacks "the decency of not not believing in himself."

Speaking of Obama, History's Greatest Orator, "Not being an orator amounts to not being able to speak about anything except what one knows about" (NGD).

Oh, and Obamacare? Don't worry, "With the generosity of the program does the democrat console himself for the magnitude of the catastrophes it produces" (ibid.).

In the end, "as long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock" (ibid.). To turn it around, this is why it is impossible to talk to liberal rockheads, because they express religious emotion in the absence of religious insight, due to the de-differentiation of spheres alluded to above.

About that de-differentiation: when the terrestrial and celestial are re-fused and the vertical thus de-faced, then "doctrinaire totalitarianism is justified." Indeed, "the Gnostic is a born revolutionary" -- the serpent being the archetype of this downward movement -- "because total rejection is the perfect proclamation of his divine autonomy."

Reader ge has suggested that Voegelin can't be right, because too many disciplines and movements fall under the heading of "Gnosticism." I don't necessarily see this as problematic, because it's just a consequence of the deeper principle of collapsing the vertical.

Thus, Gnostic systems "develop without exception in opposition to the creator-God... and transform him into the evil power over against which the new man-made god is is placed in the position of savior." The Obamensch is just the latest iteration of this pattern, but it is a universal temptation of fallen man.

A critical point is that when reality is collapsed in this manner, politics indeed devolves along with it to a crude struggle for power (since the true and good have been excluded).

This is "in radical opposition to the classic conception of Aristotle," whereby politics is rooted in common access to, and participation in, the nous. In the absence of the Logos-Nous dialectic, then man is indeed reduced from the political animal -- the animal with Reason in pursuit of the common Good -- to an animal who engages in politics in order to obtain power over others. (The rejection of the common Nous-Logos is also the hateway to multiculturalism, bogus "diversity," ideological feminism, and all the rest.)

The problem for the normal man is that, just because he is not interested in power over others, it doesn't mean others don't want power over him. It doesn't matter whether it's leftists or Islamists, they just don't want to leave us alone.

Which of course goes to the disconnect between liberals and conservatives, since the former are by definition engaging in horizontal power politics, while we are attempting to conserve at least a remnant of the vertical. But this is a little like trying to play chess with a barbarian, who elevates

"the repudiation of reason into a principle. The common world of the Logos is destroyed," which soon enough descends "to the level of violence and brutality which, in the sphere of action, reduces all questions to the one question: who will draw the revolver first."

No wonder they hate the second amendment.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The High Cost of Divorce from Reality

A post or two ago we mentioned Plato's allegory of the cave. It seems to me that Voegelin is one of the few contemporary scholars who fully accepts the allegory as descriptive of reality. For which reason he maintains that turning away from the light, the divine ground -- O -- constitutes the essence of pneumopathology, with devastating consequences.

Like all such myths, it isn't just describing something that happened once upon a time, but what happens every time. As such, it cannot be "surpassed," let alone disproved. Rather, either you get it or you don't, for we don't judge it; rather, it judges us. In other words, it sheds light on the space in which human beings have always lived and always will live (for existence in this space -- the "sensorium of transcendence" -- is what characterizes humanness).

This is just another way of saying that man isn't the measure of truth, but vice versa. If this is not true, then the world is indeed an absolute relativity, and we are reduced to the civilized barbarism of the tenured, where the only appeal is to power, not truth, and the world is divided into victims and the political supermen who will save them. Oh, and the evil conservatives whose "holy grail," in the words of Obama, is to increase human suffering.

Reader ge left a comment to the effect that the state of scholarship has "advanced" since Voegelin's time -- which is no doubt true, in the same sense that politics has advanced between Reagan and Obama, or science between Neils Bohr and Al Gore, or philosophy between Aquinas and Richard Dawkins.

Perhaps I should add that I am not a "Voegelinian," if there is such a thing. Rather, I simply take what strikes me as expressive of truth, and leave the rest. If it doesn't bang the interior Gong, then I consign it to the absurcular wastebin. Like you, I read in order to understand, not imitate.

The following strikes me as unsurpassable truth: "philosophical existence is existence in awareness of man's humanity as constituted by his tension toward the divine ground." For Voegelin, this is a scientific statement, in the original, uncontracted sense of the word.

And if this is the case, then "alienation is the turning away from the ground toward a self that is imagined to be human without being constituted by its relation to the divine presence" (emphasis mine). Indeed, this is the repetition of another of man's permanent mythological possibilities, i.e., the fall into auto-divinization.

Here again, this is either way true or way off. I don't see any other alternative, for as Eckhart might say, you can't be a little bit pregnant with God.

Thus, "Turning toward, and turning away from, the ground become the fundamental categories descriptive of the states of order and disorder in human existence."

This is not an abstract statement. For example, America's founders, in anchoring our very political existence in unalienable rights conferred by the Creator, explicitly turned toward the ground of order. Conversely, Marx -- and all ideologies flowing from him -- explicitly reject this order.

Voegelin calls this "willful turning away from the fundamental experience of reality" a "disease of the mind."

Once again, how could it not be a disease if man is rooted in a real order that the mind has rejected? Any disease of any kind is always a dis-order, a failure to achieve a certain end. And if there is no objective norm for human beings, then there is no such thing as psycho- or pneumopathology. Rather, there is only adaptation to transient conditions, which is precisely what Marx believed.

Turning again to the American revolution, Voegelin says that it is distinguished from, say, the French, or Russian, or National Socialist revolutions in light of the fact that it "was able to create an open society" -- not in the desiccated sense of Popper, but in the vertical sense of being open to the divine ground.

And the culture war -- or red state / blue state divide, or whatever name you want to assign our polarization -- is largely because our intellectuals are so strongly influenced by the European type of revolutionary, anti-Christian intellectualism. Indeed, Obama is our first president totally steeped in this crock, with predictable results all around.

Thus, "what really has happened is an inconsiderate, and partly illiterate intellectual movement," a "massive force of aggressive intellectual dishonesty" that "has polarized itself out of the American social reality," and into a "willful divorce from reality and violent aggressiveness in the pursuit of utopian dreams."

And "Since this intellectual disease is not confined to journalists and television reporters but has penetrated deeply into the academic world, and through the academic world into the education of the younger generation, one must recognize in these trends a danger to democratic government which, after all, has to rely on contact with reality in the population at large."

Hmm. I can't imagine why the tenured would turn away from Voegelin.

(All of the above quoted material taken from Autobiographical Reflections.)