Friday, August 30, 2013

Progressives: Parasites on Progress

Insufficient time for a fully loaded post, but maybe enough to nibble at the margins of George Gilder's Knowledge and Power, which is again enthusiastically raccoomended to all.

Matters up here are further complicated by what turns out to be a fractured metacarpal. I declined the cast in favor of a brace, but still, I was a primitive hunt 'n pecker to begin with. This is ridiculous. My thoughts are running so far ahead of my available fingers that it's like typing under water.

So I'll just highlight and expand upon some peripheral points without getting into the main core of the argument. For example, Gilder writes of scouring the Harvard catalogue and concluding "that 80 percent of the courses stultified their students."

And they don't just stultify intellectually, which is bad enough, but spiritually; you might say they warp the person both existentially and ontologically, i.e., in both knowing and being.

Thus, a significant majority of courses at this quintessentially "elite" university are "either self-evident or wrong, ideological or tautological, twisted or trivial." No doubt Miley Cyrus will soon be a guest lecturer in their Womyn's Studies department.

Why is it our business if deluded parents want to shell out 200 large to have their children indoctrinated with the latest perverse nonsense?

I see two potential problems: first, some of the children will lack the skepticism, or self-awareness, or independence of mind, or grounding in higher truth, to resist the indoctrination. Second, one of these idiots might become president.


Or as Gilder says, "Now those stultified students are running the country."

Stultified, like how?

Well, if, say, a president has no allegiance to truth but only power, then we have no right to expect intellectual consistency, as truth will be in service to power rather than vice versa. To the extent that consistency is present, it will be in terms of adhering to the needs of power, which change from day to day.

Thus, the Constitutional Scholar assured us when running for president that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat."

Your point being? That was then. The needs of power were different. Likewise, no one was more outraged than Obama about the IRS's political persecution of taxpayers. Now? Phony scandal.

An associated question is why do the tenured despise the very economic system that makes their frivolous lives possible? This strikes me as a plausible motive:

"Capitalism offers nothing but frustrations and rebuffs to those who, by virtue of their superior intelligence, birth, credentials, or ideals, believe themselves entitled to get without giving, to take without risking, to profit without understanding, and to be exalted without humbling themselves to meet the unruly demands of others in an always perilous and unpredictable life."

The market, for example, can only offer health insurance, and compete with other companies for your patronage -- i.e., in pleasing the consumer. (I should add that this would be the case in a real market, uncontaminated by the abundance of low-entropy noise from the state.)

But Obama didn't even need to please a majority of skeevy politicians, let alone citizens. Rather, through outrageous lies, naked bribery and legislative trickery -- thuggery, humbuggery, and skulduggery -- he was able to force this beast upon 300 million other human beings, who are now significantly less free than they were the day before.

At any rate, "It is not surprising, therefore, that the chief source of misunderstanding of capitalism is the intelligentsia, who disdain bourgeois or 'middle class' values and deny the paramount role of individual enterprise in the progress of the race."

In the deluded minds of progressives, they believe they are the cause of progress rather than its parasites.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tending to Your Own Isness in the Present Tense

There is only one method: to be intelligent. --Voegelin

Just a few more items to cover in Voegelin's massive missives before moving on to Knowledge and Power.

One reader mentioned that he had some difficulty with Voegelin's use of the word "tension," which is so central to his thinking.

Specifically, it refers to the intrinsic tension of undeformed human existence -- of the fundamental experience of tending to, or longing for, transcendence. Human beings live in the space between appearances and reality, or manifestation and principle, or relative and absolute, or (•) and O. Way it is.

Voegelin addresses this in a letter, noting that "The Latin tensio derives from the verb tendere, which means, just as in English, tend, being stretched or tending in a certain direction toward something."

Hey, no offense, but "I am at a bit of a loss to understand why the philosophical meaning of tension, which stresses the directional factor in the existential tension, should cause such difficulty?"

Rather, "this tension of existence manifests itself concretely in the 'quest,' the 'search, the 'questioning and inquiring' of the thinker in the direction of the ground of his existence that is, at the same time, the 'mover' of the inquiry and the 'drawer' of the soul toward its immortality." (You know the crack -- "God becomes man so that man might become God." In an orthoparadoxical manner of speaking, of course.)

Pretty clear, no? I find it interesting that Voegelin regarded this description as not only an unsurpassable truth, but a literally scientific account of man's ontological situation. And I believe he is correct, because it cannot be explicitly refuted without being implicitly affirmed. We always live in tension toward the Great Attractor, O.

Unless we don't. To rip an example from the LoFo headlines, what do you suppose Miley Cyrus is oriented toward? Where is the tension in her life?

Well, for starters, she appears to believe that all such tension represents a kind of oppression, and that in order to exist in freedom we must, to parableat Lileks, cross every line, push every envelope, and transgress every norm. Until there is nothing creepy and no one left to creep out. She exists in tension toward the bottom -- Ø -- and won't stop until she gets there.

Which reminds me of something Alan Watts once said -- something to the effect that the stripper is sexy until she removes the last veil. As Lileks says of Cyrus (strange to see those two names in the same sentence), she has "no mystery, no allure, no skill, [and] no art." Which, on the one hand, is obvious. But the reason she has none of these is because of the abolition of the Tension.

Tension is good, and coincidentally, it is one of the major themes of Gilder's Knowledge and Power. Briefly -- for we'll get into it in much more detail later -- not just the raving Krugmaniacs, but even sane and sober economists labor under the misplaced metaphor of a Newtonian system to describe the economy.

In short, they see it as a spontaneous order that tends to equilibrium. But in reality, it is a system of information that requires the vertical ingression of entreprenurial creativity to avoid equilibrium. Equilibrium, as in biology, means death.

As we shall see, order is actually the opposite of information; order is low entropy, whereas information is high entropy -- for which reason the top-down approaches of the statists never work, because they try to replace high entropy information with low-entropy power to achieve order.

Never mind the trillions of dollars Obama has removed from the productive economy. Much more dreadful and damaging is the untold information he has destroyed or prevented along with it.

Don't worry. You'll get it. The point is, money doesn't have the same value in different people. For example, it has much more value -- because more information -- in the hands of a Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos or a Koch brother than it does in the hands of an Obama, a Reid, or a Pelosi.

Welfare and food stamps are about as low entropy as money can get, for you can't make a man more valuable by paying him more than he's worth, nor can you conjure success by simply subsidizing one of its side effects, i.e., "money." Give money to an Israeli and he'll create a high tech company around his new invention. Give it to a Palestinian and he'll buy more rat poison and ball bearings to blow up the inventor.

Hmm. It occurs to me that low entropy envies high entropy as a way to obliterate the Tension. That pretty much explains the left, doesn't it? There was a time when we admired the successful, i.e., tolerated the tension between us and them. The left is all about filling that space with bitterness, envy, resentment, entitlement, and charges of racism, homophobia, gynophobia, and all the rest. All of these words have become low-entropy ciphers in the mouths of the left. They pretty much mean nothing but "gimme."

Conversely, God -- or O -- would have to represent the most intense degree of entropy. And interestingly, a high entropy message can be indistinguishable from a low entropy message, because it will appear random. This dovetails nicely with Voegelin's acknowledgement that "behind the [low entropy] gods of the Myth," exists "the real [high entropy] God about whom one can say nothing" -- since the entropy of this Word is just too maxed out.

So "when somebody says that I am a mystic, I am afraid I cannot deny it. My enterprise of what you call 'de-reification' would not be possible, unless I were a mystic."

To sum up then, a Gnostic -- including of course the political Gnostic -- is low information and low entropy, which is what makes them such crashing borgs. Conversely, the mystic lives in dynamic tension toward the first and last Word in high entropy in-formation, O. Anything short of this implicitly violates the second Commandment, for

No symbolization is adequate to the ineffability of the divine Beyond. Hence, when you are a believer on the level of symbol, you become an "infidel" to the ineffable truth of divine reality...--Voegelin

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reality and its Alternatives, Philosophy and its Apes

If one thinks and lives philosophically -- as in seeking after and loving Wisdom -- then the world -- the human world -- is indeed a strange and spiritually sick place.

There's no getting around this conclusion, but it doesn't make one a Gnostic in the bad sense of the word, any more than noticing physical illness marks one out as a quack.

Think of an extreme case, say, Solzhenitsyn in the USSR. He was able to diagnose the sickness there because of his extreme sobriety, because of his refusal to be seduced by illusions, and because of an overriding and courageous love of truth for its own sake.

In short, he simply practiced philosophy against ideology, or light against darkness, or truth against force.

Voegelin writes of how a good deal of contemporary politics -- because it is dominated by ideology -- "belongs to the class of surrealist phenomena," completely bypassing the "great philosophical initiatives" of the 20th century (he mentions Whitehead and Bergson, to which I would add Gödel and Polanyi, since those two alone obliterate any reductionistic fantasies of scientistic control). Instead, public modes of cognition are "dominated by thought forms widely differing from philosophy" as defined above.

For ideology in general and the left in particular, violence -- or power, which is simply implicit force, i.e., threat -- takes on a central importance. Voegelin suspects that this is because, in the radically secularized mind of the ideologue, "violence has become an instrument of magic, meant to achieve the alchemistic opus of the perfect society."

It's not that one must break a few eggs in order to make an omelet. Rather, for the ideologue, the egg-breaking is a magical operation that results in the manifestation of an omelet. And the fact that no omelet appears just makes them try harder. Maybe they just didn't break enough eggs -- which basically describes Keynesian economics, doesn't it?

Again, think of an extreme case such as Nazis, who believed that if they only murdered enough Jews, this would result in the magical transformation of Germany. Recall that many more Jews were killed after the war became clearly unwinnable -- as if killing a sufficient number of Jews and other "contaminants" would please Wotan enough to turn the tide.

This principle is echoed in George Gilder's wonderful Knowledge and Power, about which we will no doubt be blogging at great length. The key error of the left is concise enough to be printed on a bumper snicker: the attempt to replace knowledge with power, or truth with coercion.

It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect example than Obamacare, which starts with the insane conceit that it is possible to understand a system as complex as the healthcare industry, and to impose a top-down replacement for the infinite amount of information -- of personal knowledge -- dispersed throughout the individuals and institutions involved.

It cannot be done. It is impossible in principle -- but only if one thinks philosophically. If one thinks ideologically, it is a different story, for "ideological faith makes all things possible." With one caveat: In. Your. Dreams. (Or maybe the dreams from your Marxist father.)

There is so much good stuff in this book. I'll just cite one example. Gilder points out that public employee unions actually learn more slowly than tapeworms, because at least tapeworms are intelligent enough to usually not devour the host.

Living as I do in California, I know this statement to be not just fine insultainment, but a truism beyond refudiation. I'm sure Detroiters feel the same way, as will all Americans when the fiscal deal finally goes down -- which it must, on pain of revoking the law of gravity.

In fact, for people living in Realville, it is a source of solace to know that what cannot go on will not go on.

Oh, this is good: Gilder uses the term "deteriorating paradigm" to describe one that becomes more complex to account for its lack of explanatory power.

Think of global warming, which adds epicycles to inepticycles within klepticycles to account for the simple fact that the globe ain't warming.

Back to the surrealism of ideology. I'm not sure that is the best word, since sur-real implies above reality, when the problem is its failure to ascend to reality. Therefore, "subreal" would be a more accurate term. "Homosexual marriage," for example, cannot be surreal, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

Rather, it is subreal, a failure to ascend to the disturbing knowledge of sexual differences -- which the left must deny a priori, since the last thing they want is essence trumping existence; if it does, then people cannot be shoved around like bags of wet cement in order to impose their perfect society.

When philosophy and ideology are conflated, "and man tries to overcome the condition humaine by imagining alternatives to it, then we get into the real trouble of the revolutionary activities" (Voegelin). Nevertheless, "people succumb, again and again, to the magic of ideological intoxication" and the consequent revolt against human nature.

For which reason it is a crime against humanity to intoxicate children with ideology, as is done in our public schools and looniversity bins. For the assouls

"who abet this baleful activity, whatever role they play, and at whatever level, should be reminded of Plato's dictum: 'To corrupt the spirit of young people is to commit a crime that ranks just behind that of murder itself.'"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sniffing Out God

We're still trying to figure out why religion, which once spoke to everyone in a direct and intimate way, no longer does so, at least in the *advanced* world. But in what ways are we advanced? I'm not someone who denies progress, but it seems that advances in one area are often accompanied by declines in another.

I know. Brilliant observation.

Part of this may have to do with limitations on human bandwidth. For example, our olfactory capabilities, which were once presumably as acute as any other average mammal, have been displaced by other modalities. More generally, it seems that the advanced shoves aside the primitive -- although the pattern can be reversed, as indicated, for example, by sightless people who compensate with touch.

But if psychoanalysis teaches us anything, it shows that man is always one in body and mind, or unconscious and conscious. Should these two become too divided, so that communication between them is stifled, then pathology arises, because the left brain has no idea what the right brain is doing, or the neocortex is out of the limbic loop.

This same wholeness is emphasized in orthodox Christianity, what with the intrinsic unity of body, mind, and soul -- or soma, psyche, and pneuma. To lose contact with any one of these is to live an impoverished life.

We all know about horizontal amputations, but to live without awareness of soul and spirit is to exist in a state of vertical amputation. There are millions of near-people who have been victimized by pneumectomies. They are the legions of walking dead -- of psychic zombies and spiritually autistic flatlanders.

The infrahumans like to flatter themselves with the cliche that Christians despise and reject the soma, but this could never be the orthodox view, unless the Incarnation means nothing to you. Indeed, I think this is why, for example, Catholics have better sex. It makes perfect sense in a context that emphasizes the unity of body, mind, and spirit. You might say there's more to love.

(The inverse mirror of this would be the attempt to elevate sex itself to some sort of liberating spiritual principle, which apparently ends in Miley Cyrus, or maybe I just can't imagine anything lower.)

Marriage itself is a higher spiritual unity, so it is no surprise whatsoever that the left is and always will be anti-marriage and anti-family. First of all, they don't want anything getting between their spiritual eunuchs and the state. The left has always understood that loyalty to other human beings -- both local and nonlocal -- poses a fundamental threat to its power. Thus, Obama's archetypal "Julia" and her lifetime commitment to Mr. Perfect, Leviathan.

Back to our original question, which touches on the inept marketing of religion. For Voegelin, much of the problem revolves around the loss of experience -- or even the loss of capacity for experience, similar to how most of us have lost our ability to smell a wild boar from a mile away.

Thus, in some way, this alienation from oursoph needs to be reversed, so we may recover experience "as against doctrine." Along these lines, Voegelin speaks of the need for a "restoration of mystical experience and its reality."

This modality quintessentially involves participation. There is no mysticism by proxy, no second-hand unity with God. Fundamentally it is no different than the truism that it is impossible to imagine the consciousness of a bat.

Likewise, it is not possible for the atheist to understand a mystic without reducing the experience to something it is not. Me? I mostly just enjoy the crumbs. But I don't deny that there's a cake.

There are many vivid accounts of mystical experience, but some of my favorites are from Henri LeSaux/Abhishiktananda, the priest-swami highbrid. In one of his letters, he observes that:

"It is fantastic, this Light which empties, annihilates, fulfills you; and how true the Upanishads are! But to discover them is a mortal blow, because you only discover them in yourself, on the other side of death!"

So, how is the be-nighted atheist supposed to confirm or refute such a statement about the light of be-ing? He doesn't. He just insists that the bat's -- or b'atman's -- consciousness is no different from his own consciousness, and reveals nothing inaccessible to it.

"The mystery of Christ and of the Father is beyond words, more even than that of the atman, the Spirit. You can only speak of it in parables, and the meaning of the parable is beyond the words used. No word [can give] you the experience of the word of the not-born."

More orthoparadox: "[W]hat is important are these 'flashes,' the lightning, the bursts of light, the break-throughs which open the abyss -- not a gulf which would separate, but the abyss of yourself.... The saving name of Christ is I AM. And the deep confession of faith is no longer the external 'Christ is Lord,' but I am he. The Father in relation to the Son -- to me -- to all.... everything is a mystery of the face-to-face and the within" (emphasis mine).

And "The blazing fire of this experience leaves nothing behind; the awakening is a total explosion."

That would be the fourth big bang, after matter, life, and mind.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bob's Weekend Acid Trip

In a letter, Voegelin speaks of how "metaphysical concepts are symbols which only make sense as the terminal points of the existential movement of participation in the divine."

For man -- who, as explained in the previous post, is "condemned to transcendence" -- this extraordinary condition is our ordinary condition, a kind of inexhaustible, or perpetually renewable, supernatural re-source. As such, deviations from the pattern -- especially when systematic and not just occasional or accidental -- are intrinsically pneumopathological.

You'll have to excuse me if this comes out more awkwordly than usual, because I'm trying to type with one or perhaps 1.25 hands, due to a little "gardening accident." Short story shorter, I was atop a ladder, trimming some branches that overhang the pool. Need I say more?

In this case, yes, because I believe there are mitigating circumstances. As a largish branch became unmoored and descended toward the pool, I instinctively -- I would say skillfully -- wife would say foolishly -- grabbed the branch with my customary lightning reflexes.

This set in motion a chain of events that, as they say, "all happened so fast" -- way too fast for my life to flash before me (but not too fast for my death to so flash). First of all, the branch was heftier than visual inspection had foreseen, pulling me in the direction of the pool.

Which would have been fine -- fun and games for all, as dad falls into the pool! -- except that on this particular day, the pool happened to be full of acid. Yes, part of the resurfacing process involves putting sufficient acid in the pool to eat away the new surface and expose the colorful aggregate of minerals beneath.

Faced with the choice of a brick nap or an acid bath, I chose the former. Again, it a. h. s. f. The last thing I remember is my foot missing the rung, followed by, "wo, Dad, are you okay? I'll get mom!"

Meanwhile, the ladder was nowhere to be seen. Oh, there it is, at the bottom of the pool! Don't worry, though. We fished it out before it disintegrated.

The main injury is to the left hand and wrist. Near as I can tell, I must have hyperextended the whole area -- wrist, fingers, and thumb -- backwards as I touched down and landed on it. The hand is now swollen to at least twice its original size, but remarkably, I don't think anything's broken. But typing with it is like trying to use Joe Biden's brain to think. Pretty much a blunt instrument.

So, with that out of the way, back to our subject. Using my little arboreal adventure as a cautionary metaphor, man is always on the ladder -- or vertical eschaltor -- between his source and destiny, the beginning and the beyond. And we can fall in two directions, even though we inevitably land in the same place.

The myths of Adam and Prometheus and Kramden (variants of which are sprinkled throughout Finnegans Wake) warn us of what happens if we become so full of ourselves that we fall too high. This was the usual way until about 300 years ago, whence began the collective resistance to theology and metaphysics -- which was initially confined to a handful of infertile eggheads before spreading to the rabble of tenured apes laboring in Blake's dark satanic diploma mills.

Remember, man's proper place is on the ladder between transcendence and immanence, pruning the Upanishadic tree, with its nonlocal roots aloft and local branches herebelow. All the while being mindful of that fulsome acid pit just south of us.

For Voegelin it is more or less a constant struggle to "overcome the devastating effects of this deformation of philosophy." It is devastating collectively, of course, but it first must devastate -- or literally lay waste to -- the individual soul.

With great understatement, he makes reference to "the numerous unfortunates of the 19th and 20th centuries, who were denied" access to "the grace of God" -- grace revolving around the vertical energy flow that can only occur on the ladder, between the beginning and the beyond. If one steps -- or falls -- from the ladder, one is subject to a pervertical counterflow that energizes all forms of modern political Gonosticism.

Not to shift gears too violently, but did you know there is something called an "O machine"? I learned this from Gilder's Knowledge and Power, which I would consider a must-read. He doesn't say much about it, but it sure sounds familiar. It was invented -- or posited -- by the all around genius Alan Turing:

"Turing imagined a deterministic computing machine that made non-deterministic leaps when necessary by consulting 'a kind of oracle, as it were. We shall not go any further into the nature of the oracle apart from saying that it cannot be a machine.'" In other words, let's keep it unsaturated, and not reduce it to one of our logical categories.

This speculative "machine" is "closer to the way real intelligence works," and is a necessary consequence of Gödel's theorems, which of course prove that no logical system can account for the principles and axioms upon which it is based. For Gödel, this did not mean that truth is inaccessible. Rather, the miracle, as it were, is that we can access transcendent truth despite the closed nature of our immanent logico-mathematical systems.

I would suggest that the mind itself is an "O machine," meaning that it is able to construct horizontal systems without becoming enclosed in them, because of our constant engagement with O.

The moral of the story? Don't blame the ladder for your failure to climb on board, for your own fall, or for its failure to reach all the way to heaven. It's just a ladder, not an obstacle and not the oracle.

So that's it for today. Hand is starting to ache a bit.