Friday, January 03, 2014

History: Wall or Bridge?

If time has its problems, then history is like time on stilts or steroids or stuck on stupid.

However, like time, history must have an upside and not just an oopside, hence, everything that falls under the heading of "evolution."

That is to say, even when absurcularists use that term, they don't envision things going backward and getting worse. "The evolution of man" is a oneway affair, hard as some humans, some cultures, and some political parties try to prove otherwise.

Does history occur in time, or does time occur in history? In other words, is history just a side effect of time?

No, probably not. I say this because we have already established or at least insisted that time is a side effect of creativity -- ultimately divine creativity -- and what distinguishes history from mere animal duration is its creative development. In other words, animals have no history because they live in an essentially timeless state that is free of creativity (and therefore freedom).

Also, as Berdyaev writes, "Movement in historical time is not in a circle; it is in a line, moving ahead." So, time is a lying serpent that consumes its own tail, while history is a tale with a point, extending in two directions from a central point. While this pointed tale "aims at a goal," the goal is not to be found in history, much less time. Alienated from this deus-orienting goal, we are indeed stuck in a disorienting gaol, subject to a kind of "evil endlessness" or naughty infinity.


Unless what?

Use your logic: unless we can somehow escape from history -- or, more likely, whatever it is that lies beyond history can inscape to us.

Which is what Berdyaev means when he says that "the only way out is a break-through of the transcendental. Immanently, history may aim at the establishment of a perfectly rationalized and mechanized society" -- c.f. the historical nightmares of the left -- "But I do not want this." Rather, "I want the Kingdom of God, that comes unseen."

In other words, we don't want some broken promidise brought to us by leftist nightmarians, but a break-in and break-down of the real thing. You might say that leftism always revolves around counterfeit (↑). I suppose there is also a counterfeit (↓), most recently in the form of the divine charisma of the evolutionary lightworker, racial healer, and oratorical genius of the Tell-O-Promptly.

Remember Berdyaev's crack about how time recovered from its illness is eternity? Well, here he goes one further, and claims that "If there is no eternity, there is nothing whatever."

This claim is true. I say this because, on an even more basic level -- again, use your logic -- there is either God or nothing, with no possible alternative. So, if there is no God, then absolute nihilism is the only honest option. Of course, there are any number of intellectually dishonest options, otherwise universities would go out of business. Nor would we be open for isness.

Another critical point: (mere) time is quantity. It is why, in the words of The Clash, Clocks go slow in a place of work / Minutes drag and the hours jerk. But history lifts us from quantity to quality -- I would say toward the source of qualities, qualities that ultimately flow from the the One, the Good, the True, the Beautiful, etc. There are many cryptic allusions to this in the Book of the Personalized Blessing, such as

Reverse worldward descent and cross the bridge of darkness to the father shore.... rest your chronescapes and preprayer for arrisall.... Floating upstream along the ancient celestial trail, out from under the toilsome tablets of time.... Returning to the Oneself, borne again to the mysterious mamamatrix of our birthdeath, our winding river of light empties to the sea.... Etc.

Hey, I'm with you. I hate to refer to my own book, but if I don't, who will? Speaking of which, how about this for a deal: just write a review on amazon, and I'll knock five bucks off the price! It doesn't even have to be flattering, just ecstatic and fawning. Make it fun -- try to top each other in your outrageous but accurate claims for the transformative power of the cult of Raccoons! Alternatively, just write a review, and Petey will absolve you of the burden of reading the book.

Or not. There's no pressure. But I think we could all benefit from some fresh blood around here, don't you? Back when I was a member of PJ Media, we got more people wandering in and going wha'? Of course, I quit PJ Media because Charles 'Queeg' Johnson did. Who knew he had lost his mind? Oh well, God sometimes works in annoying ways.

Back to the topic at hand. Speaking of insanity, because there is God or nothing, it is quite insane to look for salvation in history. It just makes no sense: "Nothing is more pitiful than consolation derived from the idea of the progress of humanity and the happiness of future generations." We know this is true, because we are the happy generations promised by the liberal politicians of the past. But are liberals happy? Of course not. Can't happen, so long as they project it into the future.

Look at the new mayor of New York: even the most complete political expression of liberal dominance has resulted in nothing better than a f*cking plantation. And if the most liberal big city in the country is a plantation, what does that make your city, you filthy animal? That's right, subhuman -- not even a plantation.

Speaking of revulsion, this type of deferred political consolation "has always revolted me." For "nothing 'general' can comfort the 'individual' man in his unhappy fate." In other words, collectivism is no cure for the pain of history, for the simple reason that being nobody is not a cure for being somebody. Might as well amputate your melon for a headache.

Meaning must be commensurate with my own destiny. Objectivized meaning has no meaning for me. Meaning can only be in subjectivity; meaning in objectivity is merely a mockery of meaning.... If God does not exist, if there is no higher sphere of freedom, eternal and genuine life, if there is no deliverance from the world's necessity, there is no reason to treasure this world and our frail life within it.... --Berdyaev

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Proper Use of Sick Time

We left off, more or less, with Berdyaev's diagnosis of, and prognosis for, our timeboundedness: that time recovered from its illness is eternity.

What illness? Well, all the ills for which time is notorious: decay, disease, disintegration, death... and that's just the D's. So, if you've come down with a bad case of Time, there's still hope for you. You've got a good prognosis -- a very good one -- if you take the cure.

I don't know if "cure" is the right word, since time is more akin to diabetes: it is something you manage but don't get rid of. In fact, if you don't manage it, it will manage you. But not for long.

In fact, Bion had the same complaint about mental illness: that the whole concept of "cure" is an analogy borrowed from the realm of physical medicine, and is wholly inappropriate when applied to the mind. He speaks of "the extent to which ideas of cure, based on a background of sensuous experience and the pleasure principle, pervaded not only psychoanalysis but the whole domain of mental or spiritual life."

It is as if we have the implicit belief that "There is pain. It should be removed. Someone must remove it forthwith, preferably by magic or omnipotence or omniscience, and at once; failing that, by science."

In short, "The 'desire' for cure" is "not to be entertained by a psychoanalyst." Likewise, "the idea of 'results' should be similarly suspect because it derives from an attitude, common to physical scientists whose experience is related to sensuous impressions.... We should be amongst the first to have realized the inadequacy of models in which results occupy a prominent place."

Thus, although religion results in more happiness, better mental and physical health, a longer life, and a more satisfactory sex life, this is not why one should be religious. Rather, one should be religious because it is a beautiful and fuller way to live, here and now, for its own sake. One should be religious because one loves being so. One should be "in love," not in negotiations.

Speaking of which, remember the epic Jerry Lee Lewis box set I spoke of a couple weeks ago? There is a funny story in it about how Jerry Lee prayed that his mother be spared from cancer. If God cured her, then he would quit the devil's music and "use his talent in the service of the Lord."

Sure enough, "When Mamie went into remission, Jerry felt obliged to fulfill his half of the covenant," so he began recording gospel music (which is great, by the way; despite his worldly ways, he was always a fervent believer).

But then Mamie died, and that was the end of that: no deal. Jerry Lee had held up his end of the bargain. God had reneged. Back to the boogie woogie.

So, that's what can happen if we confuse cure with treatment, or if we pursue the spiritual life for narrow reasons of self-interest. When we hear the cliche about ridding ourselves of "ego," this is what it means, at least in a western context: not eliminating the self, but purifying it.

Likewise, to return to the main subject, there ain't no cure for time, but there is treatment. For example, creativity: "All creative activity, all creation of something new, should be directed not toward the future with its fear and worry and its incapacity to conquer determinism, but toward eternity" (Berdyaev).

Alert or obsessive readers will recall that this very principle was embedded in the Mission Statement of the One Cosmos blog, pronounced in October 2005. You can can't look it up, because I've since deleted it and republished it in a later post. I will append some of it to the end of this post, so as to not break up the "continuity" of this one.

Back to pointless creativity as a treatment for time: "This is the reverse of movement to hasten time." In the Church of the Subgenius, it is known as "time dilation." For Berdyaev, "it differs from the speeding up of time" associated with a modern technical society, and provides us with a kind of daily "victory of the spirit."

If you are a clock jockey living in the kingdom of quantitative duration, you're pretty much screwed. "We are witnessing a mad speeding-up of time," so "man's life is subject to this constantly swifter time. Each moment lacks value and completeness in itself, we cannot stop it, it must be succeeded as quickly as possible by the next moment....

"The 'I' has no time to think of itself as the free creator of the future." Rather, "it is carried away by the mad current of time." This temporal acceleration is "destructive for the 'I,' for its unity and concentration...." (Berdyaev).

As we were saying above about the proper pointlessness of religion, the "moment of contemplation" is not "a means to the next moment" but "communion with eternity."

Christianity intensified time extraordinarily, narrowed it to one point, from which the results of every act are extended through all eternity.... This intensification of time indicates the possibility within a moment of time, of passing out toward eternity, toward events with eternal, and not merely temporal, meaning. --Berdyaev


From that first post, which emphasizes that the blog is an endless exercise in discovering its own purpose:

Q: We don't need another blog. Why are you inflicting your beastly opinions on us?

A: To those of you who are new to this site, join the club, as I am still in the process of trying to understand the author's intention. For surely there are already far too many books and blogs, with no way any human being could ever assimilate the information contained therein. Actually, the problem we face is how to relate all of this fragmented and sometimes contradictory knowledge into a coherent picture of our world -- to move from mere knowledge, to understanding, to truth and to wisdom.

2,500 posts later, there's no longer any need to try to understand the author's intention. It's too late for that, and he doesn't know anyway. Now the question is, What was that all about, then?, and that's for you to decide.

.... If you can detach yourself somewhat and try to "hover" above it, the news of the day may be regarded as the free associations of a very troubled patient called Homo sapiens. This patient, now about 40,000 years old (before that we were genetically Homo sapiens but not especially human), has many sub-personalities of varying levels of emotional maturity, and one of his problems is that these different aspects of his personality are constantly at war with one another, which tends to drag down the more mature parts.

You could almost go so far as to say that this collective patient suffers from the kind of severe splitting and "acting out" characteristic of Multiple Personality Disorder. One of our axioms is that geographical space reflects psycho-developmental time, so that different nations and cultures embody different levels of psychological maturity. In this regard, the Islamic world bottoms out the scale at the moment.

More broadly, what I hope to facilitate is an appreciation of the "vertical" dimension of human history, culture and politics. For example, historians typically view history in a horizontal manner, leading from past, to present, to future. Likewise, we divide our political mindscape in a horizontal fashion, from left to right. However, as in a great novel or film, the "horizontal" plot is merely a device to express the artist's greater intention (the theme), which can only be found in a vertical realm, by standing "above" the plot.

I don't think it's healthy to orient your life around politics 24/7, as does the secular left, for whom politics is their substitute religion. Politics must aim at something that isn't politics, otherwise, what's the point? Politics just becomes a cognitive system to articulate your existential unhappiness. Again, this is what leftists do -- everything for them is politicized.

.... One of the general purposes of this blog will be to try to look at politics in a new way -- to place the day-to-day struggle of politics in a much wider historical, evolutionary, and even cosmic context. History is trying to get somewhere, and it is our job to help it get there. However, that "somewhere" does not lie within the horizontal field of politics, but beyond it. Thus, politics must not only be grounded in something that isn't politics, but aim at something that isn't politics either.

.... Tip O’Neill is evidently responsible for the cliché that “All politics is local.” The greater truth is that all politics is nonlocal, meaning that outward political organization rests on a more fundamental, “inner” ground that interacts with a hierarchy of perennial and timeless values. Arguments about the surface structure of mundane political organization really have to do with whose nonlocal values will prevail, and the local system that will be established in order to achieve those nonlocal values.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Cause and Cure of Time

Again, there are two forms of time; or at least time has its two vectors, one toward dissolution and decay, the other toward growth and creative intensity. Every religion deals with the problem of time in its own way; in fact, religion can largely be seen as a response to this very problem, i.e., to somehow heal or overcome the incompleteness and loss associated with this two-faced two-timer.

Charles Taylor (I think) remarked that "history moves to heal the wounds it made." Taking it one step further, Berdyaev writes that "Time that has recovered from its illness is eternity."

Thus, human beings are in need of a cure for time, a medicine for mortality, otherwise we are in the awkward position of believing that the very same thing which creates us destroys us. Er, thanks for nothing, time! This is like a hundred monkeys playing in the sand and producing a beautiful painting before a windstorm blows it away. Remind me: what was the point?

And why would you believe a monkey, anyway?

But again, as alluded to in yesterday's post, time cannot be fundamental in a creative cosmos, only a side effect of its creativity. Therefore, unlike primitive and timebound progressives, we cannot and should not appeal to time for our salvation, but rather, to.... yes, to creativity, but first we need to lay a foundation.

In addition to the naughty and nice aspects of time, it is divided into past, present, and future. These latter three are so different that it's difficult to see them as one thing. For example, what does the present have to do with the past? Not much. The past is completely objective, frozen in place: it is what it is -- or what it was, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

Then again, if time is a single phenomenon, then we can't really draw a rigid boundary between past and present. As is the case inside the Trinity, there are distinctions but no strict separations.

This being the case, it suggests that the past may actually be "changed," since it is prolonged into the present. Employing a spatial analogy, we cannot isolate an infected tooth from the rest of the body, so taking an antibiotic is medicine for, and communion with, the entire organism.

Notice how, subsequent to the Resurrection, one of the first items on the agenda was to situate Jesus in deep historo-scriptural and even pre-ontological time, e.g., in the beginning before the beginning was the Word before language....

Looked at this way, Jesus is the quintessential nonlocal higher-dimensional object passing through our local landscape. Tradition, you might say, is his contrail -- which, of course, can only be seen in the present.

That's weird -- I was about to use the example of an invisible jet's contrail, and there it is, right outside my window, between two trees. You may not see the jet (I don't), but if you see the white streak across the sky, you know it was there. You don't find a turtle on a fencepost unless someone put it there, just as you don't find primates surfing atop the temporal wave unless the Big Kahuna put them there.

In a somewhat obscure passage upon which we will attempt to shed some further bobscurity, Berdyaev writes of how "the problem of the relationship between past and present" may be "expressed in two ways." That is, "how to make the evil, sinful, painful past as though it had not been," and "how to make the dear, kind, beautiful past, which has died and ceased to exist -- how to make this continue its existence."

In short, we are dealing with precisely the problem alluded to in the first paragraph, i.e., good times / bad times. How do we preserve the good and toss out the bad? Or how do we get rid of the tumor without killing the patient?

This goes to the mysteries of repentance on the one hand -- which has to do with the "past" -- and salvation, or resurrection, which have to do with the present and future, respectively. Thus, it makes sense that repentance must precede salvation, just as recovery from illness must precede health, even though these are two sides of the same coin.

What is the worst evil that Time deals us? Death, which, ironically, is the end of time. That doesn't really make much sense, does it, because it reduces life to a kind of gas pain that is cured by farting.


Look, don't blame me. That's how it came out. But contrast this with, say, childbirth. There too we have pain, but the result is life, not just the cessation of tension. Furthermore, the internal tension is then displaced to the outside, where we now live in tension with the infant -- in the loving space between persons. So yes, life is tension. But not only tension.

The upshot, it seems, is that the Christian journey is entirely covalent with the mystery of time, "of the past, the present, the eternal" (ibid.).

I mean, journey, right? A journey is not quite the same thing as just being lost, but nor is it the same thing as being at our destination. Rather, it is an in-between state, which means that it is in the present, although looking in faith toward the future while nursing the wounds of the past.

"The good thing about the future," writes Berdyaev, "is that freedom is associated with it, that the future may be actively created." Here again, creativity is actually prior to time, wrapped up with the freedom that permits "the conquest of the determinism that is connected with the past."

Second from the bottom line: the past is either the fatal disease that infects the present and future; or, the present-and-future are the cure for the past. The former is fate, the latter destiny. And our fate is assured so long as we fail to discover our destiny.

[W]e must discover freedom in regard to the past, as well, the possibility of the transmutation of time. In religious thought, this is the problem of the Resurrection.... This is the victory over death-dealing time. --Berdyaev

So, Happy New, or Same Old, Year, depending.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Time and its Alternatives

It doesn't take long to lose the plot, does it? A few days in ordinary time and one quickly becomes disoriented. So let's see if we can slip into our usual state of deusorientation.

Which takes time. What then is the difference between these two kinds of time? Well, it seems to me that one is anabolic while the other is catabolic; one creates while the other decays; one makes you better while the other just makes you older; one is negentropic, the other entropic.

So, creativity "presupposes a change in time" (Berdyaev). But which is more fundamental, creativity or time? Clearly it must be creativity, which means that time must be a kind of side effect of creative novelty. Thus, "it would be more true to say that movement, change, creativity, give birth to time" (ibid.).

As such, we don't need to say that God is "in time" per se; rather, divine time is simply an artifact of his ceaseless creativity. It does, however, mean that time "must exist" if the word "Creator" means what it says.

Then again, one of the features of creativity is its "timelessness." This can be understood in two senses: one subjective, the other objective.

Subjectively, there is the suspension of time that occurs when we are immersed in some creative activity. Objectively, the most exquisite examples of human creativity attain timelessness, i.e., are relevant for all human beings in all times and places.

If we apply this principle by way of analogy to God, it must mean that his creative activity is asymptotically close to timelessness, if that is the correct use of the word. Or, you could just deploy an orthoparadox and say that God's creativity is "timelessly temporal." Revelation, for example -- say, the Incarnation -- occurs "in time." And yet, it would be a quintessential example of timeless truth.

Thus, we need to think of Deep Truth in a more dynamic way, as a kind of serial unfolding. We've discussed this before -- how a higher dimensional truth will require time to disclose its fulness on a plane of lesser dimensions. Just picture a three-dimensional object passing through a two-dimensional plane, and imagine how it would be experienced by the 2D people. Events separated in time are actually just different parts of the higher dimensional object.

I believe this is how Tradition would be interpreted by traditionalists: not so much the accumulation or accretion of arbitrary truths at the human margin (although that also occurs, inevitably), but the temporal residue of creative engagement with the growing seed of revelation over the centuries.

We're just winging it here, so I'm pulling out the Catechism to see if I can get some metaphysical backup. This sounds about right: "Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator." Rather, "the universe was created 'in a state of journeying' toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it."

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying: we are all on a creative journey, an adventure of consciousness into the true, good, and beautiful. Can we reach the end of the journey, i.e., perfection? Of course not. Not without divine assistance, anyway.

Which raises another important point we have discussed in the past, one hammered home in this boring book on the ontological structure of political Tyranny. The gist is similar to Voegelin's central idea that human beings necessarily live in the creative space between immanence and transcendence. For both Voegelin and Newell, tyranny occurs when the would-be tyrant collapses this space with salvific promises of heaven on earth, Obama and his Care being the latest ghastly examples.

Where Newell differs with Voegelin is in drawing a sharp distinction between ancient and modern forms of tyranny. No, I am not being pedantic. Stick with me. This is interesting, and illuminates some weird features of modern as well as postmodern tyrants such as Obama.

I'll try to dumb it down for all of us, including me. You could say that ancient tyrants were at least humanly recognizable, in that they were motivated by such hardy perennials as pleasure, lust, gluttony, envy, etc. But so many of these modern tyrants are almost like religious ascetics. Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, Robespierre, bin Ladin -- these were not party animals. So, what's their motivation?

Newell writes of a "change in the meaning of tyranny in modern politics from the tyrant's pursuit of pleasure to an impersonal, self-abnegating, and therefore seemingly 'idealistic' destruction of all premodern ties to family, class, and region in the name of a contentless vision of a unified community or state" -- kind of like nihilistic devotion to amorphous change led by a vacuous change agent.

Thus, "what is so frightening about modern terroristic rulers" is "their apparent imperviousness to ordinary greed and hedonistic pleasure in their rigorous dedication to a 'historical mission' of destruction and reconstruction" -- or, as Obama calls the disease, "fundamental transformation."

The aggression of such rulers "becomes a duty that cannot be 'compromised' by their own self-interest, or love of noble reputation..." Obama at 39%? Doesn't matter. The grim world-historical goal of socialized medicine cannot be compromised by reputation or self-interest.

For the ancients, "the tyrant is a monster of desire who plunders and ravishes his subjects." But the modern Machiavellian prince dispenses "terror in a disciplined and dispassionate manner." Before ruling the city, such a prince must first conquer his own human soul -- which is again why so many modern tyrants are not recognizably human.

Didn't mean to get sidetracked. Back to the point about tradition: "God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation," which is "not a sign of weakness," but rather, goodness.

"For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan." God is "the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes."

The following passage goes to exactly what we said above about the dual nature of time: in its "state of journeying," we see in the world "the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature." Good times, bad times, until the end.

Berdyaev: "[T]he free creative act is accomplished outside the power of time, for there is no predetermination in it: it proceeds out of that depth of being which is not subject to time; it is a break-through from another order of being.... In essence it is the opposite of the worry which our fear of time produces. And if man's whole life could become one creative act, time would be no more." Or at least it would be a good start.