Friday, August 15, 2014

President Wormwood and Professor Screwtape

If, as implied in The Screwtape Letters, "demons themselves are teachers," then teachers are -- or can be -- demonic.

I mean, someone is teaching this shit. So let's give course credit where it's due: Obama is our first president to have been the unalloyed creature of an insular educational system created and staffed almost wholly by leftists, devoid of meaningful diversity. Thus, we should not be surprised that his administration has produced no winners. Except for Jimmy Carter, who has plunged to a secure #2 on the list of all-time worst presidents.

A creature of the system. Now, we are all creatures, and we all exist in horizontal and vertical systems of dependence and interdependence. But it is not without reason that Mr. Screwtape is especially proud of his particular system and of the students it has tempted and molded. A coronerstone of this malefic system, according to Jacobs, is "the Historical Point of View" (although familiar with it, I haven't actually read the whole of Screwtape, only passages, so all quotes are from or in Jacobs).

Screwtape assures his pupil, Wormwood, that while "only the learned read old books" -- to be exact, books published prior to the establishment of the Oprah Winfrey Show -- they are nevertheless, thanks to the System, "of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom while doing so."

How does this System work its dark magic? "We have done this by inculcating the Historical Point of View," which, "put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true."

Rather, the modern denizen of the looniversity bin will place the source in its historical context, and if he's really successful, explain it with reference to the author's class, or gender, or sexual orientation. But by no means will he regard the author

"as a possible source of knowledge -- to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or behavior -- this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded."

Oh Gagdad, will you ever give up the cheap polemics? Well, let's consider our presidential product of this demonic System. Not only is he a Wormwoodian student, he's a Screwtapian Master, a Constitutional Scholar, no less. What sort of wisdom did he acquire from contact with our learned and venerable founders?

First, he dismisses the quaint idea that there is wisdom to be had, for these privileged heteronormative aristocrats forged only "a charter of negative liberties,” which places severe constraints on what the state can do to us.

Seriously, it's almost as if these white dudes were frightened of state power, as if the state, of all things, can endanger our natural rights!

Our Scholar-President went on to observe that our founding document “says what the states can’t do to you (and) what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf.”

Hmm. Are we reading the same document? I'm pretty sure there's something in there about ensuring domestic tranquility and securing the blessings of liberty to our posterior. In other words, the Constitution is supposed to have our backs. Its very reason for being is to secure and promote the natural rights alluded to in the Declaration and specified in various amendments, e.g., life, liberty, property, self defense, speech, assembly, worship, etc.

A man who is tired of those things is tired of life. And he seriously needs to get one, instead of devoting his annoying existence to eroding ours.

But that is not what well-trained demons do. Let's face it: they love to fuck with people, because without that perverse joy, they are reduced to absolute boredom. If you want to picture a black hole, imagine a Clinton without politics.

Another adultolescent genius, Ezra Klein, has checked into this Constitution business and assures us that the whole thing is "confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done."

Klein's equally brilliant interlocutor muses that Republicans sure give this antiquated document -- over a hundred years old! -- "a whole lot of lip service." I wonder why? It's almost as if they are products of a different teacher from a different system.

Look at how Klein views the Law of the Land: it not only confuses but frustrates him, because it interferes with what he and our tykeminded progressives want to "get done."

But that is such a passive way to put it! For it is a truism that in order for the state to do something for you, it must first be given the power to do something to you (like fine you for not buying its crappy health insurance). But the state tends to have a selective institutional memory, and is prone to forget all about the first part of the bargain, so we end up paying an awful lot of money for the privilege of our own subjugation. After all, the business end of the state is the IRS, which is all do-to and no do-for.

Back to the contours of the Demonic System. "The Historical Point of View is one of the chief means by which we insulate ourselves from the possible wisdom of our ancestors," but not the only means. Another is what Lewis calls "Bulverism" -- or what the left calls Diversity and Multiculturalism and which the Raccoon calls the Absurdity of Absolute Relativism.

If you have attended a Screwtape-sponsored college, one of the first things you will have learned is how to Bulverize an author or text. It requires no skill at all, and yet, magically elevates one above the author who is being Bulverized. It is an intoxicating temptation because it renders the inferior soul superior to his superiors, and as we saw from the examples above (Professors Klein, Obama, and O'Donnell), it is difficult for the temporo-centric soul to resist.

Dávila has a perfectly apt aphorism to describe Bulverism: "Reducing another's thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it." For example, just recently Harry Reid attacked a Supreme Court decision on the grounds that it was decided by "five white men." Even leaving the Bulverizing absurdity aside, it is an empirical fact that Harry Reid is whiter than Clarence Thomas's eyeballs.

But it doesn't matter. The Wormwoodian apprentice will have heard the dog whistle, and that is sufficient to settle the matter. Same with Citizens United. Turns out the Constitution does empower the state to limit free speech so long as a "corporation" is engaging in it, such as the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and Hollywood, not to mention colleges and universities, which are big businesses too.

Screwtape assures his students of "the great truth [!] that refutation is no necessary part of argument."

Rather "Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error." President Obama has mastered this method to perfection. He would never condescend to prove he is right or his adversaries wrong. Rather, they just be hatin' on him! Stop hatin' all the time!

"That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century." His "diabolical purpose" is "to remove questions of truth and falsehood from the mind's life." The well-trained student does not think of doctrines as true or false, but rather, "'academic' or 'practical,' 'outworn or contemporary,' 'conventional or ruthless.'" "Don't waste time" trying to convince with argument, rather, with jargon, shame, superiority, etc., such as "we are on the right side of history." In short, believe "not because it is true, but for some other reason. That's the game."

Once lured into the game, then "people can find themselves unable to recognize the difference [between truth and falsehood] even when it is put before them plainly: they come to possess invincible ignorance."

And what we call invincible ignorance is what products of Screwtape's system call the Smartest President Ever!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Laughing Our Way to the Brink

"With good humor and pessimism it is possible to be neither wrong nor bored" (Dávila). Which explains why the earnest do-gooders of the left are not just wrong but tedious.

Even to God, who "tried to survive in the Newtonian universe as a bloodless specter cornered in a remote heaven," but "died of boredom."

In reality, "God is the term with which we notify the universe that it is not everything."

Indeed, God is the term without which the universe is nothing, precisely. Is that too nebulous for you? Well, "Any straight line leads straight to hell," so thank God for the crookward paths without which existence would be a machine instead of an adventure.

Ever notice how the scientistic worker bee combines "the most refined ideas about pieces of the universe" with "the most abject cliches about the universe itself"?

Which speaks to a kind of nearsightedness at one end and systematic blindness -- or cardiomyopia -- at the other. All trees and no forest means no happy or funny campers, just a bunch of sober, tree-counting arborists. Such an expert "believes he is a superior being because he knows what, by definition, anyone can learn."

But you know, "There is evidence that disappears along with those who deserve to perceive it." My Great Dane likes to play a fighting game in which he spins around and thinks he has disappeared. But I see him just the same -- just as God sees the atheist.

And wisdom? Forget about it. "The wisdom of this age comes down to observing the world through the bitter and dirty eyes of a depraved adolescent." Or maybe you've never looked into Obama's eyes.

I tell ya', reactionaries get no respect. Turning our backs on progressive hope? As if we aren't turning our face toward the light!

I don't blame them for thinking of us as terrorists, for "The imagination quietly piles up its dynamite under the dogmas that naturalisms rest upon."

Imagine actually being stuck in the progressive prison of the left, or if they could successfully seal up the windows and block the exits! Of course they want to, but nothing short of totalitarianism can accomplish this, which is why leftism is inherently pulled in that soul-killing direction.

Thus it is no surprise that "Contemporary literature seems like a cacophony of eunuchs in heat," or that "The modern citizens' libertarian demands are limited to claiming the right to copulate freely in the slave prison in which they are held." Leftism is a dungeon with conjugal rights. But "mystery is the only infinity that does not seem like a prison."

For the left, it takes real courage to break through doors that are wide open or to defy a norm they are not equipped to understand. But "The fool imagines that the delight in breaking rules grows indefinitely after having abolished rules altogether." Or in other words, without us, the reactionaries of the left would have no fun at all, for where's the sport in overrunning "fortresses without defenders"?


As we have said before, argument is fruitless with these ideological zombies. They cannot be convinced, only converted -- or un-converted rather, since the descent into leftism is the consequence of a prior conversion.

All minimally alert humans know that "man has in the back of his soul a crouching animal" and that "a just society needs to be protected from human perversity." The leftist brings this crouching animal to the forefront of the soul and shields it from justice -- from what it both needs and deserves.

And justice? "[L]abeling a sealed package 'Justice' has made it easy to introduce any contraband." Like in St. Louis: no justice no peace, or in other words, give the crouching and snarling animal what it wants!

Imagine trying to convince such an animal! At best you can enunciate clearly that there is neither peace nor justice without order, perhaps with some added emphasis from the business end of a billy club. But that wouldn't be progressive, which "finally comes down to stealing from man what ennobles him, in order to sell to him at a cheap price what debases him."

Well, not quite. With dependence on the state at an all time high, the debasement is free. As if there is no cost, neither material nor moral.

(All aphorisms by Nicolás Gómez Dávila)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One of These Things is Not Like the Others: Divine Comedy, Stand-Up Cosmology, Suicide

What is the nature of that little by which we may know much?

We'll let that one percolate awhile in the nonconscious and come back to it later, or maybe answer it in a roundabout way. But surely this is part of the answer: "He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary" (Dávila).

Alternatively, one may bar extreme seekers from these black diamond spiritual trails by banishing the vocabulary. Perhaps even easier is what I have called "dimensional defense mechanisms," whereby a person essentially amputates higher realities -- the vertical -- from his soul and from his experience.

This is the approach of positivists, historicists, Darwinists, and the rest of the usual academic rabble. Let's say I don't like spaces, or I'm afraid of them -- you know, agoraphobic. One may defend oneself from the attendant anxiety by clinging to the second dimension -- the plane -- and pretending the third -- space -- doesn't exist. Just as Flatland is a defense against Sphereworld, atheism is a defense against spirit.

Yes, it happens. There is a kind of autism that is not genetic but acquired. It's been awhile, but there was a particular theorist, Frances Tustin, who wrote a number of interesting books on this subject. Another term for it is "encapsulation," which evokes the idea of being cut off from some part of reality and being enclosed in one's private Idaho.

Importantly, this private Idaho need not be something we would normally associate with mental illness. Or, think of it this way: as there is tailored clothing that fits us perfectly, there is also readymade clothing we may purchase off the rack.

It is no exaggeration to say that an ideology is a readymade neurosis (and sometimes psychosis), which has a number of advantages over a custom mental illness: first, it will be collective, and there is safety -- or faux sanity -- in numbers.

Analogously, if everyone is wearing wide-flared bell bottoms -- or platform shoes, or rings in one's nose -- then one doesn't look like such an ass wearing them.

Second, a well made retail ideology will cover most of the bases of human experience, the difference being that instead of being that wise little by which one may know much, it will be that ideological little by which one may know even less.


There are frankly too many to chronicle, and besides, it isn't difficult for you to draw the connections. Darwinism is an obvious one (by which I mean Darwinism "without remainder," as if it is a sufficient explanation of man's capacities); for Voegelin, it generally comes down to positivism and scientism, which are perfectly fitting suits for an adolescent McDullard.

The adolescent, of course, will continue to grow, and if he is normal, outgrow the garment and toss it aside. In other cases he may, to his surprise, burst through the seams. But some people -- we call them the tenured -- wear an adolescent suit made of iron. Imagine a teenage knight growing out of his armor. I wonder what that would look like? It's kind of repulsive to think about, but so too is academia, and for the same reason.

Speaking of autism and encapsulation, I ran into this article on Why Funny People Kill Themselves. I personally found you-know-who more irritating than funny, but the question is, was his humorous persona a kind of autistic prison?

First, I don't know if it's true that funny people are any more vulnerable to depression and suicide than anyone else. While I have heard that creative people in general are more prone to mood disorders, I wonder if this is simply because we hear so much more from creative individuals? They are more able to articulate their subjective states, whereas the average boob may be frightfully unable to do so. A lot of people have no earthly idea they are depressed, and their depression mainly manifests by making others feel depressed in their presence.

I mean, what wideawake person would not be a little depressed about the world and about the terms of existence? You might say that in order to not be depressed, you have to be worse than depressed, which is to say, out of touch with reality.

Indeed, In Freud's classic formulation, humor is the highest and most developed defense mechanism. All others are second best or lower.

Having said that, I think it partly depends upon the person. If we pull out old Bion's grid (never mind if you don't know what that is), humor will lay on a spectrum of maturity from, say, Adam Sandler to P.G. Wodehouse, or Jerry Lewis to Samuel Johnson. For me, Robin Williams always had that manic quality which is... well, it's manic, which is to say, a more primitive defense mechanism than humor per se. It is as if the humor is piggybacking on the mania, especially because he seemed unable to turn it off.

The author of the above-linked piece posits four stages whereby the funnyman may end up a deadman by his own hand. Now interestingly, a defense mechanism is always a kind of aggression turned toward the self. Thus, suicide is obviously the ultimate defense mechanism, and yet, it is just the initial death writ large.

One can see this by considering the author's first step; indeed it is rather transparent: "At an early age, you start hating yourself."

True enough, except that the majority of people who who hate themselves are not funny. Intentionally, anyway. Wong would no doubt respond that this is because they don't have the comedy gene, which has some truth to it. People who are not funny should never attempt to be, because they are just annoying.

Step two is the discovery that one may provoke laughter in others. Now, I enjoy making people laugh, but I do not connect it to step one (self-loathing), nor do relate it to a need to control others. To the extent that humor is deployed for these reasons, we have again entered a dimension that has nothing to do with humor per se. After all, the dour Obama is not a humorous person, but he sure loves to control people, and one certainly gets the impression that he exists in an autistic bubble.

Speaking of which, number three, "You soon learned that being funny builds a perfect, impenetrable wall around you -- a buffer that keeps anyone from getting too close and realizing how much you suck."

Really? I hope not. I actually try to do the opposite, that is, use divine comedy and stand-up cosmology to provoke the guffah-HA! experience -- to foster vertical escape, not to fortify the prison.

Number four, "In your formative years, you wind up creating a second, false you..."

Again, true enough, but this "false self" is very much related to the neurotic "autistic self" referenced above. It is a shell, an exoskeleton, a defensive structure that prevents vulnerability and intimacy. The more "open" you are as a person, the more you can sense the closed-ness in others, who generally have no idea how closed they are, because it is an unconscious defense mechanism.

And also, while the false self is an exceedingly common phenomenon, most false selves are not funny. The false self can revolve around anything from politics to entertainment to academics to wealth to sports to fitness to looks...

I hate to break up the party, but the laughter is over. Time to put on my false face and get serious.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Order to Know Much, You Must Know Little

To paraphrase something Richard Weaver said, in order to know much, we must know little.

This indeed is the purpose of a liberal education, i.e., the assimilation of timeless principles that allow us to accurately interpret the world and to order our lives accordingly. All science is grounded in this same principle, of the reduction of multiplicity to unity -- or particular to universal, local to nonlocal, and finally (in the larger scheme of things), knowledge to wisdom.

Human consciousness exists in a kind of bi-directional dialectical space, "down" into facts, details, and particulars; and "up" into ideas, theories, and principles. Ultimately, one might say that God and Fact define the limits of this space, but the one can never be understood in the absence of the other (even though God is obviously ontologically prior; immanence is a consequence of transcendence, not vice versa).

In one sense, the downworld of facts and particulars becomes increasingly expansive as we descend into it, but not really. In reality, it can lead to specialization, specialization to shrinkage, shrinkage to provincialism, provincialism to deformity, and deformity to tenure.

This constricted way of looking at things tends toward what Voegelin calls a pneumapathological rejection of reality, or a "counterexistential dream world." The modern ideologue collapses this divine-human space because he refuses to live in the unresolvable tension of its complementarity.

Indeed the malignant dream of the left is that if we only create a more powerful and intrusive state, our existential tension will be eliminated. Or else! Liberalism is an experiment that never ends, because the state never learns -- or learns one thing only, how to expand based upon empty promises of deferred human happiness. But if you're still waiting for the state to make you happy, then you'll never be embarrassed by that Obama sticker on your Prius.

For human reality exists only in that space of vertical energies (or attractions), "between the material world and the pneumatic pull from a palpable spiritual source" (McAllister). As such, our first and last temptation -- and this is precisely the lesson of the Genesis 3 space mission -- "is to believe in a symbolic expression of a deformed but fully intelligible reality" (ibid.). In other words, make God and nature conform to man rather than vice versa.

Clearly, in our secular world, the most "educated" person is going to be the most vulnerable to this temptation, due not only to opportunity and access, but to the spiritual pathology that has become normalized in this inverted age. Clever mediocrities are the quickest to conform and the easiest to indoctrinate, therefore Academia.

To plunge into matter is to take flight from spirit (even though, ironically, it is an imaginary flight). However, the loss of spirit is compensated for by a growth -- or better, metastasis -- of pride and vanity. Or, as God shrinks, narcissism expands. And yes, we are looking at you, Obama. You are the end state of the oldest cosmic disease.

To paraphrase (or possibly quote) Weaver again, total immersion in matter makes a man unfit to deal with the problems of matter. Is this not axiomatic? Who does a materialist call when matter is broken? Remember, the materialist cannot stand outside or above matter, any more than the residents of Flatland can perceive their world from the third dimension.

Speaking of which, just as every picture tells a story, every story may be reduced to a picture. This is because man's default mode of thinking is an analogue of the eyes. But to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, the deepest things must be seeingly felt or feelingly seen. Or in other words, despite its temptation to detached abstraction, seeing is really just an extension of the sense of touch -- as is true of all the senses. Sight is what it feels like when photons are striking the retina.

Likewise, spiritual in-sight is what it feels like when Spirit touches the intellect. Spiritual wisdom is no less a matter of touching and being touched by God, otherwise it would have no explanation. Indeed, Johnson once wrote a prayer that comes very close to the morning Raccoon prayer, i.e., to the way Toots Mondello taught us to pray: "Almighty God, without whose grace all wisdom is folly, grant [that] thy Holy Spirit not be withheld from me, that I may promote thy glory, and the Salvation both of myself and others."

Or in other words, Save me this day and this post from idiocy and its propagation!

Johnson was not an orthodox Christian, and yet, there really was no category then for what he was. As such, he was more than a little troubled, or at least unsettled, in his faith. Along these lines, he made many timeless observation on our recent subject of imagination, in both its healthy and pathological aspects.

In general, I suppose one could say that a pathological imagination is one that plunges headwrong into the lower vertical.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the lower vertical, mind you. It's just that you need to be accompanied there by an adult. In the absence of adult supervision, it redounds to hell. It will "grow claws and start to tunnel" downward, breathing life into envy, resentment, auto-victimization, entitlement, and illegitimate violence.

This is why the well-ordered soul must be prior to the order of the state, while a principal task of the state is to promote order in the soul -- or at least not its opposite, which is precisely what the left not only encourages but often mandates: you will photograph homosexuals! You will pay for men to cut of their wangs! You will be racist!

Johnson made a subtle observation to the effect that "so few of the hours of life are filled up with objects adequate to the mind of man." This is because, in my view, our mind is ultimately an adequation to God. God -- or the Absolute -- is the only thing fully adequate to our intelligence and understanding. It is not that we should ignore the lower vertical, but rather, see it in the light of the upper vertical. It's simple, really: see the relative in light of the absolute, or time from eternity, or individuality in terms of transcendent communion and love.

If we opt out of this dynamic space, then we may plunge into mischievous uses of the imagination, "to past and future supplemental satisfactions," such that "recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments." This is done to escape from "the vacuities of life," which are mostly vacuities in the soul. For Johnson, it is critical that imagination be regulated or disciplined by reality, otherwise it may become an instrument of torment.

Difficult? Maybe. That's why they call it a spiritual practice. In contrast, living from hope to imaginary hope is one way to go hungry, since it is a refusal of our daily bread. We see how the "future bread" of Obamaism works -- that is, give me your bread, and I promise this time to spend it on more bakeries.

I say, teach a man to bake. And prior to that, to separate the good seed from the bad, to plant, grow, harvest, and eat. But I suppose that's unconstitutional.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meta-Cosmic Ignorance and the Left Wing Ignorantsia

This single aphorism is almost too packed with implications to explicate in the brief time available this morning: "The tacit presuppositions of any science are more important than its teachings" And "Only what a science ignores about itself defines what it says" (Dávila).

This makes one want to grab the nearest Darwinian or Leftist and say to him: "Sounds interesting, but what are the tacit presuppositions underlying your theory, i.e., the worldview that precedes it?"

The typical Darwinian will proceed straight to what are in reality his conclusions, or to the logical entailments to which the theory gives rise, e.g., materialism, or determinism, or reductionism, etc.

But that's not what we asked for. Rather, we want to know his assumptions, his presuppositions about the world (which he pretends he doesn't have). These assumptions 1) are not rooted in the theory, but prior to it; and 2) are highly suspect, to say the least, if the theory is true. In other words, why should we care about what some accidental concatenation of selfish genes assumes about the world? I know I don't.

What I mean to say is that the Darwinian dresses his assumptions as conclusions in order to give them some respectability, but they are assumptions just the same. And you know what they say about that: GITO, or garbage in, tenure out.

Part two of the aphorism suggests that what the Darwinian fundamentalist ignores about himself turns out to define what he says. In other words, a subject of random evolution is constrained by its ignorance, the Darwinian included.

Now, we are all constrained by our ignorance. No shame in that, for we can only be ignorant to the extent that Truth exists. But the Darwinian goes even one step further, and denies his ignorance, thus making him ignorant of his cosmic ignorance, which is thus elevated to his most important implicit teaching: that he is a cosmic ignoramus, or that man's stupidity is absolute.

Which is only true of some men.

Ultimately this goes back to Gödel, liberally interpreted (in other words, one of my acknowledged cosmic presuppositions is that the incompleteness theorems apply to any human thought-system, not just to strictly logical or mathematical ones).

In other words, the theorems are logical because they are true, not vice versa (which really is the whole point, i.e., that humans may securely know truths that are beyond the reach of logic). Therefore, to the extent that Darwinism is consistent, it is incomplete -- radically so in the case of humans. Or, if it is complete, then it must be riddled with inconsistencies. Which it is.

Of course, this poses no problem for the Raccoon, who keeps everything in perspective and avails himself of any truth in order to serve the one Truth. Darwinism is neither consistent nor complete, but that hardly means we can't use it.

So, why this beastly arrogance, this intolerant "all or none" attitude of the Darwinians? Why on this subject do they behave like territorial apes instead of human beings who are uniquely oriented to that which always surpasses them (hence the ground of our humanness)?

Why do they start flinging poo against the walls, just when things are getting interesting? You'd think they were a bunch of animals or something, or that Darwinism is sufficient to explain them.

And if I had had a little more time, I could have tightened up any loose s*it contained above. As it stands, you folks will have sort it out, because I'm late.