Friday, December 30, 2016

All About Eve

Not much time this morning, so just a brief blast...

As often happens, subsequent to yesterday's post, some things came to my attention that seemed to comment upon it. For example, in a poem called The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air we Breathe, Hopkins writes of God's infinity / Dwindled to infancy / Welcome in womb and breast, / Birth, milk, and all the rest...

"God's infinity dwindled to infancy" is what I have called divine infanity.

Then I was reading in the sequel to MOTT, Lazarus March Come Forth!, of how mother-love continues to be a kind of postnatal womb that surrounds and nurtures the growing child:

"The tendency of mother-love is to maintain its enveloping quality in order to 'bear' the child further until the ripeness of maturity.... The love of the mother holds the child in her embrace pressed to her heart, for decades on end -- perhaps until death and beyond" (emphasis mine).

Mother- (and Father-, in a different way) love is also a necessary condition -- a condition-without-which -- for the later discovery of divine love. It "makes the human being capable of comprehending or having a presentiment of divine love in a natural way by means of analogy..."

Then I was reading in another book by Tomberg (from prior to his Catholic conversion), Christ and Sophia, of how "Everything in the life of the children of Israel was to be ordered so that, after many generations, the race might produce a body suited to the work of Christ on earth..."

You could say that God needed to forge a collective womb for the descent of spirit, a preparation "for the future birth of the body intended to receive the Christ."

Jefferson famously characterized America as an "empire of liberty." But before there could be liberty on earth, it had to first descend from above, for which reason Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:17 that the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, BOOM!

If you accept the divine logic, Israel was pregnant with Mary who was pregnant with the messiah who is pregnant with the true liberty which is pregnant with you. For in the words of the Aphorist, Liberty is indispensable not because man knows what he wants and who he is, but so that he can find out who he is and what he wants.

And I would go back and up even prior to Israel, to say that God first had to create the species and the "nations" from which Israel was chosen; and before that the biosphere, planet, and cosmos, each a "womb" for the next (i.e., earth is the womb of life as man is the womb of theosis).

As Jefferson wrote, "the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time." And Lincoln spoke of Americans as an "almost chosen people" and of a new birth of freedom.

So if the story of Mary is a tip-top-typological tale of incarnation and freedom, it is always metamythically conditioning history from above & beyond.

I wonder: WWSS? (What Would Schuon Say?)

The "mystery of the Incarnation has two aspects: the Word, on the one hand, and its human receptacle, on the other: Christ and the Virgin-Mother."

Or, as Bion would (un)say, Container (♀) and Contained (♂). Underneath -- or above -- it all is a kind of dialectic between the two, for there can be no contained without a container -- no Womb, no Word; and no matrix... well, just No (to God), period.

Mary is the mamamatrix "of the manifested divine Spirit" who "has suckled her children -- the Prophets and the sages -- from the beginning and outside of time..." She "personifies supra formal Wisdom" -- AKA Sophia -- and "it is from her milk that all the Prophets have drunk."

Looked at this way, Wisdom is whole milk, while scientism, materialism, leftism and all the rest are skim & scam milk.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hand, Teat, Womb, and Cosmic Center

It seems that Mary is at once a kind of end, center, and jumping off point. But as always, I try to look at these things from a more abstract perspective, asking mysoph: what is the principle that makes this possible (or even necessary)? Not necessarily to reduce it to myth, but rather, to elevate it to what Schuon calls the "principal" realm. Principles are precisely what shed light on appearances. And this is what Intelligence is for.

In other words, if something is possible, then it is possible in principle. So, what's the principle going on here? Or is it sui generis, meaning that it is simply an inexplicable one-off event, "a reality which cannot be reduced to a lower concept or included in a higher concept"? If so, then this renders it intellectually dissatisfying, a case of metaphysical special pleading. Eh, I don't think God would do that.

"In Mary," writes Balthasar, "Zion passes over into the Church; in her, the Word passes over into flesh; in her, the Head passes over into the body. She is near the place of super-abundant fruitfulness" (in Bailie).

That is a loaded statement! Loaded with principles, that is, from the more historo-horizontal to the ontological-vertical.

On the historical plane -- the plane of salvolution history -- Mary is like the membrane between a specific people selected for a divine mission, and the prolongation and diffusion of the message -- or Word -- vouchsafed them. Imagine a coherent beam refracted through her and radiating ovary whichaway.

But the heart of the cosmic mystery is Word passing over to flesh. Now, that this principle is true, there can be no doubt. In other words, man qua man has access to a transcendent world of truth, beauty, virtue, and unity. If truth is in our brains, then it is incarnated. Nor is it possible to disprove that truth incarnates, on pain of instantaneous intellectual beclownment.

Where this differs is that -- so to speak -- the Principle as such is incarnated. We all, by virtue of being human, can can know this or that truth. Therefore, truth again incarnates in us. But this purportedly represents the Truth incarnate. Now, that is a wild idea, but certainly not beyond imagining if we appreciate the fact that we incarnate (lower case t) truth all the time.

Now, if you believe in sanctity -- in sainthood and theosis -- then this Higher Enfleshment is pretty much the whole point: to gradually, via a nonlocal helping hand from grace, incarnate more of the truth, AKA the imitation of Christ. This is a subject to which we will return. Here I mainly want to highlight the principle.

If Mary is the "place" where this occurs, then she is quite literally the Matrix (Latin for womb) where it all goes down. This itself is dense with principles. She is, as it were, mamamatrix for paparinciple, such that baby makes Trinity. There is simply no other science, philosophy, or ideology that elevates this principle to its proper status as the hinge of salvolution (my annoying portmanteau for salvation + evolution).

I first stole this idea of mine from an unlikely source -- or at least this source helped me crystalize the notions that had been wondering around loose in my head. I say "unlikely" because the author of The Human Animal was an atheistic psychoanalytically inspired anthropologist. Even so, when I read his account of the Hominization Event, it gave me a major guffaw-HA! experience.

Indeed, look at the cover --> It has the natural trinity written all over it: That little trinity is the very basis and possibility of the unity of man -- both collectively and intrapsychically.

Let me see if I can find an illustrative passage. But before we get to that, here's a note to myself on the inside cover: "In the symbolic pyramid of culture, very few bricks touch the ground." The reason for this is that the principles don't go all the way down -- which is what we always try to do here at One Cosmos -- that is, build the cosmic pyramid on a foundation of solid principles that cannot not be true.

Another note: "perpetuating mistaken solutions to problems --> other animals do not do this, only humans."

This also involves the perpetuation of mistaken principles, which is in turn a kind of misincarnation, is it not? For what are mind parasites but fragments of the Lie incarnate? Indeed, a fragmented truth can also become a mind parasite -- for example, truths of science taken as self-sufficient explanations.

Hmm. A lot of other interesting notes here -- for example, "mammal's greatest invention: the teat --> basis for psychic connectedness and open system."

There are actually three great inventions that rendered humanness possible: womb, teat, and infantile helplessness. The teat is definitely a turning point, such that animals become dependent in a most intimate way.

And before teat -- or at least simultaneous with it -- is the womb through which one is literally inside another (unlike the reptilian egg, which is outside the body). And the His Majesty the Helpless Baby is the most fantastic of all. He simultaneously enables, and is enabled by, the primordial familial trinity of Mother-Father-Baby.

Another fabulous invention is the hand, specifically, the one with the opposable thumb. If we didn't have hands to grasp objects, nor could we have minds to grasp ideas and principles. Think of other "tools" evolution bequeaths to the animals: they generally do one or two specific things.

Wings, for example, help birds fly, and also keep them warm. But a hand can do countless things, from punching someone in the nose to writing sonnets (to making flying machines and coats for warmth). Truly, the hand is a kind of word made flesh that must be present before Word can be made flesh, for it is our first gateway to abstraction and generalization.

In a chapter entitled Man Hands Himself a New Kind of Evolution, LaBarre notes another important point, that bipedalism had to occur first in order to free the hands; in a coonworthy bon mot, he says that "man stands alone, because he alone stands."

As for the liberated upper extremities, "the human hand is the adaptation to end all adaptations." The emancipated hand emancipates us from... from everything, really, to whatever you consider to be the highest (or lowest) reaches of mankind. It allowed us to specialize in nothing and therefore everything.

But it all redounds to nothing if individual minds aren't linked together, which goes back to the invention of the helpless infant and the resultant intersubjectivity of mother and baby: "The real evolutionary unit now is not man's mere body; it is 'all-mankind's-brains-together-with-all-the-extrabodily-materials-that-come-under-the-manipulation-of-their-hands'" (ibid.). You could say this intersubjectivity ultimately renders possible the extrabodily body of Christ alluded to in paragraph three above.

We're getting rather far afield this morning, aren't we? Back to God's Gamble. "Mary's fiat" -- i.e., the Big Yes -- "inaugurates her pregnancy and brings that of her people to term." And "She brings the Yes of Abraham to its supreme expression." In her case, "She consents not to do, but to be, to be available as a vessel of divine will." She is the explicit link between doing and being, or between law and spirit, flesh and Word.

"For Jesus to have had a real human childhood, he would have had his primary, pre-synagogue formation at his mother's breast..." (Bailie).

There are a number of references to this in the Book that are pregnant with meaning, such as older than Abraham, young as a babe's I AM, and blissfully floating before the fleeting flickering universe, stork naked in brahma daynight, worshiping in oneder in a weecosmic womb with a pew...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Our Father Who Wert a Heathen

This next chapter is on Our Father Abraham, who begins the story of the explicit divine-human collaboration we call salvation history.

Bailie starts with an astute comment by Balthasar, which should be read in the context of our previous post touching on primitive man's systematic refusal of history, which was enforced and renewed via sacrificial rituals. Among other things, old father Abraham said Yes to one-way time, which of course vaulted us out of our ontological nul de slack:

"God does not so much lead Abraham back to the Alpha, the origin (re-ligio), as forward to the Omega, the future fulfillment." This is an alternative to primitive religion -- even its cure, so to speak (or at least treatment); for it is "the other side of mankind's religious experience, and there is no third."

As alluded to in the previous post, if you're not moving forward you're falling behind. But "forward" only has sense in the context of its future fulfillment; or better, horizontal is only meaningful in light of the nonlocal vertical structure of things.

Either way, give Abraham credit for rejoining Alpha and Omega. "To become Christian," says Ratzinger, "means entering into the history of faith that begins with Abraham and, thus, accepting him as father" (in Bailie).

Abraham is not so much the Alpha Male as the first Omega Man.

He becomes so by placing us squarely in the bewilderness; indeed, what is salvation history but the universal, meta-cosmic bewilderness adventure? Only instead of 40 years in the desert, the wanderment is forever.

Or it would be, except for the fact that the end went to the trouble of incarnating in the middle: whatever else the Incarnation is, it is a back- and downward projection (so to speak) of the Omega into time and history.

So, man's real situation involves being suspended between two nonlocal attractors. You can call them Alpha and Omega, but if you want to express the idea abstractly you can just say Ø and O.

Indeed, this is the very definition of man -- which is to say, the animal whose environment is in the transitional space between the absurcular goround and our inspiraling deustiny. Everything happens there; or here, rather.

Time out for an Aphorism: Truth is in history, but history is not the truth (NGD). Analogously, God is in history, but history is not God.

Oh, and Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God, another who believes he is a god. If there is an Ultimate Principle that distinguishes left from right, it is this: that the former is oriented to the Alpha, the latter to the Omega.

A progressive who "believes in God" is oxymoronic, because progressivism is founded on the divinization of Man. What they call "secular humanism" is really just human sacralization, AKA political religion. As Voeglin darkened thousands of pages trying to explain, the leftist collapses the space between O and Ø, which is why it is always so cramped and stuffy under their rule.

Note that Islamists do the same thing: they not only want to abolish the calendar, but drag us with them back to the 7th century. There too it is such a tight space that there's no room for the intellect -- as is the case on our college campuses.

Bailie alludes to "the relationship between archaic society's sacrificial center and the cyclical and backward looking fixation of pre-historic thought." They were gripped by a "fear-ridden determination to re-create an imagined past and remain safely within the orbit of its protection" -- a safe space to protect them from the ravages of time and history.

Some things never change

And again, absent the Omega, time is indeed the Great Ravager; it is entirely entropic, with no vector toward the negentropic attractor at the other end.

But life itself is surely negentropic, as is the miracle of intelligence, so these are already hints of the end in the middle of things. Properly speaking, as soon as we know truth -- any truth -- we should realize that something -- or someOne -- is up.

As we have discussed in the past, Christianity is not so much a religion as the cure for primitive religiosity: "the purpose of archaic religion was to protect its participants from the exigencies of history," i.e., "to spare them the call of Abraham or the vicissitudes of the Exodus" (ibid.).

Exactly. We had to somehow leave the orbit of Ø in order to achieve vertical liftoff. Man had "to be coaxed out of the immediate sacrificial arena" and into the great outdoors.

Just as our most furaway furbears had to climb down from the trees in order to dwell on the ground and attain bipedalism, Abraham had to leave the safety of the sacrificial arena in order to begin the mad dash from Alpha toward Omega.

This is how we become cosmic drama queens and kings -- not so much via "the discovery of some truth," but rather, by becoming actors in divine history and realizing it (Ratzinger, ibid.). Or just say called and sent.

Sent where? I'll tell you, but you can't get there without faith, hope, and love. And then you're there. Or rather, it's here. Same. Difference.

The bottom line is that our father wert a heathen, but then he waren't no more, beginning with the non-sacrifice of Isaac.

It is not the origin of religions or their cause that requires explanation, but the cause and origin of their being dimmed and forgotten. --The Aphorist

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christory

The Hominization Event, among other things, involved crossing the threshold into time.

Or did it? Human beings are not so much in time as above it; or rather, we have a foot in each realm.

It's like the difference between sitting on the bank of a river (of time) vs. being in the river and pulled along by the currents. Sometimes we are completely given over to the river, for good or ill. Other times we disinterestedly watch it go by.

But that doesn't quite capture the gist, because there is also a kind of timelessness involved in giving oneself over to the river of time. The French have a term that is peripherally related to this submersion: nostalgie de la bout, or "nostalgia for the mud."

I suppose we could say there are two ways for humans to try to evade time: down and up, mud and sky.

And it seems that our most ancient ancestors defaulted toward the former. Thus the title of the next chapter under discussion, The Refusal of History. It begins with a crack by Johann Hamann to the effect that "there is no universal history without Judaism and Christianity," because the idea that we all share "in the same history, a linear history moving toward a goal, only appeared historically with the Judeo-Christian tradition."

You might say that members of the latter tradition said Yes to history -- although it must again be emphasized that the No and the Yes nevertheless coexist, and there are any number of ways to say No to history, secular progressivism being one such way.

The left flees from truths that cannot be un-known, but you can never really put the truthpaste back in the tube.

Progressivism is a collective means of stopping or reversing time, but there are also individual ways, i.e., neuroses, in which a part of the mind continues to live in an earlier time -- in childhood or even infancy.

Prior to the Jews, man's sense of historical consciousness was weak to non-existent; or, to the extent that it broke through, it was promptly repressed and denied, often through collective rituals: "If history is 'the remembered past,'" then there are "two strikingly different ways of remembering it: the mythological and the historical..."

Recall what was said yesterday about early man having to "adapt to mindedness." Bailie notes that "Archaic peoples clung, not to nature, but to religious procedures" designed to keep the gods "favorably disposed to their propitiators." It was literally a kind of circular procedure -- although the circle was wider than it is for animals, who essentially live within the subjective phase space of their instincts.

But man, in being liberated from instinct, is confronted with a kind of terrifying infinity that must somehow be tamed. "Thus these ancient cultures remained profoundly backward oriented," as if to say Please make death's footman, time, knock it off, and while you're at it, would you please make the spooky silence of the infinite spaces go away! And here's some human blood for all your trouble!

In the Christian west, we value history. It has a ground, a direction, and a purpose. Conversely, "Indian thought," for example, "has refused to concede any value to History" (Eliade, in Bailie). This is because time is thought to be a dimension of maya-illusion. Thus, the ultimate point of Vedanta is to escape time by obliterating the ego. Back to the undifferentiated matrix from which we emerged.

"As long as they remained beholden to their gods and the cycle of sacrificial rituals that appeased them, our ancient ancestors lived in a cyclical and not a historical world.... For our ancestors to step even tentatively onto the path of history, they would have to break with these 'archetypal beings' and, to some degree at least, renounce the false forms of transcendence they represented."

These archetypal beings very much remind me of what are called "transitional objects" in psychoanalysis. The latter are essentially symbolic way stations that help the child move from merger with the mother toward individuation and independence. Once safely across the psychic divide, the "security blanket" may be tossed aside.

I wonder if pagan religions are essentially transitional objects to which premodern man clung? Bailie implies as much: "other religions of the world -- ancient and contemporary -- are 'religions in waiting' -- awaiting the truth revealed by Christ..."

I'm not sure when the next post will be -- maybe Monday, but possibly Tuesday. In between we'll be celebrating Christmas, which is a Christian holiday superimposed on a pagan one. It coincides with the darkest day of the year, at which point the light increases and the days begin to imperceptibly lengthen.

You could say that Christianity lifted the holy-day out of its time-denying circle. As de Lubac remarked, "Christianity is not one of the great things of history; it is history that is one of the great things of Christianity" (in Bailie).

"For Christianity there is a progress in the truth of what it means to be. Following Christ one is permanently growing, from one beginning to another beginning. Yet Christianity is not only a part of a larger progress, it is the goal of progress itself" (Lopez, in Bailie).

If primitive man lives in the repetitive circle and secular man on the meaningless line, Christians live in the ever-renewing, progressive spiral.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Monopsychism and Monotheism

Our fallenness is like a symmetry break, only on the vertical plane, from unity to division.

As we know, any form of religion involves the attempt to heal this breach -- to undo the damage via re-ligio, which means to "bring back or bind to God."

However, since time is a one-way phenomenon, that's not actually possible. The only way back is forward. But our primordial ancestors did not know this.

Rather, history has only recently been discovered. If man has been here for 100,000 years, then only about 5% of our existence has been in history. And even then, it took quite awhile for history to be fully disentangled from more primitive modes of being, i.e., the cyclicity of time. We will return to this subject a few posts hence.

"If human culture begins with the birth of religion, religion begins with the separation of the sacred and the profane, and the separation of the sacred and profane coincides with the apotheosis or divinization of the victim" (Bailie).

Note the symmetry break: from some unknowable prior unity (called "innocence") emerges the polarity of sacred/profane, and with it, the need for religio to undo the break and put Humpty back together -- to shove the profane back into the sacred.

In the past I have utilized catastrophe theory to try to illuminate this break. But for early man, it couldn't have been just a theoretical catastrophe; rather, it must also have been catastrophic in the colloquial sense.

Again, other animals are unaware of history, of death, of separation from reality. Although animals in the wild have much more reason to be anxious than we do, they don't worry about where the next meal is coming from, or what will happen if it doesn't come. Like the lilies of the field, they don't spin or toil.

Just as animals must adapt to the physical environment, I believe it was necessary for man to adapt to the new environment in which he found himself: the psycho-spiritual.

The reason I believe this is that we are still trying to adapt to it. Always and everywhere, the problem is thoughts and what do do with them. And there is a multitude of things we can do with them besides think them. Indeed, thinking them is often a last resort.

Whatever else we say about human sacrifice, it is one way to deal with unruly thoughts, to adapt to the curious circumstance of mindedness. If Girard is correct, then it does effectively tamp them down, at least for a while. But only for a while. It must be periodically reenacted when thoughts again threaten to overwhelm the psyche.

Let's put it this way: what is the leading edge of what we call psychological maturity? I would suggest there are two complementary factors, integration and actualization.

When a person is unintegrated, it means they lack an "organizing center," so to speak, such that thoughts take on a life of their own, often projected into the external environment.

This is how I regard pagan polytheism: as an externalization and crystallization of primitive emotions and impulses that obviously emanate from the psyche. These are "parasites" that "prevent the true God from emerging" (De Lubac, ibid.). Thus, our ancestors lived in "a beclouded but inchoate form of pre-Christian lucidity, thoroughly enveloped though it was in a sea of delusion..."

I might add that this lack of psychic integration is precisely why monotheism was so slow in emerging: the psyche is fragmented before it is integrated, so God is necessarily many before he is One.

It also explains the anthropomorphization in the Old Testament, which gradually gives way to more abstract notions of God. Chesterton wrote of how this psychic "cleansing" had to occur -- i.e., the withdrawal of projections -- before God could incarnate.

From the Christian perspective, the Old Testament chronicles the slow de-paganization of the Jewish mind in order to prepare the way for a revelation uncontaminated by our own unwanted psychic fragments.

Therefore, "the crucified Christ, as Paul insists, would eventually despoil the very cultural and religious structures he originally brought into being, making a public spectacle of them by nailing them to the cross," thus dispersing "the cloud which until then had been hiding the truth."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

If Socialism Is Wrong, Liberals Don't Want To Be Right

So: the hominization event coincides with -- among other things -- the awakening of the conscience. Which is what exactly?

Back when I was solely under the sway of psychoanalytic theory, I would have insisted that it is simply the internalized authority of the father and of the wider culture, AKA the superego. There could be no intrinsic right or wrong, rather, convention only makes it so. You burn widows, we give them Social Security. Who can say which of us is right?

There is no question that the existence of the conscience signifies a split in the psyche, or the unavoidable presence of this nosey "other" who offers a running commentary on our thoughts and behavior. How did this happen? How did this scold gain entry into our heads? It is again reminiscent of how complex cells -- eukaryotes -- resulted from one cell getting inside another.

Bailie suggests that the conscience operates via a kind of vertical recollection. He quotes Ratzinger, who writes that it "consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (they are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the image and likeness of God, toward the divine."

Thus, "From its origin, man's being resonates with some things and clashes with others." Our vertical recollection involves "an inner sense, a capacity to recall" a better or more "innocent" state.

And as mentioned a few posts back, Ratzinger suggests that innocence can only be known retrospectively, from the perspective of our fallenness, "from the realization that one is no longer innocent." Innocence endures "as an intimation of something for which one has no specific memory but for which one is nevertheless vaguely nostalgic..."

It seems that in a state of innocence, the conscience is either unnecessary or unnoticed.

Speaking of the superego, Ratzinger makes the psychologically astute point that the conscience can indeed devolve to a mere enforcer of societal mores: "Then the absolute call to a personal responsibility is covered over with a system of conventions that is falsely made out to be the voice of God, whereas in truth it is only the voice of the past, which fears the present and bars its way" (in Bailie).

Back when I was under the influence of psychology, I would have said that the conscience is just an abstraction from the superego. But now I would say that the superego is more or less a corruption of the conscience. I've used this example in the past... let me track it down...

Here it is, a stale bobservation from over eleven years ago. I'll quote as much as seems relevant to our present concerns:

One area where Bion differed with Freud was over the nature and function of the superego, the part of ourselves that Freud believed was responsible for our morality. The problem with Freud's conception is that the superego will reflect the particular family in which one grew up and the particular society in which one lives.

As such, the superego is not necessarily moral at all. It is essentially amoral, in that it may well punish the individual for morally good behavior and reward him for morally bad behavior, depending upon the culture.

Here we can understand why the emphasis on truth is so vital. In the Arab Muslim world, for example, they are so inundated with vicious lies about America and Israel that it would be immoral for them not to hate us. In a racist or anti-Semitic society, the superego will demand that its members be racist and anti-Semitic.

For example, the Nazi movement in Germany was animated by abstract ideals, without which they couldn't have engaged in their project to exterminate the Jews. Once the lie is established as truth, then the superego takes over, impelling the individual to act in a "moral" way, consistent with the implications of the lie.

Clearly, a casual survey of history will establish the fact that most of what people have believed down through the centuries has been untrue. We see case after case of corrupt superegos that sanction and condone slavery, witch hunts, racism, anti-Semitism, jihads, all based on one vital lie or another.

All the superego does is enforce consistency between beliefs and actions. If the beliefs are false, then the actions will likely be immoral. People rarely believe they are evil, no matter how evil they are. You can be assured that bin Laden feels morally superior to you or me, which is what permits him to murder in the name of Islamist "truth."

I believe the conscience is not identical to the supergo. Rather, the conscience is nonlocal and universal, while the superego is local and particular. The superego is simply a mechanism we evolved in order to get along in small groups. In reality, morality is universal and transcendent, applicable at all times and in all places, such as "thou shalt not murder."

In his book Freud, Women and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil, Eli Sagan uses a wonderfully illuminating example from Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck is in the midst of a moral dilemma between what his superego wants him to do -- return the runaway slave Jim to his master -- and what his conscience is telling him -- that Jim is a human being just like him, and that it would be evil for him to assist in re-enslaving him. First we hear Huck dealing with an attack from his superego as he considers returning Jim:

"The more I studied about this the more my conscience [actually, the superego] went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the lookout, and ain't a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared."

Clearly, Huck is under assault from a bullying superego for violating the racist ethic of his culture. The omniscient superego ("watching all the time") slaps him in the face, accuses him of wickedness, and causes him to become immobilized with fear. He proceeds to write a letter telling Miss Watson where Jim can be found. But as he does so, his conscience -- not superego -- begins to nag him. He lays the letter down and "set there thinking":

"And went on thinking.... and I see Jim before me all the time... we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him.... I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me... and see how glad he was when I came back out of the fog.... and would always call me honey and pet me, and how good he always was... and he said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world... and then I happened to look around and see that paper."

Caught between guilt from doing something at variance with what the superego is demanding, and an awakened conscience telling him to do the right thing, what will Huck do?

"I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied it a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 'All right, then, I'll go to hell' -- and tore it up."

Huck revokes the lie, stands up to the superego, and makes the decision to do wrong, to "take up wickedness again" by helping to free Jim.

One can only wonder. How many in the Arab Muslim world are ready to give themselves over to sin by making peace with Israel? How many are prepared to bear the guilty attacks from the superego for treating women equally? How many will stop confusing the lies of the imam with the truth of God? How many will "go the whole hog" and adopt a critical attitude toward what the Koran says about Jews and Christians?

Me? I done tore up my New York Times four years ago and been takin' to wickedness ever since. And it ain't been no easy road. Fact, if'n it waren't for old shrinkwrapped, I'd a-never knowed any lowdown evil headshrinkers, 'cept'n my own poor self.

For those who don't get the reference, ShrinkWrapped was a conservative psychiatrist blogger back in the day.

Back to Bailie. I'm running out of time here, but how could human sacrifice have been so widespread and persistent except through a corruption of the conscience that transformed wrong into right? For it represented "a system of conventions... falsely made out to be the voice of God." It also served as a kind of "purification" and "offloading" of guilt, and this mechanism surely persists to this day.

For example, to paraphrase the Aphorist, socialism is the philosophy of the guilt of others. Believe in it and you are purified of guilt -- of "white privilege," "structural racism," "patriarchy," whatever. But in so doing there must always be victims toward whom violence and repression are legitimized by the corrupt superego.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Mythology is Settled

To paraphrase the Aphorist, there are two kinds of men: those who believe man is fallen, and idiots.

I'm a stalwart of the former camp, which is small consolation, being that fallenness generally redounds to idiocy anyway. Indeed, there are some Protestants who maintain that the fall left us so thoroughly depraved, that our intellect was by no means spared. Therefore we are idiots either way you look at it.

Which is not so outlandish given man's track record. You have only to read a history book -- or the news -- to be overwhelmed with evidence that man is a hopeless case -- that he is fallen and can't get up.

Still, I think there is hope. No, not in man. Left to his own deivoices, Man is indeed a hopeless case, and when divorced from God becomes a monster. It is axiomatic that he cannot save himself. Therefore, he is in need of salvation, even if one doesn't believe in the possibility of salvation.

In reality, this deep structure of fallenness/salvation cannot be denied, only repressed, projected, or otherwise displaced. Marxism is a case in point: it begins with a primordial paradise of communal sharing, followed by a fall into private property and capitalism -- AKA history -- which eventually leads to the salvation of communism.

Most any political philosophy partakes of this structure: something or someone is to blame for our fall from paradise, and this or that person or policy will lead us to heaven on earth.

I want to say that when it comes to our fallenness, the mythology is settled. Or at least it was. But like so many other foundations of western civilization -- e.g., marriage, manliness, virtue, objective morality, etc. -- it has been denied and eroded, such that it threatens to topple the whole structure that is built upon it.

But just as marriage was settled so long ago that people have forgotten how to defend it, so too do people have no idea how to speak of our fallenness without fear of sounding like a literalist rube. But again: we begin with the axiom that it is the people that deny it who are a priori idiots, not us.

In a chapter conveniently entitled The Fall, Bailie speaks of the "hominization event" that distinguishes us from the beasts. Now clearly it is difficult if not impossible to shed light on this cardinal event, at least scientific light, because no one was there to see it. It is like trying to imagine the Big Bang, which is over the horizon of any kind of empirical knowability. Rather, it is just an abstract, backward projection of our current model -- like the models of climate science, only accurate.

The point is, the hominization event is beyond the human horizon; it certainly took place long before any written history, but more to the point, any explanation of it assumes the humanness that is precisely what is in need of explanation.

I first read of myth representing the edge of history in a book called The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, which I must have read some 35 years ago. I see it even has a chapter called Hominization.

Thompson writes that in the Age of Chaos -- that would be now -- "Myth is a false statement, an opinion popularly held, but one known by scientists and other experts to be incorrect."

However, in the Age of Heroes -- which is any time, or rather, outside time -- "Myth is an answer to the three questions: What are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Here myth is a macrohistory giving humanity an answer to the basic riddle of the meaning of existence." And interestingly, "if a philosopher or even a scientist attempts to answer these three questions, then the organization of his data into a narrative falls into the mythic form."

Which goes to what was said above about the deep structure of myth conditioning forms of thought superimposed from above. We could even say that ideology is just the mythology of the modern idiot.

Ah. Here is the passage I was looking for: "The edge of history is myth. If we study myth in a scientific way, we miss the experience of moving into a mythopoeic mode of consciousness. A line of events has a beginning and an end, but the matrix out of which events arise does not appear to be an event at all."

Rather, this matrix is the container, not the contained. Matrix, of course, means womb. Even -- or especially -- God has one.

I don't want to get too far afield. Let's return to God's Gamble. Bailie alludes to the idea that the "hominzation event" -- whatever that was -- is "irreversible." You might say that once you wake up, you cannot go back to sleep. But you can certainly try. Think, for example, of all the ways we can try to make the conscience -- the conscience being prima facie evidence that hominization has occurred -- go back to sleep and leave us the hell alone!

Besides conscience, what else does the hominization event entail? Well, freedom: "For love to appear in creation, the creature in whom it appears had to be free, free in a way that no creature ordered entirely by instinct could possibly be."

This is indeed God's Gamble, because it can -- does -- turn out either way: "the great danger is that the freedom necessary to the fulfillment of the creature's vocation in love" will be exercised in the wrong ways. Broadly speaking, instead of being ordered to O, it will be ordered to Ø:

"[H]uman goods depend on order, and it is the nature of the order to which our lives are sub-ordinated that is decisive." It seems that the primordial unhappitants of paradise impulsively grasp at Ø. As did Adam and Eve.

"For Satan, divinity is something to be snatched at, and he inspires his imitators to acts of self-assertion.... That which can be received only as a gift was despoiled by the surreptitious attempt to purloin it by an act of will."

This represents the great cracking of the cosmic egg into numberless fragments. Desire, which is infinite and ordered to God, expresses its infinitude on this plane, setting up a compulsive dynamic of fleeting fulfillment of impossible dreams. "The gift of free will -- intrinsically ordered to the true, the good, and the beautiful -- thus dissolves into a cacophony of mimeticism..."

Frankly, I don't think the mimicry of others is even required. The infinitude and insatiability of godless desire is sufficient to set the world aflame.

Bailie makes an interesting point about death entering the cosmos with the Fall. It doesn't necessarily imply physical death, but rather, the death-haunted psyche that results from the radical separation from God: "The man and the woman didn't die, but they lost touch with that within them that cannot die, and -- existentially -- that is a living death."

What to do about this existential condition of living death?

Hmm... I know! A human sacrifice! Let someone else take the fall for the Fall -- that will make things right!

"That is exactly what ritual sacrifice does in primitive religion, in which the only possible cure for death is death."

But even if we manage to forego human sacrifice, it is much more difficult to give up the Joy of Blame, of guilt and punishment, of scapegoats and exile. It doesn't surprise me that liberals cannot stop doing this. But I get nervous when so-called conservatives fall into the same trap. A genuine conservative knows this isn't paradise, and that any attempt to make it so will only pave the way for a fresh hell.

Friday, December 16, 2016

What it Takes to Be a Man

Let's leave my own tangential asides to the side, and try to make some progress with God's Gamble. On page 56 Bailie makes a point that I don't recall anyone else making... except me. In a slightly different way, but still. It is not good that I should be alone in making it!

Specifically, in writing of Adam's "longing for communion" that is fulfilled in Eve, he points out that "It is just such a longing, and not the expansion of the creature's cranial cavity, that constitutes the precondition for the other-directed self-sacrifice which uniquely distinguishes our species."

I didn't put it quite that way, but I have many times emphasized that humanness cannot be the result merely of bigger brains, irrespective of how big. Rather, unless selves are intersubjective, then there can be no selves at all. Bigger brains are a necessary condition, to be sure, but not a sufficient one.

The two most important extra-genetic sufficient conditions are 1) being born premature and neurologically incomplete, and 2) maternal empathy, the latter of which is a "feeling with" the personhood of the baby.

Here we go, into another aside. Can't be helped. I'll try to make it brief. For my money, Bion provides the most fruitful way of looking at this.

Biological evolution has been going on for what, 4.5 billion years? Yet despite all that has happened since then, they say the most consequential development of all occurred with the emergence of eukaryotes some 2 billion years ago, give or take. The details aren't important, the main point being that -- to the best of my recollection -- one type of cell learned to survive by living inside another type, and voila! The rest is (evolutionary) history, "since eukaryotes include all complex cells and almost all multicellular organisms," up to and including us.

The point I want to make is that -- so to speak -- it was not good that prokaryotes should be all alone. Rather, had that been the case, then evolution would have been stymied. The details of exactly how it occurred don't really matter, for the principle is the same: life "entered" life and become something much more complex.

Well, the same principle applies to persons. Just as there was a sharp limit to how far prokaryotes could evolve, so too is there a limit on how far isolated, individual minds could evolve. Rather, we had to somehow become members of one another, i.e., intersubjective.

The hinge of all this is again the helpless and neurologically incomplete infant who must evoke the mothering necessary for it to survive, or this little evolutionary experiment is over in one generation.

I'm just going to summarize, but for Bion, it is as if the mother's job is to "think" the thoughts of the infant before the infant is capable of doing so. This may sound odd unless you've had a child, in which case it will sound about right.

Indeed, in the past I've written of how my wife used a particular technique with our preverbal baby, of putting his thoughts and emotions into words, such as "Tristan is angry!" or "Tristan doesn't want to leave the park!" This always had the effect of calming him and making him quite reasonable. Believe it or not, he's been reasonable ever since. And he's remarkably articulate with regard to his inner life -- much more so than I was until, I don't know, around age 40 or so.

Bion calls the thoughts without a thinker beta elements. The mother's job is to process the beta elements through what he calls alpha function. This is what one does with babies, and it also happens to be what one does with patients in psychotherapy -- that is to say, one tries to help the patient articulate unconscious experience.

Assuming we have been successfully mothered (and I use that term in the generic sense to stand for the whole environment of the developing child), then we internalize alpha function and become capable of thinking our own thoughts and metabolizing our own experience.

But the ultimate point is that thinking is an internalized relationship. And any number of pathologies result from degrees of failure to internalize alpha function. Then, instead of thinking thoughts, the thoughts become symptoms, manifesting in the body (somatization), or moods and anxieties, or interpersonal conflicts, or acting out, or substance abuse, or political pathologies, etc.

End of aside. Just note that the development of alpha function is analogous to the emergence of eukaryotes, only in a higher key. Not a coincidence. Just God punning again.

Consider what Bailie says about Eve being made from Adam's rib, which "is typically symbolized in our time by the heart, especially if we see the heart, not as the seat of emotions and even less the source of sentimentality, but -- as the ancients did -- as the source of a wisdom and understanding greater than that arising from cogitation alone" (emphasis mine).

Note the familiar pattern: something from one is internalized by the other, making for a more complex entity. "God took the heart out of the man and put it into the woman," for which reason Adam exclaims "This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!" And perhaps even more to the point, "psyche of my psyche," or "being of -- or with -- my being," AKA intersubjectivity. The one is literally inside the other.

Here we have the remarkable moment "when love appeared in the world for the first time..." Or was it? In my book I emphasized the irreducibly trinitarian nature of it all, in that the helpless infant evokes the mother it requires to survive, as mother evokes the husband she and the baby need to survive. In short, the tripartite family becomes the "unit" of civilization.

Bailie often speaks of "things hidden since the foundation of the world," in reference to human sacrifice. Well, this is another one of those things, only hidden in plain sight. I was reminded of it by a link at Happy Acres that goes to the idea that the ones we love are more a part of us than our own parts.

In other words, I could lose a leg, or a kidney, or an eye, and still be me. But remove my son, and that would be infinitely worse than mere amputation. The father expresses it well: "he knows me better than anyone, and that's how I like it." Note the orthoparadox here: for alpha function isn't actually a one-way street. Rather, through our relationship with our children, we become aware of parts of ourselves that would otherwise be unconscious and un-actualized.

Bailie quotes Ratzinger, who writes of "letting ourselves be torn away from the selfishness of someone who is living only for himself and entering into the great basic orientation of existing for the sake of another."

The bottom penultimate line is that although "prehuman men," for lack of a better term, were "in possession of all the neurological wherewithal requisite to human experience, the full actualization of his humanity awaited the moment when he came out of himself and discovered the mystery that was his true calling: self-sacrificial love" (Bailie).

However, "there is no reason to doubt that the more typical situation in which the bonding event occurs is the moment of exchange of loving gazes between a mother and a child" (ibid.).

So there you are. We'll have to agree to agree.

We cannot say that they love with each other until the two love a third in harmonious unity, lovingly embracing him in common, and the affection of the two surges forth as one in the flame of love for the third. --Richard of Saint Victor, in Bailie

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Free to Be Three

From instinct to... to what?

That is to say, other animals don't have to worry about anything, because instinct takes care of every contingency -- even if the instinct is inappropriate to the contingency.

For example, we used to have a cat we rescued from a dumpster. In addition to being half-dead, he had been prematurely separated from his mother, so was never quite right -- or rather, better than right: he had to be the Funniest Cat Ever. His wires were crossed, such that he would exercise instinctual behaviors in the wrong context, for example, making motions to bury his poop while drinking water, or being startled by his food.

Come to think of it, many neuroses have a similar pattern. Think, for example, of all the strange things that are conjoined in unholy matrimony with the sexual impulse -- various perversions, fetishes, frotteurism, masochism, sadism, etc.

With regard to early humans, Bailie speaks of an "aboriginal world, now inhabited by a creature which had slipped its instinctual leash, so to speak, a creature whose survival could no longer depend on neurophysiological reflexes" to govern behavior. What a strange development!

How does a creature slip its instinctual leash, anyway? Is there some in-between state, of an animal that is mostly instinctual but just a little bit free?

Not really. Compared to man, the most evolved animal is infinitely distant -- literally. No animal could ever conceive of infinitude. Or of absoluteness, or eternity, or any other concept. Which is one of the main reasons it isn't good that man should be alone. A man allone could only pretend to be one anyway, since we are intersubjective down to the ground and up to the sky.

Which may provide a hint into what -- or Who -- we were released into upon slipping the instinctual leash: intersubjectivity. Not only do humans "interact" externally like any other objects, but we also do so internally, like... like what, exactly?

Well, not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but like the Trinity. This answers the question of what we were released into in the most general sense: into an irreducibly trinitarian structure of intersubjectivity.

Come to think of it, I even had a dream about this last night, so it must be true. I was explaining to someone the whole idea; I remember she was a novice therapist -- possibly a student -- holding a baby; the idea "clicked" in her, and she gleefully ran from the room in an acute state of guffah-HA!

In fact, Bailie has a chapter called "It is Not Good That Man Should Be All Alone..." It begins with a crack by Balthasar: "It is clear that a conscious subject can only awaken to himself and his distinct selfhood if he is addressed by one or more others who regard him as of value or perhaps indispensable."

We are literally actualized by love and by the m(o)ther's (p)re-cognition of us. Love alone is not fully sufficient, for it must be a passionate love for a unique and particular individual, not just "anybody."

Nor can it be a disinterested and "professional" love -- the way, say, we are "loved" by the state. Under the best of circumstances the state is supposed to treat us equally, which is to deny individuality. That's appropriate for a state but not for a mother.

I've mentioned before that amazon seems to "love" me in a way; or at least it acknowledges my uniqueness, constantly suggesting far-flung books that only an intimate would recognize as appropriate. But that's hardly a substitute for human love. Even so, the Japanese never stop trying, do they?

In how many ways do people search after counterfeit trinitarian substitutes? I don't know. It's the first time I've put it that way, but I'll bet the answer is "lots."

"[T]he God in whose image humans are made is a Trinitarian God, a God who, prior to creation, is a community of such unimaginably generous love that the sources of this love are consubstantial. In the words of an early creed: 'God is one but not solitary'" (Bailie).

I would suggest that this truly represents our First Metaphysical Orthoparadox, one without which all the others can make only imperfect nonsense: that Ultimate Reality is neither substance nor relation but substance-in-relation.

Of note, this is not a "complementarity," since that would imply two agents. However, I would suggest that it will be mirrored herebelowintime in the form of various rockbottom complementarities -- even a complementarity principle.

Not to get all new-agey on you, but do you think it is a coincidence -- and what is a meaningful coincidence anyway but a celestial pun? -- that material reality is simultaneously wavenparticle? That wave is not the sum of particles, and that particles exhibit nonlocality, meaning that every thing is inside everything else, pardon my French? That physics is trinitarian?

Whitehead wrote that the properties of elementary particles "are in the end influenced by the history and state of the whole universe"; and that "we habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from an environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature."

But we can't speak of reality that way. Because Trinity.

Why is it not good that man should be alone? Precisely because he cannot fulfill his true human vocation in solitude, for he is made in the image and likeness of a God who -- even within the Godhead -- is a communion of loving self-gift. --Bailie

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Cheap and Primitive Edge of Experience

This post may be more rambly than usual, because we are attempting to explore the far edge of the psyche in real timelessness, where things aren't so neatly ordered in a linear way...

The question is, is the primitive edge of experience the edge of primitive experience? It really comes down to whether there is anything about the psyche today that can help us get into the mind of archaic humans.

It seems to me that you can't start with an adult. Compared to a first-world adult human, a primitive man would likely look more like an animal. However, we all start off as infants. And apparently, an infant of 50,000 years ago is essentially no different than an infant born today.

Let's enter the all-the-wayback machine and try to imagine what it was like. If you consult p. 150 of the book, there is a stab at it by another author. First of all, there is no writing and probably not much of a vocabulary:

"Learn to use facial expressions and bodily gestures to convey much of your meaning." Also, there can't have been much in the way of insight, or critical distance from oneself: "You have not yet developed the ability to analyze and plan beyond the most rudimentary level." The space we call the transcendent Third -- for it is between neurology and world -- has yet to be fully pried open, but we have a foot in the door.

Time too must have been closely bound to the rhythms of nature and to biological need. The latter couldn't have been far from awareness at every moment of the day, i.e., the next meal. It's not as if you could walk over to the fridge and grab a snack.

Danger was everywhere. One wonders to what extent fear was the dominant emotion. In any event, "Put aside any sophisticated emotions, such as romantic love. You do not have a a sufficiently distinct sense of yourself or others to support such feelings."

Back to temporality, "Exclude an extended past or future from your awareness. All that is significant is happening now." Moreover, there is no rational explanation for anything. This can't be stressed enough: "Everything that happens is the result of invisible and unknown forces."


Consciousness must at first have been very "diffuse" and extended, not localized and contained in the head. Hans Jonas describes this in The Phenomenon of Life:

"When man first began to interpret the things of nature -- and this he did when he began to be man -- life was to him everywhere, and being the same as being alive.... Soul flooded the whole of existence and encountered itself in all things. Bare matter, that is, truly inanimate, 'dead' matter, was yet to be discovered -- as indeed its concept, so familiar to us, is anything but obvious."

"Primitive panpsychism, in addition to answering powerful needs of the soul, was justified by the rules of inference and verification within the available range of experience." That the world was alive was obvious. There was no competing theory.

This reminds me of children and of psychotics, for whom matter is very much alive. But "That the world is alive is really the most natural view, and largely supported by prima-facie evidence."

Even someone as lofty as Aristotle couldn't fully cleanse his mind of animism, and saw objects as "desiring" their own ends. And really, it took until Newton to come up with a better explanation. That's just yesterday in evolutionary terms. And in how many ways do people still cling to a magical worldview?

This reminds me of Freud's belief to the effect that a neurosis is a kind of private magic, whereas religious magic is a public neurosis.

Was human sacrifice just such a public neurosis? Or psychosis? "The rite of sacrifice," says Bergmann, must have met "a deep and universal need, otherwise we would be at a loss to explain its presence in all known cultures." He notes that "From early times" -- indeed, the (circular) time before (linear) time -- people "felt that they must give up something dear to them in order to prevent destruction by an envious or jealous god."

"Primitive cultures were haunted by a fear that it is dangerous to eat a hunted animal or harvest a crop without giving some of it back. One who does not sacrifice will be persecuted, punished; the soil will become barren; no animal will be hunted successfully. In further developments this feeling expands into a belief that the harmony of nature depends on periodic sacrifice."

In any event, "this suggests an exceptionally deep cultural anxiety, because not even the continuance of time could be taken for granted."

Reminds me of mad old Chronos devouring his son:

Now, from whence comes the envy and jealousy? Well, where does it ever come from? From the psyche of man, only projected outward, into gods. The gods must have served as fixed receptacles for otherwise unruly projections: they were a "place" to put one's greed, envy, aggression, etc. They were a way to manage Thoughts that didn't yet have a proper Thinker.

Have you seen one of those deranged Keith Olbermann Resistance videos? That's the kind of raw and primitive emotionality we're dealing with here. It bears no relationship to the external world, but is simply a way to deal with one's own persecutory thoughts and emotions. Better that they live in Trump than inside Olbermann's own head! Note that he signs off each paranoid rant with an open-handed "peace." That's what you call "reaction formation," a complete reversal of his own psychic truth.

Let's get back to God's Gamble. "One could say that God's great gamble was in giving humans freedom..." However, "it was a necessary gamble" without which the giving of love and seeking of truth would be impossible.

It is to these and other transcendentals that humans are properly ordered. But we are always free to turn away from them, hence the Fall: "freedom can be used to rebel against the very order that is indispensable to the exercise of freedom," occasioning the descent into "violence and madness."

The other day I noticed this headline: $1,570,000,000,000: How Much the World Spent on Arms this Year. That's 1.57 trillion dollars. Why so much lethal force? To attack, and to protect us from, other humans. That's a lot of cash, but it is just a measure of how much violence and craziness we're dealing with.

Back into the wayback machine: "What the first fallen humans needed far more than they might have needed garments to protect them from the elements was something to protect them from each other, which is precisely what archaic religion did for our most ancient ancestors. That is to say, it allowed them to exert a degree of ritual control" over the violence.

And it was much cheaper.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Primitive Minds and Minds of Primitives

I'm always receiving notices in the mail for continuing education courses and seminars. Yesterday's flier from a psychoanalytic institute has several offerings that remind me of our current attempt to reach down into the mindset of human sacrifice.

One is called Treating Primitive Mental States. You might say that human sacrifice was the treatment for certain primitive mental states. Before there was psychotherapy, there was murder. I'm not sure which is more effective. Certainly murder is more popular.

Another seminar is called Forms of Things Unknown: An Approach to Ineffable Experience. It goes to how we manage to translate unconscious experience into language.

Here again, this goes to the problem of thoughts and what to do with them. Human sacrifice had to be a mode of expression, but expression of what exactly? Clearly, it involved acting out instead of thinking. The acting out is a kind of thinking-in-action, the way children act out their thoughts and emotions instead of reflecting upon them.

Recall what was said about innocence only being seen retrospectively. It is no doubt the same with human sacrifice. It could not be seen for what it was when it was occurring -- which was the whole point. Acting out is defense mechanism, the purpose of which is to avoid thinking, precisely.

Here's another: The Fragmented Self: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Dissociation. As we've discussed in the past, we begin life with a fragmented self that eventually becomes integrated through what is generically called good-enough-mothering.

But any number of things can happen along the way that keep the self fragmented: trauma, neglect, abuse, etc. This is how the mind parasites take root. A mind parasite is essentially an unintegrated and semi-autonomous fragment of subjectivity that takes on a life and agenda of its own.

Each of these concepts is essential to understanding human experience and behavior: primitive mental states, unverbalized experience, and fragmentation. The more primitive the mental state, the more fragmentation, dissociation, projection, etc.

The question is, can our current knowledge of primitive mental states tell us anything about the mental states of primitives? I don't see any other way. Humans are humans; just as our physical form develops along certain universal lines, so too do our minds. Indeed, if they don't develop the same way, then we're talking about a different species.

That was abrupt. Work suddenly beckons. I gotta get going. To be continued...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Toward a Total Explanation of Everything

This next chapter in God's Gamble is called Toward a Theological Anthropology. I find that you have to beware of papers and chapters that begin with the word "toward." It's a tip that the author didn't actually arrive at the destination. Rather, he tried.

Which is sometimes the best you can do. For example, I might call this post Toward a Total Explanation of Everything. That lets me off the hook for failing to explain everything. But I'll try.

Over the weekend I wasn't puzzling over everything, just onething, that is, human sacrifice. Maybe I'm missing something, but as I mentioned in a comment on Friday's post, I'm not so sure uncontrolled mimetic desire is a sufficient explanation for the practice. Nice try, but I don't find it completely satisfying. (And this is not to criticize the book; it's still a brilliant toward.)

How can a practice that was so ubiquitous have no explanation? Virtually all humans everywhere thought human sacrifice was a great idea for coping with reality. It's not as if we're trying to figure out the motivations of some alien species. Rather, we're talking about us! Why therefore can't we just look within to find the answer? Or ask ourselves: if I were an archaic human who suddenly found myself self-aware, what would I do?

The thing is, it's as difficult to put ourselves in the mind of primitive human as it is to put ourselves in the mind of an infant. In fact, infant comes from the Latin, unable to speak. Is it even possible for a linguistic being to (re)enter a wordless reality?

Bailie touches on something similar with a rather interesting take on our prelapsarian innocence. That is, "innocence is never a present experience; it is the memory of a situation no longer pertaining." Our primordial innocence is a kind of backward projection from the condition of non-innocence. We can never fully recover it, for which reason the way back to it is guarded by those sword-wielding cherubim.

"No innocent child walks around aware of his innocence. Anyone older than a child has ceased to be innocent and has access to a lost innocence only as a mental reconstruction..." It is "always in the past. It is always remembered as a prior state of blessedness" (Bailie).

It reminds me of Hesse's Demian, in which the main character, Sinclair, only realizes his innocence upon being tormented by his conscience. Let's see if I can find it....

"[A]ll of it was lost to me now, all of it belonged to the clear, well-lighted world of my father and mother, and I, guilty and deeply engulfed in an alien world, was entangled in adventures and sin, threatened by an enemy -- by dangers, fear, and shame."

He has been expelled from paradise, from where he can now see paradise: the old innocent world is "more precious, more delicious than ever before, but... had ceased to be a refuge and something I could rely on.... None of it was mine anymore, I could no longer take part in its quiet cheerfulness. My feet had become muddied, I could not even wipe them clean on the mat; everywhere I went I was followed by a darkness of which this world of home knew nothing." Etc.

The point is, the innocence is only fully appreciated retrospectively. Thus, in a sense, we could say that paradise is an experience that "never happened," but for which we are nevertheless nostalgic -- in the same sense that we can only know we were an infant retrospectively. What did Churchill say about his birth? "Although present on that occasion I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it."

Might we say: Although present at the expulsion from paradise, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it. That's why the reason for the expulsion is a bit hazy and Kafkaesque: we are guilty of being guilty, you might say.

About that term: theological anthropology. For Girard, each illuminates the other, for which reason a purely secular anthropologist couldn't get on board with the theo- part. But "it's a question of the Light that is at once what must be seen and what makes it possible to see..." Theology illuminates anthropology, and vice versa, for which reason its last -- and first -- Word is Christ.

Girard doesn't explicitly say this, but it is as if the secular anthropologist is trying to use a Light that could only come from above in order to illuminate the below. As such, he can never get back to the point when the light split off from the darkness and became a conscious experience. Although present on that occasion he has no clear recollection of the events leading up to it.

Thus, "When and how the threshold from animal to human existence was crossed is a mystery known only to God" (Bailie). On the far side of that threshold is myth, or stories about the transition.

However, on this side is ritual violence: "Attempts to find evidence for peaceful primitive societies or even to imagine them... are, of course, doomed" (ibid). They don't exist. But the societies remember paradise, and virtually all their rituals -- including the violent ones -- are designed to resurrect it.

Over the weekend I consulted another book that attempts an explanation of human sacrifice, In the Shadow of Moloch: The Sacrifice of Children and its Impact on Western Religions. It comes at the phenomenon from a psychoanalytic perspective, writing that "The religious past of Western culture is alive in the unconscious and is just as important to atheists as to believers." He maintains that the struggle against sacrifice "has been a driving force in the development of Western religions." Even so, "the fear of being sacrificed is still alive in the unconscious of men and women today."

For Bergmann, human sacrifice is a way to try to control a hostile and arbitrary deity who might lash out at any time: "the hostility of the sacrificer has been projected onto the deity and thereby transformed into a fear of being persecuted by the deity. The sacrifice is made in the belief that the deity will accept a substitute victim. Nothing is asked of the deity but that the sacrificer be spared."

Let this cup passover, and all that.

Note that he has an individual-psychological explanation, where Girard's is a collective-anthropological one. Although vaguely aware of a sense of guilt, or wrongness, I'm not sure how much individuality would be present in primitive minds. Rather, they would have been primarily aware of being members of the group; sacrifice was done by the group, for the group. Just as there was no individual without a family, there was no family outside the collective. For Girard, the sacrifice is in order to maintain harmony within the group, whereas for Bergman it is for managing one's own anxieties.

It seems noteworthy that pagan myths feature a great deal of inter-generational violence, including a lot of "hostility of the father directed toward the son." Indeed, "the Greeks never succeeded in creating loving gods." They "could sacrifice to their gods, make promises of further sacrifices, but they could not develop a trust in their gods..." (Bergman).

Thus, the transformation of "the image of the deity from a god who demanded the sacrifice of babies to one who abhorred such rites signifies an inner change, but one can imagine it taking place only gradually" (ibid.).

Out of time for this morning. At least we made some headway toward that Total Explanation... .

Friday, December 09, 2016

In the Beginning was the Word... or the Deed. Your Call.

What a piece of work is a man!

How so? Well, for starters, "Making gods by killing victims is the human gesture par excellence..." (Girard, in Bailie).

It's what humans do. Does anyone else do it? If we discovered intelligent life on another planet, would we find that they too engaged in the practice?

"The killing of victims produced the false gods of pagan antiquity, but in killing these victims our ancestors took part in the murder of the true God" (Bailie).

I was just thinking of how Finnegans Wake -- the Book of Everything -- has the recurrent motif of human sacrifice.

Bishop writes that "consciousness of death and consciousness as a totality cannot be disentangled: one is the condition of the other." And "The further out of consciousness one keeps one's own shady account of the wake, the more bearable life in its middle may be."

Death -- although it is "nothing" -- has a kind of real power over the living. What to do about it?

Of the gods of antiquity, Bailie notes that they "were for the most part dreaded figures that had to be kept from visiting their worshipers with scourges by ritual offerings of blood, which reenacted the darkly veiled event that gave rise to both the gods and the worshipping community in the first instance." Thus, "archaic religion was both the absolute antithesis of Christian salvation and a crude groping toward it."

Death and sin are entirely bound up together. This is clearly conveyed in Genesis, in which death follows directly on the heels of sin, i.e., separation from God. Man qua man cannot be unaware of sin; it is only a matter of what he does with the awareness: deny it? Repress it? Project it?

Yes, that's the ticket -- project it!: "In myth, the victim is 'guilty' -- that is, the victim's death is justified -- and the victimizing community is exonerated."

Conversely, "In the Gospel... the victim is innocent and the community culpably oblivious -- 'they know not what they do.'" This recognition of the scapegoat mechanism "represents the single-most historically significant anthropological breakthrough in human history."

Indeed, it has been so successful that we have a hard time entering a state of mind in which victims are contemptible and unworthy of our sympathy. Today we recoil at the idea of slavery, but slavery was once universal. It provoked no moral qualms whatsoever.

Again, SJWs have veered so far in the opposite direction that victims have become their divinity. To claim victimhood is not only to be above moral reproach, but to authorize a violent reprisal. Think of Black Lives Matter, which provokes the murder of innocent police officers based upon the lie that blacks are victims of police.

So BLM is really a lie that obfuscates sacrificial murder. But this is nothing new; indeed, nothing is older. For Girard, "the beginning of human culture must have been a murder concealed by a lie." For which reason Jesus calls the devil "a murderer, a liar, and the father of lies, 'from the beginning.'"

Does this all seem a little reductive? That's something I struggle with. It almost seems too simple, and yet, it accounts for some mighty strange data, i.e., the ubiquity of scapegoating and sacrifice.

I look at the phenomena through a slightly wider-angle lens. That is, the transition from animal to man -- from instinct to freedom, from unself-conscious to self-awareness, from merger with the environment to detachment from it -- must have been a catastrophe of the first order.

Indeed, not only is it by definition the first catastrophe, it is the most catastrophic thing that could ever happen. The magnitude of this break -- which Genesis tries to convey -- is literally beyond conception.

And, like the Big Bang, this primordial he & shebang is still going on. We all repeat the primordial event through the individuation process, and we all must find a way to "adapt to mindedness," so to speak.

Or to paraphrase Bion, there is the thinker and there are thoughts. How does the former manage the latter? What do we do with these thoughts? Yes, "think them" would be a good idea. But there are a multitude of alternatives to thinking painful thoughts, including thoughts of death.

Consider just our Islamist adversaries. What is going on with their thoughts? Why, instead of thinking them, do they insist on acting them out on innocent victims?

So it's hardly as if the sacrificial mechanism has disappeared. Islamists want to sacrifice innocent victims in order to redeem their own guilty selves, while leftists seek redemption by elevating "victims" such as Black Lives Matter to engage in the sacrificing. However, I'm not so sure they know not what they do. Or at least they have no excuse for not knowing, having presumably been exposed to the good news.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

What Does Desire Desire?

What exactly happened when man became man? How do we mark the transition?

Among other things, we now had an assoul released from instinctual programming running lose in the cosmos. All other animals do what they are constrained to do, and any "thinking" that goes on is related solely to those fixed and predetermined ends.

A lion, after satisfying its biological needs, doesn't gaze up at the stars and wonder what it's all about. Nor does it ponder things from the gazelle's rather different perspective. And it certainly doesn't sacrifice another lion in order to appease the Lion God and keep the gazelles coming. Rather, it just goes to sleep. Why don't we do that? It would solve a lot of problems.

By the way, some people say -- or everyone, rather -- that human thought is an extension of animal thought. Can't be. I think it's the other way around: whatever goes on in animal brains is an attenuation of properly human thought. Indeed, we see the same principle at work within humanness: smart people aren't simply an extension of the stupid ones. Rather, the stupid ones are missing something.

In the book, I touched on the distinction between appetite, which is biological, and desire, which is metaphysical and more or less infinite. It was the latter to which Buddha referred with his crack about desire being the root of all suffering. That makes perfect sense, as far as it goes. But what if the desire is here for a purpose? What if, like intelligence, it is proportioned to its proper object?

Analogously, think of all the terrible things that have been done with human intelligence. Would it then be fair to say that the root of all suffering is intelligence? Well, animals in the wild don't become neurotic. They aren't conflicted. Perhaps the road to nirvana is unpaved with the transcendence of desire and intelligence. Or could all those Marxists be wrong? In a Marxist paradise there is no reason to think or want, since the state takes care of both.

Central to Girard's theory is the idea that "above and beyond instinctual appetite or what the philosophical tradition calls natural desire is a form of desire that profoundly shapes and fairly defines human motivation, namely mimetic desire, desire aroused by another's desire and that easily leads to rivalry with the model whose desire one imitates" (Bailie).

Respectfully, I'm not so sure. It is no doubt a partial explanation, but is it really sufficient to account for the pervasive violence that erupts with the emergence of man? I suppose I come at it from a different angle than Girard, since he looks at the phenomenon through an anthropological lens, while I look at it more from a developmental-psychological perspective (a subject to which we will later return; for now let's just stick with Girard's view).

The question is, when does man begin to display his propensity for violence? If we take Girard's idea literally, it is when one man sees that another man desires something, which makes it "desirable" to the first. In short, it provokes envy. And this in turn leads to an inevitable crisis, what with everyone wanting what everyone else has.

Now, Girard's theory explains a lot. Along similar lines is one of our Coon Classics, Helmut Schoeck's Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. Envy is indeed a key to human behavior, and managing it is central both to human happiness and even the possibility of human cooperation. We've spoken in the past of how human groups had to transcend the "envy barrier" in order to evolve into higher and more complex forms. Put conversely, envy is one of the primary mechanisms that keeps primitive groups primitive.

Nor can we eliminate it from the human repertoire, any more than we could eliminate lust, or jealousy, or greed, or pride, or sloth. Nevertheless, the entire appeal of leftism is rooted in the placation of envy. Likewise all this talk of "income inequality," which is just a modern way to express and externalize envy.

This is well known, and many wise humans have pointed it out -- for example, Churchill, who said that "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." But what if the other guy's stuff is none of my damn business? Is it even possible for a liberal to imagine such an unenvious state of mind?

Jumping waaayyy ahead in the book, to p. 144, Bailie makes the profound point that -- quoting Aquinas here -- "The nearer any nature is to God, the less inclined it is to be moved by another and the more capable it is of moving itself."

Bailie elaborates: "the more open to the divine one is -- the unsurpassable height of which is the co-existence with Christ's own co-existence within the Trinity... -- the less mimetically promiscuous one will be, the less easily one is drawn off balance by the mimetic influence of others."

You might say that you will be yourself instead of someone else. Which you'd think would be easy, but first you must differentiate your own desire from what everybody else wants. Bailie adverts to the Serpent -- and we'll get back to him later -- who first triggers mimetic desire by tempting Eve. What is going there, i.e., what principle is the story trying to convey? It is that we do indeed have a kind of infinite desire but that it is proportioned to the infinite God. Detach this desire from God, and what happens?

Yes, history, most especially the bad stuff. All hell breaks loose. This is a huge subject to which we will return in due time, after laying the foundation.

You won't hear me denigrating the free market, nevertheless, it does unleash mimetic desire like nothing in history. It is as if it serves to pander to our infinite desires, detached from God. All day long we are bombarded with images of Things To Want. People order their whole lives around obtaining these Desirable Things, only to find out -- repeatedly! -- that none of them can scratch the itch of mimetic desire, at least for long. One desire simply displaces another.

Not to give undue credit to myself. Rather, it is simply in my nature to be a neo-traditional retro-futuristic bohemian fringe-dweller. Nevertheless, I have to say I saw through this cycle of desire rather early in life. I concluded that there was nothing there for me in conventional aspirations. Only later did I put one and one together and consciously aspire to the third, which is what the blog is all about.

Anyway, back to Desire Unhinged. For Bailie, "culture" is the mechanism that emerged in order to manage it: "culture became necessary for survival precisely when the instinctive dominance-submission mechanisms that served to curtail violence in the animal kingdom proved inadequate to that task of a creature endowed with seemingly insatiable, metaphysical, and fickle desires."

Mimetic rivalry. Is it any wonder the first thing that happens upon our expulsion from paradise is an envy-drenched murder over whom God likes best? How can a culture of cooperation ever emerge out of such a matrix? "How can such violence be transformed into the nascent social consensus upon which conventional culture depends?"

The short answer is that "Archaic religion, the emergence of which marks the birth of culture itself, was born of the transfiguration of violence into religious awe and holy dread..." Our furbears projected violence "onto expendable victims... thereafter ritually reproducing the catharsis with which the original violence was concluded, thereby rejuvenating the social solidarity it produced."

Maybe you have a better idea for why human sacrifice was so ubiquitous. Certainly their gods appeared to demand blood: "Ritual sacrifice was clearly how the world worked."

Think about that one: how the world worked. It's like a scientific theory. And guess what: it did work, certainly for much longer than our democracy has worked. We are the ones in uncharted territory, not them. We are the ones who have to try to figure out how culture can exist without scapegoats.

Or maybe you don't know about the 20th century, with its 100 million victims sacrificed to pagan ideologies...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Does Leftism Feed on the Blood of Innocents?

Almost no time this morning to make any vertical progress. Therefore you get this half-baked and unfinished post:

Have you ever read James Frazer's classic The Golden Bough? He was apparently the first to notice all the human sacrifice going on, and is considered one of the founding fathers of anthropology. I read the abridged edition many years ago. I mention it because it was a major influence on Girard.

The Golden Bough attempts to define the shared elements of religious belief and scientific thought, discussing fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat and many other symbols and practices whose influence has extended into twentieth-century culture. Its thesis is that old religions were fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king. Frazer proposed that mankind progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought" (Prof. Wiki).

So Frazer was a positivist. Which is why he committed the ontological booboo of conflating Christianity with pre-Christian myths. For Girard, it is the other way around: the myths prefigure the reality.

I refer you to chapter XXIV, The Killing of the Divine King. "Now primitive peoples, as as we have seen, sometimes believe that their safety and even that of the world is bound up with the life of one of these god-men or or human incarnations of the divinity."

But of course the god-man is nothing of the sort. Eventually he shows signs of mortality, even if only aging. Have you ever seen The Man Who Would be King? In it Sean Connery becomes the god-man for a pagan tribe. When he is seen to bleed, he is chucked down a mountain gorge while his pal, Michael Caine, is crucified.

In order to avoid this eventuality, Frazer says that "the man-god must be killed as soon as he shows symptoms that his powers are beginning to fail.... The advantages of thus putting the man-god to death instead of allowing him to die of old age and disease are, to the savage, obvious enough."

There's a lot more. The condensed version is over 800 pages. But you get the idea. As did primitive man, since the practice was so widespread. Even so, it is difficult to wrap our minds around the subject -- Bailie would say because we have been Christianized and therefore "treated" for -- if not wholly cured of -- the sacrificial virus.

Even so, the sacrificial motif clearly survives into contemporary times, only we have to look for it under the surface of things. It's even a kind of lens you may use to interpret the news of the day: the news often comes down not only to identifying today's sacrificial victim, but creating the victim. Whose life will the media destroy today?

For pre-Christian savages, victims are just victims. However, in a Christianized culture, we have sympathy for them, which is precisely why leftism involves the unedifying race to the bottom of victimhood. Just as primitive peoples have a garbled and half-digested message, so do leftists. In short, because the divine -- Christ -- was a victim, they deploy unconscious logic and conclude that victims are therefore divine.

You simply cannot understand contemporary leftism outside this twisted logic. Their whole appeal is to Sacred Victims, including everyone from women to blacks to Muslims to Hispanics to the elderly to "LGBT people." Add them all up and it probably comes to, I don't know, 85% of the population. The only people who aren't victims are white males.

In this scenario, it is as if we -- white males -- are the corrupt priesthood sacrificing all these innocent victims. I suppose Trump would be the alpha priest. Who's on his altar today?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Emergence of Man: Who is to Blame?

This next chapter, The Emergence of Homo Sapiens, gets into one of our favorite subjects: exactly how and when did man become man? We have a religious explanation -- sort of -- and a scientific one -- kind of -- but neither, taken at face value, is remotely satisfying. Both are more than a little vague at the edges.

C'mon. What really happened? How did the merely animal escape animality and enter this new world of truth, language, meaning, love, beauty? Any purely scientific account ends up negating what it needs to explain, while a purely religious account tends to overlook everything leading up to it. Each, in its own way, forms man from the dirt and leaves it at that, leaving aside the question of how dirt can come alive to begin with. Godlike magic or magical God isn't much of a choice.

As we know from our reading and even writing of One Cosmos, there are four major discontinuities in existence, and it's hard to say which is the most queer.

First there is existence itself arising out of "nothing" from a primordial explosion that is still exploding as we speak; then this explosion suddenly comes to life some 3.8 billion years ago (suggesting, among other things, that it must have been alive all along); then, around 100,000 years ago, portions of this biosphere are "catapulted into the status of a metaphysical being"(Bailie), and begin thinking, speaking, inventing, and so on; and finally, the story loops back around on itself, and these latter beings break through and commune with their ultimate ground and destiny.

The whole thing is just too weird, except it really happens.

But right now we're focused on the third explosion, anthropogenesis.

By the way, instead of seeing these as four separate mysteries requiring four separate explanations, I tend to think of them as variations on a single explosion. Furthermore, since the whole thing is circular, we can't necessarily locate the point of origin on a line; in other words, nothing compels us to begin with lifeless matter and somehow try to figure out how it came to life.

Rather, we can, for example, begin with Life (as did the theoretical biologist Robert Rosen). As Rosen put it, there is no reason we have to begin with physics instead of biology as our paradigmatic science. Or, to paraphrase Whitehead, biology is the study of the larger organisms, whereas physics is the study of the smaller. And perhaps cosmology is the study of the largest. Unless you want to raise that and say that the Trinity is the largest, an idea to which we will return.

Alternatively, we can begin with man. What if man is the key to the whole existentialada? Not just in the sense that he is the "measure of all things," but that he is the reason for them? This would explain a lot. But let's not get out on front of our headlights.

Now first of all, how do we know when man has become man? This is impossible to say with scientific certitude, because we have access only to physical clues, including DNA, but not to what was going on in their heads.

In my book I looked to the Paleolithic cave paintings as definitive evidence of humanness; I also touched on the universality of human sacrifice, but Bailie, in following René Girard, emphasizes the latter. For Girard, it is a kind of "grand unified theory" of anthropogenesis, enculturation, and more.

Certainly we need to account for the universality of such a seemingly absurd and brutal practice: why human sacrifice? Why, when humans become human, do they begin sacrificing one another to their "gods?" Indeed, why do some of them still practice it to this day? Why haven't they gotten the message -- the Good News, as it were?

Girard's simple explanation -- although full of implications -- is that it is in order to maintain culture. We know that man is prone to violence, to put it mildly. How did early man prevent it from spinning out of control and engulfing these proto-cultures in a downward and dis-integrating cycle of bloodletting?

Here we must emphasize that this is not only a legitimate question, but an absolutely essential one: how on earth do we domesticate such a violence-prone being? For Girard the answer is: human sacrifice. Via this mechanism, the group essentially projects its psychological toxins into a scapegoat. Why? Because it works. At least for a while. It doesn't really solve anything in a final way, so must be compulsively re-enacted, eventually by a professional class, a priesthood.

"Quite logically, the beneficiaries of this blessed peace replicate as best they can the process that produced it. They reenact the drama in rituals of blood sacrifice; they recount the event that turned madness into peace in their myths, and they establish taboos to prevent the spontaneous eruption of this crisis. Archaic religion is born."

Now, we know that the Abrahamic line begins with a human sacrifice. Or rather, the prevention of one. The rest is history -- or salvation history, to be precise. As it so happens, it also ends in a human sacrifice -- or again, the failure of one, AKA the Resurrection.

Not much time this morning, only enough to sketch a crude and preliminary outline. To be continued...