Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Righteous Nobility and Lefteous Pride

We left off yesterday with affective and spiritual consolation and desolation (making four distinct categories). Being that we only touched on the subject, we may have left the impression that spiritual growth comes down to good feelings, when that is not at all the case. (Redemptive suffering is a vast subject in itself.)

For example, "the evil spirit will try to give feelings of elation and excitement about ideas that are evil" (Spitzer). It's very much like those old cartoons with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other: "the evil spirit attempts to coax, persuade, urge, and support with false justifications and feelings of excitement," which the Holy Spirit might counter "by presenting feelings of guilt, alienation, discord, and agitation..." It's a little like living between two lawyers.

Come to think of it, that must be why we instinctively detest trial lawyers. We all know what they're up to.

But this is the 21st century. Isn't all this premodern talk of angels and devils just the anthropomorphizing of neurological activity? I am reminded of a remark by Schuon, that "there are two pitfalls that must be avoided: to maintain that there are two gods, one good and one evil; and to maintain that evil does not exist, either objectively or intrinsically."

In other words, in evil we are dealing with a phenomenon that is both intrinsic and objective, but nevertheless not ultimate. And if we don't recognize its objective existence, we end up like Loretta Lynch, who yesterday claimed that the most effective way to deal with ISIS is through "compassion, unity, and love."

This is a fine example of the Evil One provoking a false affective consolation in Lynch. You could say that he is exploiting her untutored desire to do and be good.

That is, we are all born with a conscience that helps us distinguish good from evil. But like any other faculty, this innate conscience must be formed and developed, not just left alone like an empty field. As Spitzer writes, "the vast majority of people know general precepts by nature, but must be taught more specific precepts."

I first encountered this concept back in graduate school, where it went by the name of a "corrupt superego." The superego is essentially Freud's term for conscience, so a corrupted one converts evil into good (and vice versa), and ends up punishing the person for doing good and rewarding him for doing evil. This is how we end up with morally upside down ideologies such as communism, Nazism, and leftism more generally. Such individuals experience a subjective reward for doing bad or evil.

Indeed, what we call "leftism" (as distinguished from liberalism!) is precisely this moral inversion. It has great explanatory power -- for example, it explains why no one is as morally righteous as the leftist fighting on behalf of his demons, whether it is the redefinition of marriage, forcing us to allow men into girl's restrooms, guaranteeing to women the right to a dead baby, wrecking the world economy and forcing millions into poverty based upon inaccurate but cherished climate models etc.

"We love and are drawn to the good before we do it, and feel noble and at home within ourselves after we do it." Thus, it seems that there is a built-in moral hazard here (literally), in that we can put the cart before the horse and conflate feeling good with actually doing good. But isn't this what the left is, AKA the Intracosmic Good Intentions Paving Company?

How do we get around this moral hazard? It must be in the distinction between nobility and pride -- which can look similar but are quite opposite. Scratch a leftist and you will find that they are motivated by ungoverned pride, whether it is the intellectual pride of the tenured or the conspicuous virtue of the campus crybullies and other morally dysfunctional types.

What we want is nobility without pride. The leftist -- you will have gnosissed -- has pride without nobility. Ever see a gay pride parade? Wouldn't it be nice instead to see a gay nobility parade, with no public nudity and defiant expressions of deviance from cultural norms? One from which you wouldn't need to hide the children? Or better, no parade at all. Just a little discretion, dignity, and taste.

Exactly what is nobility in the spiritual sense? It is readiness "to sacrifice one’s interest to the truth," and "to see things 'from above' and without any baseness" (Schuon).

Thus, "Man has the right to be happy, but he must be so nobly and, what amounts to the same thing, within the framework of the Truth and the Way.... It has been said that nobility of character consists in putting honour and moral dignity above self-interest, which means in the last analysis that we must put the invisible real above the visible illusory, morally as well as intellectually" (ibid.).

In which case we come back around to discernment, i.e., between reality and appearances, creator and creation, up and down. And pride goeth before that last one.

7 Comments:

Blogger ted said...

in evil we are dealing with a phenomenon that is both intrinsic and objective, but nevertheless not ultimate.

I was just thinking how western Buddhists comes up short, because they see evil (in their terms it would be called ego) being only intrinsic. Hence, they have flatlined all distinctions sans objective distinctions!

6/22/2016 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wouldn't it be nice instead to see a gay nobility parade, with no public nudity and defiant expressions of deviance from cultural norms? One from which you wouldn't need to hide the children?

Heads would explode.

Exactly what is nobility in the spiritual sense? It is readiness "to sacrifice one’s interest to the truth," and "to see things 'from above' and without any baseness" (Schuon).

Yes, just so.

6/22/2016 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Following on from Ted's remark, what exactly is 'objective evil'? If you remove the ego and its manifold poisons (i.e. 'mind parasites') from tne equation, what are you left with? Some would say demonic reality or the 'Evil One'. Indeed traditional Buddhism (and not the debased western variety appropriated by the left) does subscribe to the reality of Mara and his army of demons. The question then arises as to whether the Devil is a real person out there 'competing' with God for the adherence of souls or whether this is a personification of the shadow dimension of existence, the negative aspect of manifestation with all its imponderable and painful paradoxes. Schuon sometimes suggests the latter but the question nevertheless remains as to whether what we refer to as demonic reality is an objectively real personality or the attempt to render intelligible the cosmic dissonances we experience as filtered by the limitations of our human psyche. I'm not, for a moment, wanting to engage in reductionism here but it's sometimes difficult to envisage any kind of 'rival' to the Divine Person outside the repudiation of transcendence that is, alas, all too often found within ourselves.

6/22/2016 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Schuon sometimes suggests the latter but the question nevertheless remains as to whether what we refer to as demonic reality is an objectively real personality or the attempt to render intelligible the cosmic dissonances we experience as filtered by the limitations of our human psyche.

The older I get, the more inclined I am to think that, whatever it is, the personification is not merely projection. Which isn't to say people aren't perfectly capable of doing most of the heavy lifting where evil is concerned. I don't know that I'd go so far as to call it a "rival" to the Divine Person - how could anything be that? But the idea that such an anti-being is permitted in the grand scheme of things doesn't seem implausible.

What else to make of the ever-present popularity of human sacrifice as a form of worship? What are they really worshipping, and why do people keep getting the idea that it wants to consume human lives, the more innocent the better? What to make of the jihadi who demands a woman behead her own child for hyperbolically swearing by her god that she would do so?

6/22/2016 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

Just slinging a few thoughts out there from julie's comment:

The older I get, the more inclined I am to think that, whatever it is, the personification is not merely projection.

Well, the long and the short of it is that there are thoughts in our heads that are not ours. We call them mind parasites around here. They try very hard to make us think that they are, and do their best to get us to perform their objectives. This has been my experience and the described experience of enough people of my acquaintance, either through direct conversation, or else in reading, over the years that I cannot help but think that this is a universal experience. If you have not noticed, you are not paying close enough attention to what is going on between your ears...

...I don't know that I'd go so far as to call it a "rival" to the Divine Person...

Well, I could get into more personal reasons why I say that evil is no rival to good, but really, we already know that to be the case. Bad cannot succeed at badness in the same way that Good succeeds at goodness (I think it was Lewis that originally put it this way). One is parasitic on the other, and hence not capable of being some sort of anti-God.

6/22/2016 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Allena-C said...

"In other words, in evil we are dealing with a phenomenon that is both intrinsic and objective, but nevertheless not ultimate. And if we don't recognize its objective existence, we end up like Loretta Lynch, who yesterday claimed that the most effective way to deal with ISIS is through "compassion, unity, and love."

This is a fine example of the Evil One provoking a false affective consolation in Lynch. You could say that he is exploiting her untutored desire to do and be good.

That is, we are all born with a conscience that helps us distinguish good from evil. But like any other faculty, this innate conscience must be formed and developed, not just left alone like an empty field. As Spitzer writes, "the vast majority of people know general precepts by nature, but must be taught more specific precepts.""

And when we get people with "good intentions" in positions of power it ultimately ends in anything but good, which is to say hell.

6/23/2016 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Allena-C said...

Doesn't matter how good the road might seem when it leads to hell.

6/23/2016 07:10:00 AM  

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