Saturday, November 12, 2005

Weekend Sermon: Inward Mobility

A few years ago I had a moment of lucidity while at a video store, watching a couple of bereft humanoids milling around looking for something to download into their brain -- to furnish the dreary habitat of their soul, so to speak. They were having great difficulty determining what to rent, as they had already seen almost everything in the store. To my horror, it occurred to me that the average person has no proper imaginative life of their own, but must download programs from other people's imaginations in order to simulate having one. Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if they were downloading Shakespeare, Dante, or Wodehouse, but most people download infrahuman tripe that enters the psyche and acts like a virus, commandeering the host, reproducing itself, and demanding more of the same kind of nourishment. You are what you eat, both physically and spiritually.

Ensnared in the dream machine that is ordinary life, human beings pass their days absorbed in the relentless spectacle of images, messages, and command hallucinations from the media that tell us what to be, want, and know. Unless you attempt to step off the carousel, you don't realize that it is actually dragging you along by the collar toward the abyss. Life passes away as if it never happened, its purpose perhaps dimly intuited but never realized.

For just as the human baby is born neurologically incomplete, the human adult is born spiritually incomplete. "Birth" for the infant is not actually signified by exit from the womb. Rather, what distinguishes human beings from the beasts is that we are born many months premature, so that psychological birth is a process extending over many months and even years of post-uterine existence.

Likewise, the birth of the adult personality in no way coincides with the birth of the higher self. Just as a baby will fail to thrive and ultimately die if not properly nurtured during its earliest years, our latent spiritual faculties will go undeveloped in the absence of the proper matrix to bring them into being.

This is what it means to be spiritually "born again" from above. There is the horizontal birth of the exterior man, and the vertical birth of the interior man. We are all carrying within us an astral fetus that may or may not come to term before the window closes and the light disappears.

In order to avoid the disaster of an astral abortion, we must detach from the false and illusory Matrix by any means necessary and plug back into the Real. Our commitment to the illusions of the Matrix is called Death, Forgetting, or Sleeping. Detaching from it is called Birth, Awakening, or Remembering.

Both the ego and the higher Self exist as "centers of gravity," like a star or large planet that draws things toward it. The ego draws people, experiences, and thoughts that validate it, just as the higher Self will draw what it requires to experience and articulate itSelf. While the lower self is very well adapted to the the exterior world, it is not necessarily equipped to perceive what touches the eternal. Moreover, as we move through life, its roots grow deeper and deeper, requiring a more complicated context to justify and nourish it.

The unregenerate exterior man will overlook all of the abundant hints, clues, and meaningful coincidences that point the way in, up, and out. For example, he may notice the beauty of the universe, but regard it as mere information rather than a secret influence manifesting from another sphere. The exterior man may even be hypnotized by this tempting beauty, which is a perfectly acceptable response as far as the Prince of this World is concerned, so long as the beauty does not stir him from his metaphysical slumber.

Therefore, before we can truly even think about what lies beyond this world, we must forge a link between our lower and higher selves, so that "vibrations" and messages from the other side can get through. These vertical influences originate from the dark side of our being, so we must begin by discerning between the two kinds of influences and building a line of transmission between the celestial and terrestrial. As you begin assimilating these influences, you will actually strengthen the center within yourself that is able to perceive them.

Again, think of your higher self as a sort of attractor in subjective phase space, pulling ideas and experiences toward it. At the very center of this attractor is an "I" that can only "am" with your help. It exists at no particular place and has a probability to be found anywhere, but only when found there. So long as it is not found, it ex-ists nowhere.

This is why God is encountered in the means available to know him. By our dwelling in God, God dwells in the cosmos, and by knowing God, we are known by him. While we are the image of the Creator, without a clean mirror, the reflected object is either obscure or seems to disappear entirely.

Your true Self is nothing less than the Whologram of your private particle that has already realized its destiny and patiently waits for the rest of you to catch up. Among other things, when you meditate or pray, you are actually making a formal appeal to your "future self" to manifest: thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Since Birth, Awakening, and Remembering are variations on the same underlying theme, any one of these facilitates the others. You can be born again by flexing your vertical memory, or awaken by remembering your second birth. In either case, your mysterious being is paradoxically beckoning you to become more of what you already are, what you have always been, and what you are to realize in your becoming. Who you are in the fleeting now is but a fragment of an outwardly expanding ripple originating from an atemporal center where the eternal questions perpetually arise: Do you realize that I am? Do you realize who is I am? Do you realize I am that?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Looking for Comedy in the Islamist World

In Albert Brooks' film, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, he imagines himself given a special assignment by the U.S. government: "Maybe the only way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laugh," he is told. "Go to India and Pakistan, write a 500-page report, and tell us what makes the Muslims laugh."

As a matter of fact, Petey has been looking for comedy in the Islamist World since 9-12-01, but in a different way. That is, he thinks that the best way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laughable. He makes no bones about his belief that the terrorists are completely insane, and that they are much more worthy of mockery and ridicule than fear or respect. The "war on terror" would end tomorrow if these jihadis would just wake up, have a big laugh, and realize what perfect asses they've been.

But who has ever seen a jihadi laugh, except for one of those hollow, bitter, mocking ones, like Dr. Evil? That's the problem. Something is terribly out of balance if comedians feel free to ridicule conservative Christians or President Bush or Catholic priests, but never conservative Muslims, crazy imams, or corrupt Palestinian leaders. It's like a symptom of the disease we are trying to eradicate. Can't we all just make fun of each other? It's a much healthier way to express aggression.

For example, if I were to run into bin Laden, I might let him know that I actually understand why he needs so many wives. After all, if you're going to play by Taliban tules, you never know what sort of beast lurks beneath that burka. Who wants to make a lifetime commitment to the child bride behind cave door number two, sight unseen? There's safety in numbers.

I read somewhere that Mohammed "is regularly cited as the most common name in the world, though there is no concrete evidence." Oh really? What about all the flying concrete? Not to mention glass and steel?

And the Palestinians? Forget about it. They finally have their own state in Gaza, but I don't know if they're going to be able to do much with it. It can't be easy spending your whole life trying to blow up something constructive, only to see it rebuilt before your eyes.

And state or no state, Palestinian women won't have a prayer. Literally. They don't allow them to even pray with the men in the Mosque. I can't say I blame them. Who wants to go to the mosque expecting a perfectly sublime Day of Rage, only to have these women turn it into a sleazy Day of Lust?

The men are naturally confused and conflicted by standing behind a woman while she’s bowing and kneeling. Rather, women are supposed to face their husbands while bowing and kneeling. When it comes to prayer, the imam is quite adamant about it: "You can't join 'em, so beat 'em!"

But I guess the battle between the sexes runs pretty deep over there. In the Palestinian territories, women don't have the right to bare arms, only the right to bear armed children. And when the children "play doctor," the boys perform mock clitoridectomies on the girls.

And how about the wild anti-Semitism they teach in their schools? Somebody called Abbas on it, and he said he was shocked that they were teaching hatred of Jews in their schools. In an interview in Throwing Stone magazine, he said that in the future, students will be taught to murder Jews and to just leave their feelings out of it.

But what's really depressing is their class reunions. They're so sparsely attended. I don't know why they should be surprised, when their best schools boast of a 90% detonation rate.

Anyway, the Palestinians can always rely on our good friends, the Saudis. Did you know that Saudi banks fund a lot of their terror operations? Of course, they don't just hand out the money to anyone. Rather, you've got to be able to provide a lot of collateral damage.

But it doesn't matter. There's always some Jew-hating American like Rachel Corrie who will take the terrorist's side. Her parents should be quite proud. There aren't many parents who can honestly say that their child was just as useful an idiot in death as they were in life. But still, that doesn't make up for the loss. They sued Caterpillar because one of their bulldozers accidentally turned toward her and flattened her. In fact, this was the first known case of a Caterpillar turning into a bitterflake.

How about Iran? They may be the first culture to skip the toenail clipper stage of technological development and go straight to nuclear power. I understand it's taking some time because they're trying desperately to develop a weapon that will destroy New York but leave the Times unharmed.

Anyway, we've got our own problems in America, what with these Wahhabi-lobbies like CAIR, that supposedly represent decent Muslims. Actually, they don't represent good Muslims, only the rank-and-foul. In fact, those Muslim doctors in the UK botched the terror operation so badly, CAIR is going to sue them for malpractice.

Me, I don't get it with these doctors. If they wanted to destroy western civilization, why did they spend all that time in medical school? Why not just go to journalism school, like everyone else?

And the U.N. is no bargain. They sent those Jordanian troops on a peace keeping mission in Timor, and they ended up abusing the children. Apparently it was a big misunderstanding -- the Jordanians thought it was supposed to be a piece-copping mission. D'oh! From what I understand, the men offered the children candy in exchange for sexual services, in what is already being called the "oral for food" scandal. Personally, I say "U.S. out of the U.N., U.N. out of Timorese boys!"

This was actually going to be a big story in the New York Times until further investigation revealed that the Jordanian peacekeepers weren't even Catholic, much less priests.

But once again Kofi Annan is pulling the wool over our eyes. If only it were wool panties, this story would would be huge in the MSM.


Monday, November 07, 2005

The French Revolution, cont.

World history took one of its momentous farks in the road with the American and French Revolutions. While the American Revolution was founded on the principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the French version was inspired by a trinity more diabolical in its implications, "equality, fraternity and liberty." In short, while the American revolution emphasized liberty first and foremost, the French revolution gave it third billing behind the all-important "equality."

As the contradictory ideals of liberty vs. equality began to ramify through history, it resulted in the very different nations we see today, for the more liberty a nation has, the less her people will be equal, while the more equality is pursued by state policy, the more freedom will necessarily be attenuated.

The nations of the European Union are, of course, the embodiment of the perennial leftist dream of a cradle-to-grave welfare system. But in order to achieve the goal of radical equality, the Europeans must maintain a confiscatory tax system that radically undermines liberty, since they begin with the assumption that your money does not belong to you, but to the state.

In fact, this flawed understanding of equality is an atavistic and deeply pernicious holdover from our most primitive social arrangements. While it might have made sense in the "archaic environment" of psychobiological evolution in small face-to-face groups, in order for human beings to evolve psychohistorically, it was necessary for them to overcome their "envy barrier," and to tolerate the painful idea that some might possess more than others.

In his classic work, Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour, Helmut Schoeck notes that our most economically misguided ideas stem from the futile attempt to eliminate envy. In order to placate the envious individual, government must intervene with policies that do achieve the desired end of of creating more equality, but at the cost of inefficiency, lack of economic growth, and ultimately far less wealth for everyone. Only by tolerating envy is economic development possible: "the more both private individuals and the custodians of political power in a given society are able to act as though there were no such thing as envy, the greater will be the rate of economic growth and the number of innovations in general." A society is best able to achieve its creative potential if it functions "as if the envious person could be ignored." Likewise, well-meaning leftists who seek the completely "just society" are doomed to failure because they are based on the idea that it is possible to eliminate envy, when human beings inevitably find something new to envy.

Ironically, the pursuit of equality achieves its goal in a perverse sort of way, by dragging everyone down to a lower level of prosperity. The Fall 2005 Claremont Review of Books contains a revelatory article by Gerard Alexander, spelling out some of the dire results of the pursuit of equality. For example, on average, U.S. per capita income is 55% higher than the average of the 15 core countries of the European Union. In fact, the largest E.U. countries "have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states." Alexander points out that if France, Italy or the U.K. were somehow admitted to the American union, "any one of them would rank as the 5th poorest of the 50 states, ahead only of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana." Ireland, which is currently the richest E.U. country, "would be the 13th poorest state, Sweden the 6th poorest.... 40% of all Swedish households would classify as low-income by American standards."

In addition to impeding a nation's wealth-producing capacity, the mindless pursuit of equality results in chronically high unemployment. France has lived with unemployment between 8-12% for some 25 years, and if anything, this underestimates the true figure because of forced early retirement and extensive but futile job-training programs. And there is a disproportionately negative impact on the poorest sectors of society, since a high unemployment rate pushes aside the least skilled workers first.

But "ironically," the sense of entitlement that is nurtured in the entitlement society means that its victims will feel entitled to more entitlements, thus resulting in even worse conditions. This is just part of the underlying dynamic of what we are seeing with the Muslim riots in France. "Buying them off' with yet more social programs will only result in a greater sense of entitlement and more unrest, since, once the spigot of a person's sense of entitlement is opened, it is very hard to shut off. This is partly because our sense of entitlement is rooted in the earliest infantile experience, when we are, for the only time in our lives, actually "entitled" to mother's magical ministering of our every need and whim. The universe revolves around the moment-to-moment needs of the baby, which is as it should be. For a baby.

But for a variety of psychological and cultural reasons, it is possible for human beings to become arrested at the stage of narcissistic entitlement. In 2002, shortly after the attacks of 9-11, I wrote an article on the psychopathology of the Islamic world, entitled, "The Land that Developmental Time Forgot." In it I discussed the psycho-social implications of the pervasive sense of male superiority over women that pervades the Islamic world: "For example, when boys grow up thinking they are superior simply by virtue of 'being' rather than 'doing,' by actually accomplishing anything, it undermines the drive to achieve." I quoted the economist David Landes, who wrote that one "cannot rear young people in such wise that half of them think themselves superior by biology, without dulling ambition and devaluing accomplishment. One cannot [tell boys] they have a golden penis, without reducing their need to learn and do."

And the resultant fragile sense of manhood in the Muslim world feeds directly into the violence of the region, because "violence is the quintessential, testosteronic expression of male entitlement." What we have to imagine is the incredible disorientation these "chosen" men feel, growing up with unrealistically high self-esteem, and believing they are heirs to a superior civilization, but all around being confronted by the social and political disaster that is Islam. Something has gone wrong . . . and someone must pay. Thus the search for scapegoats begins.

I do not know if the young Muslim men of France suffer from the same collective pathology of the peers they left behind, but it would appear so. When you place such an individual in the context of a welfare state that mirrors their grandiose sense of entitlement, then a sort of alchemical explosion takes place: the giant sucking sound you hear in France is unlimited desire meeting unlimited attempts to placate it, with predictable results.

Have you ever seen a baby when it is not getting what it wants? Oh my. It happened just yesterday, when Daddy was ultimately powerless to stop the unseemly emotional outburst that ensued. The same thing will happen in a nation of babies accustomed to an omni-nurturant Mommy who shields them from life's pain and disappointment. If I were to foolishly attempt to inculcate manly virtues such as self-reliance and delayed gratification in the Gagdad boy and tell him to "suck it up," he would take it quite literally and immediately request Mommy. For him it is obviously way too early to "be a man." For France it may be too late.

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