Very annoying. Couldn't post for the longest time today--technical problem at blogspot. I guess I should get angry, but I'm like Woody Allen--I don't even know how a can opener works, much less the internet. To me, it's a miracle that Al Gore even came up with the idea.
I was about to move on to the next topic of discussion, that is, the hostile forces--you know, the deities of the nether world, the Cosmocrats of the Dark Aion--and how they fit into the psychic economy of the cosmos. But yesterday's post was so popular, I've decided to offer up more of the same. We'll get to the Father of Lies tomorrow. Today we'll just talk about some of his minions, for the adversary knows better than anyone that Job One is to convince sophisticated folk that he doesn't exist.
Nor does the Subtle One work with hammer, pliers, blow torch or other such crude instruments. Contrary to popular belief, he will not "get medieval on your a**." He is a refined fellow. A man of wealth and taste. He does not threaten. Rather, he seduces. He hypnotizes. He intoxicates. He is a flatterer. One of our best defenses is that he only takes the willing. He works with what is at hand. You must choose him. And yet, the temptations he offers are steps on the ladder of perfection. Obviously, a fine line.
Why do so many otherwise bright and intelligent--not to mention decent--people fall for leftism in any of its many varieties? Partly it is a reflection of the devaluation of the intellect in modern times, the reduction of knowing to mere reason. Properly understood, reason is a tool of the intellect. It is a good slave but a bad master, for reason can only touch the richness of the world, but can never truly "enter" or map it. It necessarily reduces the higher realms of pure intellection to the flatland of mere knowledge. Time and space are drained of their metaphysical significance, so that the gift of liberty actually becomes oppressive and wearying. Reduced to horizontal freedom, it just entails aimless wandering or frantic running, looking for a "place" and "direction." But there is no place in the horizontal. Anywhere you are there, you're still nowhere. So you must keep moving. Or search for some kind of "rock" to cling to during life's sojourn, even if the rock is of your own creation. It's better than no-thing and no-where.
Leftism is just one of many logopathologies available to the lost soul. One of the problems is with our elites. We are wrong to think that the difficulty lies in the uneducated and unsophisticated masses--as if inadequate education, in and of itself, is the problem. As a matter of fact, no one is more prone to illusions than the intellectual. It has been said that philosophy is simply personal error on a grandiose scale. Complicating matters is the fact that intellectuals are hardly immune to a deep emotional investment in their ideas, no less than the religious individual.
The word "belief" is etymologically linked to the word "beloved," and it is easy to see how certain ideas, no matter how dysfunctional--for example, some of the undeniably appealing ideas underpinning contemporary liberalism--are beloved by those who believe them. Thus, many liberal ideas are believed not because they are true, but because they are beautiful. Or because of their rocklike function alluded to above. The contemporary secularized intellectual simply marshals their intelligence in service of legitimizing the beliefs that they already hold. It has long been understood by psychoanalysts that for most people, reason is the slave of the passions. In fact, it will almost always be the slave of the passions unless it becomes the slave if the intellect properly so-called---that is, the nous.
I have written before of how, underneath the attachment to the dysfunctional idea or system, there is a more insidious fear that one's entire intellectual cathedral, carefully constructed over a lifetime, will collapse in ruins. Religious people are not as prone to this same fear, because they accept it that their religion is ultimately based on a leap of faith.
That liberalism is the latest pseudo-religion seems quite apparent to me. While it is true that the conservative intellectual movement includes religious groups, it has been my experience that conservatism actually maintains a far clearer separation of religious and political impulses than liberalism, simply because it acknowledges a sharp difference between the two. Since leftism denies the existence of spirit, it ends up conflating politics and gnostic spirituality into a single ideology that is neither politics nor religion, but a monstrous hybrid of the two. The philosopher Eric Voegelin wrote at length about this (his works are rather difficult, but there is an excellent introduction that I have placed in the sidebar).
As Jonah Goldberg has observed, "Like many spiritual movements, liberalism emphasizes deeds and ideals over ideas. As a result, when liberals gather there’s a revivalist spirit in the air, with plenty of talk about fighting the forces of evil and testifying about good deeds done." Goldberg cites several examples, such as "the spiritual nature of the environmental movement; the quasi-messianic treatment of Martin Luther King Jr.; Bill Clinton’s invocation of 'covenants' with the American people; Hillary Clinton’s 'politics of meaning,' which claimed to redefine what it meant to be a human being in the postmodern world--all of these are examples of what Voegelin would describe as the neo-Gnostic effort to make the hereafter simply here."
At the same time, for the person who is not under the hypnotic psycho-spiritual spell of contemporary liberalism, it is strikingly devoid of actual religious wisdom or real ideas. As such, it is driven by vague, spiritually infused ideals and feelings, such as "sticking up for the little guy," or "war is not the answer," or "we gave an academy award to Hattie McDaniel in 1939." On the other hand, conservatism (not, mind you "Republicanism") is not so much based on ideas, but on simply observing what works, and then generalizing from there. It is actually refreshingly free of dogma, and full of dynamic tension.
For example, at the heart of conservatism is an ongoing, unresolvable dialectic between freedom and virtue. In other words, there is a bedrock belief in the idea that free markets are the best way to allocate scarce resources and to create wealth and prosperity for all, but a frank acknowledgment that, without a virtuous populace, the system may produce a self-centered, materialistic citizenry living in a sort of degenerate, "pitiable comfort." Thus, there is an ongoing, unresolvable tension between the libertarian and traditional wings of the movement.
There is no such dynamic tension in liberalism. Rather, it is a topdown dogma that is not dictated by what works, but by how liberals would like reality to be. This is why liberalism must be enforced with the mechanism of political correctness, in order to preempt or punish those who deviate from liberal dogma, and see what they are not supposed to see.
It is a mistake to think of this as a problem afflicting only intellectuals. Rather, a moment's reflection reveals that it is a much more pervasive problem that afflicts artists, psychologists, literary types, etc. So what is common to all these folks? Why it's the tyranny of the abstract. All of these types fall in love with their own ideas, and take their ideas to be more real than reality. In fact, for such an individual, reality becomes a defective form of their sacred ought. Instead of "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," the overly abstract thinker says, "In the beginning, reality ought to be the way I want it to be."
Let's face it, if you are a ward of the state, a university professor with the luxury to idly pursue the intellectual life, you have it pretty easy. You are living a rather sheltered existence, free from hunger, disease, pain, and want. Therefore, it's pretty easy to forget the violence that made such leisure and abundance possible, in the same way that it's easy to enjoy your health while forgetting that you're only healthy because you have a "primitive" but sophisticated immune system ready to do incredible violence to any foreign invaders who threaten your body's health. For these intellectuals and so-called spiritual types to have contempt for the military is as idiotic as having contempt for your body's immune system. But that doesn't stop elite universities from suing to get the ROTC and military recruiters off their campuses.
Try telling your immune system to be reasonable, to sit down and talk it out with the viruses that want to invade you. Tell your white blood cells to hold conferences to try to understand the root causes of bacterial motivations.
The ideals of abstract thinkers are utopian and unworkable because they forget all about embodied human existence--about reality. It is no coincidence that the great totalitarian movements of the past century--communism, nazism, and now Islamism--were and are the products of intellectuals. On the other hand, Christianity takes seriously the idea that we are unavoidably embodied and imperfectible. As a matter of fact, Judeo-Christian metaphysics solves the otherwise insoluble philosophical stalemate between idealists and materialists, because a logoistic reality means that the Word is made flesh: that the ideal is located in the real, not in some abstract, utopian beyond. The world is neither ethereal nor earthly: it is earthereal.
Abstract ideas are designed to understand and describe reality. But intellectuals turn this around and begin using their abstractions to judge reality. And if reality falls short, they don't abandon their ideals but jettison reality. Intellectuals just can't stand the thought that a free market with no one in charge has much more embodied wisdom and rationality than their sacred abstractions and economic prescriptions.
Also, most intellectuals and liberal, new-age spiritual types simply imitate one another rather than having a direct encounter with the Real and building up a world view based on personal experience. They are generally not original or creative thinkers, but simply take on predigested ideas that have been passed to them by other intellectuals. But you are not free to discover what you are motivated or predisposed to believe. The mind and spirit only evolve in a concrete way if they are open systems in a fluid, dynamic, and dialectical relationship to reality.
The ultimate basis of the culture war is in fact nihilism vs. theism. While the left would like you to believe that it is simply a battle between right-wing religious zealots and "free thinking" secular liberals, you can conceptualize it in more subtle ways--for example, a belief in absolute Truth vs. relative truth, moral absolutes vs. moral relativism, spiritual hierarchy vs. "flatland" materialism, meaningful existence vs. existential meaninglessness, etc.
At the basis of my philosophy is a belief in evolution--not just the watered down gruel of Darwinian evolution we are taught in school, but a much deeper and comprehensive spiritual evolution that has been going on for the past 13.7 billion years. We are embedded in an evolutionary, hierarchical cosmos eschatologically oriented toward a spiritual telos that lures us in its wake. But secular leftism involves a gross simplification of human nature. It reduces hierarchy to a spiritual leveling and replaces the telos of spiritual aspiration with the mundane enforcement of material equality.
Any spiritual practice involves orienting ourselves to these winds of inward mobility that lift us higher and higher, toward our own nonlocal center--which also happens to be the beating heart of the living cosmos. It is the fabled circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. Call it grace, shakti, dynamis, the holy ghost, kundalini, mojo, primordial slack, whatever. It's there for you to tap into if you want to. Or you can live in a spiritually bereft flatland, as secular fundamentalists choose to do. But what is so irritating about these literal-minded spiritual simpletons is that they believe their puny perceptions exhaust the Real. And then they have the nerve to impose their crude atheocracy on us! For nihilists, they sure are hard-core believers.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Runnin' With the Devil
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Hi Bob -
So you have tech troubles as you warm up to a discourse on meta-evil and the like? Well, who knows but such a thing doesn't come as a total shock.
Would like to add that the modern over-indulgence in, as you say, "mere reason" often strikes me as an exercise in sensuality. One doesn't usually think of the "life of the mind" as being sensual; in fact, quite a few people I have known think the intellectual life, even in its debased form, as being genuinely spiritual, or the next best thing.
In terms of debased intellectualism, I always look to the French, who seem to me to have constantly been in the forefront of generating Really Bad Ideas. If we take nations to embody archetypes, France has always been the "sensual" archetype; it connects us with the body, with the earthly material beauty. Nothing wrong with that - it has its purposes as long as one isn't subsumed by sensuality (de Sade or even the Terror, for that matter) Wine, art, romantic love, fine.
But of course, the French political philosophers go way overboard, and I think it's because they simply love the sheer sensuality of it all. One's capacity for "intellectualism" is a material attribute - depends on how fast one's synapses can exchange electrical currents. Like other sensual capacities, this can be over-indulged and debased. Naturally the sensually-minded French would have a predilection for such.
BTW, Pol Pot's minions were taught in French universities and brought the message back to Cambodia where they put it into practice.
The aha's just keep a-poppin for me from this stage of your work!
I realized that the canard -- especially popular among the feeling-tone "social-justice" temperaments -- that "the market isn't perfect" as code for "we should interfere with the process" is well-answered by redoubling loyalty to the virtues, which alone allow market forces to operate outside the slough of selfish corruption by "a self-centered, materialistic citizenry living in a sort of degenerate, 'pitiable comfort.' "
The first exchange was all about the Horizontal -- "fixing" the market. The second is about phenomena on the Horizontal signalling the need for immediate and active accelleration into the Vertical. Not by legislating virtue, but by every sentient being involved stirring up his own soul's virtue, in often very practical and generous fashion.
And yes, corrupt education is far worse than no formal education. And French-derived academic education is addicted to abstractions, the deities of so-called Reason and others that were enshrined during the Revolution, par exemple.
Wasn't it Immanuel Kant who openly expressed hostility toward rational thinking? Seems a bit drastic, if you ask me: I believe his exact phrase is "I had to throw away reason to make room for faith." Atheists have been drubbing Kant and his ilk mercilessly for centuries because of that attitude.
Ah, but what about us poor souls who see clearly the big picture, yet cannot seem to translate that insight into our own lives?
(I'm really enjoying this thread on an intellectual level...but I'm just - oh so very gently - trying to nudge things back towards the instructional on personal spiritual practice).
To dovetail Bob's current theme with an interesting Dilys posting several days ago titled "When Did You Become An American?" - here's my contribution:
WHEN I BECAME AN AMERICAN by Will the Commentor:
Recently, in fact. Was one of those quasi-flirtatious online relationships with a Euro woman. She was smart, literate, civilized, etc. I could tell I amused her. For some reason, she thought I was "poetic" - well, the online relationship is a veritable Projection Machine. She was quick to point out that Euros "are very liberated." Right, got it. Unlike you-know-who. It got to the point where she was inviting me to Europe to see for myself. Then one day the topic of Fatima came up, as in miracle of. As in - I, Will, believe it was genuine. Ever had a car air bag suddenly explode in your face? It was that quick. End of conversation. End of online relationship. Beginning of a new sense of my being an American.
I could not have gotten a more negative reaction from Euro woman if I had declared myself in favor of bestiality. What kind of spiritual degeneracy reacts to a simple statement of spiritual belief that way?
The Euro kind! (also playing in east and west coast elite theaters)
Atheism, I get. I can understand how one might rationalize adopting it, if only as an unthinking gut reaction.
I will never comprehend nihilism.
kahn - if you genuinely see the Big Picture, trust me, you are translating it into your life. Whether you know it or not.
Wait a couple of years, then look back and voila l'difference.
Yeah, Michael Andreyakovich , but - to paraphrase Dostoyevsky (and for some reason I think you'd be familiar with him), atheism ultimately means that "everything is permitted." That's ultimately a prescription for nihilism.
For anyone who wants a purely "horizontal" description of what Bob is talking about without all the "spiritual mumbo jumbo" (which I happen to like), I again recommend Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions."
Sowell obviously has a strong point of view, but he manages to spend that entire book not judging the other side. I can't think of a leftist who wouild be capable of giving the right the same treatment.
Somehow, his non-judgemental descriptions of certain views almost seems more damning. I can't imagine anyone actually reading and considering the contents of that book and coming away a leftist.
Apparently the left senses this, for there's not a single negative review of it on Amazon.
I'm genuinely interested, Kahn, in your concern to "translate insight into our own lives." It would be a courtesy if you would offer something more, a structural example of what would serve or has served you.
My guess is that each MBTI temperament flourishes in a different kind of spiritual discourse. NT's seem in the majority here, alternately getting off on the sensuality of the big picture and, as will observes, from that ignition gestating a seed that can spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. I know my last two aha comments have had sharp and demanding on-the-ground implications for my daily choices, turning my head right around.
If you are willing to offer your criteria for material that "translates," I expect it would be of value to some of the rest of us and I know I'm interested.
The unemployment rate among young people in France is 23 percent. And in many suburbs, it is double that. Meanwhile, French companies are understandably loath to hire 22-year-olds when they cannot fire them except "for cause," which under union rules means something like committing mass murder in the workplace. What these massive demonstrations reveal is the narcissism, laziness and irresponsibility inculcated by socialist societies. Spoiled French Riot for Socialism
In Scripture Jesus purged the evil spirits from a man and these spirits took refuge in a herd of swine, who immediately hurl themselves off a cliff. This I would call a personification of evil, an entity apart from the man and the swine, yet this entity can inhabit either.
What is your understanding of the personification of EVIL (not lower-case evil)? In your training or practice, have you ever encountered an "evil" that could not be explained as a mental illness?
Remember the incident where all those sheep jumped off that cliff to their death? It was what...in this last year? I remember thinking about that evil spirit in the bible too then. It's spooky!
Dilys, I tested right on the cusp of ENFJ/INFJ (teacher/counselor)
What, may I ask . . . ?
Whereas I can see where intellectual-minded folk might be attracted to Bob's discourses (sometimes mistaking them for what they are decidedly not; won't name names but a certain B. comes to mind), I think Bob comes from a zone that transcends all types, whether MBTI, astrological, whatever. Because the transcendent obviously transcends.
I admit that I tend to gravitate toward meta-sources that have perhaps a little less intellectual trapping than does Bob's. However, I think meta-sources that are somewhat contrary to one's type actually enhance and sharpen the receptivity.
The unique thing about meta-"knowledge" - you have to know it before you understand it. And it can be understood from any source.
Bro Bartleby -
Forgive me for jumping in here but that's a fascinating topic.
As someone once said, there are not really gradations of, things that are evil, there is Evil. Similarly, there are not gradations of and things that are good, there is Good.
I think, in a sense, all mental illness (and I of course do not include that which results from an inflicted trauma), is "evil". That is, it results from ego, self-aggrandizement. There is the manifestation of evil which is tantamount - or actually really is - demonic possession. And I would be willing to bet that in most cases, that results from "mental illness", ie., ego.
Blogspot problems have prevented me from getting into the comments all day.
Will--what you said about the sensuality of the intellectual life is absolutely correct. It's like a luxuriant jungle, a very seductive, hypnotic and decidedly feminine realm.
I suppose that makes eminent sense if looked at through the lens of Genesis. On the one hand there is Sophia. On the other, Eve. The nous is to Sophia as the fallen intellect is to Eve.
By the way, I've been backed up with a lot of mundane responsibilities, but your hand-selected new testavus for the rest of us will go out first thing tomorrow morning.
Thanks dilys and will -
Yeah, I know it's growing, and I'm moving forward. I can even see it sprouting any day. It's just a matter of lacking patience, faith and determination where it matters. I can take the blows, but I can't seem to lay a punch.
I'm all INFJ now - just happened to take a test last week. I used to be TJ, and I'm having a lot of trouble making that transition to faith. I see the divine hand every day; in fact, I can't explain where I am right now and the harvest before me through my old ways of thinking. At some level that bothers me, and I just can't let go and accept it.
I've been blessed with opportunity and talent (enough to satisfy my own standards, at least). Everything seems aligned for me now, and all that's left is the heavy lifting. But it's as if I have to let go or resolve something first...
"If you are willing to offer your criteria for material that "translates," I expect it would be of value to some of the rest of us and I know I'm interested."
Oh, it all translates. My perspective on the world comes from my perspective on myself and vice versa. For example, I feel can grasp the mindset of those who are stuck in a failure to launch (be they Muslims or leftists)...I take it all in, I play around with it, I write, I can come up with clever connections and analogies...but it doesn't sink in...I don't feel it.
I know I'm closer than ever - but close is never enough...it's as if I need something more than knowledge - or just the ability to live in the present, tend that garden and get on with my day. I can't - scratch that - I won't do that right now.
Anyway, that's enough whining.
I thank you guys for the input though.
Kahn - it is said that the search for spirituality is a series of abandoning lusts, and the last lust to be surrendered is the lust for God.
It could be the last is the most difficult.
I've got my own pilgrim road to amble, but this much I can offer as advice: live the dissatisfaction *fully*. You're dissatisfied, you're never "close enough"? BE dissatisfied! Accept it, be aware of it 100% Hell, embrace it!
In Dostoyevsky's The Brothers karamazov, the mystic priest Zozima (I think his name is) counsels an elderly woman grieving over the death of her son. His counsel is not for her to try to transcend her sorrow, or to have faith in an afterlife, as one might expect. Instead he tells her to go on grieving, to grieve to her fullest, and at the end of her grieving, she will find heaven.
"Instead he tells her to go on grieving, to grieve to her fullest, and at the end of her grieving, she will find heaven."
I heard an elderly Japanese rice farmer give advice to his grand daughter, who was finished with high school but undecided on entering college, he told here to leave the security of the farming village and find a job in Tokyo and there she would surely reach a point of crisis and indecision, and it would be working through that crisis where she would find the right path for her life. But if she remained in the security of the farming village she may live her entire life without ever finding that right path for herself.
Fascinating. Thanks for the response(s).
As to LLH's spoiled French, what is evident -- as with so much leftist thinking -- is the blindness to consequences of the policies, as well as what is widely noted, the benefit it secures for the class demonstrating and the hole it digs for the less well-established. There you have it:
--narcissistic immunity from outcomes, --self-righteous rhetoric, and
--make the disadvantages of the underdog permanent.
Engrave the motto on "progressive" plaques everywhere.
And here is a discussion at YARGB of free speech as a kind of sacrality of its own. Probably a subset of Liberty as Horizontal traction toward the Vertical. But betrothed as it is to the Word, especially important. Public freedom to invoke and to acknowledge, not just analyze, may be more decisive than rationalist moderns admit.
And carry more cosmic responsibility.
Will and Bro -
Thanks. Your advice actually helped a lot.
Once again, my daily visit to The Church of Bob proves itself one of my wiser rituals.
Nicely put throughout.
"The ultimate basis of the culture war is in fact nihilism vs. theism. While the left would like you to believe ..." One Cosmos
The above excerpt, reflecting on [the varieties and degrees of] nihilism within the broader culture, brings to mind the all pervasive quality of that set of nihilistic motifs, initiatives and resulting influences. From a review of John Kekes's "The Roots of Evil," in an extended excerpt Max Goss notes,
"... [Kekes] treats with some subtlety the conditions under which common motives end up wreaking uncommon devastation. For instance, consider the example of acedia, sloth, boredom—that condition of listless disengagement so characteristic of the modern soul. As one hoary formulation puts it,
"The narrow way stretches wearily before him and his soul grows sluggish and torpid at the thought of the painful life journey. The idea of right living inspires not joy but disgust, because of its laboriousness.
"It has often been observed, ever since Augustine's famous theft of the pear, that those who endure this self-inflicted malaise often turn to mischief as a self-prescribed cure. It is less well-understood—and Kekes is perceptive to point this out—that what makes the numbness of acedia so disquieting is that it undercuts the individual's own ability to cope with it: 'Resistance or recovery seem hopeless because they depend on the very self that is disintegrating.' This observation goes a long way towards explaining why nihilism does not die easily, and why accommodating it only makes matters worse."
Kekes's and the reviewer's emphasis here upon acedia - a prominent and even all pervasive result of the varied nihilistic influences which the Left has successfully posited in the culture - needs a full and uncompromising assessment by each individual if a corrective is to be hoped for in the broader culture.
At any rate, an enjoyable read and thoughtful post throughout.
See my post The Ascendancy of Theory, which deals with the excesses of abstraction in eduation and in business.
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