Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Epidemonology of Men Without Ombilical Chords of Mystic Memory

I was going to write a post about the deep structure of the histrionic--or possibly nefairyous--Foley-a-deux between the Democratic party and the MSM, but Dr. Sanity has written a post that is even more relevant to what I wanted to say, entitled The New Religious Socialists.

Dr. Sanity and I are both huge admirers of Steven Hicks, whose book Explaining Postmodernism is the clearest exposition I have ever read on the cognitive and spiritual pathologies of leftist thought. (I have previously reviewed it in a post entitled From the Lofty Kant to Lefty Cant.) The book so clearly describes the disease that incoming college students are about to expose themselves to, that all freshmen in elite universities should be required to read it. Certainly doing so would be more important than teaching them about condoms, because a venereal disease only affects the body, whereas postmodernism destroys the mind and soul. (No, I am not engaging in hyperbole.)

In my review, I concluded by stating that “The only problem with Hicks’ book is that he stops short of explaining how to overcome what I call the logopathologies of the left.... In reality, there is no defense against these destructive ideas within the bounds of common reason--as soon as you descend into mere reason, you have already given the game away, for there is almost nothing the rationalist mind can prove that it cannot equally disprove.” (By the way, this should not be seen as a criticism, just an acknowledgement of the boundaries of Hicks' project.)

Let’s examine some of the behavior and rhetoric described in Dr. Sanity’s piece. At Columbia University, left wing extremists took over the stage and shut down a talk by the founder of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, overturning tables and chairs and attacking him and his colleagues. “Having taken control of the stage, the students, led by the student chapter of the International Socialist Organization, unfurled a banner that read, in both Arabic and English, ‘Nobody is Illegal.’” The vandals “jumped from the stage, chanting in Spanish and pumping their fists triumphantly [and yelling] ‘These are racist individuals heading a project that terrorizes immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border... They have no right to be able to speak here.’"

Dr. Sanity does an outstanding job of diagnosing these sick individuals, who, in the final analysis, are steeped in a perverse ideology that is antithetical to everything America stands for, but simply co-opting American ideals as a way to undermine America and advance their revolutionary socialist agenda.

So that is the illness. But I would like to get into the etiology and the cure. As it so happens, I am reading a new book on the philosopher whom I believe to have identified the nature of this disease both earlier and more accurately than any other thinker before or since: Michael Polanyi. If I get into a full biography of this great man, this post will go on too long. But suffice it to say that his philosophical thinking--which especially developed between 1947 and 1975--was largely ignored by mainstream academic philosophers. In hindsight it is obvious why, because he represents intellectual Lysol to their cognitive pathogens.

More than any other strictly secular philosopher, I regard Polanyi as the cure for what fails us in the form of postmodernism. Although not in any way overtly religious, his thinking is entirely compatible with the Judeo-Christian metaphysics that fruitfully underpinned western civilization for hundreds of years before the voracious tenurmites began eating away at the foundation. Most importantly, Polanyi manages to correct the deficiencies not just in the excesses of postmodernism, but in the equally problematic results of the enlightenment rationalism that Eliot describes thus:

Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

In his body of work, Polanyi covered a broad range of subjects in an exceptionally lucid way, including economics, political theory, philosophy of science, epistemology (how we know what we know), meaning, morality, religion, and the nature of art. Today I will restrict myself to his political theory, while perhaps tomorrow I will get into his philosophy of science, for it has some very relevant applications to the differences between the dead and dying liberal MSM and the vibrant and living blogosphere.

One of the problems with our enlightenment science is that it served to make progress appear so inevitable that “the stage was set for utopian aspirations to run their course unhindered by the very forces that in an earlier age would have moderated them--and perhaps even strangled them in their infancy. Indeed, one might well describe the twentieth century as the bloodiest period of utopian political experimentation the world has ever witnessed” (MItchell).

Why? What exactly happened? First there was the attack on tradition. While there is no question that this was a vitally important development in the initial progress of science, the problem is, it went too far in trying to rid the mind of all preconceptions or “transcendentals”--as if it were actually possible to grasp reality barehanded in a wholly unmediated and objective manner.

Ultimately this approach to knowledge failed us “by exalting what we can know and prove, while covering up with ambiguous utterances all we can know and cannot prove, even though the latter knowledge underlies, and must ultimately set its seal to, all we can prove.” It necessarily leads to “skepticism about the very things we once held most dear.” In this regard, Polanyi’s conclusion is identical to that of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, Kurt Goedel, who proved the same thing with ironclad logic: that we know infinitely more truth than we can ever specify in an objective, linear, mechanistic way.

However, the demand for explicit proof reduces the much wider realm of what can be known to the comparatively puny realm of what can be proven, thus shrinking the magnificent cosmos down to the proportions of our senses. Ironically, this does indeed place man at the center of the cosmos--not vertical Man who has access to primordial truth, but horizontal man who is restricted to his sensory ape-eratus. The result , as described by Arthur Koestler, is a new species of “men born without umbilical cords.”

Now see what happens next, and you will have the magic formula that explains everything from the thugs at Columbia, to communist totalitarianism, to nazism, to dailykos, to our present culture war (being that I am Godwin, I am exempt from his Law). This post is starting to run long, so I will be brief.

Although the postmodernists have done their best to undermine the principles underlying western civilization, nevertheless, the memory of Christianity remains, since it is in our very blood and bones. This memory produces a “passionate urge to pursue righteousness,” even though the assumptions of postmodernism deny the very reality of objective moral truth. Once traditional morality has been shattered, in the words of Polanyi,

“moral passions are diverted into the only channels which a strictly mechanistic conception of man and society left open to them. We may describe this as a process of moral inversion. The morally inverted person has not merely performed a philosophical substitution of material purposes for moral aims; he is acting with the whole of his homeless moral passions within a purely materialistic framework of purposes.”

Thus, at the foundation of postmodern moral inversion is always the same thing: “the combination of skeptical rationalism and moral perfectionism, which is nothing more than the 'secularized fervor of Christianity.’” But whereas “moral perfectionism within a Christian context is moderated by the doctrine of original sin and deferral of perfection to the end of history, the perfectionism of a post-Christian world provides no such moderating counterbalances.”

Therefore, the dynamic of this moral inversion allows both societies and individuals “to commit appallingly immoral acts--acts which, according to the skeptic, are not really immoral, since morality is an empty category.” Leftists are therefore sanctioned to “bring about a purely immanent perfection without the hindrance of moral limitations on the means to the end.” This utopian fantasy demands the immediate and total transformation of society, which may be pursued without limit.

Now you know why the socialist thugs at Columbia may say with a straight farce, “Nobody is Illegal": because they themselves are beyond law and morality. And you also know why they can say that traditional Americans who believe in the rule of law are “racist individuals” who have “no right to be able to speak here."

A reminder: moral passion in the absence of traditional morality has murdered more people than all other unnatural causes combined.


Related: The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, and

The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century


Anonymous said...

>“moral passions are diverted into the only channels which a strictly mechanistic conception of man and society left open to them."<<

It once occurred to me that because the "mechanistic conception" of man strips him of natural individual dignity - strips him of his reality, actually - the nearest thing this blighted perspective could come to conceiving divinity would be the Whole, the "masses" as One.

It would then become permissible, desirable, even, to "perfect" that faux-divine Oneness by trimming away its rough edges - which translates as mass murder, of course. I doubt this would even be regarded as a sacrifice, no more than would hedge-clipping or lawn mowing. The overall contour of the garden would be paramount. Only individuals can be sacrificed, after all. And they don't exist.

Gagdad Bob said...

That's right. A machine has no transcendent or ultimate value. There are only useful or useless machines.

Anonymous said...

A belated anniversary congratulation!

Our enemies have one fist of ironic misunderstanding of and the other of stealing of morality. 'If the right one don't get you, the left one will.'

Rather than step aside, it's heartening to read you and 'Sanity' and Steyn and Horowitz, etc stand up... what the heck, I love Ann Coulter, too. What's wrong with a little hyperbole?

Gagdad Bob said...

Hyperbole in the defense of Reality is no vice.

Anonymous said...

Will, your succinct comment is spot-on, and for some reason this whole discussion of the Left brings to mind, "That Hideous Strength" by Lewis.

I don't (and didn't) think much of Orwell's 1984, but when I read the Space Trilogy, I knew I had seen the cosmic future. Even after living in Mexico for 5 years, returning to the States and seeing Bill Clinton's first State of the Union address, I could see he would be re-elected in 4 years (and said so aloud); the change in our country was that profound and visible when I returned.

15 years later, my vision may be a bit dimmed by living in the gray fog of relative morality that has gripped our country, and it's hard to guess if we'll grope our way forward and out of the gray, into the light.

I thought, 5 years ago, that the Islamic jihad might have burned the fog and brought clarity. It did, but for a moment, it seems, before others stormed in and shut down the images and gritty truth.

It's Saturday, I should be less gloomy. sorry.

Anonymous said...

100 years ago, saying that there were conversations and pictures floating around in the air would have gotten you strange stares or possibly committed. Our senses still can't see or hear the conversations and pictures, but we know they are there because we have machines called radios and TVs that make them available to us.

What else is out there that our senses don't make available to us? I intuit that there is much, much more. How else to explain such things as transcendental experience, new love, the cosmos, and, even, Gagdad Bob?

To depend only on science and reason to form our reality is to be confined to the horizontal and that, unfortunately, is where the poor men without ombilical chords reside.

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded, for some strange reason, of the friend who called me up last night regarding the election pamphlets we received in the mail that day. "Vote no on EVERYTHING, man. I just read it and they're trying to tell us that smoking sucks, animal rights are more important than human rights, and racism is okay." That last one he went off on a real tear about... there are initiatives on this ballot about making English our state's official language and making it impossible for illegal immigrants to win punitive damages against American citizens - which he translates as "You can run over a Mexican with your car and not be punished. Fuck him, he's ONLY an illegal."

Apparently, certain things do not enter into his moral sense.

Anonymous said...

Joan, be gloomy. Be very gloomy.

(no, don't be gloomy, I just wanted to hear myself say that)

Here's the deal - some of these nihilists are indeed nullities, but not so, in one sense. Some, the honchos, the rally-ers, are, I am convinced, really possessed of an evil, I mean in the meta sense. Maybe not in the pea soup-spitting way, but if you get close enough, you can feel it and it's disturbing. But it stands to reason they would exude that kind of evil because that's the well they draw from. And on this earth, it's really an either/or proposition. As someone once observed, there's no "good things", there's only Good, and there's no "evil things", there's only Evil.

Some of these people are very bright in the horizontal IQ sense. It's as if the reasoning power that should have been channeled into vertical wisdom, simply bottled up and spread sideways into an over-emphasis on logic, etc. Useless of course, when it comes to genuine wisdom. but don't underestimate their power to dazzle.

Now I'm not knocking a high IQ, but I only respect such when it's in the service of wisdom and spiritual insight. Otherwise, as goes somebody else's observation, "the devil loves a high IQ".

John Hinds said...

Yes. The mind can easily grasp the difference between black and white but shades of gray are a different matter. So using only the shades in an argument one can "prove" what is true as easily as what is not.

While the logos infuses all the manifest universe mere reason can be a trap if not recognized for what it truly is. Like beauty, with which it should always run in tandem, isn't it a manifestation in existential mass of the transcendant itself? And isn't it properaly a (not THE) mechanism for going beyond its utility? I think this is the lesson of Kant.

Also, I like your Eliot lines. They reminded me of these from Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Anonymous said...

"The devil loves a high IQ"

Yeah, but he'll take what he can get. The very root of the word, "pharmacology" is disquieting enough. We have a generation of people strung out on all kinds of door-opening drugs. Doors that should never be opened...something that strips one of that "natural individual dignity" as well.

I did spiritual work in an inner city for 4 years and saw things and experienced things for which there is no real logical argument or explanation. Happily, I found that He who was in me was up to the task. But it wasn't easy.

25 years later, I can finally sleep without a night light.


Anonymous said...

I have always thought of postmodernists as the intellectual equivalent of a bunch of college stoners who never came off their latest high, never put away their Velvet Underground and Doors CD's, never turned off their black lights and never put out their incense bowls and bongs, even after graduating (or, more likely, dropping out). Then they call their infantile escapism "Exploration" or "Seeking". I met many such folks in college; they delighted in espousing lots of chic leftist causes and worldviews, and defending them with lots of pseudo-intellectual drivel, all the while dressing bohemian-punk and trying so hard to be radical as to be comical instead.

True Seeking and Exploration requires lots of mental, psychic and spiritual blood, sweat and tears, and, like a well-written novel, demands many revisions of the original manuscript. I have much more respect for the person who simply lacks the gift of seeing that deeply (or the sheer will to pursue it), and instead pursues a simple and workaday life the best he knows how, than I do for the intellectual poser with too much idle time, who tries to pass off his lazy, mishmash, hippy-dippy dime-store philosophy (i.e., postmodern)as the fruits of true exploration and revelation. The casual spouting of oral diarrhea without any relevant life experience to back it up is always irritating to me; it's intellect without wisdom.

And to those who say, "well, you've got to start somewhere"; true, but the really humble and genuine young person knows that he does not know, and, rather than spouting out that which he knows nothing of, takes the advice of the great sages and gurus: "Watch and Learn".
Trouble is, lots of these post-modernists are supposedly mature people who you would have thought have enough life experience to have taught them more wisdom and grounded them better in reality. How to explain their continued intellectual adolescence?
1. It sells better in MSM outlets.
2. Intellectual laziness and fear; the unwillingness to constantly scrutinize your own belief system (not based on someone else's criticism, but on your own changing perceptions of reality)
3. Genuine mental imbalance, perhaps brought on by pharmacological overindulgence, or some childhood trauma.
4. A herd mentality and reliance upon groupthink among one's peers (i.e, the media, the United Nations, the DNC,, etc) that stifles creative thinking and leads to what I described in # 2.
5. Spiritual and intellectual pride; being too proud and too impetuous to "Watch and Learn", preferring to play in the sandbox and be a "rebel" or "maverick", but morphing into a buffoon instead. Only such an Orc-like intellectual creation as Postmodernism could give us something like Clinton's phrase, "Define the word 'is'".

Anonymous said...

Have you been splitting pea's with your mind again? :^)

Anonymous said...

As an addendum:

It is postmodernists who call Robert Mapplethorpe "Art"

It is postmodernists who call gangsta rap, death metal, and Courtney Love "Music"

it is postmodernists who call Farenheit 911 and Pink Flamingoes "Cinema"

it is postmodernists who call anything by Erica Jong or Norman Mailer "Literature"

it is postmodernists who call "Heather has Two Mommies" "Children's Literature"

it is postmodernists who call Ward Churchill and Angela Davis "Academics"

it is postmodernists who call Hamas and Hezbollah "freedom fighters.

I could go on and on.

Incidentally, upon seeing the violence of the lefty-brigades at Columbia University on TV, I was reminded vividly of Mao's Red Guards or Hitler's Brown Shirts (and perhaps of the Weather Underground and SLA as well). Is that what we're coming to?

Van Harvey said...

Annonymous said... "I was reminded vividly of Mao's Red Guards or Hitler's Brown Shirts (and perhaps of the Weather Underground and SLA as well). Is that what we're coming to?"

Yes, it is - if we politely allow it.

Gagdad, I've read a few articles on Polyani since you first mentioned him, and found him very interesting - frontal lobe swirling stuff, I'll get to the books soon.

Leonard Piekopf(sp?), predating Stephen Hicks in the Rand Objectivist school of thought, had a book I read years ago called the Ominous Parallels, in which he compared two completely different nations, and in different times, who he predicted were heading towards the same ends because of the root Philosophy they had in common among their Intellectuals and Academics - Germany and America.

Although, as does Hicks, he rejects any idea of the spirit extending beyond the skin, his idea of Reason does include an individual and sacred though secular soul, and Logic always firmly fixed in a wider context than the leftist logic chopers can conceive, and it is very illuminating.

He notes many of the same cultural trends, the Germans had their Romanticist Hippie movement in the early 1900's, as we had in the 1960's, but more importantly he traces the Philosophical movements which led first to those movements and then on to the politics of the Nazi's, and which are carrying our PC Leftists to their goals.

Our best hope is that we are still mostly free, we have free speech (if we dare to use it), the blogosphere (more important and powerful than I think many imagine - think of your own pre and post Gagdad thoughts. This is happening on a world wide scale; some good and some bad, true, but...), and of course Reality is out there and is on our side - if we choose to point it out.

Truth will win out, if it's used and defended - otherwise, poof.

Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous forgot one:

It is postmodernists who call Bill Hicks and all those who follow in his footsteps "funny."

I am again reminded of my acquaintance. He is an atheist, and proclaims that despite his lack of belief, he will not force that lack on others as others might force their beliefs on him; it is an admirable thing in and of itself, but it creates in him an air of superiority that seems to surround him every time he talks about others' beliefs or hears them expounded. "You poor fool," he seems to long to say, "how can you be so blind to the nature of the world as to convince yourself that there's any innate good or external spirit in it? I've been looking at the world for too long to go on believing that."

In the spiritual sense, he reminds me of a man blind from birth, who believes that this lack of one vital sense is an advantage, insofar as his other four senses have grown in scope beyond those of other persons - whom he sees as cursed with the crippling and useless faculty of sight.

Anonymous said...

Ben, that was Fergus. Hairballs, ya know. The shame that all cats share.

Anonymous said...

Just a heads up - the post about "It is postmodernists who call..." was me; I'm not ashamed to acknowledge my identity on this wondrous blog, but I sometimes forget to fill in all the info. Seeing that post come up as "anonymous" was kind of a "DOH" moment for me.

His Indolence said...

Mr. Bob,

Dr. Sanity sent me here for a "treatment" for those students at Columbia. Now, pointing to the strait gate and the oceanic sense is all very well, and yes I'm thinking along those lines to recover from my own despairing agnosticism, but what about those kids being churned out by our institutions of "higher learning"?

Some of them may get real jobs and eventually have to reconsider their premises, but far too many of them will be able to avoid the real world, I fear, and they're doing a lot of damage in the meantime. I'm used to psychiatrists who talk, prescribe pills, talk and question until you start thinking, in and out in a week or two with a prescription and a followup schedule. And it works, to a degree.

For those kids, though, is the problem so bad that you have to fall back on "ye must be born again"? I was hoping for something more like "scream 'Affirmative Action IS Institutionalized Racism!' right in their faces and then stuff 'em into a sensory deprivation chamber for an hour, then isolate them in a room with only Fox News and the collected works of William F. Buckley for a week". Or waterboarding. Would waterboarding help? Mind you, I'm quite willing to settle for a 'cure' that'll ensure even as little as an inability to vote the straight Democratic ticket for a few more years, I think that'd render them adequately harmless.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Indolence, I'm thinking shock therapy should make a comeback. Maybe that's what Bob and Petey are doing on this blog.

So many moonbats are shocked! to find that the rote regurgitation of their college *cough!* education's pitiful platitudes is wholly rejected from the start.

They swallowed everything, and now they spew it out, undigested, and ask us to look at the chunks and proclaim them some sort of recognizable nourishment. Ack! (Sorry to be so graphic.)

That's why I advocate not feeding moonbats or trolls.

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