Saturday, April 29, 2006

Left and Right: What You See is What You Beget

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. --2 Corinthians 3:17

I’m going to attempt yet one more time to explain as clearly as possible the philosophical, metaphysical, and spiritual basis of my opposition to leftism. I realize that I (apparently) have some left-leaning readers, for which I am grateful, and by no means do I intend to be needlessly inflammatory or offensive. Please again bear in mind that I am not talking about this or that issue or person, but about a primordial error--lie, really--that I believe is at the heart of leftism.

Furthermore, please remember that I am not talking about “Republicans” and “Democrats.” These are political parties, not philosophies. More often than not, in terms of specific policies and practical matters, one party is no better than the other because their primary mutual concern is always power, self-preservation, and votes. This is why we are often powerless to enact polices even when there is overwhelming support among the citizenry: reducing the size of government, simplifying the tax code, ridding ourselves of illegal immigrants, shunning the U.N., promoting school choice, etc.

The principles I will be discussing are very simple, really, and yet, they have profound implications as they resound through historical time and space. For if your fundamental conception of reality is in error, then your system is built upon quicksand and will eventually collapse. Even more so is this true if you have a fundamentally erroneous conception of human nature. In that case, you will eventually receive sharp blows from reality, but you will not know why, especially if your conception of reality is also faulty. Nothing will work, and you won’t know why. You will simply tinker about the edges of the monument to your folly.

Those of you who were conscious or sober during the Carter years will remember that that was a time when nothing worked. It was also the last time that we had a federal government completely free of the conservative principles that eventually rescued us from Carter’s disastrous mismanagement of the country, a mismanagement that we--and the rest of the world--will likely pay for with blood and treasure for the rest of our lives.

Forget 9/11--to this day, Carter’s abetting of the fall of the Shah of Iran represents the singular achievement of the Islamic terrorists we are fighting today, infrahuman monsters who are on the brink of possessing the greatest terror weapon known to man. Carter didn’t lift a finger to assist our friend the Shah, whom he considered a violator of human rights. And yet, the Khomeini regime murdered more people in its first year than the Shah’s secret service allegedly had in the previous twenty five (and don’t forget, the Shah was dealing with people like Khomeini; oh, how we could benefit from his likes today, someone who would regard Abu Ghraib as a reward for good behavior).

Just consider what Carter’s mindlessly liberal policies did to the economy. At the time he left office, annual growth rates were roughly half of what they had been in the 1960’s. Inflation was at a staggering 13.3% in 1979, while mortgage rates had climbed to 20%. Unemployment had reached almost 8% in 1980 (much higher in minority communities, which are always the most harmed by liberal fiscal policies), and the crime rate had increased 50% during the 1970’s (again, always more damaging to minority communities, both in terms of victims and the percentage of those imprisoned).

And yet, Carter famously blamed the nation's ills on our own selfishness, on a “moral problem” afflicting Americans, lecturing us that we would just have to get used to the idea of a permanently lowered standard of living in the future (a classic case of Carter projecting his own envy and greed into Americans, as we discussed yesterday). Carter is still venerated in liberal circles today, to such an extent that at their 2004 convention he was given an honored seat next to Michael Moore.

I’m digressing, aren’t I?

As I was about to say, in the final analysis it all comes down to two questions: 1) What is the nature of reality?, and 2) What is a human being? In both cases, ontology is prior to epistemology. If you get your ontology wrong, then anything else you “know” will be infected with that same ontological poison. Yes, sort of like that ultimate ontological choice faced by Adam. We are all faced with that same choice.

Yes, because of the liberty implanted in our soul by God, we can even choose to not be what what we are and to live in illusion. Of course, we can also choose to be what we are and to live in reality. But that’s not really a choice, is it? It’s more of a simple acknowledgment that follows from seeing clearly. For the most important things are not proven but seen in the palpable superabundance of their metaphysical clarity, by means of the uncorrupted intellect.

In fact, that introduces the first of the fundamental choices faced by our proto-Adam (who is always you and I). For scripture does not have to do with what happened "once upon a time" in the past, but with what always and inevitably happens in the now. You have the same choice right now: is there a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man? Or, are we the Last Word of the cosmos, able to arrive at the truth of our situation by means of sensory data and rational operations alone? If you choose the latter, then you have, with the wave of a hand, obliterated any antecedent, hierarchical reality that can only perceived by the the intellect properly so-called--the nous, or eye of the soul.

That’s okay--I mean, if the transcendental realm is just an illusion or comforting dopiate for the contemptible grazing multitude anyway, then the leftist is morally obliged to sweep it away. Morally obliged because... because... because why? Doesn’t moral obligation imply a universal, and therefore, transcendental, standard? No. Please. It is simply because the leftist knows what is best for you. Unlike you, he doesn’t live in illusion. His eyes have been opened. He is, in all humility, the measure of all things: a "humanist."

But respectfully, Mr. Leftist, how do you know that? I mean, how is it that you know anything at all? Specifically, you deny that transcendental realm which logically ends with the absolute and infinite One. Therefore, all reality is relative, contingent, and accidental. But your knowledge claim implies an absolute standard, does it not? If it doesn’t, then honesty compels you to acknowledge that your beliefs are arbitrary, does it not? Therefore, is it not an act of bad faith to make any appeal to truth, a truth that you have already a priori thrown overboard?

Since the leftist cannot appeal to truth, is it not accurate to say that, in the final analysis, truth for the leftist will be a function of power? In other words, truth will be purely a matter of convention, enforced by coercion, either physical coercion or through more subtle pressure, such as political correctness. For it is not possible to reject truth just once and be done with it; you can throw it out with a pitch-forked tongue, but truth, like nature, will always come rushing back in. Rather, the leftist will have to establish structures and mechanisms to prevent or discourage people from finding truth or even believing that it exists, things like universities, which are actually relativities in disguise. To become a king in the secular realm, it always helps to have attended one of our Elite Relativities.

Now, relativity always engenders the spirit of rebellion, which is not to be confused with the spirit of liberty. Scratch a leftist and you will always find a rebel. It won’t even matter what he is rebelling against--it can be “the corporate mentality,” or “heteronormativity,” or “sexual standards,” or “the class system,” or “rigid gender relations,” or “White European males,” or “the Western Canon,” or “arbitrary standards of beauty,” or “societal hypocrisy.” It doesn’t matter. Is not a passing state, but an abiding ontological stance at the deepest core, a result of that that primordial act of rebellion (which is ongoing). It is a chronic malady or “pneumapathology” against the Absolute and anything that reminds one of it. It is de facto an egoic state, at war with anything that calls to mind the contingent, derivative, and dependent nature of the ego. Therefore, this rebellion, no matter how attractive it may appear on the surface, is always a self-justification for the fallen ego. The policies it pursues will always be a symptom of the illness it proposes to cure.

There is no “perfect” or "ideal" rebellion, any more than there is ideal ugliness or untruth. Rather, rebellion is always reactionary--it is a “running from” disguised as a “running to.” Liberty, on the other hand, is not derivative of anything. It is a spiritual gift, ours to receive or reject. Liberty itself exists independent of free creatures, whereas rebellion only exists in them. Liberty is “an immutable essence in which creatures may either participate or not participate.” It is “the possibility of manifesting oneself fully, or being perfectly oneself,” a reflection of the “ineffable liberty of the Infinite” (Schuon).

The leftist would like to bestow this gift of liberty upon you, as if it ultimately derives from him, not from God. But what he really wishes to bestow upon you is the gift (or curse) of rebellion. Thus, he speaks only of rights, not of responsibilities, including our ultimate responsibility to the Source of our liberty.

For liberty is meaningless if it is not used as a means of assent (and ascent) to Truth. In other words, if liberty is not “oriented” to anything other than itself, then what is it, really? It is a monstrosity, a terrible mistake, a cancer on the body of nothingness, just as the naughty existentialist says it is. For freedom in this sense is mere nothingness. Since you have no essence, no choice is any better than any other choice. So the key instead becomes commitment. It doesn’t matter what you choose, so long as you are committed to that choice. Since you are not real, the act of choosing--especially rebellious choosing--gives you a sort of bogus or counterfeit “solidity.” Then you are authentic, which is the “highest” you can be in the ontological flatland of secular leftism. To rebel--especially if you do so with "attitude"--is to exist.

So you may have noticed that the far left historically reveres not the heroic conformist but the authentic rebel: Che Guevara, Mumia, Arafat, Malcolm X, Michael Moore and the Islamist “freedom fighters” of Iraq, Mother Sheehan. In order to succeed in leftist politics, you will always have to cast yourself as a rebel and an outlaw.

But our founding fathers were not rebels. Rather, they were revolutionaries, for to re-volvere is to turn around, to roll back, to return to the source. And what did their revolution involve? It involved an undoing of mankind’s primordial rebellion, for, as Jefferson wrote, “the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” This is a self-evident truth, something that can only be seen by the higher intellect, never proven, much less granted, by the rebilious ego.

Well, I can see that I’m just getting started. Better save some blogviating for tomorrow. But not before a cosmic doggerel and puny show, respectively:


Sheol is out, summa vacation in the pneumatosphere. Off to see the River Man, starry-eyed and laughing, cloud-hidden, who-, what-, why- and whereabouts unknown, bathed in the white radiance of ecstacy central. In the garden mysty wet with rain, eight miles high, far from the twisted reach of yestomaya & no todeity. Insinuate! Now put down the apple and back away slowly, and nobody dies. Here, prior to thought, by the headwaters of the eternal, the fountain of innocence, the mind shoreless vast and still, absolved & absorbed in what is always the case, face to face in a sacred space.

Let's blake for a vision: ah, remama when she satya down in a crystal daze, grazing in the grass, loose & lazy beneath a diamond sky with both hands waving free, into the blisstic mystic, no you or I, nor reason wise, a boundless sea of flaming light, bright blazing fire and ecstatic sinder, Shiva, me tinders, count the stars in your eyes. A church bell in the distance, chimes of freedom fleshing. The key to your soul, egnaughted in wonder. Om, now I remurmur!

Friday, April 28, 2006

United 93: No Heroic Deed Goes Unspoiled by the Left

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I know how to completely eliminate the left. Well, maybe not completely. But at least 75% of them.

Would it be through better education? No, being that wackademia has been hijacked by the left, that wouldn’t help at all. More often than not, the most educated people are simply the most indoctrinated people.

Would it be through the inculcation of religion? No, that wouldn’t necessarily do the trick. After all, the greatest enemy we face is religious, so religion obviously cuts both ways. Not to mention the fact that many Christian believers go in for “social justice” and “liberation theologies” that are simply Marxism with a pseudo-spiritual patina, as is generally true of liberal Judaism, which is often genuine leftism with an imitation Jewveneer.

What if we had better child rearing practices? What if we could try to make sure that children have both a mother and a father and a parent at home to care for them, instead of farming them out to stranger care? Yes, that would produce happier and more emotionally secure and self-reliant proto-conservative children--not to mention fewer criminals--provided that their parents are not crazier than their daycare providers, which is an unrealistic assumption.

And parenting can cut two ways as well, since overindulgence and poor parental boundaries can engender serious narcissism in a child. And there are some difficult cultural issues as well. Cultures, just like people, self-replicate, and some cultures are frankly so pathological that they simply churn out more of the same. To take an extreme case, how would you explain to an Egyptian family that genital mutilation is not such a hot idea? To take a less extreme case, how do you explain to a doctrinaire leftist that boys are very different than girls, and require manly role models in order to become men?

Okay, let’s give liberals what they supposedly really want, their ultimate fantasy: high taxes and income redistribution. Would that work? No it would not. Why not? Because enacting such a policy would simply be treating the symptom, not the cause, because the desire for this kind of heavy-handed “economic justice” is not an economic issue but a thoroughly psychological one. It is simply a smokescreen for the covert operation of that most sinister and destructive of mind parasites, envy.

One of the most important but little known concepts in psychoanalysis is that of envy. It is a term of art, not to be confused with the dictionary definition. Technically, I shouldn’t call it a mind parasite, because it is believed to be innate, not acquired (it probably had to do with evolutionary selective pressures that favored social solidarity in small human groups in the archaic environment.) It is potentially present in all people, but becomes much more problematic when aggravated by primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting and projective identification.

If we could somehow eliminate envy from the human genome, there would be almost no reason for the left to exist. They would instantly lose that which animates them, for example, envy masquerading as justice or economic theory.

In order to be happy, we must all keep our envy in check, because envy is the opposite of gratitude. Envy does not appreciate what one has, only what one doesn’t have. And our capacity to imagine what we do not have--and that someone else is enjoying it--is literally infinite, as is envy.

According to Webster's, envy is defined as "malice," and a "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage." The psychoanalytic understanding of envy is that it is an unconscious fantasy aimed at attacking, damaging, or destroying what is good, because of the intolerable feeling that one does not possess and control the object of goodness. As such, it is an aspect of what Freud called the death instinct, since it ultimately involves a destructive attack on the sources of life and goodness. Particularly envious individuals cannot tolerate the pain of not possessing and controlling the "good object," so they preemptively spoil it so that they don't have to bear the pain.

What is critical--and so perverse--about envy, is that it is not an attack on "the bad" or frustrating, but a hateful attack on what is good. As a result, the psyche of such individuals confuses what is bad and what is good, and cannot experience a sense of gratitude toward the good, the sine qua non of happiness and mental health. The envious person does not want to have a relationship with the good object, but wants to control or be that object. If it cannot, then it attacks it to eliminate the tension.

By far the best general study of envy is Helmut Schoeck’s classic, Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior (in sidebar). The only other source I know of that discusses the critical importance of envy is in the psychoanalytic literature, which unfortunately is too technical and specialized for the layperson.

I haven’t read Envy in a while, but it contains many arresting ideas that have always stayed with me. One important one is that envy is ubiquitous in primitive groups, and in fact, is the very thing that keeps them primitive and undeveloped. In order to advance into capitalism, human beings had to get past the “envy barrier” and tolerate the idea that some people will have more than others. In primitive groups, envy is so pervasive that no one is allowed to have more than anyone else--they are trapped in a "zero sum" theory of economics, just as are many liberals today. To naive leftists, a primitive culture may look like an egalitarian paradise, but it is actually a paranoid and envious hell, with everyone fearful of the “evil eye” of his envious neighbor should he acquire more than him. For this reason, primitive groups mindlessly destroy surpluses or engage in sacrifices to their “envious” gods.

Since envy is ubiquitous, we must have a cultural means of expressing and channeling it. This is how I regard the left on a psychological level, as the institutional means through which envy may express itself. For example, this is the role of trial lawyers, who are naturally the greatest contributors to the Democratic party. Most--obviously not all--trial lawyers are free-floating agents of envy, on the prowl for deep pockets that they might empty on behalf of their envious client. The socialist countries of Western Europe are driven by the attempt to placate envy, which only ends up creating more of it. Once you inculcate a sense of entitlement in your people, you have opened the floodgates of envy.

If you have an “ear” for envy, you will detect it everywhere in the liberal world. In psychoanalytic parlance, it is also called “spoiling,” or devaluing. Again, because the envious person cannot tolerate the good, he attacks the good and makes it bad. So even in my crappy little paper, The Los Angeles Daily News, they can’t help themselve. For example, the headline regarding yesterday’s upbeat economic news was “Fed Chief Warns of Stagflation.” This is typical. One could be cynical and say that this is just “spin,” but I don’t think it’s generally conscious. Rather, I think it’s unconscious envy and spoiling.

Even the liberal movie reviewer cannot help himself from getting envious little political digs into almost all of his reviews, including today’s for United 93. Although he liked the movie, in seeing it, “It’s impossible not to think of the image of George W. Bush reading the pet goat story in Michael Moore’s ‘Farenheit 9/11.” This same idiot would never review Farenheit 9/11 and write, “it’s impossible to look at this shrill leftist propaganda without thinking of the image of a stewardess having her throat slashed with a box cutter by a Muslim barbarian that Moore would call a freedom fighter.”

In fact, be on the lookout for envious attacks on United 93, that is, “spoiling.” The envy campaign started early, with the “too soon” meme, but that is simply a case of disguised spoiling.

I’ll be right back. I’m going to go over to Huffingtonpissed right now and prove to you what I mean......

Okay, I’m back. Here are some comments, plucked at random. This first one is not actually about United 93, but it so perfectly demonstrates how envy operates, that I’m including it: “As a nation we urgently need to develop a disdain for people who are transfixed on wealth. We should never allow them to take public office -- never again.” (Leftists constantly project their own greed and envy into the wealthy, so unconsciously she's saying that we should never again allow envious and greedy, wealth-obsessed leftists such as herself into power. Not a bad idea.)

Here’s another good one: “George Bush et al are paying cronies to do fake work in Iraq so that billions of dollars earmarked for humanitarian purposes instead goes to private bank accounts.... here's what we must do.... Tell the story of Bush's crony capitalists using our money to line their pockets in the name of rebuilding Iraq.” Again, the envious person sees envy everywhere, here projected into President Bush and his “cronies.”

With regard to United 93, no one even cares whether or not it is a good film. Rather, the only concern is whether it may somehow benefit the war on terror, and that cannot be tolerated. The movie must be attacked, smeared and devalued. Here are some sample comments:

--“I haven't seen the movie yet, but there's no question in my heart and mind that 9/11 has been grossly exploited for political purposes.”

--“No one should see this propaganda. Maybe there are some patriotic projectionists out there that'll do the public a favor and run one of the myriad 9/11-debunking documentaries instead.”

--“Is it exploitative? Absolutely. Without a doubt this film exploits everyone in the country.... a resounding slap in the face of everyone who was on board that flight and all the families that are/were affected by it.”

--“This film needs to be boycotted, protested, and shunned by the public. To take an event like 9/11 and turn it into a profit center for NBC/Universal (General Electric).... This is just another form of profiteering as far as I'm concerned.”

--“in the movie we see the terrorist in control of the aircraft diving steeply for two minutes or so. Evidently all laws of physics were suspended at that precise moment, since the magic aircraft did not lose a single engine and the passengers were not fatally thrown around the cabin. Oh well, it's Hollywood and it can be as fictitious as it gets, but the 911 Commission wanting to sell us this ridiculous story as what really happened? Not a chance.”

--”Excuse me for not joining in the paeans in honor of a Hollywood film about 9-11. I sincerely doubt that what really happened that day is going to be uncovered by a Hollywood pseudo docudrama or whatever it is. I want to see an independent invastigation on 9-11 and one who will investigate the 9-11 Commission too while they are at it. I'm not buying the bullshit coming from either Washington or Hollywood.”

--“Has anyone checked further into the rumors that flight 93 was shot down by American forces? Apparently that would be more consistent with the wreckage. And it would not necessarily be the wrong thing to do, if we knew that the plane had become a weapon. However a coverup would not only be wrong, but would be entirely consistent with the hatred for freedom that the Bush mob has continually displayed.”

Here’s a commentor who really has the big picture: “The REAL TRUTH would implicate [the White House] in a well conceived plan to create another "Pearl Harbor" event. This event would would scare the s**t out of most Americans, which would allow them to start a "War On Terror" which would lead to invading Iraq where the "enemy" in the "War On Terror" was hiding with "WMD's" and other scary stuff. Then in the name of national security in "wartime", allow an amassing of power in the "unitary executive" which would lead to secret illegal spying on Americans toture, illegal detention and other "suspensions" of the Constitution all in the name of "National Security". Meanwhile fattening all the purses of Administration friends with huge no bid contracts to re-build IRAQ (which we would not have had to destroy in the first place to get rid of Sadaam) .....need I go on?”

No, not at all. I think we got it. Unfortunately he is more paranoid than envious, but I think you can see that the two work together to pack a potent one-two punch of leftist boilerplate.

Envy is such an important but generally ignored concept, probably because people don't want to consider the sinister ways it operates in their own lives. But it is a key that unlocks many mysteries, particularly in politics. So strong and pervasive is envy, that you cannot have a political system that doesn't accommodate or find some way to manage envy. You might say that one party will generally represent the envied, the other the envious. Guess which ones.

More generally, the international left does not attack the United States because they hate us. Rather, they hate the United States because they envy us. Precisely because they cannot tolerate our unparalleled goodness and success, they attack it and turn America into a uniquely bad, greedy and envious object. It is pure projection. In engaging in this projection of their own greed and envy, they damage what is good and conflate good and evil, but at least it helps to temporarily diminish the pain of their own envy. They do the same thing with Israel. But to use one of Freud's most famous phrases, when it comes to the projection of envy and greed, "the one who smelt it, dealt it."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thinking On Your Knees

This is wisdom we preach among the perfect, yet not the wisdom of this age nor of the leaders of this age, which will become nothing. We preach the wisdom of God, mysterious and hidden... --I Corinthians

“Gnosis.” “Esoterism.” “Mysticism.” It seems that each of these words has negative connotations, not just for the secular mentality but often even more so for the religious person. But these are actually at the heart of any spiritual conception of reality, for they simply involve any knowledge that touches, either directly or indirectly, the Divine plane. In other words, gnosis is simply that knowledge of God which “brings the letter to life.” Esoterism is the means to that knowledge. Mysticism is union with it, or the deep realization of its truth.

Humans are unique, in the sense that we inhabit two distinctly different worlds--the outer, objective world of sensible forms, and an interior, subjective world of thought, emotion and reason.

As we discussed yesterday, one of the baleful consequences of religious literalism or “fundamentalism” (which is not actually fundamental, but a very modern deviation) is that it places religious knowledge on the same horizontal plane as empirical or rational scientific knowledge. In so doing, it places itself in competition with an inferior mode of knowledge that nevertheless copes more effectively with a lower plane of being, i.e., matter. At the same time, it willfully cuts itself off from the higher and more interior planes to which it is appropriate. Placed in competition with science in this way, religion quickly devolves into pagan magic, whatever you wish to call it.

Although I sympathize with so-called literalists, in the long run their position is simply untenable. But equally untenable is the position of the secular materialist who clumsily attempts to utilize the coarse tools of science to study the interior world.

Gnosis is not to be confused with debased forms of spirituality such as occultism, channeling, mind reading, “the paranormal,” and the like--the sorts of freaks, sociopaths, and con men you might see on Larry King. One of the central tenets of genuine gnosis is that it involves subjectively objective knowledge, which is the converse of Kant’s realization that all of our supposedly objective, exterior knowledge is actually subjective, i.e., limited by, and filtered through, our ways of knowing it. Science begins its investigation from our mysterious, subjective center and moves toward the periphery, studying the multiplicity and variety of the contingent exterior world. Esoterism operates in the opposite direction, from the periphery back upstream to the center, to the objective metaphysical principles that underlie reality.

Anyone who wishes to pass beyond mere “book knowledge,” beyond the realm of mere “information,” is an esoterist, whatever the field or endeavor. For in the absence of gnosis, the world we encounter is simply a brute fact with no depth or meaning at all. Facts do not speak for themselves, but must be imaginatively synthesized in the mind of a knower. No sensory or perceptual experience can tell you what you are experiencing. In other words, there is no knowledge at all at the level of the senses.

So in order to construct a world, we all engage in an imaginative leap, the secular fundamentalist no less than the religious fundamentalist. But this does not mean that the world is unknowable and that we are hopelessly enclosed in our own subjectivity. For one thing, unlike animals, we are aware of the fact of our subjectivity. But the moment we realize this, we have lifted ourselves beyond the plane of subjectivity in a way no animal can. We have begun to to acquire the state of objectivity. All forms of prayer and meditation, of “silencing the mental substance,” are in fact exercises for elevating ourselves and deepening our objective consciousness.

Gnosis represents the reconciliation of philosophical idealism and scientific naturalism. It has long been recognized that there are two philosophical temperaments, the “Platonic” (or idealist) and the “Aristotelian” (or naturalist). The naturalist, or scientist, would say that laws are derived through observation and induction and that “truth” is simply the correspondence between objects and accurate knowledge of them.

The idealist, on the other hand, believes that consciousness is prior to every “thing,” and that the world is a reflection of the intellect, or “ideas.” Another way of saying it is that for the Aristotelian the particular is antecedent to the general, whereas for the Platonist the general is prior to the particular--for example, the general idea of “dogginess” allows us to identify and categorize particular dogs.

You might think that science is a default Aristotelian enterprise, but this is not so. For example, the majority of great mathematicians are Platonists, in that they believe that mathematical ideas are real, immutable, and prior to our discovering them. 2 + 2 = 4 will be a true statement in any possible cosmos. Likewise, most of the great physicists of the 20th century were led to a Platonic conception or reality because of the a priori truth and beauty of the few equations that undergird all of reality.

But gnosis is neither naturalistic or idealistic. Rather, it is logoistic. That is, the truth of things is found neither in the external world nor in the mind that contemplates it. The esoterist worships neither gaia nor the intellect. Rather, he worships the eternal Word that is the source of each. As expressed by an anonymous Christian friend, reality is founded upon the Word, or Logos, “whose objective manifestation is the world of prototypes underlying the phenomenal world, and whose subjective manifestation is the light or prototype of human intelligence”: “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

So therefore, the only truly true and objective knowledge is knowledge of the Word. Objects are only real in the sense that they inhere in the Word--otherwise we could not know them. And our intellectual conceptions--our gnosis--are only true insofar as they reflect the Word. Real truth is not a construct or acquisition of the ego, but something to which we humbly submit.

Ultimately, gnosis represents the reconciliation of the vertical and horizontal. Science represents the quantitative world of the horizontal, whereas religion has to do with the vertical, qualitative world. Gnosis entails nothing less than crucifying ourselves at the innersanction between the vertical and horizontal, where the Word is perpetually dying away and being reborn. It is not a synthesis of science and religion, but a mode of consciousness through which the reality of the living Word shines in its metaphysical transparency. It’s just “there,” waiting for you at the crossroads, where to live the objective truth is to die a little.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Just Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale...

The Church of Peter is visible, and continuous like water; that of John... invisible, and discontinuous like fire. John became “brother” of Christ and “Son” of the Virgin, and, further, he is the prophet of the Apocalypse; Peter is charged to “feed my sheep,” but his Church seems to have inherited also his denials... however, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” John “tarries till I come,” and this mystery remains closed to Peter.

In the perspective of gnosis, Christ, “Light of the world,” is the Universal Intellect, as the Word is the “Wisdom of the Father.” Christ is the Intellect of microcosms as well as that of the macrocosm. He is then the Intellect in us as well as the Intellect in the Universe and
a fortiori in God; in this sense, it can be said that there is no truth nor wisdom that does not come from Christ, and this is evidently independent of all consideration of time and place. --Frithjof Schuon

This is probably going to be a fruitless discussion, but I’ll try it anyway. It’s an important one, because it gets to the very heart of what the mind can and cannot know about God. And it touches on the very purpose of this blog.

As I have emphasized before, a merely mental understanding of God is entirely insufficient in my view. Yes, I am an esoterist, but this does not connote “elitism.” While there is a hierarchy involved, the hierarchy does not inhere in the esoterist but in the nature of things, for the nous, or intellect properly so-called, is higher than the mind.

To the extent that anyone understands God with the nous and not the mind, he is de facto an esoterist and therefore “higher,” not in the sense of moral superiority--as if he is a better person--but in the same way that algebra is “higher” than math. Likewise, anyone who reduces religion to a mere literalism has given the game away to the rationalism of the ego. For esoterism is both folly to the rationalist geeks and a stumbling block in the pews.

In the past, I have attempted to discuss this dilemma in terms of the bi-modal logic of the mind. Our little surface ego moves and has its being in the bright and well-lit world of classical or Aristotelian logic. I will be the first to acknowledge that the world accessed by the ego represents a world. But by no means does it represent the world. Rather, the ego gives access to one plane of being. I won’t say that it’s a “low” flying plane, because, as a psychologist, I am fully aware of how many people fail to get off the ground and reliably enter it due to various developmental issues and fixations. But it is an “intermediate” world, with degrees of being both above and below.

In the esoterist view, the planes above the ego are developmentally later but ontologically prior, and therefore more real. Every below in the cosmos is “contained” within an above, while, at the same time, the above is uncontainable and is necessarily present “within” the below. To animals, the ego is clearly both “higher” and more inward.

But we must never forget that the epic story of cosmic evolution does not end with the ego’s exteriorization of its limited understanding--its colonization of a small portion of consciousness. Think of the ego as analogous to a bright flood light in the dark. Wherever the light turns, there is an area of bright illumination. But we must not be fooled into believing that the foreground of illumination--the little spot lit up by the ego--is all there is to reality.

As Kant properly noted, the ego creates a world in the form of its own sensibility (the phenomenal world) and then takes it for the real world. Therefore, it is as if we dream a dream and then inhabit the dream as if it were real. The ego becomes thoroughly entangled in its own exteriorized and reified fantasies. This is what it means to be a fallen ego in a fallen world. The fall is both literal (i.e., vertical) and metaphorical.

With the scientific revolution in full force, Kant saw what was coming and was actually trying to rescue the realm of religion from the predations of a cognitively greedy scientific rationalism. Since the ego ultimately has access only to its own phenomena, this left the infinitely greater reality of the noumena untouched, unknown and unknowable. This is precisely where Kant erred, because in saying that the noumena was unknowable, he essentially reduced religion to a mere sentimental fideism. It would simply be a matter of time before it became wholly irrelevant to “sophisticated” moderns.

Again, either religion embodies real knowledge that surpasses our egoic understanding, or it is simply an absurdity that is defiantly embraced in the teeth of reason and logic. But if it does embody real knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? Is it mere information, occupying the same horizontal plane as factual scientific information, like saying “water freezes at 32 degrees and Jesus walked on it,” or “the ribs enclose the chest cavity and women are made of one”? In my way of looking at things, this is a gross confusion that simply invites people not to take religion seriously.

Let us imagine that the totality of reality constitutes a vast field of consciousness. In navigating its dimensions and coordinates, there are two principle dangers. One involves being shipwrecked on the rocks of a rational but fixed and “frozen” mental conception that ultimately forecloses spiritual evolution. The ego stakes out its little piece of territory. It knows what it knows, and that’s all it wants to know. The vast majority of cultural and religious beliefs are of this variety. Some belief systems stake out a slightly wider area, but each, to one degree or another, places an arbitrary boundary around reality.

The other danger is to become lost at sea with no fixed coordinates at all. This is to be engulfed in the symmetrical unconscious with no bearings to guide one’s journey.

Religions are indeed fixed, and must be so. But they are not fixed in order to reduce reality, but in order to navigate through it and ultimately to colonize more of it. They are not the destination, but the means of arriving there--at one’s deustination.

Therefore, the question is not, strictly speaking, whether or not this or that dogma is true or false, in a narrow, purely egoic way. I believe dogma is critical. Critical for the same reason that a ship is--not merely for the purpose of floating statically on the water, but moving through it.

So all you cosmic castaways,
we're here such a brief, short time.
We have to make the best of things,
thanks to Adam's crime.
But Petey and old Gagdad Bob,
will do their very best,
to make your journey vertical,
in this horizontal mess.
No angry trolls, no leftist loons,
no doctrinaire moonbats,
Like Dailykos and Huffington,
and other gynocrats.
So join us here each day my friends,
we'll sail right through the fog.
Obnoxious Bobservations,
here on Gag-a-dad's blog.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beauty's in the Eye of the Beer Holder

I think it’s fair to say that on this side of manifestation, God (saguna brahman) is a verb, whereas the God-beyond-being (nirguna brahman) must be a noun. That latter aspect of God is called silent, still, unchanging, unqualified, etc., whereas the only God we can know must be “Godding” somewhere about the vicinity, or we couldn’t know about him.

In fact, the only way we ourselves can know about God is by religioning. A religion is not primarily something you “have” or “know.” Rather, it must be something you do--like playing a musical instrument in order to make music present. I always say that one does not become religious after deciding with the mind or ego whether or not God exists. Rather, one becomes religious in order to find out. Just as science is the appropriate means with which to study the properties of matter, religion is the means with which we study the properties of Spirit.

Whatever the quantum world is in itself, science is helpless to say. Looked at this way, it’s a particle. Looked at that way, it’s a wave. It is just so with religion. Religions are ways to look at (and even “through”) God in order to reveal different aspects and dimensions of him. But this doesn’t mean that the entire enterprises is subjective, any more than quantum physics is subjective just because knowledge of the subatomic realm depends upon the way we look at it.

So the question really isn’t whether or not God exists. The existence of God can easily be proven to someone who is inclined to believe the evidence. To someone not so inclined, no amount of evidence will suffice. This is an idea that Petey heard from Assistant Village Idiot, but to whom he would ungraciously prefer not to give credit (typical).

A clear way to express it is, being that God is real, how do we actually make him ex-ist? That is, the literal meaning of exist is to “stand out.” Thus, in this way of looking at things, something can be real but not exist.

Speaking of my extended family, the saddest thing that’s ever happened in my life was the sudden death of my sister-in-law four years ago, who was only 39 years old at the time and left behind a two year old son. A year after her death there was an “unveiling” ceremony at the cemetery, as in Judaism one waits a year before inscribing the person’s name on the tombstone. But although nominally Jewish, the in-law side of my family is rather militantly secular, so there was no rabbi there, no sacred words, no ritual, no “religioning.” Somebody read a poem, but it mostly made the poet present, not God. Everyone stared at the tombstone, looked at their shoes, shuffled around awkwardly, and that was it. No religioning whatsoever. In fact, God wasn’t even invited.

Given how much I’ve changed between then and now, I think that today I would have felt more comfortable in doing my little part to try to bring God into the ceremony. Free-lance holy man that I am, I’m sure I could write something appropriate to the occasion, and in fact, I would feel obligated to do so. Because as you grow spiritually, the obligation to conform to God should extend to every detail of your life, from the simplest thing to the most profound and important.

Personally I would have a great deal of difficulty being an Orthodox Jew. And yet, I have a profound respect for this tradition, because they put into practice the ideas I am discussing here. For the purpose of all the rules and procedures is to create an environment of spiritual ascent, and this is something everyone needs to do in their lives, regardless of their spiritual approach.

While we cannot manufacture grace, we can do many things that interfere with its operation or which facilitate our awareness of its presence. One of my greatest influences, Frithjof Schuon, emphasized the importance of beauty in all aspects of one’s life. Beauty, he believed, represented a plane within the realm of sensible forms that is pierced by radiation from the Divine light. Contemplating this Divine light can draw us back upstream to its ultimate source.

Schuon identifies three essential spiritual elements that one cannot do without: Truth, Virtue, and Prayer. Each of these is actually an aspect of the others. A fourth element is beauty, but it is considered extrinsic because, strictly speaking, one may still advance without it--for example, if you are stuck in a jail cell.

But we should not minimize the importance of beauty, especially in this day and age, filled with so much ugliness and barbarity wherever we look. Unfortunately, we have come to increasingly inhabit a world that is the very opposite of what the Orthodox Jew attempts to create in his life. That is, we have created a descending world that constantly fragments and disperses our attention, and which drags our consciousness down and out, from the center to the periphery.

Here is what is at the ultimate root of the so-called “culture war”: are we going to live in an ascending culture or a descending one? In just my lifetime, I have seen how these positions have been reversed. When I was a boy growing up in the 1960’s, there were still many elements and reminders of ascent all around. There were plenty of virtuous and heroic men to look up to, both in real life and in the media. There wasn’t the secular hatred of the higher life, nor was there the obnoxious celebration of everything that is coarse, vulgar, and “authentic.” There was implicit awareness of a spiritual hierarchy, and some acknowledgment that it was worthwhile to try to aspire upward--not materially, but spiritually.

Today everyone is equal, but the only way you can achieve that is by assaulting and negating the vertical. I hope my son always knows that there are people lower than him to whom he is obligated, and people higher than him to whom he has the obligation to revere and emulate. Never emulate someone lower, and never presume to instruct or consider yourself equal to the truly Superior Man. Both stances are spiritually toxic. Schuon is just one of about a dozen such personages to whom I look up with reverence, awe, and gratitude.

The most insignificant object in your life can be a trivial knickknack or it can be a metaphysically transparent gift from heaven. If we wish to become more aware of God’s presence, it is critical to create an ambiance in which he is more likely to appear. Again, in the final analysis, God can be excluded from nowhere. This is not his problem, but our problem. But do not deliberately make matters worse than you have to by choosing situations and environments that obscure God’s presence.

For beauty is a form of vertical recollection. Through it we recall our divine origin. Schuon believes that the best way is to imitate the beauty of virgin nature insofar as that is possible. Nature has an inherent equilibrium, harmony, simplicity, dignity and humility. I am always reminded of this when I ride my bike in the hills around my house. In looking at the spontaneous patterns produced by the wildflowers below or the clouds above, I am constantly reminded that no artist could achieve this simple perfection of form. The world effortlessly tosses up these beautiful patterns and forms, everything in its proper place--just as if all creation is a spontaneous prayer.

So in our own lives, it’s best to imitate the simplicity of nature, to make our ambiance as natural as possible. I began simplifying my life many years ago, mainly to create more “slack” with which to engage my spiritual practice. I did not know at the time that this simplicity was not just a support, but an actual means of spiritual recollection.

Lisa will appreciate this, for even our outward comportment is of the utmost importance: our posture, our bearing, how we carry ourselves, our gestures--each of these can enhance our nobility and bring us into conformity with our divine center, or can reflect spiritual apathy and a loss of dignity. Our bearing, to the extent that we can achieve it, should reflect the motionless center, the still point within. Try it some time. In other words, don’t just go searching for that still center. Rather, assume it’s already there, and begin walking and acting in conformity with it--back erect, head head high, stately comportment. You’ll find that you get “feedback” right away from that calm center. You will reflect it.

Likewise, clothing is critical. No, this does not mean being a self-absorbed “dandy,” nor does it have anything do do with the opposite extreme in the Muslim world. But if you go to a mall and see the horrifying manner in which people dress these days, you feel the effect. It is literally unfit for the dignity of human beings. Nor does it have anything to do with prudery. A thirteen year old girl wearing pants with “juicy” emblazoned on her butt is an incipient lost soul who is probably the luckless victim of absolutely clueless and spiritually bereft parents. Obviously, tattoos are a nonstarter, for they detract from the body’s natural beauty. God did not intend your body to be a crass billboard for your ego’s inane advertisements. Your body is a material reflection of the divine nature. You can highlight that or detract from it.

Even needless sloppiness should be avoided. By its very nature, according to Schuon, Spirituality has an aristocratic air that is fundamentally at odds with the democratizing spirit of the times. The denial of beauty is just one more way that our culture denies Truth.

Your home environment is especially critical to an ambiance of ascent. Again, according to Schuon, “what dress is to nudity, one’s dwelling is to the natural environment,” in the sense that we should seek simplicity, use natural materials if possible, minimize clutter, and have sacred art and liturgical symbols to remind us of the vertical. “Your dwelling should be a a sanctuary in which everything works together in disposing your soul toward Prayer. It should be a garden or oasis in the midst of life’s turmoil where movement toward God is unimpeded by the world’s noise and distractions.” At least one corner--preferably a room---should be set aside solely for the purposes of divine reading, meditation and prayer.

You must also be extremely careful about what and who you allow to enter your soul. Everything has an effect, including music, television, newspapers, magazines. I’m sure that well over 90% of the the content of these things creates a tamasic atmosphere of descent. When I pick up one of the major liberal newspapers, or a Time or Newsweek in an office, I am primarily struck by how stupid they are. It is a world of breathless trivia, urgent superficiality, pseudo-sophisticated nonsense, and elevation of the momentary to far beyond its importance.

And perhaps most importantly, it is absolutely vital to associate yourselves with “men of ascending tendency.” Of course, there are many relationships we cannot avoid--coworkers, relatives, etc.--which is all the more reason to be part of satsanga or association of people who are serious about the spiritual life.

Clearly that is one of the purposes of this blog. I am sure there must be others, but I know of no other blog that explicitly attempts to reverse perspective and deal with contemporary events in an ascending manner, from the standpoint of eternity rather than time. I try my best to provide not “all the news that’s fit to print,” but all the perennial truth that the roaring torrent of eternity will fit into my meandering creek (or crock, depending on your politics) of a post.


Frithjof Schuon, whom I consider easily one of the greatest religious geniuses of the 20th century, is for many people a difficult read. Frankly he is not for everyone, for his is a way of jnana or pure metaphysics. Some of the above discussion was inspired by a book entitled Advice to the Serious Seeker: Meditations on the Teaching of Frithjof Schuon, by James Cutsinger (see sidebar). Even it would probably be a challenge for most readers who are not themselves of a jnani temperament. No need to worry, however. In the future I will continue to do my best to make Schuon’s ideas accessible and hopefully useful to all. As I said, while I do not agree with his every teaching, he is nevertheless one of about a dozen of my go-to guys.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Most Obnoxious Man in AmeriKKKa?

Petey's going to be awfully disappointed, not to say envious, because he was hoping to become a household gnome.

But the title goes to..... ME!

And Will is my insufferable DEPUTY JERK!

There is now an official "Gagdad Bob Derangement Syndrome."

This was actually on Dailykos last week. I only noticed it because I was fooling around with my site meter and noticed that someone had come straight from Dailykos over here. That was a first!:

The Most Obnoxious Man in America???
by kingfelix

Fri Apr 14, 2006

No, it's not Bush and it's not Cheney. It's Robert Godwin. Not heard of him? Well, this man, a clinical psychologist, continually attacks the left and liberals as mentally ill, as having pathologies, of being sick in their soul. He does this in a beautiful way, as he is undoubtedly intelligent, just severely severely skewed.

Go ahead and check out his latest post on his blog. Sample quotation:

"Leftism continues to be a children's crusade against the adult world, and we are in desperate need of adults who will stand up to the children and not worry about trying to be their "friends." As a parent, you simply have to do what you need to do, because children don't really know how to raise themselves. (If I had more time, this would be a good place to expand upon this vis-a-vis Will's comment below on the spirit of rebellion that animates the Left. This rebellion is an inevitable artifact of childhood, and is oedipal to the core. To gratify it is to create a monster.)"


(One Cosmos readers, determine for yourself if my observations in the above paragraph are ironically confirmed in the childlike comments that follow)

by gad
what a pompous twit.

by bumblebums
some people should never be educated
they just spew nonsense with fancy words and that fools the REALLY dumb people

by RumsfeldResign
how much does he get paid to say that filth? And by whom?
Follow the money!

by Tamifah
i think he does it from a sense of duty which is perhaps more worrying than doing it for $$$. it is a disorder.

by kingfelix
Are you sure it's not a sense of "doody"? He's a mean, mean, doody-head. Doody, doody, DOODY!!!

Seriously, even if he's sincere, the party of the rich always has enough money to see to it that their mouthy little spokesturds like him never have to eat ramen or worry about the rent. Follow the money, indeed. There's always enough to keep scumbags like him and Tucker Carlson in clean bowties.

by drewfromct
Thanks for highlighting the circus sideshow named Godwin.
Gads these guys are scary.

by Cool Blue
A sophmoric twit for sure, but the most obnoxious man in America, for the 18th consecutive year, is Pat Robertson.

by Olds88
what i find interesting about Godwin is his repeated assertions that his political opponents are infantile, mentally ill, etc. to my mind, potentially, and given his professional capacity and his erudition, it makes him more a full blown obnoxious fascists than robertson , limbaugh, o'reilly, and falwell.

by kingfelix
This shrink guy is just an embarrassment to his profession.

by Olds88
yeah, but if the caysh was'nt there he'd be sellin some other snakeoil, or some line of bs. Ain't none of these guys doin any of that stuff for nothin'. I bet you he's into porno and hookers.....and wears women's lingerie when he's psychologizin'.

by Manix
We could temporarily revoke, uh, Godwin's Law, and compare this guy Godwin with members of a certain German political party.

by Manix
whenever I think about this guy, I can't help but do a Nazi salute.

by lazybum
This guy's bad. And Pat Robertson and his ilk are bad too, but I wouldn't say obnoxious. Awful pieces of dog shit who are dangerous to America, yes. But obnoxious implies that certain nails-on-the-blackboard kind off effect when you hear their voice and their comments.

That post has its historical basis in the way white southern men viewed themselves as Cavaliers, noble and pure in soul, as opposed to the debased and wretched northern Puritans. Opposition to slavery was the prime example of Puritan soullessness.

by YellowDogBlue
his hatred is obviously self-hatred directed outward at those he secretly admires.
Conservatives are mentally ill. He is a classic example.

by theyrereal
An egregiously bad writer.
Stick to your day job, Robert, whatever it is. And the next time you feel the compulsion to write, lie down until the feeling goes away.


One thing I don't understand. Why do my relatives have to use all these crazy nicknames? And I never told them about the bow ties and lingerie. That was just a lucky guess.


This is pretty weird. You know how kids want to imitate their dad, right? So mine finds out that I'm the most obnoxious man in America, and next thing you know, he wants me to buy him a kufi. What's that all about?

One Cosmos Light: Tastes Coherent! Less Absurd!

In James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, is asked why he hasn’t left the faith. Stephen’s famous response is, “What kind of liberation would it be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?”

But clearly, not everyone prefers a coherent absurdity. When you think about it, we are faced with four possibilities. Either the world is a

1) Coherent absurdity
2) Incoherent absurdity
3) Incoherent non-absurdity, or
4) Coherent non-absurdity

While we’re at it, let’s define our terms. Coherent means “logically consistent,” with specific reference in this case to a logically consistent metaphysic, while absurd means “meaningless”or “lacking in order or value.” More specifically, it is “the state or condition in which man exists in an irrational and meaningless universe and in which man’s life has no meaning outside his own existence.”

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well, I’m in the midst of a week-long relative swarm because of my son’s first birthday. I personally have very few living relatives, and those who are alive are more like me. I've never been interested in these kinds of organized and choreographed events, especially when the celebrant has no say in the matter and enjoys every day as much as the next anyway. So these relatives are all from the Mrs. Gagdad side. Mrs. Gagdad is now on my side of the family, both literally and metaphysically, but that is another story.

Anyway, it is fair to say that I am the white sheep of the family, in the sense that there is almost no area of agreement on any matter of political, religious, philosophical or cultural substance. That’s okay. These are good people. I actually understand them thoroughly and take them as they are. However, the reverse is not true. They do not understand me at all. Importantly, they don’t know that they don’t. They simply assume that I am either like them, or, in the case of divergence, not yet like them. Or else just eccentric.

I’m sure you know the feeling. For example, the air was full of casual, matter-of-fact Bush denunciation. This is a first principle, not something that need be justified or defended. Religion is both stupid and dangerous. Again, this is just a given. One relative is an eminent historian who has written widely acclaimed scholarly books. To paraphrase him, he would rather “open up a vein and bleed to death” than be accused of trafficking in anything called “truth.” No one is naive enough to believe that “truth” is a criterion of good history. Truth simply inheres in sentences, not history and certainly not in people.

I long ago abandoned arguing or trying to make any point that could possibly sway him from his position, or even make an impact, for that matter. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. Sometimes I do get sucked in, and I always regret it. In fact, that’s part of the reason I’m writing about it now--to try to regain my bearings, because it’s always a disorienting experience. I can’t even imagine the pressure a callow undergraduate must feel from being immersed in a whole environment like this, day in, day out. You have to be extremely strong to resist conformity. You can understand why leftist academia simply churns out more confused leftists.

To his credit, this man is absolutely authentic. He does not even attempt to conceal his contempt for my views. Again, I don’t take it personally, because he certainly doesn’t. He read the first page of my book and said it brought to mind the story of a German villager who had stumbled upon a volume of Kant. He read a couple of pages, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I should have such problems.”

The implication being, of course, that my ideas are hopelessly abstract and ethereal, while his are solidly rooted in reality--despite the fact that he confesses up front that he has no “truth” to convey, only self-justifying sentences. This in itself is interesting, for I imagine that it is a widespread sentiment in academia (again, speaking of the humanities, not the sciences). Many academics--this relative is no exception--have spent their entire lives in academia. Especially in the humanities departments, their ideas are never tested against reality, so they never have to deal with the real-world implications of their ideas--for example, what the impact would be if everyone simply abandoned the concept of truth.

I, on the other hand, live and work in the real world. I work in the field of forensic psychology. I am a historian of sorts. I need to take a thorough history of a patient, so that I can answer very specific questions.

I’m trying to imagine what would happen if I wrote a report that said, “you know, let’s not kid ourselves, Judge. There’s no such thing as truth. There are only sentences that can be constructed in such as way that they either justify themselves or not. So I’m going to tell you a story about the plaintiff, but don’t be naive enough to evaluate it in terms of whether it is “true.” Rather, evaluate it in other terms: does it decenter and liberate our Eurocentric judicial discourse? Does it subvert the hegemony of your courtroom's heteronormative presumptions? Does its transgendered gaze playfully subvert your postcolonial categories of logic? Does its queered stance give voice to the inherently sexed nature of guilt/innocence? Does its ironic pose not demonstrate the absurdity of a bad faith judicial system that pretends to seek "truth" in good faith? Does its "brownness" speak for the marginalized Palestinian "other" living under the boot heal of Zionist whiteness?

I should have such problems. In the real world in which I live, I must deal in coherent non-absurdities. A report that is incoherent--that is, either internally or externally inconsistent--will be picked apart on cross examination. And a report that is absurd will obviously be a non-starter.

I believe the world of the academic left is largely a world of incoherent absurdity. To cite just one example that is close at hand, if you were to listen to the above-referenced relative in unguarded moments, you would hear him constantly make sweeping statements that he seems to be claiming as truthful. Otherwise, why make them? I maintain that you cannot engage in any kind of rational discourse at all without an implicit understanding of Truth. In other words, rational discourse is guided by a Truth that we cannot necessarily possess, but which we perpetually aim for. We do this quite naturally, although in truth, it is actually a supernatural capacity that is built into us. To deny Truth is to live in absurdity, and to live in absurdity is to try to deny Truth.

There is also a world of coherent absurdity. This is the world of science--not the scientific method, with which I have no quarrel at all, but the materialist metaphysic that is embraced with science as its justification. This is “scientism,” the excessive reliance on the methods of science to disclose the nature of reality. Clearly, science, unlike, say, deconstructionism, is fully consistent and coherent, or at least aims to be. But it is nevertheless absurd, in fact, every bit as absurd as any doctrinaire leftist subhumanities department. Science is a closed system that makes perfect sense within itself, but generates metaphysical absurdity the moment we even attempt to explain the mysterious presence of the scientific knower. For if consciousness did not exist, science would have no trouble explaining it.

We next come to the realm of the incoherent non-absurdity. This is the realm of pre-reflective religiosity. In fact, many sophisticated moderns shun religion because it seems to them incoherent, that is, illogical, even childishly so. They would prefer to honestly live in an absurd universe than forsake logic to live in a comfortable delusion. Coherence is their God, even if elevating it to the supreme good is patently incoherent.

Lastly, we come to the realm of the coherent non-absurdity. Does such a thing exist? As a matter of fact, that is what this blog is about. It is what my book is about. For I believe that the universe is both coherent and ultimately meaningful. This coherence and meaning are not to be found where the secular leftist, the scientist, or even the exoteric religionist look (although in the latter case, they are infinitely closer to the truth). Rather, coherence and meaning are actually two sides of the same process, for meaning is revealed through coherence, and ultimate meaning is revealed in ultimate coherence.

Look at it this way: science is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. A good scientific theory will tie together a whole mass of disparate data and reveal their hidden, inner coherence.

Likewise, religion is the ultimate case of reducing multiplicity to unity. This unity goes by many names, but it is not to be understood as a mere object or aggregation of particulars. Rather, it is the ultimate subject through which the entire universe coheres and toward which it is oriented. It is the prior condition that makes the world intelligible at all, and even more mysteriously, makes us capable of knowing it.

The problem is, how do we convey the idea that the solutions to our most stubborn existential dilemmas and conundrums are found not in any secular philosophy, but in religion?

That’s my big problem. We should all have such problems.


"I'm just a baby, but I agree with my GagDad. It's absurd to think that this impressive thing just landed here all by itself... Although I suppose it could be an ironic phallocentric gesture."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

If God Does Not Exist, Then Only He Knows It

The other day, I was thinking about what a wonderful outlet this blogging has proven to be for me. Petey immediately corrected me, saying “you mean inlet.”

How right he was. For this is not an outlet for my creativity, but an inlet for someone--or something--else’s. Which is true of life in general. We imagine that we are in charge and that we “give birth to ourselves” and to our children--both our material children and our immaterial children (i.e., our creative productions).

But do we really? Does anyone actually know where thoughts--much less creative thoughts--come from? Yes, leave it to the godlike little ego to think that it could produce even so much as single thought ex nihilo. Soon it will “understand” the human genome, as if this will solve the mystery of how the most complex text ever written can both compose and read itself.

But we do not give birth to ourselves, only to the God that gives birth to us.


Let me try to explain.

One of my influences, the psychoanalyst James Grotstein, has attempted to rescue the concept of the unconscious from its unfortunate reduction to a mere cauldron of uncivilized desires and impulses, and restore it to its true place as a sort of alter-ego, or “stranger within” that shadows our existence in a most intimate, creative, and mysterious way. Far from being “primitive and impersonal” (although it surely includes primitive “lower vertical” elements as well), it is “subjective and ultra-personal,” a “mystical, preternatural, numinous second self” characterized by “a loftiness, sophistication, versatility, profundity, virtuosity, and brilliance that utterly dwarf the conscious aspects of the ego.”*

Grotstein's ideas are unusual in the field of psychoanalysis. Although there is nothing in his writing that conveys a conventional approach to religiosity, he has developed an extraordinary appreciation of the spiritual implications of the unconscious as it manifests in our day-to-day experience. Understanding this “higher” aspect of the unconscious can greatly enrich one’s spiritual life, if for no other reason than it represents such a comparatively larger aspect of consciousness itself. Otherwise, it’s a little like living your life in a tiny boat and never looking around to appreciate the immense ocean upon which your insignificant vessel is floating.

Grotstein sees the unconscious as a sort of “handicapped” god who needs a partner in order to accomplish its mission. The goal of psychotherapy is not merely knowledge of, or insight into, the unconscious, but something far greater. Rather, it is to establish a sort of dynamic collaboration between the phenomenal ego--our conscious self--and the “ineffable subject of being” upon which the ego floats, and into which it infinitely extends (for the boat is paradoxically made of the same water upon which it floats).

Through a creative resonance between these two aspects of ourselves, we are much more spontaneously alive, creative, and “present.” It is like adding another dimension (or two or three) of depth to our being, through which we become something that has never actually been, but is somehow more real than what we presently are. A new entity emerges, a “transcendent subject” that lives harmoniously in the dialectical space between our “foreground self” and this mysterious “background subject” that surrounds and vivifies it.

This novel way of looking at the unconscious has much in common with the 14th century Christian theologian Meister Eckhart. Eckhart liberally relied upon various rhetorical devices such as paradox, pun, and oxymoron in the effort to use language to transcend language. Language cannot ultimately capture God, and yet, it is all we have. As a result, Eckhart said many things that are easy to misunderstand and which landed him in some trouble during his lifetime.

For example, Eckhart wrote that “In my birth all things were born, and I was the cause of myself and of all things... And if I did not exist, God would also not exist.” Just what did he mean by this? (the Catholic authorities asked). In fact, it was something very similar to Grotstein’s description of the godlike aspects of the unconscious. That is, the God that we can know cannot exist without our first “conceiving” and giving birth to him--God needs our assistance, or cooperation, to manifest here below. He needs an inlet.

First of all we have to back up a bit, and make it clear that God in his essence so surpasses our conceptual categories that he is beyond being or knowing, beyond the very horizon of knowability. What he actually is in himself, we cannot say, and he certainly doesn't need us to not say it. Apophatic theology holds that the only true things we can say about God are what he is not. Therefore, only by achieving the “negative capability” of unknowing, can we paradoxically know him in his essence.

Perhaps this is why, as Grotstein writes, God is the only true atheist, “because only He knows for sure that He doesn’t exist.” Furthermore, we are His children.

But we can certainly know God in his energies and activities on this side of manifestation. That is, in Eckhart’s understanding of the incarnation, God is eternally taking on human nature, not just once, but for all time, in the ground of our being. Furthermore, Eckhart adheres to the ancient Christian idea that God became man so that man may become God--not literally, but in Grotstein’s sense of transforming the ineffable, nonlocal God-beyond-being into a local manifestation of his presence. The reason we may know God is because he is perpetually being born in the depths of our soul, but only if we cooperate and act as “midwife” to the process. God gives birth by speaking the word, but we are only born (from above) by hearing it and conforming ourselves to it.

Our secular friends have it backwards. It is not God that requires explanation, but us. God alone properly has real being. God does not understand us because he exists--rather, he ex-ists by our understanding of him, which is ultimately his self-understanding. That is why Eckhart said that the eye with which we see God is the same eye by which he sees us. We are each of us an opportunity for God to exist. Or perhaps more accurately, without us, God is orphaned in the cosmos, with no earthly parents to (p)raise him.

Grotstein even has a fascinating take on the Garden of Eden story. One of the intriguing things about Genesis is that it can be interpreted from so many different angles, each of which is true. Grotstein notes that infants (and secular leftists, I might add) necessarily have what is called an autochthounous notion of creation. Webster’s describes the autochthon as “one who has sprung from the ground he inhabits.” Unlike purely solipsistic leftists, babies eventually move on to other theories, for example parthenogenesis, the idea that mother is the sole creator. Many primitive, pre-monotheistic and post-literate peoples remain in this matriarchical mode, such our academic vaginocracy and other assorted clitterati.

Grotstein identifies the initial God of Genesis with the omnipotent infant. “Like all God-Infants, He believed that He had created everything that He opened His eyes to, including Himself first of all, then everything around Him, including his mother and father, Adam and Eve.” As creator of His parents, He naturally believed that they should be at his disposal. Those of you with infants recognize the pattern.

Despite the clear injunction against knowledge of his real situation, “as time wore on... the God-Infant became more aware of His separateness, and along with this realization He also realized His littleness, helplessness, and vulnerability--and His need for His parents to help Him.” Moreover, at the same time, He “became aware that mother, rather than being His solely devoted object, was involved additionally in another relationship... with father.”

This disturbing knowledge is the “primal treachery” that placed “a dark shadow on the whole phenomenon of knowing.” It “terminated forever the illusion of bliss and innocence.” For the God-Infant did not really create his parents. Rather, they created him. With this knowledge, reality expels us from Eden, which, of course, is guarded on each side by an infant with a flaming sword.

Thus, infantile omnipotence is forfeited, but not completely. From this point onward, it is tempered by awareness that it requires others in order to give it birth. Our a priori “symmetrical” union with all of reality must be channeled into the asymmetrical and reality-based ego. But it is a fully dialectical relationship, one feeding the other.

In other words, we must actually negotiate a “cyclopean” or “double worldview” between fantasy and reality, something that the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott emphasized as well, with his idea of the “transitional space” of consciousness. We can never actually be just one or the other. We are perpetually giving birth to God, while God is perpetually giving birth to us. Both statements are equally true. Otherwise, we live in the dry desert hell of egoic separation from our source, or the alternate "fluid" hell of engulfment in symmetrical being with no way to express or communicate it--no way for anything to "evolve" out of the formless and infinite void.

Creation means "giving existence to," or bringing something out of nothing. God’s creativity gives existence to us, but we give existence to God in our creative response to his actively present absence. That is, in both Judaism and in Eckhart’s thought, God actually must withdraw from the world in order to create it--otherwise, the world is simply identical to God, and there is no freedom.

We are a creation of the absent God-beyond-being, but in making present our potential and becoming who we are, we take part in God’s creation of us, which paradoxically gives birth to both God and to ourselves. In surrendering to, and cooperating with, our own mysterious ground of being, our self-knowing and God’s self-knowing become a single act of essential knowledge. We give birth to the living God.


*The title of this post is from the book The Symmetry of God. The Grotstein quotes are taken from his book Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream? (Both are in the sidebar, but Grotstein may be a bit of a challenge for the layperson.)


And on the seventh day he rested, because he was pooped after creating reality. Pay no attention to that serpent in the background.

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