Saturday, May 13, 2006

Symmatriarchal Bobservations

There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things--even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God. --Valentin Tomberg

Why do we love our children so much, anyway?

Seems like a stupid question. Nevertheless, it occurred to me during yesterday’s bike ride.

Of course, I’m new at this, so perhaps I’m the wrong person to ask. I’ve only been a father for a little over a year. How is it that I lived all that time without my son, but now I don’t know what I would do without him? As much as he needs me, it’s entirely possible that I need him more.

In this regard, I’m already finding that “love” is a hopelessly inadequate word to describe the situation. It’s way beyond that. Nor is it even a feeling per se. Of course it includes feelings, but it seems much more existential than that.

So anyway, while pondering the question, the following words popped into my head: “He is the foreground of your background, and you are the background of his foreground.”

Ummm, is that you, Petey? Could you repeat that?

Nothing. As usual, just the vapor trail of his present absence.

Not coincidentally, just before my bike ride I had begun reading a new book I’d been waiting to dive into, Thinking, Feeling, and Being, by the Chilean psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte-Blanco. Although generally unknown even among psychoanalysts, I believe Matte-Blanco is one of the most illuminating thinkers that ever lived. Unfortunately, like another one of my influences, W.R. Bion, he probably won’t be accessible to the lay person. Don’t worry. That’s my job.

Matte-Blanco’s ideas are so fruitful and far-reaching, and yet, he has very few followers. Like Bion, he doesn’t so much tell you what to think as provide a new way to think--including how to think about thinking.

I’m going to move the argument along here, so I will just say that Matte-Blanco’s key insight was that Freud’s discovery of the unconscious actually represented the discovery of an entirely different mode of logic, which Matte-Blanco called symmetrical logic. This is in contradistinction to the normal “daytime” Aristotelian logic of the conscious ego.

Freud observed that the unconscious displayed various distinct characteristics that defied normal logic. For example, two entities could occupy the same space (e.g., your wife might be your mother or child), or two different times could be copresent (e.g., your adult and child selves might be side by side). What Matte-Blanco realized was that these strange attributes were possible because of the symmetrical logic that governs the unconscious mind.

Now, back to the question of why we love our children so much. As I mentioned above, for me the whole thing is so intense that it’s pretty obvious that fatherhood has introduced me to vital areas of myself that were dormant before. They were there--they had to be there--but they were unlived. They were in the background--the “unthought known,” as the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas put it. Call them “thoughts in search of a thinker,” or feelings in search of an object.

But there’s that banal word again, ”feelings," that doesn’t really do justice to the situation. It is much more like part of me--a very large part--was “unborn” and given birth by my son. The child was father to the man. But not really. The child was father to the child, that is, to some part of myself that was forged and forgotten in my own childhood.

Why forgotten? For the same reason that my son, although this is the most intense and formative time of his life, will forget all about it. Our interaction couldn’t be more intense and animated, and yet, he won’t remember a thing.

Consciously. All of it will form the background of his very substance, a background that will be the context and container for his being for the rest of his life. But he won’t “know” it as an object until he becomes a father. Only then will he realize how much he was loved, because the father (and mother) who loved him so much will be reborn in his baby. His symmetrical background will have become his asymmetrical foreground, and only then will he really understand what Mother’s Day is all about.

As Kramer once exclaimed, “Mother nature’s a mad scientist, Jerry!” But it makes sense. We would be psychologically crippled if we loved our parents as much as they love us. We can really only rediscover the intensity of their love in our relationships with others.

I’ve been an orphan now for quite awhile. My father died when I was 29, my mother six years later, before they could be reborn. But their eyes are looking down on me. Or rather, up at me. And down on my son. In that supercharged space in between, you finally get it.

Which is why I can’t repay my son enough for what my parents gave me. That'll be his job.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Parody of a Self-Parody

Neil Young has a thought-provoking new song that rivals Spinal Tap in its subtlety and profundity, entitled Let's Impeach the President. Petey has penned some new, unimpeachable lyrics for an old one, Ohio:

Tin beanie on Neil Young's noggin,
He’s finally off his nut.
Big bummer his mind is crumblin’,
Brain dead old stoned psycho.

Crosby warned Neil 'bout it,
Agents are tapping his phones,
Should have been stopped long ago.
But now that Bush found him, and
Put a chip in his brain,
How can he sleep when it glows?

Tin beanie on Neil Young's noggin,
He’s finally ‘round the bend.
Much dumber'n a bag of hammers,
Poor dude’s an ol' psycho,
Poor dude’s an ol' psycho,
Grandpa is plum loco,
Old geezer is stone wacko,
Grey doddering AARP nutso,
Old babbling freak schizo,
Self-meds don't work no mo',
Gives ammo to all drug foes,
Steals lyrics from dailykos...


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Verticalisthenics and Other Youth-Defying Wonders

A couple weeks ago I noted that “The best ideas are so deceptively simple that we can fail to properly appreciate them. As such, they must be repeatedly discovered, lest one continue mindlessly searching after Truth. The lower mind--I have problems with the word, but let’s just call it the ego--doesn’t really care about truth per se. Insofar as its cognition is concerned, its function, as Sri Aurobindo noted, is to grind. Put anything in front of it--a cereal box, a TV screen, classified ads--and it will simply grind away.”

So a reader asked, “Bob, could you write more in your blog about this idea of the 'grind'? I have never read Aurobindo, and this is new to me. My higher self likes the silence and openness of meditation and prayer, BUT, I always find myself listening to the news, reading the cereal box ads at breakfast and on and on and on.  The only true relief I get is by traveling to remote places away from radio and phones, like the SD Badlands, or last year, an island in Prince William Sound.  Ah, peace and quiet, away from the endless chattering.  But, how to break away from the grind in day to day life, ah, there's the rub!”

Very true, and yet, this separation of the higher mind from the lower mind forms the basis of any spiritual practice. People tend to think that it only applies to Eastern religions such as Buddhism and yoga, but each tradition emphasizes it in its own way. For example, a famous passage in the Psalms says, “be still and know that I am God.” And Jesus said a number of provocative things in this regard, such as “when you pray, enter into your inner chamber, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret.”

In my own case, I practiced meditation for a number of years, but initially didn’t really get anywhere with it. Real progress didn't begin until I turned 40 and decided to practice meditation in the context of a particular path. Once I did that, then the meditation seemed to be "energized" by a grace that was clearly not bobocentric but seemed to come from another source. I meditated virtually every single day from 1995 to 2005, but have definitely slacked off in the last two years because of managing my diabetes and my now one year old. But in a certain sense, I feel as if I was "planting seeds" during that decade, and now, with the book and blog, it is a time of "harvest," so to speak. At some point I imagine that I will have to get back to more diligently tending the soil again.

Early on (from the mid-80’s to the mid 90’s), I was very influenced by Ken Wilber. His books are quite intellectual, but he always emphasized that books were not to be confused with God--that you cannot eat the menu and expect to be nourished. Instead, he said that you had to pick a particular path and stick with it. As the Zen saying goes, “chase two rabbits, catch none.” Furthermore, he was very opposed to new-age cafeteria-style spirituality, in which you take whatever flatters your ego and leave behind anything that actually makes demands on you. This is the approach of gurusome spiritual hacks such as Deepak Chopra.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but they say that in India one traditionally spends the first half of life “becoming somebody,” the second half “becoming nobody.” In other words, the first half of life is spent devoted to the external world, to education, career, family, worldly accomplishment, etc. Then, the second half of life is spent more focussed on the interior, in contemplation of the Divine, on the return to our eternal source. This is partly for practical considerations, as it can be difficult for someone in the first half of life to take religion all that seriously. Your life is entirely ahead of you. The younger one is, the more one’s life represents pure potential, and therefore, it gives one a spurious sense of the infinite.

I still remember this feeling quite distinctly, and am sometimes nostalgic for it. I was a mediocre student at best, with no interest in school, so my future never looked particularly bright or promising in any conventional sense. And yet, the future was nevertheless unwritten. I may have been nothing, but I was also “anything,” which brought with it a certain ecstasy. As a matter of fact, many narcissists have specific difficulty acknowledging the passage of time and moving out of this phase. In the narcissistic view, commitment is equivalent to death, because it constrains the omnipotence of the infinite, open-ended future. For example, getting married is not so much a matter of choosing one woman as unchoosing all the rest. As such, a wedding is a funeral, in the sense that it represents the death of many potential selves that will never come into being.

It is the same way with a career. Choosing one vocation means unchoosing all the others. On a deeper existential level, it means cashing in eternity for time, the infinite for the relative, the future for the present. And just like money, the “present value” of a fantasy is not nearly as high as the future value.

So we inevitably become disillusioned as we mature, as the open future becomes the limited present and then the fixed past, and more and more of our life simply becomes what it is and nothing more. Assuming that full awareness of this phenomenon occurs at around mid-life, one is left with two existential choices: either fight the process and try to resuscitate the false infinity of youth, or see through the system and try to pursue the true infinity of God.

This is where the two forms of snake-oil salesmen rush into the breach, and our culture is full of them. On the one hand there are the peddlers of physical youth whose real promise is that the youth so attained will bring with it the innocent but intoxicating illusions of the past. This is where Hollywood creates the age-defying monsters of its expensive laboratories--people who are not children and not adults, just spooky looking corpses whose expressions are frozen in a perpetual “no!” to life. Their adultolescent faces mirror their adultolescent political ideologies.

Hardly better are the false prophets of bogus spirituality, especially those who tap into the same market as the youth peddlers. For they also create narcissistic monsters whose souls are as blank, empty and “un-lived” on the inside as, say, Cher’s face is on the outside. If we could see underneath the superficial beauty, I imagine that we might see a soul that looks and smells more like Keith Richard.

The other day I came across an arresting passage. It was in a review of a biography of the philosopher Roger Scruton, written by Roger Kimball, publisher of The New Criterion:

“Scruton comes bearing news about permanent things, one part of which is the evanescence of human aspiration. Hence the governing word ‘loss.’ There is a sense in which conservatism is anti-Romantic, since it is constitutionally suspicious of the schemes of perfection Romanticism typically espouses.”

“But there is another sense in which conservatism is deeply Romantic: the sense in which it recognizes and embraces the ineradicable frailty, the ultimate futility, of things human. ‘And so,’ Scruton writes, ‘I acquired consciousness of death and dying, without which the world cannot be loved for what it is. That, in essence is what it means to be a conservative.’”

Scruton writes that, “without the consciousness of loss, there is nothing a conservative would find worth conserving. It is only by facing up to loss... that we can build on the dream of ultimate recuperation.” As such, “one of the most harrowing depredations of the modern world is to rob us of the religious sense, which is to say the sense of loss.” Too often, Scruton notes, “there is neither love nor happiness--only fun. For us, one might be tempted to suggest, the loss of religion is the loss of loss.”

So this is the real choice at the mid-life crossroads: the spiritually stultifying loss of loss or the acknowledgment of loss as “prelude to the possession of joy”--to "partcipate joyfully in the sorrows of the world," as somsone once said. This in turn is why a real religion such as Christianity or Judaism carries so much more existential heft than their hollow new age counterparts. In the latter case, the entire project is based on a denial of spirit and an attempt to absolutize what is plainly relative, i.e., the ego.

Hmm. That’s weird. How did I get here? I was going to talk about how to separate the two parts of the mind. I suppose it all comes down to crucifying what is lower in order to resurrect what is higher, or trying vainly to resurrect the incrementally dying ego by denying spirit. More on which tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

MSM: The Left's Most Braying Asset

No time to post anything new this morning. However, after having absorbed Van der Leun's inspired dyseulogy of the MSM, Our Cracked Bells Will Bleat Until You Love Us, it called to mind an early post of mine dealing with the media. It was written back when my readership was quite small. Being that it now often reaches the high double digits, I'm guessing that there must be dozens of you for whom it will be entirely more of the same.


It should come as no surprise that the divide between left and right in this country is mirrored in the divide between television and radio. With the exception of Fox--which is really more populist than conservative--television news is overwhelmingly to the left, whereas talk radio is overwhelmingly to the right.

The utter failure of Air America just proves the point. Since liberals habitually project their anger and hatred into conservatives, they literally experience them as propagating "hate radio." Therefore, they think that success lies in providing a mirror image of the hatred they feel when they hear conservatives speak. This is why if you tune into Air America and submit yourself to the likes of Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, or Ed Schultz, you will be treated to little more than unmitigated anger, contempt, smirking, and painfully forced adolescent humor.

Likewise, it is very difficult for conservative ideas to compete against the downward emotional pull of histrionic television liberalism. It is much more difficult to wrestle with a weak mind than a strong one. I haven't won an argument yet with my one year-old.

Perhaps surprisingly, the other ideal forum for liberalism is academia. However, the humanities have largely been reduced to an echo chamber of self-validation of liberal ideas that never have to be tested against reality and especially never have to be defended in debate with intellectual equals; imagine Noam Chomsky having to defend his fixed delusional system to informed radio callers instead of the addle-brained college students and moonbat bloggers who idealize him.

For years, liberal newspapers have also been able to shield themselves from honest debate, which is why their readership will continue to plummet, now that there is a choice. None of their editors could survive a day in talk radio, nor would ideas and opinions so predictably lame attract much interest in the blogosphere. In fact, they wouldn'’t even be able to withstand an interview with Bill O'Reilly.

Television is the ideal medium to propagate liberalism, since it is so rooted in emotion rather than thought. Listening involves entering a detached, abstract world of knowledge and meaning, whereas television is an immediate, concrete world of pictures and images. So often, television reports a story as news simply because they happen to have some dramatic pictures to show you. On the other hand, important events with no pictures are not even recognized, much less reported.

Language is an abstraction from experience, while pictures are a concrete representation of it. Pictures do not show concepts, but things. As Neil Postman, author of The Disappearance of Childhood, puts it, unlike sentences, pictures are irrefutable. "A picture does not put forward a proposition, it implies no negation of itself, there are no rules of evidence or logic to which it must conform." Yet, these images "provide a primitive but irresistible alternative to linear and sequential logic,” rendering “the rigors of a literate education irrelevant." Watching television requires no skills and develops none. To paraphrase Postman, there is no one so disabled that he is disabled from staring at the TV.

The really pernicious thing about television is that it provides the illusion that it is simply depicting reality, when it is actually deifying our most primitive way of knowing the world. That is, there is no knowledge at the level of the senses. Television replaces truth with facts, but as Richard Weaver pointed out in his Ideas Have Consequences, it is a characteristic of the barbarian to believe that it is possible to grasp the world “barehanded,” without the symbolic imagination to mediate what the senses are telling us.

We are then faced with the "ravages of immediacy," for without imagination, reality is simply a brute fact with nothing to spiritualize it. The world shrinks down to our simplest way--animal way, really--of knowing it, and with it, our souls constrict correspondingly. In this regard, postmodern skepticism is provincialism of the worst sort, as it imagines that it is getting closer to the reality of things, when it is actually getting more and more distant--like pulverizing a work of art into smaller and smaller parts to try to get at its meaning.

People generally don't realize that it is possible to substitute facts for truth, to replace the higher reality perceived by the intellect and imagination with the lower reality perceived by the senses. When that happens, we literally become disoriented, away from the center and toward the periphery of existence. Today we live in an age in which we are being invaded by horizontal media barbarians who would ruthlessly strip aside the veils of the imagination to try to get at what's real, only to find that there is nothing there. Certainly nothing worth living or fighting for.

Recently we witnessed an orgy of self-congratulation in the liberal media for their brave and unblinking television coverage of hurricane Katrina--for showing America the FACE OF POVERTY, and ripping away our hypocritical pretensions of racial fairness.

True enough, those television pictures did depict a lot of black people. On the face of it, this should not have been altogether surprising, since New Orleans is two thirds black. Therefore, it would have been a statistical anomaly if at least two thirds of the victims had not been black.

As it eventually turned out, the victims were not disproportionately poor. Even so, the television pictures told us absolutely nothing about them except the shade of their skin. In this regard, it is the medium of television (not to mention liberalism in general) that dehumanizes and diminishes blacks and strips them of any other trait, good or bad. They are simply black. And poor. And it is not their fault. Because white people hate them. This is the unconscious template the MSM uses in every story that touches on race. I don'’t recall ever seeing a story in the MSM that focused on what blacks needed to do for themselves as opposed to what whites had done to them and needed to do for them. Therefore, the liberal racial narrative is never about blacks at all, only about the reinforcement of white guilt.

Since television images are atemporal, we do not see that the pictures may well be showing something that is actually the consequence of a bad idea that is not visible on screen--such as the idea that the traditional family is a patriarchal instrument of oppression, or that children do not need a mother and father, or that if restraints on sexual expression are removed we will live in a kind of secular paradise of instinctual free expression. The destructive ideas hatched by white liberal professors do no immediate damage to the professors themselves, so they never see their extraordinarily pathological consequences. They do not see that blacks are in fact the canaries of the liberal ghoul mind.

While there are certainly undeservedly poor people in America, what the television pictures cannot show is that very few people stay in the bottom quintile of income distribution their whole lives. Rather, people are constantly moving in and out of the bottom, and there are very clear behaviors associated with those who stay at the bottom and those who manage to get out.

For example, children born out of wedlock are seven times more likely to live in poverty, and two thirds of all children living in poverty come from single parent homes. Add to this the well known statistic that seventy percent of black children are born out of wedlock, and the television pictures begin to make more sense. The poverty rate of black children who come from an intact traditional family with mother and father is nearly identical to non-black children in the same fortunate circumstance.

But by portraying the poor as victimized automatons, the envious and bitter victim finds his envy and bitterness validated by television, so that he may loot and pillage in good conscience, since he is simply claiming those things that have been unfairly denied him through no doing of his own. Come to think of it, when the angry and entitled victim is exonerated for stealing a giant plasma television, it is just the medium of television looking out for one of its own.

Imagine an educational establishment that was not run by liberals. For example, in "sex education" class, they might teach high school students that traditional marriage is the most appropriate outlet for sexuality, or about the archetypal differences between men and women, or about the disastrous economic consequences of having children out of wedlock, or about how not being married carries the approximate health risk of smoking cigarettes (since people who are married live significantly longer and healthier lives on average).

But what are the chances? Liberals are too busy teaching all about family diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice, when the surest route to social justice is the decidedly un-diverse monoculturalism represented by the traditional family. And that system is totally rigged to benefit people who don't make stupid decisions.

You can't reason with a liberal, because they're too immature to know what's good for them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Salvolution History

The state of intoxication expresses itself not only in lynchings, in pogroms, in barricade-happy street demonstrations of mobs and frivolous students, but also in more peaceful forms of various superstitions which even today are tremendously widespread. For the essence of superstition is a renunciation of clarity of consciousness in favor of the darkness of the subconscious freed from the conscience... It is equally a state of intoxication in which the conscious mind has “cast itself down from the pinnacle of the temple.” Actually, superstition is present everywhere--whether in magic or in science.... --Valentin Tomberg

Secularists habitually steal things from religion and then either pretend that they invented them or presume that they can be wrenched from their sacred context without doing grave damage to them. For example, secularists benefit just as much as anyone else from the blessings of Judeo-Christian values, while at the same time doing everything possible to attack or belittle the source of those values. Many things we take for granted in the West developed specifically in a Christian context and nowhere else: the infinite worth of the individual, democracy, science, etc.

History is another case in point. It’s hard to imagine what it would mean to be a human without history, and yet, historical consciousness is something that only developed within history. Furthermore, as Van der Leun pointed out yesterday, just as many people in our modern dark age have become “post literate,” there are apparently an equal number who are becoming “post historical,” coming full circle and mirroring the pre-Jewish pagans of antiquity. For the Jews invented history as we know it. They were the first to rise above the stream of time, and view history as having a definitive direction.

Therefore, the postmodern view of historical meaninglessness is quite similar to primitive cosmologies, which either viewed the cosmos as a cyclical process of “eternal return” (like the seasons) or as a degenerate process of departure and increasing distance from an idyllic past. Only with the Hebrew approach to history did mankind begin to discern a “direction” in history, and with it, a sense of history’s purpose. That is, for the first time, history was seen as trying to “get somewhere,” and was looked upon as somehow interacting with some G-D thing on a “vertical” plane--a trans-subjective force which both intervened in history and drew human beings toward it.

This is one of the primary reasons why secular progressives are so ironically named. They can never really be progressive, since their materialistic metaphysic denies meaningful progress at the outset. Scratch a leftist and you will always discern a nostalgic, backward-looking metaphysic--the painful recollection of the lost entitlement of infancy, the desire for a romantic merger with the eden of childhood--only projected into the future.

As I have mentioned before, in the absence of religion, people will fall back onto more primitive, pre-religious modes of thought, but then imagine that they are progressing beyond religion. But this is impossible, for religion discloses objective metaphysics. Therefore, anything short of real religion descends into mere mythology: relying upon it to orient yourself in the cosmos, you will move laterally and eventually backwards, as we see in contemporary Europe--a fine example of trying to live off the fumes of Christian values in the absence of the Christianity that gave rise to them.

The vast majority of our contemporary pagan scholars would undoubtedly agree that history has no direction, purpose or meaning outside the individual historian’s mind. For a secularist, this is necessarily the case. If history does not refer to something outside itself, it has to be without meaning or purpose, truly the proverbial "tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying a nice paycheck.” While there can be limited purposes within history, there is no transcendent meaning to any of these endeavors, any more than there can be transcendent meaning to your individual goals and pursuits. It's all ultimately pointless. History is simply history--just a material process, a journey of many roads leading nowhere.

But if this were true, mankind would never have found the exit out of its closed circle of material and instinctual existence. In the logoistic understanding of Christianity, history is witness to a literal descent of the logos into the stream of horizontal time, so as to forge a concrete link between the vertical and horizontal--between time and eternity. To say that "God became man" or "Word became flesh" is just another way of saying that the vertical, that is, the ultimate, timeless ground, outside time and anterior to manifestation, poured itself into material form and chronological time--not just in a single human being, but in humanity.

Only humans can serve as a bridge between the higher and lower planes that are manifest in the outward flow of history. Indeed, this is our purpose: to nurture and grow the seed of eternity within the womb of time. (This is not dissimilar to the Jewish concept of tikkun--of participating in the repair and completion of God's creation, nor is it dissimilar to Vedanta, where the point is to identify with the divine atman behind the outward personality.)

In the neo-Platonic view, History is the Aeon, a sort of rotating, hyper-dimensional object that throws an illusory shadow we experience as history. When eternity breaks into time, it bifurcates into a left side and a right side, or more exactly a day side (the horizontal) and a nocturnal side (the vertical). In reality, History cannot be understood without reference to these horizontal and vertical streams. The horizontal aspect of History is well known to us, consisting of the “stream of time” that historians dip into to retrieve facts, documents and events.

But contemporary historians, who focus exclusively on the horizontal, have forgotten all about the “vertical,” about the womb of History where things inwardly incubate before becoming events in time, and where events in time go to be “worked over” in the dream logic of the night. Nevertheless, all historians unwittingly operate “vertically,” in the sense referred to above. That is, they approach the historical enterprise with a “topdown” (or “bottom-up”) view which organizes their search and allows them to “see” what is significant in History (at least to them).

What does it mean to say that something has historical significance, that it is important? Only that the fact in question is a particular that illuminates, or is illuminated by, the values of the historian. But if that is true, then History has only the value given to it by the historian, and is only valuable as long as the illusion lasts.

To contemporary observers, the life of Jesus, or of the Hebrew prophets, was invisible. This is highly instructive. That is, the most important and influential events in human history were completely undetected and overlooked by contemporary sophisticates. Rather, they were noticed only by a handful of provincial rubes who "saw" and "heard," not with their eyes and ears, but in a trans-cerebral, intuitive manner. It is no different today. The most important events and trends will go unnoticed by the secular mind.

History had a beginning, of that we may be certain. Regardless of where you situate the point in time, there was a moment when a particular species on a particular planet violated all that had happened before in the cosmos, broke with nature, and “lifted” itself out the stream of mere duration, so that the stream could be observed. Up to that time there was only the stream, then suddenly humans discovered that they were “floating” on the stream that carried them along. By virtue of this fact alone, we see that we are not equivalent to the material stream. But at the same time, our lives are lived in and on the stream, and the stream appears to be antecedent to our having been here.

Since the selection of historical facts is guided by what the historian regards as important or meaningful, I would like to suggest that the most important historical fact is the presence of both history and historians, and what makes them possible, specifically, this other dimension of History operating perpendicular to the horizontal flow of time: vertical history. This type of history is not a product of history, but is the origin of history, the basis of history, and the ultimate point of History. Using this approach, we look at horizontal, exterior history for evidence of vertical, interior history.

The analogy with an individual person's history is exact. For example, patients come to therapy with a narrative of their past life, chronicling their experiences with parents, their education, their friendships, loves, passions, conflicts, etc. But as a psychologist, I am not so much interested in this horizontal narrative as I am of evidence of influences coming from a vertical dimension called the unconscious. All along, their lives have been shadowed by this unconscious, which has continuously created, shaped, sabotaged, or prevented events in the horizontal, even (or especially) if they have been completely unaware of it. Some lucky people are also aware of a higher vertical influence that has been influencing and guiding their life “from above.”

In fact, the great discovery common to all religions is the existence of a vertical influence operating both personally and collectively, this one coming from a “higher” dimension rather than from the unconscious below. It is what the Book of Genesis refers to in mythological terms when it says that man was created in God’s image (in that we are “mirrors” of the One who exists outside horizontal time), or in the Gospels, where John the Baptist bears witness to the (vertical) light--when the spirit “descended like a dove” on Jesus. In fact, the figure of Jesus is regarded as the essence of the vertical energies deposited into horizontal time, or the “word made flesh.” What is salvation history but the attempt to look for the meaning of History in light of its ultimate vertical perspective, the “exclamation point” or (eschclamation point) at the end (or top)?

Time for human beings is not the mere abstract duration of physics, but the very substance of our being, the “form of inner sense," as Kant put it. The soul is a mysterious point of potential freedom in space, while the human species is engaged in a sprint toward the realization of this freedom in historical time. History is really only one great cosmic event: the attempt to become conscious and return to God, opposed at every step by deterministic forces on the horizontal plane and by lower, anti-Divine ones on the vertical.

The time allotted to us is analogous to the shutter of a camera; it opens with our birth, allowing in the small amount of light we must work with before it closes and the universe vanishes. With that light we must enter our “dark room” and develop our conception of existence--what we are, why we are here, and what is our relationship to the whole. There are pneumagraphs laying around that others have left behind--scripture, books, images and institutions. Some of them were successful in capturing the Light, others only darkness visible.

There is so little time, but time is literally all we have: we must work while it is day, for the night cometh, when no man can work. Saying you have no time is logically equivalent to saying that you have no life, light or freedom. If you are not free, then your time really is nothing more than duration. And if you have no light, you are free in the illusory way that an animal is--free to be led horizontally by your instincts and learned behaviors.

Time. Freedom. Light. If you don’t have one, you really don’t have the others either. Your life is history.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or a right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream: the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. --Ronald Reagan

The natural course of the world is aging, sickness, and death; this means degeneration. This is not a path, but rather an unconscious gliding down of consciousness into the realm of unknowing, of forgetting, sleep and death. In contrast to this exists a path going in the opposite direction to the “way of the world,” like swimming against the the stream of the world.... Over and against the soporific influence of the world stands the way of awakening. Calls to awaken go forth from age to age originating from powerful Awakened Ones, each of whom is the central point of an awakening impulse, and who teaches the appropriate way, exemplified in himself. --Valentin Tomberg

Monday, May 08, 2006

Cosmic War I

I’m very pressed for time this morning and undoubtedly don’t have enough time to say what I wanted to say. Once again, the idea occurred to me on a whim, after leaving a comment on American Digest in response to Van der Leun's piece about the left’s meltdown upon hearing George Bush refer to the war on terror as ”World War III”.

Remember the other day, I made reference to Bion’s idea about “attacks on linking,” in which the individual dismantles the thinking process so as to be unable to recognize truth? The left’s reaction to the President’s statement is a fine example. In order to not perceive the simple truth that we are in a world war--if for no other reason than our enemies are in a global war with us--the mind must unconsciously “attack” any evidence that leads to that conclusion. Thus, it may look like President Bush is being attacked, but he is incidental to the deeper process of attacking and dismantling a reality that the left does not wish to see.

Anyway, in response to the piece, I impulsively typed the comment, “I realize that it's not fashionable to say so, but it's actually the denouement of Cosmic War I.” That is, we divide history into this or that war, but if we truly stand back and take a “martian’s eye view” of the situation, and try to look at history from without rather than within, we can see that this is so. In reality, human history has been just one long battle.

There are two ways of looking at this, one way rather pessimistic, the other way more optimistic. The pessimistic view is that there is something innate--perhaps even genetic--that makes human beings love war. There is this romantic notion that deep down human beings are gentle and peace-loving noble savages, but I presented some of the latest research in my book explaining how this is not the case. Rather, primitive groups were actually much more violent than we are. It’s just that the violence took place on such a small scale, that it’s not as noticeable.

In his book Constant Battles, archaeologist Steven LeBlanc noted that the “cruel and ugly” truth is that in traditional societies an average of twenty-five percent of the men died from warfare. Anthropologist Lawrence Keeley, in his War Before Civilization, noted that “Whenever modern humans appear on the scene, definitive evidence of homicidal violence becomes more common.... If anything, peace was a scarcer commodity... than for the average citizen of a civilized state.”

Indeed, LeBlanc writes that the homicide rate of some prehistoric villages would have been 1400 times that of modern Britain and about 70 times that of the United States in 1980. Although roughly 100 million people died from all war-related causes in the twentieth century, Keeley estimated that this figure is twenty times smaller than the losses that might have resulted if the world’s population were still organized into bands, tribes and chiefdoms.

Keep that last figure in mind in considering the nature of World War III---or what I believe is Cosmic War I. At the moment, our enemies are limited to killing only as many as they can. But what if they were only limited by how many they wanted to kill? I think you get Keeley’s point. The primitives with whom we are at war are limited only by the means, not the will. We, on the other hand, are not limited by our means, but by our will. If any of you read that gruesome story this weekend about the beheaded Iraqi journalist, it is hard to imagine that our enemies would repeat this infinitely evil act upon millions and millions of people if only they could. And yet, they would--to you, your children, anyone they could get their hands on

Because of “attacks on linking,” we are not even allowed to think about the possibility of using nukes against Iran, because that would be "too cruel." But should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, I imagine the only thing that might stop them from using them is that they would not be cruel enough.

Well, I’m really running short of time. What I really wanted to discuss was the nature of Cosmic War I, but I see that Van der Leun has beat me to the punch anyway. His wonderful essay this morning, Clear History, touches on many of the themes I might have if I had had the time. He captures the pan-historical sweep of the war we are engaged in, whereas I barely have time to spiel-check what I’ve just spieled.

One more thing--I mentioned that there is an "optimistic" way of looking at the cosmic war we are engaged in. Van der Leun implicitly touches on this, but unfortunatley I am flat out of time, so it will have to wait until tomorrow.


Good thing it's only a hammer.

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