Friday, November 10, 2006

On Flushing Reality Down the Psychic Toilet (3.3.08)

I’m trying to imagine what it must feel like for Horizontal Man to win an election. I know that for me and other vertical beings of my acquaintance, there is no great joy upon winning an election, usually just relief that we have managed to temporarily pull the cultural plane out of its death spiral. But for Horizontal Man, politics is his religion, which is the whole problem with his politics.

Vertical man is born again “from above,” drawing energies from the cosmogonic center and radiating them to the horizontal periphery. But since Horizontal Man is trapped in the bewilderness of his contingent being (i.e., maya), he projects the above into the future, and constructs a faux spiritual life that attempts to draw psychic energies from this self-created illusion. In other words, he practices the religion of progressivism, in which belief in a transcendent heaven is immamentized and nourishes the place where his soul should be. In doing so, he receives a kind of existential consolation which may be compared to a form of counterfeit grace, in particular, when he imagines that he is in proximity to this heaven and therefore closer to being “saved” from the existential situation that afflicts all humans.

You can clearly see this mechanism of horizontal salvation in action. For if reality were actually what the fantasists of the left have been saying it was prior to the election, we would not see manic exaltation among their ranks. Rather, we would see great sobriety and moral seriousness, as they brood on the monumental achievement of having just barely prevented a theo-fascist takeover of America. If this self-evident fantasy had been real, the more appropriate reaction of the left would be sobbing, not fist-pumping and sack dancing.

The great psychoanalyst Melanie Klein divided human psychological development into two main stages, which she termed the paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions. (I will try to avoid pedantry at risk of over-simplification.) For Klein, the primary goal of development was to move from the former to the latter, although in reality, the relationship between the two is more dialectical than linear, similar to the relationship that exists between the conscious and unconscious minds. In other words, we no longer think of an unconscious mind per se, but a dialectical relationship between the conscious and unconscious. This dialectic can be fruitful and generative, or stultifying and self-defeating, but you can no more rid yourself of the unconscious than you could speak without the deep structure of grammar.

Human beings are subject to the nuisance of intrusive thoughts long before they are capable of thinking them. The problem for development is to build a psychic structure in which one may think thoughts instead of merely being thought by them. Naturally, our earliest psychological reality is almost wholly fantastic, and it is actually the primary job of the parent to prolong this fantasy until the baby becomes capable of discovering reality.

This is why you cannot “spoil” an infant. Rather, you must indulge them until they are resilient enough to tolerate the painful and disappointing discovery of reality. Ironically, this can only be achieved if they have a firm foundation of entitlement and generative fantasy -- for example, the fantasy that one’s painful hunger causes a bountiful breast to magically appear out of nowhere. This loving breast must be internalized before the baby makes the disappointing discovery that it actually belongs to mother (let alone, father), or reality will have to be attacked or rejected in some form or fashion. We must be provided with, and then gradually disillusioned of, our infantile omnipotence, on pain of trying to hold on to it for the rest of our lives.

The paranoid-schizoid position takes place in the first year of life. Naturally there is no clear sense of psychological boundaries at this time, which is why the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott made the famous remark that “there is no such thing as an infant.” Rather, there is only a harmonious, mixed-up fusion of mother and baby. The baby’s sense of individual selfhood will only gradually emerge from this primordial matrix.

Klein called this the “paranoid-schizoid position” because it is the source of our most primitive psychological defenses -- i.e., denial, splitting, and projection. These defenses are normative for a baby, but only become problematic to the extent that we fail to evolve into the depressive position. At this early age, we shouldn’t even think of them as defenses, but more as primitive modes of organizing otherwise chaotic experience. For example, splitting early experience into a “good” and “bad” breast is analogous to God’s separation of the primordial waters. It is an attempt to achieve safety by placing a distance between what are in reality different aspects of oneself. Projection obviously works the same way.

In the depressive position, the infant gradually integrates experience into a coherent self which is able to distinguish fantasy from reality. You might think that this is an unproblematic achievement, but you would be quite wrong. We all carry remnants of the paranoid-schizoid position, some much more so than others (in my book, I refer to these remnants as “mind parasites”).

For example, the borderline individual engages in severe splitting between good and bad. If you disappoint or frustrate them, they will suddenly perceive you as all bad, completely forgetting their many positive experiences with you. It is as if the “good you” no longer exists (this process should not be confused with garden-variety PMS). Likewise, a narcissistic individual only has use for you so long as you serve as a mirror for their primitive, paranoid-schizoid grandiosity. As soon as you fail to idealize them, they will react with anger or contempt in order to maintain their illusion of greatness.

The “manic defenses” are those defenses that prevent movement from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position, and include contempt, triumph, control and idealization. Basically, you can think of these defenses as coming into play when reality threatens to impinge upon fantasy. In fact, these defenses ultimately consist of attacks on a reality the individual has discovered but does not wish to perceive.

Yesterday we touched on the concept of “group fantasy.” In my view, the philosophy of secular leftism is very much rooted in the paranoid-schizoid position, whereas the classical liberalism embodied in the conservative intellectual movement is much more reflective of the depressive position. Here, I hope it should go without saying that I am not referring to individuals, as there are obviously many immature conservatives and mature liberals. Rather, I am specifically discussing the group dynamic.

If I am correct, then we will see in conservatism a much more sober and realistic assessment of mankind. As I have mentioned before, I am of the view that conservatism is as much an inclination, temperament, or “cast of mind” as it is any set doctrine. In fact, the doctrines follow from the temperament rather than vice versa. This would explain why normal people generally become more conservative as they mature and grow wiser, whereas leftism mostly appeals to the young or to the permanently immature of academia and Hollywood.

A while back, I wrote a post which summarized the main tenets of conservatism and liberalism. Let’s review them and see how they line up in terms of the paranoid-schizoid vs. depressive positions. I think they basically speak for themselves.

Russell Kirk summarized the six canons of conservative thought as

1. Belief in a transcendent order; and that most political problems are moral problems resulting from bad values. (To cite an obvious example, if Hispanic or Black Americans adopted Asian American values, they would be just as successful.)

2. Appreciation of the ineffable mystery of existence, and with it, opposition to the tedious uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of of most radical systems.

3. An understanding that liberty and equality are contradictory aims; a belief that there are distinctions between men and that classes will emerge naturally and spontaneously in a free society. “If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum.”

4. A belief that property and freedom are intimately linked. “Economic leveling... is not economic progress.”

5. Distrust of radical schemes by liberal intellectuals “who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs” that simply mask the intellectual’s lust for power.

6. Recognition that change and reform are not synonymous, and that “prudent change is the means of social preservation.”

In contrast, contemporary left-liberalism has entirely different assumptions and attacks (manically, in my estimation) the existing social order on the following grounds:

1. “The perfectibility of man”; the belief that education, environment or legislation “can produce men like gods; they deny that humanity has a natural proclivity towards violence and sin.”

2. Contempt for tradition. “Formal religion is rejected and various ideologies are presented as substitutes.”

3. Political leveling: “Order and privilege are condemned,” accompanied by “an eagerness for centralization and consolidation.”

4. Economic leveling: “The ancient rights of property... are suspect to almost all radicals.”

In closing, here is a fine example of paranoid-schizoid thinking drawn from dailykos, with the edifying title The Bowel Has Moved. If we could give voice to the paranoid-schizoid position, this is exactly what it would sound like (although any infantile rant by Keith Olbermann or Bill Maher would do just as well). A mere three days ago, President Bush was a terrifying, omnipotent figure of pure evil destroying our democracy. But now, thanks to psychological splitting, he is “a weak man in over his head -- a Dan Quayle for our times.” And thanks to projection, Karl Rove, the “giant turd clogging the colon of American politics.... has been flushed.”

But there is one thing of which we may be absolutely certain: that the bad object will not stay down long, because, in the words of the great psychologist Dr. Beavis, “you can’t run away from your bunghole.”

Last night I dreamt of an angry, diapered mob chasing John Bolton with plungers....  

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Elections, Group Fantasy, and Human Sacrifice

One of the reasons why most MSM political writing is so shallow, is that it is analogous to a person with no knowledge of the unconscious writing about the mind. Such a person will necessarily place undue emphasis on conscious motivations, when for most people, the conscious mind is a fleeting jumble of patchwork improvisations compared to the more enduring patterns the unconscious mind. This applies both individually and collectively, for as I have stated in the past, a culture or subculture is like a public neurosis, while a neurosis is like a private culture. Religion, in its proper sense, is (among other obvious reasons) here to rescue us from the foolishness of culture -- to provide a key to eternity within the transient productions of time.

One of Freud’s central discoveries was that the unconscious mind operates along the lines of an entirely different kind of logic than does the conscious mind. Among other things, it is timeless, in the sense that various enduring complexes and fixations operate outside the personal will and repeat themselves in an ultimately self-defeating way.

But from the standpoint of these mind parasites, the job of the ego is simply to rationalize and spin a sort of false continuity over the various inconsistencies that result from vertical splits within the unconscious mind. This is why most people are so patently illogical, in particular, intellectuals. Furthermore, this explains why no one is so prone to illusions and magic than the intellectual, as they are like someone who (using the symbols in my book) superimposes a grid of knowledge (k) over the noumenal reality (O), and then confuses the map with the territory. There is no idea so foolish that it is not taught at one of our elite universities.

In reality, the local ego floats within a sea of nonlocal consciousness extending both “up” and “down” (please don’t be like an intellectual and take the map literally). Now, there is no question that we exist in time and that the human being evolved within time. The ego is an adaptation to this temporal existence, but it is only an adaptation. All traditions agree that a central task of the spiritual life is to dis-identify with this illusory local and contingent being and to become aware of the greater reality of which it is only a local manifestation.

However, things will go seriously awry if you merely loosen the bonds of the ego and wade into the unconscious unawares, for you may well simply open the gates of hell, as the history of religion often demonstrates. In reality, the Islamists are hardly “religious.” Rather, they are “unconscious.” However, what most westerners do not understand -- perhaps because of the pride and prestige of the intellect -- is that they are also serious intellectuals who have a clearly articulated ideology. As I have had occasion to mention many times, we are in a triangulated global war between three ideologies, two of which are naively steeped in unconscious fantasy (Islamism and secular leftism). While everyone is subject to unconscious motivations, the classical liberalism of American conservatism is rooted in a far more realistic vision of human nature than any of its competitors.

Obviously we are seeing an abundance of analysis of the recent election, but to me, most of it is about as illuminating as an intellectual patient’s rationalizations of his self-defeating behavior. Intellectuals are just like anyone else, only worse, in that they do not so much reason as rationalize what they already believe anyway.

Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause observes that “most of what is in history books is stark raving mad -- the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane.” He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different “group fantasies” which are designed not to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties.

This is why the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear -- witch hunts, senseless wars, racial and religious scapegoating, panics of various kinds. But if your perceptual abilities have not been damaged by multiculturalism, you can see the fantasies just as clearly in the present. For example, as noted above, our “war on terror” is being waged against Islamist fantasists for whom reality does not enter into the equation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very existence, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti-Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal.

The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the “mood of the country,” which mostly consists of “gut feelings” that have nothing to do with actual conditions, only with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.

As such, the fact that the economy is thriving is literally inconsequential to the significant majority of Americans who fantasize that it is not. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression. In fact, this is often what makes a “great leader”: the ability to forge a strong and compelling fantasy for people to believe in. When the mood of a populace is “angry” or “sullen,” as pollsters have been repeating ad nauseam, it is almost always because the group fantasy -- whose purpose it is to contain primitive anxiety -- is breaking down.

The identical thing happens to a patient who is “decompensating.” The colloquial term for this is a “nervous breakdown,” but what it really means is that the ego’s customary defenses are failing and that the person is being overwhelmed by unconscious material. People will often make rash and irrational choices in such a situation, for example, making Nancy Pelosi speaker of the house and imagining that it will stop the psychic bleeding. It might, but only for the time it takes for the unconscious cycle to renew itself.

So a national opinion poll -- including an election -- doesn’t necessarily provide much in the way of objective information about objective circumstances, but subjective data about how it “feels” to be part of a historical group at a particular time. In fact, deMause turns the presidential approval rating on its head. He doesn’t believe that it actually measures approval but disapproval about how effectively or ineffectively a fantasy leader is “containing” the public’s anxiety. Since the group is largely driven by fantasy, it naturally follows that they will look for a leader who can reassure them about the world and diminish their anxiety.

In this regard, it is a mistake to think of the fantasy leader as an oedipal parent; the process is much more primitive, involving the need for pre-oedipal projection and containment. Using this method, one would not say that President Bush has a 35% approval rating, but a 65% “toxicity” rating. But the toxicity is a measure of how much unconscious material is being projected into him by a large segment of the group.

This is one of the reasons it is so wearying to be president, because it involves the day-to-day processing of so much irrational projection of hatred and anxiety. I personally don’t know how President Bush puts up with it. All therapists know how difficult it is to deal with just one borderline patient in their practice, but it is as if a president must deal with the projections of fifty million or so difficult patients who are irrationally experiencing him as evil incarnate. The president must be a receptacle for continuous projections from various levels of emotional immaturity and unreality. And in the case of President Bush, who tends not to fight back and engage with the projections, it only makes that part of the population more enraged with him, just as a borderline patient would feel outraged if the therapist did not take their perceptions seriously, no matter how distorted. One of the difficult things about being a therapist is “holding” the patient’s negative projections. You cannot just say, “I’m not your father who abused you! I’m me!” Rather, you must patiently tolerate being Dr. Evil while helping them discover the psychic truth behind their projection.

It is fascinating to note that the left is so out of touch with their fantasies about President Bush, that one constantly reads about how they imagine that he is fighting back in the most dangerous and extreme way -- that he doesn’t tolerate dissent, that he questions people’s patriotism, that he is destroying our civil rights, that he punishes ideological enemies. Pure projection.

People who are stripped of important group fantasies will feel like they are going crazy -- just like primitive groups who are suddenly “decultured” of the myths that have served to organize their cognitive/emotional world. It is fair to say that the left has been dealing with this sort of anxiety since the 1980’s, as their various political fantasies have been discredited one by one. But just like a religious group that predicts the second coming, the majority of leftists simply dig in their heels when their predictions prove false. This shows the extent to which their outward political ideology rests on a deeper structure of irrational fantasy that is nearly impossible to eradicate.

deMause outlines a four-part process that the fantasy leader undergoes in relation to the group. At first the group will see him as unrealistically strong, magically able to unify the group and keep enemies at bay. Certainly we saw this in the months after 9-11, when President Bush was so popular. Again, his popularity had little to do with the actual merits of his policies, but with the public’s need to feel safe, and the feeling that Bush would protect them. Stage two is the “cracking” stage, when the feelings of magical nurturing begin to deteriorate, so that the public’s mood begins to feel unstable and dangerous. The leader begins to be experienced as weak, unable to control events. Looking back, I believe that this really started with the successful attacks on President Bush’s Thanksgiving trip to Iraq a couple of years ago, but especially after the Terry Schiavo matter.

Stage three, “collapse,” occurs when the public begins to feel that the fantasy leader is helpless to prevent catastrophe -- when the group’s anxiety has become unhinged and uncontained in a completely unrealistic way. This brings on pure rage and free-floating paranoid fantasies of death and destruction. Thus we see the President unrealistically blamed and vilified for all sorts of things outside his control -- homosexual predators, hurricaines, rising (but never falling) gas prices, global warming, deadly flu pandemics, etc. He is seen as weak and vulnerable, which triggers a wave of near homicidal anxiety that aims to purify the group by ritual slaying of the divine king, identical to what took place in the most primitive tribes.

One of the geniuses of the American system is that it accounts for both our civilized and our primitive natures. In holding national elections every two years, it provides an outlet for primitive anxieties that historically toppled regimes. In other words, it institutionalizes the logic of human sacrifice, which is stage four of the group fantasy cycle. Thus it is no coincidence that President Bush performed a human sacrifice and held up the head of Donald Rumsfeld to the baying MSM fantasists on the morning after the election. If you keep up with the ranting of the infantile left at dailykos or huffingtonpost, nothing less than some form of human sacrifice would have answered their homicidal rage. But one thing we can know with certainty: it won’t work, for magic is a symtom of that which it purports to cure.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let the Dems Bury the Dems

Regardless of what happens today, it shouldn’t greatly affect the spiritual equilibrium of the Superior Man, whose invisible combat will continue unabated. Indeed, this is what distinguishes us from the agitated multitude of horizontal men who locate their salvation in politics. To witness the fevered excitement of a crass and loudmouthed vulgarian such as Chris Matthews or the adamantine darkness visible of a Keith Olbermann and the kos-bags for whom he shrieks is to see the human pig in all its naked horizontal glory.

Whatever the outcome, our lives will continue to center around our own salvation, not for narcissistic reasons, but for the simple reason that it is not possible to save others unless we have first saved ourselves. Needless to say, horizontal Republicans will not save us from horizontal Democrats. Both bad religion and bad politics follow from the belief that it is possible for essentially lost souls to save other lost souls, which simply ends up drowning both parties -- the blind leading the bland straight into the abyss.

The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can lie in its usefulness to the individual -- again, not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose.

To say that human beings cannot live without an ultimate purpose is another way of saying that man is condemned to transcendence and that he cannot avoid the vertical. The choice is whether he will bow before a manmade idol or stand in the light of the Absolute that is the true source of his quasi-divine dignity and metacosmic stature.

Nor, let it be emphasized, can human beings deny the horizontal, on pain of not existing. In order to be at all, we must be separate from the Absolute. The task before us is to find the proper balance between vertical and horizontal, spirit and matter, time and eternity. Horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit, meretrocious version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine power.

Taken to its logical extreme, this manifests as the demagogue or dictator-god who expresses the vitalistic will of the people. But all forms of leftism lie on this continuum, including the dark side of American democracy, of “people power,” of class warfare, of the false absolutes of “diversity” and cultural and moral relativism. So much of the pandering of the left is merely totalitarianism in disguise -- a false absolute and a counterfeit vertical.

But we all know -- should know -- that there is a horizontal aspect to the true vertical, which manifests as humility, submission, spontaneous adoration, and a sense of awe before the sacred. Ironically, horizontal man possesses none of these virtues. Rather, he is proud, vulgar, blasphemous, and blind to the sacred, all of which inflate his own self-importance and lift him far above his spiritual superiors.

There is no one so vertical -- in its inverted sense -- as the naive atheist or secular leftist, a contingent being who fraudulently claims absolute metaphysical knowledge for himself. And there is no one so inflated with narcissistic hubris than the leftist social engineer who will save mankind from its own self-inflicted need for salvation. The leftist can give man everything but what he most needs, and in so doing, destroys the possibility of man.

For horizontality goes hand in hand with exteriority and outwardness, which is the initial direction of the fall: first out, then down. Horizontal man is down and out, whereas salvolution lies up and in. Animals are almost entirely exterior. They do not actually live in the world, but in the closed system of their own neurology. Only man -- inexplicably and miraculously on any strict scientific grounds -- can exit the closed system of his own neurology and enter higher worlds, worlds of truth, beauty, and moral goodness.

To be in contact with these higher worlds is to be man. To neglect or deny these anterior worlds is to destroy man, precisely. It is to starve and suffocate man’s spirit by laying waste to his proper environment, the only environment in which he can grow into full manhood. You cannot replace the holy grail with the lowly gruel of flatland materialism and expect it to feed the multitudes. Human beings do not draw their spiritual nourishment from outside but from above -- which in turn “spiritualizes” and sacralizes the horizontal.

Being what he is -- and isn’t -- horizontal man externalizes concerns about his own collective suicide and obsesses over the future of the planet, over speculative weather reports one hundred years hence.

But right now there is a hell and there is a hand basket, because we can clearly see both with our own third eyes. Furthermore, we can see exactly who is running with baskets in both hands.

Now, vertical man never obsesses, let alone enters the state of perpetual hysteria of horizontal man. Nevertheless, vertical man naturally frets about the deteriorating conditions of the interior of the human world, and its seemingly unimpeded slide into barbarism, spiritual exhaustion, scientistic magic, neo-paganism, self-worship, the cult of the body, abstract materialism, and a vapid and rudderless subjectivism.

Such lost souls cannot discern the signs of the times, much less the direction of history. For them, history can be nothing more than a meaningless tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying a nice paycheck and adoring coeds. Horizontal man scoffs at spiritual reality on the peculiar grounds that it cannot exist, denying its presence with that which affirms it by virtue of its self-evident existence.

It is a truism that vertical man paradoxically lives very close to the ground, hence the cautionary tales of Eden, of Icarus, of Babel, and of various episodes of the Honeymooners. In contrast, horizontal man seizes what does not properly belong to him, not just recapitulating the fall but enshrining it in his ideology.

But when you cast your vote for horizontal man, you are unwittingly chipping away at the foundation of the very tower in which horizontal man is privileged to sit despite his metaphysical ignorance. For in reality, we only have the luxury of superfluous and slumbering horizontal men because of the vertical men -- real men -- who came before and built the foundation brick by brick (except for the cornerstone, which was not made by human hands).

Thus we can see our own possible future by casting our gaze at Europe, which is too high and top-heavy for its own long-forgotten foundations, and is in the process of toppling into dust. For when horizontal man falls, he doesn’t actually fall far, only back down to the ground where vertical man awaits him.

Yes, we are exiled in time, but for vertical man, time does not alter the basic existential situation which religion is here to address. It is believed by our intellectually and spiritually shallow elites that religion is no longer relevant. In so doing, they underscore their own irrelevance, for they blame Truth for their own lack of qualification to understand and accept it. Suffice it to say that to be eternally young is to forever grow -- only inward and upward, toward the primordial light that has already defeated horizontal darkness, today and forever.

So render unto the horizontal the things that belong to the horizontal, but do not store your treasures there, where myths corrupt and chickens come home to roost. As always, be as wise as the horizontal serpents who stand on their bellies, but innocent as vertical doves who kneel on wings.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Snake, an Apple, and a Ballot Box

What is at stake Tuesday is the same thing that has been at stake since time immemorial: a choice between the truth that is, has always been, and cannot be invented; and a shallow and improvised falsehood that man -- both individually and collectively -- perpetually fabricates to shield himself from reality. If truth is known and embraced, it is efficacious and leads to dynamic progress. But to the extent that truth is warped or denied, the only result can be various degrees of catastrophe in the form of sharp blows from reality.

There is no getting around the fact that the "culture war" is at bottom a theological dispute between secular and traditionally religious forces. But it would be a great error to conclude that the war therefore involves atheistic vs. theistic camps, much less logic vs. faith. Rather, it is a war of competing theisms, each rooted in faith and steeped in metaphysics. Radical secularists are rarely neutral about God -- in fact, they are obviously burning with passion about spiritual matters. Secular leftism merely replaces one God with another, but in so doing, destroys man.

Human beings cannot help being religious. One of the benefits of religion --properly understood -- is that it prevents the mind from regressing into the magical worldview that preceded its development. Sophisticated secularists believe they are making progress by leaving the “superstitions” of religion behind, but this is rarely the case. As Chesterson said, instead of believing “nothing,” they tend to believe in “anything,” which is where the pseudo-religion of contemporary liberalism -- that is, leftism -- rushes in to fill the void.

Elections are about intentions and about truth. In an election, we are not just choosing a candidate, but choosing our future and affirming what we believe to be true -- not just the facts, but the paradigm for interpreting them. When truth and intent coincide, then progress can occur. But if there is a rupture between them, then democracy easily becomes the method of its own demise.

Almost all liberals have good intentions. The question is whether their intentions are in accord with reality. For if we could only discern what is true, then voting would be seen not so much as a choice but a ratification of the obvious. In the end, you cannot really vote to reject reality. Or you can, but you’ll lose every time.

It seems that the impending election may represent a forked tongue in the historical road ahead. One way or the other, history will inevitably arrive at its appointed deustination, but an election allows us to vote yea or nay on where it has recently been, and to try to steer it in another direction. But without real truth and insight, this exercise can be as frivolous as taking a vote on where your own life has been the previous two years and expecting things to magically change.

We keep hearing that this election is a “referendum on Iraq,” but as always, it is a referendum on reality. In order to not perceive the simple reality that we are in a world war, the leftist 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.

The MSM and their political action wing, the Democratic Party, is not only wrong, but not even wrong, because it is not operating in an environment where truth is permitted, much less perceived. Or, to be perfectly accurate, the truth is unconsciously perceived, over which is erected a makeshift lie that can be easily discerned by any clear thinker. Dr. Sanity writes this morning,

“There has always been something wrong with the MSM's train of reasoning. First the press persisted in encouraging the delusion that no WMD's or their antecedents were ever found in Iraq and that ‘Bush lied.’ Now they want you to believe that Saddam indeed had a detailed and documented program developing WMD's; but that the real problem is that Bush Administration's reckless publishing of the details of that program has facilitated Iran becoming a nuclear power....

“I suspect that the first MSM meme -- that Saddam had no WMD's -- was a type of ‘concrete thinking’; or possibly an unbelievable lack of imagination.... Or maybe, just maybe, no amount of evidence would ever convince some people that Saddam was a threat to the U.S. and the entire world and that he had WMD's.”


Although we are individuals, we are immersed in a collective mentality out of which our individuality must be won. On the horizontal level, our “groupishness” is anterior to our individual self, while the reverse is true vertically. Thus, it should not be surprising that we have a political system that reflects this primordial division (speaking, of course, in very broad, even cosmic, generalizations that have many exceptions and are rarely seen in their pure, archetypal form.)

For there is a “left hand” party of horizontality, groupishness, and rebellious pseudo-indvidualism, and a “right hand” party of verticality and individual development. Many consequences flow from this initial bifurcation of mankind. Right hand man, because he sees his earthly vocation as vertical transcendence, masters himself and loves doing so. Because of this, he does not require a heavy-handed government to compel him to do the right thing. In such an individual, the conquest of even a petty desire is a victory for God if it brings him closer to his true Self, a Self that can only be discovered and developed in an environment of liberty. For vertical man, society is useful to the extent that it helps man realize his reason for being. A society is more or less sick if it does not embody, preserve, and foster verticality.

Vertical Man believes that our primary obligation is to defend man from himself, whereas Horizontal Man believes that his primary obligation is to generate conditions that allow man to indulge himself. As such, he has no interest in mastering himself, for doing so is identified with judgmentalism and oppression. Horizontal man celebrates what is most common and coarse, for there is nothing higher to aim at. Rather, the only “higher” is more freedom, which is liberty understood only in its horizontal aspect. In other words, while liberty is freedom oriented toward a spiritual telos, mere horizontal freedom is license to express one’s whims and impulses. The former is objective and radiates; the latter is subjective and encloses. Vertical liberty leads to Truth, Beauty and Goodness; horizontal freedom leads to “my truth,” moral relativism, and ugliness and barbarism masquerading as art.

But if truth is relative and perception is reality, then no one’s ideas about the world are any better than anyone else’s. Fact is reduced to opinion, and conformity to opinion is ultimately maintained by the group or institution that has the power to enforce its version of reality. Ironically, this achieves the opposite effect intended by its liberal proponents. That is, if we cannot judge the merit of competing ideas by assessing their value in light of an absolute standard, then either everyone will have their own private truth, or truth will be enforced by the state or some other powerful collectivity. On college campuses, no one is unsophisticated enough to believe that truth exists; however, you'd better not utter the wrong truth, or you will come face to face with the Fist that enforces absolute horizontal relativism.

Horizontal man lives below himself because that is all he can do. Quantity must somehow make up for qualities that can only be found in the vertical, which is why horizontal man can never get enough of what he doesn't really need, and why no economy will be “good enough” for him. Tomorrow, millions of horizontal men will be basing their vote on a fantasy that the economy is “doing poorly,” which flies in the face of the barest acquaintance with reality. By definition, horizontal man can only measure progress empirically, but even then, empiricism must ultimately be ignored because it does not speak to the unrecognized non-empirical needs of the soul. Thus, the impoverished soul, with no other outlet to express itself, will do so in the language of quantities -- the many variations of the infant’s “more! more! more!”

The horizontal/vertical divide can also be seen as a reflection of the division between id and superego, or impulses and standards. Based upon a profound misunderstanding of Freud (if a misunderstanding can be called profound), a horizontal psychology emerged in the 1960s to go along with the horizontal ideology of the left, in order to legitimize what in any traditional context would be regarded as the essence of pathology. Major leftist intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse and N.O. Brown developed a bastardized version of Freudianism to argue that people only imagined they were happy, but that they were actually living "inauthentic," repressed lives. In order to be "real," they had to express themselves in an uninhibited and unrepressed manner. Thus followed the idealization of the primitive in all its ghastly forms. For horizontal man does not actually remain horizontal. Rather, he simply removes the impediments to his own fall -- which can admittedly feel exhilarating until one eventually reaches a realm that is without light or warmth.

Regarding our horizontal groupishness, multiculturalism devalues the concept of the individual in favor of the ethnic group, while socialism in all its forms favors the large and powerful state that unites us all (and suppresses -- for any time government does something for you, it does something to you). Deconstruction throws all objective meaning into question, so no one has to have the disappointing experience of being wrong or denied tenure, no matter how stupid one's ideas. The burden of personal responsibility is mitigated, because one's being is determined by accidental factors such as race, class and gender, not one's owns values, decisions and actions. Skillful knowledge acquired by intense effort is replaced by an obnoxious, hypertrophied adolescent skepticism that knows only how to question but not to learn. It is grounded in a sort of bovine materialism that is not the realm of answers, but the graveyard of meaningful questions. The primitive is idealized, because it is within everyone's reach; it is painful to have standards, because not everyone can attain them.


The purpose of religion is to become human. Biology will only take you so far, which is not very far at all. A merely biological human being would also be a monster, a misfit, something grotesque. In our bones we know this. In Genesis, the first thing Adam and Eve realize upon attaining self-consciousness is their nakedness, of which they are ashamed. They know instantaneously -- another one of those things we cannot not know unless we are highly educated -- that they are not like the other animals and that there is something shameful in behaving like one.

In so many ways the contemporary left presents a teaching that is completely at odds with our divine blueprint. “You and me baby ain't nothing' but mammals, So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel,” as the Bloodhound Gang put it. How did this monstrous inversion occur? It has nothing at all to do with classical liberalism, which was always rooted in the traditional virtues, those perennial truths of our humanness.

Leftism, in all its forms, is a revolt. Specifically, it is a revolt against our divine-human nature. With the 1960’s came the pervasive message that one could be an authentic human only by being subhuman, by rejecting all of society’s hypocritical mores and values. Therefore -- in a complete inversion of the cosmic order -- the purpose of life was to become “unrepressed” and to overturn tradition, which was simply an illegitimate means of control and domination.

This is why the left cannot help aligning itself with movements -- no matter how vile or evil -- that further this goal of overturning Western values. On a more mundane level, it is one more reason why they do not wish to see the war we are engaged in, because recognizing it would expose the frivolousness of their world view and their very lives.


The establishment does not require the rebel but the rebel requires the establishment, in the same way that the adolescent requires his parents to act out his rebellion. Therefore, leftism isn't just reactionary, but it is a dance of projective identification in which the leftist projects the most human parts of himself outside and then rebels against them. This is what allows him to live without guilt, for the guilt is converted into the imaginary “right wing fascism” that persecutes him.

Ultimately, radical secularism fails as a religion because it has no God, only demons: George Bush, Christian fundamentalists, Mark Foley, "domestic surveillance," Israel, tax cuts for the rich, “stolen elections,” water boarding, Halliburton, Fox News, Abu Ghraib, Karl Rove, corporate profits, disparities in wealth, strict constructionists, parental notification, talk radio, and so many more. On the other hand, the sort of classical liberalism to which I ascribe -- now embodied in the modern American conservative movement -- recognizes that politics must aim at something that is not politics, something higher, not lower. The alienation of the world can be healed, but not in the flat and horizontal line of secular history, or in the endlessly recurring cycle of primitive fusion with nature, but in the ascending, evolutionary spiral.

The secular world is a value-free flatland of nihilism and urgent nonsense, whereas the vertical world accessed by authentic spirituality is a world of hierarchical values to which we are perpetually drawn. It is here that the frontier of psychohistorical evolution lies, for so long as there are free individuals endowed by their Creator with an orientation toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, there will always be upward frontiers, not just horizontal edges.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Life Goes On... and In and Up

As an aside, let me just say that... Wait, this can’t be an aside, because I haven’t even started yet. It must be an affront. As an affront -- especially to atheists -- let me just say that it is interesting to me that any development in science easily fits into my spiritual understanding of the cosmos, whereas the reverse is never true: the most sublime spiritual knowledge is unknown and unknowable to the closed and hardened mind of the obligatory atheist.

I may have mentioned this before, but I had this idea of publishing my book in the form of a rolodex -- a “holodex,” as it were. That way, any subsequent scientific discoveries could just be inserted at the appropriate point in the 13.7 billion year adventure of cosmic evolution. While I meant for the book to deal in timeless principles that have no “expiration date,” in order to reduce it to a manageable size, I naturally had to treat large swaths of the pilgrimage from God to God as “flyover country.” In a way, you might say that this blog serves that purpose as well. Everything I write here could be inserted somewhere in the book to supplement or expand upon something that’s already there.

There is no outright rejection of God that does not eventually involve rising up against God. Likewise, there is no rejection of science that doesn’t involve a rising up against science. Thus, we have silly books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which is a mirror image of some Islamist or Christian fundamentalist diatribe that rejects science. In the first case the vertical is rejected, while in the second case the horizontal is rejected. Both approaches are worthless to the Integral Man who is in contact with the entire spectrum of reality.

Yesterday Dr. Sanity had an important post entitled Losing Your Memory, Your Insight, and Your Mind. No, unlike Dawkins’ exercise in perfect myopia, it is not a “how to.” Rather, she notes new research that has identified a particular part of the brain that is associated with memory and the capacity for psychological insight (or lack thereof):

“Think about it. Memory is absolutely essential for the ability to develop insight. If you cannot remember events and their antecedents or their consequences, then you would be unable to put these events into any kind of context or perspective. If you forget how you thought or felt about these events yesterday, then you cannot easily review the process of how your thinking or feelings altered or consider why.”

In one sense, as Aristotle said, your soul is everything you know. But in another sense, your soul is only that which you can remember, because what you consciously remember is only a subset of what you know. Furthermore, there are many things we know but don’t want to know. When this happens, we patch over the resulting lacunae -- the willful “unknowing” -- with a kind of false knowledge, or what Bion called -k (minus k).

If we imagine the mind existing on a vertical axis, the Freudian unconscious is the lower vertical area, a psychic repository of things we know but don’t want to know. This means that the ego is often the vehicle of things we think we know, but don’t actually know at all (-k). However, since the vertical extends both above and below, the ego is also the vehicle of things we think we don’t know, but actually do. For example, the most outwardly unspiritual man nevertheless “knows” God in his bones, for this is something we were made to know. This is why Dawkins’ book should have been called the “God Delusion Delusion,” because it is an exercise in -k about O (remember, -k is not mere ignorance, but a “rising up” against knowledge).

As I have mentioned before, in order to talk about spirit at all, language must be employed in a very special manner. On the one hand, language was evolved in order to deal with the mundane problems of a typical day in the archaic environment of 100,000 years ago: finding food and shelter, coping with danger, and impressing women.

However, there is also a vertical aspect of language that mediates between the essence of being and the miracle of knowing. In its sacred or mythological aspect, language is the nexus between the vertical and horizontal realms. It imparts a kind of knowing, but one must not confuse this knowing with profane knowing of the linear and unambiguous variety. Just like everyday language, it reveals and discloses an "object." But it is not a three-dimensional object. Rather, it is a hyperdimensional subject-object. Or you may think of mundane language as dealing with horizontal recollection, while the type of language I am taking about involves vertical recollection. In its absence, you will suffer from another kind of undeveloped insight.

Whereas in the horizontal world there is more or less a one-to-one relationship between word and object (or concept), vertical language is far richer and polysemic, or holographic: a single word can be a vector through which multiple meanings of various levels pass, depending on one's spiritual capacity. One may crystalize a particular interpretation, but a single interpretation cannot exhaust the meaning. This is especially true of the special language called authentic scripture. And yet, it is possible even for scripture to become so saturated with a particular meaning that it loses its capacity to shock, to vault us out of our habitual way of knowing the world. It can be reduced to a mere horizontal knowledge, which is to turn O into -k, precisely.

On the one hand, we can look at the world horizontally and imagine --fantasize, really -- that matter gave rise to life or that brains give rise to truth. However, such a view generates a multitude of insoluble metaphysical paradoxes and dead ends that can only be resolved if we supplement it with the vertical, topdown view.

Esoterically understood, forgetting is associated with sleeping, and sleeping with death. Thus, in order to restore the world and ourselves, we must remember, wake up, arise and be reborn. For just as there is horizontal recollection -- our conventional memory of the past -- there is “vertical recollection” of the above. And it is literally a re-membering, both because we are dismembered and alienated from vital parts of ourselves if we are exiled in the horizontal, but also because there is such a shock of recognition and familiarity when we encounter and re-collect the primordial Truths that are anterior to us.

In order to understand our situation, you might imagine a cross with a horizontal and a vertical arrow. We live at the point of their intersection. The horizontal line has to do with heredity, with Darwinian evolution, with the transmission of culture, etc. If this were all we were, we would be no different than other animals. We would not live in a cognitive space of spiritual freedom, routinely exerting a topdown influence on our horizontal egos. We would not be able to know truth, to love beauty, to will the good, or to delude ourselves with -k about O.

But not everyone seems to have the same degree of topdown influence over themselves-- of free will. In fact, it is a capacity that varies quite widely. According to our unknown friend, "there are strong -- i.e., creative -- souls, and there are weak -- i.e., imitative -- souls. The stronger a soul is, the greater the independence from the semi-hypnotic influence of the model presented by the preceding generations of family.... [T]here are some cases where heredity is reduced to a minimum and other cases where it manifests itself as almost all-powerful."

Thus, there are two kinds of heredity operating in us: a "horizontal heredity" and a "vertical heredity" that seems to shape us from "above" rather than "behind." In my view, when we talk about reincarnation, we are simply acknowledging the reality of vertical heredity. It is a way of talking about something real yet mysterious -- about that part of ourselves that is immaculately conceived and born out of the voidgin.

Back to the issue of memory and insight. For human beings, remembering is to forgetting as waking is to sleeping and birth is to death. Just as it is possible to forget in the horizontal, it is also possible -- inevitable, actually, due to certain primordial calamity -- to suffer I-AMnesia in the vertical. "Forgetting" the vertical reduces man to animality, just as sleep reduces us to vegetality and death to minerality. To sleep is to forget, to forget is to die. To awaken to the vertical is to remember and to actually be alive, or "born again" from above.

The intellect, or heart-mind, is an organ of truth. Just as the heart pumps blood and the lungs exchange oxygen, the intellect functions to metabolize truth. In fact, human beings would cognitively and spiritually starve and suffocate -- do starve and suffocate -- without constant exchanges with the oxidized blood of Truth from above. Because of this exchange, the mind grows and renews itself.

Now, reader JWM has often spoken eloquently of his struggles with faith, with vertical recollection. And yet, at the same time, just yesterday he wrote, “The last time I posted I was down, and feeling like I’ve made no progress, despite a lot of effort.” However, he had a recent experience in the horizontal that made him realize “I have grown much. Much indeed. I guess I had to see it for myself.”

Yes, you see, eternity takes time. Without time -- horizontal duration -- evolution would not be possible. Rather, there would be only the static, timeless vertical world. While human beings are condemned to relativity and contingency, that is only half the story. Rather, we are also condemned to transcendence, and only in “looking back” in the horizontal can we see how much we have grown and how much we have transcended. I can look back 20, or 10, or five, or one year ago, and see a much “shorter” version of the vertical me.

It is said by naive atheists that you cannot prove the existence of God. Fine. Whatever. But there are two things you can easily prove for yourself, 1) the vertical growth that mysteriously occurs as a result of a relationship with this "imaginary" being, and 2) how much metaphysical and philosophical foolishness is generated by people who deny the existence of this being.

Thus, if you want to have a vivid appreciation of God, just visit a typical secular university campus, where the bottomless sea of foolishness (-k) is the only proof of God you need, so conspicuous is He in His absence.

Put it this way: the vertical became horizontal so that the horizontal might become vertical. If that weren't true, I would still think of Richard Dawkins as a deep thinker.

When the inferior man hears about the Tao, he laughs at it; it would not be the Tao if he did not laugh at it... The self-evidence of the Tao is taken for darkness. --Lao Tsu

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