Saturday, December 23, 2006

What Must We Integrate to Be Integral?

I’m trying to figure out why Integralist is so angry with us and why he thinks I’m a dangerous cult leader with a flock of flying monkeys at my back, when I am a benign vice-overlord of a secret lodge with a gang of merry raccoons at my side. I mean, I try my best to be integral. Apparently, I must be integrating something he thinks should be excluded, or excluding something he thinks must be integrated. Still, no reason to get all huffyngton about it. Why can’t he just ridicule me and be done with it, as I do with my many adversaries, both visible and invisible?

A moment’s reflection will reveal that everyone is always an integralist, or at least trying to be. In other words, no one sets out saying to himself, “I shall spend my life formulating a partial philosophy based upon misunderstanding one small portion of the cosmos.” No, we are always integrating, synthesizing, trying to account for everything. That is what our minds do. Or it’s one thing minds do. As Piaget pointed out, our minds constantly assimilate or accommodate -- they either incorporate new information into an existing framework, or else they alter the framework based upon the new information. In the latter case, a new paradigm is required to account for the novelty.

Now, early in life, we are constantly accommodating -- that is, reorganizing our mental structures in order to incorporate new information or novel aspects of the environment. But it seems that -- at least based upon my experience -- most people simply stop accommodating at a certain arbitrary point and settle on a cognitive schema that they will inhabit for the rest of their lives. Obviously, it’s not just rank and file humans that do this. If anything, it is much more common for intellectuals to do so, since they take their ideas (way too ) seriously, and use thought for all kinds of defensive purposes that normal people don’t. Remember, most of the problems in the world are caused by bad ideas of intellectuals -- including, of course Islamism. Think of all the bad leftist intellectual ideas of the 1960’s for which we will be paying for the rest of our lives.

It is a mistake to think of narcissism as only involving physical beauty. Rather, narcissism is an underlying pathology that will attach itself to whatever the narcissist’s “gift” happens to be, whether it is beauty, intelligence, athleticism, political charisma, cochranesque courtroom treachery, anything. Narcissism will manifest one way in a stupid but attractive Hollywood celebrity, another way in clever lawyer or a brilliant but homely academic. In the case of the latter -- which happens much, much more often than you might realize -- their ideas are not really in the service of truth, but their narcissistic grandiosity. I could name names, but there are just too many. Strutting and preening intellectual popinjays, all of them.

But as I said, a truly open-minded thinker is constantly integrating and synthesizing, or engaging in what Bion called PS<-->D (which we discussed a few weeks ago -- I’ll find the link later). Look at the early Christian fathers, who attempted to integrate Christian revelation with Judaism and neo-Platonic thought, or Aquinas, who did the same with Aristotle. These were men of formidable intellect, much deeper and wider than the typical frivolous wackademic of the sort we discussed yesterday.

Piaget’s theories apply to individual cognitive development, as we move from infancy to adulthood. But what if we apply them to man as such? Obviously, human beings are constantly making new discoveries that must be accommodated or assimilated. For example, a contemporary Aquinas would have to integrate quantum physics -- which, as a matter of fact, Alfred North Whitehead did as early as the mid-1920’s. Or we have to integrate the findings of natural selection, which people like Bergson, Hans Jonas, and Errol Harris have already done.

Now, although I do not identify myself with any “integral movement” as such, my book -- and by extension, this blog -- is obviously my attempt to synthesize all the truth I could find into one big existentialada. The operative word is “truth,” for it can obviously be no part of any integral theory to knowingly integrate lies and truth. That would be a non-starter. For example, there is no need to try to integrate deconstruction, since deconstruction is a philosophy that a priori excludes the existence of objective truth.

Nor is it integral to integrate something on the same level as that which clearly transcends it. Thus, it would be foolish to integrate atheism with theism, or racism and non-racism. Atheism is a philosophy that a priori excludes all of the ontologically real dimensions that transcend the senses, so we needn’t take it seriously, much less try to integrate it. Nor is there any place in my theory to integrate leftist racism -- as far as I am concerned, one cannot integrate the self-evident truth that all men are created equal with the leftist obsession with racial categorization and government-enforced racial discrimination.

In my view, in order to be truly integral, one must first integrate the different modes or expressions of reality, which, at the very least, include matter, life, mind and spirit (hence the subtitle of my book). Any philosophy that ignores one of these modes or tries to collapse or reduce one into another will be hopelessly incomplete.

Each of these modes of existence has a different aspect, which I call objective and subjective, or exterior and interior. For example, as I mentioned the other day, matter has an obvious subjective aspect that we know of as beauty. Matter has a metaphysical transparency that can never be reduced to its mere physicality. To do so is absurd, not to mention non-integral. This is why we needn’t waste any time trying to integrate any philosophy of materialism with ours, because materialism is simply the philosophy of the objective aspect of matter. It cannot even account for the subjective aspect of matter, much less the other modes -- life, mind and spirit.

Nor could we ever elevate natural selection to an all-encompassing integral philosophy. Certainly we take note of whatever truth it contains, but in so doing, we are clearly dealing with a category -- truth -- that cannot be reduced to genetics. At risk of pointing out the obvious, the human ability to know truth is not dependent upon genes. If it were, it wouldn’t be truth.

I’m trying to imagine all of the angry letters they will be receiving at What is Enlightenment? magazine as a result of my interview. What is it about my version of integralism that they will be objecting to? While it’s no excuse to be so pissed off at me, I must be excluding something they think should be included, or including something they think should be excluded. What is it?

Perhaps Integralist provides a hint. In my theory, I find no place for leftism, that is, for any ideas that can trace their squalid genealogy back to Karl Marx. Marx, like every other philosopher, was an ingegralist. In his case, he was trying to integrate Hegel and materialism, or Falsehood with falsehood. In so doing he created many seductive intellectual pathologies that continue to infect the mind of man -- the ideas of class struggle, oppression, exploitation, and collectivism, which have morphed into critical theory, deconstruction, victimology, political correctness, radical environmentalism, gender theory, feminism, afro-centrism, multicultrualism, cultural relativism, queer theory, the designated hitter, etc. There is no place for any of these things in my theory. If that makes me “non-integral” in the minds of some, that’s fine with me. I’m only trying to integrate truth, not lies.

I have much more to say about this, but I'll have to get to it in a later post.

One more quick point: do not confuse our philosophy with a political party. Rather, we simply identify with the party on which our philosophy might have more influence. In the present political mindscape, it just so happens that there is absolutely no place in the Democratic party for people who hold certain foundational truths, such as that the Constitution means what it says, or that racial discrimination is wrong, or that competition would cure the ills of our sick educational system, or that the Judeo-Christian tradition is fundamental to America's identity and character.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Nightmares of a Tenured Cipher

Ah, if only I could go back in time to when I was a college undergraduate... Yes, there is that. But even more than that, it would be so much fun to know exactly what to say to all of my idiot professors. But unfortunately, being just 17 when I started college, I was just as foolish as they were. Well, maybe not that foolish, because I had only spent 13 years in the educational system while they had spent 20 or 30 or 40 years, including their entire adult lives. Most academics have probably never had a real job in the real world, and it shows. They’ve spent their entire lives in the adult sandbox of academia.

I’m very jealous of my gagboy, because he is going have fun being one major pain in the ass to his teachers. Not because I want him to be mindlessly rebellious or skeptical, but because I would like for him to recognize and combat stupidity, which is perhaps what our society needs more than anything else. As Dennis Prager always says, we live in the “age of stupidity,” and no one is more at fault for this than our educational establishment, from K, where they brand 5 year-old boys sexual predators for pinching a girl's bottom, right through graduate school, where they excuse presidents for acting like 5 year-old sexual predators. There is literally no bigger rip-off in all of America than a college education at an elite university. Is there anything else you can think of that costs so much but has no correlation with quality?

What is so shocking to me is that, of all people, my generation -- the baby boomers -- should have been the first to see through the scam. We are the most overeducated generation in history. Since most of us have had the experience of going to college, one would think that we would be the most disenchanted. We have seen behind the curtain. We know full well that for most people it’s just an expensive piece of paper.

Not so for my father, who had only an eighth grade education in England. Although he became a successful businessman, I am sure he was quite self-conscious about his lack of education. And yet, it didn’t show. Speaking with him, you would never know that he hadn’t been to college. In terms of business, I am sure he had as much practical know-how as any MBA. In fact, he had certain innate business skills that no college can teach, in that he was a born salesman. Not in any “hard sell” sense of the term, but because in every interaction with someone, from the mailman, to a bank teller, to his subordinates, he made people laugh and feel a little better about being alive.

Nevertheless, because he hadn’t been to college, it was naturally a very awesome and mysterious place -- even more so, since he had absorbed the class consciousness of England, where everyone knows their place, and if not, there’s someone nearby to remind them of it. So I and my three brothers all went to college, which for me was a singularly underwhelming experience. Even in graduate school, where I did have one particularly brilliant and irreplaceable mentor, the vast majority of my education was self-directed. By then, I had begun an intense inner quest that had its own energy and dynamic, and drew what it needed to itself. And what it needed was far beyond anything college could offer. Being a “student” merely provided me with the time and space required to embark on the journey. The location or status of the physical college would not have mattered.

These meditations were provoked upon reading this editorial by a professor Mark Taylor, Faith That Refuses Questions. A bit of quick research on amazon reveals that he is indeed what I suspected, one of those vacuous postmodern intellectual laborers who gets paid for messing with children’s brains. Here is a description of one of his books, About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture: “What is religion about in the late 20th century? In a virtual world where surface images provide the depth of reality, what role does religion play? These are only two of the many questions that Taylor explores in his inimitably playful way. He begins by asking how can we engage in speculation about the existence of God after God's death and he argues that Melville's 'The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade' provides the best portrait of the bankruptcy of faith.”

Playful? Even a game has a point. What’s his?

“In other essays, Taylor.... explores the similarities between ancient alchemy and the virtual Postmodern culture. ‘Today's alchemists,’ he notes, ‘sublimate base matter into immaterialities on fiber-optic networks where everything is light.’ Where is religion in the late modern age? Taylor concludes: ‘The religion that today calls for reflection does not answer questions or provide meaning but abandons us... [It is] forever turning toward what is always slipping away; we can never be certain what religion is about.’ As comfortable talking about Karl Marx as about contemporary sculptors Fred Sandback and Richard Serra, Taylor courses through the history of ideas and the images of pop culture to demonstrate that religion, art and literature are cultural constructs inextricably bound together.”

Playful, or hideously pompous bloviation crying out for an editor? One of those two.

Here’s the first paragraph of the book. Like so much academonic nonsense, it would have to go a long way to be even wrong: “Faith is a confidence game whose stakes are undeniably economic. There is an economy of faith that mirrors and is mirrored by faith in economics. The speculum in which this play of mirrors is staged is the space of speculation. But what does it mean to speculate? What are the stakes of speculation? Is it still possible to credit speculation or to have confidence in any economy? When the economy is theological -- and what economy is not implicitly or explicitly theological? -- do speculative systems credit or discredit the currency of belief? At this late date, might it be possible that the only way to credit faith is to discredit what was once named God?”

What utter, flaming bulls*** masquerading as thought. $40,000 a year to fill your freshman child’s head with this kind of sophomoronic mush?

Anyway, like me, Professor Taylor is worried. However, we are worried about opposite things. While I am worried about his influence on students, he is worried that “more American college students seem to be practicing traditional forms of religion today than at any time in my 30 years of teaching,” which he calls “religious correctness” -- thereby confusing the disease with its cure.

He is obviously upset, because these religiously correct students seem immune to the charms of his academically correct vacuities. “Indeed,” he writes, “it seems the more religious students become, the less willing they are to engage in critical reflection about faith.” Translated, this means that these dangerous students are less willing to confuse a prideful ability to doubt anything with the discernment of truth.

Taylor claims that “professors invite harassment or worse by including ‘unacceptable’ books on their syllabuses or by studying religious ideas and practices in ways deemed improper by religiously correct students.” I find this impossible to believe -- that the real problem on college campuses is not that they are politically correct factories for the inculcation of leftist thought, but that they cater too much to the religiously inclined.

He even makes the paranoid assertion that “Distinguished scholars at several major U.S. universities have been condemned, even subjected to death threats, for proposing psychological, sociological or anthropological interpretations of religious texts.” As if this is a genuine concern -- as if it takes great courage -- or any courage at all -- to denigrate and devalue religion on a college campus. The idea is preposterous. It takes more courage for a Hollywood celebrity to come out as a liberal.

Taylor then says that “In the most egregious cases, defenders of the faith insist that only true believers are qualified to teach their religious tradition.” To which one can only reply, “well duh.” Any religion, in order to be understood, must be understood “from the inside,” because that is precisely the sort of knowledge embodied in religion: interior knowledge. Religions are not about the horizontal, objective, or quantitative world, and to treat them as such is to misunderstand them, precisely. They are specifically roadmaps of the cosmic interior, and only someone who knows the territory on a first hand basis is qualified to teach about it.

It is absolutely no different with, say, psychoanalysis, which cannot be understood objectively, but only subjectively. Its truths must be experienced, or they are no truth at all, just empty “k.” It is no coincidence that the most egregious misunderstandings and misapplications of psychoanalysis have always come from academia, because intellectuals naturally believe it is something that can be greedily understood just like any other merely intellectual system.

The purpose of an elite university education is no longer to become educated -- to acquire a well-furnished mind and familiarize oneself with the best things that have been thought and said -- but to become stupid by elevating a means to an end. Thus, upon contact with his luckless students, Professor Taylor tells them “that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed.” In short, the goal of education is to make students as lost and confused as Professor Taylor, through the deification of man’s capacity to doubt anything.

Yes, the ultimate purpose of higher education is “to cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.” $40,000 per year to learn nothing -- to be steeped in postmodern nihilism and call it education. Again, not even wrong -- just sanction from an adult to engage in adolescent rebellion for the rest of one’s life.

“The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices... but to consider the many functions they serve.”

Oh, I doubt that. I think the purpose of critical analysis is to undermine the sacred covenant between words and things and therefore thought and reality. Said another way, its purpose is to cement the bond between nonsense and tenure, so that third rate minds can have a lifetime job metastasizing their sophistry.

The Professor avers that religions don’t deal in truth, but are merely “networks of symbols, myths and rituals, which evolve over time by adapting to changing circumstances.”

Oh, I doubt that as well. He’s actually talking about his own flabby and undisciplined mind, which is indeed an evolving agglomeration of myths and rituals. Here is an example of what is called projection: “If chauvinistic believers develop deeper analyses of religion, they might begin to see in themselves what they criticize in others.” Un-projecting the statement and returning it to its rightful owner, it should read: if frivolous know-nothing professors engage in a deeper analysis of their ideology, they will see that they are every bit as steeped in faith as the religionists they criticize -- only more so.

Taylor conludes by noting that “Until recently, many influential analysts argued that religion, a vestige of an earlier stage of human development, would wither away as people became more sophisticated and rational. Obviously, things have not turned out that way.”

Obviously not. Those analysts -- including Professor Taylor -- were neither as sophisticated nor as rational as people had supposed, but remain mired in that vestigial stage of human development known as adolescence. It’s just a shame that our own adolescents have to learn the “facts of life” from their fellows instead of an informed adult.

It is corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth. It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance. --Father Seraphim Rose

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Announcing a New 12-Step Program for the Left: Apparatchiks Anonymous

Once again, I find myself trying to write under a rotoviral sword of Damocles, as there is no way of knowing when His Majesty will wake up screaming and call me away to his service. In an odd way, it doth concentrate the mind... No time to spell check, however.

What an excellent question asked by James Lewis at American Thinker, Why Isn’t the Whole Left Neoconservative? It is such a discredited ideology, so intrinsically wrong, so inconsistent with human nature, so cruel and unworkable in practice, that one can only wonder at the persistent hold it has on millions of minds around the world.

Some day Leftsim will be rejoined with its twin ideology, fascism, which no one takes seriously anymore. Why is that? With the exception of nazi Germany, one could probably argue that fascism in practice was less harmful and more workable than Leftism. In fact, fascism is not a “right wing,” much less “conservative” ideology, but a competing from of socialism. It was the communists who tried to discredit “national socialism” by labeling it “right wing” merely because it wasn’t what they wanted, which was international socialism.

My own journey to so-called “conservatism” hasn’t been a journey at all. In reality, I am more or less the same liberal I have always been. It’s just that, over the past 30-40 years, liberalism has been hijacked by the Left, thereby becoming an illiberal movement. To cite just one example, when I was in college in the 1970’s, being liberal meant being tolerant toward homosexuals. To me this is a given. I cannot imagine otherwise. But for the Left, if you merely “tolerate” homosexuality, you are a bigot, something called a "homophobe." No, you must celebrate and even encourage it. You must never suggest to children that certain sexual arrangements are better than others. If my son wants to marry a man or a woman, it should make no difference to me -- just flip a coin, as it were.

Needless to say, I regard such “thinking” as not only devoid of wisdom, but frankly abusive, narcissistic, and unscientific, completely at odds with what we know about both psychosexual development and the soul of man.

To a large extent, classical liberalism strikes me as common sense, whereas Leftism is always both incoherent and incomplete. It cannot be enunciated in any philosophically consistent manner, and unavoidably truncates the most vital aspects of man’s being. Like Lewis, I wonder why my entire generational cohort hasn’t evolved in the same way I did -- why there is anyone my age (51) who is still clinging to the magical mythology of Leftism:

“After the Soviet Union crashed and no one could possibly ignore the bloody mess the Left kept making over seventy long years. So why didn't all the decent Leftists just read their Milton Friedman and grow up?” So-called neocons (i.e., former Leftists) merely saw "how wrong they had been. They grew up. My question is: What happened to all the others?”

Amazingly, surveys in such “liberal” places as Canada or Europe indicate that the majority of their clueless citizens regard the United States or Israel as the greatest threats to world peace. Lewis notes that in Britain, a recent BBC survey revealed that "the greatest philosopher of all time is considered to be... Karl Marx?  A hate-filled parasitical scribbler who spent his life in the British Museum, stoking the fires that killed 100 million people in the 20th century? What is wrong with British education that the plain facts do not shout out for themselves?”

Respectfully, I think it’s the wrong question to ask “what is wrong with British education.” Instead, I think we have crossed the line into genuine soul pathology -- not psychopathology, mind you, which may or may not be copresent, but a disease of the human heart. Indeed, I believe the heart must be diseased to embrace such a profoundly inhuman and anti-human ideology. Marxism is not human, but specifically demonic -- even, one might say, the quintessence of demonology, in that it is the the last word in fallen man’s promethian rejection of reality, whether it is economic reality, historical reality, psychic reality, or suprasensible reality.

One of the most salient characteristics of the Left is that it is peculiarly incapable of learning. In my lifetime, it has been ridiculously wrong about virtually everything, but it is as if facts and reality don’t matter. The same people who were trying to convince us of manmade global cooling in the 1970’s are now trying to convince us of manmade global warming. The same people who argued for our unilateral nuclear disarmament in the 1970’s and 1980’s are now telling us that it didn't matter that Saddam would have undoubtedly acquired nukes or that Iran and other terrorists are on the brink of doing so. The same people who successfully curtailed nuclear power plants in America are now insisting that we must be “energy independent” and that we are only in Iraq for the oil. The same people who argued that Reagan’s tax breaks would destroy the economy have, like everyone else, enjoyed the unprecedented economic growth of the past 25 years, and yet, still want to raise taxes. The same Democratic party that accommodated southern racists for decades continues to argue that race is all-important and that government should be engaged in the task of dividing people by race and gender and giving special privileges to some. And of course, the Democratic part is now the main repository and champion of mankind’s most ancient and vile prejudice, anti-Semitism.

Lewis agrees that “The fact that the Left never, ever learns gives the lie to all its high-falutin' claims of ‘idealism,’ ‘progressivism,’ and superior morality.” Yes, but why are they never blamed for their failures? Why does the bill never come due? Lewis provides one obvious key: the left "still controls the organs of propaganda.... Thus some 90 percent of our media functionaries are left wingers. A predominant percentage of professors and teachers are, too.”

It’s the same old Marxist idea: “who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” Lewis points out that “To hold on to their beliefs leftists must shut down any competing ideas, which is precisely what they do. Just take your favorite leftist friends, and tell them some obvious fact they don't want to hear. You can see it working right in front of your eyes: They just won't hear it.... As long as they control the dominant media, our society will keep teetering at the brink of destruction.”

One of the greatest conceits of the Left is that they are “intellectually curious,” “open-minded,” or “reality based,” when it would be difficult to find minds more parochial, narrow-minded, and self-enclosed than those responsible for the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, or NPR, or CNN, or virtually any MSM outlet.

It is even worse in Europe, where their press is not nearly as free as ours and there is little access to competing views such as talk radio. As Lewis notes, European thought is absolutely stifled by the Left, which "doesn't see any respectable alternative [to itself]..., since conservatism is constantly and deliberately confounded with fascism." And since these hidebound and intellectually inbred reactionaries live in such an echo-chamber, "if one fairy-tale of Earthly Paradise is seen to crash, another one must instantly take its place." Thus, "the commissars of Post-Modernism and Multiculturalism suddenly rose to power all over the West in the 1970s and 80s. The faithful had to find a new way to justify their idee fixe.”

Lewis notes the patent irrationality of this “mental fixedness,” and again wonders why they would continue “peddling the same toxins.” Why are they stuck?

Again, in my view, this is not a psychopathology but a pneumapathology -- a disease of the soul. This is why psychology is powerless to explain it or to do anything about it. In a way, it is analogous to addiction, another problem of the soul that psychology is generally powerless to alter. I don’t know if it’s the same way now, but when I was in graduate school, I was even taught that it would be unethical to try to treat alcoholism with psychotherapy alone. By far the most successful approach is the 12 step program, undoubtedly because it addresses the underlying soul pathology at the heart of addiction.

Perhaps we need a 12 step program for leftists, Apparatchiks Anonymous.

1. We admitted we were powerless over the intoxicating dreams of socialism, and that our lives and governments had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power far greater than our own omnipotent little egoic dreams of control could restore us to true liberalism.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the Creator and Guarantor of our Liberty.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the well-intentioned failures and frank evils of socialism.

5. Admitted to the Creator of our Liberty, to ourselves, and in a live phone call to C-SPAN the exact nature of socialism’s wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have the Creator of Our Liberty remove all these defects of ideology.

7. Humbly asked Him to cancel our subscription to the Times.

8. Made a list of all races, genders, and classes we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all by realizing that these constructs are irrelevant.

9. Made direct amends to such people by switching parties.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were again tempted to abuse ideology for the purposes of blotting out reality, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the Source of our Liberty, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Leftists, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

In conclusion, it is hard to imagine a contemporary Leftist ever signing on to the program of this right wing religious fanatic and fascist theocrat:

“We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning -- signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

“[T]he same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required...

“To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations... we renew our pledge of support -- to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective.... [er, a little too late for that. --ed.]

“Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free."

"In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

“My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

“Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Catch a Falling Man... Before it's Too Late

Anything can deliver us from our lost memory of the soul; science, history, art, or the sunlight on the grass taitami mats in the Zendo. And anything can enslave us: science, history, art, or the militarism of a Zen monastery. But if we are lost in time and suffering racial amnesia, then we need something to startle us into recollection. If history is the sentence of our imprisonment, then history, recoded, can become the password of our release. --William Irwin Thompson

This morning I am startled into recollection and inspired by Van der Leun’s beautiful zazen’s grokkings, The Star. Inspired how, you might ask? That I can’t yet say. We’re about to find out.

That is, if the baby doesn’t start screaming. He has a little thing called rotovirus. I will spare you all the vomitaceous diarrhetails, but suffice it to say, I got less sleep than usual and it is now later than usual, so we’ll have to see how far I can proceed into the wild godhead. Either way, I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit sloppier than usual. Perhaps I’ll be able to edit later as time permits....

I’m trying to pluck a quote, but you had best read the whole thing slowly, because it resonates with a certain aftertaste in the soul.... I’ll bet the French have a word for it, but if we do, I can’t think of it.

Theirs was the Age of Myth; a world where night was not clad in the web of lights that now obscures the stars. It was a world lit by flaring torches, dim oil lamps, guttering candles, the phases of the moon and the broad shimmering river of the Milky Way. When the sun went down and night ascended, life withdrew into homes....

The night sky, now so thin and distant, so seldom really seen, was to them thick and close at hand. They reclined on their hill sides, their roofs, or in rooms built for viewing the moon and the stars. They watched it all revolve above them. Remembered. Kept records. They saw beings in the heavens -- giants, animals, the origins of myth -- and knew that in some way it was all connected.

One of my favorite philosophers, Frithjof Schuon, expressed the counterintuitive view that ancient man was normative and that -- especially since the Renaissance -- we moderns have strayed into a hellish deviation that he equates with the kali yuga, or decadent “end times,” of Vedic lore. Modern secular humanism, he wrote, “is the reign of horizontality, either naïve or perfidious; and since it is also -- and by that very fact -- the negation of the Absolute, it is a door open to a multitude of sham absolutes, which in addition are often negative, subversive, and destructive."

We like to think that we have finally emerged from mankind’s long cognitive sleep or evolved out of our spiritual childhood, but Schuon insisted that it wasn’t so. Essentially, whatever we have gained in the realm of quantities -- the horizontal -- has been at the cost of alienation from the realm of precious qualities -- the vertical. Since the vertical is mankind’s true birthright, no amount of “quantity” can ever take its place. Rather, it can only result in getting more of what we really don’t need -- unless we are extremely conscious and careful.

Which, in a way, is one of the main themes of my book and this blog. I am acutely aware of the pathologies of modernity and postmodernity. And yet, is there a way to reintegrate the vertical into our modern world, or is it a hopeless task? For those readers who simply do not comprehend my condemnation of the error of leftism in all its forms, this is precisely why I do so, for I believe it results in a truncated, twisted version of man, with no hope of ever producing a society in which human beings can recapture their lost verticality.

With regard to the modern secular world, Schuon wrote that “there is nothing more inhuman than humanism, by the fact that it, so to speak, decapitates man: wishing to make of him an animal which is perfect, it succeeds in turning him into a perfect animal; not all at once -- because it has the fragmentary merit of abolishing certain barbaric traits -- but in the long run, since it inevitably ends by ‘re-barbarizing’ society, while ‘dehumanizing’ it ipso facto in depth.” The recent passage of the bloodiest century of all has left us with one brutal lesson, “that one cannot improve man by being content with the surface while destroying the foundations.”

Who knows -- rescuing mankind may not even be possible with the classical liberalism of the founders, but I simply know of no other system that comes close to being able to create and maintain a flourishing horizontal world for the purpose of verticality, interiority, and contemplation. John Adam’s said, “I am a revolutionary so my son can be a farmer so his son can be a poet.” Truly, my grandfather in England toiled for the railroad so that my father could emigrate to the United States and be a businessman so that I might abide in primordial slack and circumnavelgaze the divine with my cyberfriends. I can only hope that my son can do the same thing in his own way, irrespective of whether he turns out to be a man of action or of contemplation.

To see something special; something beyond you. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle and amazement. That's the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is one of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure (Van der Leun).

In the end, I must respectfully reject Schuon’s belief that the historical present is beyond redemption, but I do not do so casually. There is great truth in what he says, and Van der Leun’s essay illuminates this. I myself am very much aware of how much our culture has deviated from its vertical bearings in just my lifetime, and Van der Leun touches on this as well: “In 1957, when I was twelve years old, we all lived in a far smaller universe with far fewer stars for God to destroy by way of cosmic birth announcements.” Our conception of the material universe has expanded since then, but this has not brought with it a simultaneous expansion of the mind. Instead, it seems to have engendered a dissipation and dispersal of the mind, as it can no longer come up against any “edge” to define itself.

I am reminded of how the first thing babies seek when they come into the world is not food, not love, but containment, for even food itself is simply something that serves to contain an infinite and boundless experience we call “hunger” but which the infant can only know as a persecutory presence within the horizon of its being. Eventually, with good enough mothering, this persecutory presence will be tamed and contained by a word, hunger, but food will nevertheless always be associated with its more primitive cognitive, even existential, foundation (which is why we have “eating disorders,” obesity, the plague of type II diabetes -- people eating not for the purposes of nourishment, but for emotional containment).

I think what Schuon means about the superior vertical ambiance of antiquity is that it more adequately “contained” and answered to man’s vertical needs than any watered down gruel that modern science can offer us. For man was not made for science, nor was science made for man, at least in terms of a place to live spiritually. This is a new, alien world we are living in, as we have essentially allowed a method for investigating material reality to eclipse and dominate the more direct modes with which man has always encountered his universe. Van der Leun writes that, with the passage of time,

“more intricately argued sciences would rise upon the structures of the proto-sciences of astrology and alchemy. These new fact-based sciences would push the first sciences into the realm of myth, speculation, superstition and popular fantasy.

“The new sciences, you see, were much, much more about ‘Reality.’ They would never be tossed aside as so many playthings of mankind's youth. The authority of astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry and others was as certain as the pole star. Unlike astrology and alchemy, they would never be questioned.... We could see (almost) into the moment of Creation. We could see (almost) into the mute heart of matter. We had the proven method. We had the hard evidence. Nothing was, in time, beyond our knowing. There was no doubt. We were Alpha and Omega.”

There are few things that modern man “endures less readily than the risk of appearing naïve; everything else can go by the board so long as the feeling of not being duped by anything is safeguarded” (Schuon). But in reality, it is the height of naïvety to believe that man can escape from naïvety on every plane, including the celestial plane which has always served as a sacred symbol of something far surpassing us.

Our over-educated blind men insist that we doubt all of "the original myths that have made us and sustained us as individuals and as a people across the centuries. In their pointless world, they would have us cast off the old myths and embrace their ‘new and improved myths -- complete with evidence'; myths made of purposeless matter ‘hovering in the dark.’"

Yes, our soulless elites are engaged in the endless project of evicting us from the interiority of things. And yet, as Van der Leun concludes, “every year a bit more it seems, a tide has shifted in the hearts of men and we turn like a lodestone to the deeper myths of the human heart; that place where The Star will always shine, always within and yet always beyond us.” If so, there lies our salvation, the rediscovery of man, and with it, God.

The sacred is the projection of the Immutable into the mutable; as a result, the sense of the sacred consists not only in perceiving this projection, but also in discovering in things the trace of the Immutable, to the point of not letting oneself be deceived and enslaved by the mutable.... The sense of the sacred is also the innate consciousness of the presence of God: it is to feel this presence sacramentally in symbols and ontologically in all things.... --F. Schuon

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Loving Integral Embrace of Lies and Truth (12.13.08)

For everything that exists that is good, or true, or beautiful, there is a counterfeit version of it. In fact, this is one of the surest ways to know that objective truth, beauty and morality exist, because uncorrupted human beings have a built in way to recognize sham versions of them. But the operative word is “uncorrupted,” because it seems that most people actually prefer the counterfeit to the real -- which is odd, because why would someone prefer a cheap and tawdry imitation? There must be something about real truth, beauty, and goodness that cuts both ways, and makes the corrupt soul draw away from them.

Consider the fact, for example, that nearly all totalitarian regimes, such as Iran, hold “elections.” They also have a person called “president,” as if there is any analogy at all between an Iranian president and a United States president -- but he’s just a counterfeit version. Obviously there is no meaningful liberty or democracy in Iran, but the Mullahs must nevertheless pretend they exist. Who -- or what -- are they trying to fool? In other words, why don’t they just come out and say what they actually believe? Why the tribute that totalitarianism needs to pay to liberty? No matter how deeply the mullahs are plunged into the Lie, it seems that they still know the Truth -- just as the Soviets knew the truth. They also held sham elections to give the appearance of democracy.

And it is the same way with the American left, which is why they must always either lie about their ideas or couch them in more acceptable terms -- i.e., “investments” instead of tax increases, “redeployment” instead of surrender, “affirmative action” instead of racial discrimination, “civil rights” instead of special rights, “speech codes” instead of censoring non-leftist thought. When the left uses the tired phrase “speaking truth to power,” they nearly always mean “speaking seductive lies to the powerless in order to gain power.”

And the left certainly has its sham versions of courage, for example, giving a “free speech” award to a crude thug such as Sean Penn -- as if great courage, rather than craven conformity, is required for a Hollywood celebrity to criticize President Bush. He'd better be careful -- if he's any more critical of the President, they may be forced to give him another Oscar.

Obviously counterfeit money can only work if there exists real money somewhere. The counterfeit money is entirely parasitic on the existence of sound money. Which makes the situation in American academia so ironic. American universities have become great bastions of counterfeit truth. What makes secular academia (again, we are always speaking of the liberal arts, not the sciences) such a spiritually sick institution is that it is as if only counterfeit truth is allowed. Imagine banning real money, but only allowing counterfeiters. Obviously, the counterfeit money would soon be valueless, because you couldn’t pass it off as “the real thing.” With multiculturalism, moral relativism, and deconstruction, each professor can be his own counterfeiter. Only monopoly money exists.

Yesterday I cited the example of how Dr. Dobson naively tried to use some academic “funny money” in support of truth, and was soon attacked by the counterfeiters. The same thing would happen in Iran if someone were to try to take their counterfeit democracy seriously. They would be attacked by the counterfeiters. If people learn to recognize real money, then the counterfeiters are out of business.

Likewise, the U.N. is an entirely counterfeit institution that allows dictators and tyrants to be placed on the same moral plane as liberal democracies. But who do the leftist counterfeiters denounce? John Bolton, because he sees the U.N. for the den of iniquity that it is, and is incapable of uttering counterfeit words. In the bizarro leftist world of Time Magazine, Ahmadinejad is a "champion of the dispossessed, global Everyman." Can you imagine them saying that of John Bolton, who is a genuine champion of the dispossessed -- including those who are condemned to live under the global everymonster Ahamdinejad?

Counterfeiters have always flourished in the spiritual and religious arenas. But here again there is an upside, for the existence of these phony gurus and sham versions of religion let us know that the real things exist. The “new age” movement is overflowing with counterfeit spirituality, which bears the same relationship to real spirituality as the Iranian mullahs do to real democracy, or the left does to the truly liberal vision of America’s founders.

Yesterday we were visited by one of these types, who tried to pass some counterfeit bills in the Cosmos. One thing you will notice about our regular readers is that they are like spiritual treasury agents. For them, it is the work of an instant to detect a counterfeiter trying to pass phony spiritual ideas. Most of my readers are undoubtedly rather humble, so they may not stop to think about the implications of this ability, but it obviously means that they may be more in touch with Truth than even they realize. For if you can know it by its absence, you clearly have implicit knowledge of Truth. It’s just a matter of fleshing it out and making it more explicit.

This disingenuous counterfeiter, who called himself “Integralist” this time, wrote, “Wow, I'm a bit surprised. After reading Mr. Godwin's book about a year ago and seeing his name related with the budding ‘integral movement,’ I was rather surprised to find his blog such a haven of vitriol and non-integralism (I only just discovered it after reading his enjoyable interview in What Is Enlightenment?).”

We know right off the bat that this person is a liar and a counterfeiter, even if he doesn’t know it. Just because he “read” my book doesn’t mean he actually read it, much less understood it, for if he had understood it, he would know that it is part of no movement to integrate lies with truth. He claims that he is not a leftist but an “integralist” who aspires “towards a synthesis of liberalism and conservatism, the best of both -- not an outright castigation of one extreme in favor of the other.” He says “I've only browsed your website for about an hour, but please point me to a post that embodies an integral embrace of the important aspects of Left and Right? From what I've seen it is almost a spitting image of the same sort of vitriol that you and others here seem to revile in the Dark and Evil Leftist Empire.”

The whole point of leftism is that it is a counterfeit ideology par excellence. Any truth or beauty it possesses is merely a reflection of the real thing, nothing intrinsic to it, for it must always pretend that it is promulgating ideals that it specifically rejects -- just like the mullahs. In effect, what this reader would like for me to do is integrate the counterfeiters into my world view -- the phony image of truth with Truth -- and call it “integral.”

Let’s just look at some of the institutions that have been already been taken over by the left, such as academia. Is it any coincidence that universities have become such factories of foolishness? There is no idea so crazy or stupid that it isn’t taught in a major university that will cost around $35,000 a year to pollute your child’s mind. And this is only possible because the university continues to benefit from its historical association with genuine liberalism, which promoted the pursuit of objective and timeless truth in order to actualize what is latent in the soul so as to be able to realize the good. Truth must always precede goodness. Political correctness is the very opposite of liberalism, for, as we saw yesterday, it mandates a certain narrow outcome ahead of time, thereby displacing both truth and being (from which truth flows) in one fell swoop.

Of course, leftism also represents counterfeit compassion -- which is what is so annoying about the inane term “compassionate conservatism.” For in coining this misleading term, it was as if the treasury were trying to imitate the counterfeiters, instead of vice versa. There is nothing compassionate about racial discrimination masquerading as affirmative action, or economic innumeracy masquerading as “caring for the little guy,” or attacks on the foundations of civilization masquerading as “gay rights,” or judicial tyranny masquerading as “women’s rights.”

These leftist strategies are only effective because they are parasites on the real thing: liberty, justice, the rule of law, compassion, etc. There is nothing “compassionate” about instituting a single payer health care system in which health care is rationed in the form of a six month wait to get an MRI for that tumor that is growing inside of you. There is nothing “just” about causing serious damage to the world’s economy based upon fanciful weather reports, thereby killing and impoverishing millions more people than if you do nothing. There is nothing “fair” about morally equating the only liberal democracy in the whole of the Middle East with the genocidal barbarians who wish to destroy it.

The leftist counterfeiters rely on your very liberality to allow in the lies that are death to liberalism. This is how liberalism rots from within -- when, as Ken Wilber has written, it can no longer remember what it is or where it came from. These phony “integralists” attack me for my classical liberalism, as if they have the slightest interest in integrating my views with theirs. That’s just a lie. I challenge any of them to find an “integralist” who is as angry and hostile toward leftists as they are toward me. Let’s see the “integralist” who uses the same terms to attack Al Gore, or Jimmy Carter, or Hillary Clinton, or Noam Chomsky, as they do to attack me.

They’re not integralists. They’re just leftist counterfeiters trafficking in reflected light.

An astute reader pointed this out a couple of weeks ago. Truth is not a bottom-up, inductive, sum total of all the truths, half truths, lies, and stupid ideas of the world. Rather, truth is anterior to the minds that think it. As Bion wrote in his paradoxical way, the thinker is only required for the lie, in the sense that he must first know the truth in order to lie about it. Truth only requires that we conform ourselves to it. This is why most of the thinkers of the left are merely liars. And only a fool would mingle lies with truth and label it “integralism.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

Political Correctness: Hammer of the Godless... and Mindless

One huge advantage our cultural and intellectual betters have over us is the ability to control or stifle debate merely by registering disdain and contempt for the targeted person or policy. This serves as a sort of shorthand that functions to replace thought, so that the actual idea need never be addressed.

Furthermore, through the magic of political correctness, an abject idiot can elevate himself above you, both intellectually and morally, and imagine that he is a superior person while exercising no effort at all. It’s almost like a secular mirror image of the fundamentalist who thinks he’s better than you merely because he accepts this or that literal dogma.

A fine case in point is the “controversy” over Dr. Dobson’s recent editorial in Time Magazine, in which he expressed the opinion that children do best if they are raised by a mother and father. What is so amazing about political correctness is that it can take something so self-evidently true as this, and make it seem as if Dobson is the extremist -- as if Dobson isn’t merely relating something that all people with common sense understand.

Now, Dobson is not my style, neither theologically nor in terms of presentation. However, I wouldn’t want to take on his or Dr. Laura’s job of being a hated figure merely for dispensing common sense to the masses. In the article, Dobson says that he has been asked to comment on the pregnancy of Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s lesbian daughter. He says that his concern “has nothing to do with politics. It is about what kind of family environment is best for the health and development of children, and, by extension, the nation at large.” Exactly. Are we not even allowed to ask this question?

Of course not! We are to ridicule and sneer at people who ask such questions. They are a priori haters and bigots whose opinions are outside the realm of decency. Because of this intellectual bullying, most people stop right there and won’t try to cross the heavily fortified boundary drawn by the left to prevent thought from encroaching. The penalty is just too harsh.

This is why we need people like Dobson, who are “inner directed” and are not intimidated by the pseudo-intellectual bullies of political correctness. Again, Dobson doesn’t say a thing in the article that isn’t a reflection of mere common sense -- things you cannot not know unless you are highly educated. He writes,

“With all due respect to Cheney and her partner... the majority of more than 30 years of social-science evidence indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father. That is not to say Cheney and Poe will not love their child. But love alone is not enough to guarantee healthy growth and development. The two most loving women in the world cannot provide a daddy for a little boy -- any more than the two most loving men can be complete role models for a little girl.”

Exactly. It is not a knock on my wife to say that she could never give my son what I am giving him. Nor is it androphobic for me to point out the truism that she provides him with things that are utterly beyond my capabilities. This is controversial? That a woman can make a boy, but not a man? That a boy, in order to become a man, requires “male mothering” -- that is, mentoring from a virtuous and noble man whom he can emulate?

The most controversial part of Dobson’s piece is where he ironically uses the research of a couple of politically correct academics to support his views -- which only proves that these people are not really academics, much less serious intellectuals, but merely politically correct. Dobson writes,

“The fact remains that gender matters -- perhaps nowhere more than in regard to child rearing. The unique value of fathers has been explained by Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale Medical School.... Pruett says dads are critically important simply because ‘fathers do not mother.’ Psychology Today explained in 1996 that ‘fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children.’ A father, as a male parent, makes unique contributions to the task of parenting that a mother cannot emulate, and vice versa.”

And feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan’s research has found that “mothers tend to stress sympathy, grace and care to their children, while fathers accent justice, fairness and duty. Moms give a child a sense of hopefulness; dads provide a sense of right and wrong and its consequences. Other researchers have determined that boys are not born with an understanding of ‘maleness.’ They have to learn it, ideally from their fathers.”

Who needs “research” to know these banalities? They are self-evidently true -- that is, unless they are said by a conservative! Hilariously, Drs. Gilligan and Pruett have both fired off angry letters to Dr. Dobson, demanding that he never again use their research. Instinctively playing the victim card (one immediately wonders if he had a manly father), Pruett says he was “startled and disappointed to see my work referenced in the current Time Magazine piece in which you opined that social science, such as mine, supports your convictions opposing lesbian and gay parenthood. I write now to insist that you not quote from my research in your media campaigns, personal or corporate, without previously securing my permission.”

Nothing like an open mind! Again, this proves that these people are not serious thinkers, merely politically correct activists who will subordinate truth to their agenda, just like the people at Harvard who got Larry Summers fired for suggesting that men and women just might -- might! -- have some intrinsic genetic differences. Can you imagine if the reverse ever happened, say, some religious nut who wrote angry letters to leftists, telling them that they were not permitted to use his research in the context of saying the world was more than 6,000 years old?

These so called academics are fools. Pruett fulminates that “ it is love that binds relationships, not sex." In other words, irrespective of what common sense, research, our conscience, or thousands of years of wisdom tell us, all you need is love. I’d love to have a little chat with him if he ever has a son, in order to see if reality has any impact at all on his thinking.

The histrionic Gilligan was mortified -- mortified! -- to learn that she had been quoted in Dobson’s article. How will she ever be able to show her face again in the faculty lounge? “I am writing to ask that you cease and desist from quoting my research in the future.” After the legalistic language, she even disingenuously alludes to scripture, saying that Dobson’s reference to her work “is not in the best interest of scientific inquiry, nor does bearing false witness serve your purpose of furthering morality and strengthening the family.”

Ha! Here again, you see the naked power that underlies political correctness. There is no appeal to truth, much less debate. Just hysteria, victimization, and petulant demands.

You can see the identical mechanism at work in this denunciation of my post from last Saturday, “The Unthinkable Goodness of America,” at dailykos. Like the hysterical Gilligan and pouting Pruett, it is just mindless condemnation for believing something so offensive -- that America is a fundamentally good and decent nation. The author makes reference to my observation that,

“One of the biggest problems we face in the war on Islamo-fascism is that even the worst of us has such rudimentary decency that we cannot imagine how evil our enemies are, while our enemies -- and most of our friends -- literally cannot imagine how good the United States is.”

Pretty obvious, right? The dailykos writer sarcaustically responds that “Even David Brooks at his most outré might hesitate before offering up that pearl. This whole piece is such a gem of ruthlessly gentle eliminationism, that it deserves study. It is not often one has the chance to examine an alternate world-view of such intensity.”

Excellent. I don’t know what “eliminationism” means, but I glad to know that my piece deserves serious study. Let’s hear it!

But it was not to be. Like Gilligan and Pruett, just vacuous and content-free denunciation from the pulpit of political correctness. It turns out that no analysis is required, for my piece is a priori wrong, even delusional:

“This one is so perfect, I don't think I could stand to dilute the experience of reading it. A little alternate reality goes a long way. I'd like to believe this is a parody, but there's a little too much sincerity in the piece. Read it for yourself, and marvel at the spectacle of a human mind attempting to wrestle the world into conformity with this stark vision.”

Yes, by all means do marvel at the spectacle of a human mind attempting to wrestle the world into conformity with its dark vision. Marvel at the spectacle of how the Left replaces thought with disdain in order to allow the mediocre mind to effortlessly imagine that it is morally and intellectually superior.

I hereby demand that dailykos continue quoting from my blog and misusing my ideas in the future! I need the material.


It's not a knock on Mrs. G., but who else but a father will teach him the proper way to play heir guitar?:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cosmic Sunday Sermon: Dude, Where Are You?

A Sunday re-run, as per my attempt to cut back blogging on weekends. This one's from about eight months ago, so it may be new to newcomers anyway. Plus I added a few things here & there, as they occurred to me.


So, in the Book of Genesis, after Adam devours the apple and becomes the prototype of fallen, alienated, and egoic man, he goes into hiding. First, he knows deep down that he is naked, with all that word implies. Next, he tries to hide from God among the trees. As if.

The very first thing God says to the newly naked, self-sufficient and fugitive man is, "Where are you?" Evidently Adam has entered a new psycho-spiritual space that is not even familiar to God. Why would it be, if this was his first crack at creating a being with free will? To capture the emotional tone of the situation, it is more like, "Dude -- where are you?" Remember, just a moment ago they were intimate pals who could gambol about the garden together in the cool of the day. But not now. Somebody changed.

The spirit of the primordial lie has been transferred from the serpent, to the woman, to Adam. It has already taken root, to such an extent that Adam seems incapable of telling the truth. Instead -- like most humans since -- he just uses the gift of speech to "plug holes," to paper over, and to confabulate, like a child who is caught red-handed doing something wrong.

Emotion no doubt interfering with the clarity of his diction, Adam momentarily resembles that other archetype of prideful but insecure grandiosity, Ralph Kramden: "Homena-homena-homena.... I was, ah, afraid because I was, er, naked... Yeah, that's it. Naked! Nobody wants to be seen walking around naked in public."

I remember my first big lie. I was about four or five years old, and discovered a bucket of used motor oil in the garage. Not too far away was a paint brush. It was the work of an instant to decide that it would be a good idea to slap a coat of oil on the outside of the house.

Not too long thereafter, I heard the sound of my father's car arriving home from work in the cool of the evening. "Gagboy! Where are you?"

Hiding in a tree in the back yard, of course. There are times that the best course of action is to preserve a tactful silence. It's something I still do at times.

Come to think of it, a reader recently requested that I write something about spirituality and married life. Jot that one down in your notebook -- better yet, tattoo it on the inside of your eyelids: Preserve a tactful silence. It will serve you well in perilous times. No promises, but you may well be able to avoid the old "conversation with the flying plates."

Anyway, there was something about the tone of my father's voice, don't you know. Something that said "discretion is the better part of valor," but of course I wouldn't have expressed it that way as a young gagboy. I just thought it best to make myself scarce until the whole thing blew over in a couple of years.

Upon discovering my whereabouts, my father asked me -- rhetorically, of course -- if I possessed any knowledge of the oil job on the house. Having no familiarity with the concept of "rhetorical," I responded in the negatory. "Ahh, why no. Nothing at all. Never heard of it. Good day at the office, what?"

My son is only 20 months old. Other parents have informed me that it's a bit of a jolt the first time you catch your child in a brazen lie. We can well imagine the somewhat flustered mindset of the Creator, caught off guard in this way.


Hieromonk Damascene asks, "How can the human ego, immersed in its own gratification, hide from the ever-present reality of God and the spirit? How else than by a constant state of distraction into sensual pleasures, thoughts, memories and fantasies?"

Thus, man's fall was at once "a fall into distraction, and that is how his consciousness started to become as compounded and fragmented as it is today." Naked and on the run, we seek ever greater props and distractions -- food, drugs, debased entertainment, meaningless sex, popularity, recognition, glory, power, group status.

But that primordial question, "Where are you?," continues to ring out from the depths of eternity. It is not heard by the ego, but by the spirit: Self calling out to self. It is experienced as an unnamed suffering. On a spiritual level, it is analogous to our ability to sense physical pain. Without any sense of pain, we'd soon injure ourselves beyond repair.

Which some people do, for it is the same way with the spirit. There are people who fall so far from the source that they no longer hear the "Where are you?" These people are either difficult to be around, or they are downright scary. The scary ones are the people who have extinguished the still small voice of vertical conscience.

You will know these folks by a mild shudder or revulsion you feel in their presence. Either that, or the hair stands up on the back of your neck (apparently, that's why it's there--sort of a personal demon detector). In truth, these are not humans, nor are they beasts. They are monsters -- big ones, like Stalin, Yasser Arafat, Hitler -- but petty ones as well, which I will refrain from naming. You know who they are.

In Orthodox Christianity, "metanoia" is the word used to describe what happens when we acknowledge the suffering that lies underneath all of the distraction and self-deception. It is translated as "repent," which means literally to humbly "turn around" and face what we have been running from -- to change the spirit, purify the eye of the soul, and realign ourselves around that from which we had been fleeing.

Now, instead of being an open system that seeks "nourishment" only from the fallen world, we turn to another source of vitality, and begin the process of becoming an open system in dynamic rapport with a nonlocal source. It is, as Paul said, to be "transformed by the renewing of your nous," for renewal can only occur in an open system, not a static one.

To embrace the lie -- any lie -- is to enter a parallel universe and a spiritually closed system, alienated from the "really real," as Gregory of Nyssa called it. A closed system is equivalent to death, as all living things are open systems in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Much depends on what you are open to. You are what you eat -- both physically and spiritually.

Mmmmm, medicine of immortality....

According to Hieromonk Damascene, "we know that our metanoia is genuine -- that is, that a Divine change has really occurred in us," when we have a spontaneous revulsion for many of the things that previously appeared "sweet" or alluring to us.

I personally have seen this gradual change in myself. No, it is not complete. But I have seen chain after chain "drop away," not necessarily big things, but just little annoyances that bind you to the ephemeral. Denied nutrients, they just start to whither and die. Every once in a while one might cry out, "Where are you?," but it is increasingly easy to ignore it. "Go away. If you must know, I'm walking around with Petey in the cool of the evening."


Oh, and since we have a specific request from a reader to toss some Sri Aurobindo into the mix, here's how he describes the psycho-cosmic situation alluded to above in his poem Savitri:

A Nature that denied the eternal Truth
In the vain braggart freedom of its thought
Hoped to abolish God and reign alone.
There was no sovereign Guest, no witness Light;
Unhelped it would create its own bleak world....
It's huge misguided fancy took vast shapes,
It's mindless sentience quivered with fierce conceits....
Leaders of the cosmic ignorance and unrest
And sponsors of sorrow and mortality
Embodied the dark ideas of the Abyss.
A shadow substance into emptiness came,
Dim forms were born in unthinking Void...
Accustomed to the unnatural dark, they saw
Unreality made real and conscious Night.
A violent, fierce and formidable world,
An ancient womb of huge calamitous dreams....
It was the gate of a false Infinite,
An eternity of disastrous absolutes,
An immense negation of spiritual things....
Being collpased into a pointless void
That yet was a parent of the worlds;
Inconscience swallowing up the cosmic Mind
Produced a universe from its lethal sleep....

Maybe I will name names. Nah... let's just reflect on what we can personally do to wake from the lethal sleep that dreams this bleak world.

Fitness and unfitness are only a way of speaking; man is unfit and a misfit (so far as spiritual things are concerned) -- in his outward nature. But within there is a soul and above there is a Grace. This is all you know or need to know... --Sri Aurobindo

Paul the Apostle knew this well; and, being possessed of a very clear understanding of the matter, he wrote in his letters more plainly and with greater lucidity that there are in fact two men in every single man. He says for instance: 'For if our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day'.... Of these two men he tells us that the one, namely, the inner man, is renewed from day to day; but the other, that is, the outer, he declares to be corrupted and weakened... --Origen

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