Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Truth About the Truth About Truth (5.12.10)

One problem with the postmodern world is that even if people do believe that truth exists, they often have a very limited conception of what it entails -- basically empirical or rational truth. This, despite the fact that logical positivism and scientism are totally discredited philosophies. You would be a terribly crippled human crapling if you were to try to live your life as if there were a perfect correspondence between the True and the merely empirically true.

As there are diverse forms of beauty and goodness, there are diverse forms of truth. That itself is a true statement, but what sort of truth? Another way of asking it is, "what is the truth about Truth?" There is empirical truth, rational truth, artistic truth, personal truth, revealed truth, even a person who claimed to be Truth. Given these diverse expressions, are we really dealing with the same thing? Or is it some kind of failure of language that causes us to confuse these categories?

Obviously, there must be some relationship between truth and intelligence. As we have noted before, if intelligence does not know truth, then it is not very intelligent. And yet, we know full well that there is generally a disconnect between human intelligence and truth. Most intellectuals not only believe things that are untrue, but things that could not possibly be true.

Naturally, the intellect must be subordinate to truth. Thus, intelligence should always engender a spirit of humility. But due to a number of character flaws -- mostly pride -- the intellectual may come to value his own intellect more than the truth that may be known through it.

This is again why we should value good character over intelligence, since good character implies a kind of intelligence that is faithful to the transcendent object of human existence, whereas intelligence alone assures no such concordance. The former implies "cardiac comprehension," or intellection, which transcends mere mental knowing. And as we mentioned yesterday, a truly intelligent person is a humble person, since he does not fundamentally seek recognition but transcendence: "he is interested in surpassing himself; hence in pleasing God more than men" (Schuon).

Schuon summarizes what has gone wrong with the "unintelligently intelligent" person, whereby "the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error":

"The paradoxical phenomenon of even a 'brilliant' intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships; however, the definition 'intelligence' still applies, because there is still a discernment between something essential and something secondary, or between a cause and an effect." But the systematic, even intentional, exclusion of the vertical -- and we see this all the time, especially on the left -- "creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill."


And this is why irreligious people tend to be so extraordinarily irrational in their beliefs. It is not that religious people cannot be irrational; that would be a completely foolish thing to say. But that is the fault of the individual believer. Ultimately it is the fault of fallen humanity as such. A proper Christian is never surprised when he encounters someone who believes nonsense -- whether religious or irreligious, it doesn't matter. Indeed, he expects it, since his religiosity both predicts and accounts for it. But secular extremists such as Dennett, Harris and Hitchens are surprised by irrationality -- as if human beings are not fallen and not prone to inhabit illusions (secular extremism being one of these pernicious illusions).

Because to be a secular extremist is to be a fully horizontal man. It is the ultimate cosmic inversion, for it is to elevate our fallen state to the highest virtue. It is "to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path," to be "exteriorized," and to "love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values." Ultimately it is "to sin against transcendence, thus it is to forget God and consequently the meaning of life; and outwardness is to sin against immanence, thus to forget our immortal soul and consequently its vocation." And finally, it must be insisted that this willful horizontality engenders a kind of uniquely "human animality" that all persons with activated cOOnvision can see "is situated beneath animality as such, for animals innocently follow their immanent law and thereby enjoy a certain natural and indirect contemplation of the Divine Prototype; whereas there is decadence, corruption and subversion when man voluntarily reduces himself to his animality" (Schuon).

(Which is undoubtedly why PETA people value - and perhaps should value, in an ironic way -- animals more than themselves; but they shouldn't value animals more than normal people.)

Schuon points out that there are four functions of intelligence: objectivity, subjectivity, activity, and passivity. In the human mind, these correspond to reason, intuition, imagination, and memory, respectively. To be “objective” -- as in everyday science -- means that our knowledge "is inspired by data which are exterior to it." This is referred to as the "correspondence" theory of truth, as if the essence of knowledge is simply a mirroring of the external world. But to remain mired on this concrete level of reality is to codify stupidity in the manner of the devout atheists referenced above. It is to elevate a small portion of truth and intelligence to the totality.

But there is also subjective intelligence, which "operates through existential analogy," as in, say, scripture ("as above, so below"). Scripture is only "effective," so to speak, because it is not ultimately about "the world" but about us. You might say that it is the truth about humans, including the world humans inevitably create in the absence of this saving knowledge. The capacity to know this kind of truth is not fundamentally different than our ability, say, to know the subjectivity of another. For example, as a psychologist, my primary data is never merely rational, empirical, or objective. Rather, it is direct and intuitive, mind-to-mind. Only here do we begin to enter the specifically human world.

For example, an autistic person -- the real kind, not the newer variants that may or may not be related to true autism -- is specifically barred access to this human world. A severely autistic person is a true materialist, in that he lives in a bizarre sea of objects from which he cannot escape "upward" or "inward," so to speak. This transition was captured vividly, if apocryphally, in the film The Miracle Worker, when Helen first makes the connection between water and wetness. Suddenly she gains access to a whole new world: the human world. (And for you film buffs out there, Helen's infant sister is played by none other than Mrs. G. A coincidence? Yes.)

But something equally dramatic happens -- does it not? -- when we suddenly gain access to the "divine world" through our comprehension of revelation. As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, "there is definitely a 'phase transition' in spirtitual growth, where one rather suddenly goes from knowledge to understanding (i.e., the 'second birth'). To realize that this understanding will continue to deepen and grow is the thrill of a lifetime."


Who could say it isn't so!

As water leads to wetness, the experience of the divine (or the sacred, the holy, the transcendentally beautiful) leads to Divinity. All are passages out, up, and in, however you wish to conceptualize it. But the exact word is not of fundamental importance. Rather, the experience is. Let your words be anchored in the ground of Real experience, or of O-->(k).

Now, in its active mode, intelligence "relives, recreates or combines the possibilities which are known to it, and this is the imagination." Conversely, in its passive mode, the intelligence "registers and preserves the data which present themselves to it." Thus at once we see the subtle balance of, on the one hand, fixed dogma and orthodoxy, and on the other, our active engagement of it with our higher imagination.

I believe you will find that all of the greatest true theologians are great precisely because they respect and maintain this subtle balance. To default on the side of dogma creates a sterile conformity with no possibility of organic spiritual growth watered by the grace of personal understanding; while to default in the other direction places one in the solipsistic and narcissistic realm of the new age fantasists such as Deepak and Co. The latter approach may "feel" like movement, but it is vertically sterile -- again something that any awakened person can discern within reading just a sentence or two of Chopra's banal and/or frankly luciferic writings* (or Tony Robbins and the rest of the New Age Traveling Salvation Show).

Incidentally, only a troll could possibly think that the last sort of statement is made out of bitterness, much less "envy," as opposed to joyous good cosmic humor. I am laughing at these clowns, not angry with them. So I leave you laughing. And if you don't get the joke, it's only because you don't know about jehovial wetness.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God...

Eh mon, can I get a wetness?

*No, I haven't actually read any of Deepak's crass and vulgar books, only the grotesque and evil things he pens on Huffingtonpost; that he is capable of such alternatively sinister or crazy thoughts proves that Truth is not operative in him and that his books can only be harmful and certainly devoid of grace. By the way, he has called me much worse -- not by name, of course, but "the crowd I run with," since he is a paranoid, anti-American, barking moonbat with a terminal case of BDS. A recent sample:

"There is no viable peace movement presently, thanks to a thirty-year rise of military-industrial interests. America sells more arms around the world than any other country. We are in the forefront of inventing new means of mechanized death, including futuristic robot armies. We betray tenuous alliances, like the one with Russia, by proposing new missile defense systems that directly threaten them."

For Deepak, America, not radical Islam, is at the forefront of death and destruction. We even threaten Russia! (As if we didn't spend 50 years and billions of dollars liberating them.)

He's also a crude anti-Semite of the Jimmy Carter variety; thus, Israel's recent defensive war against Muslim barbarians "was an exercise in pure arrogance, a devastating assault on a defenseless neighbor, with the pretext being the capture [not kidnapping!] of two Israeli soldiers."

And he is not displeased that we are struggling in Iraq, because "both of these wars have deflated Israel and the U.S., and there is little doubt that the future will hold much less aggression, particularly of the unilateral kind, from either country."

Like the rest of the left, he actually wants America and Israel to lose. As I said, evil. A Rosie by any other name would smell as foul.

Can you even imagine the bottomless ingratitude of this windy Hindi?

Friday, May 25, 2007

On the Intelligence of the Stupid and the Stupidity of the Intelligent

One of the most common logical flaws of the left is the dismissal of religion based upon the fact that so many stupid people believe and practice it. Frankly, I've never understood this argument, since it's not really an argument anyway. It's quite easy to dismiss anything based upon what its most unintelligent adherents believe about it. For example, I would also reject the constitution of the United States if my understanding were based only upon what dopey leftists say about it. After all, they think our constitution sanctions racial discrimination, murder, prosecution of thought crimes, government hostility to religion, and censorship on college campuses.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of bright and intelligent people who believe in nonsense. In a way, they are much more problematic than the mentally diminished religious believer, since one would think that the former's intelligence -- if it were truly intelligence and not something less -- would inevitably lead them down the path of truth. But to point out that this isn't so is a monumental understatement. If anything, the person who explicitly rejects religion is generally the most philosophically confused. Unmoored from perennial truth, they go on a wild nous chase that we know ahead of time will never lead anywhere.

In short, there is no necessary connection between intelligence and truth. At first blush this seems odd, but at second blush I think you can see why. It has to do with the two aspects of our intelligence, one natural (or animal), the other supernatural (or divine). For example, at this moment I have a nine week-old puppy playing at my feet. She is obviously very intelligent, but no matter how intelligent she becomes, she will never know truth. This is because she has only natural intelligence -- the sort of intelligence that can more or less be explained by natural selection (not really, but we'll let it slide for the moment).

But why can Coondog's intelligence never know truth? Yesterday a commenter who is himself brimming with rudimentary intelligence took issue with my statement that "either natural selection explains our intelligence, or our intelligence explains natural selection. You can't have it both ways." Instead, the commenter declared that "natural selection is the cause of our intelligence; in turn, our intelligence provides the written and/or verbal explanation of natural selection. Problem solved; now we have it both ways."

The tail-chasing circularity of this dogomatic barkument should be evident to all coonines. It is logically equivalent to saying that truth and intelligence do not exist, since they may be reduced to blind natural selection. With such a view, there is not even an ontological basis to draw a fundamental distinction between animal and human intelligence, much less between the evolved brain and the uncreated intellect.

Now, the above commenter may be excused, since his sort of metaphysical nonderstanding is obviously a "sign of the times." In most men of our age, the intellect has been reduced to a shadow of itself. In most people it is more a virtuality than an actuality, encased as it is under thick sheets of higher education. Even so, it is difficult to completely kill a soul while its body still lives. As Schuon observes, there is no watertight partition between the intellect and the reason, "for a sound process of reasoning indirectly transmits something of the intellect." Nevertheless, "the respective operations of the reason -- or the mind -- and of the intellect are fundamentally different," irrespective of "certain appearances due to the fact that every man is a thinking being, whether he be wise or ignorant."

In other words, you can't actually stop thinking, despite what the occasional Tolle-troll drops by to tell us. As a matter of fact, their insipid thoughts make the case, don't they? If they were actually coming from the plane Tolle thinks he has achieved, their thoughts would be luminous and clear instead of murky and new-agey. Furthermore, they would be "generatively resonant" for the person reading them, not dense and stagnant. And finally, you could not build a financial empire around them, a la other new age hucksters such as Deepak Chopra. The secret protects itself, something proven every time Chopra opens his ghastly piehole or sets his beastly fingers to the keyboard.

Schuon writes that the lower mind is analogous to the intellect "insofar as it is a kind of intelligence." However, at the same time, it is opposed to the intellect "by its limited, indirect and discursive character." Clearly, the reasoning of the lower mind cannot determine its own limits or provide its own materials, which are "exterior" to it. On the other hand, knowledge of the intellect is interior to it, but externalized, so to speak.

For example, Polanyi has written extensively of how the intellectually gifted scientist (as opposed to the typical "worker bee" scientific laborer) employs a kind of translogical vision in order to identify a fruitful problem that will then be susceptible to conventional reasoning. But this vision can never be reduced to some mechanical or deterministic rational formula (any more than great songwriting can be reduced to knowledge of musical scales). Rather, it is much more analogous to artistic vision, to a sort of holistic seeing, than to scientific reason. It is a kind of "seeing within," or into the "withinness of things." It is what Einstein meant when he said that he wanted to understand the mind of God.

Frankly, I do this all the time with my posts. I can often read a single sentence and intuitively know that this sentence can be expanded into an entire post. But if you are an "expert" at anything, I think you will see that you routinely do it as well. For example, I am quite sure that a successful businessman such as Smoov can peer into the marketplace and intuitively see things that are completely invisible to me, just as Dupree can look at a pro wrestling match and see all sorts of subtleties that elude me.

Another way of saying it is that the limits of the lower reasoning mind are inherent and intrinsic, whereas the apparent limitations of the intellect "are merely accidental and extrinsic." No, the intellect cannot know "total truth," for that would be equivalent to being God. Nevertheless, the formula "as above, so below" means that it is possible for the intellect to, as Schuon describes it, "establish certain points of reference which are adequate and sufficient," somewhat analogous to the way in which "it is possible to represent space by a circle, a cross, a square, a spiral or a point and so on." One immediately thinks of how scripture -- say, Torah -- is intended to function as a perfectly adequate "representation" of the eternal.

In any event, "there is no difficulty in the fact that pure intelligence -- the intellect -- immensely surpasses thought," even if we do not possess God-like omniscience. Philosophers and scientists habitually try "to enclose everything in the cogito alone," which is a fool's errand, for there will always be areas "which exceed the possibilities of reason" but "none that exceed those of intelligence as such."

For what is human as opposed to animal intelligence? For starters, it is objectivity, or the ability to consciously transcend self-interest, something no animal can do. Is is also discernment, or the ability to pass "from appearances to reality, from forms to essence, and from effects to cause." And beyond objectivity and discernment is faith which, according to Schuon, "is the propensity to pass from the concept to the thing itself, or from knowing to being." Faith is specifically a mode of knowing nonlocal realities, or an unknowing that clears a space for the supernatural ingression of real transhuman knowledge (which is always a grace).

At risk of championing the obvious, this kind of faith-lit intelligence far exceeds the animal intelligence of the Darwinians, let alone the lowbrow atheistic ravings of the Dennett-Harris-Hitchens crowd. After all, "intelligence is the perception of the real and not the 'intellectualization' of the unreal." The former not only gives rise to discernment of the higher realities of which it is an adequation, but "to the awareness of our superiority in relation to those who do not know how to discern."

All Raccoons know that this sober attitude is not to be confused with the smug sanctimony of the new-age Chopras on the one hand and the religious nuts on the other (for these are simply two sides of the same worthless coin). Rather, as Schuon points out, this awareness "is not in itself a fault, for we cannot help being aware of something that exists and is perceptible to us thanks to our intelligence."

But at the same time -- and this is the key -- awareness of this "superiority" -- if that's what we're going to call it -- automatically engenders humility, since it brings with it awareness of hierarchy, and therefore, our own relative inferiority to those -- and that -- who vastly surpass us. It is why it would never even occur to me -- or to any Raccoon, for that matter -- to pose as a some sort of spiritual master, as do the lowerdown Chopraesque darklings who fleece the grazing multitude of spiritually bereft sheep.

I don't mean to rely upon Schuon so much, but he wrote so many wonderfully lucid things about human intellegence, plus, as you know, I'm writing these posts under adverse circumstances that make it more of a challenge to dwell in the infinite in the usual leisurely way. Besides, I'm hardly inventing truth, but simply passing along the Truth as it is given to me, hopefully in a way that is not too distorted by my own bobliviousness.

As I have mentioned on many O->ksions, if I can simply redirect people back to the extraordinary richness of their own authentic spiritual traditions without being too much of a muddleman, then I will have accompliced your climb. That's enough for me, and nothing gives me more metaphysical joy than to hear testimony to this effect. For it means that it is not about me, which is naturally a great comfort. To know God is to know oneself, which is simultaneously an exalted privilege and a humbling diminution. Again, man is the measure of all things except for that which takes the measure of man.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ransacking the Cosmos and Vandalizing the Pages of History (5.17.09)

For the more one discovers of God, the more one finds one has to learn. Every step in advance is a return to the beginning, and we shall not really know him as he is, until we have returned to our beginning, and learned to know him both as the beginning and end of our journey. --Fr. Bede Griffiths, The Golden String

Several months ago, I came across this oddity that I tucked away for future use:

"Recently, the comedian and movie star Sinbad had to announce that he was not, in fact, dead of a heart attack at age 50, as his Wikipedia entry claimed. Somebody vandalized the page, claimed Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez."

"Vandalizing the page" is an apt metaphor for the secular misuse of language, which culminates in the unholy quadrivelum of multiculturalism, moral relativism, tolerance and diversity. It also forms the basis of left-wing guru George "rhymes with" Lakoff's Orwellian theory of "framing," which progressives employ to try to make their tasteless ideas even more palatable to the indiscriminate. And of course, the horizontal barbarism of deconstruction is the quintessence of the nihilistic ransacking of history.

When we refer to intelligence, we are ultimately talking about meaning. And when we refer to meaning, we are ultimately talking about the human event. No, not this or that finite human life, but the entire meaning of an anthropocentric cosmos that was once dead and unconscious but has awakened to its own hidden meaning in the form of the human subject.

This mysterious subjective center has appeared "out of nowhere" and cannot -- and will not ever -- be explained on any purely naturalistic grounds. But at the same time, the human center will not always be here. The cosmic "I" only fully opened around 40,000 years ago, and it will close again at some point in the future, one way or the other. The cosmos, let alone our solar system, will not always be fit for life, even if Sheryl Crow uses no toilet paper at all on her private jet.

Therefore, all meaning must be placed in the larger context of the meaning of meaning, or the Human Event. In the words of theologian Thomas Torrance,

"The fact that the universe expanded in such a way that the emergence of conscious mind in it is an essential property of the universe, must surely mean that we cannot give an adequate account of the universe in its astonishing structure and harmony without taking into account, that is, without including conscious mind as an essential factor in our scientific equations.... Without man, nature is dumb, but it is man's part to give it word: to be its mouth through which the whole universe gives voice to the glory and majesty of the living God."

Any philosophy that falls short of this is simply vandalism, not to mention blarney, since it has the effect of reducing the reality of our cosmic situation to rubble. All varieties of materialism fall into this category, as they begin their exploration by turning the cosmos upside down and inside out in order to try to understand it.

And any philosophical understanding that flows from such a backward approach begins with inversion but ends in perversion. I say this because the universe itself is an expression of the Human Event, not vice versa. Any true humanist understands -- either explicitly or implicitly -- that reality is a result of the irreducible hypostatic union of subject and object in the human person. The cosmos is actually an "outgrowth" of this fundamental reality, which is why we can affirm the truism that man is the measure of all things, with the exception of that which takes the measure of man, which is to say, God, or the Absolute.

Within the "Human Event" is the "God event." We call this latter event revelation, which includes the Incarnation. But in reality, the human event is itself a revelation and an incarnation. Specifically, the intellect -- no, not the puny intellect of the secular intellectual, but the nous, or intellect properly so-called -- is revelation "subjectivized," just as scripture is the intellect, or Word, objectivized. So if one affirms that scripture is the "word of God," it is another way of saying that the intellect through which scripture is understood is also the word of God.

But not exactly. Rather, the first and last Word of God -- the Alpha and Omega -- would have to be the hypostatic union of those two words in the human person. Again, the Human Event is ultimately the unification of the cosmic Subject and Object, and its highest expression -- at least from the human side of the Divine-human divide -- is what is called in the Orthodox Christian tradition theosis.

Thus, theosis is the ultimate meaning of cosmic evolution, a subset of which is the biological evolution that the Darwinians, in their metaphysical blindness, attempt to reduce to random mechanical changes. Here again, while I do not believe that "intelligent design" should be taught as science -- since it obviously transcends science -- to teach natural selection as metaphysical truth represents the most crude sort of intellectual barbarism imaginable. As Schuon writes, this kind of shallow secular intellectualism

"cannot fail to engender errors. It confers self-complacency and... introduces a sort of worldliness into the intellectual domain. Its good side is that it may speak of truth; its bad side is the manner in which it speaks of it. It replaces the virtues it lacks by sophistries. It lays claim to everything but is in fact inoperative. In intellectualism a capacity to understand the most difficult things readily goes hand in hand with an inability to understand the simplest things" (oomphasis mine).

Put another way, science is simply one of the diverse possibilities of intelligence as such. If, like the Darwinian vandals, we ransack the cosmos and turn it upside down, we place ourselves in the absurd position of using our intelligence to prove that it doesn't actually exist.

In other words, either natural selection explains our intelligence, or our intelligence explains natural selection. You can't have it both ways. Likewise, either intelligence explains the big bang, or the big bang explains intelligence. In reality, no matter how far "back" we search, we find only more divine-human intelligence, the radiance of which is the beauty, truth, and harmony of the mathematical equations governing the physical world.

But even then, "govern" is not quite right, since the big bang is in reality a backward projection of the Human Event, and without which it would be inconceivable. The equations governing the big bang are not the meaning of existence; rather, human beings are the meaning of those equations. The meaning of anything is not found in its constituent parts; reducing something to its constituent parts is how you destroy meaning, precisely. Rather, meaning is only discovered by understanding what the parts are pointing toward and converging upon.

This brings us back around to the ironically named "progressive" movement, ironic because it excludes the very possibility of progress. Progress, to the extent that it exists -- and it does -- can only be understood in light of the Absolute. Otherwise, how do you measure it? Easy. For the progressive, you simply "make something up." You create some admittedly arbitrary standard out of thin air, and then determine whether or not reality comports with your fantasy of how things should be.

But in the end, the progressive is hoisted on his own petarded philosophy, which insists that there is no ultimate meaning or truth anyway. Which is why progressivism is such a shallow politico-intellectual game of spiritually stunted adultolescents.

Real progress occurs when the human event inches closer toward its nonlocal goal, which is to say, its theomorphic center. Probably the single greatest leap in human progress occurred with the founding of America, and we can see how this is opposed on all sides by forces of darkness that would undo or arrest its further advance -- including the Islamists, leftists, progressives, scientific materialists, and other cosmic vandals.

As I wrote in the Coonifesto, the end is always here, because the end of the Human Event occurs any time one of its individual expressions passes from fragmented multiplicity to true unity-in-diversity, in a neverunending process. This is the cosmic Omcoming we all seek.

Meaning is the golden thread which leads us ever-upward, beyond the subjective horizon, through to the foundation and destiny of the world. This is where the divine substance returns to itsource and God offers the creation back to himSelf in an act of Divine Thanksgiving. This is the cosmic eucharist, the consecration of existence, the wholly communion of a part so ptee doing deuty for the holos. It is not a nothing but a transformational plenitude where the human subject is perpetually transfigured at the crossroads of the vertical and horizontal.

Sinbad lives!

The intellect knows through its very substance all that is capable of being known and, like the blood flowing through even the tiniest arteries of the body, it traverses all the egos of which the universe is woven and opens out “vertically” on the Infinite. In other words: the intellective center of man, which is in practice subconscious, has knowledge, not only of God, but also of man’s nature and his destiny; and this enables us to present Revelation as a “supernaturally natural” manifestation of that which the human species knows, in its virtual and submerged omniscience, both about itself and about God. --F. Schuon

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Don't Get Stuck on Smart!

This topic of intelligence has stimulated more interesting and provocative -- even poignant -- comments than I might have predicted. It really is a big problem in a secular society, because it means that we begin to venerate intelligence instead of truth. And by extension, it means that we begin to exalt the genius instead of the messiah or savior (and I don't necessarily want to reduce this to a Christian understanding, but look at it in more general terms. As always, we want to know "by virtue of what principle" any particular instance is true).

We have now endured six or seven years of disparaging references to President Bush's intelligence. First, these references are generally from boneheaded liberals who are intrinsically less intelligent than President Bush, but let's leave that aside. Obviously, the question is not whether someone is intelligent, but whether they are correct -- and probably even more importantly, whether they are good. But once you have acceded to the cult of intelligence, then questioning someone's intellect serves the same purpose that questioning someone's faith did in an earlier age.

Think of all the left-wing "geniuses" who excoriated President Reagan, not just during the eight years of his presidency, but from the 1960s right up to the present. Does Christopher Hitchens have an IQ higher than president Reagan? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it certainly didn't stop Hitchens from devoting his intellect and talents to a stupid and evil ideology, Marxism, while Reagan was devoting all of his gifts -- heart, mind and soul -- to driving a dagger through its vampiric heart. That one was a God lover, the other a God hater, is certainly not incidental to their ability -- or lack thereof -- to spontaneously apprehend reality and know moral truth.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my blog to a colleague. Usually I keep it a secret, since I don't want to offend anyone's sensibilities, and psychologists are nearly always leftist and irreligious. In the course of the conversation, she said words to the effect of "so smart!," but I immediately said, "no, that's not the point. If it were just about being smart, about displaying my intelligence, I would have no interest in it. Rather, it's solely about truth, and about my being subordinate to that. Yes, I want to be entertaining and amusing, but mainly I want to be elevating. If I fail at that, then any intelligence that went into it will have been wasted. It's certainly not about any kind of ego gratification, or exaltation of me."

Interestingly, I had a somewhat similar conversation with a staff member who is not a psychologist. However, she is religious, and she seemed to understand in a nanosecond where I was coming from. You will notice that many of our trolls complain that I am only here to strut and preen before my audience of adoring Coons, and to devour their slavish compliments in order to glorify my ego. As a result of your charcoal activated cOOnvision, every single one of you knows that that is not true and that it could not possibly be true. For one thing, if it were true, there is simply no way I could write about the things I do. The moment it were to become about me, the source of my inspiration would close tighter than a leftist's mind on Sunday. Likewise, if I were to ever become "popular," I would know that something had gone terribly wrong.

To put it another way, I guarantee to all Coons here and now, that if the tentacles of fame ever come close to me, you will see someone torpedo this opportunity in the most stunningly self-defeating way you have ever witnessed. For example, I've imagined once or twice what it would be like to be interviewed by Larry King. At some point, I promise to say, "Larry, I can't answer your questions because I've forgotten how to be so stupid."

There is no philosophy more anti-human than humanism, since, as Schuon puts it, it exalts fallen man and not man as such -- the latter being pre-fallen man, which is to say, our divine blueprince. Thus, "the humanism of the moderns is practically a utilitarianism aimed at fragmentary man; it is to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible" (emphasis mine).

Think about the implications of that last Wise Crack, for it "explains everything" and pretty much embodies the doctrine of the whole existentialada. From the viewpoint of the left, mankind is indeed useless -- except for the purposes designated by the left. It has no higher, intrinsic purpose whatsover. In fact, we see the naked expression of this odiology in the fanatical environmentalism of Al Gore and other greenhouse gasbags, who believe that we are here to please the earth rather than vice versa. In reality, we have reversed cause and effect: the barbarism of radical environmentalism is the logical outcome, the "final common pathway," of a soul that has long since abandoned God.

Schuon makes reference to the truism that "every soul contains two poles, but normally they are complementary and not divergent." The two poles can be conceptualized in diverse ways, but ultimately it is a matter of horizontal and vertical. To overvalue one at the expense of the other will lead to an imbalance and loss of one's "transcendently immament" center. Nor can one have "two centers," for this is functionally to have no center.

No. The task in this life -- at least for a Coon -- is to embody unity in diversity, the archetype of which -- at least for Western man -- is Jesus Christ (I am quite sure there is a Jewish equivalent, but I don't have time at the moment to elucidate; in fact, balancing these two poles forms the essence of Jewish spiritual life, which addresses the issue in the most beautifully comprehensive manner).

Immediately we appreciate the problem of the "decentered genius" of modernity, and why genius in the absence of spiritual grounding tends twoard the duomonic. You will have noticed that America has never trusted the intellectual, and with good reason. It is one of the reasons why America is the greatest nation the world has ever known. In Europe and South America, things are different. There, intellectuals wield great power, and with disastrous results that are there for everyone to see. For there is no idea so stupid or evil that has not been championed by some prominent left-wing intellectual.

And now you are in a position to understand the great gulf that exists between lefitst academia and normal Americans with traditional, classical liberal American values. In reality, we shouldn't wonder why these ghastly pinheads hate America so. They hate America because Americans don't take them seriously, as they do in Europe.

In Europe, Noam Chomsky is a "rock star," whereas in America he is a paranoid crank embraced only by empty-headed celebrities, addle-brained kids, and their developmentally arrested professors (although in the past decade or so, we have also seen a marked deterioration in our MSM, to the point that there is no longer any discernible difference between, say, a Chomsky and the idiotorial pages of the New York Times, which is the real reason for the latter's economic failure and increasing irrelevance).

Schuon had some very astute things to say about the modern cult of genius, which, in the postmodern world, has replaced the saint and hero. He writes that the genius is "all too often a man without a center, in whom this lack is replaced by a creative hypertrophy." Again, think of the prolific Chomsky, who writes one book after another, each more worthless than the last.

This attitude also embraces the "art for art's sake" credo. That the lives of these so-called artistic geniuses are so full of decadence and strife is of no consequence. I have mentioned before that when I was in a rock band, I could see that I lacked the requisite "desperation" to succeed in that world. I simply had too many other options. Which in turn explains so much of the darkness that comes out of the pop music world. With notable exceptions, these are often desperate losers, any accidental genius notwithstanding. The list is far too long to chronicle here.

But as Schuon says -- and he was referring to the wider artistic trends of the 20th century -- "That geniuses of this kind have often been unfortunate and desperate persons [whose lives] have ended in disaster, does not deprive them of any prestige in public opinion; quite the contrary, people find them all the more interesting and 'authentic,' and let themselves be attracted by the seduction, indeed the fascination, which emanates from their siren songs and tragic destinies." Just yesterday I read a quote from some musician - the name escapes me at the moment -- who was wondering when and why music became so ugly. Life is ugly enough. The purpose of art should be to elevate us above the ugliness, not wallow in it.

The so-called genius who is alienated from the higher planes will tend toward materialism and self-indulgence: "as an intellectual, this man will forge a philosophy, but it will be determined by his materialism and his love of pleasure." But these are not actually joyous people who take pleasure in "the simple things." Rather, you will often see that their pleasure-seeking takes on a compulsive quality. At best, they become an epicure or an aesthete who is often reduced to making ultra-fine distinctions in the realm of what displeases him, to the point that the capacity for true innocent pleasure is lost.

I see how this absurdity operates in my own hobby as a hi-fi enthusiast. I can chase better sound until the day I die, but I know in my heart that music will never sound better than it did when the Beatles were coming out of the AM radio of our 1964 Ford Country Squire. To put it another way, I can always get better sound, but it will never sound better.

American movies have always recognized the demonic possibilities of the horizontal or inverted intellectual. Villains are routinely depicted as off-kilter geniuses, and with good reason. As Schuon writes, "it is not astonishing that a man who is at once a man of genius and lacking a true center should easily become a psychopath -- and this is precisely on account of his unbridled subjectivism -- whether he be a schizoid artist, a paranoiac politician or some other caricature of grandeur."

There is much, much more to say about this topic, but I'm running out of time here, so we we'll continue this line of thought tomorrow. Just remember: don't ever call me an intellectual, much less an artist. Them's fightin' words.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Intelligence and How it Gets That Way (5.14.10)

I'll be blogging under unusually adverse circumstances in the upcoming weeks, so it is possible that my streak will be broken. I had been hoping to catch Cal Ripken -- that would be 2632 consecutive posts, and I'm only at 626 -- but that may prove unrealistic.

This morning, for example, Future Leader and Coondog woke up at the same time at 5:30, before I'd even finished my coffee. Plus, F.L. has some kind virus -- possibly Hoof and Mouth disease, believe it or not -- so I was trying to feed both of them at the same time while simultaneously typing, changing a diaper, and shooting some Advil down the boy's hatch. I feel like a Tongan man, who is so manly he's like the greatest woman alive without being the least bit feminine.

By the way, if I don't respond to email right away, now you know why. And if the posts are shorter -- which will please many of you anyway -- that's the reason. And if they are more shallow, ungrammatical, superficial, silly, or repetitive -- ditto. And if Dupree occasionally takes the wheel of the Cosmic Bus and gets off one of his gratuitously inflammatory "piece o' my mind" posts, well, he's just trying to be helpful. Which is to say, hurtful. But in a good way.

Anyhoo, before the interruptions, I was silently brooding before the blank screen and thinking to myself: before we can determine who's intelligent, we must first define what intelligence is and what it is for. In fact, even the nature of this question provides a hint, for it presupposes the ability of intelligence to "stand outside" or "above" intelligence and view it objectively. Thus, the implication is that intelligence as such implies both verticality and objectivity.

I suppose the Darwinian view would maintain -- would have to maintain, on pain of being fatally inconsistent... which it is, but let's move on -- that the purpose of intelligence is to get food and chicks. Therefore, using one's intelligence for any other purpose would have to be considered very stupid. As such, human beings would have to be considered the least intelligent of all species, since they waste so much mental energy on stupid and pointless things such as music, poetry, painting, and spirituality.

How could natural selection have created such a stupid animal that engages in so many pointless and fanciful activities? It makes no sense. For example, if we were to rate presidential greatness on the Darwinian scale, Clinton would win in a landslide, for no one surpasses him in cashing in the presidency for so much, er, Coon-tang, as Dupree calls it.

Please do not think that I am being ironic or farfetched. In the course of writing the Coonifesto, I went through any number of books by various sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists who twist themselves into putzels trying to reduce every aspect of the human mind to the plane of reproductive phatness.

A case in point is The Mating Mind, by Geoffrey Miller, who argued that most every human attribute can be explained by sexual selection. I see on the amazon page that even the hopeless boneheads at Publisher's Weekly can recognize this as a circular argument, even if they lack the sophistication to realize that all materialistic explanations of intelligence are circular.

Being that the dustjacket indicates that Miller is married, I guess I don't get the point of his book. I see that he dedicated it to "Rosalind." I'm guessing that flowers and dark chocolate would have been just as effective in achieving his reproductive mission. At any rate, if Miller's thesis is correct, then he wrote his book not because of any devotion to Truth, but to make Rosalind his intern, as our greatest president might say. To the extent that he didn't, then the book fails by its own laughty standard. We'll have to ask Rosalind.

But if the Darwinians are correct about intelligence, then perhaps instead of granting scholars tenure, we should just give them access to lots of attractive young coeds. Oh, wait a minute....

Suddenly the intellectual vacuity of academia makes sense.

Perhaps some folks have difficulty seeing God because God is doing the looking. To a certain extent this is unavoidably true, for only a "naturally supernatural" intelligence can know of God, and the intellect is a divine spark that cannot be accounted for on any purely naturalistic basis. Schuon points out that we have an "uncreated intellect" at the center of our being, which may be thought of as an extension, or prolongation, of the "divine light."

However, we also have a "created intellect," which is a "reflection of this Light at the center of Existence." The two are essentially One but nevertheless distinct, and in fact, this distinction must be maintained if we are to understand these two very different aspects of the intellect. As Schuon puts it, "when we speak of the Heart-Intellect, we mean the universal faculty which has the human heart for its symbolical seat, but which, while being ‘crystallised’ according to different planes of reflection, is none the less ‘divine’ in its single essence."

You might say that the lower intellect -- thrust as it is to the further reaches, or "periphery" of the cosmic center -- allows us to comprehend change, while the higher intellect abides closer to the immutable, which it in turn is able to contemplate or "reflect upon" -- for all intelligence must, in the final analysis, be a sort of reflection of whatever reality it is trying to understand. "Perfect reflection" would represent "perfect understanding" -- which is to say, it would embody totality and objectivity. Which is why the spiritual life may be reduced to "cleaning mirrors."

This is consistent with the Kabbalistic view, which maintains, according to Adin Steinsaltz, that our interior Coon Central should not be thought of as a kind of "point" in space time. Rather, it is "a continuous line of spiritual being, stretching from the general source of all the souls to beyond the specific body of a particular person.... and because the soul is not a single point in space, it should be viewed not as a single existence having one quality or character, but as many existences, on a variety of spiritual levels..."

It is only on this higher level that human beings are all connected. While secularists deny this higher reality, they nevertheless intuit it on some level (as all humans must), which is the actual source and motive of their collectivist schemes. Because of a sort of mistranslation, they attempt to impose in the horizontal what they deny in the vertical. In this regard, they are the mirror image of the Islama-bomba-ding-dongs, who invent a God to grant them in the vertical what they deny themselves in the horizontal -- mainly a lot of sex. Oddly enough, they end up worshiping the same Darwinian god as the sociobiologists -- the only difference being that, in the case of the tenured leftist, his 72 coeds are not likely to be virgins.

And as for these different levels of reality, we must again avoid thinking of them in material terms -- with the exception of the actual physical world. However, even then, the physical world is the "bottom floor" on the vertical scale (although there is also a subterranean basement and parking structure), which corresponds with the bottom floor of that aspect of the intellect that mirrors it (for each level of reality is mirrored by an aspect of the intellect that understands it). In fact, the spiritual view maintains that each level of reality has in interior and exterior aspect, and that the exterior is actually a function of the interior.

As Steinsaltz puts it, "The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence.... Which does not necessarily mean that they exist somewhere else, but means rather that they exist in different dimensions of being. What is more, the various worlds interpenetrate and interact in such a way that they can be considered counterparts of one another, each reflecting or projecting itself on the one below or above it."

And as one descends in the worlds -- which is simultaneously a motion from the center to the periphery -- materiality and linear causation become increasingly greater. Existence becomes "heavier," or more dense, so to speak. Put another way, nothing could be more ethereal than the mathematical equations that preside over change and continuity while abiding in the Cosmic Intellect -- except perhaps the mind of the mathematician who contemplates and understands them, and is witness to their inexplicable beauty. There is no great mathematician who is not a Platonist.

It is a matter of understanding the difference between Principles and their Manifestation. It is a kind of cosmic irony that scientists have rejected the heliocentric theory, since, as we have mentioned before, science begins at the mysterious center and moves to the periphery, where it ramifies into the multitude of various scientific disciplines. In short, it moves from a unity -- which it simply assumes but can never account for -- to the periphery.

Conversely, religion moves from the cosmic periphery back to the center which is its source and ground -- from the manifestion to the principle, the ultimate Principle being God, whose center we share -- but only on the "higher" or "deeper" plane alluded to above. As Schuon explains,

"Intellectual intuition comprises essentially a contemplativity which in no way enters into the rational capacity, the latter being logical rather than contemplative; it is contemplative power, receptivity in respect of the Uncreated Light, the opening of the Eye of the Heart, which distinguishes transcendent intelligence from reason. The latter perceives the general and proceeds by logical operations, whilst Intellect perceives the principial -- the metaphysical -- and proceeds by intuition. Intellection is concrete in relation to rational abstractions, and abstract in relation to the divine Concreteness."

Therefore, comprehending God is not exactly a kind of knowing; rather, it is more a kind of "seeing." Just as the Tongan doesn't read a book, but simply stares at it in order to extract the information he needs, this is how scripture and revelation must be regarded. In other words, we don't understand them with our lower rational faculty, any more than we would understand a scene of transcendent physical beauty -- say, Yosemite Valley or Jellystone Park -- with our rational faculty. Indeed, to try to do so would represent a kind of madness -- the same madness that afflicts the obligatory atheists such as Hitchens and Harris, who have simply found a way to exchange their metaphysical stupidity for valuable cash and prizes. Just like the suicide bomber.

In fact, if these overeducated beasts do succeed in their satanic mission of destroying the spiritual foundation of the West, then perhaps we will see them for that they are: cluelesside bombers. But then it will be too late, because there will be no one foolish enough to lay down their life to preserve the higher spiritual principles that allow a parasite such as Christopher Hitchens to flourish in a free society.

Dupree, that last crack was uncalled for. Why don't you make yourself useful and go change Coondog's diaper? Some things are beneath a Tongan Man.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Centers of Being and Points of Entry

A new test of blogging fortitude, with the addition of a very active Coonine puppy at my feet. I'll just proceed with a spontaneous riff on the fragment of a thoughtlet that was in my head upon arising, which is that, if we are to love the lord with all our hearts, minds, and souls, the benefits of doing so are quite tangible and verifiable with regard to the first two, while the third requires a leap of faith that even I sometimes continue to struggle with (and I shouldn't even say "even," since there is nothing special about me). However, being that the first two are so demonstrably "operative" in time, perhaps we can deduce the promises of the timeless third.

When we talk about heart, mind, and soul, we are talking about 1) virtue, will, beauty and sentiment, 2) knowledge and wisdom, and 3) eternal salvation, or, at the very least, some sort of nonlocal process of growth (i.e., outside space and time) that we can only understand dimly.

It is very easy to see how loving the lord with all one's heart and mind "bears fruit" in the herebelow. In the first instance (heart), doing so should make you a happier, better, and more well-rounded person. In the second case (mind), it should make you a wiser, more intelligent, and more "sober" person. But as I said, the third case (soul) is trickier, because there we are dealing with certain "post mortem benefits" that we can only intuit through a dark presidential tint, at best.

Frankly, it's somewhat similar to the essentially backword route through which I approached Christianity, which was first through the mind. The Bobway has probably become an exception in our day and age, but there is no reason it should be, since I have personally vetted all secular philosophies and ideologies and declare Christianity to be much more intellectually nourishing than any of them. Frankly, there's just no comparison. One of the reasons I am able to blog every day is that the pool of religious wisdom is just so infinite that it can never be exhausted or contained. On the other hand, if I had to rely upon secular concepts in order to think and write, that well would run dry very quickly. That's how you end up being an inveterate triteweight such as Krugman, Dionne, Hitchens, Matthews, the entire idiotorial board of the New York Times, and all the rest of the MSM clowns, clones, and drones.

For one thing, when we are thinking within a system of revealed knowledge, it transcends and contains us, rather than vice versa. On the other hand, any secular philosophy ultimately rests upon the -- in my view, absurd -- notion that it is possible for the limited human mind to "contain" the whole of reality, when the mind is an expression of that Reality (and the presence of the intelligent human subject is the single greatest mystery in this irreducibly mysterious cosmos -- that and the appeal of Al Sharpton).

While it is true that Tongan men are so macho that they lose their virginity before their fathers, they are a special case. For the rest of us, we are the "sons and daughters of existence," so to speak, so that our own existence cannot explain existence as such in the absence of an outside perspective. This outside perspective is known as revelation, and one of the reasons revelation is so intellectually fruitful is that it specifically creates an open system between human beings and their transcendent source. There is a dynamic tension between two radically different forms of existence, God's and ours, and it is within the dynamic tension of this infinite space that true theology takes place, i.e., O-->(n).

As we have mentioned before, the Bhagavad Gita describes the different methods of yoga that correspond to this or that personality type. "Yoga" simply means "union," specifically, union with God. Thus, since human beings have at least three centers of being -- body, mind, and soul -- there is a yoga for each. But there is also the basic division of emotional man, mental man, and the man of action.

Christianity is often reduced to a form of bhakti yoga, which involves heartfelt adoration of the personal God, but frankly, I believe this approach is most effective for a particular personality style, that is, someone whose emotional being forms their human center of groovity. This center will also be the source of much ungroovy weakness -- of many falls -- so aligning it with God is a way for the emotions to transcend themselves and keep you out of jail. But the troubles caused by the wayward intellect probably far surpass the troubles caused by ungoverned passion. But when you combine the two -- that's when you have hell on earth.

As I touched upon above, it must be said that Christianity is doing a mediocre job of marketing itself, to the extent that otherwise sophisticated people believe that you must disable your intellect in order to be a practicing Christian. There is no question whatsoever that I suffered from this delusion in my sercular days, when I just dismissed religion -- western religion, anyway -- as so much shallow-minded fantasy, nothing worthy of even a moment's serious coonsideration.

Now I wonder: how did I come by this attitude? -- for it was not grounded in any personal experience I had ever had. Rather, it was all just the secular brainwashing I had endured by virtue of being plunged into secular culture. But had I ever personally read, much less comprehended, the works any of the great Christian intellects -- Origen, Dionysius the Areopagite, Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor, John Climacus, Augustine, John Scotus Eriugena, Meister Eckhart, and so many others?

No, I had not. Rather, I had simply taken their dismissal on faith -- mostly a faith in mid-level intellectuals who are incapable of raising their intellects to religion to begin with. But even leaving spiritual considerations aside, what an intellectually cluelesscidal thing to do! It is only through grace that I found my way back to them, through which I am able to comprehend them (and they us) and with which I am able to use them as a springboard for additional forays into the wild godhead. In other words, they are the ones who created the map. No, the map is not the territory, but you still need a good one to get from here to nowhere, since the deustination we seek is nowhere here, but beyond time and space. In actuality, it is a way to find your way back from the nowhere here to the eternal now.

Again: revelation and its "little sister," true theology, are the principle means we have for thinking vertically rather than horizontally. Furthermore, it is no less scientific and systematic than conventional science, which applies to the horizontal. Being that human beings are uniquely crucified at the innersection of the vertical and horizontal axes of existence, we are the only being with both senses and intellect, the former for exploring the outer world, the latter for comprehending the inner nature of things -- and this inner nature may ultimately be traced back to the Intellect of the intellect, that which sponsors both man's intelligence and the intelligibility reflected in every thing that exists.

Now, if we say that "Jesus saves," people generally mean the soul. However, I am here to testify that he and his authorized agents also save the mind, or the intellect properly so-called. As I said, this was my point of entry into the Christian stream. For other more "heart centered" individuals, perhaps it might have been the gloriously transcendent music of Bach, the compassionate heart of a great saint, or the heroic martyrdom of the early Christians. For more simple souls, it may simply be because scripture speaks to an intuitive place that is way beyond thought. In a way, they are the lucky ones, because they don't have to go through the complicated process of re-conquering their own wayward and prideful intellect.

But in my journey into the magnificent intellectual cathedral of Christianity, I was eventually confronted with one inescapable fact: that I was, so to speak, still dealing with the "penumbra" around the great mystery at the very heart of Christianity, that is, the Incarnation and Resurrection. It was as if I were simultaneously looking over and overlooking the center from which all this truth has continued flowing for the subsequent 2000 years -- a big smoking crater left by the ultimate depth charge plunging through history and cutting it in two like a Tongan tears a telephone book in half.

I better stop now. I have an eery feeling that all hell's about to break loose in the house. To be continued....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Coondog is here (eight week old black b-b-b... female Dane):

A Trollish Inconsistency is the Hobgoblin of the Religious Left

I'm going to try to write a post, but it may be impossible under these circumstances. The Boy made it through the night, but he could erupt at any time. I want to go back to dodging Susannah's original question, which I successfully evaded yesterday, which was, "What is your take on ostensibly religious left-wingers and how they come by their horizontality?"

First of all, as is generally true of so many areas, plain old stupidity is underrated as an explanation. If you just consider the fact that the average IQ is 100, then exactly 50% of the population has double digit IQs, which is not all that far from being borderline retarded (which is an IQ of 85 or below).

In short, half of mankind (actually, more than half, for reasons we won't get into here) is of below average intelligence. This hardly means that they aren't decent people or that they don't have skills, but it does mean that they probably can't actually think complex subjects through for themselves, and that their thinking is very likely going to be both internally and externally inconsistent. Furthermore, they won't even be intelligent enough to spot the inconsistency. And if you try to explain it to them, they still won't get it.

(I might add that countless people of modest intelligence fully understand, at least intuitively, transcendent Truth, whereas for many people of superior intelligence, such as a Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris, higher truth is, for a variety of characterological reasons, inaccessible to them, so please never think that I value intelligence itself if it is not aligned with the Real. Again, most of the serious problems in the world are caused by demonically intelligent people with bad ideas.)

As I have written before, one of the downsides of democracy is that it not only has a leveling tendency, but it leads to a situation in which, as Guenon remarked, "no one knows their place." Because of the aggressive imposition of egalitarian ideals from the top down, this results in a leveling of the higher castes, so that society ends up with a collective soul that is roughly half merchant and half laborer. Not only that, but through the magic of “inverse analogy,” transgression is confused with transcendence, so society ends up “worshipping” the outcast -- the transgressor, the outsider, the person “above” (actually beneath) the law.

But there is a substantial percentage of the population that is not fit to lead, only to be led (not in principle, of course, but in fact). In America this shouldn't really be a controversial statement, as it is explicitly what our founders believed. That's why they created a representative republic and not a democracy, the latter of which should be a "non-starter" for any thinking person who is aware of the natural hierarchy that prevails among humans. (Speaking of which, Al Gore is not a thinking person -- or at least no one should take his ghostrotten thoughts seriously.)

Which, by the way, is what distinguishes American style conservative liberalism (i.e., classical liberalism) from European style conservatism, which historically (at least until Margaret Thatcher, whose main intellectual influence was the quintessential classical liberal Freidrich Hayek) was much more about preserving the privileges of king and class, or what amounts to unnatural hierarchy. One of the ironies of our political system is that leftism now embodies the idea of preserving unearned privilege, whereas conservatives (not necessarily Republicans, mind you) are all for the creative destruction of the market, which allows people to rise up or down based upon their merits (or just plain luck).

Also, as I have previously noted, "The paradox, or 'complementarity,' at the heart of the modern conservative movement is the tension between tradition, which preserves, and the free market, which relentlessly destroys in order to build. While individual conservatives may or may not contain this tension within themselves, the conservative coalition definitely does, with the 'religious right' on one end and libertarians and free marketeers on the other. People wonder how these seeming opposites can coexist in the same ideological tent, but the key may lie in their dynamic complementarity, for liberty only becomes operative, or 'evolutionary,' when it is bound by transcendent limitations -- which, by the way, is equally true for the individual."

Furthermore, "The ironically named progressive left is an inverse image of this evolutionary complementarity. This is because it rejects both the creative destruction of capitalism and the evolutionary restraints of tradition. Therefore, it is static where it should be dynamic, and dynamic where it should be static. It is as if they want to stop the world and 'freeze frame' one particular image of capitalism, which is why, for example, they oppose free trade. While free trade is always beneficial in the long run, it is obviously going to displace some people and some occupations. It is as if the progressive is an 'economic traditionalist,' transferring their resistance to change to the immament realm of economics instead of the spiritual realm of transcendent essences."

In other words, "while the progressive is thoroughly backward looking with regard to economics, he is the opposite with regard to the spiritual realm. For him, mankind was basically worthless until the scientific revolution, mired as it was in myth, magic, and superstition. Rather, the only reliable way to understand the world is through the scientific method, which has the effect of throwing overboard centuries of priceless accumulated spiritual wisdom. It literally severs man from his deepest metaphysical roots and ruptures his vertical continuity. In reality, it destroys the very possibility of man in the archetypal sense -- i.e., actualizing his 'spiritual blueprint.'"

A further irony about the left: "Progressives, starting with Karl Marx, waged an assault on labor, eliminating its spiritual significance and reducing it to a mindless, collective 'proletariat.' You might say that the left honors labor in the same way they honor the military: both are considered by them to be losers." When Democrats claim that they are "for the little man," they actually mean this insult in the existential sense. Leftists always have a contemptuous and patronizing attitude toward labor, just as they do toward blacks. Meanwhile, the unleashing of market forces has obviously done more to lift the fortunes of blacks and laborers than any welfare program ever has.

Speaking of which, someone yesterday mentioned Martin Luther King. What about him? He was a religious leftist. First of all, I don't know if that's true. Aside from the usual things they trot out on his holiday, I'm not really familiar with his writings. I've heard it said that his body of writings is pretty tedious and none too deep, but I just don't know. For one thing, he was apparently an inveterate plagiarizer, so it's difficult to say exactly what he thought. The Wiki article on him not only discusses the well known controversy about his plagiarized doctoral dissertation, but the fact that most of his published writings may have been ghostwritten and that such uncredited "textual appropriation" was "a feature of many of his speeches, which borrowed heavily from those of other preachers..."

Speaking of the inconsistency of the religious leftist, here is a perfect example. The Wiki article states that, especially in private, King embraced socialist principles. In 1965, for example, he supposedly told Alex Haley that black equality could not be achieved without "a government compensatory program of US $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that 'the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils.'"

Furthermore, in a 1968 speech, he claimed that "You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with... captains of industry…. [I]t really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism." (By the way, I'm assuming he really said these things. I suppose with Wiki you never know, but I just don't have time at the moment to corroborate them. At any rate, forget about King, because the above statements articulate the sentiments of millions of other religious leftists anyway.)

Now, here is the inconsistency: "King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected 'traditional capitalism,' he also rejected Communism due to its 'materialistic interpretation of history' that denied religion, its 'ethical relativism,' and its 'political totalitarianism.'" So King clearly saw the dreadful truth about leftism, and yet, embraced its principles anyway.

Having said that, I think a lot of economic foolishness prior to the 1980s can be excused, since liberals had almost total control of the dissemination of information back then. Someone who was reading Hayek in the 1950s, as was Ronald Reagan, was truly on the cutting edge, for Hayek was not awarded his Nobel Prize until the 1980s, long after he had made his most important contributions to our economic understanding. Nor did the important science of complexity theory really emerge until the 1980s, of which evolutionary free market principles are an embodiment.

In truth, if King had been a more intellectually gifted man -- Thomas Sowell, or Shelby Steele, or Armstrong Williams come immediately to mind -- there would have been nothing whatsoever preventing him from even more forcefully making his case for civil rights based solely upon conservative principles, as do the above three thinkers. Indeed, I would suggest that the only intellectual aspects of Kings legacy that will survive -- and are worthy of surviving -- are precisely those that are rooted in the perennial truth of classical liberal principles, for example, the beautiful idea of judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. What decent person could ever object to this? Obviously millions of otherwise decent leftists do object to it.

The other aspect of King's legacy that should survive is his great and selfless personal courage in standing up to demonic forces impeding the spiritual mission and evolutionary progress of America. In this regard, King was the ultimate conservative, for he insisted, at great personal risk, that America live up the transcendent greatness of its founding principles, and it is for this that we owe King a debt of gratitude, not necessarily for his ideas -- certainly not all of them, irrespective of where he actually got them. In fact, we must respectfully -- but categorically -- reject any of his ideas that run foul of his liberal -- which is to say, conservative -- mission.

It's not that different from, say, John McCain. We should all be grateful for his heroic service to America, but that doesn't mean that we should align ourselves with some of his harmful ideas -- which also fundamentally violate American principles - or not do everything possible to prevent him from becoming president.

To quote myself again, "Ever since it came into existence, the United States has been the key to the material and spiritual progress of mankind. The founders were well aware of this fact, seeing their mission as analogous to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Clearly, Moses was not merely leading the Jews from physical slavery to economic freedom, but from spiritual shackles to the higher possibility of vertical liftoff in the desert."

I realize that I still haven't really tackled Susannah's question head-on, but this is the best I can do under the circumstances. Thankfully, Mrs. G. should return home by approximately, 3:00, mission accomplished.

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