Thursday, June 07, 2007

The White Buffalo Articulation and the Interstices of Being

I'm going to bypass preamble and just launch into the heart of my essay. That way it will be a few moments before you actually register that it's me, Will, speaking to you, not Bob, and you won't immediately bolt for the exit. That wouldn't do you any good anyway as Bob took time to coat the doors with a liquid thermosetting seal.


In the summer following my senior year in high school, I decided that I'd like a summer job in a location where I knew nobody, where I would have my first real experience living apart from my family. I wasn't quite ready for total independence, however, so I my father obligingly secured a job for me at a small airport in Janesville, Wisconsin. Janesville was about an hour and a half's interstate drive from my home in Chicago, which enabled me to spend weekends at home.

I haven't visited Janesville in decades, so it might have changed since I spent the summer of my eighteenth year there. I strongly doubt it, though. Janesville was, probably still is, an archetypal American small town, and archetypes steadfastly make a point of remaining themselves. A one-boulevard, three stoplight, one movie theater community, Janesville was nestled like a robin's egg in the surrounding miles of Wisconsin farmland. Friendly people, of course, almost disturbingly so, particularly for a kid like me who was accustomed to a certain measure of edgy guardedness in social relations.

Well, let's be honest, I found Janesville to be "sleepy," a characteristic that I first found charming, even exotic. After a few weeks, however, the rows of growing corn at the edge of the airport's runways didn't quite give me the same *frisson*.

My job at the airport was "lineboy," the guy who refuels aircraft. Since this was a small-town airport, an informality prevailed, which meant I also swept the hanger daily, cleaned the washrooms, and ran out to get everybody a candy bar when they wanted one.

Well, during my tenure as lineboy, I managed not to forget to screw the gas-tank caps back onto the Cessnas, nor did I crash the 6-gear, multi-ton gasoline truck I grimly steered around the airport. I made some friends, even had a minor romance with a -- you guessed it -- local waitress. By summer's end, however, I was more than ready to put Janesville behind me. Yes, on some level, I appreciated the salt-of-the-earth virtues of small towns, but I couldn't escape the impression that burdens callow kids the world over: nothing ever happens here.

To my shame, I recall that this impression I had of bland landscape also extended to the people of Janesville. In my own callow eyes, they lacked the brio, the go-get-'em rhythm of my city and suburban friends. They seemed disturbingly *content* with their lot. Simple and uncomplicated, they were, with a touch of -- I couldn't help but draw the parallel, Wisconsin being the Land of Cows -- the bovine.

I once asked one of the local pilots if he ever drove into Chicago. His eyes popping open like a doll's, he exclaimed in horror, "Lord, no, that traffic terrifies me, I couldn't handle it, " -- and this from a guy who occasionally risked his life landing his Cessna at grand gala supermarket openings. Well, so be it, I thought. I couldn't account for what I regarded as their near-pathological avoidance of "where the action is," but I knew it wasn't for me. Watching the night lights of Janesville dwindling in my rear view mirror as I left the town for the last time, I thought, well, thank you, Janesville, for the sweet postcard memories, but I won't be returning because I've got a fast track to run, places to go, people to meet, excitement to be had, don't you know, and because nothing ever happens here.

Flash-forward several decades to a summer in 1994. To say that the arc of my life had by this time taken a series of unexpected turns would be very much the understatement, but that's a story for another time. I'm sitting at my kitchen table reading a newspaper when an item on page three immediately catches my eye. At this juncture in my life, it was the kind of story that fired up my imagination, caused my heart to beat a little faster: A white buffalo had been born.

As many of you no doubt know, the birth of the white buffalo is a signal event in American Indian prophecy and belief. I won't go into detail here, but the coming of the white buffalo is considered a sign that the birth of a new age is imminent. Now, I consider myself a Christian of the esoteric sort; I am open to prophecies from various spiritual traditions. If they issue from a source that I believe to be spiritually sound, I take them seriously. I took the birth of the white buffalo seriously. I felt a genuine sense of awe. My perception of what constituted a Big Deal had been considerably revised over the years, and now I understood this to be a spiritually historic Big Deal. So would thousands of others, including the Dalai Lama who sent a gift of a scarf to the buffalo.

Incidentally, the birthplace of the white buffalo was Janesville, Wisconsin. You know, nothing ever happens here.

One thing that I've observed about the nature of our spiritual progress is that we aren't always aware of what we know until we see it articulated in some manner. At that point, we experience the shock of recognition, and our self-awareness takes a quantum leap upward. It's like a graduation ceremony, the final integration of a particular lesson we have, in fact, already learned. (In this sense, we, as atoms in the Body of God, must already "know everything" -- however, we become aware of what we already know in stages, a slow progression.)

The white buffalo event was for me just such an articulation, a rather thundering one at that. Much of what I had learned through years of trial and trauma -- and yet until this moment had not been fully aware that I had learned -- came into focus. What better place than Janesville?

For it is the nature of the Spirit to hide in plain sight. That is, the Spirit avoids what men would find seductively intriguing. The Spirit avoids the "corridors of power." A man who would save the Republic -- perhaps save the very idea of Democracy itself -- emerging not from Massachusetts or New York State, but from the frontier wilds of Kentucky? Let's face it, the Spirit has a puckish sense of humor. If in 1960 someone had told you that a music was soon coming that would capture the world's imagination and even fundamentally change the world's culture, would you guess that music would be coming out of Liverpool, England?

Astronomers say that if you want to see a star clearly with the naked eye, it's best to look a little to the side of the star. Then the star comes into clear focus. I'm not sure if this applies here, but I do think it interesting.

Here's one of my own coinage: You're more likely to find a quarter on the sidewalk by *not* looking for it as you are by actually looking. I think this also probably applies to finding love. In either case, anxiety will be kept to a minimum.

There is a natural desire, of course, to go looking outside ourselves for the answers, for *ex*-citement. Ancient Rome with its bread and circuses must have been exciting. How were you going to keep them down on the farm in Gaul after they caught a glimpse of the coliseum torch light? Meanwhile, the Light of the World came gleaming out of the dust of Bethlehem, a flyblown one-donkey speck on the map -- and later rode into Jerusalem, not in steed-driven chariot, but on the back of a shaggy pack animal. That's what I call a good sense of humor.

Obviously, spiritual growth is marked by an adjustment to that which we register as being of transcedent importance. How is it, the secular Christian bashers like to ask, that the Roman and Jewish historians contemporary with Christ make no mention of him? Probably for the same reason William Manchester or Steven Ambrose didn't write about Padre Pio. These ragamuffins Christ and Pio just didn't ping the importance sonar. We might say they flew over the radar.

Bottom line: We tend to see is what is important to us. I'm not saying statecraft and politics isn't important. I'm saying that there's something far more important in this world of ours. It hides in plain sight, it manifests and expresses Itself through the medium of simplicity and humility. The natural eye is not drawn to it; the inner eye is. Without It's many willing hosts over the millennia, ie., the saints known and unknown, there would be no statecraft and politics on the earth, only a howling chaos.

I have these dreams where I'm borne back to Janesville on a whirlwind. I'm the age I am now, but everyone in Janesville is still the age they were when I was there long ago. They're all there in the hanger I used to sweep, everyone I knew or merely saw, the waitresses, the mechanics, the pilots, the farmers, the guys in the drug store, the clerks in the five and dime. I think I see the white buffalo behind them, moving in the shadows. I'm holding my head in my hands and asking for forgiveness. A voice -- maybe it's the waitress's -- says to me, "Aww honey, we always knew how scared and lonely you were, don't you worry about it."

I'm going to be relocating soon. I'm not going to tell you where, other than to say it's a known place, but *not that well known*. Why am I moving? Well, I lived in the city nearly all my life, and the truth is, *nothing ever happens here.*

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Unending War on Intellectual Poverty and Atavistic Progressivism

Regarding the transdimensional monument -- or monument to the transdimensional -- we spoke of yesterday, there is an imperceptible point that it necessarily shades off into the relative, or what Schuon called the "human margin." For example, yesterday Joseph posed a question about Catholic "just war doctrine" as it pertains to the liberation of Iraq. I don't really know much about this doctrine, but I am quite sure that it cannot be considered "absolute," and would instead fall along the human margin. In other words, there is nothing in revelation that explicitly addresses when a particular war is just, but certain divine ideas can be "extended" to try to encompass areas that are not directly addressed in scripture.

If you do not respect this distinction between the absolute and the relative -- between revelation and the human margin -- then you are likely to confuse the God-given and the manmade. To cite another obvious example, Catholic teachers down through the centuries have also had a lot of erroneous ideas about economics that have greatly hindered economic development in countries where they predominate.

Even now, Catholic majority countries generally trail Protestant countries economically because of this legacy of economic innumeracy. It wasn't that these were bad people. It's just that they didn't know anything about economics, but were trying to achieve a "just" economic system by drawing out certain implications of the Bible. At a certain point, many Catholic theologians became more leftist than Catholic, meaning that they were well beyond the human margin and into the "all too human," at best.

In general, religious thinkers have often expressed great hostility to capitalism, probably because of a perceived difficulty reconciling it with the virtues. Indeed, the engine of capitalism might appear to such a person to revolve around the free exercise of certain deadly sins. In 1697, Father Thomasin wrote that "those who lend at interest... think they are doing nothing against reason, against equity, and finally against divine law.... Yet, if no one acquired or possessed more than he needed for his maintenance and that of his family, there would be no destitute in the world at all."

It cannot be emphasized enough that theologians are not economists. This being the case, they generally embrace mankind's "default" economic setting, which is a kind of crude communism that I believe is programmed into our genes. It is precisely this leftist genetic programming that we must transcend in order to facilitate a rational economy that creates and sustains the conditions that gradually materially elevate everyone. Or, to turn it around, if we had attempted to follow these religious thinkers' ideas of "just economic doctrine," we'd all still be living in the Dark Ages. But that never stops the left from trying. Again, "progressivism" is an atavistic tendency lodged deep within our genetic endowment -- which is why it is so difficult to eliminate it from the human "meme pool," since it "feels right" to many people, despite being so demonstrably destructive and dysfunctional.

Charles Davenant, an English political economist, wrote in 1699 that "Trade, without a doubt, is in its nature a pernicious thing; it brings in that wealth that introduces luxury; it gives rise to fraud and avarice, and extinguishes virtue and simplicity in manners; it depraves a people, and makes way for that corruption which never fails to end in slavery...." Here again, this could be Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or some other contemporary secular leftist speaking.

According to Jerry Muller, author of a fascinating book entitled The Mind and the Market (from which the quotes above and below were taken), "there was little room for commerce and the pursuit of gain in the portrait of the good society conveyed by the traditions of classical Greece and of Christianity, traditions that continued to influence intellectual life through the eighteenth century and beyond." But this approach to economics utterly backfired and only created more scarcity and therefore ceaseless war and plunder.

That is, "classic" economic theory, if that's what we want to call it, was predicated on the idea that there was a fixed amount of wealth in the world. Indeed, this is probably an extrapolation -- again, at the human margin -- of the belief that God created the world once and for all. The idea of unlimited economic growth probably clashed with the unconscious notion of a timeless and unevolving world given to us by a creator. Therefore, economic development was hindered by all sorts of dysfunctional ideas, such as a fixed "just price."

One of the sources of hostility to Jews is that they were often merchants, since they were forbidden to engage in most trades. To the economically innumerate, they cannot understand the merchant's role in buying and selling goods at a profit, since the "profit" seems to reflect no added value. Thus, today we still see the enduring hostility to profits, whether it is Walmart, or oil companies, or pharmaceutical companies, or CEOs. Leftists cannot understand that in a dynamic economy, one person's gain is not another person's loss. It is reminiscent of the Scholastic axiom that "money does not beget money." Indeed, according to Muller, "in early medieval iconography, money was often connected with excrement, and portrayed as filthy and disgusting" -- a tip-off to the psychologically primitive roots of the left's hostility to wealth. Similarly, merchants were regarded with great suspicion and often literally depicted as blood-sucking parasites, unlike "honest" people who worked with their hands and lived off the land.

Even today, virtually anyone on the left has difficulty wrapping his mind around the idea that there is no such thing as a "just price." Rather, there is only the price someone is willing to pay. If you try to artificially maintain a price, whether rent control or a "living wage," you will simply introduce distortions into the marketplace which will ripple outward and cause further distortions -- inflation, scarcity, inefficiency, etc.

Thus -- amazingly -- at the Democrat debate the other night, they were actually taking seriously questions about, for example, what to do about "the price of gasoline." This demonstrates such a profound degree of economic ignorance in both questioner and candidates, that it is more than a little frightening to contemplate. After all, should the government also subsidize and reimburse the oil companies for all those years they didn't turn a profit? Likewise, is college really too expensive because there isn't enough government subsidizing of it, or is there already way too much subsidizing of it? Or is it that there are simply too many people in college who have no business being there?

Regarding the default leftism of the human species, this might be the reason why leftism merges so readily with the unleashing of the most base instincts of mankind, including unrestrained violence. In other words, since the leftist is unable to evolve above his constitutional envy, he easily confuses "morality" and violence, in that any violence expressed for the purposes of achieving his socialist ideal is morally justified. Why else would socialist governments ranging from Hitler Germany to the Soviet Union to communist China be so simultaneously idealistic and sadistic? On the other hand, the United States and Great Britain (and other English speaking peoples), which have traditionally had the most liberal economies, have also produced the most decent and benign societies.

Since the roots of leftism may be traced to our genes, it is not surprising that the earliest economic thinking is essentially leftist. Socrates said that "The more men value money-making, the less they value virtue." And in the ancient Greek city-states, "virtue meant devotion to the well-being of the city," or to the collective -- absolutely no different than Hillary Clinton's promise to undo the "on your own" Republican society and replace it with her primitive and ultimately self-centered leftism. That is,

"The Democratic Party, the exit polls tell us, is the home of single, secular people. They are people who are on their own physically, as they may have a commitment problem where people of the opposite sex are concerned. They are, as the book by Robert D. Putnam says, Bowling Alone. And they are on their own spiritually, not belonging to any community of faith. Not surprisingly they want government to fill the gaps in their lives and make up for the lack of a safety net that a family or a church community provides. In short, they want other people to pay for their safety net. As a good Democratic politician, Senator Clinton understands and encourages this.

"The Republican Party, the exit polls tell us, is the home of religious, married people with children. They belong to families and churches, living their lives as 'we're all in it together' people. In addition, of course, those Republicans who are Christians believe in a God that loves them and wants them to love Him right back. How together is that? And religious people, Arthur C. Brooks tells us in Who Really Cares?, are more generous. They give more than secular people. When you give more, you get more, the philosophers tell us."

Thus, just as the "peace movement" will inevitably lead to more war, leftist economic principles ineluctably lead to more scarcity, want, and narrow-minded selfishness (not to be confused with self-interest), and therefore, a massive nanny state to fulfill the needs they artificially engender.

Leftist professors also reflect this primitive fetish surrounding the pursuit of wealth. As far back as Aristotle, it was felt that it was "desirable to be rich, but morally hazardous to engage in the active pursuit of riches through trade": "In the city that is most finely governed, the citizens should not live a vulgar or a merchant's way of life, for this sort of way of life is is ignoble and contrary to virtue." The leftist professor, as much as anyone, enjoys a kind of slack-filled fantasy existence that is only made possible because of the productive activities of others, and yet, he belittles them and bites the handouts that tenure him.

Just once, I wish that some boneheaded MSM lightweight such as Wolf Blizer, Chris Matthews, or Keith Olbermann, would ask one of these Democrat candidates, "40 years, trillion of dollars, and millions of damaged lives later, and do any of you have an exit strategy for the War on Poverty?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Monuments to Stupidity and Wisdom

The Absolute necessarily shades off into the relative, but at a point that is more or less impossible to identify precisely. Thus, it is difficult to say exactly where orthodoxy turns into heresy, morality turns into immorality, or a true American turns into an anti-American. But in each case, people who fall into the latter categories use the existence of this continuum to argue that the former are illusions and that "all is relative." In turn, this abolishes the idea of sin, since they imagine that they have eliminated any objective standard.

This is a hopelessly unsophisticated ontology, for it assumes that higher realms are mathematical in their precision. In reality, they are not so much like mathematical equations as they are like, say, magnificent granite monuments. The greatest theologians are somewhat like painters who can convey the image of this monument with clarity and certainty, but it is nevertheless an image and not the thing-in-itself.

This is what I meant the other day when I said that revelation is the closest we can come to an objective representation of O. It is like an image of the monument, given by the monument itself. But each person's angle on the monument is necessarily going to be different. If you put thousands of people with cameras at the base of the Matterhorn, the photos are all going to be slightly different -- in other words, there will be the illusion of diversity despite the fact that there is only one Matterhorn. With respect to itself, it is not relative but absolute. Our view of the Absolute is necessarily relative, but only relatively so -- it is "relatively absolute." There is no such thing as absolute relativity.

A photograph is not just a literal translation but a transformation, as is perception itself. To perceive something is to transform an object in such a way that certain abstract coordinates and relationships are preserved, while others are distorted. If you consider the modern art of the early 20th century, for example, artists were attempting to stretch the coordinates between object and image in creative new ways. One could say that James Joyce did the same with language. Instead of trying to use it like a photograph to map reality in a 1:1 manner (which is impossible anyway), he used language in a new "holographic" way, so that it in turn mirrored the hyperdimensional nature of consciousness itself. He was actually using language to alter consciousness in such a way that a new view of reality emerged.

For example, let's take the first sentence of Finnegans Wake, since I happen to know it by heart:

rivverun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

At first blush, this sentence is "nonsense," as it appears to be about "nothing." In other words, it is difficult to apprehend the "object," so to speak, of which this sentence is supposed to be a representation.

Nevertheless, like the object scripture attempts to describe, this sentence is an adequation to a hyperdimensional reality that transcends the senses. This reality is called "history," which in turn is thoroghly entangled with consciousness itself -- the same consciousness that is both the subject and the object of history. For Joyce, history was literally like a dream (or nightmare), in the sense that there is the Dreamer and the dream, but in the end, the two must be one and the same.

Therefore, it is very difficult -- impossible really -- to actually write "straight (or what Joyce called 'wideawake and cutandry') history" and imagine that the historian is not actually its dreamer. We are all in this thing called "history." History surely exists. And yet, we could no more objectively and exhaustively describe it than we could objectively describe the content of a dream. Rather, we can only take our photographs of the Matterhorn.

For one thing, where is the line between the dreamer who dreams the dream and the one who experiences it? In this regard, a dream is very much like a spider's web, which the spider spins out of its own substance and then proceeds to inhabit. Human beings are no different, only on a more abstract plane. Do you really think that the web a leftist spins out of his psychic substance and then inhabits is anything like your web? Or an atheist? Or an Islamist? All of these, in their own way, are completely entangled in a web that they themselves create, become entangled in, and take for reality.

How to extricate oneself from the psychic webs we create? "History," wrote Joyce, "is the nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." When I watched the Democrat debate the other evening, I could see how all of the candidates wear offering their "prescription for a nightmare." The nature of leftism prevents the one and only true cure, which is to say, "just wake up." No. Leftism is the philosophy of creating newer and stronger soporifics in order to keep man asleep. In so doing, it aggravates the symptoms it is supposedly treating, and simply makes the nightmare worse. Plus, people get hooked on leftist prescraptions, and require more and more of them in order to stay asleep, just like an addict.

Furthermore, just as in a mental patient, the more unpleasant reality impinges, the more denial is necessary. Terrorists want to blow up JFK? It's Bush's fault. Zzzzzz. We now see that some one third of Democrats have created a nightmare in which the United States government is actually responsible for 9-11. As it stands, it is probably fair to say that 90% of Democrats believe that the Iraq war was not waged for the reasons so stated by the administration, but for some sinister ulterior purpose that no sane person has yet been able to describe.

I am currently reading an outstanding book entitled A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which attempts to be a corrective to all of the noxious deconstruction that really got under way in the 1960s. Back then they called it "revisionist history," which sounds innocent enough but which in reality was highly agenda driven, and attempted to rewrite history in such a way that the English speaking peoples were the bad guys rather than the (literally and repeatedly) saviors of history.

It is interesting how easy it is to trace the roots of today's crazy leftists in a straight line back to their academonic source. For once history is deconstructed, it is very difficult to put it back together again. Thus, the left is operating in an upside down world first made possible by the early revisionists who, among other things, argued that America's founders were just a bunch of greedy white males protecting their economic interests, or that capitalism is pure exploitation instead of an extraordinary liberator of human potential, or that the colonized did not benefit from colonialism, or that America was at fault in the Cold War, or that Roosevelt's economic policies helped rather than aggravated and prolonged the great depression, or that poverty causes crime, or that it was wrong to drop the atom bomb on imperial Japan. These and similar ideas proliferated exactly like a toxin, infecting all of the academic rivers and then flowing downhill into the streams of journalism and politics. When some nutty academic sneezes, rank and file Democrats cognitively die off in droves.

What is so striking about the book is how America has remained constant, while the left has changed so dramatically -- and gained so much cultural power. For example, there is absolutely no moral difference -- none whatsoever -- between the way Roosevelt responded to the fascist threat of his day and the way President Bush is responding the fascist threat of our day. The only difference is that America's motivations have been so undermined by the left, that it is as if we are dealing with two entirely different countries. But when did the "good" America of Roosevelt and the "greatest generation" transmogrify into the evil America of President Bush? It never did. Again, it is exactly the same profoundly decent country. Only the left has changed.

Actually, one other thing that has changed -- for the worse -- is how utterly ruthless men such as Churchill and Roosevelt were in pursuit of their war aims. President Bush doesn't even come close (although one senses that Giuliani could resurrect a bit of this higher ruthlessness). I don't have time to provide examples, but suffice it to say that it boggles the mind how completely ahistorical the left is in this regard. Now, because of the influence of the left, it is almost impossible for us to be as ruthless as we need to be in order to prevail in the struggle against our enemies -- who do not see our lack of ruthlessness as civility but weakness and lack of resolve. Which it is -- that and self-hatred.

If it had come out in 1943 that some German or Japanese soldiers had been mistreated in an American prison camp, I cannot believe that any American would have wasted two seconds thinking about it. So. What. Whatever we did could never approach the barbarity of the Germans, Japanese, and Soviets. And besides, context is everything. There is no moral equivalence whatsover between what America and her enemies do, any more than there is an equivalence between the police and criminals just because they both shoot people.

It is obscene to call waterboarding a terrorist to obtain information that will save innocent lives torture. Absolutely morally obscene. To call Gitmo a "gulag" represents a kind of moral stupidity that is satanic in its implications. One of the most horrific consequences of leftist thought insinuating itself into our discourse it that it prevents one from speaking simple moral truths. It undermines everything -- not just morality, but even the ability to speak about morality. I believe this is because, following Descartes, it elevates our capacity to doubt to the highest wisdom. Thus, it ends up with cynicism as the highest ideal: a philosophy of stupidity, including moral stupidity.

Returning to our original metaphor of the monument and the mountain. The leftist notices the unavoidable fact that different people have different views of the monument. Therefore, the monument doesn't objectively exist. Furthermore, anyone's view of it is just as good or bad as anyone else's. As such, Truth is abolished and raw power rushes in to fill the void. The leftist always speaks power to Truth. Always.

Which is why I do not waste a moment arguing with leftists, humanists, atheists, or radical secularists. Rather, every day, I simply do my best to describe the monument before me as accurately as possible, so that others might begin to apprehend its outlines and contours equally vividly and gain strength from that. In short, I am not advancing an argument but presenting a vision of what I see (which the leftist also does, only while asleep, i.e., while dreaming). It is a single object, but there are many views of it. I guess this would be #640 so far. Tune in tomorrow for #641. Or possibly #2 from our #2, Will (a beautiful pneumagraph that I have already seen, by the way), depending on various exigencies that temporarily obscure my view.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Change, Growth, and Metamorphosis

Change is just change, a horizontal shuffling from one arrangement to another. Growth is teleological change along a developmental vector, while metamorphosis is transformation from one thing to another -- caterpultering your sleeping buddhafly out of its christallus, so to speak.

As Ken Wilber has written, mere change is like rearranging the furniture on the floor of a building, or "translation." But real growth is analogous to taking the eschatolator to the next floor, which I believe he calls transformation. But that is really more like a transition. Metamorphosis is real transformation, something like retrofitting the entire building -- or perhaps like putting wings on it and turning it into an airplane.

Obviously, it is not possible to avoid change. However, we can only know change in relation to changelessness, or some static benchmark. The Buddha taught that resistance to change -- or attachment to one particular phase of it -- was a primary source of suffering. And yet, to achieve the awakened state he describes, one must go through some rather profound changes. As Cardinal Newman put it, "to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." We might call this kind of challenging directional change sophering.

"To be perfect" is an interesting way of putting it, for it implies that change for human beings has a definite deustination or final cause. I believe one aspect of grace is the "lure" of this final causation, which literally pulls us in our ding[h]y wake toward our higher self. In other words, this developmental energy cannot merely be a "push" from behind, as it were, or it wouldn't have any direction. In that case, we'd all be like ten week-old Great Dane puppies or two year old boys, constantly dissipating energy that doesn't really go anywhere and is frankly a little annoying at times. [A little pupdate -- I have now finished the post and am in the backyard, where I see that Future Leader and Coondog are digging a hole in the dirt together; hard to say who is dirtier -- ed.]

Or we might say that mere change is a result of deterministic causation, like billiard balls knocking each other around. It cannot result in something truly new, just something that was implicit in the past. But true growth is "top down," teleonomic causation. Instead of present-to-future, it somehow operates in a whole-to-part, future-to-present manner.

Just as one aspect of grace is this future-to-present causation, prayer is the effort (or perhaps non-effort is more like it) to align ourselves with these subtle cosmic winds. And they are subtle, at least at first. However, I think you'll agree that as you move closer to your destiny, it becomes a less subtle and more "present" -- though still distant -- reality. As you leave the orbit of the earth, you are eventually drawn into the attractor of the sun. In fact, when it comes right down to it, that's pretty much your choice: the mundane vs. the celestial.

This turning toward the celestial sun represents "metanoia," true repentence, or preparing yourself to be changed (for in metamorphic change, you cannot change atoll without first ceasing to be an I-land). The first step of the spiritual path -- and the last step, which is simply the first step repeated endlessly -- is "turning around" and phasing your unKnown future.

Again, this is nothing like mere change, which is just endless turning, spinning, and rolling through the hay like a -- speaking of puppies and children -- puppy child, fun though that may be, especially if it's with Amoreena over at the diner (nudge nudge). Now that I think about it, there are times that I am gnostalgic for that corefree and flateral existence, but when I was actually in it, was I really happy or philfulled, or just fallfailed? Or was I just ec-statically spinning around to conceal the fact that I was merely drifting -- down or out, anywhere but up?

Because the True Growth is a movement in and up, which is the only place where "wholeness" can abide -- which literally means "await." Whatever or whoever we are meant to be patiently awaits our arrival there. But where is it when it is not here? Put another way, who am I when I am not me?

I suppose I can handle that one, Petey. Let's see. I was something external, something that was a product of its environment. Any direction I thought I possessed had been imposed from the outside, even if I had internalized it and therefore thought I had come up with it on my own. Not until this drama had played itself out and exhausted all its possibilities was "turning around" possible. For many, it requires that they reach a state of "moral bankruptcy" to reach this stage, or launch pad. Fortunately, that was not the case with me. Nor, fortunately, did I ever do anything that fundamentally damaged my soul, and from which I could not recover in this life.

But enough about rising on the schlepping stoners of our dead selves. Obviously, our society venerates change, but not growth and certainly not metamorphosis. In fact, there is a kind of implicit ban on growth (not just economic), which is the secret of the Democrat party in general and the progressive movement in particular. Neither of them has the slightest interest in making better humans. Rather, they want to skip that little muddled man and create the perfect society.

But you cannot accomplish that by patronizing (literally) man's lower self. As Schuon so eloquently describes it, sircular humanism "decapitates man: wishing to make of him an animal which is perfect, it succeeds in turning him into a perfect animal." Indeed, this must be so if there is no awareness of the proper end of man as such. Leftism can only result in making man more of what he already is instead of what he was meant to me -- human, only worse.

For example, to cite just one disgusting example (TW: Brian), thanks to progressives, it is now going to be against the law in California to teach children about the proper end of human sexuality. Rather, as per a recent senate bill -- which passed along straight (so to speak) party lines, 23 Democrats for, 13 Republicans against -- teachers and textbooks cannot depict transvestites, transexuals, or any other sexual deviant in a negative light in any public school textbook. Instead, positive portrayal of transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles will be mandated upon all children, beginning in kindergarten.

Why a public school textbook would ever deal with sexual perversions is beyond me, but now I suppose you can't even call them "perversions." Unlike any other bodily function, sexuality has no proper end, no healthy manner of expression. We might as well teach that high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are all normal as well. After all, who said that one's fasting blood sugar should be below 105? Isn't that just an arbitrary number? I'm being oppressed! What white European male said that diastolic blood pressure should be below 80, or cholesterol below 200? Those numbers are difficult to achieve for some black folks, who tend to have higher blood pressure and cholesterol. What's normal for whites isn't normal for everyone. It isn't fair!

This is why a classical liberal is not a strict libertarian and certainly not a leftist. As we all know, the leftist is a totolerantarian, as reflected in the above legislation which forces people to accept the abnormal as normal -- its project is nothing less than the abolition of the human archetype, and with it, the human being. Why? Why is it so important for leftists to confuse children about sexuality? Is it just a reflection of their own confusion, or is there something more cosmically sinister going on?

Interesting that all of last night's Democrat condidates promised to find a special role in their administration for Bill Clinton, who is aptly described by Harvey Mansfield as "the envy of vulgar men." To put it another way, he is an archetypal lower whorizontal man who has never mastered, much less transcended, himself, so he is a perfect symbol for the left -- vain, greedy, calculating, unmanly, self-serving, governed by his appetites, indifferent to truth, and articulate and intelligent in ways that are simultaneously vacuous and portentous.

Anyway, since the postmodern world has successfully taken the reeking bull to man's archetypal nature, something must rush in to fill the void. Thus, as described by Stanley Jaki, modern man is "addicted to change. He needs fresh forms of novelties to satisfy that addiction. Nothing satisfies him unless he finds it exciting, which merely subjects him to change." In short, since modern man turns the cosmos upside down, horizontal change replaces vertical metamorphosis as the highest value. It is nothing less than the valorization of man's fall, which rapidly creates conditions in which everything becomes a thrilling race to the bottom to determine who is highest, since man cannot stand still. If he is not transcending himself, then he will sink beneath himself. Them's the rules. I didn't make 'em up.

Hey now, what a beautiful example in the new (but not merely novel) New Criterion, which includes a couple of priceless quotes:

It is now that we begin to encounter the fevered quest for novelty at any price, it is now that we see insincere and superficial cynicism and deliberate conscious bluff; we meet, in a word, the calculated exploitation of this art as a means of destroying all order. The mercenary swindle multiplies a hundredfold, as does the deceit of men themselves deceived and the brazen self-portraiture of vileness. --Hans Sedlmayr, Art in Crisis

Some of what she said was technical, and you would have had to be a welder to appreciate it; the rest was aesthetic or generally philosophical, and to appreciate it you would have had to be an imbecile.
--Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution

(See also here for more Roger Kimball.)

Hmm, I'm getting that eery foreboding that chaos is about to strike in the Gagdad household and that unwanted change -- including of a diaper -- is about to be forced upon me. Therefore, I will have to take up this strand when the now is available again tomorrow morning and I can dilate time in the usual "Raccoon way."

Oh, and don't forget -- speaking of change, Ben could use a little right about now. You can coontribute on his website.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Deep Change

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'll be posting under adverse circumstances for the foreseeable future. Frankly, I don't know how I've made it this far, because the circumstances have been pretty adverse ever since I started doing this, what with a newborn in the house. Now with the puppy, it's crazy. I won't go into all the details, because it would be too long and boring.

Yesterday Will wrote about change -- in particular, the biggest change of all, death. Actually, I suppose death would have to be tied with birth. And maybe the birth of your first child at 49. And then maybe throw a great dane puppy into the mix. Add a little type I diabetes that is diagnosed the same month your son is conceived....

By the way, thank you Will for bobstituting yesterday. Will actually proposed some other ideas for how I might take the day off as needed. For example -- I think this would be interesting -- someone could interview me. Or, one Raccoon could interview another Raccoon of his or her choice in some depth. I personally think that would be quite interesting. For example, imagine, say, Dilys interviewing Will, or vice versa.... I think I'd pay for that....

One reason I don't generally just post an oldie is that there is something about producing a post out of thin air that makes it feel as if it's connected to the cosmic weather pattern of the moment, even if the topic of the post has nothing explicitly to do with current events. Hard to explain, but there's a certain kind of energy behind or under or around it. Perhaps it's like how some wine experts can supposedly tell what year a wine was produced and what part of the country the grapes came from. Maybe someone with extremely advanced coonscent could smell one of my posts and name the day it was hatched.

There are two things I wanted to write about, but I have no idea if all hell will break loose around here before I can get into them in any depth. So I'll just start, and see how far we can get.

At the moment, I only have two words that kept rattling around my brain after reading Will's post yesterday. One of them was depth. The other was change. We take both of these words for granted, in a classic case of what Bion called "saturation." That is, we don't actually have any idea what these words really mean, but if we keep using a word long enough, then we convince ourselves that we do.

It's very much like money in that way. Obviously we use money all the time, but who ever stops to think about what it actually is? As soon as you do think about it, it becomes a little absurd. Look at a dollar. What is that? Yes, it symbolizes something, but what? And since it symbolizes something, can I exchange it for what it symbolizes -- for the reality underneath the symbol? No, not since the gold standard was abolished. Even then, what is a piece of gold, anyway? Ultimately, I suppose we could say a dollar is like a little ladle with which we can dip into a vast ocean called "wealth." Whatever that is.

In my book, I wrote about how this problem is especially pertinent when we discuss God and religion. But then again, probably no more problematic than when we discuss philosophy, or relationships, or art, or anything that is both real and above the material plane. Frankly, it's amazing that we can communicate at all, especially when we are talking about highly abstract and sense-distant subjects. With regard to spirituality, the idea is to be able to cash in religious words for the experience they symbolize or "store," not to get hung up on the abstract symbol. A symbol is a bridge between one domain and another.

Returning to the poor cognitively diminished atheists and their complaint that I literally make no sense. This is actually quite fascinating, because what they are actually saying -- obviously -- is "I don't understand you." But instead of trying to do so, they childishly foreclose the transitional space in which such understanding could occur by insisting that there is no understanding to be had. This solves their problem, but only in a spurious way that makes growth an impossibility.

This is a fine example of Bion's oft-repeated point that the answer is the disease that kills curioisity (and obviously, many religious people are as bad as atheists in this regard -- they are simply mirror images of each other). This concept is central to psychoanalysis, although different analysts understand it in different ways. But all analysts are familiar with the fact that ninety percent of the battle in therapy is creating the conditions under which understanding, change and growth may take place. You could tell the patient many important things on their very first session, but they would be of no use to them. And if you used highly technical clinical language, they'd say -- just like the atheist -- that you make no sense at all and never come back (except the atheists keep coming back).

As always, "self-satisfaction" and "growth" are inversely related. A rock-bottom prerequisite for gaining anything from therapy is the understanding that, in the deepest sense, you are and always will be an irreducible mystery to yourself (I believe this is because we are created and not the creator of ourselves, but that's the topic for another post). The people who know themselves the least are generally the ones who don't even think about it. But no amount of psychotherapy will ever result in absolute knowledge of the self, the cosmic interior.

Therapy actually aims at two rather different and not necessarily related ends, one "negative," one "positive." In fact, as you grow in therapy, one part of yourself should become less mysterious, while another part becomes even more mysterious.

It reminds me of one of the last works of fiction I read some 20 years ago, called "Little Big." I don't remember anything else about it except that it proposed an ontology that consisted of a series of concentric circles. The purpose of life is to journey closer to the center. But unlike a series of euclidean circles, which become smaller as you approach the center, these circles become wider and more expansive until you reach the center, which is infinite -- furthermore, it is the infinite ground of all the surrounding spaces -- or "realms," "principalities," "domains," etc.

That is not an imaginary world. Rather, it is this world.

Anyway, the "negative" aspect of psychoanalysis involves understanding and transcending those aspects of the self that cause one to be "stuck," so to speak -- which interfere with growth (another word that is fraught with implications). These often fall under the heading of "mind parasites" as outlined in my book. Especially during our first few years of life, we internalize various things from the (largely) parental environment that become "hardwired" in, since our brain is developing at the same time these experiences are occurring. Therefore, more than at any other age, experiences are converted to "background objects" (or subjective alter egos) that are etched into our neurology.

Freud's classic description of the purpose of psychoanalysis still holds, which is to work, love, and play. To the extent that your mind parasites are limiting you, it is likely to manifest in one of these areas: the ability to be productive in a meaningful and pro-social manner; the ability to find fulfillment in enduring intimate relationships; and the ability to be freely spontaneous and creative. Besides rhythm, who could ask for anything more?

The second aspect of therapy is more "positive," and in my opinion -- and the opinion of Bion, at least implicitly -- verges on the religious and the mystical. For it has to do with maintaining a harmonious dialectic between the two utterly different modes of being that constitute the human subject. Again, different psychoanalysts use different words to describe these different parts: you could say ego and unconscious; or like the Jungians, ego and Self; or Being and knowing; or symmetrical and asymmetrical consciousness; or the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream and the one who is involved in it.

Following Bion, I simply chose to use the abstract symbol O for the ultimate unknowable reality underlying both the internal and external world. You might think of it as an existential "place marker," in that it signifies something that obviously exists -- must exist -- but which we can never, ever contain, describe, or completely circumnavelgaze. This is the inexhaustible ground of existence, which is not a riddle to be solved but a mystery to be played with and enjoyed. It tosses up various ideologies and philosophies -- various -isms and wasms -- out of its depths, and, like the ocean, washes them all aside with the passage of time. Today's cutting edge philosophy will be swept away in the cosmic tide, just like all its predecessors -- unless the philosophy specifically begins with O as its ultimate ground and final term.

Which is one reason why proper theism is so much more infinitely deep than atheism. If one of our atheist friends were here, I might like to ask him: do you consider atheism deep? Never mind true or false, but deep. If he says no, then he is dismissed. We have made our point about their radical disconnect from O for the purposes of assuaging cognitive and existential anxiety.

But supposing he says, "yes. To me, atheism is very deep stuff, protean in its implications, so deep I can hardly stand it!" The first thing I would want to do is define our terms. For what does the atheist mean by "deep?" Is this a "fact," an objective thing that can be located in the external world? And is there in fact any correlation between "deep" and "true?"

I don't mean for this to sound grandiose (for one thing, anyone can do it), but often I get into a sort of "prophetic" or "oracular" mode, in which Proclamations just come to me with a kind of certainty. Sometimes I don't even understand them myself at first, but I've come to trust the process. I'm not saying that my "prophecies" are always true -- that's for others to decide anyway. But what I'm saying is that this is an example of a kind of knowing that far exceeds what my little ego is capable of. Clearly, if I am right, it is simply what I call in the book O-->(k) -- or, as alluded to above, a product of the dynamic reconciliation of our little local self and our BIG NONLOCAL SELF. Living at the shoreline between these two diverse modes of being is where it all happens, baby. It is where I always try to be. Frankly, everything else is a slightly wearisome distraction at this point in my life.

Anyway, a phrase might pop into my head that feels very "certain" -- or is endowed with the "spirit of certainty," so to speak -- even though it's not any kind of emprical or mathematical certainty, like 2 + 2 = 4. For example, I -- or it -- might declare, "soul is the dimension of depth in all things."

Hmm. Okay. Nice platitude. Have you considered writing greeting cards? But what does it mean? Obviously it cannot be proven in the usual way. Should we even take it seriously? Or just put the card back in the rack?

Yes, I think the former, because this petrified bobservation is full of implicit meaning that cannot be explained in any other way.

Damn, baby is stirring. Totally breaks the mood. Where did O go?

I wanted to make a point about revelation in the context we have been discussing. Clearly, the atheist cannot know -- experientially, I mean -- what it means to dwell in revelation, to unceasingly meditate upon it in such a way that it generates a kind of knowledge that percolates up from deep within the self. How and why does this happen?

Because, in my opinion, revelation is as close as we can get to an "objectification of O." I realize that some Christians are uncomfortable with this, but I do not reduce revelation solely to the Bible or to Christ -- the latter being another objectification of O, by the way. I won't get into the other revelations that I consider divinely authorized objectifications of O, but that's not important anyway. The point is to engage in the ceaselessly generative process of interior engagement with the sacred forms of revelation -- which we "light up" from within, and which in turn light us from within. The purpose is to change us. In depth. In turn, this "deep change" is sufficient proof of the reality of God. Whatever that is.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

There's No Substitute for Death

Greetings, denizens of One Cosmos, readers of the B’ob, virtue mavens, spiritual pilgrims, cool kits & cataphatic coons. I am the entity and frequent O.C. comment poster known to you as “Will." While Bob is taking some time off to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a male exotic dancer, I will be your substitute teacher.

Remember your substitute teachers from grade school? Remember that uncomfortable silence that fell upon the classroom like a cold mist when you realized that this *stranger*, this wholly unknown property, was at the helm? It seemed as if you had just gotten yourself to the point that you had made a rough peace with the ghastly idea of even having to attend school. You had learned what to avoid, how far to push, when to back off, when to attack. In fact, there was a comfortable familiarity with the predictable routine of shambling into class each morning. That gnawing fear that had lodged itself in your solar plexus like a glowing bar of plutonium had finally retreated. Why, going to school was almost fun!

And then... substitute teacher. The fear, the stomach-contracting paranoia, came flooding back. It was almost like the first day of school all over again. Well, that’s our situation now, isn’t it? Sure, I can empathize with your existential discomfort, but let me ask you something: did you ever once ask yourself what it was like for the substitute teacher? Did you ever once try to rise above your narrow and narcissistic self-regard to contemplate the fact that this was equally unknown terrortory for the substitute teacher? Well, DID YOU, you little brats? Hmm?

Well, I certainly didn’t. Which is why, in the time-honored manner of the grade school bad-boy miscreant who grows up to be a cop, I’m going to assume the role of Mister Iron Fist. Boys will sit on the east side of the classroom, girls to the east, please. No talking, no fidgeting, eyes straight ahead. Lisa, that attire is entirely inappropriate for class, go home, change, then you may return. A little more cleavage, please. Just kidding. Not really. I didn't say that. Bob, shut up! Speaking of inappropriate attire, get back to your exotic dancing. "Y-M-C-A, it's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A!"

Anyway: this naturally raises the subject of *change*, of metamorphosis (and don’t expect me to riff away with Bob’s jazz-like fluidity and panache). That change is a necessary part of life is a tired cliché, yet it would seem that never before has the obligation of acclimating oneself to and integrating change been more paramount than it is at present.

I sometimes reflect upon what seems to us to have been the essential *changeless-ness* of life prior to the last three centuries or so. One apparently led one’s life in the leisurely, stately rhythm of the procession of seasons. Hunt, farm, warm yourself by a fire at night, wear furs in the winter, etc. etc. Aside from falling off a cliff, the fastest a human could travel was on the back of a horse. Most never ventured 30 miles from where they were born. Basically, this was your life, day after day, year after year, century after century. And it would always be.

What is it then about our human organism, the human neurological system, that managed to adjust to this incredibly fast-paced manner in which we moderns live? It would seem that three centuries is scarcely enough time for the human brain to develop a processing capacity that could absorb what some would say is the unnatural change-flow that we humans have to negotiate.

Well, perhaps the truth is that nothing has changed regarding the human capacity to absorb change. What’s the greatest change we can experience? I think it would probably be death, wouldn’t you? Nothing like shuttling off the old mortal coil to make one marvel at just how changeable things can really be. Death: Prince of Changes. In this respect, the premoderns were certainly more acquainted with change than we moderns are. Death was a ubiquitous side-by-side companion for them in a way that it is not for most of us modern Westerners. Death in childbirth, death by disease, constant tribal warfare, etc. –- you were lucky if you reached the stoop-backed, gnarly age of 40, which was the old 70.

Q: So it’s good that we aren’t acquainted with that kind of traumatic change, isn’t it, Will?

Will: Not necessarily. Being exposed to death -- having to live under the constant threat of death -- can teach us much about the transience of physical life and about the always urgent need to be present and aware; it compels us to ponder the great ontological questions.

Q: Ah, so it’s a bad thing that we live in an age where death does not play such a prime role in our quotidian lives?

Will: What kind of barmy calliope music do you have rattling around your vacant braincase? Who would want to live with death as the nutty next-door neighbor who’s always popping in unannounced?

Here’s something else to consider: while we must change in order to grow, we moderns have the luxury, indeed, the individuality and self-autonomy, to consciously and creatively shape the changes we must experience, in a way the premoderns did not. You might say that you can arrange your own birth -- which is to say, death.

Of course, we always have the option of resisting change, in which case change will be forced upon us. Don’t like leaving the house to go about the untidy business of engaging the world? That’s a good recipe for being trapped in a house fire. Avoided eating sardines all your life because, well, they just looked icky? Well, you might just find yourself at a reception thrown by your fiancé’s beastly mother and, er, all there is to eat are sardine canapés, and, umm, you’re just so hungry you’ll pass out if you don’t eat something, and...

True, that was a bit of a lame example, but it could happen. Anyway, I'm sure you get the idea. Change is growth. What marks us as creatures unlike any other on earth is our divine capacity to consciously change ourselves, to grow, to expand and deepen our psychic horizons, our very consciousness. To what extent are we capable of growing? Well, a certain Someone once brazenly pointed out that we are “gods in the making." This is another way of saying that you must eat the sardine before circumstances force sardines upon you. "Sardine." "Sar-deen." "sar-DEEN." What a strange word for a miniature fish....

So knowing what we do about the necessity of change, why do we have a tendency to resist change, including Bob's odd and irrelevant insertions into my original pristine text? Obviously, change is uncomfortable, at least in its initial stages. We feel ourselves vulnerable when in new, unknown territory. Don’t ever underestimate the power that vulnerability can cast over the soul. We all know people who would rather continue living in miserable conditions than leave the familiarity of those conditions and face the uncertainty that comes with change. Remember, too, that change and growth imply entering new arenas of intimidating personal responsibility.

We might ask, why are we so comfortable with the familiar when we are indeed designed by God to change and grow? I think the human soul has a natural pull toward an ultimate rest, or stasis. There is a name for this ultimate stasis and rest: heaven. The comfort of familiarity to which we cling can all too often be an ersatz heaven. As we all know, the greatest of human follies is the desire to construct an earthly heaven. It is not only leftists, fellow-travelers, and fallow trivialers who go about the idiotic business of trying to establish earthly heavens. In a certain sense, we all do that when we resist the changes necessary for our spiritual growth, opting instead for the ersatz heaven of familiarity.

What does all of this imply? Well, basically this: earthly life is not supposed to be all that comfortable, and expecting it to be is a fantasy. The search for divine stasis and ultimate rest in this life will always be in vain. We must always be as accepting of and open to change as we can. The saints did not and do not spend their lives looking for divine stasis, as many would believe. Those who are familiar with the lives of the great saints know that theirs' was anything but a comfortable life -- that in fact, their lives were filled with incredible hardship and challenge. Their lives may have been cloistered in one sense, but they were always setting foot in unknown lands. In some ways, we might define a saint as someone who is wholly open to change.

We should know, however, that the best way –- the only way, really –- to prevent the coming changes from overwhelming us is to always keep a soul’s I on that which does not change: the immutable, the Eternal. In a sense, all of Creation is governed by two principles: that which does not change (the One) and that which is always changing (the Many) –- and the One interpenetrates the Many. Change without knowledge of the One is meaningless. But only absolutely.

So now after my little soliloquy about change and the necessity thereof, I’m sure you are all a tad more accepting of me as your substitute teacher, no?


Very well.

Van, I see you passing a note to Joan back there. You want to read that note out loud to the class?

By the way, I’ve noticed that the blog Eject! Eject! Eject! is proposing an online community of virtue-minded citizens. When I read this, I thought, what a great idea! In fact, I thought it was a great idea when I first encountered the reality of it here in One Cosmos.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Left Behind: Mother Evolution's Atheistic Stragglers (5.31.09)

Ricky asked a good question at the end of yesterday's thread: why doesn't the bloody rabbit take a photo of Mackenzie -- I mean beside the fact that the rabbit is not interested in that kind of vegetable? But let's suppose there were a super-intelligent rabbit capable of.... of super-rabbit tricks, like attacking Jimmy Carter. Is there any reason to believe that it would possess anything resembling human intelligence? The same goes, by the way, for so-called extraterrestrial intelligence. Is there any reason to believe that extraterrestrial beings, even if intelligent, would possess human intelligence?

First of all, for a variety of scientific reasons I won't get into, I think the odds of intelligent beings on other planets are vanishingly remote. But even then, the idea that intelligence alone is sufficient to account for the humanness through which our intelligence is channelled is extraordinarily naive. Or put it this way: intelligence is necessary, but hardly sufficient, to account for our humanness. We are nothing at all like merely intelligent apes, but something else entirely.

In my book, I noted that humanness is an ontological station that is anterior to our having entered it. This is why, as we evolved into this space, it was not "empty," so to speak. Rather, it was quite "full," except that much of the information was implicit rather than explicit. It had to be unpacked and brought into being in the material world -- which we have been doing for the past 40,000 years or so. In the most general terms, we have been bringing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful into the world. Our attraction to these things can by no means be explained by (natural) intelligence itself, but is entirely separate from it.

There was a brief discussion of this in yesterday's thread, where Will used the allegory of a village of of the blind: "One individual suddenly develops eyesight, the first villager to do so. Quite the revelation! This individual's spatial sense deepens beyond his previous imaginings. And the colors! He never knew they existed.

"Taking in the sky, he tries to explain the color blue to the villagers. In fact, he tries to explain the concept of sky to them. Bottom line, he can't. He might use analogies like, well, 'blue' is like a coating that you can't really touch, plus it's sort of 'cold-like,' not like ice, but like river water, etc. Some of the villagers might be intrigued with his analogies, but that's a far as it would go. Most would dismiss him, would almost have to dismiss him, as crazy. They simply lack the frame of reference by which he senses colors -- eyesight.

"Anyway, I think that genuine apprehension of God and the Divine Archetypal Realm, to the extent that humans are capable of such, is literally the activation of sense organ(s), that is, a 6th, 7th (and on up) sense organ."

I agree with Will that such higher sense organs would have to correlate in some way with the human brain, but that they could not be reduced to it. For example, let's say that neurologists locate that part of the brain responsible for recognizing artistic beauty. Would this prove that the differences in beauty between, say, a Thomas Gainsborough and a Thomas Kinkade are not really real? This is not as stupid as it sounds, for I guarantee you that in the next six months the New York Times will run another dopey article about some earthbound neurologist who has discovered the part of the brain responsible for religion, or awareness of God, or mystical states. What this proves is precisely nothing -- except perhaps that every interior has an exterior (in the manner described by Ken Wilber) and that Thomas Dolby was right: it is possible to be blinded by science.

In response to Will's comment, I wrote that that our brain architecture "comes into being simultaneously with an encounter with a particular world." Interestingly, the latest research suggests not only that human evolution is still ongoing, but that it can occur much more rapidly than anyone had realized. Thus, the future evolution of homo raccoonicus could occur over the space of a few generations.

In his summary of the latest research, Nicholas Wade makes a number of points that are highly upsetting to the psycho-spiritual left, since he leaves little reason to doubt that various human groups acquire traits and abilities that others do not. He cites many examples, one of which being the Jews who, pound for pound, have contributed more to human excellence than any other group -- even more so when you consider that they have also been the most persecuted group down through history (no coincidence there).

For example, although they represent far less than 1% of the world’s population, Jews have won 15 to 20 percent of the Nobel Prizes, and perhaps constitute an even higher percentage of the world's greatest comedians. On the other hand, the Palestinians have won exactly one Nobel Prize, and of course it was given to one of the most depraved and disgusting monsters who ever drew breath. And the Palestinian contribution to comedy, although considerable, has been entirely unintended -- e.g. the wild-eyed imams with their crazed Friday evening sermons, the comical s'allapstiq "work accidents" in which they accidentally blow themselves up, the frenzied car swarms, etc. Israelis and Palestinians might as well be a different species -- which, in a way, they are. Not, of course, in any horizontal racial sense, but in a vertical sense. To say that one of them is more evolved than the other is a banality of the first rank, unless you are a leftist who doesn't believe in vertical rank.

Not only is this view not racist, but it is the polar opposite, for it means that ethnic traits are not fixed but subject to evolution, change and progress. But for some reason, the left doesn't like this kind of evolution. Rather, they argue that all cultures are equally beautiful and that any differences between them are arbitrary. Furthermore, if you argue that one culture is superior to another, you are a racist. Thus, the left habitually confuses race and culture, making it impossible to criticize -- and therefore help -- a dysfunctional culture without being called a racist. This is precisely what happened to one of the last great liberals, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who wrote so sensitively of the "tangle of pathology" afflicting African American culture. That all of his most dire predictions came to pass is of no consequence to the ideologically blinded "reality based community" -- the ironically named progressive left, another group that cannot evolve.

In any event, as I mentioned in a comment yesterday, it is clear to me that we are co-evolving the language to describe various "post-biological realities" as we enter into them. This is very much analogous to the early explorers of the new world, who all landed in different areas and came back with diverse and seemingly contradictory discriptions of the flora and fauna they'd found. At first, the descriptions of higher planes are going to be highly subjective and seemingly disconnected from the others, but as we increasingly colonize the space, we start to see how all the descriptions fit together. Certainly that is what I was trying to do with my book, and even more so with the blog, in part because I know that my neurology has changed as a consequence of repeated encounters with the New World. I see things very clearly now that were more shrouded before, just as I see things vaguely now that will presumably become clearer as I go.

You will notice that one of the atheists' biggest complaints about me is that I am "bigoted" against them. Which is true, if you abuse the term beyond recognition. To me, a bigot is someone who discriminates against another based upon some insignificant difference, such as race. It is another thing entirely to discriminate against an ideology or belief system. In this sense, discrimination is the essence of intelligence. I discriminate against atheism because one, I think it is intrinsically stupid, and two, I think it would be highly destructive if a significant number of people were reduced to its influence, instead of being just a small club of eccentrics and misfits.

And yes, when I say "destructive," I do mean destructive of the human being as I understand him. For it would mean the foreclosure of those supramental spiritual realities to which humans have unique access and that we are in the process of bringing into being.

One of the things you have no doubt noticed in the flurry of atheistic interest in my blog is that they admit to not understanding my ideas, and yet, object to them in the most strident terms. The reverse is obviously not true: there is nothing about atheism that cannot be understood by a normal adolescent schoolboy. But one of the atheists asks, "Does anyone understand what this guy is talking about, because there is no content that I can discern. It is literally vacuous, and atrociously written to boot. From any rational perspective, it is empty and devoid of coherence or significance [and] preposterously boring."

Another one writes of my "lurid and vacuous prose" which is "completely and utterly meaningless when analysed, hermeneutically [perhaps he meant "hermaneutically" --ed] or otherwise." Furthermore -- or less -- "even Bob couldn't explain rationally what he means by it, yet one does not have to be a psychiatrist to understand what his real problem is. Gagdad Bob is just another pathetically feeble individual" and even a "true psychopath." (Speaking of abusing clinical terms; in any event, how can I be a psychopath when they admit that they don't even understand me?)

Another one confesses total ignorance of what I write about, but then, in typical atheist fashion, assumes that the ignorance resides in me rather than her. She admits that my writing is a "confusing mess" to her, and that "Honestly, I think Bob spends more time thumbing through a thesaurus than he does with actually trying to make his thoughts coherent. It seems to me he's more concerned with impressing people with his 'fancy' words than he is with people understanding what he's trying to convey. What's the point of writing for others in the way Bob does, when you end up making your readers incapable of understanding what you're writing? Perhaps his stringing together a bunch of those 'fancy' words gets people to think he's understanding the issues on a higher plane, and those who are easily led follow along like sheep, believing that they're just too stupid to understand someone with such supposed 'important' thoughts/feelings. His 'followers are led to believe they're in the presence of somebody really important and special."

And this one is also too funny to ignore: "Regarding the chances of reaching the 'Racoons,' it would be silly to argue that any of them would ever be convinced to abondon their belief in god. However they may come to realize that this person whom they occasionally refer to as 'Fearless Leader' (and who refers to his own son from time to time as 'Future Leader') is a gross, opportunistic narcissist who does not truly share their values."

Like the Palestinkians, their humor is always inadvertent.

Anyway, given that my writing is empty, irrational, literally vacuous, devoid of content, incoherent, and insignificant, how can it simultaneously be a dangerous threat to atheists? If it is literally devoid of content, then that means there can be no objectionable content.

But again, as I have said all along, atheism is nothing more and nothing less than a frank confession of total ignorance of any ontologically real spiritual plane transcending the senses. It is simply the "final common pathway" of a spiritual failure to launch with diverse causes. Which is fine. If that's how they choose to live their lives, who am I to argue with them? I'm a liberal. I'm all for them squandering their liberty in any way they see fit. How can that pose a threat to them?

These are divisive times, both horizontally -- which is obvious -- and vertically, which is the true source of the horizontal strife, for cultural space is developmental time. As Will pointed out, "Obviously the most fractious time is when the outsiders [i.e., the vertical explorers] begin to expand in number and outreach. This is when the distinctions between old language and new would be most divisive. Attempts at conciliation between old and new would be inevitably, necessarily futile. Those of the old persuasion would have hope of becoming new -- should they so desire -- but the new can never return to the old status. They either eventually succeed in establishing newness or they are eliminated by the reactionary old."

Evolution is a harsh mysteress. I guess it would be nice if atheists were capable of understanding my writing, but then they wouldn't be atheists.