Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Huge Mythunderstanding of Postmodernism

Meister Eckhart is among the finest examples I know of someone who has the "virtues" of postmodernism with none of its soul-killing vices. However, being that postmodernism has no virtues -- it is luciferic through and through -- what I just said is nonsense. Therefore, I prefer to say "post-postmodern," which is the same term I would use to describe Michael Polanyi, although in a very different way (for he sees the way through to a post-critical science that easily transcends the naive scientism of the tenured).

Here's the problem: irrespective of how much you love tradition and the permanent things, profane time is a one-way street, so we're not going to go back to the medieval synthesis, any more than we're going to return to the Summer of Love, the Roaring Twenties, the Gilded Age, the Renaissance, or anywhen else. Rather, the best we can hope for is to make this slippery slidetrack into postmodernism a blessedly short one. It may require the last boomer to be strangled with the entrails of the last hippy, but it will eventually end.

But then what? A civilization that is not rooted in, and organized around, a robust and integral mythology is not long for the world -- which is one more reason why the "reality based community" is anything but. Yes, you can disenchant, disenthrall, and deconstruct the world, but at the cost of making it uninhabitable for the human soul. I dare any of you to see how long you can tolerate, say, Little Green Footballs or Huffingtonpost, before asphyxiating. Only the living dead can breath there among those fixated asses.

If you are not yet aware of "vertical respiration," then you have a ways to go before you can smell what is wrong with the world. In a very real sense, the hysterical obsession with global warming is a displaced crisis of the soul -- which is the very reason why it so transparently partakes of mythology and is impervious to the light of reason.

For man cannot live in the absence of myth, which is the soul-nurturing domain of cosmic meta-narratives that organize our lives, structure our values, and confer meaning upon our existence. And if you imagine that Darwinism, socialism, or scientism are devoid of myth (in the pernicious sense), then you are not even naive, for real naivete implies innocence. Nor are you necessarily "disingenuous" (although some of the ruling mythmakers are), for that implies conscious manipulation.

Rather, you are more like a sick child who suffers from what is called "pseudo-maturity." Such a child, for whatever reason, has been prematurely exiled from the real human world -- the world of imagination -- into the dry infrahuman desert of utility, pragmatism and adaptation to matter. But to adapt to matter is to adequate the soul to what is far beneath it, which is no adequation at all. Rather, it is the sine qua non of maladaptation, for it is the abolition of man; it is literally to "turn to stone" and call it bread.

It cannot be overemphasized that, as William Blake knew, Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow. Or, as Terence McKenna observed, "The imagination argues for a divine spark in human beings. It is absolutely confounding if you try to see imagination as a necessary quantity in biology. It is an emanation from above -- literally a descent of the world soul..."

This is why I argued in my book that the acquisition of humanness is just that: an acquisition, an accomplishment, the conquest of a kind of virtual space. In other words, the human world is not an "empty space" that somehow emerged out of random genetic mutations in some unlucky primate mom & population. Rather, what is so striking about the human world is that is filled with very specific content, a logoistic and mythopoetic content of great truth and beauty, and which has nothing whatsoever to do with the meaningless Darwinian journey from bacterium to Bach.

Koestler said that "the evolution of the human brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, [but] is also the only example of evolution providing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use; a luxury organ, which will take its owner thousands of years to learn to put to proper use -- if he ever does."

Take the example of, oh, I don't know, the undiebomber. Is he putting his luxury organ to good use (to say nothing of his standard equipment)? If not, why not? Darwinism does not ask -- cannot ask -- whether something is good or bad; rather, it either is or isn't adapted to its environment. And the undiebomber is perfectly adapted to the psychic environment of Islamofascism -- just as the slaveholder was perfectly adapted to the economic system of his day.

The other day I caught a few minutes of a program my son was watching. Somehow, a little one-man rocket ship appeared out of the future. One of the boys got into it, and off it went. Of course, he had no idea how to operate it, any more than a caveman would know how to drive a car. He fumbled around frantically, trying to prevent it from crashing.

But that is the essence of the human situation. We come into the world as genetically stone age babies, and find ourselves absurdly situated in the most complex and powerful vehicle in the entire cosmos. And we have no idea how to operate it. What will this baby do out on the open road? That is the question adolescents face, which is why it is such a dangerous transition.

Now, the latest human model has been out of the showroom for 100,000 years, give or take. But throughout that time, it has been gaining speed at an exponential rate. Consider the fact that it took roughly 60,000 years to colonize the world of beauty, as memorialized in the timeless images of Lascaux or Alta Mira. It then took another 30,000 years to leave the neolithic behind, and to start forming cities and civilizations. Then 5,000 or 6,000 years for the axial age, when we downloaded all of the great nonlocal revelations. Then a few thousand more years for science, democracy, individualism, and free markets.

And it has taken until now to reach the post-postmodern world. Which is what, exactly? First of all, please note that every significant evolutionary advance also (and primarily) involves a divine descent. It may appear as if we're "progressing" forward, but I think it's more accurate to say that any genuine progress means that the divine plane is penetrating more deeply into matter, so to speak. You will have noticed that as you develop spiritually, this is very much what occurs: it is as if the (↓) pounds itself more deeply into your soul, like a concrete pillar into a swamp.

However, it must be recognized that man is woven of both freedom and necessity, so that adapting to the world of spirit is not really analogous to adapting to the cold and dead world of matter. It is not like gaining tenure. Rather, this adaptation takes place in the imagination, and the imagination is fluid, spontaneous, and ceaselessly creative.

Russell Kirk wrote that "All great systems, ethical or political, attain their ascendancy over the minds of men by virtue of their appeal to the imagination; and when they cease to touch the chords of wonder and mystery and hope, their power is lost, and men look elsewhere for some set of principles by which they may be guided." Like, oh, I don't know, gaia worship mythquerading as climate change.

This is why the infrahuman world of metaphysical Darwinism will never appeal to the human soul, and why only those with catastrophically withered, atrophied, and devolved imaginations could think that it explains the human psyche. The tragedy is not that it explains mankind, because it doesn't; rather, the tragedy is that it explains the soulless Darwinian. If this narrow and oppressive ideology should ever be successful in colonizing the soul of man, then man is finished.

To be continued....


Anonymous said...



Van said...

"...The tragedy is not that it explains mankind, because it doesn't; rather, the tragedy is that it explains the soulless Darwinian. If this narrow and oppressive ideology should ever be successful in colonizing the soul of man, then man is finished."

What Ricky said.

I look forward to it being continued... though there is no necessity for doing so.

I do imagine it will be enlightening, all the same.

Across the sky

Jack said...

Last night I had an interesting experience. Really feeling the discrepancy between the significant depth a human can achieve simultaneous with a nonsensical worldview.

I play in a Jazz/Improv group and I have to say it has been some of the deepest musical experiences I have had the honor to participate in. The depth of connection between the musicians at times is staggering to me. It is a very musically inspiring situation.

Yet when the conversation turns to politics, culture etc I can't imagine a wider chasm between us. Last night one of the musicians was describing their reading of Marx in college and the epiphany that ensued (is it just me or do such Marxist tales so closely resemble, in reverse perhaps, a "road to Damascus" archetype).

It went on from there about the oppression of the "poverty class" and how our "system" doesn't work (though the irony that we poor musicians were having steak as we discussed this didn't seem to register). You all know the drill.

So what strikes me is how a person can actually obtain a significant degree of depth, in this case in music, and have such a facile, juvenile and upside down worldview. It's not always an easy contradiction for me to negotiate. Such is life in the arts...

Gagdad Bob said...

I think that if you look at what modern jazz is -- a highly abstract art form channeled through heightened sentiment -- you can understand the appeal of purely abstract and emotional systems such as Marxism for artistic types.

Which is why the best jazz cannot venture too far from the down and dirty, i.e., the rhythmic pulse of being, which is quite concrete and "incarnate." The abstract must be clothed in the concrete, which is really what myth is about.

robinstarfish said...

Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow. -WB

Love that.

Anonymous said...

Is "mythos" a better word here?


Gagdad Bob said...

Could be, but it's too late. Off to work....

Anonymous said...

I think you should tell your boss to give you the day off. You work too hard. Plus you need a raise.
Want me to talk to him?


Anonymous said...

Well, I see your warning about the dangers of the "Darwinian" explanation for the human psyche "taking hold."

However, when parsed in a relaxed frame of mind, you will find that the "DE" need not be feared.

The DE ,summarized, is that matter and energy, governed by the mindless laws of physics, gave rise to the mind and imagination (psyche, if you will) of man.

The process is driven by random variations. Variations which persist or are repaated travel forward in time.

Matter and energy interacting inside the complex variations which produced the human brain give rise to a subjective inner space.

This "inner space" where thoughts occur is due to synaptic firing and biochemical reactions.

Intangibles such as sensations of good, truth, and beauty, all noble and lofty intellectual structures, are patterns of neuronal firing.

Our entire contact with ourselves and the universe consists of neuronal firing; biochemical reactions.

We are here courtesy of matter and energy operating under set physical laws over the course of time.

That is the Darwinian Explanation (DE) in a nutshell.

I don't see any problem with it. It seems entirely plausible.

Adding weight to this viewpoint is the observation that once neurons stop firing in the brain, all activity ceases. The person becomes intert.

The DE has some gaps, however. The force that set matter, energy, and physical laws into play is not identified. A purpose for man cannot be assigned.

These gaps are amply covered by religion as the best servicable explanations.

The DE is a good and servicable explanation for what can be observed.

Combined with religion, the human being is now fully equipped with a working model of the cosmos which can be put into play.

So what is to fear? Probably what you fear is that humanity will not cover the gaps in the DE with religion.

However, that fear is not likely to play out, because people can sense it is obvious the DE cannot carry the whole burden of proof.

People don't like religion because it cannot be backed by observations, but thats just tough sh&*t because thats all there is so they better just work with it.

And by andlarge people do. Not like they have a choice.

Were're annoyed by the cosmos, in other words, but need not be frightened by it.

Yadda yadda sed the troll; you guys hate it. But just deal and stop yer whining.

Jokey Smurf said...

So this gorilla walks in to a bar...

Oh, wait - it already gave the punchline away.

River Cocytus said...

Bob, I had an observation last night. I was reading my scriptures, and having read again the parable of the Prodigal Son, I had this thought. The stories God tells directly in his human form never involve abstract notions of himself. He is instead symbolic; he is the father, the rich owner, the travelling merchant, the pearl, the treasure, and so forth. He even refuses to use the word in his prayer: His reference to the Trinity is purely oblique: Our father in heaven... Hallowed be thy Name... Thy kingdom come......

The abstract is always clothed. There is no indication of a formless, monistic dissolution or disembodied contemplation; but all is rich in metaphor, forms upon forms in a kind of mad jubilee, but also moving like an intricate clockwork.

Van said...

Jack said "Yet when the conversation turns to politics, culture etc I can't imagine a wider chasm between us"

I feel your pain! I spent the 80's in a rock band, and was the only one of the band, roadies, groupies, mgmt, crowd, etc, (willing to admit) to have voted for Reagan. There were those moments when everything clicked, not only with the band, but the crowd and all the etcetera's, when it seemed that all were of one mind and experience... and I've no doubt it was true... but the slice of mind all were one of, was a very narrow sliver indeed.

Very few people have an integrated world view (and mine was rather sloppy at the time as well), and nearly all 'education' and cultural references insist upon such a dis-integrated mind, praising it as 'pragmatic', practical and realistic... when in fact it is the least practical of all and the greatest guarantee of mental and spiritual chaos and disappointment going.

But it's ok because it's cool to be confused, lie and sexercise to get your way. The road to anti-Damascus indeed.

Steve said...

. . .I think this is the best yet. I really got this one, like one might get a joke an hour after the show. No one sees us from the height that Bob sees us from. No one.(Not even Saint Nick.) And I love the Blake quote. Vegetable world. Even better than a Barnum and Bailey world.

Van said...

Well just being blue apparently isn't enough... one more time,

"...But it's ok because it's cool to be confused, lie and sexercise to get your way. The road to anti-Damascus indeed."

I'd let that bus go....

Anonymous said...

We at The Continental Mystic Think Tank (TCMTT) are somewhat confused by the focus on Yemen in the news, because in our Feb. 2008 report we thought military action was to focus on Damascus, Syria around this time (Dec 2009-March 2010).

It seems likely our predictions were wrong in this case. But we shall see; perhaps the "Damascus Connection" will soon be unearthed.

But what has this to do with the post? Van mentioned "the road to Damascus." What exactly does this refer to?

Thanks, TCMTT staff.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to William Blake, his casting of Newton as some kind of demon of anti-imagination was misguided, just as your attempt to fit "Darwinism" into that role is also misguided.

Blake's Newton had little to do with the real Newton (who dabbled in alchemy) and even less to do with Newton's scientific theories, which are objectively observable and verifiable truths. Same with you and Darwin, who was adamantly opposed to slavery and whose theories form the basis for modern biology.

Your cartoon versions of Darwinism, the left, and postmodernism fit the purposes of your own imaginative scheme, I suppose. I just hope nobody confuses them with reality.

Petey said...

Yes, because some poor deluded trolls might start tilting at Bob's posts every day, without fail.

Susannah said...

"it is luciferic through and through" It's nice to see someone just come out and say it!

Susannah said...

We watched Pixar's latest offering last night, and so much of their stuff seems to tap in to that same place of imaginative life and growth. I hardly ever watch movies anymore...I think somebody said it in a recent comment thread: queasiness on a platter. This one broke out of the hollyweird mold.

Van said...

Is there some reason why the trolls have recently become so boring... or am I just finally seeing their 'points' for the boring bunch of bupkis they've always been?

Oliver said...

They are boring. Eliciting nothing more than a yawn these days.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm guessing that they're considered quite lively amongst their own kind.

Gagdad Bob said...

For example, my dog strikes me as a little boring, but she's a big hit with the other dogs. Still, we're getting her a sister on Saturday.....

Fido said...

Does she have a sister?



Cousin Dupree said...

I think the trolls are just unhappy because with the state growing at an unprecedented pace and the messiah at the helm, there's just no one left to hate....

pst314 said...

A nit:

"it has been gaining speed at an asymtotic rate"

You meant "exponential". Asymptotic would mean that its speed was decreasing to become ever closer to zero.

Gagdad Bob said...

Hmm... would you believe "becoming ever closer to O"?

Anonymous said...

"I think the trolls are just unhappy because with the state growing at an unprecedented pace and the messiah at the helm, there's just no one left to hate...."

Unlike you, Bob, Julie, Van, who have exhibited almost nothing but hate as long as this blog has existed. Your never ending spiritual shrinkage has been here for all to see as you fall further and further into that great pseudo-all-ness which is the mask of nothing. Bring a shovel.

For future referrence, if anyone asks me for a description of a rag-tag crew of plucked angels I'll just point them to you.

Gagdad Bob said...

Say, while you're at it, would you mind recommending the book as well?

Anonymous said...

Well I averr its getting harder to get a reaction out of the crew here. I used to get someone or other to respond, but now, pretty much..nothing.

What does a troll have to do to get a response here?

I'll eventually just wander away, bored, if I'm ignored.

If that's what you want just keep it up.

I mean, hey, I like Obama, I'm into climate change, I'm as left as left can be. Paint a target on my chest. Yet, no bullets coming at me. It is disheartening.

mushroom said...

Yes, this is outstanding.

We are "in over our heads" with the stuff we get at birth.

Dougman said...

Somebody, please feed the troll.
If they fall into myth, where's the beef going to get a bun?

It's fun to watch the go-rounds from my seat.

From the beanut gallery, with Love, me.

xlbrl said...

Willie Blake was being a bit hard on Issac, it is true, just as we may be too hard on Darwin because we judge him by the quality of his followers.
I'm told, and perhaps is is true, Einstein was horrified to see his threory of general relativity taken by political movements to mean there is no absolute truth, the legacy of the 20th century.

I notice that in intellectual circles an affected boredom is often used to deal with issues they have no answer for.

Northern Bandit said...

I certainly love America, however nationalism can be taken too far. We are at the end of the day, individuals. The "socialist" Swedish culture produced our own Magnus, who I would wager is a more enlightened soul than 85% of us brought up under gnarly capitalism. Yes, the American nation is historically unprecedented, however a pretty sizable chunk of the population has received no benefit whatsoever it would seem. Conversely I have encountered wonderfully wise and humane people in a a variety of cultures and countries. Culture no more concretely determines the individual than does natural selection.