Friday, December 04, 2009

Quacks in the Foundation of the West

This question of the One and the Many is not an abstract or impractical one, because if you get it wrong, then the very foundation of your worldview will be built on illusion. Either the individual is real, as Christians believe, or it is not, as Buddhists, secular leftists, new age knuckleheads, and Darwinians believe. But just look at the dreadful cultures built by the latter! Would you really prefer to live like a drone in the Chinese anthill, secure in the knowledge that at least your illusory individualism is not permitted to take root?

I didn't originally come at this question from a religious standpoint, but from a psychoanalytic one. Modern psychoanalysis revolves around the question of human psychological development, which occurs within the context of separation and individuation from the primary objects of attachment ("Object Relations"). The problem is, few psychoanalysts are religious, whereas few religious people have much knowledge of psychoanalysis.

One prominent exception is A. Hameed Ali, who writes under the pen name of A.H. Almaas. A lot of what he says is cultish BS, but he did write a couple of good books on object relations and spirituality, The Pearl Beyond Price: Integration of Personality into Being, an Object Relations Approach (1988) and The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization (1996). It's been a while, but at the time I read these, I remember being very impressed with his synthetic grasp of object relations theory, which he seemed to intuitively understand better than many of my teachers in graduate school. The main problem, in addition to the cultlike features, was a superficial and gimmicky application of the ideas in terms of "treatment." And since then he's gone off the rails entirely, into Deepak land. Thus, feel free to download the books into your melon, but beware of viruses.

But the main point is that the psychologies of the East -- because of their blanket condemnation of the ego -- tend to be naive and mythological at best, perverse and destructive at worst. And not just destructive of of the individual, but of cultural progress as well. As we have discussed in the past, there is a good reason why science, human rights, freedom and democracy developed only in the Christian West. They did not develop elsewhere because they could not develop elsewhere.

And this is precisely where the psychospiritual intersects with the psychopolitical and bifurcates into what I would call "metaphysical conservativatism" and its various gloomy alternatives. Coincidentally, I'm currently reading George Nash's splendid Reappraising the Right: The Past & Future of American Conservatism, which is helping me to appreciate some of the subtleties of this question. For conservatism is rooted in individualism and all it implies. Hayek (quoted in Nash) lamented that "I wish I could make my 'progressive' friends... understand that democracy is possible only under capitalism and that collectivist experiments lead inevitably to fascism of one sort or another" and "to the suppression of freedom." And quite obviously, in the absence of freedom there is no individual, since the individual is "freedom lived," while freedom is "individuality permitted."

Now, one thing individualism implies -- as we shall see -- is God. Therefore, ideologies that promote individualism in the absence of God (and this includes some varieties of conservatism, e.g., Ayn Rand) are not only intellectually bizarre but frankly destructive and disorganizing. Pagan statism and genuine theoliberalism stand at antipodes. But it is equally true -- at least in my opinion -- that certain strands of the so-called "religious right" are not at all conservative, but quite plainly warped products of modernity, since they stand outside the perennial Tradition.

Speaking of which, I think I've finally figured out what a Raccoon is. If anyone asks, just say an "improvisational orthodox bohemian classical liberal neo-traditionalist." That ought to cover it. You could say that -- to borrow a phrase from Nash -- we affirm the "unorthodox defense of orthodoxy." The true dynamic axis of conservatism is "the unity of tradition and liberty," in which we are free to become who we already are, and all that implies; and it surely implies certain cultural and political conditions which make it possible, including private property, limited government, and moral and epistemological absolutes.

Nash makes the very useful observation that one of the main differences between contemporary left liberals and conservative classical liberals is that they embrace divergent forms of modernity. In the case of the left, their "new modernity" revolves around

"relativism, negation, and despair. Where the 'old modernity' [that would be us, not to mention America's founders] asserted that certain truths were self-evident, the new modernity denied that universal truths exist.... Where the old modernity tended to be rationalistic, the new modernity explored the irrational and the absurd. Where the old modernity offered liberation from external constraints -- from the barriers of class, race, national origin, and arbitrary government -- the new modernity preached liberation from inner constraints -- from traditional morality, from artistic convention, from rationality itself."

So we are ultimately dealing with a "clash of modernities," or you could say modernity and postmodernity. For the person in the grip of postmodernity, the modern sounds frankly "old-fashioned" and irrelevant. I know this, because I used to be one of those defective people, the reason being that I spent so many years in the zeitgeistapo of the Postmodernity Indoctrination Center, i.e. graduate school.

Back to Bolton. Let's begin with some definitions. Monism, he writes, "teaches that there is only one real substance, regardless of appearances, whether that substance be understood as spiritual or material, and whether or not it is identified with God." Thus, you can affirm that "all is matter" or "all is spirit," but both are affirmations of monism. Form is obviously discounted and devalued, since form is merely the outward manifestation of something more "real," either "energy" on the one hand, or "consciousness" on the other.

Therefore, strictly speaking, neither version of monism can be supported by logic, since logic is swallowed up in the One, along with everything else. This is why we say that there is not much practical difference between the idiocies of, say, Deepak the Quack and Charles the Queeg. Both men imagine they fly above logic, when they actually fall far beneath it.

To be continued....


Anonymous said...

I stand in the docket as counsel for the defence of the NAIM.

The NAIM is not fully oriented around nihilism.

Some parts may be; it is a thinly disguised existenchialism. But the better NAIM's are not nihilistic.

Take OSHO as an example of the better, salmonella and all.

The NAIM will not define what is found after all is taken away but doesn't think it is only void; it may include void but is not limited to that.

There is no doubt to the NAIM. What is looked for is rather easily found.

Take sleep, for instance. Every person gets a chance for full ego effacement every night during sleep.

We all get to be with Source at least daily in a form of natural meditation, called sleep.

So, the methods of NAIM are just an extention of "sleep" mode into other areas of life.

As far as selfhood, it is like water. Ice is like ego, liquid water is like lovers, steam like meditator or dreamer. Many phases, all valid, none cancel the other.

To study religion, to pray, to believe, is all good but at some point you have to quiet yourself and recieve input from Source.

NAIM defence now rests.

Cousin Dupree said...

Once again proving the adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Joe Unlie said...

Hey Bob! Long time fan, first time poster; your writings turned me on to MotT. Anyway, I just had to take issue with a few things. While I think that you're right that the Christian west proved a much more fertile ground for the development of modernity, I disagree with the idea that it was the only place where it could have arisen. China is hardly an anti-individualistic "anthill"- believe me, man, I live in Shanghai, and let me tell you- the image of the Chinese as a bunch of communitarians is a total myth. They're the most conniving pack of entrepreneurs you'll ever meet, and except for the last few centuries always were, and always will be.

Check out Joseph Needham's "Science and Civilization in China" (Volumes I and II; the rest are a snore)- China under the T'ang Dynasty was a vital, open place where science, technology, and ideas rapidly advanced for four centuries. The stagnant China of the late Ming and Q'ing periods, which the West encountered, were the historical aberration.

Likewise, many ideas we now associate with classical liberalism were already taking root in parts of India in the centuries before the British rocked up- Amartya Sen believes that the foundations of the secular state were already taking their place in India in the 16th century, under Emperor Akbar, who campaigned for religious toleration and against the practice of suttee (all while the Inquisition and the wars of religion were still raging in Europe).

Even the Arab Muslim world had the chance to follow the Averroeist path.

Now, do I do this to try to denigrate the achievements of the West? Nay, not at all! I just like to think that they prove that even if we fail, the future could still be in good hands in the east, and from what I've seen in my time living and traveling here, there's much to be optimistic about.

So, keep trouping out the message, but don't get so down on our brothers in the East. Even if they're only half-right, they're getting there, and how!

Van Harvey said...

Haven't read the post yet and sorry for a somewhat off topic (though the mother of all cracks in the foundation), but you've really got to see this Gateway Pundit post about our Safe Schools czar. Scream. Yell. Demand heads on platters.

You all know I've been saying the problem began in the schools, and it reforms and returns from the schools. This is not an anomaly, just a graphic example of their obvious ends.

No progress is possible as long as they have hold of our schools.

Gagdad Bob said...

So true. For the left, West Point is "enemy territory." For us, it is academia.

Warren said...

>> the methods of NAIM are just an extention of "sleep" mode into other areas of life.

This explains a lot, actually.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not to mention dreaming.

Anonymous said...

But the main point is that the psychologies of the East -- because of their blanket condemnation of the ego -- tend to be naive and mythological at best, perverse and destructive at worst.

This is wrong. Buddhism does not condemn the ego; it aims for understanding of what it really is. I suppose a naive take on Buddhism sounds like what you said above, but you presumably have read enough to know there is more to it than that.

"It's not that you're not real. We all think we're real, and that's not wrong. You are real. But you think you're really real, you exaggerate it." -- a Mongolian Buddhist teacher, quoted by Robert Thurman

Gagdad Bob said...

Judge these divergent psychologies by the political, economic and cultural fruits they bear. Or you could just say that people vote with their feet, as millions from Buddhist countries are dying to get here, while few people are fleeing America to settle in Buddhist countries.

Gagdad Bob said...

Among other conveniences, if one wishes to be a Buddhist, this is a much better place to be one. Conversely, I wouldn't want to be a Christian in China.

Anonymous said...

"the unity of tradition and liberty," in which we are free to become who we already are

Oh, bullshit. Tradition and liberty are mortal enemies. You can spin all kinds of ways to try to reconcile them, but the bare fact is when people have liberty they will invent new ways of doing things. Case in point -- gay marriage. You can be for tradition or liberty, but not both.

Capitalism and modernity and destruction of tradition have been going hand-in-hand for the last few hundred years, and whether you like it or not, you can't pretend that you can support both capitalism and tradition. Capitalism is all about the creative destruction of traditional ways of doing things.

Gagdad Bob said...

Okay. Can I keep my insulin? But I'll take your computer, since you won't be needing it.

Petey said...

Paleo-traditional dude, get ahold of yourself. The sabbath was made for man, not vice versa.

Nova said...

Anon clearly has no clue what "capitalism" (a Marxist term) really means. Creative destruction has nothing whatsoever to do with destroying traditional moral truths through the redefinition of language
(two men can get "married", pigs can "fly", etc). Having started and run a number of companies from scratch -- two of them successfully -- I can assure Anon that my respect for tradition has deepened substantially over 10 years because it is the embodiment of true liberty.

homely skank said...

Has Bob become the latest target of your scorn? Boyfriend leave you guy?
Where's the love?

julie said...

Joan, I was going to say the same thing. Well, almost the same thing. That description is awesome.

julie said...

More on West Point. Seems to me that's a pretty strong example of liberty and tradition working harmoniously to shape some truly exemplary individuals.

Warren said...


Many thanks for the link to the truly amazing Kiddie Porn Czar story. Barry's Bolshies are on the march!

Damn. Just when I'd almost convinced myself that I was wrong about the Democrat Party being actually, literally directed by Satan....

Sean said...

My son is in his 2nd year at West Point and recipient of lots of OC insights.

Go Army
Beat Navy


Joe Unlie said...

"Among other conveniences, if one wishes to be a Buddhist, this is a much better place to be one. Conversely, I wouldn't want to be a Christian in China."

There are nearly 100 million Christians in China these days. I could introduce you to some next time you're in Shanghai. Mao's been dead a long time; this ain't your daddy's China. Ironically, I've found myself a lot freer to talk about Christianity (and religion in general) in Chinese schools than in American schools. Religion is just one of many topics that people speak more freely about here in the PRC, away from the fetters of academic political correctness... you'd probably dig it.

(And Mandarin is a language made of puns! How could you resist, man?)