Saturday, October 17, 2009

Science, Original Syntax, and Anti-Semantic Bastards

A post from a couple of years ago that generated few comments -- or perhaps discrete silence -- at the time. Originally titled Science and Original Syntax, it pretty much still is.

No doubt logic has limits, but it is the first to support this observation, otherwise it would not be logical, precisely. --F. Schuon

Which only emphasizes that humans are not limited to reason, and that reason must be grounded in an intuitive, transrational source of Truth. So it's not exactly correct to say that humans are the animal that can reason. Even more importantly, we are the creature that knows the limits of reason -- or that our reason is embedded in Reason, AKA, the logos that infuses being.

If the world were only logical and linear, it could never have escaped its own absurcularity and produced transnatural and suprarational humans who transcend this material circularity.

As I mentioned in the Woolly Coonifesto, in order for progress to occur -- or for our Sacred Slack to exist -- 2 + 2 must occasionally add up to 5. But this has been well understood for the past couple of decades, what with the emergence of chaos and complexity theories, which describe the physics of non-linear systems. Being that very few things in the cosmos are truly linear, it is as if we have been using the wrong physics to try to comprehend the cosmos. D'oh!

Rather, as the brilliant theoretical biologist Robert Rosen wrote, "in order to be in a position to say what life is, we must spend a great deal of time in understanding what life is not..., because for the past three centuries, ideas of mechanism and machine have constituted the very essence of the adjective 'scientific'; a rejection of them thus seems like a rejection of science itself.

"But this turns out to be only a prejudice, and like all prejudices, it has disastrous consequences. In the present case, it makes the question 'What is life?' unanswerable; the initial presupposition that we are dealing with mechanism already excludes most of what we need to arrive at an answer. No amount of refinement or subtlety within the world of mechanism can avail; once we are in that world, what we need is already gone."

I cannot possibly do justice to the richness of Rosen's arguments, and neither can he, since he died prematurely (I might add that his books are quite dense and technical). Nevertheless, their consequences "are indeed radical. In a sense, physics shrinks and biology expands. Physics as we know it today is, almost entirely, the science of mechanism, and mechanisms, as I argue, are very special as material systems. Biology involves a class of systems more general than mechanisms. In fact, the relative positions of physics and biology become interchanged; rather than physics being general and biology special, it becomes the other way around."

I well remember first reading that liberating passage about a decade ago. It was one of the keys in the writing of my own book, as it gave concrete expression to a nagging intuition about how the cosmos must be in order for it to be at all. It is a fine example of a translogically logical statement about reality that was so full of implications that it sent my head spinning.

For in the final unalysis, it means that the cosmos is much more like a holographic organism than a linear machine. And in looking at it this way, the otherwise inexplicable existence of organisms is no longer problematic. In other words, it is impossible to explain -- except in a primitive, childlike, and faux-religious way -- how a dead and mechanical cosmos became alive and conscious. But if we apply the appropriate physics, the existence of Life and Mind suddenly makes much more sense.

Rosen quotes the physicist Ernest Rutherford, who summarized the prevailing scientistic view with the statement, Qualitative is nothing but poor quantitative. This encrapsulates the idea that everything important -- every quality -- may be expressed in terms of numerical magnitude, which in turn is implicitly rooted in the fanciful notion that every material system is a simple system. At once we can see that this violates the Schuon quote at the top, for it fails utterly to recognize the translogical limits of logic.

Another way of saying it is that, in Rosen's pithy phrase, semantics cannot be reduced to syntax. In other words, meaning is not merely reducible to a purely syntactic system, or to a finite set of meaningless symbols with finite rules for combining them. Here again, in order to believe such a thing, one must abandon logic and enter the realm of scientistic faith. It is "an expression of the belief that all mathematical truth can be reduced to, or expressed in terms of, word processing or symbol manipulation" and that "the universe of discourse needs to consist of nothing more than meaningless symbols pushed around by definite rules of manipulation" (Rosen).

What kind of belief is it that all beliefs may be pulled inside a purely syntactical system? A highly illogical one, Captain.

For, thanks to Petey's drinking buddy Gödel, we know that "no matter how one tries to formalize a particular part of mathematics, syntactic truth in the formulization does not coincide with the set of truths about numbers."

Which reminds me of an unintentionally humorous eulogy to a great mathematician: "His contribution to the field of mathematics was incalculable." Who could argue with that? "No it wasn't. It was 3.27 to the -22nd power, divided by pi."

And if you try reduce the great archetypal Truths of the principial domain to what is calculable, you do great damage to the human spirit, the ground of which is within the transnatural. In so doing, you convert the rational to the infrarational, human to subhuman. For Gödel is ultimately saying that Truth is far more subtle -- and real -- than the gross formalizations we use to try to capture it. Looked at in this way, biology only appears "soft" to the physicist because there are far more qualities in it than can be accommodated in terms of "hard" syntax.

Another way to say it is that science (or, properly speaking scientism) does not explain human beings; rather, human beings explain science, both literally (i.e., in books and papers) and ontologically. Go ahead, ask an atheist: does materialistic science explain you? Or do you explain it? If the latter, then you have transcended your own explanation of yourself, just as you have transcended natural selection. And if you haven't transcended them, then there is no reason on earth to listen to your blathering on about truth, for you have abdicated your wild humanness for the security of living as predictable machine behind bars of quantity.

Cue William Shatner speaking to the atheist nerds convention: "You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having read all your comments over the years, and I've spoken to many of you, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? There's a whole world out there! When I was your age, I didn't sit around reading books by Dawkins and Harris! I LIVED! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP!"

We conclude with another observation by Schuon: "The limitlessness of space and time seems absurd in that logic cannot express it in a concrete and exhaustive fashion; it is perfectly logical, however, to notice that this double limitlessness exists....

"Unquestionably the Sacred Scriptures contain contradictions; the traditional commentaries take them into account, not by contesting the right of logic to notice them and to satisfy our needs for logical explanations, but by seeking out the underlying link which abolishes the apparent absurdity."

Or, you might say that with regard to Revelation, semantics determines syntax and therefore shatters our puny linguistic containers. This would of course include the revelations of Life and of Mind, which represent a sort of "localized transcendence" of their constituent parts, i.e., weird made flesh and flesh made weird, respectively.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Am Darwin Man, Destroyer of Worlds!

Last night while walking the dog and trying to forget about the Dodgers, it occurred to me that if you bother trying to adapt your mind to the latest findings of science, you know in advance that you are building your mind on sand. In short, you know ahead of time that the theory is ultimately wrong (or wrong in the ultimate sense), and will eventually be overturned or transcended. So why go to all of the trouble of adapting one's being to it, as opposed to merely using it as a temporary probe to investigate the material world?

I'm not talking about empirical reality, which is an entirely different matter. No future discovery of science will obviate the need to get out of the way of that hurtling bus. There is no machine that will ever reverse the flow of time, since time is irreversible by ontological necessity.

In contrast to science, if you adapt your mind to religion, you are adapting it to the timeless, the unchanging and the eternally true. Indeed, that is the whole point. I can commune with, say, Denys from the 6th century or Eckhart from the 14th, and both of them speak to me in a way that most 19th century science -- which was the pinnacle of material reductionism and mechanical determinism -- does not. The Ten Commandments still apply over 3000 years later, while countless scientific theories have come and gone.

This is why in my book, I tried to rely more on philosophy of science than science per se -- e.g., people such as Whitehead, Polanyi, and Robert Rosen. Or, if I did rely on more specific findings, I tried to do so in such a way that the overall vision would not stand or fall based upon them.

For example, in my account of human evolution, I endeavored to use the most up-to-date findings, knowing in advance that they were subject to change. One of the most helpful books was Steven Stanley's Children of the Ice Age, which was published just eleven years ago. But now the latest discovery of that old broad in Africa completely overturns Stanley's narrative.

But it really doesn't matter to me, any more than it matters whether human infants spend 9 or 9.5 months in the womb. The main point is that we come out neurologically incomplete, which is the evolutionary prerequisite for the acquisition of humanness. Nor will any finding of science ever alter my view that natural selection alone cannot account for the human station. For if it does, then we really know that everything we believe is wrong, and that there is no reason whatsoever to believe it except for pure pragmatism.

This actually goes back to the previous book we were discussing, Living Constitution, Dying Faith. In it, Watson points out that what we know of today as "progressivism" is grounded in a combination of Darwinism and philosophical pragmatism, which render the whole notion of timeless truth null and void. The elimination of timeless truth is both the origin and goal of progressive thought, just as timeless truth is the origin and goal of our liberal Founders (and which again makes genuine evolution possible).

As mentioned yesterday, we are not in any way trying to be polemical. In fact, Watson cites abundant sources in support of his assertions, and Sowell dispassionately covers some of the same ground in A Conflict of Visions. As Watson explains, "Social Darwinism began to dominate American thinking just as transcendentalism was on the wane" in the late 19th century. And if you want to know what "social Darwinism" is, it is simply Darwinism drawn out to its inevitable ontological, epistemological, and ethical implications. It is Darwinism with no apologies, and no recourse to Judeo-Christian principles and other so-called "eternal truths." Among other things, it is the tyranny of the ephemeral.

For the herd of self-appointed elites of the time, "natural selection was seen as an all-purpose explanatory tool that could put the human sciences, especially politics and jurisprudence, on a parallel track with modern natural science" (Watson).

Thus, with a single stroke, these anti-intellectual mediocrities such as John Dewey and Charles Sanders Pierce were able to elevate themselves above the Founders, and affirm that "there are no fixed or eternal principles that govern, or ought to govern, the politics of a decent regime." Rather, all truth was situated in a strict historicism, meaning that "truth" was simply what was believed to be true at the time, and nothing more. With the passage of time, we'll arrive at better truths, just as natural selection has produced better eyes and more clever apes. But there is no truth that is true for all time -- no annoying natural rights to interfere with the prerogatives of the state.

Again, this view begins and ends in change as opposed to permanence. But anyone who has studied a bit about dissipative structures knows that organisms change in order to remain the same, and remain the same in order to change. Well, forget about that. Under the new Darwinian regime, there is only change. Yes, it's absurd, since change can only occur in relation to the unchanging, but no one ever accused Darwinists of being philosophically coherent.

Armed with this new philosophy of eternal stupidity, the goal "is no longer to search after absolute origins or ends," only the reduction of everything, both subject and object, to ceaseless change. Thus, "in the absence of fixity, morals, politics, and religion are subject to radical renegotiation and transformation."

From this false premise the left pulled off the ultimate fraud, by identifying the liberating belief in absolutes with authoritarianism, and the acceptance of radical relativism with "liberation." Yes, it is a sort of liberation -- into nihilism on the one hand, and the omnipotent state on the other. For if there is nothing but change -- "permanent change" -- this is just another way of saying "absolute relativism" and pure subjectivity, which is a self-refuting metaphysic that elevates Will over Truth. Truth becomes a function of raw power and eventually pure, unredeemed tenure.

Under Darwinism, there can be nothing special about human beings, no vertical intersection with the eternal. Rather, all is horizontal. The ontological divide that separates human and animal is completely effaced, as is the bright line between matter and life. Ultimately this reduces to Atoms in the Void, just as Whitehead said some eighty years ago. Or Adams in the Void, as Petey said just a few seconds ago.

The most dangerous stage in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man has come to regard all these beliefs as superstitions and refuses to accept or submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the power of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. --Hayek

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Deep Structure of Political Deep Structure

Have we covered Living Constitution, Dying Faith enough? I think so. Just buy the book. I'm already on to something else.

Of course I've thought about it before, and probably posted on it as well, but reading Sowell's A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles has got me thinking about it all over again. Many on the left especially object to "labels," but what is it that makes it so easy to divide the majority of people into two ideological camps, with so many seemingly unrelated issues falling into line?

What is the relationship, say, between global warming hysteria, belief in government imposed racial discrimination, and support of the judicial redefinition of marriage? What do these things have in common, if anything?

Or, on the other hand, what is the common thread between limited government, a strong military defense, and freedom of school choice? Why are people who want vouchers also less likely to favor state imposition of "homosexual marriage," while the same folks who believe in catastrophic global warming don't see global jihad as a big problem? Why is Obama much harder on Fox News than Iran? And what's his real problem with the First Amendment?

By the way, this is definitely a thinking-out-loud, Bob's-Unconscious-behind-the-wheel kind of post, in which we try to work out the answers in real time. Therefore, this post may be unusually desultory, since its point will only emerge -- if at all -- gradually. We won't know if we are being guided by an attractor until we get there.

I might add that I really want to be fair to the left. Of course we like to kid, but it really is a curiosity. Why do so many issues hang together in the way they do? For most liberals, the answer is easy: it's because conservatives are evil, greedy, racist-sexist-homophobes. And for most conservatives, it's because liberals are wrong and misguided. But why are we evil or they wrong in such systematic ways? Why does one person imagine that Rush Limbaugh is a "hatemonger," but not see that Keith Olbermann is the real deal? And why are right wing televangelists and left wing tenurevangelists both so tediously predictable?

As I've mentioned before, I don't actually like to get into psychologizing about the motives of my ideological adversaries, except as a last resort or a festive occasion for insultainment. The other day Spengler wrote a piece on Obama's supposed narcissism, which I thought was off the mark for a number of reasons. For one thing, I would guess that most politicians of whatever ideological stripe have issues of narcissism. And narcissism itself is neither here nor there. My endocrinologist strikes me as a narcissist, but he's still a good doctor -- just as someone who is perfectly well adjusted emotionally can have good intentions that result in horribly bad outcomes. Truth is truth, even if a crazy person believes it. Gödel was off his umlaut, but so what? It doesn't render his principles any less timelessly true.

Furthermore, I think it's sufficient to attribute Obama's beliefs to the fact that he's just not that bright or curious. I'm not one of those people who has ever been impressed by his intellect. Without the TOTUS, he appears to be a pompous airhead who says nothing with great authority -- or who makes equivocation and weak-mindedness simulate thoughtfulness. If anything, he seems unusually callow and intellectually immature, arrested at the bong-fueled college bull session stage. He strikes me as profoundly unworldly, a fact that is apparently obscured merely because of his biracial and multicultural background.

But the idea that "travel broadens" must be one of the hoariest cliches imaginable. I have relatives who have traveled much more than I ever want to, but who are morons. In contrast, Jesus never left Israel and Aurobindo never left his room. Yes, it's an obvious point, but it has a deeper dimension as well, for as Schuon was at pains to emphasize, every man at all times has potential access to total truth in the form of the metaphysical principles embodied in orthodox tradition. To say that this truth can be improved upon by going from here to there is to not know what truth or religion are. It is for us to adequate ourselves to truth, not to imagine that it's sitting over there in Kenya or Indonesia.

The problem is, wherever you go, you go there too and spoil everything. As Bertrand Russell -- of all people! -- said, "Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day" (quoted in CoV). It is this swarm of flies that we want to try to understand. And "flies" is an apt metaphor, since the real problem, as we shall see, is the gaggle of mind parasites that have lives of their own, and which determine both what we perceive and what we conclude based upon that.

In other words, concept is anterior to percept, so we had better be careful about the organizing principles that rule our psyche. Some of these can be articulated, while others -- often the most important ones -- cannot (see especially Polanyi). One of the problems with the garden-variety intellectual -- and Sowell touches on this -- is that he imagines that all of his preconceptions are susceptible to articulation, when this is naive in the extreme. Thus, he will ridicule the mote in the theist's brain while being clueless about the beam in his own.

Churles Fasberger Queeg is a fine example of this kind of pseudo-thinking, as he is relentless in his simple-minded ridicule of religious believers, while having no insight whatsoever into his own preposterous scientism, nor his ironically un-Darwinian attractions. Since he is plainly not motivated by truth, what is his motivation? To suggest that one may arrive at truth through logic alone is a conviction so childlike that it hardly bears refuting. If that were the case, the progress of science would not require great leaps of creative imagination and synthesis -- of genius and vision. Rather, a computer -- or computer programmer -- could do it. Or, in Churles' case, cut, paste, repeat for nine years. (Images courtesy BabbaZee.)

Back to mind parasites. Sowell uses the analogy of ideas as "chips" one uses to play a sort of game. We may think that we are using the chips, but more often than not, it is the chips that are using us. Individuals may be "carriers of ideas, much as bees inadvertently carry pollen." The bee imagines -- if it could imagine -- that it is consciously doing one thing, when it is really unconsciously doing something far more profound.

We are all carrying around sacks of pollen -- or crocks of other substances -- with which we fertilize our world. We do it in raising our children, in relationships, in various cultural transactions. And one of the critical points is how much pollen we start out with because of our specific cultural heritage.

Again, secular extremists tend to be exceedingly naive about this, hence their attacks on the Judeo-Christian principles that undergird our civilization. They may imagine that they would prefer a culture of pure articulated logic, but this would not only be dangerous, but monstrous. We have thousands of years of cultural capital stored in our psyches, including things that were settled long ago. To reopen everything for negotiation is truly to open a pandora's box. You will never get what is released from the unconscious depths back into any kind of container. You just have no idea what is down there, nor the fine line that exists between civilization and barbarism.

This relates to Sowell's main thesis of the "unconstrained vision" of the left and the "constrained vision" of the right. The French revolution is the quintessential example of the unconstrained vision in action -- the idea that we can eliminate all of man's tacit cultural assumptions and "superstitions," and replace them with the cold light of logic.

As I have mentioned before, traditional religion for the typical believer involves metaphysics without knowledge. In other words, the metaphysics are embedded in the symbolic forms of the religion, which resonate on a deep unconscious (actually, supraconscious) level. In contrast, secularism involves articulated rationality with no wisdom. Again, this is what makes it so very dangerous, as it is not only devoid of wisdom, but systematically attacks the very wisdom tradition that resulted in our uniquely wonderful civilization.

To be continued....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dude, Where's My Future?

Lately I've been sleeping until 6:30 instead of 5:30, which really leaves insufficient time to write something that needs to be written. So instead of forcing the issue, I'll just rewrite something that didn't need to be rewritten. It's a reflection from almost one year ago on the election of Obama, in the context of Letter XI of Meditations on the Tarot, The Force. Let's see if my coonvision was remotely accurate, or if I was just blowing off steam.

But first, a list of top ten reasons why I felt that Obama's election would be a good thing:

10. Booming business for cult deprogrammers.
9. Big blow to racial grievance hustlers; Al Sharpton will have to go back to mugging individuals instead of corporations.
8. Terrorists won't hate us as much when they kill us. Plus, we can fight them here rather than way over in Iraq, thus saving gas money.
7. Everything is Obama's fault.
6. AM radio will go back to playing music instead of abusing free speech with conservative talk.
5. People will be more serious about preventative health instead of relying on "doctors."
4. Jews will no longer run the world.
3. We can play the race card in international relations.
2. We can blame the young for their own future problems, since they supported Obama by a 2-1 margin. Who cares if they want to spend their inheritance on their selfish grandparents?
1. Conservatives get the #1 draft pick in '09.

Letter XI, The Force, is a timely symbol for the events of the day, as the force of the left ascends on the political wheel of fortune. However, we can draw consolation from the fact that, being that leftism is a closed intellectual and spiritual system, it is already "on the way down," outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. In short, its end is in its beginning, as the poet said. The higher it ascends in its intoxicated reach for power, the further it will fall. The concrete fact of Obama shall soon enough kill the empty idea of Obama. Nature hates a vacuum, while the left requires one, into which they can project their dreams and fantasies. But soon enough they will discover that Obama is not the man of their dreams.

The following passage by UF is perfectly apt today: "Plato has never had success as a revolutionary and never will do so. But Plato himself will always live throughout the centuries of human history... and will be in each century the companion of the young and old who love pure thought, seeking only the light which it comprises." In other words, you can never really have a "revolution" of people oriented to the white point of wisdom discussed in yesterday's post. Rather, you can only have evolution.

For one thing, it is an individual endeavor, not the sort of thing that could ever occur on a mass scale. And the left is a mass movement, which automatically condemns it to mediocrity and banality. It is led by a herd of elites who imagine themselves superior, but nothing could be more mundane -- and self-contradictory -- than the idea of "mass excellence."

In contrast to Plato, Karl Marx has enjoyed over a century "of astonishing success and has revolutionized the world. He has swept away millions -- those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to the prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners."

Really, can you name another philosopher who has enjoyed such a literally smashing success in such a short span of time? But you -- yes, you there, "as a solitary human soul, a soul of depth and sobriety, what do you owe Karl Marx?"

I don't know yet. Ask me next April 15th.

The point is, "Plato illumines, whilst Marx sweeps away." Obviously, it is impossible to imagine a person of any spiritual stature getting caught up in the Obama hysteria, what with his preposterous rhetoric about "fundamentally transforming" the nation. But it is equally impossible to imagine such a person being caught up in any kind of political hysteria. It is one of the reasons we can never match the diabolical energy of the left. Since the leftist is condemned to the horizontal world, he channels his spiritual energy into politics. As I wrote a couple of years ago,

"Regardless of what happens Tuesday, it shouldn’t greatly affect the spiritual equilibrium of the Superior Man, whose invisible combat will continue as usual. Indeed, this is what distinguishes us from the agitated multitude of horizontal men who locate their salvation in politics. Whatever the outcome, our lives will continue to center around our own perfection and salvation, not for narcissistic reasons, but for the simple reason that it is not possible to save others unless we have first saved ourselves. Needless to say, horizontal Republicans will not save us from horizontal Democrats.

"The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can lie in its usefulness to the individual -- again, not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose -- i.e., to be useful to the Creator."

Hmm, I see that Bob foretold the cult of Obama:

"Horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine authority. Taken to its logical extreme, this manifests as the demagogue, the cult of personality, or the dictator-god who expresses the vitalistic will of the people. But all forms of leftism lie on this continuum. So much of the pandering of the left is merely totalitarianism in disguise -- a false absolute and a counterfeit vertical."

And there is no one so inflated with narcissistic hubris as the leftist social engineer who will save mankind from its own self-inflicted wounds. The leftist can give man everything but what he most needs, and in so doing, destroys the possibility of man. As Eliot said, the leftist dreams of a system in which it will be unnecessary for anyone to be good. But man is the being who can -- and must -- choose between good and evil.

Likewise, "the moment we talk about 'social conscience,' and forget about conscience, we are in moral danger" (Eliot). Eliminate the idea of moral struggle, and "you must expect human beings to become more and more vaporous." Since man is placed at the crossroads where he is free to choose between good and evil, this again eliminates man. You might say that for the leftist dreamer, man is strictly unnecessary. In fact, he just gets in the way of the Dream. Humanity is reduced to "a manageable herd rather than a community of souls" -- a comm-unity which naturally includes the dead and unborn (Lockerd).

For horizontality goes hand in hand with exteriority and outwardness, which is the initial direction of the fall: first out, then down. Gravity takes care of the rest. Horizontal man is down and out, whereas our salvolution lies up and in. Animals are almost entirely exterior. Like the leftist, they do not actually live in the world, but in the closed system of their own neurology and instincts. Only man -- inexplicably and miraculously on any scientistic grounds -- can exit the closed system of his own neuro-ideology and enter higher worlds, worlds of truth, beauty, and virtue.

To be in contact with these higher worlds is to be Man. To neglect or deny these anterior worlds is to destroy man, precisely. It is to starve and suffocate man’s spirit by laying waste to his proper environment, the only environment in which he can actually grow into full manhood. You cannot replace the holy grail of Spirit with the lowly gruel of flatland materialism and expect it to feed the multitudes. Human beings do not draw their spiritual nourishment from outside but from above -- which in turn “spiritualizes” and sacralizes the horizontal.

Being what he is -- and isn’t -- horizontal man externalizes concerns about his self-inflicted soul murder, and obsesses over the future of "the planet" -- over speculative and fanciful weather reports one hundred years hence.

But right now there is a hell and there is a handbasket, because we can clearly see both with our own third eyes. Furthermore, we can see exactly who is running with baskets in both hands. Look, it's Nancy Pelosi! Harry Reid! Barney Frank!

Again, vertical man never obsesses, let alone enters the state of perpetual hysteria of leftist man. As Eliot wrote, "we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph." Nevertheless, vertical man naturally frets about the deteriorating conditions of the interior of the human world, and its seemingly unimpeded slide into barbarism, spiritual exhaustion, scientistic magic, neo-paganism, self-worship, the cult of the body, abstract materialism, and a vapid and rudderless subjectivism.

Such lost souls cannot discern the signs of the times, much less the direction of history. For them, history can be nothing more than a meaningless tale told by a tenured idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying a nice paycheck and adoring coeds. Horizontal man scoffs at spiritual reality on the peculiar grounds that it cannot exist, denying its presence with that which affirms it by virtue of its self-evident existence.

It is a truism that vertical man paradoxically lives very close to the ground, as he has internalized the cautionary tales of Eden, of Icarus, of Babel, and of various episodes of the Honeymooners. In contrast, horizontal man seizes what does not properly belong to him, not just recapitulating the fall but enshrining it in his ideology. It's no longer a bug but a feature.

But when you cast your vote for horizontal man, you are unwittingly chipping away at the foundation of the very tower in which horizontal man is privileged to sit despite his metaphysical ignorance. For in reality, we only have the luxury of superfluous and slumbering horizontal men because of the vertical men -- real men -- who came before and built the tower brick by brick (except for the cornerstone, which was not made by human hands).

Thus we can see our own possible future by casting our gaze at Europe, which is too high and top-heavy for its own long-forgotten foundations, and is well into the process of toppling into dust. For when horizontal man falls, he doesn’t actually fall far, only back down to the ground where vertical man awaits him.

Yes, we are exiled in time, but for vertical man, time does not alter the basic existential situation which religion is here to address. It is believed by our intellectually sterile and spiritually shallow elites that religion is no longer relevant. In so believing, they underscore their own irrelevance, for to paraphrase Schuon, they blame Truth for their own lack of qualification to understand and accept it. Suffice it to say that to be eternally young is to forever grow -- only inward and upward, toward the primordial light that has already defeated horizontal darkness, today and forever.

So render unto the horizontal the things that belong to the horizontal, but do not store your treasures there, where myths corrupt and chickens doth come home to roost. As always, be as wise as the horizontal serpents who stand on their bellies, but innocent as vertical doves who kneel on wings.

A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom. --Russell Kirk

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Defending Greatness while Defending Against the Great

Let's hearken back to that political pneumagraph of a few weeks back. Recall that the vertical axis runs in the direction worldly ↑ spiritual , while the horizontal runs from collectivity → individuation. When we toss in the lower vertical infrarational/unconscious, there are six main modalities, the infrarational collective, the worldly collective, the spiritual collective, the infrarational individual, the worldly individual, and the spiritual individual.

Looking at it in evolutionary terms, you could draw an arrow from the lower left to the upper right ↗, plotting man's movement from a primitive infrarational collective with no individuation, to a culture capable of nurturing and sustaining the saint, the sage, and the creative genius of whatever type.

This is the identical arrow that would apply to one's own personal development, as we all start out fused with the environment, learn to become relatively rational individuals (at least in the modern West), and then continue developing into the post-egoic planes of spirit. Of course, there is much overlap, and the process is not actually linear. And there are obviously fixations, arrests, and regressions. But give me a break. This is a map, not the territory. Plus, it's not that easy to plot hyperspace in two dimensions.

Now, how does this apply to Lincoln? I don't know. Let's find out, shall we?

While revering the ideal that all men are created equal, Lincoln would have been the first to acknowledge that not only do Great Men exist -- men whose gifts far exceed the average -- but that these men are often responsible for the forward movement of history, i.e., progress. America's founders would be prima facie examples of this. The problem is how to reconcile human greatness with the leveling tendencies of democracy, which can result in a tyranny of the mediocre, whereby the lion is treated the same as the lamb, and forced to eat grass.

I believe that this was one of Schuon's main objections to democracy. Not only did he feel that it undermined human excellence, but that it did so inevitably. I certainly appreciate his concerns, as do all conservatives. Indeed, one merely has to draw a descending line from Lincoln to Obama to understand his point. At the same time, however, you could say that this collective "longing for heroic greatness" is what ushered in Hitler. If we want to cut a Heidegger (and so many other fascism-loving liberals) some slack -- which I don't -- I believe that this might have been a big part of his motivation in embracing nazism.

There's nothing wrong with embracing the heroic per se, so long as it is in service to the proper ideals. The problem, of course, is distinguishing the narcissistic tyrant from the self-transcending statesman. There is an infinite difference between a Churchill and a Hitler or even a Reagan and an Obama. Man has an innate need to revere what is superior, so we have to be exceedingly careful that the object is actually worthy of our reverence.

Just yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill creating a special day of commemoration for Harvey Milk. Why? Why force the population to revere someone so eminently unworthy of reverence?

It is the very converse of Lincoln's concern. Democracy can not only create mediocrity, but then enforce it with the authority of the state. The Milk Day is just a trivial example, but more pervasively destructive examples can easily be found. For example, in California, it is actually against the law for a public school textbook to depict any human group (in reality, any victim-group as defined by the left) in an unfavorable light. Thus, children must be systematically lied to, and then forced to place human greatness on the same plane as human depravity.

But it's actually even worse than that, for the real point is to undermine Western civilization and to place it on a lower plane than the rest of the world, e.g., Columbus below the native Americans.

Watson discusses Lincoln's concern with how we might "take account of the passions of the few -- those especially talented and ambitious individuals who exist in most regimes and belong to 'the family of the lion and the tribe of the eagle.'"

If someone is great and knows it, why shouldn't his will become law? Why should he have to put up with a bunch of dittoheaded creationist bitter-clingers? Why can't the people responsible for our problems just get out of the way? Can't we just shut down Fox News, the only TV network holding state power to account?

"As the threat from the mob came from below, so this threat comes from above. These 'lions' and 'eagles' feed on the lesser animals in a reflection of natural hierarchy. The implication is that the rule of such individuals is by natural right, unlike the rule of the mob" (Watson). The great man "thirsts and burns for distinction" and "will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves of enslaving freemen."

This is why the left always longs for a secular savior such as Obama. The leftist leader requires the led, but a special kind of led; the last thing he wants is a nation of spiritually awakened upper right quadrant individuals, because they cannot be led by the likes of Obama. Therefore, all of his policies will be geared toward creating more dependence, more passivity, more autohypnosis -- in short, people of the lower left. They are the ones who can be led by the nose and relied upon to support the powerful autocrat who promises to take care of them.

To "reduce the threat from above," the "greatest and most ambitious minds" must be inculcated in the values of the Founders and "in the renewal of the republic rather than its subversion." It is absolutely no coincidence that Obama -- and all similar elites whose values are at cross-purposes with the Founders -- holds America in such low esteem. The two attitudes go together. In order for the left to achieve its ambitions, it must first carry out a sustained assault on the past, on history, and on our traditions, since who controls the past controls the future, and who controls the present controls the past. To create Harvey Milk Day is ultimately the attempt to control the past, present, and future of marriage, the very foundation of civilization.

Great men want to be revered. And they should be. This is why it was a mistake to eliminate the federal holidays of Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, and replace them with "Presidents' Day." Yes, it might again seem like a trivial thing, but what could be more radical than forcing children to put a Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton on the same plane as a Washington or Lincoln? It's not just confusing, but diabolical, for it inverts the values required both for the nation's birth and its survival, i.e., rebirth -- a rebirth that must recur with each generation of potential citizens or serfs, individuals or drones, makers or takers.

To be continued....

Monday, October 12, 2009

There Is No Truth, and Progressives Are Its Guardians

Lincoln knew that "to embrace the Founders truly, we must embrace their sense of the eternal and the sacred" (Watson). The universal truths enunciated by the Founders are eternal, and yet, inflected through America's particular culture, values, and traditions. You will note that the contemporary left erodes America from both ends -- the universal and the particular -- by denying absolute truth at the "top" and affirming "diversity" and multiculturalism at the "bottom." It is like saying: there is no truth, and all cultures have a piece of it.

But for Lincoln there is one truth, and it is the task of a nation to approximate it. Not the task of leaders, mind you; that is again the leftist view, that with sufficient expertise and good intentions, a handful of elites at the top can transform Man. Not to mention the fact that "a desire for leaders creates followers," and it is by no means clear "that a nation of followers is capable of self-government" (Watson).

Think of how this applies today: for a person to actually believe that Obama will radically and fundamentally change the world for the good requires such passivity and dependency -- to say nothing of naivete -- that no such change will be possible. Conversely, imagine the transformation that would occur if individuals actually embodied the creed of the Founders, and valued liberty and self-reliance tempered by virtue and reciprocal obligation (instead of invented rights and entitlements).

Overwhelmingly, the problems of the nation and of the world are a result of bad values, not an insufficiently intrusive and pandering state. As Dennis Prager has said, the pathologies of Democrat-controlled urban America would vanish overnight if their inhabitants adopted the values of, say, Provo, Utah instead of Sharpton, Al -- just as the problems of the Middle East would disappear if Muslims adopted the values of the Jews.

Conversely, those problems and pathologies will never be resolved so long as we believe that governments can resolve them. Here's a novel idea for you: why not let the Palestinians bugger themselves with dynamite until they not only acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, but beg them to stay?

It's an insidious case of vertical alzheimer's disease, that's what it is: "The fall of a republican people from grace comes gradually, not precipitously; it comes not from an act, but from a slow loss of collective memory" (Watson). Obama did not happen overnight. Rather, it took a hundred years of creeping cultural dementia for him to even be so much as a possibility in this country, a ghastly twinkle in Bill Ayers' jaundiced eye. It's like how one goes bankrupt: very gradually and then all of a sudden. And Obama is bankrupting us in more ways than one.

For make no mistake: the Nobel was awarded for his forceful and conspicuous rejection of the principles upon which America was founded, principles which have always formed the main obstacle to the ambitions of the transnational left. The prize is for a job well done -- or to lend him the courage to see the job through to its bitter conclusion, as America completes its auto-castration and submits to the terrestrial Lord of Falsehood and his Cosmocrats of the Dark Aion.

Lincoln knew that "something more than reason is needed to attach a people firmly to a republican regime" (Watson). Thus, he proposed a "political religion... whereby every American would 'swear by the blood of the Revolution'" of our Founders. "Everyone must at least imagine himself a descendent of those who fought in 1776 for the Declaration" (ibid). It reminds me of a kind of Holy Communion, in which each of us renders the vertical past present by pledging "his life, his property, and his sacred honor" to the universal principles upon which our nation was founded. Watson:

"This proposition would be quite unintelligible to a model of politics based on self-interest, personal growth, or individual freedom alone." Rather, mere reason needs to be bolstered by a kind of real faith in our founding principles.

This is transnationalism in its true sense, in that it is situated at the top, not the bottom, of the cosmic hierarchy. For the same reason, it is situated at the end, not the beginning, of human history; it is the "point" of history, whereas progressivism is specifically a backward-looking metaphysic that sanctifies and preserves our superficial multiplicity, while preventing any evolutionary movement toward the Universal and Absolute.

The latter begins and ends at the terminal moraine of the senses -- in passions and in the simultaneously dangerous and silly idea that "perception is reality." This is why the "reality-based community" can't be, because reality for them is reduced to time-bound beliefs of this or that person or culture. And there is no way out, no appeal to universal and inviolable truth. In short, it is hell -- the hell of the UN, or the Nobel Committee, or the Pelosi-Reid congress, each of which can only conduct it evil business under cover of metaphysical darkness. John Bolton in the UN is a secular version of Jesus in hell.

"A society cannot be maintained if it is dedicated to ignorance" of both man and man's proper end (Watson). Again, if your anthropology is wrong, then your political philosophy will be stillborn. That is, it can still be applied, but it will only work with dead people -- or, it will have to render them spiritually dead in order to work (and often physically dead -- cf. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, et al).

Lincoln's political religion "is aimed at illuminating the moral and political things that do not change" (Watson). For Americans, these are like the central sun around which we revolve, and as Lincoln said, "to add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it" (quoted in Watson).

To be continued....

Reader Erik just left a perfectly apt quote on a previous post, attributed to Henry Jaffa:

"[I]n our time, truth has been disarmed by the opinion that reason is impotent to know what it just or unjust, right or wrong, true or false. If there is no truth, or if the truth is beyond the power of the human mind to know, then free argument and debate as means of arriving at the truth are meaningless. Truth is thereby disarmed of her natural weapons a priori. This challenge to the principle of a free society is one that neither Jefferson nor Lincoln anticipated. Nonetheless, we assert categorically that the common sense of the subject as it appeared to Jefferson and Lincoln, although it has been denied by the mainstream of Western thought for more than a century, has not been refuted."

Theme Song

Theme Song