Saturday, March 20, 2010

Preaching to the Perverted

Just a few more random observations about Ruden's Paul Among the People. Most of them have to do with the very different cultural context in which Paul was operating. A multiculturalist he was not.

For example, when Paul rails against things like sorcery and witchcraft, eliminate from your mind innocuous images of earth-worshiping radical feminist lesbian wiccans dancing around naked in the forest (and get that erotic image out of your mind; see picture at right-->). Although undoubtedly kooky or disturbing, going after Shirley Maclaine or Jean Houston is not really what Paul had in mind.

Rather, witchcraft and sorcery had entirely different connotations in a Greco-Roman context. Ruden cites the example of Horace's image "of a small boy buried up to his neck and left to starve to death while staring at food, so that his liver and bone marrow, which must now be imbued with his frenzied longing, could serve as a love charm." You know, that kind of thing.

To see a closer approximation of the context, we would have to travel to Haiti or to Africa, where violent witchcraft is still common, for example, witch doctors "who kill people, especially children, for their genitalia and other body parts, which are believed to be love and money charms" (Ruden).

Also, if Ruden is correct, then much of the puritanical, anti-pleasure reputation of Christianity is rooted in a huge misunderstanding. She points out that Paul is indeed the original authority for all puritanism. The only problem is that his condemnations of certain activities must again be understood in the proper cultural context. For example, when he forbids "carousing" or "revellings," he isn't talking about having some harmless fun and blowing off a little steam.

Rather, Ruden points out that Paul was likely talking about something with which his audience would have been very familiar, the drunken and destructive komos. Imagine someone understandably condemning Chicago Bulls fans for rioting and setting fire to their city, but taking that to mean that one should never celebrate if one's team wins a championship. A komos "was a late-night, very drunken sometimes violent postparty parade," and "which could even end in kidnapping and rape."

And when Paul councils things like meekness and long-suffering, he is certainly not talking about being a wimp. Rather, it is almost impossible for us to imagine how impulsive people were in the past, and how quickly emotion led to violent action, with no space in between. I discussed this a bit in my book, and Ruden confirms everything written there. As she says, things would "often go from strong emotion straight to violence." Today one occasionally sees a patient or father-in-law with this particular problem, but one must imagine an entire culture composed of such people.

Ruden notes that "Hatred and revenge were not marginal or shameful for the ancient Greeks and Romans, but matters of routine and pride. A person who simply forgave an injury was held to be feeble and a coward," for "How could he protect his family and friends?" Likewise, "when there was political rivalry, someone always ended up getting plundered, exiled, or killed." That is human nature in the raw, and that is what Paul was fighting against.

The ancients projected these same violent attributes into their "self-centered and merciless gods," which in turn sanctioned their behavior -- similar to how the violent Mohammed is taken as the ideal man for Muslims, thus sanctioning their own violent jihad.

Again, the reason why the Christian message was so appealing to people is that it offered them a way out of the awful human conditions that had prevailed from time immemorial, or "since the Fall," if you like. In my book I suggest that the problems began when man became self-conscious and had to adapt to the strange new condition of having thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Every baby that comes into the world must repeat this journey, i.e., learn to regulate and master these things. But there was a historical time when virtually no one had this capacity. (This was also the central thesis of Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.)

Perhaps I should also emphasize that this problem of impulsivity (or what I call "brake failure") has hardly been mastered by contemporary man, for it is the stock in trade of the clinical psychologist. Almost all patients are struggling with some form of impulsivity, whether it is anger, or sexuality, or food, or alcohol, or video games, or stalking my blog. Furthermore, the more primitive the person, the more impulsive -- or, the more "holes" in the personality structure, where impulses "leak out," outside conscious control.

Indeed, as the B'atman once said, the liberal is someone who exalts in self-expression and outsources self-control to the state -- for example, "I refuse to take care of my health, so you must do it for me."

Interestingly, when Paul uses the word "faith," he is doing so in an unprecedented way. Ruden says that "Before Christianity, neither the Greeks nor the Romans seem ever to have used the concept in what we could call a spiritual sense." Rather, for them, it was much more analogous to what we would call "protection," or having someone to watch one's back. For pagan polytheists, it was analogous to having faith in one's fellow gang members to strike back if one is punked by a rival gang.

Sexuality in the Greco-Roman world was probably even more twisted than you might imagine. First, it took human beings in general a very long time before they could tolerate the ambivalence of expressing both loving and sexual feelings toward the same object. Here again, this is something the psychologist deals with on a daily basis, because millions of contemporary individuals still struggle with this dilemma which no premodern man seems to have mastered. (I might add that it is really not until around the 12th century, I believe it was, that we see the full flowering of romantic love in the Western world.)

Ruden points out that household slaves "were less respected as outlets for bodily functions than were the household toilets," and that one of the sanctioned roles "of slave boys was anal sex with free adults." And make no mistake, this was a sadistic act, just as many psychoanalysts believe that contemporary male homosexuality is often an expression of sadistic impulses. Whatever the case may be, it certainly wasn't caused by "genes": "The Greeks and Romans thought that the active partner in homosexual intercourse used, humiliated, and physically and morally damaged the passive one," and that "the satisfaction needed to be violent, not erotic."

Some psychoanalysts theorize that compulsive male homosexuality has to do with the need to magically incorporate the masculine essence of the object through the sex act. Interestingly, this is what the ancients believed: "a real man needed to transform an at least potentially active and powerful creature into a weak and inferior one." I don't know if this is true, but I also read somewhere that victorious armies would sodomize their vanquished opponents before killing them outright, first "stealing" their masculine essence via the back door. (I am also reminded of how Mike Tyson would taunt opponents by boasting that he would make them his "bitch.")

Well, that's it for today....

Friday, March 19, 2010

When in Rome, Don't Do As the Romans

It just occurred to me that the ideas and values Paul was preaching would not have been all that shocking to the Jews (the whole messiah business notwithstanding), only to the gentiles. But that's sort of the point, in that it wasn't until 49 or 50 that Paul "received from the leaders of the new sect the authority to evangelize non-Jews" (Ruden).

And sect it was -- of Judaism. As Ruden reminds us, the members of this sect were not yet calling themselves "Christians." Indeed, the term actually "started as a taunt, perhaps best translated as 'the hyped-up fans/political mob of the Anointed One" (probably said with hushed sarcasm, the way Rush says the hhhh-Rrreverend-a--Jackssson-ahhh).

Yesterday Tigtog asked the question of whether or not Jesus was literate, which of course he was. He now wants to know if the disciples were literate, for which I suppose there is no direct evidence. But since they were Jewish, there is a good chance they were. Breiner, in his Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse Through the Ages and Today, writes that in the ancient world, "teaching sons was incumbent on all Jews. Though the primary concern for education was for the son, it was considered a mitzvah (good deed) if daughters were educated as well."

Breiner maintains -- and I can't vouch for his scholarship, but he cites plenty of references -- that "By the second Diaspora every Jewish male could read and write and understand the law," so that the Hebrews were "the first people in the history of mankind whose male population was 100% literate."

But that's ultimately here nor there in the case of Jesus, since Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 that the resurrected Jesus was seen by some 500 brethren, so, who at the time would have thought that writing down what they had witnessed was better evidence than having witnessed it? In the same passage, Paul says that the witnesses are beginning to die off, and he himself would be dead within a decade.

Therefore, perhaps it is no coincidence that this is when some bright follower raised his hand and said, "er, maybe we ought to write this stuff down, before the Romans kill us all?" The situation was undoubtedly made more urgent by the persecutions that began in 64 AD, when Nero decided to blame Christians for that big ol' fire. That greatly thinned the herd of direct witnesses, so that is when it became necessary to get it all down in writing. Just a guess.

At any rate... Say, where were we? Oh yes, preaching to the gentiles. In the past, I have posted about the vast differences between the Jews vs. the other peoples of antiquity -- especially the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It was over three years ago, so perhaps we'd better review, since there's no need for me to reinvent this wheel of karma:

Breiner devotes a chapter to the striking differences between the ancient Hebrews and some of their contemporaries with regard to the treatment of women and children. I have no doubt that the treatment of women and children is the leading edge of psychohistorical evolution, and that a culture can only develop as far as its treatment of women and children will allow.

To put it another way, the more evolved the culture, the more women and children will be valued (as women and children, I might add, thus excluding radical feminism as a philosophy that particularly values either). This variable, more than anything else, explains why the Muslim world is at the bottom of the evolutionary heap, and conversely, why the Jews have thrived everywhere they have landed, despite the most adverse circumstances.

Just look at Israel, which is persecuted by virtually everyone except the U.S. [update -- now including the U.S.], vs. the Arab world, which is persecuted by no one except themselves -- and yet, fantasizes that 15 million Jews are somehow controlling and holding down a billion or so Muslims. Madness! But if you think madness is a deviation rather than the norm, I don't see how you can understand anything of history, which is absolutely littered with similarly insane mind parasites.

It is almost impossible for us to imagine the barbarity of the ancient world -- very similar to how contemporary liberals find it impossible to comprehend the evil savagery of the Islamists with whom we are in a mortal struggle, so they instead fill the moral vacuum by fantasizing that George Bush or Dick Cheney are evil (for if your moral compass is so broken that you cannot recognize evil, you will hate something that is not evil, which is why the left is at war with so much that is good, e.g., the Boy Scouts, the ROTC, "traditional" marriage [which is to say, marriage], racial equality, school vouchers, our healthcare system, etc.).

In all other ancient lands, the abuse of women and children, including infanticide, was common. Breiner notes, for example, that On, the King of the Swedes, sacrificed nine of his ten sons in the belief that it would prolong his life. Think about it. It was if the entire ancient world consisted of Palestinians who think that murdering children will lead to their own salvation.

Surely it is no coincidence, therefore, that the story of the Jews as a people begins with the motif of child sacrifice. The story of Abraham and Isaac allows us to assume that, up to that time, the ancient Hebrews were just as barbaric as any other ancient people. This biblical story preserves one of the truly shocking and unexpected “right turns” in human history -- when something caused us to empathize with the sacrificial victim and lay down the knife. Not that it wasn’t a struggle afterwards. The Bible chronicles many instances of backsliding and regression, which gives it even more of a ring of authenticity. The struggle against absuing children was (and is) very real.

But the benefits were obvious. For the first time in history, Jews were also able to intuit the one God. Not only that, but he was a just and loving God. Other primitive peoples lived in the psychological fragmentation of polytheism. In my opinion, they did not know God because they could not know God. Early childhood trauma leads to what is called “borderline personality structure,” in which the mind is subject to vertical splitting and the inability to maintain psychological unity and coherence. Therefore, primitive polytheism was actually an indirect measure of child abuse and the psychological fragmentation and projection that occur as a consequence.

Note as well that the gods of ancient Greece and Rome were arbitrary, selfish, and narcissistic, and even got a kick out of lording it over the little humans. They were suspiciously simlar to abusive and uncaring parents. It would never have occurred to anyone that they were either lovable or loving. A psychospiritual breakthrough was required in order for that to happen.

I see a direct relationship between the Hebrews' increased empathy toward children and the new sense of having an intimate relationship with a benevolent God who took a deep and abiding interest in them, instead of having to live in fear of a multitude of arbitrary and self-absorbed gods.

Again, we are not comparing the ancient Hebrews to modern peoples but to their own contemporaries in the ancient world, and by that standard, they were mohels ahead of the package. Marriage began to be viewed as a sacred institution composed of two individuals who were in the image and likeness of God.

Here again, this cannot be separated from issues of developmental psychology. One will not be capable of a stable and loving marriage so long as one lives with the psychological fragmentation produced by vertical splitting. It is no coincidence that the “one loving God” was discovered at roughly the same time that it became possible to conceive of a monogamous, loving, companionate marriage between two equals.

Breiner notes (and Ruden confirms this) that the women of ancient Greece were essentially slaves. A wife’s function was to “look after the household and produce children -- preferably boys.” While courtesans -- who were used for pleasure rather than procreation -- could be educated, wives were illiterate.

Similar to Islamic societies today, the ancient Greeks “viewed men as sane and stable while women were considered mad, hysterical, and possibly dangerous and destructive to men.” Furthermore, “a woman’s freedom was severely restricted” and she was without power. “A man could sell his daughter or sister into concubinage if he wished.” Children of concubines were simply “aborted, killed or sold into slavery.”

At the time of Pericles in the late 5th century BC, out of a population of 400,000, only 14,240 people had full civil rights. The rest were women, children, slaves of varying degrees. Unwanted and "imperfect" children were simply exposed on a mountainside to die. “In all the Greek cities except Thebes the father had the right to kill his child at birth without question. In all cities except Athens the father could sell his children to slave dealers.” Female infanticide was the norm. Like China today, very few families raised more than one daughter. Even then, girls were given inferior food and no education.

Breiner feels that the revulsion towards women was at the basis of Greek male homosexuality. Can you think of a better explanation? The fashionable modern idea -- a fine example of leftist anti-scientific magical thinking, by the way -- is that homosexuality is purely “genetic” and not subject to environmental influences. If so, how does one account for the prevalence of Ancient Greek homosexuality? “It was considered quite proper for the young men of Athens to engage sexually with older men, and most did.” “Merchants would import handsome boys to be sold to the highest bidder”; these boys would “be first used as concubines and later as slaves.” (Ruden goes into more detail of the true horror of male pederasty in the ancient world; it makes NAMBLA look humane.)

Breiner speculates that “homosexual pederasty was so universal in Greek society” because it was “a means of ‘rescuing’ the male child from the perceived dangers of women...” “Boy brothels flourished in every city and a child prostitute could be rented, even at the height of Athenian culture... A freeborn child might see his father having sexual relations with a child his own age who was a slave."

In this context, the evolution of so-called "homophobia" by the ancient Hebrews was clearly an advance, not a regression, as it particularly benefitted women and children. Here again, Ruden says much the same thing vis-a-vis Paul's condemnation of homosexuality. At the time, there was no such thing as a homosexuality that wasn't cruel, aggressive, sadistic, and exploitative. Love had nothing to do with it.

I don’t even have time to get into the pervasive human and animal sacrifice. “Human life was considered so short and cheap that there was little concern about killing. When a town was captured the men were automatically killed or sold into slavery and the women were taken as concubines or slaves.” Traits such as “gentleness, kindness, industry, honesty, and integrity were scorned as effeminate and inferior.”

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Obviously, human beings were desperately in need of a vertical intervention to save them from the hell on earth they had created. All of us continue to benefit everyday from that little sliver of light that miraculously opened up in a world of infrahuman darkness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Putting the Apostle Paul In His Place

Not much time this morning, but I'd like to spend it discussing this important new book, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, by Sarah Ruden.

In contrast to a destructive postmodern deconstruction of Paul, this is more of a constructive reconstruction, in that it attempts to interpret Paul's words in the way they would have been heard and understood in the almost inconceivably different time and place he wrote and spoke them.

Ironically, one of the main reasons we have difficulty appreciating the vast cultural differences is due to Paul's extraordinary success in transforming them. As Ruden points out, "more than anyone else, Paul created the Western individual human being, unconditionally precious to God and therefore entitled to the consideration of other human beings.... No other intellect contributed as much to making us who we are." Theist and atheist alike are beneficiaries of this profound transformation of values.

We have to begin by imagining a society that was every bit as cruel and barbarous as, say, the Palestinians or Islamists, to understand the context in which Paul spoke -- and, just as importantly, to appreciate the fantastic and even revolutionary appeal of the message he was spreading.

In our time, we can misinterpret Paul's words as punitive and restrictive, whereas those who heard them would have been struck first and foremost by the novelty of his liberating message of love, equality and dignity.

This itself is a critical point, because it goes a long way toward explaining how and why the Christian message took off like wildfire and spread so rapidly. "In fact, the compassionate community was there at the beginning, and its founder was Paul of Tarsus." It wasn't just the "good news" of the resurrection. After all, pagan peoples had been familiar with mythic stories of resurrected gods from time immemorial, but that didn't make their lives and communities any less cruel.

Rather, there was something uniquely alluring about the actual communities that were being created out of this new revelation -- mostly how they were ordered around love instead of the usual violence, depravity, exploitation, and cruelty of the ancient world.

The pagan polytheistic world "deified materialism in the form of idolatry," and "deified violence and exploitation through the belief that these were the ways the gods operated. Paul fought this ideology and all its manifestations. Rather than repressing women, slaves, or homosexuals, he made -- for his time -- progressive rules for the inclusion of all of them in the Christian community..."

Yes, Paul was a progressive in the truest sense of the word, because he was instrumental in the vertical progress of mankind at large. In contrast, contemporary "progressiveism" is a reversion to the very pagan materialism that Paul ultimately gave his life to end.

No wonder we see such a resurgence of neo-paganism on the left: idolatry, body mutilation, child sacrifice, new age witchcraft, earth worship, sexual license, the cult of the body, exaltation of the state (and its messianic leader), cult leaders with light streaming from their butt, etc.

It seems to me that the book understates its own importance, since, if the author is correct, then not only have many Christians been misinterpreting Paul for hundreds of years, but whole sects and even cultures are rooted in this misunderstanding. Furthermore, on the other side of the equation, there is no question that many people have rejected Christianity because its most important proselytizer appears to them to be a bit of an irascible, sanctimonious, authoritarian, and intolerant hothead.

JWM coined the term "Jesus willies" for people who are made uncomfortable by the moronic way Christianity is often presented to the public. But it might be more accurate to call them the "Paul willies," since he is the one most responsible for creating the thing we actually call Christianity.

In my book, I tried to get into a bit of psychohistory, in order to demonstrate the progress mankind has made (at least at its leading edge) in vanquishing its mind parasites (see Chapter 3.4 Adapting to Mindedness: Why the Past is So Tense). This is without a doubt the weakest part of the book, since it would have required a whole book to do justice to the subject. In pp. 157-162 I cover the ancient world, but again, how could one possibly do justice to such a vast subject?

Fortunately -- to paraphrase Bo Diddley -- I don't have to do stuff like that, because I got scholars like Ruden doin' it for me. While I tried to show what Greek and Roman culture were actually like beneath the veneer of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the rest of those luminaries, Ruden goes into more detail about just how alien to us these cultures were.

Their values were antithetical to ours, and again, this is the audience to whom Paul was preaching. Truly, his death at the hands of the state was inevitable, just as you wouldn't be long for the world in the Palestinian terrortories if you began preaching a message of love and tolerance toward Jews, or at a major American university if you preached that their racial obsessions are evil.

In addition to being violent and exploitative, the ancient world was frankly a depressing and meaningless place, especially if one was not a freeborn member of the ruling class. Most people were slaves or at least under some degree of servility, and slaves had no rights at all. Truly, they were not persons, but objects to be used in any way the owner saw fit.

Children were devalued as well. Pederasty and child prostitution were rampant, and no one gave it a second thought as to whether these practices were "moral." Likewise, what we know of as romantic love simply wasn't a value for the ancients. Indeed, Ruden shows that it was regarded as a kind of weak and shameful madness that was to be shunned and avoided.

To be continued....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Healing the Wounds and Wounding the Heels of History

When the inferior reader hears of O, he only laughs at it; it would not be O if he did not laugh at it, for its blinding superabundance of Light is taken for darkness. --Lao Tzu, D'oh! Te Troll

Our ideological adversaries are not living in reality. Indeed, that is what makes them our adversaries. People who don't live in reality necessarily become bitter, frustrated, resentful, and aggressive, especially toward those who do live in reality. They think that by attacking reality and those who live in it, they can somehow transform their unreality into reality, but of course it never works. Reality always has the last word.

Since I once worked in a mental hospital, I saw up close how this process plays out in deranged individuals. But the most helpful things I learned during my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital were that, 1) Charlie Parker once slept here, and 2) the most disturbed people are not qualitatively different from the Normals, only quantitatively different.

In other words, in the decompensated psychotic person, one is able to "see" unconscious processes that are more hidden in the non-psychotic. In fact, "decompensation" refers to the breakdown of psychological defense mechanisms that keep primitive unconscious material and processes at bay; analogously, think of what would happen if your skin began to break down. Defense mechanisms are very much like a semipermeable membrane between the ego and lower vertical, just as your skin keeps your insides in and the outside out. (And you might also say that religious metaphysics keeps the upside up and the downside down.)

Changing or possibly grinding gears for the moment, Walter Russell Mead writes that everyone in the Anglo-American world, whether secular or religious, is within the Abrahamic tradition, which is one of the things that sets us apart from unsuccessful cultures. Abrahamic religion "holds that history has a shape and a purpose: a beginning, a middle, and an end."

In the Abrahamic tradition, history is "the name for a period in the human story in which certain problems need to be solved. History in this sense is not synonomous with the full term of human existence. History is a period and a process through which humanity solves (or is given a solution to) certain sets of problems before moving on to the next and higher stage in its existence."

Abrahamic ideologies "largely see the human story as consisting of three stages: prehistory, history, and posthistory." Seen in this context, history "is not just the passage of time" -- indeed, Abrahamic peoples are intrinsically "historical" and never really see time in this meaningless, ahistorical way. Rather, history involves "the accomplishment of a task. Something is wrong with the world; the world has been wounded. History is the process by which what is wrong is set right, what is broken mended. History may look chaotic and meaningless, but everything that happens is ultimately part of the healing process..."

Now, the main difference between Abrahamic religion and Abrahamic atheism or materialism is that the latter regards the former as just a stage on the way to the atheist's superior "post human" knowledge and insight, while the religionist would regard the atheist as existing at a sort of right angle to the stream of historical development, paddling around in a shallow and irrelevant little self-created eddy. He is like a drop critiquing the ocean of which he is a part, and imagining himself superior to it. But in any case, the atheist cannot help thinking that existence and history have a purpose, thus the fervent attempts to evangelize their posthuman (in reality infrahuman) faith to the faithless faithful.

For example, our obsessive-compulsive troll -- like the Camarillo psychotic -- reflects this tendency writ large, in that he cannot stop himself from trying to convert us to his mode of darkness in order to convince himself that darkness is light. Such a fruitless enterprise is doomed from the start, being that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness comprehends it not, but that doesn't stop darkness from trying. Indeed, darkness is an inevitable byproduct of the Light, so where there is self-giving Light there is envious darkness. The process is entirely reactionary, a consequence of the cosmic nescience at the vertical periphery of creation.

In the words of Schuon, such a person regards his own "extrinsic explanations as essential factors of truth," objectifying what is only subjective and dragging truth "down into the depths into which it has itself fallen." The whole enterprise is absurd, since "one cannot enclose the universe within 'human subjectivity' while at the same time allowing for a point of view beyond this subjectivity..." Man is either a fragment of the Absolute or he is nothing. A part apart from the whole isn't even a part, just a nothing.

We can all agree that something is wrong with the world. In the absence of time, we could never set it right, so history is indeed an opportunity to mend what is broken and participate in what Jews call tikkun olam, the "repair" or "perfecting" of the world. In Raccoon parlance we refer to this ultimate Adventure of Consciousness as "Cosmotheosis," or the divinization or sanctification of the lower world (i.e., Thy will be done, down here as it is up there), which can only be accompliced through human co-creators, since only we have vertical freedom of movement toward Light and Truth.

In other words, we are the "lens" through which the white light of the Absolute deigns to undergo the adventure of color, each of which is a beautiful fragment, so to speak, of the pure Light. If we could not suffer pain, falsehood, and color, we could not suffer joy, Truth, and Light. This is why human existence is such a guilty pleasure. O, felix culpa!

Mead writes that secular modernism "is the youngest member of the family of Abraham." With the exception of a personal God, it "faithfully reproduces the most important pieces of the Abrahamic paradigm," and believes that its version of the faith will prevail in the end. Secularists still "adopt the core structure of the Abrahamic idea of history to tell their own stories of the world." (Mead goes into considerably more detail in defense of this thesis, but to a Raccoon it is soph-evident. Once a Raccoon "gets it" he moves on.)

The other "master narrative" of our time is the sudden flowering of human potential of the last several centuries. As Mead writes, "nothing in humanity's past prepared it for change this dramatic in so many fields over such an extended period of time." Because we are a relatively young species and exist within the heart of this ongoing explosion, it is difficult for us to see it.

But don't worry -- Petey sees it just fine. He would disagree with Mead as to when the noospheric explosion (i.e., psychogenesis) commenced, situating it instead about 35-40,000 years ago, when merely genetic proto-humans suddenly and inexplicably began exhibiting distinct signs of humanness, such as the fully realized artistic images on the underground cave walls of Europe. While the explosion continued afterwards, we couldn't see it because it was happening so slowly, just as we can't see the Big Bang happening, even though we're right here in the center of this rapidly expanding cosmos.

What happened with modernity is that we became aware of the exploding noosphere, since time suddenly "sped up," but mainly in the Anglo-American world. With the arrival of science, democracy, the rule of law, and free market capitalism, for the first time "history became a real presence in human lives" (Mead).

For example, the Muslim world is still stagnating back in that earlier time, so that to them, we are aliens from the future bearing weird and often threatening gifts such as computers, airplanes, antibiotics, and Victoria's Secret catalogues. While they eagerly accept most of these gifts -- i.e., bin Laden is never far from his computer or frilly underthings -- they would like to pull the future back into the past, when none of these gifts existed, but still keep most of the gifts. Thus, they are not just premodern, but pre-ironic.

As for the left, they simply want to force us all into a weird, anti-human future which cannot exist except in the form of a projection of fantasy. They are post-ironic.

Mead writes that "Marx is to progressivism what Thomas Aquinas is to Catholicism," in that he explicated "the fullest and most systematic expression" of the secular leftist myth that still animates them today, even (or perhaps especially) if only unconsciously. The less sophisticated the leftist, e.g., our obsessive-compulsive troll, the more he is an unconscious disciple of Marx.

Again, Marxism shares elements of the deep structure of Abrahamic religion, including a romantic "garden of innocence" (i.e., the classless society of early humans), the fall into oppression, exploitation, and class warfare, Marx's revelation of the true laws of history, and the culmination of "the establishment of a higher, final way of life that fully meets human goals and needs," i.e., the triumph of the working class. Thus, Marx didn't so much turn Hegel as Abraham on his head.

But having turned Abraham on his head, leftists also turned Brahman, or reality, upside down. For under the reign of the left, the roots of the cosmic tree are situated below, begaialed and mayared in the muddle of matter. Having literally transplanted the tree of life into sterile soil, they accomplished a feat of clay, deluminating the light in one fallen swoop, subverting That which makes man Man, and embracing the fantasy that they could build a new and improved reality "from the bottom up," absurdly beginning with matter. They could force their vision on a recalcitrant mankind in the same way one can mold matter or Nancy Pelosi can whip her craven band of chestless men into submission.

In short, in order to do this most effectively, a large and coercive state is required to do the molding and speed history along toward its appointed utopia. Needless to say, there is a big difference between forcing time and being pulled or lured by the eschaton.

Mead writes we are faced with the eternal choice of the Glorious Revolution and its descendent, the American Revolution and its vertical empire of liberty; or the French Revolution and all its deformed, envious, dysfunctional, unproductive, vindictive, and tenured descendants. Our cosmic duty, as it were, is to preserve the radical spiritual revolution of America's founding seers, as we heal the wounds and wound the heels that time and history have made and made possible.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unhinged Skepticism and the Supreme Value of Nothing

Although the atheist believes he knows the reasons for his devout atheism, he actually has no idea that he is naively immersed in a discredited metaphysic that he simply "assumes," and therefore requires no defense. For him, it's just "common sense." Which in a way it is, since it is stuck down in the animal, infrahuman senses, far below the realm where intellection roams free.

In the materialist view, it is incumbent upon believers to prove to him the existence of God -- even though he is the one making the extraordinary claim, given the relatively tiny number of doctrinaire atheists who exist and who, for whatever reason, are unable to apprehend the spiritual dimension. The average person obviously doesn't have this deformity, even if he cannot articulate why with reasons that could satisfy the eccentric cognitive needs of the atheist.

Polanyi felt that the contemporary madness of postmodernity began with the idea of a complete and perfect objectivism, which is supposed to be the ideal of science and of all reliable knowledge in general: "All personal and subjective elements came to be regarded as disturbances to the attainment of this perfect objectivity. Every effort therefore had to be made to eliminate them."

It was as if Nature spoke directly and unamibuously to us, and that all we had to do was disinterestedly listen to her without any preconceptions -- as if there really could be knowledge at the level of the senses, divorced from the imaginative synthesis that takes place in mind of the creative knower.

This ideal, which may at times be appropriate for certain limited, very simple operations, eventually insinuated itself into most fields of knowledge. But this epistemological revolution had ontological and anthropological consequences, as it served to undermine traditional authority and create a kind of hyper-individualism operating outside the domain of any legitimate (i.e., vertical) authority.

This irrationally rational revolt reached a kind of peak in the late 1960s, when the supposedly "rational" rejection of religion in particular and tradition in general facilitated an absurd leap into what amounted to a childish, romantic irrationalism. Since there is no legitimate authority, each person then becomes a law unto himself: do your own thing, and all that.

For example, marriage is better then living together? Prove it. A fetus is a human being? Prove it. Beethoven is better than rap? Prove it. Heterosexuality is preferable to homosexuality? Prove it. Men and women are fundamentally different? Prove it. One is obligated to tell the truth? Prove it. America is exceptional? Prove it. Etc., etc. In each case, the moral truth is accessible to human beings, but not through the application of mere reason. Leftist always demand "studies" to prove the existence of those realities to which they are blind.

This kind of simultaneously omnipotent and nihilistic style of thought eventually overcame continental Europe (e.g., communism, fascism, nazism, socialism, deconstruction, multiculturalism, moral relativism, etc.), but not the Anglo-American sphere, where there was "an alogical [not illogical] reluctance to pursue the accepted philosophic premises to their ultimate conclusions" (for example, Darwinians should be thankful that no one takes Darwinism serious enough to follow it through to its ultimate grisly conclusion). In turn, this reluctance was rooted in "the distinctive religious character of Anglo-American liberalism" (or what is now confusingly called conservatism, as distinguished from our illiberal leftism which went the way of the Europeans).

On the European continent, there were no such restraints against unalloyed skepticism. Rather, "the movement there was antireligious from the start.... When a feudal society, dominated by religious authority, was attacked by radical skepticism, there emerged a liberalism unprotected by either a religious or civic tradition against destruction by a logical extension of the philosophic skepticism to which it owed its origin." In short, in old Europe, universal standards of reason could not be reconciled with their radical skepticism, whereas Anglo-American liberalism maintained a balance between reason and tradition.

This dichotomy is still present today in the vast differences between conservatism (i.e., traditional liberalism) and liberalism (i.e., illiberal leftism). Leftism continues to be riddled with contradictions that are rooted in its initial philosophical error. For example, one of their rock-bottom beliefs is that there is no rational or universal way to arbitrate between the values of one culture or nation and another. Therefore, it is wrong to stand in the way of any nation that wishes to realize its powers, say Iran, or Cuba, or Venezuela. But when America exercises its power, there is universal condemnation from the left. How can this be?

Once again it has to do with the unhinged morality of the left. Being that their disordered skepticism bars them from the spiritual dimension, they are unable to reliably distinguish between good and evil -- i.e., for them, these are simply arbitrary categories. Reduced to flatland materialism, they instead divide the world into visible, empirical categories such as "haves" and "have-nots."

As such, leftists conceive a material explanation onto which they graft their unhinged moral passion. They do the same thing with other material categories, such as race, gender and "sexual orientation." As such, all of the moral energy which, in a spiritually normal person, is reserved for distinguishing between good and evil, decent and indecent, is ruthlessly, and even sadistically, applied to these meaningless substitute categories.

This explains the grotesque and perverse moral passion of the left, for example, the condemnation of the Duke lacrosse team by dozens of leftist professors and a liberal media who do not see good and evil, only "white and black." And they still haven't apologized, since the "narrative" or template they imposed on the situation is their pseudo-absolute, and cannot be falsified. Likewise, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the left obviously cannot see the moral gulf between Israel and her barbarous enemies.

In old Europe, "the replacement of moral ideals by philosophically less vulnerable, because more basically animal, objectives was carried out in all seriousness. Human appetites and human passions were actually substituted for reason and for the ideals of man in this framework of thought." "Begun in the name of reason, they ended by reducing reason to a caricature of itself: to a mere rationalization of conclusions predetermined by desire and eventually to be secured and held by force.... If thought and reason are nothing by themselves, if they are only the effects of social causes, then it is meaningless to demand that they be set free."

Slavery is freedom, lies are truth, ugliness is beauty, amorality is morality, man is an animal, and animal passion is virtue.

A civilization not in contact with the Real will eventually perish. As it should. To put it another way, dying on the vine is a possibility, but dying off the Vine is a certainty. Supernatural selection is severe but just.

*All quotes taken from Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama Hates Me!

"Rights that are defensive for an isolated individual become aggressive for a collectivity," as Schuon once put it. With the left's unprecedented power-grab and in-your-face smackdown of our freedom this week, we are seeing this adage play out in real time. I don't think I've ever felt so bullied by my own government. Look at these new t-shirts the DNC is selling -->

Well, technically, I suppose I always felt that way back when I was a moron of the left. I even had one of those t-shirts that said "Reagan Hates Me," but it was more the fashionable pretend-persecution of those who have never known the real thing. Even the truly committed leftist only projects his own hostility or existential unhappiness into politics, and then feels persecuted by his projections. The leftist exists in chronic state of intrapsychic persecution, or he wouldn't be a leftist, he'd be happy and free.

There is individual health, collective health, and what we might call cosmic health, which has to do with how adequately we are aligned with the vertical. I would like to discuss some ideas that are absolutely critical to the evolutionary health and well being of the cosmos, and follow quite naturally from the nonlocal principles that (vertically) structure reality.

As we have discussed before, leftism is by definition a perpetual rebellion against these principles -- against the Real. Thus, it is de facto the maninfestation of a spiritual illness, often, but not always, rooted in a psychological one. It amounts to a cynical and worldly suspiciousness that excludes any real explanations, "since these in their turn fall under the same law of suspicion, which drags everything down and which is the end of truth" (Schuon).

Radical skepticism (cf. the French Revolution) poisons everything and then kills you last. But even if it doesn't kill you directly, it leaves you in a humanly uninhabitable world, since it is devoid of the higher truths that nourish the soul (again, the soul, no less than the body, requires a certain kind of environment in order to flourish).

Continuing with our discussion of Michael Polanyi, one puzzling thing he noticed was that intellectuals were not only responsible (obviously) for the most destructive ideas and ruthless political movements of the 20th century, but that they enthusiastically embraced them despite the fact that these ideas, if implemented, would spell the end of their own intellectual class. That is, the very ideas leftists hold most dear undermine the liberal ideal of freedom of inquiry guided by the pursuit of truth. Today this is a truism, but how did we get to this point, in which our intellectual class is so spiritually sick?

Prosch writes that "It was the intellectuals of [the last] century themselves who played the largest part in destroying those very things that they needed and that were already theirs. Such operative perversity as this must lead one to suspect the operator's mental health, a mind blind to that which it wants and needs." Indeed, a mind which "proceeds on a path toward its own destruction, may surely be suspected of suffering from obsessions that are pushing it to such nonadaptive behavior."

As we shall see, Polanyi's analysis explains why the cognitive and spiritual pathology of political correctness emanates from the left, and could only emanate from the left, despite the fact that it makes a farce of their vaunted ideal of "academic freedom." And it is the very definition of pathology, since it causes great damage to the mind and soul of the person afflicted with it.

Führermore, once this authoritarian virus has taken over whole institutions -- i.e., leftist academia, Hollywood, the MSM, the State Department -- it becomes a truly dangerous pathogen that systematically infects those who pass through its environment (again, unless they have a very robust spiritual immune system rooted in the Real).

We see the same thing occurring with Islamic fascism, which is not -- as leftists cluelessly, but necessarily, believe -- a result of poverty, but of affluence. It is rooted in the ideas of intellectuals, who then -- just as leftists do in the West -- try to demagogically and/or violently propagate their ideas to the ignorant masses to explain their existential misery.

The only thing that has kept America (its better half, not its bitter half) immune from this process is its strong foundation in an alternative metaphysic, which we call the Judeo-Christian tradition. Likewise, the reason why continental Europe fell to the viral seduction of leftism is that it had already gravely weakened its own (super)natural defense mechanism to it.

Prosch has an interesting explanation for this. That is, in continental Europe, their political liberation was inseparable from their religious liberation -- which was in reality a "liberation" from religion, not for it.

However, in Protestant England and America, the break from religious oppression had already been effected, so that political liberation was not conflated with a rebellion against God. Thus, the Founders were able to formulate the ideal of distinct domains of church and state, not for the purpose of ending religion's influence, but strengthening it.

Conversely, in Europe, their separation of the two spheres inevitably led to the destruction of religion and the deification of the state. No properly religious person could ever deify the state, which is why leftist statism is excluded for the spiritually attuned but just about mandatory for the spiritually blind (objectivists and contemporary libertarians represent insignificant and ultimately self-refuting exceptions to this rule).

Being a scientist, Polanyi noticed a connection between the ideals of logical positivism and the nihilism of the left. Even today, despite the fact that positivism has been so thoroughly discredited, it remains a kind of tacit metaphysic for both scientists and for much of the educated public.

In other words, there is a widespread assumption that "only scienctific theories [are] capable of verification (i.e., proof), and that moral or ethical or political or religious ideals and principles [are] essentially unprovable, mere matters of emotional preference."

But Polanyi saw that there was a deep relationship between the very possibility of science and certain metaphysical ideals and principles "that not only could not be proved, but could not even be made wholly explicit." And just because the ideals which underlie science could not be proved, it hardly meant that they were unworthy of belief (Gödel again).

This tacit acceptance of positivism ramifies in interesting ways. On the one hand, there is the scientific worker bee who supposedly only believes what his experimental data tell him. But this is indeed a cold, dead, airless, and ultimately infrahuman spiritual environment into which the passion for nihilism rushes to fill the void. In this regard, it seems that human nature abhors a vacuum, and therefore fills the vacuum with a void -- the nihilistic void of the secular left.

Now it is surely noteworthy that the only organized opposition to liberty comes from the intellectual left, who supposedly hold their own liberty -- e.g., "academic freedom" -- to be sacred. How could someone who would instinctively rebel at the idea of a centralized and top-down "planned culture," embrace the idea of a centralized, planned economy?

Good question!

As Prosch writes, "much of the dissatisfaction with the present order of the economy came from intellectuals, from people not under these immediate threats and whose professional life would derive little benefit from scrapping the system. Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy."

And a planned economy eventually devolves to a planned culture, something which is quite evident. That is, the more left the country, the more laws must exist to constrain and control the people, exterior laws which displace the interior law written in the heart of man (to say nothing of the financial burden that converts us all from free citizens to indentured serfs); or, as Dennis Prager says, "the bigger the State, the smaller the citizen."

Yes, but what are the exact dynamics of this irrational leftist nihilism, and what caused its adherents to reject the liberal foundations of the Christian West?

To be continued... Meanwhile, repeat after me: Rights that are defensive for an isolated individual become aggressive for a leftist collectivity in charge of the media, academia, and all three branches of government.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Give Us Your Victims, Your Losers, Your Addled Misfits Longing To Be Serfs

Woke up an hour later this morning, so I just grabbed this old Bobastic rant from a few years ago... Re-read meat for the base!

Excellent piece over at American Thinker on Global Warming as Pathological Science. It's not just about global warming, but about the left's constant hijacking of science for politico-religious ends.

Which is why it is so ironic that leftists are always so hysterical about a few Christians who believe the universe was created in 144 hours 6000 years ago, when they themselves are responsible for almost all of the wholesale misappropriation of science for magical ends, global warming just being the most visible and risible example.

Ultimately, depending upon which way you look at the evidence, science can either support or not support the existence of a Creator. But either way, it has no effect on the actual conduct of science, so long as it is guided by one question: what is true? It shouldn't even need to be said that the glorious history of western science proves beyond doubt that theism is no barrier whatsoever to great leaps of scientific insight. Conversely, if the cosmos really were a kind of linear machine, genuine insight would be impossible.

I'm sure there are exceptions, but I know of no believer who doesn't believe that God, by definition, wishes for us to know the Truth about reality. Indeed, if God did not exist, then neither could Truth and certainly not knowers of Truth. It's ridiculous to have to even to say this, for a God who wanted to hide the epistemological ball from us would hardly be a God worthy of paying attention to. That's not God, that's a mind parasite (mind parasites thrive on falsehood; it is both their substance and their agenda).

This problem of the left hijacking science was recognized by my favorite philosopher, Michael Polanyi, as early as the mid-1940s. I just started reading another book on him yesterday, and so far it is the best introduction I've found. I can't give it an unqualified endorsement until I finish it, but if it keeps up this pace, it will definitely be a foundational raccoomendation.

The question is, why is pathological science not only inevitable on the left, but intrinsic to it? The short and cryptic answer is that leftism itself is essentially a minus religion (-R) deeply rooted in minus knowledge (-K) about a reality that does not and cannot ultimately exist, Ø. Allow me to explain.

In a minute. But let me first cite some examples from Lewis' article at American Thinker. He writes that "When the scientific establishment starts to peddle fraud, we get corrupt science. The Boomer Left came to power in the 1970s harboring a real hatred toward science. They called it 'post-modernism,' and 'deconstructionism' -- and we saw all kinds of damage as a result," including systematic nonsense about the dangers of heterosexual AIDS, DDT, and second hand smoke, lies about civilian casualties in Iraq, and destructive theories about bilingual education, to which I might add outrageous lies about the reality of sexual differences, about the damaging psychological effects of daycare, about the importance of fatherhood, and about the causes of homosexuality. I could go on, but you get the point. Let's not even get into their wacky economic theories.

Lewis writes that all this modern scientific fraud is "especially weird because the Left claims to be all in favor of science. Marxism itself was a scientific fraud, of course. In 1848 Marx and Engels claimed to have a 'scientific' theory of history. They predicted that communism would first arise in England, because it was the most advanced capitalist nation. (Not.) They predicted that centralized planning would work. (Not.) They predicted that the peasants and workers would dedicate their lives to the Socialist State, and stop caring about themselves and their families. (Not.) They predicted that sovietization would lead to greater economic performance. (Not.) And then, when seventy years of Soviet, Chinese, Eastern European, and North Korean history showed Marx's predictions to be wrong, wrong and wrong again, they still claimed to be 'scientific.' That's pathological science -- fraud masquerading as science."

As alluded to above, Polanyi noticed all of this going on by the mid-1940s, and was puzzled by it. Perhaps it should be noted that he had a unique resume, in that he started out as a medical doctor but later became a professor of physical chemistry, with many important papers to his credit, only to later become a philosopher. His last scientific paper appeared in 1949, but he had already begun dabbling in philosophy by the mid-1930s, mostly in what we would now call economics (being Austro-Hungarian, he was very much influenced by luminaries such as Hayek and von Mises, and early on formed a deep understanding of the critical importance of liberty, non-linearity, spontaneous order, and open systems, to both science and economic development -- he is a classical liberal par excellence).

Polanyi didn't turn full time to philosophy until the 1950s, and his magnum opus, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, wasn't published until 1958, by which time he was already 67 years of age. I must have discovered him in the early 1980s, and agree with Prosch's assessment that

"no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities [emphasis mine]; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties."

And although Polanyi's writings are free of any overt religiosity, I find that they most adequately support my view of a universe that is both absolute and evolving, as it must be if it is to be separate from the Eternal and situated in time; to be precise, it is evolving toward an Absolute that is orthoparadoxically both its origin and its destiny, alpha and omega (more on which below).

I believe Polanyi provides the best framework for an enthusiastic and unambiguous embrace of both science and traditional religion -- which is why the essence of our approach is what we might call "Integral Neo-Traditionalism," or something along those lines.

In turn, you might say that Polanyi is the unfortunate philosophical "wedge" between me and Schuon, who had no use whatsoever for modernity. In my view, Polanyi saves modernity from itself -- hence the subtitle of his book, Toward a Post-Critical Philosophy. To put it another way, Schuon felt there was no way out of our modern mess but back -- i.e., pure traditionalism -- whereas I believe Polanyi shows us the way forward, out of the darkness of postmodernity -- but not if we abandon tradition.

Perhaps it was because of his medical training that Polanyi began with a diagnosis of the modern world, which he regarded as more or less psycho-spiritually sick. Now, in my view, man has always been sick, consistent with our primordial calamity back in the archetypal, vertical garden. But Polanyi noticed that the world seemed to be sick in new and unprecedented ways. Fleeing the coming European apocalypse of the 1930s can provoke such thoughts.

One thing Polanyi noticed is that modern man tends to externalize the source of his own illness, which is, of course, a specialty of the left. Dennis Prager has mentioned that perhaps the greatest divide between left and right is found in the religious education he received as a child. As a result of it, he internalized the message that, to the extent that he has problems in life, they are overwhelmingly self-generated. We are the source of our own problems. Which is one of the most liberating things about America -- that you have the possibility of failure, without which there is not the possibility of success. It reminds me of a wise crack of Bion: if you cannot suffer pain, you cannot suffer pleasure.

The awesome gift-curse of self-blame has never been widely available in the non-Western, non-liberal world, where one cannot rise or fall based on one's own values, priorities, gifts, and dedication. But it is surely available here in America, where it is a wonderfully bracing thing to be able to proclaim, "my life is f*cked up, and it ain't nobody's fault but mine" -- something which a leftist can never, ever say, since he is always a victim of someone else. Look at Obama -- he wants to blow up the best healthcare system in the world because some Americans refuse to purchase healthcare insurance (most of the uninsured are affluent or just young and stupid).

Statistics bear out this truth again and again, that in America, you are free to succeed or fail, based upon your beliefs and concrete behaviors. The fact that we have losers is what makes us great! You cannot eliminate the losers, only drag down the winners. Do we really want to cater to the losers, as they do in socialist Europe, and as a result have perpetual 10%+ unemployment, stagnant economies, and growth-stifling taxes?

The left reverses the liberating truth and disempowers its victims by teaching us that our problems are not our responsibility. Rather, we've been screwed! It's a conspiracy! The race cards are stacked against you, the dice are loaded, and it's not your fault! The left will cite different reasons for your failure, based upon the political needs of the day, but the main point is that you are a victim and that it's not your fault. But mainly, they want you to turn over your power to the left, in exchange for their taking care of you.

As such, this represents an overturning of the principial order of the cosmos, the sanctioning of soul-corroding envy, and the denial of liberty. Mankind isn't fallen at all. That's just religious dopium to keep you down! No, earthly perfection is possible if we just eliminate freedom and impose our agenda on you poor slobs!

Don't worry -- nine out of ten leftist economystics agree that success only makes you miserable anyway.

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