Saturday, April 10, 2010

Time, History, Apocalypse, and Buggery

I think we have time for a Saturday bonus post on the topic of those additional cosmic dimensions. At this juncture I am prepared to affirm without hesitation that there are seven cosmic dimensions in all, based upon sneaking suspicions, revealed hunches, hand-selected evidence, and some scattered notes scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin by a certain disembodied household gnome.

Now, we all know about the first three dimensions. Throw in time, and that makes four. But time itself -- i.e., the time of physics -- is mere quantitative duration, with no qualities or substance at all. Therefore, I think that profane history begins to touch on the fifth dimension, since it attempts to reveal a kind of unity -- or at least interconnectedness -- beneath the flux of seemingly disconnected events.

For example: 313, 476, 1066, 1492, 1620, 1776, 1865, 1914, 1917, 1929, 1939, 1945. This is not just a random list of numbers, but a random list of dates that everyone would agree are of world-historical importance. These are dates that every schoolboy once knew (but which college students probably no longer know) -- even a cloud-hidden lad as distracted as I was. In my case, I was much more concerned with baseballically sacred numbers such as 714, 56, 382, 61, 1.12, etc.

In any event, not all dates are created equal. If they were, then the practice of history would be impossible, for there would be no way to determine what in time is "important." History doesn't end, but begins, with the selection of what properly belongs to this higher -- which is to say, transcendent -- dimension we call History (which I will capitalize in order to distinguish it from the mere existence of a past).

But why is anything in time important, being that in the long run we're all dead? Again, this goes to intuitions about the very purpose of human existence, a purpose which must by definition be transcendent if it is to be a purpose at all. In other words, to say "purpose" is to have lifted oneself from the raw facts of time, even if one's purpose is totally whack, as in the case of the left.

Now, since we in the Judeo-Christian West are so embedded in a certain view of history, most people don't notice how odd it is to be situated in this kind of time. But no primitive culture knew of history. They still had time, of course, but their lives were primarily spatial, not temporal. That is to say, they were rooted in a timeless archetype which provided the culture with its sufficient reason. Time was regarded in wholly degenerative terms, as a kind of entropic flow away from the source -- very much like the physical aging that inevitably ends in death. Although I'm working on that.

Therefore, the sacred rituals of primitive cultures all had to do with arresting time and undoing its corrosive effects, in order to bring the culture back to its pure spatial archetype -- like a collective case of OCD. Usually this required a volunteer from the audience in order to engage in a little human sacrifice. True, the volunteer had to be led kicking and screaming to receive their honor, but this at least added a little drama to their otherwise monotonous lives. It also conferred a temporary unity on the culture; or, to be precise, unanimity minus one. See Bailie for details.

By the way, this obviously touches on one of my core disagreements with Schuon, who venerated these primordial cultures. In my case, I do not condemn them, for it would be absurd to apply Christian ethics to a pre-Christian world that was simply doing the best it could with the available materials. The fact that all primitive groups engaged in animal or human sacrifice (cf. Burkert's Homo Necans) must mean that it was effective in accomplishing what it was supposed to accomplish, and that failing to engage in it was actually the more destructive option, since it would have meant dissolution of the culture. And man needs culture in order to be man, otherwise he is just another animal.

Now, where was it.... One of our Raccoon Fathers speaks of the different temporal dimensions.... Here it is, letter XX of Meditations on the Tarot, if that's the one I'm looking for. Let's see. He discusses...

Hey, wait a minute. I don't have to reinvent this wheel of karma. I can just review my previous commentary on MOTT, which we did back in 2008. Here it is.

Well, that was a waste of five precious minutes. What a copout!

Besides, that's not the schematic I was looking for.

Wait -- this might be it -- chapter XII of Mouravieff's Gnosis. He's a man that wasn't afraid to speculate. Nevertheless, much of his speculation has the intuitive ring of truth, such as "All that exists in Time, until the day when the Seventh Trumpet will sound to announce that the work undertaken by the Absolute has been achieved (sic). Then the Kingdom of the World will become that of God and his Christ, the Alpha and Omega of manifestation."

This accords with my own intuition about what we might call the "seventh dimension" of existence, in which the "heavenly kingdom" is currently under construction, so to speak (but don't quote me on that).

Later in the chapter (p. 125), Mouravieff discusses the three dimensions of time. It first appears as a simple line between future and past. Again, this would correspond to the pre-historical time alluded to above.

I'll just quote what he says next: "The fifth dimension represents the geometrical locus of all the possibilities of a given moment, of which only one is realized in Time -- while all the others remain unrealized." Now, the first thing that occurs to me is again the work of the historian, which would not be possible if time were not pregnant with different possibilities.

For if time were linear or mechanistic, then it would be absurd to say that any time was more important than another, or that any choice was more significant than another.

Also, this would be much closer to the Muslim view of each moment of time being directly caused by Allah, with no intermediate realities or human contribution. Rather, the "book of history" is already written, which goes to the dialectic between Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia, if you were paying attention.

For Prince Ali, history is already written, whereas for Lawrence, the book of history is largely dependent upon man's free choices. There is one point in the film when Lawrence succumbs to the temptation of imagining that he is not subject to the vagaries of time, which ultimately results in his getting buggered by a Turkish general. So let that be a lesson to you.

Mouravieff compares the fifth dimension to a kind of temporal plane of possibilities that is "pierced" by a single line of time, which transforms it from potential to actual. Kind of reminds us of the collapse of the wave function in quantum physics; or, of the flow of O which can result in only one explicate manifestation at a time. Or of art, which is the attempt to convey the boundless within boundaries.

And with that, we'd better stop. Need to catch up with my work down in 4D. I don't get paid for the higher dimensional stuff.

Friday, April 09, 2010

New Keys for Old Doors

I'm reposting this baby from several years ago, in order to see if my thinking on the subject has evolved at all. It has to do with Schuon's solution to the problem of the existence of more than one valid religion. (By the way, anyone who is interested in him ought to check out the new biography, Frithjof Schuon: Messenger of the Perennial Philosophy.)

For if there is only one valid religion, then all the others are wrong. But if they're all true, how can any of them be? I'm sure I have some subtle disagreements with Schuon -- although I'm equally sure that he wouldn't regard them as subtle; he was a my-way-or-the-highway sort of guy, for which I don't blame him at all, being an unquestioned spiritual genius and all. I don't really believe I've earned the "right" to disagree with someone of his stature -- in the same way that, for example, lost, malevolent, and God-hating souls have no intrinsic right to criticize the Catholic Church.

Well, I suppose it's not to that extreme, since I genuinely mean well, and I place Schuon on the highest plane of spiritual attainment. But since I am aware of the distance between us, what gives me the right? My preliminary answer is that Schuon is literally a man out of time, so that some of his ideas are unworkable in practice in our day and age. But troubled times call for a trouble man.

I mean, I'm just not prepared to write off the modern world, although one is at times tempted. I'm sure part of it has to do with his witnessing of the apocalypses of World Wars One and Two from the European perspective. Life looks very different from the standpoint of genocidal or cowardly countries who got their asses kicked vs. the one nation that kicks ass and saves others from getting their asses kicked. I don't think Schuon could conceive of the providential role of the United States, without which his life and work would have been impossible (although ultimately the same providence accounts for both).

This hardly means that one compromises the truth in order to make it compatible with the passing fashions of the day. Rather, as Schuon himself wrote, it is not a question of promulgating "new truths." Rather, "what is needed in our time, and indeed every age remote from the origins of Revelation, is to provide some people with keys fashioned afresh... in order to help them rediscover the truths written in an eternal script in the very substance of man's spirit" (emphasis mine). So just think of me as an unlicensed groksmith.

It seems that this was a much bigger problem in the past, when people first discovered the existence of Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism, and other faiths. The first impulse was to devalue them, if not vilify their practitioners. Today it's not such a big deal, but that may be due to the fact that our elites don't take religion seriously anyway. Rather, it's just a part of culture, and cultures are different, that's all.

But now that I think about it, it is odd that the multicultural left elevates culture to a kind of sacred, pseudo-absolute, even while devaluing its grounding in the true Absolute, i.e., its religion. All culture is rooted in the cultus which is its origin, ground, and justification.

Anyway, on to the post:

Schuon has written something to the effect that most people, in order to get a sense of the Absolute, must imagine that their particular belief system is absolute, instead of being an expression of the Absolute. This misunderstanding has caused all kinds of mayhem down through the centuries, and is obviously at the basis of our war with Islamist idolaters who make a god of their religion.

But it is also the basis of the left's deeply irrational jihad against religion, since they believe that belief in absolutes -- which is to say, belief -- is the problem. Therefore, no beliefs, no problems. But this simply leads to the kind of spiritual nihilism we see in a supine UK that cannot rouse itself in the face of absolutist Islamist barbarians who mock the hypersophisticated moral paralysis of the neutered EUnuchs.

Schuon's position is rather nuanced, and generally will not appeal to most religious people and to no irreligious people. First of all, his metaphysics affirms the Absolute, which puts him completely at odds with any form of postmodern secular leftism. However, he situates the Absolute beyond form, which naturally makes conventionally religious people uneasy, since people believe in and practice this or that religion because they believe it embodies absolute truth. If it didn't, they wouldn't believe it. No one practices a religion because they believe it is false, partial, or the feel-good hit of the summer.

You might say that Schuon noticed the same thing that secular extremists do -- a seeming clash of irreconcilable absolutes -- but came to the opposite conclusion. That is, the secularist rejects and even ridicules religion on the basis of its different forms, whereas Schuon observed that religions only clashed outwardly, but not inwardly -- just as there can be no real "clash" between Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings, despite the fact that each attained the aesthetic absolute. Better yet, the existence of blue or green does not clash with, but verifies, the fact of the white light of which each is an expression.

Inwardly, orthodox religious forms represent differing views of the Absolute, and in that sense are absolute. They are the highest form of the absolute that can be known and expressed on the relative plane. As such, they are "relatively absolute."

Given the necessarily hierarchical conditions of existence, the relative absolute is something which must exist, i.e., "there is none good but the One." Conversely, the "absolute relative" is an intrinsic absurdity -- and even monstrosity -- that is at the heart of all secular misosophies (i.e., hatred of wisdom).

Again, I realize this makes people uncomfortable, because when they hear the word "relative," they equate it with the relativism of the left or of the new age integralists, but Schuon would be mortified at such a conflation. Again, he affirms the Absolute, which must exist. Or, to put it another way, the Absolute cannot not be. But since it is absolute, how do we think about it? How do we engage it? How do we make it more than a philosophical abstraction, mere pseudo-intellectual deism by another name?

We do so through real religion, which you might say is the "first fruit" of the Absolute, or O. Now, you will note that there is nothing in this point of view that prevents one from personally believing that one religion does a more adequate job of expressing and reconciling us to the Absolute. This is indeed the official position of the contemporary Catholic Church, but it was affirmed as long ago as Augustine, with his crack about how that which is known as the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist; from the beginning of the human race until the time when Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed began to be called Christianity.

Again, this is very different from how the secular leftist deals with the same "problem." Such individuals have a pseudo-tolerant attitude (at best) toward religion because they don't take it seriously; I, on the other hand, have a genuinely tolerant attitude because I take it so seriously.

In the absence of its relative form -- which partakes of the substance of the Absolute -- there is no ponderable Absolute on our side of manifestation. These forms are efficacious and ontologically real in a way that mere objects or ideas from the relative plane can never be; contemplation of them will change you. As Schuon wrote, they "leave durable traces in the soul, to the point that we are no longer the same man as before; they remove one from the world and draw us toward Heaven. And there is a kind of vision or inward presence that remains."

They leave durable traces in the soul. Is this not obvious? This is why scientific and philosophical ideas come and go, but Western man -- so long as he remains man, which is a fifty-fifty proposition -- will always be haunted and shadowed by the Incarnation of the Word, which speaks to a part of us that transcends time and place. It is why the Jew -- assuming he is a Jew, and not just a Democrat -- will always be haunted and shadowed by the Torah, by the very notion of the absolute Word of God, an absolute Word that inoculates against the errors of relativism.

I could go on, but you get the point. We are either permeated by a sense of the Absolute, the Infinite, and the Eternal; or we are condemned to a horizontal teenage wasteland of relativism and materiality, and a timebound tyranny of mere existence with no essence.

It therefore seems that there are ultimately only two metaphysical positions one may take: a belief in absolute supraformal truth embodied in diverse religious forms that complement and do not fundamentally exclude one another, at least a priori; or a belief in relative truth, which ultimately redounds to the subformal intellectual blob of nihilism, given enough time. Is that clear? Perhaps not.

Let's put it this way. As my friend Joseph says, if someone -- especially someone with the wrong motivation -- wants to pry into his exact religious beliefs, he tells them this: I am a believer. For in the final analysis, there are only the Believers and the unbelievers, Absolutists and nihilists; one is the upword way of faith leading to real knowledge and salvolution; the other is the downward path of manmode ignorance and superstition leading on an individual basis to spiritual sclerosis or dispersion, and on a collective basis to cultural decadence and exhaustion.

Update three years later: I personally find that the Judeo-Christian tradition -- especially the strand that leads to and from Denys to Eckhart to Unknown Friend -- perhaps spiced with a little neo-Vedanta, furnishes me with the most adequate vocabulary to think about, discuss, and assimilate the Absolute. But that's just me. More importantly, the true Believers need to stick together in this age of malevolent stupidity.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

If Darwinism Were True, All Writers Would Be Food Critics

Well, I think I'll delve into the archive for awhile. It's not that I have nothing to say, only that I don't see any need to repeat myself. Better to take an old post and drive it a little deeper into the ground. This exercise is not without its benefits, at least for me. First, it lets me know what's down there in the arkive. Second, I can correct errors or infelicities of expression, or at least explain things more clearly, especially to myself.

This is important, since I'm (almost) never writing from the standpoint of time, but eternity. That undoubtedly sounds grandiose, but it's not, for how could it be grandiose when I am specifically not taking credit for truths that do not originate in me? In fact, one's writing should always try to partake of eternity, or why bother? It's just that in our relativistic, journalistic, now-obsessed culture, we're not used to people trying to express truths that will still be true tomorrow, next year, and even forever.

Rather, the new norm is people like Thomas Friedman or Paul Krugman, whose columns are obsolete before they even write them. And yet, on the left, there's no penalty for being wrong. As Navy Seal Dennis Prager says, being on the left means never having to say you were wrong. The reason for this is that the leftist lives in an a priori abstract world that is governed by self-righteousness and good intentions (i.e., desire), not truth. And the sanctimonious are never wrong, since sanctimony concerns itself with ontological planes other than the Real. At best, one can say that the column of an aptly named Timesman has succeeded in conveying their sanctimony and superiority, which is no success at all.

If there is no intrinsic truth of man -- a Truth that doesn't come from man, but through him -- then the existentialists, Darwinists, and other relativists are correct that man is truly just freak of nature, a meaningless bridge between nowhere and nothing. That being the case, why even bother writing about it? Why not honestly enjoy one's little animal pleasures for as long as they last instead of inventing likely stories about what it all means? For if Darwinism were true, all writers would be food critics. Then we'd kill all the bad chefs.

On to the post, which is not only true, but always will be.

Man is made in such a way that he is never fully actualized within the limits of his possibilities except with the help of constraints, otherwise he would be perfect; where there is no brake there is exaggeration and unconsciousness. --F. Schuon

One of the intrinsic problems of leftism is that it confuses an absence of constraints with freedom, when the only real freedom is precisely a result of thinking, feeling, willing and even "being" within transcendent and ultimately God-given constraints.

For example, just as it isn't possible to "think mathematically" in the absence of mathematical forms or to play music in the absence of harmony, melody, and rhythm, it is not possible to "think spiritually" in the absence of authentic and timeless religious truths. These are the boundary conditions that vault one's thought into a higher vertical space which is anterior to us, even while we "co-create" it -- again, somewhat analogous to musical improvisation.

Real thought is the essence of prayer, meaning that, like all prayer, it links man's intelligence with what is timeless and eternal. Indeed, this is the sufficient reason for our thought, for if it isn't linked to the universal -- and hence timeless -- then what is it good for? How is it an improvement over the animal, who unfailingly knows what to do without having to cogitate about it?

To put it another way, the purpose of religious forms -- one of them, anyway -- is to allow us to think spiritually, and to do so in a productive way. One of the reasons why the "new age" is so empty and ultimately unfruitful is that it tries to invent or cobble together its own spiritual language, which amounts to thinking without constraints or playing music with no harmonic or melodic structure. Most self-styled "independent gurus" fall into this category, and this is the primary reason why their work dies with them (if we're lucky), since it does not arise out of any eternal tradition. They end up trying to invent their own tradition, which is analogous to the musician trying to invent music itself.

I remember Bob Dylan saying something similar with regard to his artistic development. He said something to the effect that he didn't understand how young musicians can think they'll produce anything of enduring value by simply imitating contemporary sounds, instead of immersing themselves in an authentic tradition.

In Dylan's case, one of the keys to his greatness was that he surrendered and submitted himself to the American folk tradition, as if it were a religion. Which, in a way, it was. That is, just as authentic religious revelations descend from "above" and are elaborated by no one and everyone, a genuine folk tradition arises from "below," in the collective experience of mankind. This is what gives the music its archetypally resonant power, a power that no single person could have invented (analogous to how math is powerful because it isn't invented).

Only once he had immersed himself in the folk tradition could Dylan then "legitimately" branch of into freer directions; but even so, I believe he would be the first to acknowledge that he is still working with timeless materials within a traditional framework. He is not truly an "innovator" in the way we usually think of that word. To the contrary, he is a strict traditionalist, out of which comes both his power and authority.

One other important point is that this approach ensures that music is not merely made for egoic or narcissistic reasons, but out of love -- love and respect for the tradition that is higher and greater than oneself. So much music is vile because it betrays the traditions out of which it arose. And man cannot betray tradition without betraying himself, since tradition is a repository of so much collective human wisdom and experience.

If one truly immerses oneself in a tradition and is guided by love, an alchemical transformation occurs within the soul. In this process, the lower self "dissolves," so to speak, allowing one to graft onto or merge with the tradition in a seamless, or "interior," way. The reason why this can occur is that a legitimate tradition embodies what is permanent within the self (in both its celestial and terrestrial aspects), so it is not really a discovery but a deep recollection of one's true being.

This, by the way, is one of the things that is so troubling about Obama. It is not so much that he is the spiritual disciple of an ignorant clown, but that he has surrendered himself to a tradition that is not a legitimate one at all, but one that is wholly -- or largely -- manmade. Any spiritually attuned person can listen to Jeremiah Wright and know this in an instant. That he is not radiating divine qualities is patently obvious. He has no dignity, no nobility, no sobriety; rather, he is "wild," intoxicated, incoherent, and self-glorifying. At best, he mimics certain qualities such as divine wrath and judgment, as well as a genuine fake charisma that emanates from his fascinatingly unbound mind parasites, as opposed to any celestial gift. All demagogues have this toxic gift that resonates in the susceptible.

A person of genuine spiritual attainment will radiate from the calm center, and be an image of the "motionless mover." But Wright is all periphery and no center; he has no spiritual center and therefore no intellectual center, hence, the insane conspiracy theories, which are both systematic and incoherent, just like any clinical paranoid who is invincible in his certainty of the impossible. Wright has quite literally substituted paranoia for metanoia, in that he orients himself around projected illusions instead of "turning around" and calmly orienting himself toward and around the peace and tranquility of the One.

As a commenter mentioned yesterday, this is not religion but Marxism, Marxism being the archetypal inversion of religion precisely. As I have mentioned on many occasions, this is my principal objection to the psychospiritual left, as it inverts the cosmic order, so that everything is quite literally backward and upside down. Mixed with religion, it becomes a particularly potent and destructive force, even demonic in the strict sense of the term.

Now, why is this important? Because a religion is where one's soul finds its rest. It is where one feels spiritually "at home." As such, if one finds one's home in a false religion, one is ipso facto a false person (which is no person at all). To put it another way, if one finds one's truth in lies, then one is living a lie -- or worse yet, one is a Lie.

But why would someone "fall in love" with religious lies and liars? Good question. It could just be because it is convenient to do so, or congenial with what one already wishes to believe. Thus, a person who has already committed himself to neo-Marxism finds his soul's rest in the tawdry "liberation theology" of a Jeremiah Wright, which is not theology and certainly not liberating.

Is this what has happened with Obama? Unfortunately, we just don't know, and that's the problem. Is Obama just cynical and calculating? Spiritually blind and tone deaf? Not too bright underneath his unruffled veneer? In any case, his attraction to this buffoon Wright speaks to some sort of flaw which is quite deep, and which reveals a fundamentally dis-ordered soul.

We all have flaws. But hopefully we do not glorify them and give them a divine imprimatur. It's like a sex addict joining a polygamous church, or Jeffrey Dahmer converting to the Aztec religion.

If Obama felt he needed to join a black church in order to gain some sort of "street credibility," it certainly wouldn't have been difficult to find a mainstream one. I happen to believe that the black church at its best represents an authentic sub-tradition, as it is the spontaneous merging of the gospel with an oppressed people with their own unique take on the timeless. There is so much truth and beauty in the black church, e.g., gospel music. Why get involved with this perverse, parasitic, and politicized version of it? Perhaps because the real ones tend to be socially conservative.

If we give Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not a malicious person, then we are left with the option that he is simply a man with no identity in search of one. Such a centerless man will grope around for his center at the periphery, and if he thinks he has found it there, it only means that his true self died somewhere along the way.

There are few greater sins than making religion look foolish or evil. Perhaps none, for it is the one sin that negates all the others and thereby legitimizes everything.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Willed Stupidity of the Left

As mentioned yesterday, it is a truism that one can be stupid in one area and a genius in another. At the very least, being gifted in one discipline -- say, music or physics -- is no guarantee of being even adequate in another.

But also, one must sometimes intentionally render oneself stupid (so to speak) in one area, in order to prevent its dominance over other aspects, dimensions, and modes of the self. Human beings are so good at things, that a small segment of the personality can become hypertrophied and cause a major imbalance. For example, the rational side can dominate the supra-logical side, and vice versa; or reason can extinguish intuition; letter can dominate spirit; collectivism can overwhelm individualism; etc.

A classic case in my profession is the dominance of the conscious over the unconscious mind -- not just for the patient, but for the doctor. When Freud developed the psychoanalytic technique, he said that the analyst needed to essentially disable his own linear, conscious mind in order to attend to the patient's associations with intuitive, even-hovering attention.

In fact, Freud expressed it well when he said that "When conducting an analysis, one must cast a beam of intense darkness so that something which has hitherto been obscured by the glare of the [conscious] illumination can glitter all the more in darkness." And as irrationally hostile as Freud was to religion, this is ironically the approach one must take in illuminating the subtle realm that lies beyond the ego. In other words, the same general principle equally applies to realms above as below the ego: only when the sun is down do the stars come out.

Bion formulated the same idea in affirming that the analyst's task was to "abandon memory, desire, and understanding," so as to clear a space for the spontaneous emergence of novel meanings -- similar, say, to the receptive mode with which one approaches a poem or musical performance. It's quite simple, really: in order to know what you don't know, you must begin by unKnowing what you think you know.

And for readers who might be a little slower on the uptake, e.g., anonymous, the same applies to the attitude required to profit from my posts -- which mirrors the passively active and actively passive state of mind from which they were produced; to read them with the ego is, as the Zen master said, like chasing a criminal while banging a drum. Your pursuit will be fruitless, but at least it will be loud. Or, put it this way: if you don't profit from them, that's a subtle hint that you do not understand them, mindless attacks on the messenger notwithstanding. What can I say? I can't help you. But I can give you a referral.

Now, a few years ago, charter Raccoon Dilys made a piquant observation regarding the suspension of one faculty in order to activate another and bring it to the fore: "Have you heard of the 'learned incapacity' idea, that proper execution of every calling requires the disabling of certain kinds of intelligence? For instance, I know a lot of people who are just too intelligent to be [certain professions], because there are some things one needs not to know in these roles, some mental and emotional strategies that must be disconnected" (emphasis mine).

I had never thought of it in exactly this way before, but this is truly a key idea, for it explains how any discipline or philosophy can take on a cult-like quality, elevating a relative incapacity to the only capacity. For example, in order to be a materialist, one must disable virtually everything that makes one human. This is fine as a temporary strategy, but if the incapacity takes root and dominates the personality, then you have become a kind philosophical and spiritual retard, like our own anonymous. But so long as you associate with fellow cult members, you won't even know that anything is amiss. Like the rest of them, you will take the shadows on the cave walls as reality, and nurture a childishly superior attitude toward those who notice that big light entering the mouth of the cave.

For to submit to a discipline is to learn to interpret the world in terms of that operating system, which only reinforces and reifies the system. For example, it's fine to attend law school, but if secular law displaces the law that is written on the heart, then one is lost. Or, if one begins taking scientific abstractions for the concrete reality, that is another form of spiritual suicide. They disable certain kinds of intelligence, and then confuse their little operating system with intelligence as such.

As I have mentioned before, one of the great shocks of my life has been the unending discovery of how fruitful the traditionally religious operating systems are for novelgazing around O. Some 1,500 posts later, it continues to be an endlessly generative surprise for me. I don't know where it comes from -- well, I suppose I do, in the sense that it comes from O -- but I do know that it would be inaccessible without the proper operating system. It would be like trying to play blues without the pentatonic scale. I suppose you could try, but you'd just sound silly.

Now, there is a huge difference between fruitful willed stupidity vs. a kind of pathological and permanent disconnection of cognitive links in order to understand the world in terms of this or that specialty. One of Bion's most important ideas was "attacks on linking," a primitive mental process that dismantles the scaffolding of the mind so as to prevent certain unwanted meanings from emerging. This intrapsychic violence is always associated with exteriorized violence, for if you do violence to the truth, it is only a matter of time before you do violence to human beings.

Take the example of the willfully stupid leftist who knows the truth and believes that it sanctions him to impose it upon others, e.g., Obamacare. In such a case, truth is naturally transformed into a lie. But just as importantly, truth draws one to it, while the lie agitates. You might say that the meaning goes from being a centripetal thing, so to speak, to becoming a centrifugal event.

So too does the personality under the influence of the lie -- their personalities become disturbing "events." I'm not talking about charisma or about benevolent love, which also radiate from certain people. Rather, this is a person whose energy "agitates" those around them, and inducts them into their particular psychodrama. In short, it is "acting out" as a replacement for "thinking."

Karl Marx is the quintessential example of idea-turned-event, for his fraudulent system of thought continues to agitate minds and spur action in the present. He cannot stay buried in his dustbin, because his ideas are just too tempting to certain sick minds in need of intellectual sanction for their acting out. It is as if he were the prophet of an anti-religion that substitutes action for thought. Pass the bill first, then find out what's in it!

This in itself is a fascinating idea, for we must always ask ourselves, "when is action action, and when is it a substitute for thought in order to unburden a disturbed mind?" At the same time, we must ask "when is thought thought?," because for many on the left, a thought is not an idea but an object to be used for some primitive purpose such as releasing aggression or blocking certain unwanted meanings (as we see here every day with anonymous's aggressively clueless comments).

Political correctness -- the cognitive Swiss Army knife of the left -- is another example of a collective attack on linking. It also deceives the person who engages in it, because PC is always able to operate freely under the pretext of "compassion," when it is actually quite aggressive and even violent. The leftist cannot be consciously aware of this violence, because one of the purposes of political correctness is to allow the leftist to behave violently while denying it -- and even tell themselves that they merely have "compassion," or "inclusiveness," or "tolerance," or some other benign motivation.

However, the person on the business end of political correctness is well aware of the primitive and bullying violence, which is one of the reasons he is not a leftist. A sane person recognizes that Truth is without question the highest societal value, higher than love, higher than compassion, and certainly higher than democracy, i.e., the collective will -- which will simply devolve to the will to power in the absence of integral Truth.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist To Be a Rocket Scientist

In his chapter on the order of the mind, Schall begins with a couple of amusing anecdotes about Einstein.

On one occasion, the father of relativity had to be rescued on three successive days after repeatedly capsizing his dinghy off Long Island. As one of the rescuers remarked of Einstein, he simply lacked the common sense to control the dinghy. In short, whatever other gifts he might have possessed, he was a nautical moron.

Einstein also attempted to learn piano, but was apparently awful at it. Finally, in exasperation, his teacher exclaimed, Albert, can't you count?!

Schall's point is that there are different kinds of knowing that correspond to different orders of knowledge. This goes to what I said in yesterday's post, about each of these orders being analogous to a relatively autonomous plane that bisects O. Who knows how many of these planes there are? For there are planes within planes within planes, i.e., sub-subspecialties within subspecialties within specialties.

For example, I work with a psychiatrist who has forgotten as much medicine as I never learned. Although he attended medical school and I didn't, for him that particular order has been more or less eclipsed by his psychoanalytic training, which applies to a wholly different order (i.e., more to do with the software of the mind than the hardware of the brain).

But I am acquainted with another psychiatrist who knows nothing of the psychoanalytic order, and thinks it all reduces to the biochemical order. Talking to one or the other is like talking to people from different planets.

Schall affirms the truism that just because we are adept at understanding one order, it hardly means it will apply to another. Noam Chomsky comes to mind, in that he is apparently a genius linguist, but when he turns his attention to politics, he is crippled by paranoia, moral inversion, and a complete absence of perspective. But he's just one of countless intellectuals and artists who become morons when they step outside the narrow order which they have mastered.

Of course, a man has got to know his limitations. As I've mentioned before, we often think of narcissism applying mainly to one's appearance, but narcissism is a mind parasite that can glom onto just about anything in order to express itself -- money, power, intelligence, musical ability, really, anything about oneself that rises above the average.

Therefore, people who have been treated throughout their lives as "special" because of their intelligence can run the risk of their intelligence being hijacked by narcissism, if they happen to be especially vulnerable to the latter. Narcissism is only problematic when it becomes a pathological means of self-esteem regulation. You can see how this would apply to intelligence, because the intellectual narcissist will not say things because they are true, but because they make him look intelligent.

In recently reading a couple of new books about Schuon, I can see that he was precisely the opposite of this pattern. His need for truth was rooted entirely in the intrinsic rights of Truth and the obligation of man to know it, not in the petty need to make himself look special at the expense of Truth. It was a humble submission to Truth, not a vulgar use of Truth to elevate himself (as one generally sees in all the bogus gurus, swamis, and new age cult leaders).

If Schuon's soul were as filled with corruption as, say, Deepak Chopra's, it would have been as easy for a man of his genius to get rich writing vulgar new age books as to compose a grocery list. But that is impossible to do without doing violence to Truth. If one is not made humble in the face of Truth, then it's probably not Truth you've stumbled upon.

Anyway, what intrigues me is not just that some people know things that others don't, but that these different forms of knowledge apply to diverse, ontologically real orders. I will just speak to a couple of orders with which I am most familiar, the orders of religious metaphysics and of psychoanalysis. I mention these two in particular because in each case, it wasn't a matter of accumulating knowledge and piecing things together bit by bit until an order emerged.

Rather, in both cases, there were particularly vivid experiences of literally "entering" the order in a sudden and catastrophic way (as in catastrophe theory). In the past, I have posted about how this happened to me with psychology. My undergraduate major was in film, not psychology, so when I entered my masters program, I clearly had less explicit "knowledge" than my peers. And yet, I instantly -- and I mean instantly -- zipped ahead of them, for it was as if I were suddenly operating from "within" the order of psychology, whereas they were still outside of it, trying to get in.

I'm afraid this will sound grandiose or self-serving, but it certainly isn't meant to (for one thing, I have no delusions that expertise in one area carries over to all the others). I should hope that nearly every Raccoon will have had this experience in some order of knowledge, whether of computers, music, mathematics, painting, business, medicine, whatever.

And if you have, you will be aware of that sensation of suddenly being "inside" the order in question. A key point is that we do not invent this order, but discover and enter it. And this is only possible because the soul is not in the world, but rather, the reverse: the world is in the soul, so that its various orders may be located within us.

I'm pretty sure it's the same with theology. Oddly enough, I just seem to have a knack for it, although I should add that the knack has *coincidentally* improved with thousands and thousands of hours of practice.

For it is not necessarily that one is born with a gift for knowing this or that order. Rather, it is probably fair to say that in most cases, the most important element is passion. Thus the prescription that in order to advance spiritually, one must love God with all one's strength -- mind, body, and soul. That's just another way of saying that one must pursue O in the same way that Michael Jordan pursued basketball or John Coltrane pursued music or Tiger Woods pursued skanks.

This other book I happen to be reading, The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong, makes this point quite forcefully. I'll get into some of the details in a later post, but one of the author's theses is that experience actually changes genetic expression -- that we are by no means genetically determined.

It is as if we have an abundance of genes just sitting around doing nothing until they are called upon, either of necessity by the environment or by choice with the will. Perhaps the expert makes it look easy not because he was born with the gift, but because he was born with so much passion for a particular subject or activity that his pursuit of it seems more like play than work.

In other words, it takes a whole lot of work for something to just come naturally. That goes against the romantic view of the genetic determinists who posit a kind of essential, inborn genius, but Shenk marshals some compelling evidence in favor of the thesis that genius is more perspiration than inspiration.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Best Operating System For Your Wetware

Have we been focusing excessively on politics lately? I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, when I write about political philosophy, the spirituality is implicit, whereas when I write about spirituality, the politics is. It's just a matter of rotating the ball of consciousness within the cognitive plane that bisects it -- which is why one can only be consciously conscious of one thing at a time.

There are a multitude of horizontal planes that cut through the sphere of consciousness, and each of these is relatively autonomous and complete -- especially if one forgets about the ball! But only the ball encompasses the whole, which is perhaps why O should be thought of as a sphere rather than a circle. And which is why there are infinite ways to be a flatlander living out on one of those dry and dusty academic planes.

One might think of each of the horizontal planes as a kind of operating system one uses to recognize and "read out" the content of O. Each is a discipline, but if you fail to maintain discipline and become a disciple of just one plane, you won't be able to pilot your plane above or below your abstract little errpart.

Again, it would be an elementary error -- of both epistemology and ontology -- to confuse one's operating system with the actual totality of O, but when has that ever stopped people? Some of these operating systems are as crude as can be -- materialism, Darwinism, rationalism, existentialism, Marxism -- while others at least have the umlauts to know that in this post-Gödelian world of ours, a consistent philosophical system will be incomplete, and vice versa.

While we typically think of an unconscious "below" and supraconscious "above," these are merely spatial metaphors borrowed from the 3D world to try to make sense of the holographic order of O. For in reality, the unconscious is not below but within the conscious mind, and vice versa.

In other words, consciousness as such is somewhat analogous to the "total flowing atmosphere" of the earth. If one looks at a cloud in the sky, for example, one is generally not aware that what is available to the senses is actually a small visible "ripple" standing out against the backdrop of a much more encompassing meteorological process. (For those of you in Rio Linda, "meteorology" is not the study of meteors.)

It turns out that the subatomic realm operates in this fashion as well. A subatomic "particle" is not actually a separate entity, but the local manifestation of an oceanic, wavelike reality which is nonlocal and unmanifest. In my view, thoughts can be seen in the same way, as analogous to the clouds produced by the total atmosphere, or subatomic particles floating atop (so to speak) the oceanic field of quantum energy.

Just so, if O represents the ocean of total consciousness, (k) is a little grain of sand tossed upon the shore of the local ego. There is always a complementary relationship between O and (k), just as there is between wave and particle. This relationship "cannot not be," any more than there can be time without eternity, horizontal without vertical, interior without exterior, male without female, Toots without Herman. And this is why it is absurdly naive to posit "facts" in the absence of an operating system that recognizes and places them in a greater context.

In his earlier metapsychology, Freud envisioned the mind as "layered," so to speak, with the unconscious "below" and the conscious mind "above." In his second model, he developed the idea of different "forces" pushing each other around, namely, id, ego, and superego.

The point is that both models clearly borrowed from a domain with which we are familiar -- the physical world -- and transfered concepts appropriate to it to the study of the non-physical world. But of course the mind is not an object and it doesn't have layers. Whatever the mind is, it is not a machine, or a layer cake, or a bag full of stuff, even though we often look at it that way (and fruitfully, I might add).

It wouldn't at all be going too far to say that immersing oneself in psychoanalysis -- or any other ideology -- is very much analogous to using a different operating system to navigate O.

In order to think about O, or to translate it into local knowledge, we require an operating system. This is where "all the trouble arises," because people tend to fall in love with their operating systems, and not realize that there are other systems -- some very good ones and some very, very bad ones.

Islamism is an example of the latter. On the oppsosite end of the spectrum, our classically liberal founders came up with the best political operating system ever devised. It will never be surpassed in its essentials, since they had the wisdom to root it in certain truths that can never be surpassed, e.g., "all men are created equal." Any competing system can only fail to reach this truth, never surpass it.

Obviously, leftism -- or any philosophy that can trace its lineage to Marx -- is also a horrible operating system, partly because it legitimizes some of the most regretable characteristics of human beings -- both innate and parasitic -- but also because it poses a more or less permanent barrier to obtaining the true operating system (which can only come from the being who created the computer). It warps reality, but even worse, it gradually perverts the person who uses it.

Or, a point is reached at which you are no longer operating the system, but it is operating you. It begins by envying others, but envy eventually corrodes the soul of the envious. To say that it makes true happiness impossible is perhaps redundant.

Marx, like Freud, was informed by the best mechanistic science of his day, so that his conclusions and prescriptions are wrong a priori; indeed, they are not operative on our planet or for our species.

Nor, despite Obama's best efforts, can this operating system be adapted to the present, because it is completely at odds with reality -- economically, psychologically, historically, spiritually, politically, epistemologically, morally, ontologically, and comedically -- which is why leftists are such angry and humorless bores. As you know, nothing pisses you off more than when your operating system goes down. And bear in mind that the most sophisticated computer in the world is nothing without a good operating system.

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