Saturday, June 12, 2010

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Liberalism

Pieper begins his discussion of the virtue of hope with the observation that for man -- and man only -- well, Christian man, anyway -- life is a journey, and we are pilgrims.

In short, the span of time between conception and death is a pilgrimage, a meaningful movement in which the purpose is to journey closer to our true end by metabolizing and assimilating its "substance," so to speak. Thus, each moment of life is conferred -- or partakes of -- ultimate significance, since it bears upon our eshcatological end, so that our being is never just that, but a meaningful becoming in the direction of Being itself, or the source of our borrowed being.

Or, as I would prefer to say, the end, or telos, casts its shadow "down and back" into our lives, while simultaneously serving as the attractor (telovator, or eschalator) that lures us up into the phase space of O, the Absolute, God.

Also, my view is that this is not just "Christian anthropology" but universal anthropology. Christianity would not be true if it didn't comport with The Way Things Are. I'm not one of those people who believe that Christianity is true only because "God said it." I don't think the Creator would abuse our intelligence in that way.

Rather, he wants us to know that there is no conflict between revelation and Reason, and that we need the latter to comprehend the former. At least for the most part. There are, of course, certain things we couldn't know in the absence of God revealing them, but even then, probably fewer things than one might imagine.

For example, it is often said that the Trinitarian nature of God is one of those things, but I gradually arrived at a similar conclusion based upon metaphysical speculation on the thoroughly intersubjective nature of the person. Indeed, that is what allowed me to appreciate the breathtaking philosophical daring of the early fathers at arriving at such a formulation, since they did so without the benefit of 21st century neurodevelopmental attachment theory.

The point is that a person -- as opposed to a merely biological human -- cannot be a monad, psychically closed system, or radically isolated individual, but is intrinsically and irreducibly communitarian, so that human minds are members of one another.

This is not something "added on" to the individual, but the very basis of even the possibility of the individual <----> social dialectic within which we live and have our being. If you don't believe me, just ask Julie about the metaphysics of the mother-infant bond, and the interior substance that flows back and forth between them. The oneness is not imposed from the outside, but apprehended from the inside -- which is none other than the very "cosmic interior" that makes love possible, more on which later. (Exteriors cannot love, only be attracted or repelled by one another.)

As Pieper explains, one who has "arrived" is no longer "on the way." Rather, his journey is over. This can happen in two ways, one good, one bad. The bad way occurs as a result of any of the intellectual heresies we have been discussing, say, materialism. If the world is ultimately matter, then the only journey in life is from death to death, which is no journey at all.

Or, for a relativist, there can be no progressive journey, only an infinite number of lateral ones. In the absence of the Great Attractor, there is nothing that can confer absolute meaning upon our own otherwise arbitrary movements.

In my book I discuss various intellectual pathologies such as materialitis and reductionosis, which obviously infuse leftist thought. Thus, my disdain for leftism has nothing to do with the left per se (much less the slaves who are in its grip), but with their intrinsic betrayal of cosmic truth.

To cite just one particularly glaring example, they are always talking about "the poor," as if there is any such thing. Rather, there are only poor individuals. But the left converts a temporary adjective that applies to individuals into a reified characteristic of a permanent "group."

But a bare acquaintance with economics reveals that very few people spend their lives in this reified category of "the poor." First of all, as Sowell points out, it is simply a truism that anyone can divide the population into abstract quintiles, so that by definition there will always be five of them, no matter how hard the left tries to outlaw the number five.

The point is that most of those individuals are no longer in the bottom quintile after a decade, and the ones who remain there usually do so because of easily recognized pathologies and self-defeating behaviors such as drug abuse or having children out of wedlock.

But in reifying this quintile, the left is able to create this mystical entity called the poor, thereby converting a temporary weigh station to an enduring state of being. And most importantly, this state of being robs the poor person of the virtue of hope, which is where the left comes in, in that they offer false hope to the hopeless dupes they have created -- the false hope of dependence on the state rather than individual initiative, good values, prudent behavior, etc. This is why, for example, the incomes of married black families are virtually identical to married white families.

As I've said before, I'm sure I would have qualified for "poor" during the many years I was putting myself through college and graduate school. But while I knew I wasn't wealthy, I certainly didn't identify with this state of being that the left wished to confer upon me.

Rather, I knew that finances would improve, because I had hope. But even then, I never, ever, confused "economic hope" with genuine hope, i.e., the theological hope that converts otherwise biological life into a spiritual path. To convert life into a mere journey up the economic quintiles, as the left does, renders life nothing more than a nihilistic death march to empty prosperity. I want no part of it. Unless a wealthy benefactor wishes to make a generous donation to the, er, Foundation for Missing Raccoons.

Now, one factor that motivates our journey is the occasional glimpses of our end that we are granted. Faith (or vertical openness) comes into play here, because faith is a kind of tacit foreknowlede of an as yet undiscovered reality -- not dissimilar to how the gifted scientist is guided in his explorations by a tacit sense of moving in the right direction -- which is why good questions can contain as much light as their answers, whereas the kinds of stupid questions asked by, say, our anonymous troll are already so full darkness that there is no room for the light they pretend to seek (similar to Helen Thomas's darkly loony questions at presidential press conferences, which no light could ever penetrate, much less satisfy).

The critical point is this: "it is astonishing how many basic concepts of theology have a meaning in reference to the state of being on the way that is different from their meaning in reference to the state of total possession" (Pieper). For this being on the way is precisely the journey from outer to inner, from existence to essence, from image to likeness. "Hope" is simply a side effect, so to speak, of being properly oriented in the vertical, in contrast to the "enlightened despair" of the flatland secular fantasists who hopelessly look to matter for meaning.

Essentially, you could boil and half bake it all down to a symbolic schematic:

ʘ <---> (L), beatitude, or sat-chit-ananda
(¶) <---> (n)
(•) ---> (+K)

(•••) <---> (H)

Ø <---> (-K)

Friday, June 11, 2010

How to Know When God is Speaking to You

Jumping ahead again, this time to Pieper's wonderful book on the theological virtues, Faith, Hope, Love -- which is perhaps even better than his book on the cardinal virtues, although both are essential.

And when I say "essential," I don't mean it in the sense that it is essential for you to read them; rather, I mean it in the sense that he directly communicates the spiritual essence of what he is discussing (you might say that essence is to the vertical what existence is to the horizontal).

This is always the hallmark of a gifted religious writer: the direct communication of essence; or, to put it another way, their communication is spiritually infused with the "substance" of the reality under discussion. In fact, if this essence -- or substance -- is not present, then something ain't right, either in the transmitter or the receiver (i.e., him or you; but if the problem is in you, you will be incapable of discerning a fraud from the real thing, a Deepak from a Dionysius).

It reminds me of something my most gifted professor taught me in graduate school: if either you or the patient aren't aware of an emotional disturbance in the session, then something is wrong (in other words, the two of you are probably colluding to avoid some primitive material).

Pieper actually touches on this issue in his section on faith. "In speaking to men, God does not cause them to know objective facts, but he does throw open to them his own Being" (emphasis mine). Do you see the profundity of this statement? When he communicates, God quintessentially communicates his own essence -- which, on our end, is subjectively accompanied by awareness of the sacred. And awareness of the sacred is nothing less than innate consciousness of the presence of God (Schuon).

Again, to turn it around, if, for whatever reason, a person has rendered himself unable or unwilling to sense the sacred, he will be unable to sense the presence of God. Conversely, when one is aware of the sacred, God is present. Of course he is always and everywhere "present," but in order to be aware of that fact, we must become a vertically open system, i.e., (↑↓).

Or, to paraphrase Petey, if you haven't received the hologram to your private particle, you need to come in, open His presence, and report for karmic duty.

Note that the "essence of the essence," so to speak, of the divine revelation, utterly transcends any ability to draw a distinction between signifier and signified, symbol and symbolized, for the two merge in God. Thus, "the Incarnation of God and the revelation in Christ are one and the same reality" (Pieper; emphasis mine).

This revelation of being is only offered to us, never forced (interestingly, my above referenced professor once remarked that he never, ever, recommended psychotherapy, but only offered it; I can certainly say the same of this blog).

The "content" of revelation is ultimately Revelation as such, which is to say, a loving invitation to "participate in the divine life." Which in turn is why faith is so critical, for faith is essentially the acceptance of God's offer -- or of his self-revelation, to be precise. "Divine revelation is not an announcement of a report on reality but the imparting of that reality itself" (emphasis mine). To have "faith" means to actually take God's call, and not just put him on hold or play phone tag with him.

As I've mentioned before, Schuon's writing is always characterized by its essentiality, so let's see what he has to say about the human ability to know the sacred. I really don't see how someone could be more exact, while at the same time not "confining" the human spirit. To the contrary, I find that Schuon's exactitude is always liberating, as it bears upon, and opens up to, the Infinite (again, it is vertically open):

"That is sacred which in the first place is attached to the transcendent order, secondly, possesses the character of absolute certainty and, thirdly, eludes the comprehension and control of the ordinary human mind. Imagine a tree whose leaves, having no kind of direct knowledge about the root, hold a discussion about whether or not a root exists and what its form is if it does: if a voice then came from the root telling them that the root does exist and what its form is, that message would be sacred."

Which is why, in the words of Petey, It is a Tree of Life for those whose wood beleaf.

"The sacred is the presence of the center in the periphery, of the immutable in the moving.... The sacred introduces a quality of the absolute into relativities and confers on perishable things a texture of eternity" (Schuon).

Elsewhere he says that "It is the interference of the uncreate in the created, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm..."

Traces of the sacred are everywhere -- those life-giving springs dotting the horizontal landscape -- but it is up to us to hone our ability to detect them: "To feel this concretely is to possess the sense of the sacred, and thereby the instinct of adoration, devotion and submission." It is to be simultaneously aware of the "immense remoteness and miraculous proximity" of O. Which in turn is why the Raccoon is always on the way to his deustination. He is simultaneously there and not yet there, which in-forms the dialectical tension of his life journey into O.

By the way, for Pieper, the closest human analogue to God's disclosure of his Being is....

Any guesses?

How about I. Love. You.

Why is that? Because this simple statement is simultaneously a revelation of what it reveals. In other words, it is not a factual statement about love, but its direct transmission from human to human (one especially notices this with young children, whose verbal expressions of love are so spontaneous and pure that they are literally heartbreaking. Ouch! Hurts so good!).

I love you is also a direct and intimate revelation of the deepest identity of the one who loves. Thus, there are three elements unified in the one utterance: the "self-witnessing" of the I who loves; the affirmation of the reality of love; and the revelation that one is beloved.

Which is why in God, one must not draw an artificial distinction between love and knowledge, for his revelation is a direct transmission of his loving nature, of love, and of our belovedness in God. Divine communication and comm-union are one and the same.

I feel like I barely got started, and now it's time to stop. To be continued....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Inadvertent Wisdom of Christopher Hitchens

I'm not really sure whose ass to kick this morning. There are no unhatched ideas in my head clamoring to be born, no thoughts in search of a thinker. This happens every once in awhile, and when it does, I usually just hand the ball off to Bob's Unconscious and start typing. Which I will proceed to do.

I'm still stuck on the idea of intellectual heresy, and I wish more people understood and appreciated what I was talking about, especially the people whose asses I would like to kick. This has nothing to do with content, for example, science vs. religion.

Rather, this is a truly universal problem that cuts across all disciplines. In my opinion, it is the central cause of man's betrayal of himself, and undoubtedly the primary infirmity of the tenured. Some of these intellectual heresies only wound the person who commits them, while others are death to the intellect, and therefore aggravated cluelesside.

At the very least, the intellectual heretic participates in his own astral abortion. But the real miscarriage occurs if one is a teacher or in a position of influence, whereby one participates in mass murder, or at least attempted murder. In other words, since the soul is the form of the body, to commit soul murder is to destroy what is essential in the human being. When young people with skulls full of mush are the victims, then we're talking about mind-fucking, and therefore intellectual pederasty with intent to commit skulbuggery.

The other day I heard Christopher Hitchens on the Michael Medved show promoting his new autofelltatiography, and there is no question that this is an "intelligent" man. Nevertheless in five minutes he commits enough intellectual heresies to render his own intelligence impotent. He is so full of an externalizing pride and passion that he seems incapable of genuine self-understanding. He is also a vulgar and blustering intellectual bully, which is not wholly beside the point, since truth -- and the truth lover -- attracts. Truth, like goodness (or the Light it is), simultaneously radiates and enraptures; it does not "harden" and compress upon itself, thereby giving no Light. Which is why a Raccoon does not argue truth, only offer it.

For example, let us suppose that his gradual evolution from a man of the hard left -- a committed Trotskyist and true Useful Idiot -- represents some kind of evolution, or "growth." Exactly what has grown? Is he more intelligent today than he was then? Doubtful, if only because of the alcoholic toll on his brain cells. Is he wiser? I don't see how "wisdom" would be permitted in his narrow world view, for it immediately implies transcendence and therefore common cause with traditions and people whom he despises.

In other words, there is no "wisdom tradition" on the left. To the contrary, the left can only remain the left through a systematic blindness to mankind's accumulated and revealed wisdom. The left is and must not only be ahistorical, but irreligious, irrational, and dismissive of anthropology (in the sense of apprehending the transcendent and universal archetype that defines man).

Schuon writes that wisdom involves a combination of intelligence and character, and is ideally "represented by gnosis, which a priori is set on the restoration of the primordial perfection of man." So if Hitchens is a better man than he was 40 or 50 years ago, he is closer to that absolute perfection that makes possible the relative degrees of improvement.

In other words, in the absence of an implicit absolute standard, there can be no real "improvement" of any kind, only meaningless lateral change, or at best, better "adaptation" to the environment (and even then, only for the purposes of sexual reproduction).

Schuon further notes that wisdom "consists not only in knowing truths and being able to communicate them, but also in the sage’s capacity to recognize the most subtle limitations or hazards of human nature."

In other words, wisdom, in order to be wisdom, must recognize man's aboriginal infirmity, or risk committing the intellectual heresy of omniscience. Ironically, this is something the traditionalist is always mindful of, whereas the secular man regards it as a fable or fairy tale, which has the practical effect of collapsing the vertical and conflating man and God.

To put it another way, Hitchens obviously believes that man is not only capable of knowledge (and therefore truth), but even the ultimate knowledge that permits him to absolutely deny the Creator. Thus, in his own weird way, he insists that man's intellect is indeed an adeqation (or mirror) not only to reality, but ultimate reality. If man is uniquely capable of pronouncing on ultimate reality, what does that make him? Certainly not a Darwinian beast!

Schuon asks, "whence comes this demigod who accuses, and whence his power to accuse?" For "if the accuser himself is right, this must mean that man is not so bad and that there exists within him a capacity for adequation" (emphasis mine).

Which is precisely the Raccoon's missionary position: that the human intellect is an adequation to reality, not a passive reflection of the Darwinian environment, nor a mirror of the "material world," whatever that could mean in the so-called "mind" of a materialist.

Hitchens' views on religion are not only wrong but absurd, and the only way he can maintain them is through his snarling contempt for religious doctrines that are even more stupid than his own (and fortunately for Hitchens, there is never a shortage of those, any more than there is a shortage of political, artistic, or cultural stupidity).

There is nothing in Hitchens' metaphysic that would permit "a sudden burst of intellectual and moral objectivity [to] come about in a merely biological and quantitative development" (Schuon). Rather, if man is capable of objectivity and adequation, it could not be explained by the radical contingency of atoms in the void or genes on the make.

There is so much more one could say about Hitchens' crippling infirmity, but this is obviously not about him; rather, it is about mankind and its proneness to intellectual heresy. For the fact that man's intellect is indeed an adequation to the Absolute -- something with which Hitchens, in his hubris, implicitly maintains -- then this is a "refutation of the ideologies of doubt" and cynicism. Rather, "if a man is able to doubt, it is because there is certainty," just as "the very notion of illusion proves that man has access to reality" (Schuon).

No mere animal could have the trajectory of Hitchens' life, at the end of which it reflects upon itself and thinks, "boy, I had a melon full of illusions 40 years ago, but now I finally know reality and the truth of my species!" Animals can only deviate from their archetype, not spend their life evolving toward it and becoming wiser.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Journey to the Center of the Cosmos

If we were to define the capital intellectual heresy -- an adolescent peter pandemic in our day and age -- it would have to be the denial of the Absolute, and with it, the negation of the multitude of archetypal "relative absolutes" that give boundaries and meaning to human existence.

The immediate corollary is that all is relative, which immediately renders the mind that believes this stupid, for it posits the intrinsic absurdity -- and strict impossibility -- of "absolute relativism." (For those who might be a little slow on the uptake or haven't yet had their coffee, to affirm that "all is relative" is self-refuting, for it posits its own uniquely privileged absolute truth.)

But the intellectual left is willing to barter away the above referenced celestial boundaries in order to gain "permission," so to speak, to believe anything on earth they wish. Thus, omniscience is covertly transferred from God to man, even while the absolute relativist denies that he's doing anything special, just seeing "what's there." But once one denies the intrinsic meaning that is generated between man and his archetype(s), one is "free" to substitute any old manmade meaning one wishes.

At the end of the deity, this is the central argument of the existentialists, who insist that, since we are not "created," we must create ourselves. Every moment faces us with choices through which we forge ourselves on the anvil of existence.

In other words, our inclinations and choices do not emanate from some prior essence, i.e., our soul (although some of them essentialize the godlike genome, and attribute our choices to it). Nor do we create a "soul," since there is no such thing. Rather, in the flatland view, there are only beings and choices, which ultimately reduces to the "nothing" of Sartre's magnum dopiate, Being and Nothingness.

Thus, when an existentialist talks about "freedom," it is by no means similar to what America's founders meant by the term; really, the existentialists should get another word, because Sartre is correct that freedom can have absolutely no meaning if it doesn't bear on a higher reality (believing otherwise is an act of "bad faith").

Sartre was closer to the mark when he called it nausea, that existential dyspepsia that results from our being condemned to the nothingness of radical freedom. But in reality, man is condemned to transcendence, a truth that is proven by its every denial. (Thus Eckhart's ironic and misunderstood wise crack about how every blasphemer praises God.)

In a comment yesterday, our wisely anonymous troll expressed the existentialist view of my mid-20s, affirming his belief that "philosophy has been going for 2500 years or more and hasn't produced a single answer to anything." Again, such a boneheaded conclusion forms the gelatinous underpinning of all forms of secular leftism, since it allows the leftist to make of reality -- and of human beings, which is where the real nightmare comes in -- anything he wishes.

In other words, since a human being has no essence and no truth, the left is free to use the instrument of the state to form man into whatever he desires.

Note also the critical point that for the leftist, truth ultimately reduces -- and must reduce -- to power, since thinking (which is the essence of philosophy) cannot produce "a single answer to anything." It reminds me of a film noir -- I can't think of the name -- in which the head mobster tells one of his beefy underlings something to the effect of, I think. You hit. As we can see, nothing has changed about the "Chicago way."

Thus we clearly see the left wing convergence of freedom and nothingness; indeed, you might even say that on the political spectrum, the left shades off into the black nothing that represents the indiscriminate con-fusion of all colors, while the right (by which I specifically mean contemporary conservative classical liberalism) converges upon the white light -- i.e., the Absolute -- that, upon contact with being, breaks out into the diverse colors of terrestrial existence.

For the absolutist, "color" reminds us of God's immanence in the reignbelow, while pure Light reminds us of his transcendence in the reignabove, which form the two poles of our vertical prismhouse. A color is just "light," but not the Light -- just as a ray of sunlight that reaches the earth is nothing other than the sun, even though we can still draw an ontological distinction between it and its source in the sun "above."

But please note that you cannot draw any such existential line between sunlight and Sun, for any such line is arbitrary, a product of human convention. Furthermore, if a flatlander were to say that we are all "inside the sun," he certainly wouldn't mean what a Raccoon means by the same statement. This is an example of how the flatlander can be technically correct -- or correct on one plane -- while being not even wrong on another, as with his kooky statements about man's "freedom."

There was a brief time that I suppose I was an existentialist, or at least trying to be. It was actually before I entered graduate school, at a time when I was still completely unformed intellectually. On the one hand, I had no correct answers, but at least I didn't yet have any incorrect ones, certainly nothing I could really articulate and defend in any comprehensive manner.

As I have mentioned before, when I was around 23 or so, some kind of intellectual light unexpectedly switched on in my soul (or, one could say that my soul, or what Aurobindo calls the "psychic being," began moving to the forefront), and I began devouring philosophy, psychology, and classic literature.

Naively assuming that philosophy, like science, was a kind of linear enterprise, I assumed I could just skip the old and presumably discredited stuff (Aquinas? Please. Give me a break.) and get right to the latest findings, so to speak. (This is when I also plunged into the shallow end of new age psychological thought, again assuming that it completely superseded the dark ages prior to the late 1950s or so.)

But fortunately for me, since this philosophical adventure had been rooted in a spontaneous movement of the soul -- as opposed to any extrinsic cause such as good grades, tenure, employment, esteem, etc.), my soul could find no rest in existentialism. Rather, it quickly broke free of those finite boundaries of absolute freedom, and continued the infinite adventure of consciousness toward the Absolute -- the old eros shot into the heart of being.

The original desire for the good takes its energy from the ever-pulsating momentum of that Origin in which man, answering the creative call of God, flew across the abyss which parts nothingness from existence. It is the moment with which the possible bursts forth with a roar into the radiant dawn of its first realization: the swift current of a stream that originating in the bright darkness of mere Nature and steadily fed by its source, crosses by the dictates of innate conscience into the realm of freedom --Josef Pieper

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Intellectual Sainthood and Intrinsic Metaphysical Heresy

While reading a book by James Schall, he mentioned something in passing that has stuck in my mind, that "we know there are intellectual saints," and that such luminaries as Augustine, Aquinas, and Cardinal Newman yield nothing to the intelligence of "any philosopher or wit of any era." And yet, even Aquinas "was not much recognized in his lifetime," and "today he is little studied except in a few isolated places."

Furthermore, we see how a highly intellectual pope such as John Paul II can be dismissed by self-styled secular intellectuals who are absolutely clueless as to their ignorance of the vertical realm that is the sufficient reason of human intelligence to begin with (anything less is simply not proportionate to the majesty and reach of the human intellect). Schall quotes Newman, who wrote of how "the multitude of men, whether by their own fault or not, are wrong in the greatest matters of religion."

I would respectfully tweak Newman's observation to say that the multitude of intellectuals (and all secular intellectuals) are not even wrong about religion, since they are talking about something else, something of their own imagination. In other words, since they deny the very possibility of the vertical up front, when they talk "about" it, they are doing precisely that: talking about it, not within it. It makes no sense to give opinions about that which one professes to have no reality.

In this regard, Schall quotes the historian Regine Pernoud, who quipped that the hopelessly tenured man is "physically incapable of seeing what is not in conformity with the notions his brain exudes." It reminds me of the old and wise crack to the effect that you cannot expect someone to know something when his whole livelihood depends upon not knowing it. A kind of blindness results, "by which we do not see what is in fact there" (Schall).

Elsewhere Schall quotes JP2, who said that the purpose of education is "to give birth to souls for the sake of knowledge and wisdom, to shape minds and hearts," something that cannot be achieved except "through generous service to truth -- revealing it and passing it on to others" (emphasis mine). In other words, the object and purpose of the intellect is truth, even as the object and purpose of truth is birth and growth of the soul through the intellect.

As we have mentioned before, truth and intellect are of the same substance, which is why the intellect may know the truth. Or, one might say that truth is intellect exteriorized, while intellect is truth interiorized. The critical point is that we make neither truth nor intellect, but expand the latter by discovering and assimilating the former.

Anyway, I was struck by that term, "intellectual saint," because now I have a name for something of which I was very much aware, but didn't know what to call. For instance, I would say that Schuon is a clear example of an intellectual saint, someone who spent his entire life in total devotion to Truth, and to generously passing it along to others.

Obviously there are also moral saints, people who devote their lives to goodness. One could also say that there are artistic saints, for example, a Bach, who devoted his life to explicating the Divine Beauty, or the Sound of Heaven.

I remember Schuon saying something to the effect that we could judge the efficacy of a religion by its capacity to produce genuine saints. But again, we typically think of moral saints, and exclude intellectual saints such as Aquinas and Eckhart, or artistic saints such as Michelangelo or Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Would it be possible for one man to combine all three forms of sainthood? Off hand, I can't think of anyone. I suppose some might argue for Sri Aurobindo, depending upon how one feels about the aesthetic (as opposed to spiritual) value of his poetry. Would Dante qualify? I don't know enough about him.

At any rate, from the idea of intellectual sainthood, I immediately jumped to the idea of intellectual heresy. I realized that there are a number of intrinsic intellectual heresies, meaning that they are universal and that they apply to any faith or discipline, religious or secular, for to hold one of these heresies is to rebel against reality (and God), and to therefore reject the truth and damage the soul -- not just one's own soul, but more seriously, the souls of others. If one imparts a lie to another vulnerable mind, the lie doesn't just end there -- any more than the evil deed ends with having committed it.

Rather, the deed and the lie spread out in time and in space, even unto future generations -- just as truth and virtue have endless consequences beyond the moment. This is serious business. Think of the intellectual virtue of America's founders! With luck, their insights will continue to affect the world forever, until the end of history -- or until history finally results in the assimilation these self-evident truths everywhere.

Conversely, we pray that Marx's demonic ideas will eventually stop their metastatic advance through the world, destroying vulnerable souls and murdering bodies in their wake. If there are intellectual saints, then there are also intellectual demons such as Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn, who devote their public lives to infecting others with their pernicious lies, damaging countless souls along the way.

So anyway, a list of intellectual heresies came to me in a flash. In no particular order, they would include denial of the Absolute, and with it, the promulgation of relativism (moral, intellectual, aesthetic and cultural); equality as the highest political value (which generates chaos, disorder, and injustice); failure to discern the intrinsic relationship between truth and freedom; ignorance of Hayek's "knowledge problem" in economics (see here for how it plays out in time); ignorance of Gödel's theorems; nominalism (i.e., that reality -- especially transcendent reality -- is just words; materialism (i.e., denial of the vertical); humanism (replacing God with man); determinism (denial of free will); and denial of the boundary between man and animal.

One of the first things you will notice is the materialist/relativist/historicist/socialist/deconstructionist/metaphysical Darwinist/secular humanist leftist comes out as the ultimate intellectual heretic, in that he somehow manages to combine all of the above. That's quite an accomplicement to evil.

Well, I'm out of time. I may continue this line of thought tomorrow, if I feel like it. In the meantime, I'll leave it to you folks to flesh this out.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Liberal Threats to Liberalism

I'll get back to the cardinal virtues in due time. After all, they've been here for over two millennia, so they're not going anywhere.

But I wanted to discuss a valuable book I recently finished, New Threats to Freedom, while it's still fresh in my mind. It's a compilation of thirty relatively short and crisp essays on -- you'll never guess -- new threats to freedom. I'll just quote from the product description:

"In the twentieth century, free people faced a number of mortal threats, ranging from despotism, fascism, and communism to the looming menace of global terrorism. While the struggle against some of these overt dangers continues, some insidious new threats seem to have slipped past our intellectual defenses. These new threats are quietly eroding our hard-won freedoms, often unchallenged and, in some cases, widely accepted as beneficial."

Of the thirty essays, I would say that about a third are quite good, a third mediocre, and another third slightly lame. I suppose for the sake of "diversity" -- ironically, one of the new threats to freedom -- they included a number of liberal authors, and their intellectually flabby contributions are the weakest, being that liberalism is the greatest contemporary threat to liberty (by its own acknowledgment, since it knowingly barters away liberty for its fantasies of equality).

In this context, it's a little like inviting communists to discuss new threats to private property, or NAMBLA to discuss new threats to children.

Judging by the density of my highlighting, it looks like the greatest threats to liberty are, in no particular order, the decline of American press freedom, the closing of the liberal mind, the new dogma of fairness, single women (this was one of the more important essays, as we shall see), the loss of the freedom to fail, the EU, the rise of anti-religious (really, anti-Christian) orthodoxy, multiculturalism and the threat of conformity, the tyranny of the news cycle, transnational progressivism, anticapitalism, and the rise of mass dependency.

Ironically, one of the liberals wrote on the dangers of anonymous trolls! He has a point, in that cyber-anonymity does permit sixty year old perverts to pretend they're girly adolescents and liberals to pretend they're not, but a sophisticated internet user quickly learns to tune out the extremists. Politics has always been a blood sport, and it's naive to imagine otherwise.

In his essay The Closing of the Liberal Mind, Bruce Bawer discusses the blatant contradiction of so-called liberals and their tacit (and often overt) alliance with Islamic terrorists, not just in Palestine, but all over Western Europe. He cites the example of Amsterdam, where life for homosexuals can be a living hell "because of predatory Muslim youth gangs who know that according to the teachings of Islam homosexuals deserve to be killed."

But the left just doesn't care. Why? One reason is that recognition of the reality would undermine their irrational faith in multiculturalism. They would have to acknowledge the self-evident truth that some cultures are better and more evolved than others, which is an impermissible thought on the left. And God -- or Gaia or Wakan Tanka -- forbid that Judeo-Christian culture be the most evolved of all! That would qualify as the ultimate secular heresy.

I remember getting into an argument with my late father-in-law and my eminent historian-by-marriage, who were insisting that they much preferred the ancient Greek gods to the Judeo-Christian God. No amount of factual evidence of the barbarism of the pre-Christian world had any impact whatsoever. This is the kind of adolescent sentiment I might have expressed back in my 20s, just to show how daring and unconventional I was. But in order to hold such a moronic view in one's 70s, one must literally forego intellectual and spiritual growth for the remainder of one's life. It's like irony and cynicism as guiding intellectual principles (a Christopher Hitchens falls into this camp as well, which ultimately amounts to the glorification of nihilism).

As Bawer writes, liberal values have been "sold out in the name of multicultural sensitivity," the result being that "millions of self-styled liberals have closed their minds to aspects of reality that challenge their ideology -- an ideology that is, in fact, radically illiberal." There was a point in my lifetime that liberals would have cheered the demise of a fascist dictator in Iraq, but as another contributor writes, JFK was the last Democrat president to govern on the principles of classical liberalism. He was as insensitive as Ronald Reagan or George Bush, declaring the Soviet Union to be "a slave state" that was "embarked upon a program of world aggression."

Bawer notes the truism that being a liberal once "meant standing up for freedom, both at home and abroad, against every form of oppression and totalitarianism." But in the last two years, we have witnessed the exact opposite of this philosophy in Obama, who has coddled or bowed to virtually every despot on the planet, while alienating critical freedom-loving allies such as India, Israel, and Poland.

The left is far more upset about Gitmo than they are about Iran executing homosexuals or about hateful Palestinians training their children to be genocidal islamikazes and mullahtov cocktails. Just as they hated Ronald Reagan far more than Gorbachev, they express far more animus for Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin than Arafat, Abdullah, al-Bashir, or Ahmadinejad. And that's just the A's.

But I think the most profound and far-reaching essay -- for it truly has cosmic and world-historical implications -- is Jessica Gavora's Single Women as a Threat to Freedom (she happens to be married to Jonah Goldberg). First of all, the essay is not the least bit inflammatory, although you could never convince a hysterical ovary tower feminist of this. (Ironically, because of their conspicuous lack of self-awareness, radical feminists display some of the worst untransformed traits of femininity!)

But if we accept the premise that the greatest threat to our liberty is the vast, intrusive, coercive, greedy, and corrupt State, then it is a simple matter of fact that single women are responsible for electing politicians such as Obama who promise to grow government -- just as married women and men can be statistically relied upon to oppose the leviathan state.

Before analyzing the reasons why single women wish to replace men with the government and become dependent upon the latter, let's crunch some of the numbers, shall we? Gavora notes that in the 2008 election, single women "delivered a whopping 71 to 29 percent majority for Barack Obama." It is simply a truism that liberty is not high on the list of values that animate the single woman. Rather, they much prefer to be swaddled by the state, largely because "increasingly these women are substituting the security of a husband [for] the security of the state."

This is a major -- and potentially fatal -- problem, because in 2007, "for the first time, the U.S. Census reported that the majority of American households were headed by unmarried people," and I don't see any immediate prospects for a reversal of this sad and dysfunctional demographic shift. This can only mean more government -- and, of course, fewer and fewer people to pay for it. Any remotely conscious person knows that our present economic course is unsustainable. But you can't tell that to a woman who is married to Uncle Sam, and who has made a lifetime commitment to making the relationship work, for richer and for poorer.

Thus, it is no coincidence that the left favors policies that are destructive to traditional family values -- for example, the redefinition of marriage. Because on most all issues, "Americans in traditional families tend to have more traditional values." Furthermore, "the presence and number of children only magnify this effect," making them the most conservative of all.

The problem is, dependency on the state is a self-perpetuating cycle that interferes with the normal evolutionary process of adult pair-bonding in order to grow emotionally and to nurture the next generation. Once women convince themselves that men are unnecessary, this has truly earthshaking consequences. For the cycle of dependency only creates more dependency, which requires more expansion of government, and then more dependent women and children. Here we can see how contemporary liberalism demands the persistence of social pathology, for in order to win elections, it must pander to this huge and growing segment of the population.

Unmarried mothers now "constitute 26 percent of all eligible voters," which is "a bigger pool than African Americans and Latinos combined." We all know how Democrats pander to the latter two groups, but most people aren't aware of the government's seduction of single women in order to perpetuate and expand its power. If the goal of feminism was independence for women, it must be judged an Epic Fail, for they simply wedded their fortunes to the biggest loser of them all.

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