Monday, March 07, 2011

Thinking is a Relationship

An interesting little exchange occurs at the beginning of Canto XXIII, in which Dante foretells psychoanalytic truths that will not be "discovered" until the latter half of the 20th century. But then Men change ideas less than ideas change disguise. Through the course of the centuries the same voices are in dialogue (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

I am speaking of the miracle of intersubjectivity, through which human beings are able to escape the boundaries of the skin and participate in the being of another. This first occurs in infancy, and indeed, what occurs there is the foundation of what will take place later, at all stages of thought (which is a kind of relationship) and relationship (which is a kind of thinking).

The recent recognition of "emotional intelligence" obscures the fact that there is no thought without emotion, and vice versa, for to paraphrase Schuon, they are the penumbra of the Divine Light and Warmth, respectively, which can only be artificially separated.

For the first time, Dante's fear begins to spiral out of control, almost as if he is describing a panic attack. He spontaneously calls to for Virgil, who informs him that he was already aware of his internal state, for No faster could I catch your outer image / Than I receive that other from within, so that Your thoughts just now were mingled with my own.

The whole possibility of psychoanalytic therapy is predicated upon that last line: Your thoughts just now were mingled with my own. This is what is called "counter-transference." Beholden as he was to a mechanistic framework, Freud regarded this ubiquitous phenomenon as mere "noise" that the analyst needed to rise above and ignore.

But modern psychoanalysis -- which is rooted in intersubjectivity -- regards counter-transference as vitally important communication about what is really going on, both within and without the patient's psyche. To put it in colloquial terms, we are always "giving off vibrations" in everything we say and do. And these vibrations are often the source -- or expression -- of great dysfunction.

For example, some people constantly give off an aggressive, intimidating, and dominating vibe, while others transmit a weak and submissive one that alternatively says "take care of me" or "kick me." The former is sadistic, the latter masochistic, and you'd be amazed at how frequently the two manage to find one another, for an exciting "spark" is created between them that is often confused with "love."

I was just pondering this the other day, while bathing in some aphorisms of Don Colacho, who is able to reach into the depth of my soul like a handful of others -- almost as if he is "me" at a later stage of the journey. Not surprisingly, he addressed this truth in an aphorism: Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.

In other words, he has no control over the effect of an aphorism, which largely depends upon the listener's ability to contain and kill it. I was thinking about this when imagining what a particularly cynical man of my acquaintance would think of these magnificent aphorisms, which is to say, how he would kill them in order to maintain the deadness of his soul.

In this regard, cynicism masquerades as a kind of humility when it is really a form of omniscience, an absolute faith in oneself to determine what is real and worthy of assent. The cynic bows before no one, and therefore bows before himself.

Which is not just a figure of speech, for again, in an irreducibly intersubjective world (which is actually trinitarian, more on which later), thinking is always a dialogue between two subjects. In the case of the cynic, the dialogue is between infantile omniscience and a kind of contemptible stupidity, gullibility, or trust.

This type of person cannot help encoding his message in contempt, which is the counter-transference we feel when reading, say, Paul Krugman or Richard Dawkins, or listening to Keith Olbermann or Rachel Madow. They think they are communicating ideas when they are really evacuating the unThinkable.

This verges on the featured sin in this valley of Hell, which is to say, hypocrisy. For what is hypocrisy but an absence of harmony between inside and outside, or appearance and reality? Hypocrisy is fine so long as we understand we are hypocrites, and that we will always fall short of the ideal. But the bad kind of hypocrite deals with his own shortcomings by unconsciously projecting them into others, and then attacking them.

Back to the action of the canto. Note that Dante even explicitly compares Virgil's great solicitude to that of a mother for her infant: My leader instantly laid hold of me, / Just as a mother, wakened by a noise / And seeing how the flames are near at hand, / Will snatch her child and run... / Having more care for him than for herself.

Having more care for him than for herself. Here again, this is intersubjectivity in action, the reality of a profoundly intimate connectedness which is prior to separation, especially for the infant -- both the external infant and the mother's internal infant, for the true source of the mother's empathy is a connection to her own internal frightened and distressed infant.

This is no different than any other kind of empathy, except that it is so deep as to be beyond words (infans means "incapable of speech"). It is more in the realm of gesture, facial expression (especially the eyes) and tone of voice (here again, the tone conveys much more than verbal communication; it is "music" to the infant's ears, and perhaps even the ultimate foundation of music appreciation).

Later Virgil takes more of a paternal role, Bearing me tenderly upon his breast, / More as his son than as a fellow traveler. This highlights the difference between maternal and paternal love, in that the latter is more "horizontal." Maternal love is more all-encompassing, like the background context of being itself. It can scarcely be thought about, for it is the ground of thinking.

In Hell, the hypocrites are loaded down with burdensome cloaks that are dazzling gold on the outside but heavy lead on the inside. Here we see brother Deepak paying for all that fool's gold he peddled to the credulous seekers up here.

As with the sadists and masochists, it is amazing how efficient the spiritual free market is in coordinating buyers and sellers of spirit, the omniscient mythofolkers and their contemptible crockseekers. Again, it is an interior relationship that is merely projected outward.

As Upton explains, the gold-plated and lead-poisoned hypocrites are "unlike the true spiritual Guide," because they "depend upon the projections of others in order to maintain their aura of sanctity." Like all illusions and illusionists, Deepak is just the sham total of what his dupes project into him.

This is in contrast to the true teacher -- oh, let's say, Don Colacho -- who knows that Authentic superiority is intolerable for the fool. Its simulacra, on the other hand, fascinate him.

Fascinate, from the Oxford Dictionary: ARCHAIC (esp. of a snake) deprive (a person or animal) of the ability to resist or escape the power of a look or gaze: the serpent fascinates its prey.

The road to hell is paved with good intent.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A Message from the Academy of Farts and Sinuses

Did I just hear the distant bleating of a rump trumpet? Then we must be in hell or among the tenured, where the two ends of the digestive tract are routinely reversed -- where pompous gasbags talk trash and pull facts from their behind. The technical term is zonal confusion. The colloquial term is bullshit.

But first had each of them stuck out his tongue
Between his teeth, as signal to their leader,
And he made a trumpet of his rump
. --Canto XXI

Upton notes that Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise all correspond to states of being. Although it certainly smells like something crawled up and died here, if it's too much of a leap, you needn't regard them as postmortem, since their odor is readily detectable in this world.

The "higher states of being" -- those associated with Purgatory and Paradise -- "are higher in every sense: they are closer to Reality" (Upton). Thus, as we travel further hellward, we drift further and further from the Principle, but draw closer to Hell's principle. The former is O, or the "Sovereign Good," while the latter is....

Well, first of all it is Ø, which means that it is not something positive, but rather, the negation of O, whatever that might mean.

As we venture down into the lower vertical, O at first becomes blurry and out of focus. But eventually we cross a threshold, in which its inverse -- Ø -- begins to acquire a kind of "solidity."

However, unlike O, it is not a translucent solidity but a dark and dense one. The darkness and density then become a kind of pseudo-reality, and it is this reality to which the materialist fleedom flighter clings and calls "courage" or "clarity." It is the false sobriety of someone who lives in a dry county in which no grog is available anyway. Suffice it to say that someone who is drunk on God is infinitely closer to reality than someone who is sober on matter.

Ironically, nothing is as it appears to be in Hell, which is why deconstruction -- or absolute relativism -- is such an adequate symbol of it. For the deconstructionist, there is no stable reality, only the interpretation they give it.

This elevates deconstruction above construction -- or, let us just say destruction above creativity. In practical terms, it elevates an ordinary feminist nag above the Bible or Shakespeare by revealing the "patriarchy" or "oppression" of these texts. But what the feminist actually demonstrates is her virtuosity on the rump trumpet.

Since the lower realms are only pale reflections of reality, we might think of them as existing in a negative space. If Heaven is +12, then Hell is -12. Importantly, the downward descent is in one sense a "dissipation" and loss of substance and (truth) force.

But in another sense, the further away from O, the more it becomes a kind of persecutory presence or shadowy recollection. Thus, as Upton describes it, the closer one gets to the "most hideous, most hellish parts [of Hell], the areas where existence is the most unbearable, the nearer one has come to letting the good break through."

This is why it is a truism in psychotherapy that a crisis can be an extremely fruitful opportunity. During a crisis, the psyche is "laid open," much like a body opened up by the surgeon's knife. The superficiality of mere coping or "bumbling along" is effaced, and the "unreality" beneath it all is exposed.

And in being exposed, it evokes a longing for the Light, for healing and wholeness. Truly, the darker the night, the brighter the day. Although this is not a hard and fast rule, since the spirit "blows where it will," countless saints will attest to this pattern.

If God is "completely Himself" -- or, in Thomist terms, pure act -- I wonder if this means that Hell might be thought of as pure motion, or a kind of infinite potential that never attains itself? It remind me of what economists used to say about Brazil: it is the country of the future, and always will be.

This suggests that Hell is a place of "false infinity," again analogous to the auto-cannibalistic deconstructionist who must eventually dine on himself, the only thing left standing after everything else has been deconstructed.

Thus, the deconstructionist is both "omniscient," in that he can trump all knowledge, but "omnipotent," in that his single intellectual tool can reduce anything to dust. Again, if nothing is what it is, then everything is what it is not, which is to say, nothing. That would be Hell.

Upton is on the same page, where she notes that "a destructive psychological complex ends by destroying itself." Here again, this is an inverted image of the "creative destruction" involved in ego transcendence. Taking a wrecking ball to a structure in order to build a new one is not the same as flying an airplane into it just to please one's dictatorial mind parasites.

Note that one -- and only one -- civilization created human flight in order to facilitate further creation. But the other culture -- which, left alone, couldn't have invented the toaster -- can only parasitize ours, and use its creativity for destructive ends. The Arab world as presently constituted is a symphony of rump trumpets.

Another orthoparadoxical fact is that "as deeper levels of Hell are reached, the damned have more character -- understandably, since the more grievous sins are the more deliberate ones, which are worse than simple passions or weaknesses" -- the latter of which are more contingent to the central self.

But for the true evil-doer, the condensed nothingness of evil has become central, which is why an Osama, or Arafat, or Ahmadinejad, or Hitler, have such character. For truly, they are incorrigible but also incorruptible, in the sense that they will not deviate from their anti-principles, so no Light reaches them.

No, I will not pull your tail again!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Armies of the Blind Clashing by Night

Twenty-second canto, eighth circle, fifth valley. This is starting to get as complicated as the tax code. No wonder most people prefer to adopt a simplified, binary, flat death tax: heaven or hell, thumbs up or thumbs down.

However, it can't be that simple, for if there are no degrees of sin, then this is not a hierarchical cosmos. But it is, and there is no hierarchy without a top and a bottom and various degrees in between.

Anyway, the place is rather crowded, because these are the embezzlers and "buyers and sellers of public office," which I suppose back then mainly applied to religious office. To embrace politics is to touch pitch, so perhaps it is appropriate that the denizens here are immersed in boiling tar.

"By nature," the sins here "are sticky and opaque" (Upton). It is almost impossible to get involved in politics without getting covered in pitch, which is why we should revere the men who remained pristine, such as George Washington. To promulgate the myth that he "never told a lie" is infinitely closer to the Truth than whatever revisionist twaddle the tenured are peddling these days.

What is it about mundane politics that fascinates people? As I've mentioned before, the more "political" one is in the vulgar sense of the word, the more politics is merely a kind of existential container to organize one's psychic and emotional life.

However, the difference between the contemporary left and right is that conservatism is based on ideas and principles, whereas liberalism is rooted in raw power and self-interest concealed beneath a lot of pseudo-ideals.

The left cannot admit to themselves that they are motivated by material self-interest, or race, or class, so they project this onto the right, which is why they can never actually deal with our arguments.

Instead, they dismiss our arguments with ridiculous projections such as the imputation that our real motivation is to further enrich the top five percent of income earners, or that our effort to address fiscal bankruptcy and the crisis of public sector unions is an "attack on the middle class." In other words, the left pours its own pitch onto us, and then attacks us for being so filthy.

Yes, the idealists in Wisconsin are engaged in a revolution, so long as one remembers that Revolutions do not solve any problem other than the economic problem of their leaders (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

One cannot see clearly in a world of pitch. Thus, the left profits by the confusion they sow, because then they can make an appeal to primitive emotionality, such as being "for the little guy." But Social problems are the favorite refuge of those fleeing their own problems (DC).

There is no clarity in the world -- and certainly no moral clarity -- in the absence of spiritual Truth. Along these lines, Upton has a wonderful passage by Maximus the Confessor, who wrote that "the spiritual world in its totality is manifested in the totality of the perceptible world..." Conversely, in the words of Don Colacho, Relativism is the solution of one who is incapable of putting things in order.

In other words, the spiritual world contains the material world, for the converse could never be true. Likewise, spiritual principles explain science as such (and the scientist!), not vice versa.

For example, the practice of science would be impossible if scientists were not beholden to the principle of objectivity and disinterested truth, which is none other than a reflection of the Absolute on the scientific plane in question.

Maximus continues: "And the perceptible world in its entirety is secretly fathomable by the spiritual world in its entirety, when it has been simplified and amalgamated by means of spiritual realities."

What this again refers to is the enduring spiritual hierarchy beneath appearances, without which we could never organize or comprehend reality, including human reality.

Human development is situated along a continuum of maturity, including intellectual, spiritual, emotional maturity. And there can be no standard of maturity in the absence of a telos which organizes everything below. We only know there are idiots and sociopaths because there are geniuses and saints.

The left opposes all natural hierarchies, and replaces them with a simplistic and artificial binary of race, or class, or gender, or sexual orientation. These destructive ideas appeal to the ignoramuses of the left, for as Don Colacho says, Every non-hierarchical society is divided into two parts, and Leveling is the barbarian’s substitute for order.

Back to the corresponding vale of Hell. Upton writes that the evil here "has begun to manifest an inverted power." This is power in the absence of truth, virtue, sobriety, Light. This is where President Obama parks his big bus, under which are all the people who became inconvenient and are no longer of any use to him.

Upton further notes that there is something "militaristic" about this principality, for the evil here is organized. Now, how can there be organization in the absence of hierarchy? (For there can be no hierarchy that doesn't converge on Truth.)

Think of organized crime. In what way is it organized? What is the center around which it is ordered? That is one of the reasons evil cannot triumph, since it has no enduring center. It can only be a perverse and inverted shadow of the reality it feeds off. It can never be intellectually consistent, plus it has darkness rather then light, hate rather than love, at its core.

Truth can be known by virtue of what even evil people must pretend is true.

Frank Rich's replacement is pitched into the New York Times editarial boardroom:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Your Immortal Soles are in Danger!

We're finally up to the canto we've all been waiting for, in which Deepak Chopra gets his just desserts. For this is the valley of rapacious brutes who debauch themselves for gold -- who distort spiritual reality by treating it as a profane thing to be bought and sold.

Folks here are buried head first up to the knee with their feet exposed, the soles of which are on fire. Strange image. I wonder what Dante had in mind?

Upton writes that the souls here "are buried in an inverted position because they have inverted the spiritual hierarchy."

As we know, the principial world is an inverted tree, with its nonlocal roots above and its convenient branches down here below.

Therefore, the inverted position of these vulgar simoniacs -- or maniacs -- is simply an image of what they inverted -- and perverted -- in life. Thus, their feet, which symbolize the terrestrial world, are at the top, while their heads, which symbolize the celestial, are at the bottom. This reveals their true values and motives, which cannot be hidden from God.

This brings to mind what may be my favorite letter of Meditations on the Tarot, The Hermit. The hermit is a properly right side-up man, and for this reason will appear upside-down to the worldly.

Such a man does not deny the world but sees it -- and its contents -- in its proper order. He does not place what is both priceless and of urgent importance above what is ephemeral and insignificant. Which is why The common man lives among phantasms; only the recluse [i.e., hermit] moves among realities ( Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

Furthermore, the hermit is the cosmic locus of the synthesis of heaven and earth, i.e., their union, not polarization. He represents the harmony of intellect, emotion and will, or mind, heart and strength.

But again, such a man will appear upside-down to the tenured, for Modern society works feverishly to put vulgarity within everyone’s reach (DC), and largely succeeds now that so many of us attend college, those somnambulant seminaries of factsimian sophistry.

For the properly spiritually oriented man, his soul is on fire and God is the water. But in this vale of hell, the soles are on fire and there's no water to be found. Dante also notices that the fire flickers back and forth between the heel and toes. Upton suggests that this is another inverted image, this one of the purifying spiritual fire, since in Hell it moves horizontally rather than vertically.

In a foot note, Upton reminds us of the spiritual hucksters who charge good money to teach idiots how to walk barefoot on hot coals. I always suspected that Tony Robbins was a preview of hell.

The valley of the hotfoot is also a parody "of the baptismal font," in that these sinners "are horribly baptized by the fire of the Holy Spirit they sought to buy and sell" (Upton). But the Divine Fire is not a plaything. To imagine that one can control it sufficiently to truck and barter in its activation is about as wise as selling nuclear secrets to Islamists. You end up with the Agni, but no ecstasy.

In the next valley it gets even hotter, for it is the vale of the spiritual pundits, the magicians and diviners who "impiously sought to pierce the veil of the future" (Upton). These people cause much more mischief than you might imagine, for they are spiritual prometheans whose reach exceeds their grasp -- or whose mental being surpasses what they have properly assimilated and actualized. They are engaged in the dangerous practice of driving in front of their headlights; in other words, they are operating in the dark with knowledge (k) in front of being (n).

Therefore, in this valley of hell they are perpetually facing backward. Once again it is an inverted image of how they functioned in life; in being turned backward, they remind us "of a 'vanguard' cadre in politics or an 'avant-garde' movement in the arts, which, after a few years, turns out to be totally reactionary; their attempt to conquer the future binds them to the past" (Upton).

Is there anyone more nauseatingly predictable and reactionary than the political "progressive" or artistic "transgressive"? Even the word "progressive" implies an ability to see into the future. But when their future arrives, it is always an atavistic hell. Obama does not look forward but backward, to Jimmy Carter, LBJ, FDR, and the whole failed ideology of illiberal collectivism and state coercion. Likewise the public employee unions, for whom it is always 1930.

And of course, such people are not only looking backward but down, toward matter. No one pretends that the unions are fighting for any ideal except their own material gain. But in the words of Don Colacho, there is no faster way to corrupt an individual than to teach him to call his personal desires rights and the rights of others abuses. Such a soul is upside-down, inside-out, and assbackward.

Hey, it's a Tony Robbins seminar, and it will only cost your soles!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Falling at the Speed of Lies

Next up: the eighth circle of Hell, which is divided into ten separate valleys for its unhappytants. Here we encounter the deceivers, panderers, seducers and flatterers. It has since been renamed the William Jefferson Clinton Memorial Low Way.

At the bottom of this valley, souls are immersed in filth. And not just any filth, for Dante cannot help noticing that it seems to come from human privies. Which is to say, they are submerged in their own crap, just like San Francisco.

As mentioned in last Friday's post, we have now crossed the threshold from impulse (or weakness) to will (and willfulness), so we are now circling Hell's lower vertical attractor in pneumacognitive phase space. For as Upton explains, "The Flatterers and Seducers are beginning to participate directly in the realm of illusion" (emphasis mine).

These souls are not passive victims of the Lie, but active architects of it. They are "inverted creators," as it were. But unlike God, who perpetually creates something from nothing, these ghastly spinmeisters ultimately create nothing from something.

Lies race through the world like fire, reducing the structure of reality to ashes of promethean fantasy. Which is why The results of modern “liberation” make us remember with nostalgia the abolished “bourgeois hypocrisies”, and why Man does not have the same density in every age (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

For the Lie is simultaneously dense and hollow, like the head of a troll, whereas Reality is both solid and supple, like Dupree's sacred cluebat.

In this realm we see the state of the soul beneath the beautiful portrait of Dorian Gray. Gray, of course, is an unholy mixture of light and dark in order to conceal from the Light what one does in the Dark. But here the false light is eliminated, leaving only the true darkness. And nothing grows in the dark but nothing.

In the world, these assouls "tried to put a false face on their actions," so in Hell "this face is removed" (Upton). Remember what we were saying a few posts back about the shameful behavior of "shame cultures" such as Imperial Japan? Recall that in reality, such a culture produces people who are unable to tolerate shame, so the culture becomes a kind of collective lie in order to protect everyone from the experience of shame.

In this valley of hell, the false self -- the persona -- is removed, so the souls here live with the shame they attempted to deny in life. Note that this especially applies to the shameless, who are probably the most dangerous people on this earth, for shame has a proper function in the harmoniously balanced and integrated soul, whereas the shameless are capable of anything.

The above crack about Clinton was no joke, because what creeps people out about him is his utter shamelessness, his disingenuous ability to lie with such transparently false sincerity. And yet, in the words of Harvey Mansfield, Clinton remains the envy of vulgar men who wish to be just like him. He is indeed the patron satyr of narcissists, for Depravity always arouses the secret admiration of the imbecile (DC).

Again, everything in Hell is inverted, so just as the flatterers and seducers "led others astray, so now they are being driven. In life they felt they could manipulate others easily; in hell they are harshly pushed" (Upton).

This is an important point, because for all the honey-coated seduction of the left -- the beautiful lies of Sugar Candy Mountain and free stuff for everyone -- it all ultimately redounds to coercion. It is the neocortex in service to the mid- or hindbrain, or thought in service to raw muscle.

As Walter Williams writes (HT American Digest),

"How about what car you drive, where you live, whom you marry, whether you have turkey or ham for Thanksgiving dinner? If those decisions were made through a democratic process, the average person would see it as tyranny and not personal liberty. Is it no less tyranny for the democratic process to determine whether you purchase health insurance or set aside money for retirement? Both for ourselves, and our fellow man around the globe, we should be advocating liberty, not the democracy that we've become where a roguish Congress does anything upon which they can muster a majority vote."

Which is why communism is hell on earth. And leftism is in the attractor of communism, which is why it always tends in that direction. Its first principles are not America's first principles, no matter how they try to spin it and obscure those principles. When the state does something for you, it always does something to you (excluding, of course, those things individuals cannot do for themselves).

For the leftist, God helps those who help themselves. To other people's money.

Dante also notes that the flatterers and seducers are subject to "eternal circlings" in Hell. This is again because they did not submit to reality, but elevated themselves above it with their "easy faithlessness" (Upton). They made their lies, and now they must bed in them. Forever.

The seducer "manifests something that he cannot be" (Upton). Thus, he is a genuine phony who can only fake sincerity. Furthermore, he cannot help but have a secret contempt for the people who fall so easily for his lying sincerity, since he knows better than anyone what credulous dupes they are.

For "flattery is always an expression of self-interest" (Upton). And the ultimate self-serving flattery is described in Genesis 3. The serpent is the father of all flatterers and seducers. Crawling on his belly, he is horizontality personified. He seduces Eve, Eve transmits the lie to Adam, and gravity takes care of the rest, as they fall out of the Creator's orbit and into the wily one's obit.

Delegates at the Democratic National Convention drowning in their own bullshit.