Friday, March 11, 2011

Hell is for Heroes Without Virtue

In canto XXVI, Dante meet Ulysses, whose heroism in this world apparently counts for nothing. For although he "worked for victory over Troy," he could only accomplish it through a ruthless combination of fraud and unjust violence (Upton).

It always strikes me how antiquity is still idealized by scholars, even though for most people the pre-Christian world was a kind of hell on earth (and indeed, one reason why it is idealized is because it was not Christian; conversely, it is why the Jews will always be hated for having brought the Absolute into the world, which is a major inconvenience to tyrants).

I briefly addressed this in the tome version, but it is impossible in such a short space to bring to life the horror, cruelty, and barbarism of the ancient world. Actually, it's impossible in principle, because horror cannot exceed a certain limit -- let us call it 1.0

A horror of 1.0 would be, say, being eaten by wild animals in the Coliseum, or helplessly watching your wife be raped, or watching your child be crucified. It doesn't matter if it happens to a million people, because it still cannot exceed 1.0. And in fact, Stalin was more than half-correct when he said that one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a statistic. (Actually, for Stalin a single death wasn't a tragedy at all, but just laziness or fatigue.)

A single murder or even untimely death is such a horror to both victim and loved ones that we either don't or can't "go there." It is literally unthinkable until it happens. Multiply it times a million, and the effect might even be diminished, because we don't experience it terms of the single soul, which is the only medium of experience. (Bolton discusses the same principle in one of his books, but I don't recall which one off the top of my head.)

The recorded voice of a single terrified person at the top of the World Trade Center, about to burn or suffocate, frantically imploring the helpless 911 operator for assistance, penetrates more deeply than the image of the plane going into the tower.

Note how the collaborationist media will show us image after image of the pranks at Abu Ghraib, but not the horror of an Islamist beheading another innocent victim. Why not? Because it might make Americans want to win this war against the enemies of civilization.

I recently read two books about the last year of World War II (Armageddon and Retribution), and the author was careful to balance the macro and micro in such a way that it was often quite painful to read.

It's one thing to hear that x number of men died in the war, but another thing altogether to read the explicit details of what a single soldier endured, say, in a Japanese prison camp. I mean, how about experimental surgeries without anesthesia performed on captured pilots before an audience of physicians? How does one even imagine such an experience? It is beyond the pale.

I suppose I'm thinking of the footage I've seen of Japan. Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to drown? Again, that is terror 1.0.

Note that the Christian religion is centered around just such a single instance of terror 1.0. In fact, this is arguably the only instance of something "beyond" 1.0, since it is not only man, but God, who is being tortured to death.

Christians cannot forget that man is not only capable of murder, but that if given half a chance, he will murder God. Every time. Orthoparadoxically, this is a bug but also a feature, given the potentially diabolical combination of free will and a misguided deiformity -- when man's relative centrality becomes detached from the absolute Center and he makes a god of himself.

Upton touches on this important point, noting that there were countless instances of "godmen" prior to -- and since -- Jesus. For example, most of the various pharoahs and caesars of antiquity were regarded as divine beings (or, think of Kim in North Korea, not to mention Hirohito in imperial Japan).

But as Upton explains, "Christ is true man and true God, not part man and part God, like a centaur or some other mythological monster." In contrast, "the deepest evil, the evil of the Antichrist, will be based on just this kind of parody of the hypostatic union." And in an increasingly de-Christianized West, people will not only be unable to recognize such a beast, but will long for him.

This longing will always be intrinsic to the left, since it represents an inverted version of Christian truth. For just as the Christian's ultimate allegiance is not to a doctrine but to a person, leftism always ends in the cult of personality, the strong man, the national savior, the dictator of the proletariat, the superman who is beyond good and evil, for "When spiritual Guidance is repressed, it still attracts -- but darkly" (Upton).

Yes, it would be so much easier -- and more natural -- to be America's dictator.

Upton notes that in this canto "Dante prays that his talent not exceed the bounds of virtue." Otherwise, he might be tempted to "take the story of Ulysses on the level of foolish hero-worship and forget that this hero is damned."

In the contemporary world, people have replaced the ultimate significance of being "known by God" with being known by the anonymous masses. In other words, the quest for fame and celebrity have replaced the spiritual quest. But fame without virtue is a shameful and humiliating dishonor.

Dante and Virgil peer down into the valley of heroic public employee union leaders.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sinister Ministers and Reptilian Kleptocrats

It's canto XXV and we're still in the den of thieves. One of them -- a slow learner -- makes an obscene gesture, curses God, and even -- if I understand correctly -- contemptuously tosses his stolen goods at the Creator. (The translation says "figs," but one of the definitions of fig is "a contemptibly worthless trifle.")

Evidently, to be reduced to cursing God is itself a kind of curse -- just as contempt, which is the opposite of gratitude, is a kind of ultimate punishment, for the key to happiness is gratitude. To paraphrase Don Colacho, hell is filled with people who are satisfied with who they are and unsatisfied with what they have.

One cannot curse God without renouncing our deiformity, so in this plane of hell, souls have become "bestial, and the beast takes on a human semblance" (Upton).

This is a point Dennis Prager often discusses, and which is absolutely central to Judaism, that is, the bright line between man (neshama, the higher self) and animal (nefesh, the lower self), and the intrinsic sin of denying or effacing it. And equally as important, Judaism emphasizes integration, not denial, of the lower self. God very much wants us to have a good time and to partake of all permitted pleasures.

Here again, destroying this line is intrinsic to the project of the left. One could also express it conversely: anyone who denies this distinction is a default leftist -- or certainly anti-conservative, which is why libertarians and objectivists are by no means conservative.

I read something very interesting the other day about the Scopes "monkey trial," which, if true, suggests that this is one of the most distorted historical episodes since the Galileo affair, for it was not a case of "liberal" vs. "conservative," but more essentially of conservative liberal (William Jennings Bryan) vs. leftist (ACLU).

Bryant was rightfully concerned about the baleful effect of inculcating children with the idea that they are just one of countless other mammals, which -- if one is intellectually honest in a way that leftists never are -- immediately contravenes our founding document.

That man is both created and at the existential "center" of creation are ontological facts -- or rather, principles -- whereas natural selection and heliocentrism are just theories that more or less adequately account for empirical phenomena.

As Don Colacho says, there is a kind of ontological gravity that ironically pulls us downward as a result of denying the vertical, for When things appear to us to be only what they appear to be, soon they appear to be even less. If a man is only a man, he soon becomes less than one.

One of many reasons I would never send my child to a public school is that he would be forced to accept various scientistic doctrines -- which are true enough on their own plane -- as ontological facts applying to planes above matter. Since the leftist denies any degrees of being, his own principles are taught as magically self-sufficient.

Dennis Prager made another important point the other day. That is, the vast majority of Americans -- especially the religious -- agree that it is not a good idea to mix church and state. But if this is true, why is it a good idea to mix ideology and state?

For this is what ends up happening: children are inculcated with an ideology that both justifies and serves the state. For truly, the tenured -- including teachers' unions -- are just the state's way of increasing the size and influence of the state. It is why teachers are literally rewarded for failure, in that the worse they perform, the more money liberals want to give them. Success for public teachers would be totally self-defeating.

The official stance of PETA is that there is no moral distinction between man and animal. I remember Dennis Prager interviewing a PETA spokesperson who insisted that barbecuing a million chickens was equally reprehensible as barbecuing a million Jews.

The problem is, this does not elevate animals to the value of persons, but inevitably devalues man to the status of animal. And sex education in public schools? Forget about it. For starters, the left not only knows nothing of innocence, but systematically destroys it.

So in this corner of hell, "the mammalian nature is totally taken over by the reptilian one," and "empathy is completely negated" (Upton). Souls here are pure envy, which means that they cannot tolerate the painful feeling that someone else possesses what they want (another hallmark of the left). Thus, as Upton says, their "desire to steal something is based purely on the fact that it belongs to someone else."

Along these lines, Don Colacho wields a number of sharp objects, for example, Every society eventually bursts when envy expands too far.

Yes, that would be the giant sucking sound you hear in the distance -- the one third of Americans who are suckling on a government teat which is in the process of imploding.

And speaking of the left, here is a perennial truth about them -- their all-purpose excuse for violating the Constitution: Compassion is the best excuse for envy. And envy, of course, is the best excuse for theft. For Envy differs from the other vices by the ease with which it disguises itself as a virtue (DC).

Thus, The democrat comforts himself with the generosity of the program over the magnitude of the disasters it produces (DC). What the left calls "generosity" we call appeasement of envy.

Which never works, for envy cannot be appeased. Since man has an imagination, any idiot can imagine having more than he has. Which is why Egalitarian societies strangle the imagination without even satisfying envy.

Is the left any less envious today than it was trillions of dollars ago? Hardly! Like a child, their most frequently used word is more!

Furthermore, since the leftist lives in a flattened universe devoid of any higher dimension, envy is totally under the auspices of the appetites, for The poor man does not envy the rich man for the opportunities for noble behavior which wealth facilitates, but rather for the degradations which wealth makes possible.

Ah yes, Modern man comforts himself by thinking that “everything has a solution.” As if there were no sinister solutions! (DC).

Our country has been hijacked by sinister ministers whose ministrations make the country sick.

Er, I'm starting to wonder if envy is a good exit strategy from this place.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Left Wing Grave Robbers and Other Snakes on a Plane

A plane of hell, that is. For this region of Hell is teeming with a loathsome swarm of snakes, / So strange and horrible to look upon / That even now it makes my blood run cold. Dante makes the timely point that even Libya cannot boast of such a cruel and depressing storm of malignant pests.

Here The naked souls are running horror-struck with their hands bound behind them by serpents that thrust their heads and tails out through their loins.

There is also an element of hypnosis going on, which reminds me of a note at the end of last Monday's post, from the Oxford Dictionary: Fascinate 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 serpents "transfix" their victims, at which time the latter instantaneously burst into flames and are reduced to ashes. But as in the Terminator movies, the ashes are reunited of themselves / And instantly resume his spirit's form.

The first thought that comes to mind is, of course, the seductive serpent of paradise, who first draws Eve into its spell before Eve hypnotizes Adam with her charms.

For just as grace operates through various intermediaries in a hierarchical, top down fashion (↓), so too does this inverted version -- which is not (↑) per se, but perhaps (↑) devoid of (↓), which renders it promethean and therefore ripe for a fall.

Indeed the fall is inevitable in such a case -- which, I think, is the deeper meaning of today's aphorism: Why deceive ourselves? Science has not answered a single important question.

The point is that science can only answer important questions if it isn't divorced from reality in the fuller sense. In isolation -- in particular, from the vertical -- it is axiomatic that science cannot answer important questions, for only the mature soul (who ipso facto eludes any scientific explanation) knows what is important. This is called judgment.

Back to the canto. The souls here who are tormented by the serpents are thieves -- not just any thieves, but those who steal sacred objects and vestments from the Church sacristy.

Such a theft is full of implications. One immediately thinks of how the secular west is parasitic on the Christian civilization that gave birth to it, but without so much as acknowledging the debt. This is not just a discourtesy but a grave sin.

Think of how contemporary liberals ransack the Constitution in order to remove and distort what they need in order to confer a fraudulent legitimacy upon their policy preferences. Any sensible American intuitively understands that this involves the theft of something sacred -- not the least of which being the blood that was shed in order to make that Constitution possible and to endure.

For even prior to the Constitution are the courageous human beings who recognized and were willing to risk their lives and fortunes in defense of the Good. To steal this priceless treasure from one's countrymen is morally indistinct from grave robbing. Then the left has the hutzpah to call it a "living" document!

Again, it all goes back to the false promise of the serpent: Ye shall be as gods. As Upton explains, "The primal theft was Eve's theft of the forbidden fruit. Tempted by the serpent, she took something from the Divine realm and enclosed it within the human one."

Note the similarity to what I said above about (↑) devoid of (↓): "Man can descend but not ascend on his own power, because his very existence is a gift from God; he can squander but he cannot earn" (Upton).

I would amend that slightly to say that we can earn, but only through a grace that is already operative in the form of a desire for ascent -- for purification and illumination. In other words, the desire to know God is already God. Obey your thirst!

Upton adds another important point, that "Theft, more than any other sin, is involved with concealment, since both the act and the stolen goods must be hidden." This is obvious in the case of stolen objects, but becomes much more complex when one is stealing, say, our Constitution or civilizational heritage. How does one cover up such a massive crime?

Through endless and systematic lying at the highest levels. People must be taught in such a way that the conclusions of the left become at least plausible. One such way is to teach people that their desires are rights, that their defects are society's fault, that the state is good at "solving" the human condition, that the accumulated wisdom of the past is obsolete, that what is newest is the best, and that someone else's wealth redounds to your poverty.

Something stolen cannot really be assimilated into the self. For example, one can pass a test by cheating, but that doesn't mean one has mastered the material. The initial lie will have to be followed by an even bigger lie, because one will have to pretend one has assimilated the information. One becomes a counterfeit version of oneself, a phony, which is a kind of primordial betrayal and lie.

The worst lies begin by pulling the wool over one's own eyes, or auto-flimflammery, for then one may transmit lies with an undisturbed conscience.

Souls struggling with the primordial Lie that gave them birth

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Get the Lead Out of Your Ascent: All That New Age Glitterati Isn't Gold

We are still amongst the hypocrites who labor under heavy cloaks that are gold without and lead within. Appearances notwithstanding, those new age spiritual glitterati aren't gold beneath the surface.

Which brings to mind one of Don Colacho's Aphorisms: Nothing is more irritating than the certainty with which a man who has had success in one thing gives his opinion on everything.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking of another DC, who, just because he has had success in marketing himself to morons and in pleasing the state-controlled media, believes himself fit to opine on matters of ultimate significance. (Chopra reminds us that that beacon of banality, Time magazine, literally worships him as "one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.")

Chopra accomplishes the difficult task of being simultaneously not even wrong about both science and religion -- which is a little like being given two choices in a coin toss, but losing anyway:

The "theory of evolution has proved victorious over the Book of Genesis and its story of God creating the universe in seven days. Since then, God has been found wanting when measured against facts and data. With no data to support the existence of God, there is also no reason for religion and science to close the gap between them."

As wrong as Chopra is, only a floridly psychotic person has no part of the truth, for in the absence of truth we couldn't survive. Even animals understand the laws of physics in their own way. It is very hard to be completely wrong about subjects as vast as "science" and "spirit" -- which is why charlatans proliferate in both. The hard part is to appreciate their unity without facilely distorting either.

Upton notes that the gold-plated hypocrites "have a certain ability to manifest the Spirit," but that "the whole import of the Spirit is for them materialistic; they only value the Spirit in materialistic terms."

Thus, for Chopra to suggest that "The real goal of a new science will be to expand our reality so that spiritual truths are acceptable," is precisely backward. The goal of science is science. To pretend otherwise is to elevate it to an idol. But Nothing is rarer than someone who affirms, or denies, but does not exaggerate in order to flatter or to injure (Don Colacho).

The hypocrites have a glamorous surface appearance which may appear "light," but this is only because they are actually weightless. I think all readers with rudimentary spiritual attunement will agree with me that a single aphorism of the unglamorous Don Colacho has more spiritual "heft" than the complete works of Tony Robbins, or Wayne Dyer, or any other new age guru.

Thus, "in the afterlife" the hypocrites "are weighted down by the very glittering surface that once seemed so light" (Upton). Unlike here, bullshit doesn't float in hell. Rather, like the Sheen on Charlie, it plunges to the bottom, where it belongs.

It is not surprising that the WindyHindi continues to be one of the most intransigent supporters of perhaps our most outwardly glittering president ever (at least Kennedy had some real lead in his pencil).

Nor is it surprising to us that Obama has turned out to be simultaneously leaden and yet so light in the loafers. But in the teeth of reality, Chopra maintains just the opposite, and that Americans are just too stupid to grasp it:

"Bad faith, it would seem, isn't something Americans care about as long as image works. Obama is a good-faith President who is being punished for speaking maturely and soberly about our complex problems, trying to cobble together a master plan for the future that, frankly, the majority of Americans cannot grasp."

Ho! I think he meant that "Americans cannot afford." And that he has a plan for the state to be our master.

Upton notes that the hypocrite has certain advantages over the virtuous, since he is not constrained by truth: "The con artist will commonly look more sincere than the honest man," since "he can put all his psychic energy into appearing sincere." Conversely, the honest man "will often manifest an entirely appropriate reticence -- which the hypocrite will then attempt to portray as shiftiness or dishonesty."

Inappropriate confidence is a plague of our time -- partly a reflection of the new cultural ideal of "self esteem." No one is permitted to know that they are a genuine imbecile when the imbeciles are running the show.

Upton makes the subtle point that both hypocrisy and its seeming opposite -- cynicism -- are diverse expressions of the same underlying pride. Thus, as much as, say, Bill Maher may attack Christian hypocrisy, he is psychically attracted to it in order to manage his own spiritual affairs.

For "Cynics believe that sincerity consists in exhibiting shortcomings and that to hide them is to be a hypocrite; they do not master themselves, and still less do they seek to transcend themselves" (Upton). Through this sleight of hand they are able to convert shameful failings into virtues like "authenticity." Thus, it is also an act "of theft by which the passional and egotistic soul appropriates what belongs to the spiritual soul" (ibid.).

Which reminds me of another timelessly timely aphorism of Don Colacho: The bourgeoisie is any group of individuals dissatisfied with what they have and satisfied with what they are.

In his spiritual narcissism, Chopra insists that God and truth are not to be found "in the church" but in his "personal experience." If so, then Upton has it all wrong in maintaining that he who has no Guide has Satan for a guide.

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.

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