Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cosmos: Now Open For Isness

This post concludes our guided tour of Dante's Inferno, which began way back on January 24, 33 cantos and 45 postas ago. I don't know whether I'll continue the journey upward into purgatory and paradise.

This wing of Hell is the maximum security Judas Memorial Detention Center, from which they say no one has ever escaped, for here one is deprived of both Life and Death -- although some prominent theologians believe otherwise, including Balthasar.

In underworlds, Balthasar believed it possible for even the worst deicidal maniac to pay his debt to the cosmos. Schuon too maintained that the idea of eternal damnation was contradictory, since only God can be eternal. To say that Hell is eternal is to imply that evil is coterminous with God.

Origen also maintained a belief in the restoration of all souls, i.e., apokatastasis: "For him, all souls, including the devil himself, will eventually achieve salvation, even if it takes innumerable ages to do so."

This is based on a deeper principle -- or at least divine hunch -- that God would not put himself through the hassle of creating this maninfestation of assouls "capable of dissolving into the oblivion of evil (non-being) for all eternity." Consequently, Origen "reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation, for certain souls require more education or ‘healing’ than others."

True dat. Hence, the school of purgatory. In any event, it's a long time, and if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime.

Judas is the archtraitor, the archetype of traitors against benefactors (Upton). Such individuals not only do evil, but return "evil for good. They actually punished others for doing good to them -- and this kills life completely."

In life, such individuals are on the extreme paranoid end of the developmental spectrum. When dealing with a paranoid person, you cannot just be "nice" and expect it to change them or put them at ease, for niceness only makes them more suspicious.

You might say that they preemptively kill any love before it can enter. The paranoid mind is so consumed by the process of projecting the bad outward, that it contaminates everything else. They are kept "pure" within, but at the cost of being surrounded by persecutory objects.

And because they cannot emotionally "feed" on anything outside themselves, they starve to death inside. They end up eating only their own self-produced delusions (i.e., crap), in a tighter and tighter circle. It is a death spiral into Ø.

Once again Dante employs digestive similes, for Satan's munching of the traitors "is a parody of the sacrament of the Eucharist." The Eucharist in-corporates Jesus into the faithful, and vice versa. But Satan chews "endlessly without swallowing," which is reminiscent of the hungry ghosts of Buddhism, who have huge bellies and pinholes for mouths.

Imagine chewing endlessly without swallowing. Here again, there are patients who do this. Some are variants of the paranoid style, called obsessional (this is different from OCD, which is a more or less neurochemical problem; here we are referring to personality style). When you offer an interpretation, they will "chew on it" in a way that mimics thought, but is really for the purpose of rejecting. They are subtly "oppositional," and always find a way to spit out what you give them. Here again, they starve within.

Such individuals also cannot see the forest for the trees, because they are always chewing but never digesting. There is a helpful chapter devoted to this subject in Shapiro's Neurotic Styles. He calls such people "living machines," for they are marked by their rigidity and absence of pneumacognitive fluidity. Interestingly, they may appear "attentive," but theirs is actually an indiscriminate "active inattention," being that it systematically misses the big picture. In some degree or another, they lose contact with reality, since reality is not an empirical fact but a synthetic experience.

Now, the dead can be resurrected, but not the unDead. The purpose of most any spiritual practice is to "die before we die," so as to be reborn. But the people here cannot "give their lives," since they have no life to give. It has already been starved to death by their own self-enclosed psychic processes.

Upton writes that "the source of all sorrow is the lack of gratitude, and the most fundamental form of ingratitude is not to be thankful for the gift of one's own existence. Ingratitude is based on the delusion that we are self-created; and this is the deepest delusion of all" (emphasis mine).

This relates to what I said about the paranoid/obsessive style, in that the fundamental problem for such individuals is again the inability to in-corporate and assimilate reality. To assimilate means to become seamlessly one with what one has assimilated. In this way mere knowledge is transformed to being.

As I mentioned in the book, human beings are psychically open systems, both on the horizontal and vertical planes. Both horizontally and vertically we are intersubjective, which is why the purpose of religion -- at least Christianity -- is to have a living relationship with the Creator. This relationship takes place in the "space" between O and (¶). If that space is collapsed, then there is no possibility of gratitude -- or of spiritual growth, for that matter.

Upton contrasts the satanic principle -- which is entirely closed -- to Mary, the Theotokos who nurtures the "growing God" in her womb: "As opposed to the rebellious passivity of Satan, the Virgin is the active receptivity of Pure Being, which draws toward it the Grace of God."

In our bʘʘk of the same namelessness we symbolize this as (o), one aspect of which is the teloscapic (H)openness that brings with it the possibility of Love -- which must again be incorporated and assimilated in order to become truly efficacious.

In our end is our bigending. Upon touching bottom, our virtual adventurers turnaround and begin their journey back upstream along the ancient celestial trail. Night turns to morning, "And upon setting foot in what Dante calls the 'bright world,' they once more see the stars; their intellects can now, at least in potential, have access to the higher worlds."

(A circular round of applause for Jennifer Doane Upton for winging us back home sophly).

A luminous fissure appeared in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle, the unimaginable opening of a window on the world. --p. 58

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To My Detractors: Eat Me!

This culture war has been going on for much longer than people realize. Along these lines, the Divine Comedy actually contains much political "news of the day." However, it would have no relevance to us if it didn't concern themes that are both timeless and universal.

Hey, why don't we shut up and read a little history this morning, okay? Might even learn something.

In Dante's time, Italy was caught between two factions: "While the conflict was local and personal in origin, the parties had come to be associated with the two universal powers," one of which "sided with the Emperor and his rule of Italy," the other "with the Pope, who supported self-governing city-states."

So it sounds a little like big-government Federalists vs. Jeffersonian Republican-Democrats. And Ugolino was one of the Federalistas, except that he apparently conspired with the Papists to secure more power for himself.

Blah blah blah yada yada yada, "Dante placed Ugolino and Ruggieri in the second ring of the lowest circle of the Inferno, which is reserved for betrayers of kin, country, guests, and benefactors. Ugolino’s punishment involves his being entrapped in ice up to his neck in the same hole with his betrayer, Archbishop Ruggieri, who left him to starve to death. Ugolino is constantly gnawing at Ruggieri's skull."

So it sounds like Dante is placing a pox on both these louses. Why?

"Ugolino's gnawing of Ruggieri's head has been interpreted as meaning that Ugolino's hatred for his enemy is so strong that he is compelled to 'devour even what has no substance.' Ugolino, though punished for his betrayal of his people, is allowed some closure for the betrayal that he himself was forced to suffer under Ruggieri, when he is allowed to act as Ruggieri's torturer for eternity."

This makes sense, in that, as we have discussed many times, mundane politics often comes down to mutual projection, or the "organization of hatreds." But projection is always an intrapsychic phenomenon that takes place between two parts of the self. Therefore, Ruggieri is a projection of Ugolino, and vice versa.

One can see this taking place quite transparently when members of one political faction accuse the other of crimes and misdemeanors of which they themselves are guilty. You will have noticed that I never indulge in this kind of hypocrisy, for example, accusing only Democrat politicians of being corrupt. I never pretend to be shocked when a politician of either party is accused of corruption.

While there is indeed a political "culture of corruption," it is underwrotten by a bloated state that has so much money and power with which to corrupt people.

Look at our vice president, who has been quite vocal in his insistence that any president who deploys U.S. troops in the absence of an imminent threat to the country must be impeached. Now, either he believes this, or Biden was simply betraying his country -- a treasonous offense -- when he said it about President Bush. Because Joe Biden never uses words lightly.

One could cite countless other instances of liberals excusing in Obama what they denounced in Bush, but let us move along.

So anyway, it is entirely appropriate that in Hell, Ugolino is permanently reunited with his projected Ruggieri, except in a completely unintegrated -- one might say indigestible -- manner.

In other words, the healthy person integrates various parts of the self -- both horizontal and vertical -- rather than projecting, splitting, and denying them. Please note that we are always one, despite our best efforts to rid ourselves of the parts we don't like, or which clash with the ego's image of itself.

In Hell, Ugolino is reunited with himself, except that he is forever trying (unsuccessfully) to integrate what he projected in this life. In this regard Dante was quite astute in linking this to digestion, as projection arises in the earliest phase of psychosexual development, the oral stage.

Projection in and of itself is by no means pathological. To the contrary, it facilitates the vital link between infant and mother, and indeed, between all humans. We could not meaningfully communicate with one another in the absence of this type of mutual projection, which is deeper than words.

A clearer term for pathological projection might be forced projection, in which, instead of a free flow between subjects, there is a quasi-permanent object within the self that must be constantly projected in order to rid oneself of anxiety, or depression, or low self esteem, whatever. Then the person spends his life in search of suitable receptacles for his projections.

I thought of this the other day while daydreaming behind the wheel. It occurred to me that liberals never accuse conservatives of believing what we actually believe or doing what we actually do. Instead, they take a grossly distorted and exaggerated version of what we believe, and then attack us for it.

Now, if I were actually guilty of what they accuse us of -- e.g., racism, imperialism, misogyny, homophobia, fascism, theocracy, etc. -- I would be the first to attack myself.

There must be a name for this logical fallacy, but I am unaware of it. If it is engaged in consciously, then it is indeed a mere logical fallacy. But I suspect that the majority of liberals do this unconsciously.

In other words, they are simply projecting a primitive part of themselves into us, whether sexual, violent, sadistic, power mad, whatever. And this would explain why it is so difficult to have a rational conversation with a liberal, for when we talk about equality they project racism, or when we talk about marriage they project homophobia, etc.

Again, they seem to be unable to help themselves from accusing us of things we don't believe. They never deal with the actual issue. We can't even have a rational discussion of the fiscal crisis facing state governments, because liberals immediately project into us a violent assault on the "middle class," or some other such primitive fantasy.

I hope I never do this with the left. In other words, I don't accuse them of things they do not do or believe, only what they actually do and believe, which is more than enough for me.

Liberals want a bigger state. I want a smaller one. They want an elastic, "living Constitution." I don't. They want the government to discriminate on the basis of race. I don't. They want more money for teachers' unions. I want vouchers and freedom of choice in education. They want socialized medicine. I want market based reforms. They think the Constitution confers a right to abortion. I don't see it. Etc.

It is sad to think of our trolls eternally gnawing away at my brain in Hell, but that's just the way it is.

Mmm, Gagdad...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Pride Slide and the Shame Game

The last circle of Hell is reserved for the traitors, who are placed here "because betrayal is the central sin of the Christian tradition, represented by Judas, who betrayed Jesus" (Upton).

More generally, "the worst betrayal is to deny the truths of God and so set up a parody of them -- and this is also self-betrayal, which is why Judas must commit suicide" (ibid).

What motivates betrayal is pride, the cardinal sin. But underneath pride is shame. The pride of the pathological narcissist is really a preemptive defense against the experience of shame, and shame is a sort of attack on the self, projected into others.

Inappropriate pride results from dysregulated shame, i.e., shame that is either too overwhelming to endure, or which occurs in a self too fragile to endure it. Instead of tempering and tutoring pride, it traumatizes it.

Look at what happens in Genesis. Adam's promethean pride is immediately followed by his intolerable shame, which in turn provokes the first lie, so we can see how all of these things are linked.

Adam first pretends he is God, so that when the real God appears, he doesn't just revert back to himself -- a mere man -- but is revealed as the shameful "opposite" of God. It's a pretty big leap to instantaneously go from being a proud god to being ashamed of one's body!

As it so happens, I am coaching my son's Little League team, and Little League -- like everything else in our culture -- has become pathetically feminized since my own glory days as a sensationally adequate hurler. Obviously it is possible to go too far in the opposite direction, and to use sports as a vehicle to transmit shame to a child.

But we have overreacted to that danger by trying to arrange it so that the experience of shame is impossible. Importantly, this is not to protect the children -- who can handle the reality that some players are better than others -- but the parents who cannot tolerate their own vicarious shame.

Remember, shame itself is not a bad thing, only shame that is excessive (i.e., traumatic), on the one hand, or dysregulated, on the other. Shame serves the vital purpose of group harmony, as there is no one more dangerous than the hordes of Shameless with their absurdly inappropriate self esteem in tow. With no sense of shame, no behavior or political party is off limits.

Again, the ideal is to introduce shame in tolerable doses. Shame is even a sort of "divine instinct," in that a race of shameless humans could never be human. If you want to know why the culture of professional sports has deteriorated so much, it is because the players have become so shameless.

Schuon: "pride... is to overestimate oneself while underestimating others; it is the refusal to accept humiliation when the nature of things requires it; and it is ipso facto to take for a humiliation every attitude that simply reveals our limits."

And pride "destroys the virtues for two reasons: first of all because one takes them away from God, to whom they belong in reality, thus putting oneself -- like Lucifer -- in place of the Divine Source; and secondly because one attributes de facto a disproportionate value to a phenomenon which is necessarily relative" (ibid.). In other words, get over yourself.

Upton makes the important point that in this circle of Hell, "fame becomes shame."

But this is also true in the hereabove for anyone with three eyes to see. A normal person would be deeply creeped out for being known for anything other than moral, intellectual, or artistic excellence.

To be known for anything else is -- or should be -- humiliating. The only reason it isn't is again because of pride, which conceals the shame. For the properly right-side up person, the more famous he is, the more humble he should be. Ask yourself: is there anyone more humble than Christ? I didn't think so.

But in our culture, instead of teaching humility we teach self esteem, another cadword for pride. Why would one esteem the self, of all things? Do these people not even know what a human being is? Have they never cracked a history book? Are they ridiculous? Does it grow ungnosissed that Even if humility did not save us from hell, in any event it saves us from ridicule (Don Colacho)?

Yesterday Dennis Prager devoted an hour to the topic of how one produces children who are good. This is the central task of parenting in particular and culture in general.

However, one of the principles of the left (either implicit or explicit) is that man is basically good. That being the case, there is no reason to train a child to be good, since nature takes care of that. For the leftist, any child will turn out okay so long as he isn't exposed to dangerous conservative principles such as self-discipline, objective morality, and absolute truth.

This is hardly a gift to the child, but a callous deprivation, for it leaves him in a state of nature instead of helping him ascend to the properly human. One could hardly do more to invert our cosmic system of Christian jewishprudence.

Some righteous wimpslaps from the hand of Don Colacho:

--To educate man is to impede the “free expression of his personality.”
--The individual today rebels against immutable human nature so that he might refrain from amending his own correctable nature.
--The right to fail is an important right of man.
--Rejection troubles us and approval confuses us.

You're right, Virgil. Deep down, these celebrities are aren't such bigshots.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unspeakable Truth and the Lower Limits of Language

As we converge upon the center of Hell, language begins to break down altogether, as is to be expected, for it is located at the greatest ontological distance from the Word. At the bottom of the cosmos, God -- the Word -- just isn't that into you. Literally.

This is a precise but inverse analogy of what occurs as we approach the One, which also sheds language like so much water off a duck's back.

One might say that language is allegheirically swallowed up in Hell but drawn into Heaven; the former is the ego shouting (•) into the infinite void Ø, while the latter is the I-AMmaculate Voidgin (O) shouting with joyous labor pains out of ʘ. The former is abØrtion, the latter c♀♂nception.

Thus, in neither case can the object of language be "contained" -- similar to how physics breaks down at both ends of the cosmos, at the subatomic and metacosmic, the nonlOcal head and the lØcal TOE. In between it works just fine -- or is at least adequate to the needs of terrestrial survival.

As we should all know by now, this was the Big Idea behind the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections of the bʘʘk.

For clearly, no language suffices to describe the state of affairs prior to cosmic manifestation, just as no description is adequate to convey what transcends language in the highest realm. Therefore, I had to invent a hyperdimensional language in order to stay one step ahead of the dictionary and to trick Gödel, who is always right on my tail.

Or, to put it another way, Coherence and obviousness are mutually exclusive (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

So even a poet as singular as Dante acknowledges the difficulty of describing his experience, the challenge of finding words Appropriate to describe that dismal pit / On which the other circles converge.

Dante goes on to say that I would press out the juice of my conception / More fully still: but since I have them not, / 'Tis with some fear I bring myself to speak. / The utmost depth of all the universe / Is not a theme befitting childish tongues.

O ye, condemned to utmost misery, / Where words can scarce suffice to tell your woe, / Better had ye been sheep or goats than men!

As Upton explains, "These realities are inexpressible like those of the supraformal planes of Paradise, but for the opposite reason."

It's a bit like trying to objectively describe the quantum world, which cannot be done, because the photons needed to observe it alter it. The order we bring to it is inseparable from the observer who orders it.

Thus, in order to describe his experience, Dante "must gloss over the true chaos of the reality he is encountering, which is why he fears he has failed to do justice to his subject" (Upton).

Here again, this is why I attempted -- however unsuccessfully -- to simultaneously evoke what I was describing in those two single ends of the Absurcular Book; in so doing, my only guide could be what was evoked in me, so there is no guarantee that it is evocative for others.

The paradox of Hell is that if we become what we behold, we can only lie about it. Language "sinks to the level of the chaos and darkness it is attempting to describe, and thus becomes unintelligible" (Upton).

Someone once said that Hell is a place were reason is absolutely impotent. Since language is the -- or an -- embodiment of Reason, we must somehow abandon language to enter Hell. Or, we are in Hell when reason and language fail us in a persecutory manner. There are many instances when the failure of language is a blessing.

Interestingly, Dante asks the Muses "to help him tell the story of Hell in such a way that the evil of it may be safely contained within his great poem, not let loose upon the world" (Upton).

Here again, this would represent a kind of inverse analogy of scripture. As the latter evokes and allows us to assimilate Light, truth, beauty, love and virtue, we can imagine a kind of diabolical scripture which could unwittingly "enter" and contaminate us.

Before you dismiss this as metaphorical, aren't we all concerned with what goes into us, and the effect it has upon the soul? Religious people are aware of this in a more or less direct way, whereas the irreligious tend to experience it in a displaced and dysfunctional manner -- for example, in their preoccupation with the body and with absurd threats to our health. It is difficult if not impossible to explain to such a person that I send my son to a religious school in order to avoid the deadly soul pollution of secular culture.

And what is political correctness but a weird caricature of spiritual purity?

To be a fisher of postmodern men, one must be aware of the fissure in postmodern man -- a fissure that results from the systematic abuse of language. And logocide always redounds to soulicide.

Say, how would you describe this place? I'm having a little difficulty finding le mot juste.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Attack of the Giant Mind Parasites

At last we enter the ninth and last circle of Hell. But if I've learned nothing else in this guided tour of the underworld, it's that you can't just tell someone to "go to hell" without specifying which part. This final circle is comprised of four rings, the first one being "the world of Giants or Titans."

That seems odd. San Francisco I can understand, but why Tennessee?

Upton says that these entities are what in Vedanta are called asuras. In this loose translation of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Aurobindo writes that

"The Asuric nature has too its wealth, its plenitude of force, but it is of a very different, a powerful and evil kind. Asuric men have no true knowledge of the way of action or the way of abstention, the fulfilling or the holding in of the nature. Truth is not in them, nor clean doing, nor faithful observance. They see naturally in the world nothing but a huge play of the satisfaction of self; theirs is a world with Desire for its cause and seed and governing force and law....

"The Asuric man becomes the centre or instrument of a fierce, Titanic, violent action, a power of destruction in the world, a fount of injury and evil. Arrogant, full of self-esteem and the drunkenness of their pride, these misguided souls delude themselves, persist in false and obstinate aims and pursue the fixed impure resolution of their longings. They imagine that desire and enjoyment are all the aim of life and in their inordinate and insatiable pursuit of it they are the prey of a devouring, a measurelessly unceasing care and thought and endeavour and anxiety till the moment of their death."

Other than that, they're great to have around.

Upton says that the Giants are "the archetype of repressed passions," but I think I would express it differently, since "repression" is a somewhat outmoded psychoanalytic concept. It is too linear and mechanistic to describe what really goes on in the unconscious.

Again, since the mind is intersubjective and object-related, the content of "repression" is really a quasi-autonomous subject I call a mind parasite. Because it is parasitic -- i.e., it cannot live without attaching to an external source of energy and sustenance -- it is related to oneself, and because it is intersubjective, it is always attached to something external as well, either "real" or projected. In other words, the mind parasite always seeks some kind of relationship, however dysfunctional.

Upton is correct, however, in noting that the Giant (or mind parasite) represents "a falsity through which the quality of unique personhood is almost entirely destroyed."

Importantly, we are speaking here of extreme cases -- one might say cases in which the mind parasite has succeeded in displacing the central self. This can and does frequently happen, whereby the true self becomes a persecutory satellite in orbit around the mind parasite, rather than vice versa.

For example, a truly toxic narcissist has replaced his damaged true self with an inflated and imaginary false one. The true self is not so much "repressed" as split off, denied, and projected.

But unlike a mind parasite, the true self cannot be eliminated, since it is not only real, but the ground and locus of reality within the self. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the false self knows that it has no underlying reality, no ground of being. It is only as real as the ephemeral circumstances of the narcissist, whose life revolves around maintaining the illusion of superiority, entitlement, giftedness, etc.

In many ways, Christianity as such is an innoculation against such a malevolent psychic transmutation. A Christian knows full well what he is in the absence of God, which is to say, nothing (the bad kind). Don Colacho, in ascending severity:

--There are two kinds of men: those who believe in original sin and idiots.
--Nobody will ever induce me to absolve human nature, because I know myself.
--May he tremble who sees himself as innocent.
--Vulgarity consists in striving to be what we are not.
--In order to challenge God, man puffs up his emptiness.
--The Antichrist is, probably, man.

Now, paradoxically -- given what we just said above about the intersubjective nature of mind parasites -- "The Giants are impersonal falsity and oppression; Satan himself is both personal and impersonal."

What this means is that the ultimate mind parasite would not be a person per se, but in the shape of a person -- a giant facsimian or titan, so to spook. Boo!

Upton notes that they live in a realm that is less than night and less than day (XXXI: 10). What could this mean? Up here, what is "less than day" converges upon night (twilight), and what is less than night converges on the day. Psychologically these refer to the hypnogogic (the descent into sleep) and hypnopompic (the ascent out of sleep).

But the "less than night" is not the absence of Light, but what we might call "minus Light," a kind of counterfeit parody of illumination. It is a "chaotic murk," perhaps the state of the world prior to the Creator's first act of division and separation: The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. This darkness is very different from the night that only comes into being on the First Day, with the creation of Light.

In the case of the minus Light, "the cyclical form of night and day has broken down" (Upton). It is endless night, for the day never comes. As they say, it is always darkest right before it goes pitch black.

Night is also death, so the entities here are deprived of the mercy of death's transformation. Life and death share the rhythmicity of night and day, dissolution and rebirth, crucifixion and resurrection, so no growth is possible.

One of the Giants we encounter is none other than Nimrod, the architect of the Tower of Babel. In a comment on the previous post, I mentioned that Babel is the "minus Pentecost," in that "The former -- which is analogous to multiculturalism and deconstruction -- horizontalizes the One into numberless fragments of speech, while the latter projects the One into diverse tongues."

Upton is clearly on the same page, writing that "Nimrod, in his speech, is like a postmodern philosopher: one who, in an attempt to rise above all languages and escape the limits of meaning, has in fact sunk below them, into the incoherent." Furthermore, like a parasite, this perversion "saps the intelligence of whoever tries to understand it."

Conversely, "The Apostles' ability to speak in many tongues on Pentecost is thus the exact opposite of the confusion of tongues, and also its redemption." And "as the confusion of tongues divides, so Christ the Word unites" (ibid. you adieu).

It is One Cosmos Under God, and therefore, Word.

Giant fans in the right field bleachers, looking out over McCovey Cove.

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