Fortunately, a little Voegelin goes a very long way. Do they still make Bacardi 151? Sort of like that. I conducted a brief but memorable experiment with that particular beverage back when I was a college sophomore or less.
I just looked it up, and it says that the demon rum² is now conveniently "equipped with a flame arrester in the neck of the bottle to prevent large volumes of the flammable liquid from igniting... Nevertheless, incidents of severe injury have been alleged."
You don't say?
I didn't know -- for how is an 18 year old supposed to know this stuff? -- that it is intended to be used as a component in cocktails, not the main ingredient. I don't like to think about it -- my liver is subject to flashbacks -- but I probably had a dangerous level of blood alcohol as I sat there bobsmacked in my political science class. Maybe the only time I was ever "beyond drunk." Friends of the time may disagree.
absinthe. Something tells me ge would know.
The moral of the story? Don't drink anything that requires a flame arrester: rocket fuel, nuclear waste, 75.5% alcohol, etc.
Back to Voegelin's discussion of immortality, which we began two days ago. First of all, what is immortality? For it seems that no human group is unfamiliar with the concept. Indeed, one definition of humanness could be "awareness of mortality," and therefore immortality. But which comes first? I'm pretty sure they co-arise, but we'll look further into this breaking story as we proceed.
Whatever else it is, "immortality" is a word, a symbol, a signifier, a container (the latter of which we symbolize [♀]). Yes, but of what? In other words, what does it mean?
True, you could look it up in the dictionary, just as you could look up, say, "drunk on Bacardi 151," but that would hardly convey the actual experience. Trust me.
Again, the type of symbols we're talking about are intended "to convey a truth experienced." They "are not concepts referring to objects existing in time and space but carriers of a truth about nonexistent reality." As such, the symbols are meant to facilitate "a consciousness of participation in nonexistent reality."
Therefore, "when the experience engendering the symbols ceases to be a presence located in the man who has it, the reality from which the symbols derive their meaning has disappeared." The symbol remains, of course -- i-m-m-o-r-t-a-l-i-t-y -- but people only pretend to know what it refers to. In technical terms the container (♀) remains, but the user simply fills it with his own idiosyncratic content (♂).
If you understand this problem alone, you will have understood one of the most ubiquitous problems in all of philosophy, metaphysics, and theology. What is "liberty," for example? Same container, radically different content for a liberal conservative vs. an illiberal leftist.
Likewise, what can it mean when an atheist "disbelieves" in God (O)? It means precisely nothing unless we're talking about the same experience. It either means that O cannot be experienced, or that "that wasn't O you experienced, just... your brain, or something." But if he is intellectually honest, shouldn't the atheist say the same of himself? "This is not atheism I'm experiencing, merely my own nervous system."
More generally, when I read theology or scripture, I am not looking for "information." Rather, what I am after is "a meditative reconstitution of the engendering reality" that brought the symbols about. When they fail to provoke this -- when the symbols cease to be translucent to reality -- we are stranded in the stoned rubbish of teenage wasteland, when
you know only / A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, / And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, / And the dry stone no sound of water.
Yeah, I know, TS: tough shit. Nothing you can do about it.
Not true: "For a man does not cease to be man, even when he runs amok in worlds of his own making, and a madness of the spirit is never quite undisturbed by a knowledge of its madness, however skillfully suppressed."
In short, man = man, wherever and in whatever condition you find him. And "the madness we call modernity is accompanied throughout by thinkers who, correctly diagnosing its cause, set about to remedy the evil by various attempts at recapturing reality."
In other words, a constant theme of modernity is the experience of alienation. The alienation is real enough -- for example, just read a couple of Hallucinations From My Marxist Father(s) -- it's just that socialism is not the cure. Are citizens less alienated today than 50 years and 15 trillion dollars ago? Or even three years and 5 trillion dollars ago?
I don't think so. Rather, leftists seem as alienated and angry as ever. Which is to say, their alienation is always already cranked up to 11.
To be continued....