Friday, August 03, 2012

You Can't Handle the Truth. Or Freedom.

In the past we have discussed the "messiah" as understood by W.R. Bion. He used the word as a term of art to denote a general principle that operates across diverse domains, from psychology, to politics, to science, to art, and, of course, to religion.

The messiah is the one who upsets the established order based upon a new insight into, or contact with, the truth of being. As a result, the true messiah always clashes with the establishment, and things usually don't end well for him. Real messiahs have authority but little power. They attract but do not compel.

Conversely, it is as if the prince of this world holds open the door to the corridors of p. for the false messiah. For this knave, the skids are always greased and the action is always affirmative.

For example, the character of R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is an archetypal messiah who injects new life into the tyrannical, suffocating, and soul-crushing environment overseen by the controlling Nurse Rached.

Indeed, even McMurphy's initials -- RPM -- convey the idea of revolution, while "Rached" evokes the rachet, a tool with sharp teeth that permit movement in only one direction.

Thus, McMurphy and Rached exemplify the perennial duality of Slack <---> Conspiracy, or of O <---> Ø. For which reason it has always been in my top five religious films.

Looked at in this world-psychohistorical manner, all can agree that Jesus was a quintessential messiah; even if one doesn't regard him as the Messiah, he is nevertheless the most messianic figure in all of human history, for no one has upset the establishment more than he -- including, ironically, establishments that have attempted to contain and domesticate him.

(On the other side, we would probably nominate Marx for the honor of most destructive messiah, or MVP -- Most Virulent Pneumapath.)

In a very real way, Jesus -- or, let us say the Christ, or Word -- cannot be "organized," even though he must be; this requires a delicate balance, so veering too far in one direction or the other results in Error.

For this reason, it is valid to speak of the eternal complementarity of the Church of Peter and Church of John, even though they are, and must be, the same Church.

Dostoyevsky famously depicted the conflict between messiah and establishment in his parable of the Grand Inquisitor, who arrests Jesus and lets him know that his services are no longer needed. Frankly, he has become a nuisance and just gets in the way:

"[T]he Inquisitor thinks that Jesus has misjudged human nature. He does not believe that the vast majority of humanity can handle the freedom which Jesus has given them." Rather, the grazing multitude must be guided by a vanguard of elevated souls advanced enough "to take on the burden of freedom."

Sound familiar? As I said, it pervades politics. You can't handle the freedom. Let Obama, or Justice Roberts, or Rahm Emanuel, or Mayor Bloomberg, or Harry Reid, or the Chick-Fil-A douche handle it for you. And even without such ratchet-wielding assouls, we also have several protective layers of political correctness to twist people in the necessary direction.

The Inquisitor advances his argument "by explaining why Christ was wrong to reject each temptation by Satan. Christ should have turned stones into bread, as men will always follow those who will feed their bellies."

In the vertical, breaking news from 30AD is still breaking in 2012. Only the names have been changed.

Anyway, Voegelin discusses the messiah principle in his own way, writing that "Every prophet, every philosopher, every enlightened person like a Buddha, a Confucius, a Lao-tse with his doctrine of the Tao, the way, comes as an element of disorder in his society, because he has received an insight into the true order, which is different from the established order.

"Thus, every new insight into order is the beginning of a revolution of more or less considerable dimensions."

As you can see, for the establishment, salutary order will always appear as dangerous and threatening disorder. This is why, for example, the left sees the properly ordered people of the Tea Party as disordered, and the disordered (to put it mildly) children of OWS to be rightly ordered. But only one of these movements can be messianic in nature, because only one of them is organized around a genuine insight into the true order.

We don't see too many political ads here in California, since the state is so deeply disordered that it is considered to be in the bag for Obama. But last night I saw an Obama ad while watching the Olympics. In it he properly notes that we all have a big decision to make in the forthcoming months, one that transcends both candidate and party. Rather, this is a choice between "two very different plans for our country."

Correct, as far as it goes. What he really means is that we have a choice between two different orders, or between order and disorder. In turn, this choice is rooted in the very nature of things.

Our founders had a deep insight into this order, and weaved it into the foundational law of the land.

In other words, it is the purpose of the Constitution to preserve the messianic insight of those who simultaneously declared our independence from tyrants, and our dependence upon the Source without whom our rights are as alienable as the state wants them to be. This is a gift for which we can never hope to repay them, unless it is by preserving it -- in all its explosiveness -- for unborn generations, as they did for us.

But if the founders were to somehow turn up at his door, Obama would undoubtedly school them on the error of their ways -- after all, he is, unlike them, a Constitutional Scholar -- and let them know that the vast majority of Americans cannot handle the freedom they bequeathed to them, and that these feckless incompetents require a vanguard of elevated souls who are wise enough to take on the terrible burden of freedom.

Don't worry. It's covered under Obamacare:

The Nurse will see you now:


River Cocytus said...

*mournful trumpet plays*

Funny how the left accuses everyone else of going to Chic-fil-a when they should be going to a soup kitchen (we hope to volunteer, but when they're done, it will be to get in line) when they themselves are trying to shoehorn a few massive and likely extremely expensive cultural mandates into the society in the middle of a very bad recession.

It's all about framing the conversation so the right thoughts are not just rejected, but are unthinkable at all, ensuring they are never considered.

River Cocytus said...

Our 'better' got himself canned. I wonder if he'll complain about freedom of speech?

mushroom said...

... including, ironically, establishments that have attempted to contain and domesticate him.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

An elegant post in total.

Regarding the Constitution, most of us on the right do view this document as being something like Scripture. This is because, though we may never have articulated it, we sense the messianic nature of the American Revolution -- which is really just the evolution of English political philosophy.

Despite the divergence, there remained significant similarities in our political DNA. It was a mistake to think that the completely unviable mutation in the French Revolution was based on ours. It wasn't, and it has spawned all manner of similar dead-end mutations since.

For that matter, the English seemed to have taken an evolutionary dead-end as well. And we have had way too much cross-breeding with European mutants.

Gagdad Bob said...

Americans, because of the way we're built, have always regarded the Constitution as "political scripture," so so speak. Jaffa's New Birth of Freedom does the best job of articulating this view.

ge said...

'Cuckoo's Nest'-- a couple thoughts...Neal Cassady mentioned that before they even knew each other, Kesey happened to capture his personality in his portrayal of RPM, better than Kerouac had in On The Road!
And waxing more personal, that 'Cuckoo' novel was a fixture around our house in the early '60s and my older brother ended up going to Stanford like Kesey and was in their Creative Writing program, ditto. Tragically-wackily enough, he ended up not writing books but going to law school and there flipped out rather than graduate. He went on a severe downward schizo-spiral and ended up after electro-shock 'therapy': dying-- maybe on acid, either jumping, falling, or being pushed from the roof of a mental health facility in Maryland, having been a bit of a folk hero there like McMurphy, all too much like the novel...I dreamed of him just last night.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Those pics really drive the point home.

julie said...

GE, that must have been devastating for you and your family. Even though it must have have happened a long time ago, I am sorry for your loss.

"Christ should have turned stones into bread, as men will always follow those who will feed their bellies."

Ironically, Christ as Word does just that - in the course of the nature of things, as the growing wheat takes in water and nutrients from the earth around it. In a way, the true process of stone becoming bread is an example of that delicate balance between organization and non-organization...

EbonyRaptor said...

What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There's nothing new under the sun.

The temptations of Jesus are the temptations for all of us.

Rick said...

I know a "messia" when I read him.
(That was for you, Bob)
I know, I know, there is only one Good...
Anyway, I do miss when we all ate at the same table.
Those were the days.
Bob, all your disciples have gone off to foreign lands.
It may take a century or two before you hear what kind of fruits we have become.

Peyton said...

Interesting that "stones to bread" should be mentioned. Last week's Gospel reading, from John, was the feeding of the 5000. Tomorrow (tonight?) we hear the crowd asking for a sign, and saying that "Moses gave us bread." And next week we'll hear "intolerable words."

What mortals these (i.e., we) fools be.

JP said...

" He went on a severe downward schizo-spiral and ended up after electro-shock 'therapy': dying-- maybe on acid, either jumping, falling, or being pushed from the roof of a mental health facility in Maryland, having been a bit of a folk hero there like McMurphy, all too much like the novel."

Just as an aside, electro-shock therapy is still used in modern medicine by psychiatrists.

In fact, I know of one case last year where it was extremely helpful in a case of severe depression.

It has side effects, but if your choice is between cogwheel rigidity and a GAF of 60, well....

Now back to our regular commentary.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, it has been known to sometimes work for intractable depression. To my knowledge, no one knows why.

Rick said...

Jolt for Prez 2012

Rick said...

Someone in my old home had it done. He was better after. Takes a long while to recover though. Memory I mean.

Rick said...

Not me.

Anyway, I know I really wanted to sleep when I was depressed. In the worst way. So, maybe it's positive effects are similar to what happens when we sleep.

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know. I think it just overturns the table and starts the game over. Eventually the same pattern congeals in subjective phase space, so the contents must be scattered again.

Gagdad Bob said...

Although sleep too is a kind of surrender to dissolution....

Rick said...

He's had it done at least twice. Years between them.

Rick said...

I was definately in surrender-mode.

Gagdad Bob said...

The problem with depressive sleep is that one doesn't dissolve, no matter how much sleep. Rather, it has the quality of concrete, so that no matter how much sleep, one is still tired. One doesn't disperse but compresses.

Rick said...

I know I couldn't get enough. And what I did wasn't doin it.
Sorta like booze for some. Maybe.

River Cocytus said...

Yeah, When I was a teen I had that goin' too. Sleep like a lead brick, wake like a lead brick... don't really dream. Maybe that's it. The whole sleep cycle doesn't go right, so you never really get rested.

Part of what helped me break out of it was meditation - just relax and make sure you don't think about nothing (lying down) - even when I was depressed it was refreshing... just fifteen minutes of it. Maybe it was giving me what I wasn't getting sleeping.

Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

This is a completely off-topic comment, but the only way I know to communicate a thought to you.

(First let me thank you though for the recent series of posts on Voegelin.)

Moved by your earlier series of posts, I have been reading through the "Meditations on the Tarot," a few pages at a time, usually while I have my morning cafe calva. (The Tarot has been a long-term interest; the UF's thoughts are an exceedingly interesting approach to the symbols.)

This morning however, in reading the chapter on the XIVth Arcanum, I came across a troubling statement. On Page 380 of the Tarcher (Penguin) paperback edition (1985), the 4th complete paragraph appears to me to perpetuate the Gnostic heresy of the demiurge, utilizing what Scripture uses as one of the Names of God to designate an angel. I find this surprising and disturbing. I can't find in your series this morning, anyplace where you might have addressed this usage. In November 2011, you discussed this chapter, making reference to Rav Adin Steinsaltz's book for further illumination about angels. Any thoughts?

ge said...

this blog
has state-of-the-old-art MONO audiophiliac downloads of classic rock-pop records

Gagdad Bob said...


I'm just now reviewing the page you reference. Maybe it's because the coffee hasn't yet worked its magic, but there's a lot going in there.

My general approach to MOTT -- as in everything -- is to "take what I need and leave the rest." I have to admit that there are passages where I just tune out, others which speak to me in an intimiate way. I then use the latter to vault me into my own musings. For me, the book is more of an experience, and I try to take advantage of the experiences that are provoked. It's like a tool or probe that pokes into one's own spiritual spaces. Once that happens, you drop the probe and check out the space.

So, back to your question.

Oh, also -- there is some stuff in MOTT that I simply consider to be above my pray grade. Might be true, might not be, but it is beyond my power to conform it one way or the other. So I mostly let that stuff go too. I think Tomberg retained an element of his Steinerian occultism, which often involves truth filtered through individual idiosyncrasy, almost like a dream. Is a dream false? Not for the person who dreams it. I find my own dreams fascinating. But other peoples' dreams are usually a little boring.

Oh, one more thing I often do. I always look for the more general principle rather than getting lost in the details. In reading that paragraph, my first thought is, "is he describing some real reality, but merely using an inadequate or misleading description of the experience?"

In other words, there is the experience of the so-called "guardian Elohim," and the actual reality of what is going on. It's sort of like a movie, or a work of fiction, in which you have to surrender to the world being presented to you, and then sort it out later.

That's what I want my writing to do, by the way. I don't want anyone to be a slavish disciple -- God forbid -- but rather, for them to have fruitful or provocative experiences in O.

Yes, yes, the question.

I guess I have no idea. However, I see that a couple of sentences on that page stood out for me, since there is an asterisk by the highlight. One of them is about the human being that "becomes a representative of the future of humanity" and "lives in the present what mankind someday is due to experience in future centuries." That's an example of an idea I've playgiarized with on many occasions.

The other one has to do with the stigmata that can be turned outward or inward. That is a very useful idea.

I guess I didn't really need the rest.

Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

Your practice, "take what I need and leave the rest," makes sense, and I guess that's what I do, as well, particularly with interesting books like this that were written by authors whose world-view I don't share. It's just that this was the first "objectionable" manifestation I've come across in MOTT. Perhaps it would be worthwhile searching for the original French-language version.

(Let me add that although I agree with "take what I need and leave the rest," and do it frequently, I remind myself that I need to understand the author, and not substitute my version of the author for the author.)

Magnus Itland said...

I immediately recognized what you were talking about even before looking it up, as this also caused me pause.

In the Torah it is described how Moses encountered YHVH on separate occasions, up to and including speaking with him face to face. Others also witnessed manifestations of the Divine, to the point where the whole camp heard the voice of God.

We have later come to the understanding that it was not the primordial God who manifested completely inside creation on this occasion in a perceptible form, but a fully authorized representative known as the Angel of the Lord.

I don't really see the passage as implying that the Tetragrammaton is not a name that refers to the primordial God, but rather that one particular entity able to manifest in the created world was the channel by which the Name was made known to the people of Israel.

I hope this helps you as well.
In other words, I see this as one of the cases of gradual revelation. The people at the time may have honestly believed that the supreme God had left Heaven to come down to talk to Moses and the elders, but I would hope Jews today do not hold this view.

It would of course be very disturbing if one were to believe that this intermediate being had actually composed the Torah rather than just delivered it, but there is no indication of this.

River Cocytus said...

In Orthodox understanding, The Angel of the Lord is the Son, the Word before incarnation. If you look for it you can find some icon frescoes showing Christ as the one creating the cosmos - given that he is God him being the demiurgos - the arranger - doesn't contradict or fall into Gnosticism. He is the agent of creation himself and was the one who Moses spoke to face to face and whose back he saw. (Note the similarity between Christ preparing to pass by the apostles in the boat during the storm to Moses' experience.)

This is just another way to point out that as the image of God, when God is seen we must assume it is a manifestation of the Word unless revealed otherwise. Given his equality of divinity with the Father (who is the One God) it is then true that these are visions of God since he is God.

Maybe you could quote the paragraph and I can see what Tomberg says?

ge said...

here's the entire text online:

Gandalin said...

Hi Magnus Itland,

Thank you for a thoughtful comment. Our understanding is that this world (this universe) was created by God, and that it was this same "primordial God" who spoke with Moses face-to-face, among other things. (We are told for example that the deaths of the first-born of Egypt were effected by God Himself, and not through the intervention of a Messenger or Angel.)

Believing Jews today do believe, Magnus, that the Creator God Himself conversed face-to-face with Moses, not in dreams or visions as with all of the other Prophets, and that He Himself also appeared directly and immanently, not transcendentally, to all of the people gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai, including the Mixed Multitude, though they could not bear the contact for more than a brief moment.

Some of the Gnostics put forth the proposition that this world was not created by God, but by a demiurge, who entrapped our Divine souls in a material world that is decidedly not a Divine creation nor part of a Divine plan. They identified the demiurge with the God of Scripture. Thus did they enable a nihilism and rejection of the moral code prescribed in Scripture, and a libertinage based on the pursuit of individual passions and whims.

Since River Cocytus requested, I will provide the text of the paragraph, but of course it suffers from losing its nearly 700 pages of context:

"SImilarly, Jahve-Elohim was the 'bearer' or 'representative' of God - of his word and his power - in the accomplishment of the mission with which he was charged by the Holy Trinity, namely that of preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. In so far as he was an 'authorised agent' representing God, Jahve-Elohim brought the providential design of the Incarnation to realisation; in so far as he was an Elohim or Power, he acted as guardian entity of Moses, Elijah, and David."

That is certainly very unorthodox, if not downright heretical. One of the differences between Christianity and Islam, is that Christianity maintains a continuity with the Jewish tradition and Jewish Scriptures, and expresses in a different form the radically transformative morality and ethics with which the Prophets challenged the ancient world, while Islam rejects the authenticity of both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, substituting it's own very different cosmogony and ethics, while pretending that the Jews and Christians were proto-Muslims.

In this paragraph, at least, the Unknown Friend appears to provide a theoretical theological "out" for just such a nihilistic, Gnostic abandonment of the mode of life preached by Jesus in the Gospels.

Undoubtedly this reflects his spiritual development in the occult movements of the XXth century, perhaps particularly in Anthroposophy.

Magnus Itland said...

thank you for your clarification. I can certainly see now how the passage in MOTT will look heretical to you.

There is no escaping that Unknown Friend was primarily Catholic at the time he wrote this book, and as such believes in concepts such as the Trinity, which are alien to Judaism. The concept of the Law being delivered by angels is from the New Testament (St Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 explicitly states this position) so it is one of the points where the two religions actually diverge.

I am impressed actually that you have managed to get that far without getting the Jesus willies from the book. It is rather an achievement both on your behalf and that of the author. ^_^

ge said...

Yup, looks like VT is riffing on/explicating ol' Rudie S.~
from googling 'Jahve-Elohim':

Magnus Itland said...

There is knowledge we don't need to have, and when people make an issue of such things, it can only benefit the ego.

Angelology and demonology generally fall in this category, in my experience. Likewise the various predictions about the End of Days.

Steiner was a very curious man, and no matter whether his understanding in this matter is right or wrong, I think we are all better for taking it with copious amounts of salt.

Magnus Itland said...

As for to what degree this is above our pray grade, the particular chapter on angels is in fact quite relevant at least to me. When I became a conscious Christian, I would direct my prayers to God. But unlike some, I made a practice of waiting after prayer to hear whether God also had something to say to me. He never had, at least out loud, but I could perceive a Presence. Anyway, this Presence became over time the centerpiece of my life. Even though I usually take it for granted, I can think of nothing I more fear to lose, including my life or my sanity.

This Presence does not speak to me, but I can perceive its evaluation of separate trains of thought in my mind. Over time, some of the thoughts have moved closer to its approval, to the point where I have wondered whether the Presence is actually authoring them, rather than just condoning them. But I still don't know what it is. It responds to my prayers to God, so for years I assumed it was God. But it may well be my angel. I believe the Raccoon term is "GnoMe" or some similar spelling.

Socrates describes a very similar representative of Heaven accompanying him throughout his life, to the point where he was convinced death itself was harmless as long as the Voice did not warn him against it.

So it is rather relevant, in a sense. But for the foreseeable future, I don't think I need to upgrade whatever or whoever this Presence is. It remains far ahead of me - I would compare it to chasing rainbows, except the rainbows are outpacing me. The one who needs to be upgraded is me.

Gandalin said...

Hi Magnus,

Thanks for your comments, and thanks to ge for finding those interesting chapters from Rudolph Steiner.

Believe me, I have no problem with UF's catholicism or with the concept of the Trinity.

The only thing that struck me as odd, was the notion that the name which he transcribes, following Steiner as our host surmised, as Jahve-Elohim, represents an angel or messenger rather than the Creator himself. The book we know in English as Genesis gives us that name in the second account of the creation, and identifies it with God Himself. And it is so used later on in Scripture. (The first account of the creation uses the name Elohim. There are exoteric and esoteric reasons for the use of these names, the two accounts describe the creation from different points of view.)

I feel I ought to apologize to our host for hijacking this discussion thread in order to pose this question about MOTT, a book which his posts convinced me to study.

Gagdad Bob said...

No apology necessary! It's a pleasure to have such a high-level discussion. Helps convince me I'm sane.

And Magnus -- I love the way you described the Presence. In a certain way, it is all there is. We're just the last to know.

Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

You are very gracious. (And so are your regular commenters. A daily reader, I try to follow the conversations, when time allows.)

River Cocytus said...


About guardian angels, what is said in the hymns is that each person is assigned an angel. What it does not say is what sort of angel a guardian angel must be.

This all hinges on the ambiguity surrounding angels, particularly the terms 'angel' and 'archangel'. An 'archangel' is still 'angel', and additionally, as I understand it, all of the seven ranks above still qualify as 'archangels'. So in some readings, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel and Michael are regarded as being Seraphim.

Then consider the book of Tobit, in which our hero has the archangel (Seraph even if you follow those others) Raphael as a guardian angel.

This is also another reason why Dionysius is not 'pseudo' in Orthodox tradition - the angelic hierarchy is regarded as objective at least to the hynmographers and poets - there is both mediation and immediacy. (Note the root of immediate does not imply 'instant' but 'unmediated', or 'not through a medium, direct')

There's also the issue of the nous, the conscience and so forth... when the Spirit speaks, he often speaks through another, perhaps an angel or a prophet. For it to be one's own guardian angel delivering the messages doesn't seem odd at all, but very efficient and sensible.

Then again, in some circles any sign of mediation between God and man is treated as an admission of Roman Catholicism - though any Catholic who actually paid attention would have known that even in that time of the machine of indulgences and merits you still had direct access to God through the Son. It's just that Scholasticism had made knowing God seem out of the reach of the ordinary man. It's not that he couldn't, he simply may have not thought himself worthy.

Denying the mediation on the other hand is dangerous, as it causes a strange phenomenon of not merely ascribing every non-personal, super-physical voice or act to God or Satan, but even slides into identification - i.e. God really spoke to me (draws an invisible guy in a beard next to him whispering in his ear.)

Much trouble arises from the reduction of multiplicity.

Gandalin said...

Nothing specifically Catholic about angels, really. In the Jewish tradition, every blade of grass in the world has its own guardian angel encouraging and protecting it. We are surrounded by tens of thousands of angels (and tens of thousands of demons) all the time.

ge said...

'surrounded by tens of thousands...'
---must be a bitch keeping your wings out of the way of all those fluttering about!