Friday, April 20, 2012

Photosynthesis, Pneumosynthesis, Logosynthesis

It is impossible to respond to a simpleton who imagines that because one is religious one is somehow "anti-science," because the person who makes such a statement is living in an ontologically closed world, and therefore cannot escape his own little self-imposed prison. The assertion itself is profoundly anti-science, if by science we mean something based upon logic and evidence, but this is another of those ironies lost on the vertical amnesiac.

I'd like to complete our journey From Big Bang to Big Mystery before getting back to Voegelin. Bearing in mind what was said in the first paragraph, Purcell references a remark by Wittgenstein, who, in a lucid moment, observed that "even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, our problems of life remain completely untouched.... One keeps forgetting to go right down to the foundations. One doesn't put the question marks down deep enough."

Right? Right. Either one gets this, or one doesn't, so there's nothing to argue about. It couldn't be more clear, so if you don't understand it, you are cosmically retarded and beyond help. You are ø, and you have no one to blame but your(•).

Now, why this statement should be controversial is beyond me, and it seems to me that the only objection to it would be on the grounds of a blind hatred of religion, for religious metaphysics picks up where science leaves off, and certainly not just in terms of the old "God of the gaps" canard.

Rather, religion primarily deals with being, whereas science can only cope with existence. Obviously, existence is a "special case" of being, and science, in order to operate at all, must take being for granted.

Conversely, metaphysics begins with principles of being; it is higher up the cosmic food chain, so that nothing that occurs in science can violate it, say, the law of non-contradiction, or of sufficient reason, or of not walking the first batter of an inning.

The other day we spoke of spiritual and intellectual wet and dry rot. Both of them occur as a result of a conflation of being and existence. Scientism, for example, which is the quintessential form of dry rot, confuses what it can affirm about reality with all that can be affirmed about reality, which is why it is so anti-intellectual to the core.

For one of the first things the scientistic worshiper must jettison is the intellect per se, which of necessity (for him) reduces to something less than itself, on pain of a self-refuting contradiction. And in the absence of the intellect (nous), no higher realities can be perceived at all, so the result is a closed circle of ideological fantasy.

Conversely, wet rot occurs when existence is confused with being, so that things that pertain to the vertical are mindlessly transposed to the horizontal. In this regard, Voegelin points out that we have indeed seen a beneficial differentiation within the Ground over the centuries.

In other words, man first awakens to a kind of compacted realm of being, and our journey through history allows us to unpack and map its dimensions and coordinates, both horizontally and vertically. Things were pretty jumbled at the start of history, for the same reason that things are pretty jumbled for an infant.

One doesn't have to travel too far back in time to see a conflation of science and religion to the detriment of both. For every kooky religious idea there was an equally kooky scientific idea, say, the theory of blood-letting that for so many centuries made a visit from the doctor a deadly gamble.

Probably the most detailed map ever made of the totality of reality was by Thomas Aquinas. Naturally, parts of it are now obsolete because of the state of 13th century science, which has evolved so dramatically since then.

But nothing that has occurred in science has posed any fundamental challenge to Thomas's metaphysics, given some tinkering at the edges. To the contrary, something like the Big Bang would be a necessary consequence of his metaphysics (although he also allowed for the possibility that the cosmos has no horizontal boundary, so long as one bears in mind the priority of atemporal, vertical creation).

One might say that science can only take a view from "inside" the cosmos, whereas metaphysics is able to take the wider view from the perspective of being as such. Now granted, few people are metaphysicians, hence the beauty of revelation, which conveys the essential truths -- the one thing needful -- to those who are open to them. These truths resonate on a level much deeper than the conscious ego, which is why they evoke (and deserve) our faith.

You might say that being pertains to the Center, science to the periphery. Now, everywhere we look, we see signs of the Center poking through the periphery, and one might even say that it is our duty to be aware of this phenomenon as much as possible, for it is the essence of maintaining an open and wide stance to the queerness of reality.

Again, for Voegelin, all forms of pneumopathology involve spiritual and intellectual closure. To put it the other way around, our task is to maintain noetic and pneumatic openness to the world and to experience (for there is no unexperienced world; or, it won't "ex-ist" until someone experiences it).

I remember back in grade school, learning about biology. I don't know if it is still true today, but back then photosynthesis was a big mystery. And this is no mere peripheral concern, because photosynthesis is the very engine of life.

"Photo," of course, is light. Does anyone really understand how light is converted to the energy and information that powers the whole biosphere? I mean, I fully realize that there are scientific explanations, but do they bring the question marks all the way down to the foundation? Because I personally find it peculiar beyond words that sunlight can be transformed into plants, animals, symphonies, poetry, stupidity, everything.

At any rate, if we transpose this mystery to the level of man, we see something analogous, which I call pneumosynthesis and logosynthesis, or the transformation of spirit and reason, respectively. However, we could also just call it photosynthesis, since both of these organic mechanisms, just like their biological cousin, involve transformations of Light -- spiritual Light and intellectual Light.

One problem -- and this is addressed by Voegelin, just as it is by Schuon -- is that we no longer have proper words for these higher human functions, since they have been confused with lower ones. As Voegelin put it, we can no longer use words such as "intellect," or "spirit," or "reason" in the manner of a Plato or Thomas.

For which reason I developed those abstract symbols for them, so we wouldn't imagine we know what we are talking about just because we have words for them.

Note that this linguistic pathology is the result of a devolution, which, instead of taking us from compaction to differentiation, takes us in the opposite direction, back to compaction. Someone like our troll William lives in a compacted and de-differentiated world, which again accounts for the breezy confidence he has in his own stupidity.

Obviously, in order to describe reality we need words, but if these words become corrupted, then the ability to perceive reality is compromised.

For example, on a mundane level, if you confuse "liberal" with "leftist," you will lose the ability to perceive political reality. Likewise, if you fail to understand the distinction between male and female (in the spiritual sense), sexual reality is lost to you (or you will only exist on a quasi-animal sexual level).

The question is, is this attack on language intentional or just a result of stupidity? Hard to tell, but I suggest we judge them by their fruits. I do sense a kind of deep malevolence behind the attacks from elites, but the rank-and-foul leftist often has a good spirit that has just been manipulated by elites and hijacked by bad ideas. Such people are educable and correctable, and grateful for the heads-up.

I suppose that would be the key: the non-malevolent person can be helped, because deep down he remains open to reality in all its fulness, and hate hasn't supplanted love (for one who doesn't love truth will never know it).

Many are the times I've given a spontaneous spiel to one of these individuals, which has prompted a flood of vertical recollection which then sends them on a path back to themselves and back to reality. I've got the letters and emails to prove it.

To be continued....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

From Ideological Prison to the Wide Open Frontier of Consciousness

I never did finish the discussion of Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery before veering into Hitler and the Germans, but the two are actually intimately related, in that Purcell's whole approach is deeply indebted to Voegelin, who is without question one of the most wide-ranging thinkers who ever lived.

One reason Voegelin is qualified to describe and analyze the spiritual and intellectual pathologies that made Hitler possible, is because he spent his life trying to understand the logospheric and pneumatic conditions that make humanness possible. Again: unless we know what health is, we won't be in a position to recognize, diagnose, and treat pathology.

Also, Voegelin himself embodied the very quest he describes, without in any way compromising his scholarship. Analogously, it takes a mystic to write about mysticism, which is precisely what is wrong with most academic works on mysticism, or even on religion in general.

As described in the Coonica, it is the difference between mere (k) and (n), or ego-based knowledge and nous-centered intellect-vision. Clearly, when it comes to religion, anything other than interior, experiential knowledge is an abstraction. This is not to say that certain things cannot be a matter of faith, but faith itself is tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered realities, or it is not worthy of the name.

And a deep and secure faith is already a kind of confirmation that resonates through the being and yields a harvest of its own. In other words, it is creative -- one might say organic -- never static.

This is also the difference between good and bad dogma, or just dogma properly understood. Dogma is a tool, not just a static system to be superimposed on the intellect. It is a probe with which we poke around in the suprasensible dark, in the way a blind man uses a cane to innervisualize the space within which he moves.

Now, is dogma -- and religion -- misused and misunderstood? Please. Grow up. This is like asking if humans are humans, which they tend to be. Everything touched by humans can be and is misused and abused -- science, art, religion, democracy, sex, grog, music, education, baseball (the DH), my comment section. There is no end of things that are goods in themselves until humans get their hands on them.

Why is this? That would require a very lengthy explanation (which I've already done), hence the virtue of dogma, i.e., man's fallen condition, which is a kind of compact and shorthand wisdom that gets one straight to the bottom lyin'. Most people don't have the time or the mental capacity to think this through on their own, which is unnecessary anyway if they just take it on faith that yeah, man is pretty f'ed up, okay? So don't imagine otherwise, or you are headed for a very rude awhackening upside the head.

Consider America's founders, who were so imbued with the idea of man's dubious character that they hardly needed to make it explicit. Rather, the question was what to do about it, i.e., how to create a government that could overcome, or at least compensate for, the fact that it would be run by men, of all people. One often hears complaints about how difficult it is to "get things done in Washington," or lamentations of "why can't they just get along?"

Uh doy. The whole system was designed to prevent an authoritarian clusterfuck such as Obamacare from ever seeing the light of day. That it was only rammed through in the teeth of bipartisan opposition via bribery, bullying, kickbacks, and legislative trickery, tells you all you need to know. Even leaving aside its plain unconstitutionality, it violates the very spirit -- and wisdom -- upon which the nation was founded.

To jump ahead a bit, Voegelin defines the essence of health as a condition of intellectual and spiritual openness. Just as there are intellectual illiterates, there are spiritual illiterates.

And when Voegelin uses the term "illiterate," he doesn't mean it in the sense of merely being unable to read. Rather, especially in a mass-educated society such as ours, the ability to read has little to do with actually being literate, as our troll ably proves every day with the breezy self-assurance of the dense. For Voegelin, it is not just the failure to assimilate good literature, but the inability to even recognize it.

For our troll, some cut-and-paste nonsense pulled up from the fringes of the internet is as deep and learned as, say, Voegelin, or Plato, or Eckhart, or Thomas, or Schuon, or the Upanishads, or Tomberg, or Balthasar, or the whole host of magnificent thinkers who have graced mankind by illuminating and mapping the transcendent order.

I was about to say that without them we'd be in a deep hole, but that wouldn't be quite correct, because in a two-dimensional world there are neither holes nor peaks, just... desires and fears, or pleasure and pain.

Which is certainly one way to order one's life, but it doesn't in any way correspond to the wider order of the cosmos, and the whole point of life, if we could express it in a single sentence, is to conform oneself to the order of reality. For what is the alternative? To order oneself to illusion? That works too, at least for a time, but reality has a way of breaking through the little manmade orders we impose upon it. And killing lots of people in the process.

Ironically, to think in so simplistic a manner -- i.e., God isn't real because science supposedly says so (itself a gross misunderstanding of, and insult to, science) -- is so deeply anti-human as to beggar belief, because in one cretinous wave of the grubby hand it eliminates all that is best and brightest in man's 50,000 year quest to understand his ground and destiny.

This was Voegelin's main beef with academia, and it is identical to our own mockery of the tenured. In his book Amanesis, he discusses this from up close, since he spent 50-odd years in that environment, and was in a position to know. He writes of how postmodern ideologues -- whether beholden to Marxism, positivism, scientism, evolutionism, Freudianism, whatever -- all share the same characteristic of being closed systems which lose the ability to perceive reality over -- or under -- their own projections.

In other words, once one assimilates an ideology, percept follows concept, to such an extent that this second reality places a kind of blanket over first reality, which is never seen again. It is still there, of course, and continues to be unconsciously recognized. Thus, the ideologue senses this real reality -- in the same way that the person of faith senses real reality, except that the ideologue works feverishly to deny the perception.

This is why there can be no leftism in the absence of political correctness or some similar coercive structure to enforce their version of reality, since maintaining the second reality requires a kind of systematic advance-warning system to prevent people from traveling down certain chains of observation or reasoning. If that happens, the whole swindle collapses.

Voegelin asks -- and this was back in 1977 -- "Why do they [the tenured] expressly prohibit anybody to ask questions concerning the sectors of reality they have excluded from their personal horizon? Why do they want to imprison themselves in their restricted horizon and to dogmatize their prison reality as the universal truth? And why do they want to lock up all mankind in the prison of their making?"

That was for you, Barry: Why? What makes you qualified to do this, aside from a cosmic narcissism that is simultaneously outlandishly grandiose and childishly petty? A mind as small as Obama's can only appear capacious to someone living in an intellectual hovel.

I repeat: this is not the open spirit in which this nation was founded, which was fundamentally a spirit of liberty, or one might say "spiritual freedom."

Now what is this "spiritual freedom?" Well, for any flatlander, such as our troll, it is a nonsense term. There's nothing we can do for him. But from the Raccoon perspective, it is all about vertical freedom, although vertical freedom is impossible, or at least quite difficult, in an atmosphere deprived of horizontal freedom. The damage that socialism, statism, and communism do to economic reality is one thing, but the more tragic and enduring damage is to the soul, which can again lose contact with the spiritual environment because of the systematic denial imposed by the regime.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are none other than the irreducible prerequisites of a spiritually and intellectually open stance toward the cosmos. The first two are obvious, since you won't get very far in your quest without your life and the freedom to live it in the manner you see fit.

But nor will you get very far without pursuing happiness, by which the founders certainly didn't mean pleasure, or convenience, or power. Rather, they meant it in the classic Greek sense of actualizing one's powers -- one's gifts -- in the direction of virtue. That is life. That is liberty. That is happiness. That is firing on all cylinders in hyperspace.

In the course of his journey among the primitive tribes of the tenured, Voegelin discovered a kind of restrictive horizon "similar to the consciousness that I could observe in the political mass movements" of the 20th century. Of course, one can only recognize the restriction if one is coming from a wider and more open horizon, which Voegelin surely was.

In the United States, he noticed the now obvious problem of people such as our troll, who are educated well beyond their intelligence, i.e., "the populist expansion of the universities, accompanied by the inevitable inrush of functional illiterates into academic positions in the 1950s and 1960s." Far from Santorum's characterization of Obama's "elitism" for believing everyone should go to college, it is quite the opposite, for when everyone goes to college, everyone will be as functionally illiterate and anti-intellectual as Obama, and everyone will be a Democrat.

Regarding this openness to the subjective cosmic horizon, Voegelin writes that navigating it "is a ceaseless action of expanding, ordering, articulating, and correcting itself.... It is a permanent effort at responsive openness to the appeal of reality, at bewaring premature satisfaction, and above all at avoiding the self-destructive phantasy of believing" that reality "can be mastered by bringing it into the form of a system."

To say that reality is much richer than the ideological fantasies of the tenured is simultaneously obvious and yet necessary, since we are all victims of these fantasies in one way or another. Our human duty is to rebel against any system that attempts to imprison us in some manmode idiotolatry. This means to be in solidarity with man as such, and to acquaint oneself with the best man has to offer in his encounter with open existence over the centuries.

For history is the chronicle of consciousness exploring and differentiating itself in continuous dialectic with the Ground, with O, the source of order. Alternatively, one can just say, "duh, science say only matter real," and be done with it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intellectual Dry Rot and Spiritual Wet Rot

Again, the theme of Hitler and the Germans is the idea that something had gone dreadfully wrong with German culture -- both intellectually and spiritually -- to allow a cretin like Hitler to rise to power. In the absence of this more widespread problem, Hitler's faults would have remained personal rather than public and eventually world historical.

World-historical. Think about it. How on earth do the problems of a single man become everyone's problem? This is not the same as asking how a single person can become a problem, which any assoul can do. As they say, any idiot can make history, but it takes real genius to write it. Rather, we need to get beneath Hitler's "problem," to the deeper problem of a people blinded to the fact that, hey, this guy has a problem.

And when we say "German culture," there were, of course, exceptions -- people who saw through Hitler from the moment they laid eyes on him. Everyone would like to believe they were one of those clear-sighted volks, and in 1945 there were many more of them than there were in 1933, for the same reason that every Frenchman was a retrospective member of the tiny French resistance, or so many Americans now claim to have been "fooled" by Obama.

People don't want to believe they were party to a lethal failure of judgment, but even in 1946 "a majority of Germans held the opinion that National Socialism was a good idea but badly implemented," and it was equally widely believed into the 1950s "that without the war, Hitler would have been one of the greatest statesmen in German history."

Among other things, Voegelin wanted to debunk the self-serving idea that Germans were simply seduced by a charismatic demagogue, because not everyone responded to Hitler's so-called charisma, and many people were repelled by him. Voegelin, for example, escaped Germany in 1938.

To cite some examples closer to home, we are routinely told by the MSM that a Bill Clinton is "charismatic," or that Jimmy Carter is a conspicuously "good and decent man," or that Barack Obama is unusually bright. All of these are not just lies, but gross distortions for anyone with spiritual and intellectual discernment. Each of them makes a normal person slightly ill, in different ways.

I say this because no normal person appreciates being crudely manipulated in the manner of a Clinton, or scolded in the manner of a hateful, petty, and sanctimonious Carter, or talked down to by a half-educated affirmative action hire with a few fixed ideas he picked up in college.

Voegelin traces the rot in Germany to a distinct spiritual decline which he attempts to describe both empirically and theoretically. To back up a bit, recall what I was saying a couple posts back about psychopathology (mental illness). In order to define mental pathology, we must begin with an implicit or explicit notion of psychic health. What exactly is a healthy psyche? What was it designed to do?

I know my answer: to know truth, to love beauty, to will the good, and to create in such a way that the eternal pierces the temporal.

Right away you see the problem for any consistent materialist, since for them the psyche can have no purpose. Rather, it is just a meaningless side effect of the struggle to pass one's genes along to the next generation. From a purely biological standpoint, anything that gets the job done is "healthy," which is to say, adaptive: deception, rape, misogyny, polygamy. In fact, this is precisely why rape has survived, because it is indeed one effective way for losers to propagate their genetic material.

Hitler was just such a consistent materialist, but unlike most materialists, he actually drew out the ultimate implications of materialism, so give him credit for that. He was no hypocrite or waffler, that's for sure. He did not pretend to be elevated above his nature, because nature is all there is. Again: the utter rejection of transcendence.

Voegelin quotes one writer who observed that "no one before Hitler had actually made the consequences deduced from Darwin the basis of state policy, and no one before Hitler so consistently and ruthlessly carried those biological premises to their ultimate conclusions and put them into practice."

For as Darwin wrote, nature is "immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts," the difference being that Darwin was too constrained by Christian civilization to take this idea seriously and start killing his biological inferiors.

To say that Hitler was influenced by Darwin is, of course, to give the former way too much credit, since, like our troll, he was an anti-intellectual who never read a serious book in his life.

And besides, Darwin himself borrowed the phrase "survival of the fittest" from Herbert Spencer, the father of "social Darwinism." Thus, ironically, survival of the fittest is actually "biological Spencerism," which shows us how ideology -- i.e., second reality -- contaminates first reality, and is then taken as a simple "fact" of nature. But the most rigid and unambiguous facts are often, as is this one, just projections.

His ignorance of Darwin notwithstanding, Hitler was nevertheless a true metaphysical Darwinian and evolutionist, proclaiming that "the entire universe" is "ruled by just this one idea, that an eternal selection takes place in which the stronger in the end maintains the right to live, and the weaker falls. One will say that nature is therefore cruel and merciless, but the other will grasp that nature is thus only obeying an iron law of logic." Selfish genes, and all that.

And note how natural selection is now indeed being applied to the cosmos, in order to get around the problem of the big bang, which implies a creative intelligence. If we are just the beneficiary of natural selection applied to multiple universes, the problem is solved. (Not really, of course, but it is kicked a little further down the ontological road.)

When the intellectual barbarian collapses the world to a single level, the distinction between Is and Ought is obliterated, for the Ought is quintessentially and irreducibly transcendent. And once you've accomplished that, then anything goes, for nothing is impermissible.

This raises an interesting point about the nature of spiritual rot. It occurs to me that there are two main types, what we might call "dry rot," and its seeming opposite, "wet rot." But the two actually go together, and in many ways define one another.

For example, the rationalist or scientistic atheist, who suffers from spiritual and intellectual dry rot, is always doing battle with people who are characterized by a kind of religious wet rot. In yesterday's thread, for example, you will see someone suffering from dry rot using this blog as a vehicle to lash out at some neighbors who have religious wet rot. We, of course, do not advocate either form of rot.

Modern liberalism is a loose affiliation of people who have either wet or dry rot, both intellectually and spiritually, or noetically and pneumatically. Deepak Chopra, for example, is a quintessential case of wet rot, but the entire liberal media also falls into that category. Most of liberal academia suffers from wet rot -- we are speaking of the humanities, of course. Conversely, a scientistic academic such as Richard Dawkins might as well be the poster child for dry rot.

Man is situated in a hierarchically organized universe of meaning. That being the case, of course science is one vehicle for disclosing universal meaning on a particular level. But to suggest that science is in any way capable of disclosing the meaning of higher levels is the essence of postmodern barbarism: it is dry rot.

Conversely, a creationist yahoo who insists that the world is 6,000 years old is a case of wet rot. But both wet and dry rot come down to severe anti-intellectualism, since neither understands the book they pretend to criticize or embrace.

Now, just as there is psychopathology -- obviously -- there is, and must be, what we shall call "logopathology," i.e., the failure of intellect in the original sense of the term (nous), and "pneumopathology," which is the failure of spirit. For Voegelin, the essence of cultural pathology -- of the kind of pathology that made a Hitler possible -- is in these two areas.

In short -- and this is the key -- there is Reason (i.e., logos) and Spirit (pneuma), and our task is to maintain an open system in both realms. Conversely, to be intellectually or spiritually closed -- or closed off from logos and pneuma -- is a bad, bad, thing, as we will further discuss tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Radical Stupidity and the Second World of the Left

One of the keys to understanding the left is Voegelin's concept of "second reality" or "orientation toward the unreal." It is one obvious reason why leftism always fails and always must fail, because one can banish reality with a pitchfork, but it always comes roaring back.

But what is the deeper principle by virtue of which this process of unrealization takes place? And why is it that, alone among the animals, man has this capacity to inhabit his own abstractions and relax in the comfort and safety of his own delusions?

It isn't only leftists who do this, of course. Rather, it is the essence of any ideology -- of ideology as such -- to create an inverted world of which the real world then becomes mere shadow. This is quintessentially true of Marxism, but one can say the same of Islamism, scientism, positivism, evolutionism, and most forms of radical atheism (i.e., anti-theism as opposed to indifference).

There are also people called "right wingers" (not classical liberal conservatives) who live in second realities, e.g., the Ron Paul cult (not the casual voter, but the hardcore messianics), certain fundamentalist groups, and some of those Lincoln-hating southern agrarians.

The first and last step of unrealization involves reducing the world to a single level and pretending that the other levels don't exist. Again, think of a neo-Marxist such as Obama, for whom the world is always seen through the simplifying lenses of racial grievance, class envy, or an omnipotent and tyrannical "social justice" that justifies the exercise of raw power.

When the world becomes wholly immanent, it loses all sense, precisely. This is the metaphysical irony of the left -- that it robs the world of its intrinsic meaning in order to impose a faux substitute. They pretend to have reduced reality to a single world, oblivious to the fact that this ideological switch has taken place, and that they are living in a world of phony transcendence. Hence their counterfeit spiritual virtues such as sanctimony over sanctity, state appropriation over charity, scientism over wisdom, and idiot compassion over spiritual discernment.

The plain fact of the matter is that we live -- on pain of not living at all -- in certain irreducible mysteries, which include existence, life, man, and history. To pretend that these mysteries don't exist, or that any ideology satisfactorily "explains" them, is to inhabit an unreal world. Any unambiguous explaining-away of the Mystery leads to tragic falls, for the answer is the disease that kills curiosity. What is really real is O; we are all just special cases.

All spiritually normal men know that "the end of all human action does not lie within this world but beyond it," and that the fulfillment of time is beyond time. There is simply no way to get around this formulation and remain "man." "Man, while existing in time, experiences himself as participating in the timeless." Again: ideologues only pretend to violate this principle, for no one is more beholden to a transcendent fantasy than the ideologue.

Speaking of what took place in pre-Hitler Germany, Voegelin writes of a specific type of spiritual decline resulting in "radical stupidity," which is the "radical refusal to actualize one's participation in the transcendent." (I remember reading somewhere of another definition of fascism, the violent rejection of transcendence; since the Jews are responsible for bringing this awful transcendence into the world, it makes perverse sense that they would be the prime targets of primitive immamental cases. The more things change....)

To turn it around, as we were saying last week, our most quintessentially human capacity involves "the quest for the truth of the right order of existence and for living justly in accord with that truth." In short, we bow before reality, not try to dominate it with some simplified scheme, for reality is always more complex -- and real! -- than any such scheme.

Note that when the world is collapsed to a single level, the possibility of (real) transcendent truth is denied in favor of its faux substitute, whether leftism, scientism, evolutionism, etc. Perhaps without even knowing it, the ideologue replaces truth with will, which is for Voegelin the "fundamental stupidity," for the de-divinization of man "leads all too quickly to a dehumanization."

I hope this isn't overly abstract. To the contrary, the "big story" of the 20th century was this de-divinization and therefore dehumanization of man, so that as you read these sentences you should be having images of millions of bodies stacked like cordwood in common graves. In fact, ideologies have consequences, usually grave upon grave.

Please note that (proper) Christianity cannot be an ideology, because it isn't an idea at all. Rather, it is a person, and a person is a rational being intersubjectively linked to others via transcendent love. A person is trimorphic logophilia incarnate; realizing this is the cure for ideology, and for pneumopathology more generally.

The ideologue replaces this ontological fact with a Lie, such as that man is merely another animal, or that religion is an opiate, or that class determines consciousness. This Lie, because it is tied up with Will, becomes a real power, and assenting to it becomes a way to partake of worldly power. To become an "elite" generally means to assimilate the Lie and reap its rewards, such as they are.

Thus, the Lie "is a social power which heavily burdens each of us and threatens each with lasting spiritual deformation." Resistance to it "demands a corresponding measure of spiritual passion, intellectual discipline, and hard study," but this is only a "first step" in extricating ourselves, for "it must be followed by the passionate work of daily resistance against the lie of existence -- the work is lifelong."

In a letter to Thomas Mann, Voegelin wrote that "Resistance to a not merely ethically bad but religiously evil satanic* substance can be performed only by a similarly powerful, religiously good force. One cannot combat a satanic force with ethics and humanity alone."

And Satan said to him: All these things I will give to you if you will fall down and worship me.

*Voegelin has a specific definition of satanic in mind, which has to do with the creature essentially claiming ownership of transcendental goods that can only come from the Creator (think of Adam "becoming as God"). Again, it is the radical stupidity of collapsing the world hierarchy and reducing truth to power.

(All of the quoted material is taken from Voegelin's Hitler and the Germans)

Monday, April 16, 2012

No One is Abnormal if there's No Such Thing As Normality

This is Bob coming to you live on tape, since I'm writing this Sunday morning in anticipation of having to leave early for work on Monday. I wanted to throw in that disclaimer just in case anything about the post seems unusual, or has that "not so fresh" feeling. Although one day old, I can assure you that it was picked straight from the vine and then flash frozen, so only the most discriminating or finicky readers will be able to smell the difference.

This whole business of coming to you "live" has been much on my mind lately, being that so many of us are soul-dead before our time. How does this happen? How is it that people can come into the world so vibrantly alive, only to be captured and domesticated by the conspiracy? Most people are lucky to make it to eighteen still half-alive, but then college finishes them off.

Frankly, this is something I've thought about ever since I was capable of thought. I won't bore you with details, and besides, only boomers of a particular age will relate. But if you are of that age, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that when the Beatles descended upon us in February 1964, it was quite literally a religious experience.

And when I say "religious," I mean it in the original sense of the word, of binding one to the Ground. The upshot is that they communicated freedom, spontaneity, joy, irreverence, and humor, in a way I had never seen adults do. I mean, my parents were decent people, but they never seemed to really be enjoying themselves, my mother especially. But even beyond them, contact with the wider world of teachers, of Sunday School, of most classmates, of extended family, and of grown-ups in general seemed to confirm my prejudice.

These thoughts are being provoked by my reading of Voegelin's Hitler and the Germans, which considers the phenomenon from some angles I hadn't considered, but which strike me as "universal," in the sense that they pertain to a spiritual sickness in modern man as such, not just to the Germans who made Hitler possible.

And when we say "modern man," we have a specific definition in mind. That is to say, for the vast majority of human history, cultures were organized around a spiritual ground -- what Schuon calls "the idea of Center and the idea of Origin." Voegelin tends to be much more wordy and elliptical, so it is useful to refer to someone like Schuon, who is so compact and essential:

"In the spatial world where we live, every value is related in some way to a sacred Center, which is the place where Heaven has touched the earth; in every human world there is a place where God has manifested himself in order to pour forth His grace. And it is the same of the Origin, which is the quasi-timeless moment when Heaven was near and terrestrial things were still half-celestial." Thus, "To conform to tradition is to remain faithful to the Origin, and for this very same reason it is also to place oneself at the Center..." (Light on the Ancient Worlds).

Now, one needn't be a believer to acknowledge the truth of Schuon's observation: that this is how civilizations arise, orient themselves to the wider cosmos, establish meaning, and provide an excuse to go on being. And we all recognize that something unprecedented has occurred in world history over the past 300 years, resulting in man being ousted from the center and cut off from his origin.

"Atheist" is just another name for someone fully exterior to the Center and Origin. While he retains an attenuated interior, it floats meaninglessly over the surface of nature, untethered to anything but a dying carcass. In the groundless and dis-oriented mind of the atheist, this is only proper and fitting, since there are no such things as Ground and Center, or their common source in Being. We'll come back to him later.

In any event, we can all agree that ideas have consequences, including the dominant metaphysic of the day, which pretends to do without the Origin and Center. This is no abstract discussion, for it very much defines the essential difference between left and right.

For example, conservatives regard the Constitution as embodying the origin and center of our political life; as such, it has a timeless and quasi-sacred penumbra, especially since it is by no means free-standing, but is in turn rooted in the cosmic Origin and Center, AKA God: its very purpose is to preserve and protect the human rights that flow directly from our deiformity to the Center, i.e., those rights endowed to us by the Creator.

Alternatively, the left, in rejecting the Origin and Center, reduces the document to a man-made, time-bound, relativistic, and conventional contract between state and man; that being the case, we can read into or out of it anything we wish.

You could say that there are these two schools of thought on constitutional law, but it would be more accurate to say that there is one school of thought and one playground overrun with bullies. We'll know in a month or two whether there are four of five such judicial bullies.

Voegelin promulgates what was then a unique take on the Hitler phenomenon, in that he turns the question around and asks what it was about the German people that made such a stupid, vicious, and spiritually bereft assoul possible?

I do not intend to invoke Godwin's law this early in the morning, because this is not my point. But unless we can get away from the uniqueness of Hitler, we won't be able to learn anything from what happened, because it will be too particular, and the essence of wisdom involves the discovery of universals.

This is why I say that Obama is not our problem. You will note that the "birthers" seem obsessed with the idea that if we can only rid ourselves of Obama, then our problems will be solved. This is silly, for it leaves untouched the spiritual rot of a people who could elect such a half-educated and nasty but (so they say) charismatic demagogue.

From the beginning of my graduate studies, I had a particular interest in psychopathology, or one might say the "philosophy of psychopathology," or perhaps "meta-psychopathology." I've discussed this in the past, but before one can identify psychopathology, one must begin by defining health.

And health is completely tied in with teleology -- with final causes -- in that it essentially means that an organ is doing what it was designed to do. For example, the heart is designed to pump blood. Anything that interferes with that function -- atherosclerosis, hypertension, arrhythmias, etc. -- is pathological.

Therefore, before we address psychopathology, we must first understand -- either explicitly or implicitly -- what the mind is designed to do. The problem here is that modernity, in rejecting final causes, is powerless to define human health. Add to this the malignant sophistry of relativism, and mental health comes down to "feeling good," irrespective of whether one deserves to.

Let's take an obvious case just to illustrate the nature of the problem. Al Sharpton, from all outward appearances, seems to feel pretty good about himself. Therefore, as far as the mental health community is concerned, he gets a clean bill of health.

But why on earth should such a foul human being feel good about himself, much less be given a national platform to spew his toxins? By all rights he should detest himself as much as others -- i.e., spiritually normal people -- do. Again, one cannot address this issue in a meaningful way unless there is some purpose Sharpton has failed to fulfill as a person. And again, he is only the symptom of a much wider problem, i.e., the type of people who would hire him and seek his political imprimatur.

That is all for now. Just getting warmed up for what promises to be a deep discussion of some fundamental questions: the whole subject of pneumopathology, or spiritual illness.

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