Friday, July 20, 2012

Some Place, No Place, One Place, Every Place

As mentioned a couple of days ago, this particular collection of essays by Voegelin might be the most dense with implications of any book I've ever read. It's a little overwhelming to even know where to start. I'm tempted to jump ahead to what I just read yesterday, but that might make the task more daunting, so I'd better just proceed from the beginning, page by page. One of the purposes of doing so is to try to wrap my mind around this unruly beast.

Okay, just one quote from yesterday's lectio divina. It's from a lecture called Wisdom and Magic at the Extreme; in it Voegelin speaks of a time -- this would be 1973, so it's only worse today -- "when all of us are threatened in our humanity, if not our physical existence, by the massive social force of activist dreamers who want to liberate us from our imperfections by locking us up in the perfect prison of their phantasy" (emphasis mine).

"Even in our so-called free societies not a day passes that we are not seriously molested, in encounters with persons, or the mass media, or a supposedly philosophical and scientific literature, by somebody's Utopian imagination."

See what I meme? It reminds me of jazz, in which one can improvise for twenty or thirty minutes over just a couple of choice chords.

Why did this happen, and why is it happening still? Why are we being harassed by utopians who are driven by a strange passion to (dis)order our lives before they have even ordered their own? And why is it being done to us by the most privileged, educated, and cultured members of society? How did things -- the things of the mind and spirit -- ever become so corrupted?

The first order of business is to cross the border of isness, into the space where engagement with reality can actually occur: "We have to break jail, and restore the philosopher's freedom of reason..." One is tempted to say that one must Tune In -- to reality -- Turn On -- to O -- and Drop Out -- of unreality, or Ø.

Eu-topia means, of course, no-place, or Ø, precisely. Since we can never have it, we always want it, which is perhaps the major source of the left's energy. In other words, the left takes advantage of the intrinsic tension that forever defines the human station, between the Way Things Are and the Way We Wish They Were. In order to make progress of any kind -- personal, societal, historical -- this tension must be respected, not annihilated.

For example, this is the tension that drives a market economy, and causes an inventor or entrepreneur to create something that didn't exist before. Thus, this is the same tension that Obama devalues because he deeply resents it: you didn't build that!

To which one wants to respond: You didn't say that. Somebody else built that teleprompter.

When you give something to someone, you eliminate this tension. But that's only on the material/economic plane, where it's bad enough (unless we're talking about the legitimate entitlement-state of childhood).

The consequences are even more devastating when applied to the psychological and spiritual planes (although the three are very much related, something recognized by the Founders, what with their emphasis on the sacred rights of property, without which it is difficult if not impossible to secure any other kind of right; in the hierarchy of being, rights come from up above but they are secured from down below, backed ultimately -- when push comes to shove or ideologue comes to steal -- by legitimate violence).

To paraphrase Voegelin, oppressors such as Obama have a theory of oppression which assures a monopoly of oppression to themselves. Thus, with a straight farce he can say that no one founded General Motors but that He saved it.

Again, Utopia is no-place. It doesn't exist because it cannot exist, at least not on the macro/collective level. Certain pockets of sanity and decency can come pretty darn near to it, until the barbarians find out about it.

For example, believe it or not, the university was once a pretty good place to obtain the beginnings of an education. Tenureman (T) is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the 20th century, for example, the greatest philosophers were mostly just curious and wonderfilled civilians, not credentialed idiots.

According to Voegelin, this permanent idiot class, or looniversity bin, really didn't become institutionalized until "the populist expansion of the universities, accompanied by the inevitable inrush of functional illiterates into academic positions in the 1950s and 1960s." The fringe is now the core, and vice versa, which is why discussion of reality is one of the few grounds for denial or revocation of tenure.

Of course, it is still permissible to be in contact with reality, but there is strict adherence to the policy of "don't ask, don't tell." Don't advertise this contact or you are toast.

How did Voegelin get away with it? That's a long story, but some of the details are instructive. One of the disturbing trends he noticed about the academic world was its "violently restrictive visions of existence that... surrounded me on all sides..." Therefore, "Something had to be done. I had to get out of that 'apodictic horizon' as fast as possible."


Yes, you know -- the bovine certainty of such soul-killing ideologies as Darwinism, scientism, positivism, Marxism, Keynesianism, atheism, behaviorism, feminism, etc. All that dreary monolithic diversity to which we have become accustomed.


That would be mysterious "subjective horizon" to which your cosmic bus driver often alludes, i.e., GAGDAD BOB, FLOATING IN HIS CLOUD-HIDDEN BOBSERVATORY, JUST BEYOND THE INTERIOR HORIZON OF THE UNITED STATES OF MIND. This is where we live and where we write. It is where the bus is headed, the filial deustinocean that we can never quite reach.

Importantly -- and why is this controversial? -- this horizon is infinite. Therefore, to deny it is to live in NO PLACE. But there's a twist to it, because this latter is really a man-made SOME PLACE that doesn't actually exist. Rather, it is one of the many restrictive "second realities" discussed by Voegelin.

In reality, there is only ONE PLACE, one human happitat but numberless unhappy ones, more on which in a moment. Allow Voegelin to just complete his thought as to why he felt so compelled to escape the apodictic horizon of academia. For whatever reason, "I was attracted by 'larger horizons' and repelled, if not nauseated, by restrictive deformations."

Now, about that SOME PLACE that is NO PLACE and the ONE PLACE that is EVERY PLACE. I know this might sound cutely paradoxical and all, but it is truly orthoparadoxical, a rock-bottom truth beyond which there is no truther. It is the one truth that permits all the others that ceaselessly flow into this ONE PLACE.


Yes. Recall the intrinsic tension alluded to above in paragraph seven. I'm starting to run out of time, so I'll be brief, but don't worry, we'll be returning to this foundation again and again. Voegelin speaks of

"the horizon that draws us [read: Attractor] to advance toward it but withdraws as we advance; it can give direction to the quest of truth but cannot be reached." Within this space certain "moving forces" become luminous, essentially "a human questioning and seeking in response to a mysterious drawing and moving from the divine side."

In other words -- or beyond words -- at the antipodes of this space are O and (¶), and within this space are ( ↑) and (↓).

These ladder "are experienced as the moving forces of consciousness.... Hence, the process of reality becoming luminous is further structured by the consciousness of the two moving forces, of the tension between them, and of the responsibility to keep their movements in such a balance that the image resulting from their interaction will not distort the truth of reality." (I symbolize this balance [↑↓] .)

For "one cannot know the mystery of the horizon and its beyond as if it were an object this side of the horizon." To do this is to violate Commandments one and two (which often topples the rest), which is the intrinsic heresy -- which we call ideolatry -- of the left in general and of Obama in particular.

This ideolatry always ends in tears and blood, because nightmares do come true. In other words, when falsehood enters history it takes on a deadly reality, as it destructively careens down the corridors of time (HT Vanderleun -- who has also advised all and sundry to pass along the following gem inspired by Harvard's Gift to Comedy and curse to economics:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Immortality is Fleeting, Socialism is Forever

Not much time for a new post this morning. The mother-in-law has been visiting, which gets me out of my usual rutine. It reminds me once again that pneumablogging is a delicate business; either that, or my isness is an unusually delicate business. In any event, she returns home today, so blogging should return to normal tomorrow.

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.

As far as I can recall -- which admittedly isn't much -- it was qualitatively, not just quantitatively, different. Perhaps like 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....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

John Roberts: Destroyer of Worlds, Vandal of History

It is fair to say that Voegelin saw his life's mission as an investigation into the truth of man, society, and history. His conclusion is that there is such a truth, but that it is more a matter of form than content per se. (All quotes are from Volume 12 of the collected works.)

This is because ultimate truth has the character of an event, not a fact. And an event is obviously impossible in the absence of experience, or, more to the point, human experience (no other animal has access to universal truths). To put it another way, no fact can -- or ever will -- account for its experience, or any experience, for that matter.

Thus, any philosophy that reduces experience to fact is a total non-starter. No need to even begin going down that road, for it is a spiritual and intellectual nul-de-slack, i.e., ø. Such a path is like a river that never reaches the sea. Or a prostate so enlarged that urination is impossible. I recently had a patient to whom this happened one morning. To say that he was in no condition to contemplate timeless truth is putting it mildly.

This is one of the primary reasons we can make neither head- nor heartway with our ideological opponents -- why our arguments cannot gain traction.

For it is not argument against argument; rather, "behind the appearance of rational debate there lurks the difference of two modes of existence, of existence in truth and existence in untruth. The universe of rational discourse collapses, we may say, when the common ground of existence in reality has disappeared" (emphasis mine).

Abstract? No, not in the least. To the contrary, this observation couldn't be more timely. President Obama -- and we'll get much more deeply into the reasons why as we proceed -- is a spokesperson for existence in untruth adapted to what Voegelin calls "second reality" (which is true of any ideological activist; Obama is just the same old serpent in a new skin).

Therefore, one can see that his campaign revolves around an endless barrage of untruths to which Romney is going to have to respond, on pain of the untruth being conceded as true. Unlike you or I, Romney cannot simply ignore unreality -- or at least not let it get under our skin -- and live in conformity to truth.

The problem here is that even responding to the untruth grants it a kind of existential "heft" to which it isn't entitled. After all, one could easily spend the rest of one's life shooting down one untruth after another, but it wouldn't make a dent in the total supply.

Unscrupulous lawyer that he is, the prince of this world will just make more of the verbal fertilizer that accrues from talking out of his ass. Obama obviously needs to make this campaign about something other than truth. Once truth is out of the way, it can become a contest based upon other non-rational factors, say, disgust, or rage, or envy, or violence, or bigotry, or raw hatred (or all of the Below).

Think, for example, of how difficult it would be today to produce a timeless political document such as the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution that enshrines its universal principles. 225 years down the line, one would think it would be easier to do this, not harder.

But this only reminds us that progress is hardly a linear phenomenon. There are always regressive liars such as John Roberts, living in second realities and prepared to eliminate in a selfish moment what required thousands of years for wise and courageous human beings to establish on this troubled earth.

Roberts has quite literally committed a crime against mankind and against history. One cannot put it more strongly than that. If it is true that America remains the world's last best hope, then one must conclude that Roberts has done his part to extinguish this hope. Nice work, assoul.

Would it be possible to correct Roberts with recourse to truth? (Let's not even mention the other four, who have been exiled from reality so long that they can no longer recognize it.) Voegelin notes that debate with ideologues remains "possible in the areas of the natural sciences and logic," where there is an external criterion of truth.

But any area that touches on the person has been so contaminated by the untruths of the left, that again, one could spend the rest of one's life simply countering them without making any progress toward truth.

There was a time when such a verticalesthenic exercise wasn't fruitless, because human beings hadn't yet become so warped as to extinguish their innate -- which is to say, God-given -- intellectual honesty, or love of Truth. Aquinas, for example, took it as axiomatic that the establishment of truth necessarily requires all due consideration being given to the varieties of error.

Not only is it incumbent upon the philosopher to meditate upon and communicate truth to others, but "to refute the opposing falsehood." In the words of Voegelin, one part of "the quest for truth is the perpetual task of disengaging it from error, of refining its expression in contest with the inexhaustible ingenuity of error."

For the person whose mind and spirit (nous and pneuma) are intact, once is enough. But for the pneumapathological and philocidal soul that has become perverse with error and overrun with mind parasites, a million times will be insufficient.

Falsehood does have certain legitimate rights, just as do criminals. But just as the left grants special rights to criminals, so too does it place lies on a kind of elevated and untouchable plane.

Again you may ask: abstract? NO!

For what is multiculturalism but the privileging and institutionalization of falsehood? Moral relativism? The "living Constitution"? Critical race theory? Class warfare? Deconstruction? Feminist theory? Racial quotas? Socialism? MSNBC?

You will have noticed that such luminaries as Aristotle, Plato, and Aquinas did not have to deal with this kind of systematic untruth, because it hadn't occurred to any thinking person to invent it.

Rather, it had to undergo research and development in the laboratory of modernity, and then be mass-marketed in the intellectual bazar of post-modernity. When the left argues that everyone needs (and is entitled to) college, what they really mean is that no one should escape the secular brainwash.

To say that there is no truth uniquely vouchsafed to man is to say that the world is an "infinite series," and to say this is to destroy "the very nature of the Good."

In other words, "The limit to the chain of [causation] is the condition of rationality in action." An infinite regress is ultimate absurdity.

To bring this back to the bobastic title of this post, with no limit set by our sacred Constitution, there is no limit to political and legal irrationality, to the acquisition and exercise of arbitrary power, and to willful malefactors who are in a state of revolt against reality, and who would force us all to conform to their warped and anti-human ideological (second) reality.

Other than that, I have no problem with these truly supreme court jesters.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Obama, First President of the USA (Unthinking Swarm of the Alienated)

This book of essays by Eric Voegelin is provoking some of the most intense reading I've ever done.

It's not that it's especially difficult per se (although he's not an easy read), but rather, that it's too rich, too full of implications to digest in more than small portions. It's as if one must pause after every paragraph in order to note the implications. One of the purposes of posting about these experiences is to explicate, metabolize, and assimilate the unThought implications -- or chew, swallow, and digest.

Note the word "experiences." Right away this should alert one to the fact that this involves a very different kind of reading, because a book that provokes experiential knowledge is quite different from one that conveys knowledge only, as do most works of nonfiction. In our symbolism, it is the difference between (k) and (n).

But one can't just leave it there, because the metabolism of (n) calls into play a different part of the being. This we call (¶). It is fair to say that Voegelin's whole project -- all 34 volumes -- revolves around the development of (¶). In fact, as we shall see, a true philosopher -- a lover of wisdom -- is none other than (¶). His polar opposite in the phase space of being would be (T), or tenureman.

Indeed, Voegelin has a lot to say about (T), none of it flattering but all of it memorable. It alone provides some fine insultainment.

For example, he wrote in 1973 of how philosophy -- which inquires into the nature of man in perpetual tension with the divine ground -- has been displaced by a banal "climate of opinion," and of how the changed climate of our universities "is hostile to the life of reason." However, "not every man is agreeable to having his nature formed by the 'climate,' or, as it is sometimes called, the 'age.'"

Recall that what we call (•) -- the empirical ego, more or less -- is precisely the part of us that is "shaped by the environment." Conversely -- or complementarily -- (¶) is shaped by encounters with the ground of being. The former is local, the latter nonlocal (and therefore timeless).

Thus, it is not so much that we eliminate (•), which we couldn't do anyway so long as we are in the world (the latter of which includes the material body). But nor should we call upon (•) to explore the nature of being, because to do so is to ask it to do something it was never designed to accomplish -- like asking the feet to grasp objects or the hands to chew food.

Thus, a modern university education "is the art of adjusting people so solidly to the climate of opinion prevalent at the time that they feel no 'desire to know." It is "the art of preventing people from acquiring the knowledge that would enable them to articulate the questions of existence." Predictably, this form of miseducation pressures "young people into a state of alienation that will result in either quiet despair or aggressive militancy."

If you think about it for a couple of seconds, I believe you will agree that Obama is our first president to have been exposed to nothing other than this soul-deadening climate of elite opinion, which is why he has no desire to know, no ability to formulate questions outside this peculiar climate, and a strident and militant agenda that fundamentally appeals to the "alienated," of which he is the leader.

Truly, Obama is president of the USA: Unthinking Swarm of the Alienated. The OWS movement is what an unthinking swarm of the auto-alienated looks like. And smells like.

The alienation is real, they're just confused about the source. After all, the material ego (•) cannot perceive or understand any reality that isn't material, hence the blind transformation of alienation into a material construct. Thus, they wish to occupy "Wall Street," not reality. This is a quintessential example of the superimposition of a second reality over the first -- of ø over O.

This is why the reactionary left cannot help but reduce all existential questions to (bad and dysfunctional) economics. But "even the spiritually and intellectually underpriviliged who live by the bread of opinion alone" know that something is wrong.

However, they are powerless to name it: "the educational institutions have cut them off from the life of reason so effectively that they cannot articulate the causes of their legitimate unrest." This closed and static pattern aggravates their pneumapathology, the only cure for which is an open psyche (nous or pneuma) in contact with the ground of being, O.

There is too much here for me to digest or even organize at this point, so I think I'll just review some of the essays, beginning with one called Immortality: Experience and Symbol. In it Voegelin discusses one of his key principles of religion, which is that the latter begins in religious experience that is codified via symbolism.

Thus, "the symbols in question intend to convey a truth experienced," or (n). Unlike conventional symbols -- i.e., (k) -- 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."

And when he says "nonexistent," he doesn't of course mean "unreal," but rather, immaterial and transcendent. For example, the statement "all men are created equal" is not derived from any empirical observation, but is nonetheless real and true for all time. And it is true even if no one has discovered it, or if people have forgotten it.

One of Voegelin's great concerns is what happens when the reality from which the symbols derive their meaning has "disappeared." To be perfectly accurate, this reality -- O -- obviously cannot disappear.

But the symbols can lose their metaphysical translucency, especially when they are overly reified in such a way that they exclude experience of the engendering reality that brought them about. Then religious symbolism becomes a kind of empty shell, or shadow of itself.

But this is not the last indignity suffered by Truth.

For when "misunderstood as propositions referring to things in the manner of propositions concerning objects of sense perception" (k), this provokes "the reaction of skepticism" which runs the gamut from hysterical atheist revivalism to "vulgarian agnosticism" to "the smart idiot questions of 'How do you know?' and 'How can you prove it?' that every college teacher knows from his classroom" and every pneumablogger knows from his trolls.

To be continued for, oh, about six months....

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