Thursday, October 18, 2012

What is Man that Man Should be Mindful of Him?

I have hardly any time this morning, and no time tomorrow, as I have to attend another continuing education seminar. So all you get is this brief and concentrated post:

What exactly is a person, anyway? Remember, we're talking about the interior, not the exterior, form.

Man may be defined in an exterior sense by, for example, the use of tools, or by the ability to reproduce with another member of the species. But what is man in the interior sense?

I think Schuon provides the most useful answer. To paraphrase him, man is composed of will (i.e., freedom and virtue), sentiment (i.e., love), and knowledge (i.e., disinterested truth and detached objectivity).

Thus, we begin with the premise that man is free, that he has a conscience that distinguishes good from evil, and that he has a mind that may discern the reality behind appearances.

But what is the source of these remarkable abilities? As mentioned yesterday, the scientistic mindset attempts to explain them away with recourse to an essentially reductionistic argument.

Such a simplistic approach holds no appeal to the intellect, although it may help its proponent to be less troubled by the promptings of his soul.

In any event, such arguments are self-refuting, for if there is no truth we couldn't know it, and if there is no freedom we could never conceive of it. There is nothing in us that compels assent to, or rejection of, truth.

Unlike animals, we can sink below ourselves, but for the same reason may rise above and transcend ourselves. And because we are human beings, we are privileged to see that nature points to trans-nature.

When we say that man is in the image of the Creator, this cuts both ways. In other words, I take seriously the idea that if we understand man essentially, this provides important clues as to the nature of God.

As alluded to above, there is no -- and will never be any -- naturalistic explanation for truth, free will, and knowledge of the good, as these emanate from above, not below.

But at the same time, this understanding of man's essence suggests that God's essence may also revolve around this trinity of love, truth, and freedom. Furthermore, these three must ultimately be one, in ways we don't normally think about.

However, as soon as we do think about it, we understand that there can be no truth in the absence of the freedom to pursue it, just as there can be no freedom unless we are free to choose what is good and true.

Likewise, love cannot be compelled, just as everyone knows that it is wrong to choose and love evil.

Now, man may know the absolute, which is just another way of saying that he may know, period.

In other words, any knowledge is underwritten by, or partakes of, so to speak, the absolute. As such, to say "man" is to say "God," just as "the very word 'relative' implies 'Absolute'" (Schuon).

To affirm "that man is made of intelligence, will and sentiment," writes Schuon, "means that he is made for the Truth, the Way, and Virtue." In other words, the way an object is made tells us something about its purpose.

Now, the purpose of religion is to remind man of the Purpose of purposes; or in other words, to stay focussed on reality and to steer clear of the illusions.

A religion may be reduced to doctrine and method, which is simply truth and the means of assimilating it. Note that we do not say "attaining," "acquiring," or "possessing" truth.

For obviously it is possible to have knowledge of the doctrine without it having the slightest impact upon one's being. Or, a mind parasite may warp the truth into its own image, which covertly elevates it to the status of a god, or a little human beastling.

Which provides another clue into both man and God, i.e., being. Genuine love, genuine knowledge, genuine virtue -- all are imprinted, so to speak, upon being; or, one could say that they are imbued with being.

And being is where subject and object merge into one. Thus, ultimate truth, which one might think of as being subjective, is also the most objective thing imaginable.

Which reminds me of an aphorism for you to chew on:

I distrust the system deliberately constructed by thought; I trust in the one that results from the pattern of its footprints.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lies Burn: Yelling Fire in a Clouded World

Before we were interrupted by unforeseen events -- and there is nothing quite so unforeseen as an event -- we were discussing the complementarity of individual <--> social, or narcissism <--> collectivism.

Note that each pole refers to the cosmic interior, as explicated by Wilber in various works. As culture represents the interior-collective, person is the interior-individual.

Note that we do not say "society" and "man," since those belong to the exterior-collective and -individual, respectively.

For similar reasons, "brain" is exterior while "soul" is the quintessence of interiority. One might even say that the purpose of life is to exteriorize the soul while interiorizing the world. The former is creativity, the latter knowledge. But obviously the two should be in harmony; to emphasize one to the detriment of the other is to compose a less than full life, i.e., words + music.

In my opinion, the presence of a cosmic interior -- a subjective horizon -- is without question the most mysterious and astonishing fact in all of existence. Frankly, it is the last thing we'd expect to find here, except that without it there is nothing to find and no one to find it. It is fair to say that the mystery of mysteries is the experience of experience.

One of the worst features -- maybe the worst -- of modernity is the persistent attempt to explain away the cosmic interior through various scientistic fairy tales, or to stunt it by neglect, or to maim it by exposure to a subhuman world that is then interiorized by the hapless soul. Already, at the age of seven, I can see the difference between my son and spiritually deprived children with no exposure to religious truth. A certain kind of light is slowly extinguished in the latter.

The two wings of intelligence are erudition and love. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

And Without a certain religious childishness, a certain intellectual profundity is unattainable. (ibid.).

If you ignore this interior reality, how could you not end up with a field full of weeds? How else to put it... There is something a little animalistic about such persons, since they live in ignorance of one of the most enduring features of the human mindscape, others of which include such archetypes as romantic love, fatherhood, warrior, priest, death, shadow, great mother, sage, etc.

In my view, the cosmic interior attains a kind of pinpoint focus in man, similar to how a magnifying glass gathers the sun's rays into an intense area of heat and light.

In the soul, warmth is emotion while light is truth. Here again, light without warmth is going to end in the imbalance of, say, scientism or modern atheism (which are "artificial light," like a florescent bulb that makes you look awful).

Conversely, warmth without light ends in any number of pneumapathologies, not the least of which being modern liberalism (AKA illiberal leftism). For an example of balance, think of Jesus, whose warmth is exceeded only by his light (since light must ultimately be the source of warmth).

Think of last night's debate. Obama's goal for the evening was to appear more fiery, which he surely was, although not to the extreme of Biden's self-immolation. But did this equate to more light? Obviously not, except in the negative sense, in that it shed unintentional light on his character and record.

Nevertheless, for the leftist, the presence of this fiery heat is all that matters, which is why most people on the left imagined Biden "won" his debate. How to explain such irrationality in people who like to think they're so much brighter than the rest of us?

Ace takes a stab at it. One reason is that "they believe, as an article of religious faith, that they are smarter than the voters, and the voters are stupid, and therefore simple contradiction must appeal to such people, who are very stupid and think that an argument is won by he who says 'No it isn't!' the most."

And also "Because they themselves just want to hear Biden and Obama call Romney and Ryan 'liars'.... If you just contradict Ryan and Romney, who are by the way lying monsters, then that's awesome, that's 'tough,' and you win."

So behind the aggressive heat is another kind of heat: contempt and superiority, which are two sides of the same coin. In other words, the inflated superiority can only be artificially maintained through contempt. Which is why the one thing the left truly excels at is defamation, slander, vilification, caricature, etc., all in the service of their grandiosity. (The other thing they do well is disguise envy as compassion.)

Not for nothing is this book I happen to be reading entitled Fire in the Minds of Men. Its subtitle is Origins of the Revolutionary Faith, and its origin is, in a word, Fire:

"The heart of revolutionary faith, like any faith, is fire: ordinary material transformed into extraordinary form, quantities of warmth suddenly changing the quality of substance. If we do not know what fire is, we know what it does. It burns. It destroys life; but it also supports it as a source of heat, light, and -- above all -- fascination."

With modernity came the displacement of the quest for spiritual light and heat to the world: "A recurrent mythic model for revolutionaries -- early romantics, the young Marx, the Russians of Lenin's time -- was Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods for the use of mankind. The Promethean faith of revolutionaries resembled in many respects the general modern belief that science would lead men out of darkness into light" (ibid.).

Indeed, the revolutionaries went even further, to a millenarian insistence that "the new day that was dawning" in which "the sun would never set." Tragically, their little spark turned into a conflagration that swept "across national borders, carried by small groups and idiosyncratic individuals who created an incendiary legacy of ideas" (ibid).

It is in this qualified and restricted manner that liberal and science do indeed complement one another: for leftism is the phony warmth and compassion of a bloodless, scientistic metaphysic; and scientism is the artifical light of the horizontalized and desiccated soul. But

An intelligent man is one who maintains his intelligence at a temperature independent of his environment’s temperature. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Will the Human Memome Project Lead to a Cure for Socialism?

We left off yesterday with Billington wondering whether the political religions of the left might someday "prove to be only a stage in the continuing metamorphosis of older forms of faith," and whether "belief in secular revolution, which has legitimized so much authoritarianism in the twentieth century, might dialectically prefigure some rediscovery of religious evolution to revalidate democracy in the twenty-first."

I would put it more starkly: if the latter doesn't occur, then mankind is doomed. I say this for two reasons: first, Islamists are not about to abandon their insane revolutionary hopes for a worldwide caliphate. And second, the spirit of leftism cannot be eradicated from the human memome, since it is one of the consequences of man's fallenness.

More generally, the left will always be with us, because any human being with a little imagination and a lot of envy can attack and undermine the present in light of an imagined future unattainable by man. The main brake on the left has never come from conservative liberals, but from the self-consuming nature of socialism, which weakens and eventually destroys the host. But just because the left destroys itself, it doesn't automatically mean that something better will replace it.

For one thing, the destruction isn't just economic. Rather, if anything, the psychological and spiritual consequences of unhinged leftism are even worse. As mentioned yesterday, it begins in the mountain springs of purely intellectualized envy, but eventually flows into the sewers of journalism and public education, contaminating everything. Its end-state is a "collection of disturbing, disorderly appetites" -- a Joe Biden, with his "preening exhibitionism," "smirking rudeness," "egotistical exuberance," and "bullying condescension." Name a prominent person of the left who doesn't fit this description.

Even so, we haven't hit bottom. As the Sultan writes, "There is no reason to think that Barack with his Third Culture image and his fake veneer of culture is going to be the endpoint either. If the left has taught us anything, it is that its narrative of cultural destruction is always able to conceive of more and more horrifying worlds than anything we might behold today."

"Revolutionary” today means an individual for whom modern vulgarity is not triumphing quickly enough. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Plato -- what with his pure love of thought -- "has never had success as a revolutionary and never will do so." In contrast to Plato, Karl Marx has enjoyed over a century "of astonishing success and has revolutionized the world. He has swept away millions -- those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to the prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners" (MOTT).

Really, can you name another philosopher who has enjoyed such a smashing and grabbing success in such a short span of time? But you -- yes, you there -- "as a solitary human soul, a soul of depth and sobriety, what do you owe Karl Marx?" (ibid.).

No man can answer that question. Not until April 15th, tax day.

The point is, "Plato illumines, whilst Marx sweeps away" (ibid.). Indeed, Marx said that, unlike other philosophers -- who merely illuminate reality -- his goal was to change it. This particular soul-sickness has decimated our universities, where activism has displaced the quest for truth.

Obviously, it is impossible to imagine a person of any spiritual insight or stature getting caught up in the Obama hysteria. But it is equally impossible to imagine such a person being caught up in any kind of political hysteria, politics being what it is. It is one of the reasons we can never match the diabolical energy of the left. Since the leftist is condemned to the horizontal world, he channels his spiritual energy into politics.

Transforming the world: the occupation of a convict resigned to his punishment. --Don Colacho's Aphorims.

The project of the left is to make us all useful to the collective, when the only possible justification for the collective can be in its usefulness to the individual -- not in a horizontal, egotistical sense, but in a vertical sense. Assuming that life has a transcendent purpose -- and you cannot be human and not make this assumption -- then the purpose of society should be to help human beings achieve this purpose -- i.e., to be useful to others by being faithful to their created archetype, so to speak.

But horizontal man, in denying the vertical, necessarily replaces it with a counterfeit version that substitutes the collective for the One and human will for the Divine authority. There is no one so inflated with narcissistic hubris as the leftist social engineer who will save mankind from its own self-inflicted wounds. Such persons, to paraphrase Eliot, dream of systems in which it will be unnecessary for anyone to be good.

Likewise, "the moment we talk about 'social conscience,' and forget about conscience, we are in moral danger. Eliminate the idea of moral struggle," and "you must expect human beings to become more and more vaporous" (Eliot). Since man is placed at the crossroads where he is free to choose between good and evil, to forget this is to abolish liberty, conscience, and transcendent meaning and purpose in a single stroke.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Once Upon a Time There was a President

This week should bring some brief periods of patchy slackshine, but no sustained episodes of time dilation or vertical belowback. Therefore, a timely reposting of what we wrote here in the immediate wake of Obama's funereal procession four years ago next month.

However, I ended up throwing in so much new material that I can probably divide it into two posts. But... isn't it unfair to alter a post that was supposedly about predicting the future? Never you mind. Just sit back and enjoy the insultainment. Besides, the essence hasn't been changed, only some details.

We begin with a hearty laphorism:

No folktale ever began this way: Once upon a time, there was a president… --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

Okay. Would you believe one folktale? Because a lot of folkers believed it.

Frankly, anycoon could have seen our dystopian future coming with their own two -- let alone three -- eyes, but I think you'll stil enjoy this gnostalgiac lookback. It was in the context of a discussion of Letter XI of Meditations on the Tarot, The Force, a book which all One Cosmos readers should by now have at least pretended to read:

The Force is a timely symbol for the events of the day, as the force of the left has ascended the political Wheel of Fortune. We sincerely hope they enjoy their brief little day in the sun -- er, moonshine. It won't get any better for them than this, for the apex marks the transition to the nadir. Or top to bottom, for those living in Rio Linda.

We immortals can draw consolation from the fact that, being that leftism is a closed intellectual and spiritual system, it is already, as we speak, "on the way down," outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. In insulating itself from the vertical ingressions of grace and then claiming powers entitled to no man, the left is blind to its own Icarus factor.

In short, its end is in its beginning, as the poe t.s. aid. Furthermore, the higher it ascends in its intoxicated reach for power, the further it will fall. The concrete fact of Obama shall soon enough obliterate the vaporous idea of Obama. There is no way around this vacuous cycle except all the way, 360 degrees, century after century.

Actually, there is one way out, and that is by avoiding the whole tedious promethean power-grab thingy to begin with. If you remain on the ground, or even on the second floor, you can't fall very far.

But if one is the greatest orator since Cicero, or the greatest presidential writer since Lincoln, or the Man who will Slow the Rise of the Oceans, then you my fiend are in competition with Felix Baumgartner.

The following passage by our Unknown Friend is perfectly apt today: "Plato has never had success as a revolutionary and never will do so. But Plato himself will always live throughout the centuries of human history... and will be in each century the companion of the young and old who love pure thought, seeking only the light which it comprises."

In other worlds, you can never have a mass revolution of people oriented to a target that few can even see and no one can actually hit.

This interior revolution is an individual endeavor, not the sort of thing that could ever occur on a massive scale. And the left is a mass movement, which automatically condemns it to mediocrity on a good day. It is led by a blundering herd of elites who imagine themselves superior, but nothing could be more banal -- and self-contradictory -- than the idea of "mass excellence."

Through history, all leftist revolutionaries have understood this, which is why leftism has never come "from the bottom up." Rather, it is always a trickle-down affair, led by an intellectual priesthood who can barely conceal their contempt for the working class dolts they wish to redeem.

Great stupidities do not come from the people. First, they have seduced intelligent men. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

These intellectuals show their true farce whenever some ingrate they presume to save declines their offer, as actress Stacey Dash discovered last week. The line she joins is long and distinguished.

This is the way things "must be," since the left is simply an inversion of Christianity, and could only have emerged in a Christianized culture. As Billington writes, these are men who see "in revolution an object of faith and a source of vocation, a channel for sublimated emotion and sublime ambition."

In contrast to Marx's crack about religion being the opiate of the masses, "revolutionary faith might well be called the amphetamine of the intellectuals" (ibid.).

For the manically revved-up revolutionary -- and remember, on the eve of his election Obama promised a fundamental transformation of this country -- "history is seen prophetically as a kind of unfolding morality play. The present [is] hell, and the revolution a collective purgatory leading to a future earthly paradise" (ibid.).

Thus, Obama's campaign essentially revolves around trying to convince us that this is purgatory, not hell; and that the purgation of our RacistSexistHomophobic past must last a little longer before we arrive in multicultural and redistributionist heaven.

Yes, "Once upon a time, there was a president." How'd that One turn out? And are we condemned to repeat the same myth forever? Is it possible for man to purge himself of fairy tales, and finally live in the real world?

Excellent question, even if it cannot be answered, because at least it recognizes the problem.

Looked at from a cosmo-historical perspective, Billington is "inclined to believe that the end may be approaching of the political religion which saw in revolution the sunrise of a perfect society."

And he is "further disposed to wonder if this secular creed, which arose in Judeo-Christian culture, might not ultimately prove to be only a stage in the continuing metamorphosis of older forms of faith, and to speculate that the belief in secular revolution, which has legitimized so much authoritarianism in the twentieth century, might dialectically prefigure some rediscovery of religious evolution to revalidate democracy in the twenty-first."

His lips to God's ear! Or rather, vice versa: God's lips to our ears.

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God, another who believes he is a god. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

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