Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Power Politics vs. Truth Politics: How to Tell a Clenched Fist from an Open Mind

So, why all the Voegeling? Because in recent months I've raced through number of huge volumes of his, and if I don't write about the experience, then it is soon forgotten, covered over with the next layer of mulch.

However, I'll try to liven things up with some parallel aphorisms of Nicolás Gómez Dávila (NGD), since the two were often on the same page, and he can say in a pointed sentence what Voegelin can in a dull 600 page book. (The ideas aren't dull, of course, but to paraphrase NGD, the writer who doesn't torture his sentences ends up torturing the reader.)

Yesterday we mentioned that it is a scientific fact that man, qua man, forever exists in tension toward the divine ground-attractor. In a letter, Voegelin writes that "the creation of the gods has something to do with true humanity." In fact, "the meaning of humanity was fixed in the process of separating the human from the divine," so "as soon as the meaning of the divine becomes unclear again, the meaning of humanity becomes correspondingly confused."

Voegelin calls the distinction between man and God a movement from compaction to differentiation, which is why the Hebrew discovery of the one God is such an important development.

In other words, prior to that there is no differentiation between the cosmos and the gods (e.g., wind, water, fire, fertility, etc.), with the result (among others) that history cannot be discovered (or created, if you like). History still "happens" of course -- in that time doesn't really stop -- but the ancient Hebrews were the first to see it as playing out in the tension between man and the divine ground, instead of just going around in immanent cosmic circles.

Which is why no form of dogmatic atheism can represent progress, because it expresses the backward movement to a de-differentiation between man and God. God, however, hardly disappears. Rather, he simply reappears in Gnostic man. Dávila:

"The radical negation of religion is the most dogmatic of religious positions." Such atheism "does not dispute the existence of God, but rather His identity." Which is why "He who does not believe in God" generally lacks "the decency of not not believing in himself."

Speaking of Obama, History's Greatest Orator, "Not being an orator amounts to not being able to speak about anything except what one knows about" (NGD).

Oh, and Obamacare? Don't worry, "With the generosity of the program does the democrat console himself for the magnitude of the catastrophes it produces" (ibid.).

In the end, "as long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock" (ibid.). To turn it around, this is why it is impossible to talk to liberal rockheads, because they express religious emotion in the absence of religious insight, due to the de-differentiation of spheres alluded to above.

About that de-differentiation: when the terrestrial and celestial are re-fused and the vertical thus de-faced, then "doctrinaire totalitarianism is justified." Indeed, "the Gnostic is a born revolutionary" -- the serpent being the archetype of this downward movement -- "because total rejection is the perfect proclamation of his divine autonomy."

Reader ge has suggested that Voegelin can't be right, because too many disciplines and movements fall under the heading of "Gnosticism." I don't necessarily see this as problematic, because it's just a consequence of the deeper principle of collapsing the vertical.

Thus, Gnostic systems "develop without exception in opposition to the creator-God... and transform him into the evil power over against which the new man-made god is is placed in the position of savior." The Obamensch is just the latest iteration of this pattern, but it is a universal temptation of fallen man.

A critical point is that when reality is collapsed in this manner, politics indeed devolves along with it to a crude struggle for power (since the true and good have been excluded).

This is "in radical opposition to the classic conception of Aristotle," whereby politics is rooted in common access to, and participation in, the nous. In the absence of the Logos-Nous dialectic, then man is indeed reduced from the political animal -- the animal with Reason in pursuit of the common Good -- to an animal who engages in politics in order to obtain power over others. (The rejection of the common Nous-Logos is also the hateway to multiculturalism, bogus "diversity," ideological feminism, and all the rest.)

The problem for the normal man is that, just because he is not interested in power over others, it doesn't mean others don't want power over him. It doesn't matter whether it's leftists or Islamists, they just don't want to leave us alone.

Which of course goes to the disconnect between liberals and conservatives, since the former are by definition engaging in horizontal power politics, while we are attempting to conserve at least a remnant of the vertical. But this is a little like trying to play chess with a barbarian, who elevates

"the repudiation of reason into a principle. The common world of the Logos is destroyed," which soon enough descends "to the level of violence and brutality which, in the sphere of action, reduces all questions to the one question: who will draw the revolver first."

No wonder they hate the second amendment.


ge said...

...not critting EV-- having never read him other than Bob's quotes-- but just questioning his hijacking of the term [the quotes i've come across & posted show others have been similarly irked] ie
"Thus, Gnostic systems 'develop without exception in opposition to the creator-God... and transform him into the evil power over against which the new man-made god is is placed in the position of savior.' "
--why 'Gnostic'?? How should 'Gnostic' ever get lumped with 'systems' at all?
why not 'Head-up-arse systems'...'Flumdeevilish systems'...or ANY term but 'gnostic', adjectival form of gnosis, blessed be its pointy head?
Well that's his prerog., but here's one potential reader who'll likely avoid him for such lapse [sang souchong] ---& Obama[types] guilty of Voegelinian gnostic presumptions?? Oi-yi-yi, el Gnosis d'oro is one thing that might save his sorry ass, if such experience weren't coupled with a built-in fiery sword of ego-razing at its Gates

Gagdad Bob said...

Voegelin is quick to acknowledge that he didn't discover the parallels between ancient and modern forms of Gnosticism -- he cites may scholars who noticed the same thing, for example, Hans Jonas.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Inside every liberal is a totalitarian screaming to get out."

mushroom said...

I don't think it is any accident that sin is related to the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It was not wrong for that tree to be in the Garden, but eating of it was "having communion" with it which leads to gnosticism, humanism, and death. There is a cure taken from the fruit of another Tree, the Body and Blood of Christ and a restoration of communion with God.

The Tree of Knowledge was under man's care and could have been, and can be used for lawful purposes under God's direction. As it was, it short-circuited Adam's relationship to the Divine and put him, in effect, in communion with himself. Definitely the descent of man.

julie said...

ge, one might as well ask why the divine feminine becomes the disgusting feminism, or why humble matter devolves to materialism. The point being that the suffix "-ism" generally denotes an ideology, which can be made out of almost anything, and (man being man) most often quite quickly becomes idolatry or heresy.

Thus, gnosis need have little if anything to do with gnosticism, anymore than simply being female has anything to do with feminism as an ideology; rather "gnosticism" simply describes what happens when people elevate an experience of a type of gnosis to something that it is not, and proceed to worship it.

Also, what Mushroom said™

Christina M said...

ge, would the Catholic Encyclopedia definition help?


Magister said...

IIRC, "to have knowledge of good and evil" in Hebrew means to have the authority to determine things for, say, legal minors. So when Adam and Eve ate from this tree, they were usurping divine authority to make determinations about what was good and bad for them. I've heard of a rabbinical tradition that talks about the fruit of that tree as being a fig, or (interestingly) a *grape*.

(The latter by the way would connect the account of the Fall with the story of Noah and his drunkenness and nakedness, which leads to all sorts of interesting byways.)

I've always heard "gnosis" used as a pejorative because it uses private experience or revelation to justify some sort of elitism.

julie said...

Oh, that is interesting! It would also tie in pretty neatly with all the grape and wine references in the NT...

ge said...

Yessir, Magister [Latin for "master" or "teacher".]

ge said...

Happen to be reading a free sample of a new book by a fave author
who surprisingly mentions the "G" word for the first time I can recall, thus:

"...But what gets me is that this means that the bedrock quality of Ananda, the bliss zone, is right here, in me. The Gnostics were right: every human had a spark of fallen Light within. Those guys were always a bit glum it seemed to me, yet they were on to something.

"You have to find and release that hidden divine spark, that godly firefly inside you, from the prison of matter, or, jumping a few centuries, what Philip K Dick called the Black Iron Prison, life in the iron-dense blood of the human body, the DAM of ADAM, or as I might say on bad-hair days as a human on Earth, the goddamn ADAM. It's funny in a way, though I wonder if the Gnostics would chuckle but look: this fallen spark of Light comes with its own interactive instruction manual that will walk you through the whole uplifting process, and even make jokes and share some bliss..."

JP said...

"I've always heard "gnosis" used as a pejorative because it uses private experience or revelation to justify some sort of elitism."

I'm not quite sure how private experience or revelation gets you to elitism.

Generally when I'm looking for (or at) targets that other people can't see, I try to keep my mouth shut.

mushroom said...

A grape would also coincide with the Nazarite vow which, in addition to not cutting one's hair, required abstinence from anything of the vine -- no grapes, raisins, grape seed, wine or juice.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"(...to paraphrase NGD, the writer who doesn't torture his sentences ends up torturing the reader.)"

Good advice!

ge said...

Christina, I'd look elsewhere for sympathetic definitions of Gnosis... even glorious MoT's mentions seem uninspired

Schwaller: Gnosis (which we designate as inborn knowledge concerning the “secret of becoming”) cannot be formulated; it must be realized.

Dowman chose 'Gnosis' as best western term for super-profound Tibetan 'Rigpa' until too many readers with the negative Voegelinian-type usage in their past complained.


Julie-- I'm hip to the hijacking that occurred, good comparison w/ femaleinism, doesnt mean I have to be happy with it, or condone the continued muddling muddying of the lovely word Gnosis

Christina M said...

ge, Ah so.

By the way, I finally mastered MOTT's first underlying principle this week: "Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!" Finally, after six years of effort.

OT: Deepak Chopra/Wesley Clark/the new woman in his life

EMOT: The textbook review I wrote for my son's new school book:
"This textbook is a thoroughly postmodern, culturally materialistic re-vision of the world and American history which portrays humans as tribes of men moving about the land and sea like ants at a picnic.

The text contains an avalanche of facts, technical jargon, and opinion delivered in a stream of consciousness style, unfettered by footnotes, source citations, definitions or context.

Instead of this textbook, students would be better served by reading the infinitely more readable "Democracy in America" (Volumes 1 & 2, Unabridged) by Alexis de Tocqueville.

One star for the roomful of typewriters."

julie said...

Awesome review. Seriously. I hope his teacher is paying attention.

Re. the Wesley Clark/ Chopra link, I almost posted that one last night. Maybe it's just me, but when I hear that a general in the US Military is looking to Chopra for advice, all I can think is that the military is in the very worst of hands...

Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe Deepak can annul the union on the grounds that it was a quantum marriage -- there and not there at the same time.

ge said...

HOPEfully a final
little gnostic dollop, ala PDK:

[From Exegesis, by Philip K. Dick]

The Gnostic Christians of the second century believed that only a special revelation of knowledge rather than faith could save a person. The contents of this revelation could not be received empirically or derived a priori. They considered this special gnosis so valuable that it must be kept secret. Here are the ten major principles of the gnostic revelation:

1. The creator of this world is demented.
2. The world is not as it appears, in order to hide the evil in it, a delusive veil obscuring it and the deranged deity.
3. There is another, better realm of God, and all our efforts are to be directed toward
a. returning there
b. bringing it here
4. Our actual lives stretch thousands of years back, and we can be made to remember our origin in the stars.
5. Each of us has a divine counterpart unfallen who can reach a hand down to us to awaken us. This other personality is the authentic waking self; the one we have now is asleep and minor. We are in fact asleep, and in the hands of a dangerous magician disguised as a good god, the deranged creator deity. The bleakness, the evil and pain in this world, the fact that it is a deterministic prison controlled by the demented creator causes us willingly to split with the reality principle early in life, and so to speak willingly fall asleep in delusion.
6. You can pass from the delusional prison world into the peaceful kingdom if the True Good God places you under His grace and allows you to see reality through His eyes.
7. Christ gave, rather than received, revelation; he taught his followers how to enter the kingdom while still alive, where other mystery religions only bring about amnesis: knowledge of it at the "other time" in "the other realm," not here. He causes it to come here, and is the living agency to the Sole Good God (i.e. the Logos).
8. Probably the real, secret Christian church still exists, long underground, with the living Corpus Christi as its head or ruler, the members absorbed into it. Through participation in it they probably have vast, seemingly magical powers.
9. The division into "two times" (good and evil) and "two realms" (good and evil) will abruptly end with victory for the good time here, as the presently invisible kingdom separates and becomes visible. We cannot know the date.
10. During this time period we are on the sifting bridge being judged according to which power we give allegiance to, the deranged creator demiurge of this world or the One Good God and his kingdom, whom we know through Christ.

To know these ten principles of Gnostic Christianity is to court disaster.