Monday, August 12, 2013

The High Cost of Divorce from Reality

A post or two ago we mentioned Plato's allegory of the cave. It seems to me that Voegelin is one of the few contemporary scholars who fully accepts the allegory as descriptive of reality. For which reason he maintains that turning away from the light, the divine ground -- O -- constitutes the essence of pneumopathology, with devastating consequences.

Like all such myths, it isn't just describing something that happened once upon a time, but what happens every time. As such, it cannot be "surpassed," let alone disproved. Rather, either you get it or you don't, for we don't judge it; rather, it judges us. In other words, it sheds light on the space in which human beings have always lived and always will live (for existence in this space -- the "sensorium of transcendence" -- is what characterizes humanness).

This is just another way of saying that man isn't the measure of truth, but vice versa. If this is not true, then the world is indeed an absolute relativity, and we are reduced to the civilized barbarism of the tenured, where the only appeal is to power, not truth, and the world is divided into victims and the political supermen who will save them. Oh, and the evil conservatives whose "holy grail," in the words of Obama, is to increase human suffering.

Reader ge left a comment to the effect that the state of scholarship has "advanced" since Voegelin's time -- which is no doubt true, in the same sense that politics has advanced between Reagan and Obama, or science between Neils Bohr and Al Gore, or philosophy between Aquinas and Richard Dawkins.

Perhaps I should add that I am not a "Voegelinian," if there is such a thing. Rather, I simply take what strikes me as expressive of truth, and leave the rest. If it doesn't bang the interior Gong, then I consign it to the absurcular wastebin. Like you, I read in order to understand, not imitate.

The following strikes me as unsurpassable truth: "philosophical existence is existence in awareness of man's humanity as constituted by his tension toward the divine ground." For Voegelin, this is a scientific statement, in the original, uncontracted sense of the word.

And if this is the case, then "alienation is the turning away from the ground toward a self that is imagined to be human without being constituted by its relation to the divine presence" (emphasis mine). Indeed, this is the repetition of another of man's permanent mythological possibilities, i.e., the fall into auto-divinization.

Here again, this is either way true or way off. I don't see any other alternative, for as Eckhart might say, you can't be a little bit pregnant with God.

Thus, "Turning toward, and turning away from, the ground become the fundamental categories descriptive of the states of order and disorder in human existence."

This is not an abstract statement. For example, America's founders, in anchoring our very political existence in unalienable rights conferred by the Creator, explicitly turned toward the ground of order. Conversely, Marx -- and all ideologies flowing from him -- explicitly reject this order.

Voegelin calls this "willful turning away from the fundamental experience of reality" a "disease of the mind."

Once again, how could it not be a disease if man is rooted in a real order that the mind has rejected? Any disease of any kind is always a dis-order, a failure to achieve a certain end. And if there is no objective norm for human beings, then there is no such thing as psycho- or pneumopathology. Rather, there is only adaptation to transient conditions, which is precisely what Marx believed.

Turning again to the American revolution, Voegelin says that it is distinguished from, say, the French, or Russian, or National Socialist revolutions in light of the fact that it "was able to create an open society" -- not in the desiccated sense of Popper, but in the vertical sense of being open to the divine ground.

And the culture war -- or red state / blue state divide, or whatever name you want to assign our polarization -- is largely because our intellectuals are so strongly influenced by the European type of revolutionary, anti-Christian intellectualism. Indeed, Obama is our first president totally steeped in this crock, with predictable results all around.

Thus, "what really has happened is an inconsiderate, and partly illiterate intellectual movement," a "massive force of aggressive intellectual dishonesty" that "has polarized itself out of the American social reality," and into a "willful divorce from reality and violent aggressiveness in the pursuit of utopian dreams."

And "Since this intellectual disease is not confined to journalists and television reporters but has penetrated deeply into the academic world, and through the academic world into the education of the younger generation, one must recognize in these trends a danger to democratic government which, after all, has to rely on contact with reality in the population at large."

Hmm. I can't imagine why the tenured would turn away from Voegelin.

(All of the above quoted material taken from Autobiographical Reflections.)


ge said...

Not just evolved academics like the paper quoted in weekend 'comments' but also suburban mystic slackophiliacs comme je, hate to see such a fun & groovy term get hijacked ...How 'wack' is it that 'Gnosis', which I might proffer a few tentative definitions as:
An Inner Experience of Beatific Unific Knowing-Feeling; the Birth of Noumenal Knowing Disguised as The Peace that Passes all Understanding...the Inimitable Unsought Enwisening Touch of the Divine...Pure Presence...Kindling of the Divine Spark Within...Nirvanic Nondual Revelation...the Touch of Grace!..or some such twaddle-- got conflated into a negative 'gnosticism' with sometimes licentious matter-hating, Creation-criticizing dualist cults of Nag Hammadi and now onto tenured turds, Obama, et beyond me!

and a 'Gnostic' ought to therefore be: someone so fortunate

Gnosis is conscious, experiential knowledge, not merely intellectual or conceptual knowledge, belief, or theory. This term is synonymous with the Hebrew "da'ath," the Arabic ma'rifah, the Tibetan rigpa (knowing), and the Sanskrit "jnana." [some online article]

Basically Gnosis ought to be a hushed matter totally between oneself and God, the complete opposite of anything to do with 'groups' or 'academia' or anything 'political' or dualistic, [unless you are an EV or someone who carves out his own specific coinage/definition]

...back under my rock of aGEs

Gagdad Bob said...

Gnosis and Gnosticism are almost antonyms. It's like the difference between intellectual and intellectualism, or emotion and emotionalism.

julie said...

Yep; adding an -ism to the end of most concepts is often a shorthand for turning an idea into an idolatry.

Gagdad Bob said...

In his sidebar Vanderleun has a link to a Sultan Knish piece that says:

"In our modern age, things no longer exist to perform their function. Washing machines aren't designed to clean clothes, but to save water and energy. Food isn't there to be eaten, but not eaten. And armies aren't there to win wars, but to be moral. And the truly moral army never fights a war. When it must fight a war, then it fights it as proportionately as possible, slowing down when it's winning so that the enemy has a chance to catch up and inflict a completely proportional number of casualties on them."


John Lien said...

Great post! (translation: I understood most of it).

It's always the Godless vs. the Godly. But if you cut to the chase with that conclusion in a conversation you "ain't gonna make it anyone anyhow."

"philosophical existence is existence in awareness of man's humanity as constituted by his tension toward the divine ground."

Had an "ah-ha" momement more recently than I care to admit when I stopped thinking of tension as a state of mental disturbance and started thinking of it as a pulling force.

Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly. It's the Great Attractor, to which we are oriented.

Magister said...

It's no use arguing. Once you have people who divorce O and live on their own, they have kids who don't feel the need for O either. Together they make substitutions, like ideologies, politics, and other egregores. This cuts them off. They aren't attracted to the Attractor, not having any experience of the Attractor. I believe they can't be moved by argument. They can only be led to doubt their ideologies by means of changing their experience.

Meanwhile, they fight off rival religions and establish an absolutist secularism. No one in their regime is allowed to claim access to Truth, just "truth," i.e. truth for some but not for others. In this condition, there are only belief options and lifestyle choices.

This is where we are now.

I knew of an older professor at a research university once who was talked about by other professors as "the Voegelin guy." He was written off either as a nut or some guy in a corner. I didn't know him at all well at the time, but my brief meetings left me with the memory that he was always smiling, was always content, and never courted anyone's approval. He was very kind, very helpful, too. Then he moved, or retired, or something.

A bit of a hermit...

Olden Ears said...

Tension = pulling force, not disturbance. Helpful observation.

Gagdad Bob said...

Regarding what Magnus just said about our culture cranking out kids with no contact with the transcendent order, a new kid just moved in down the street, Tristan's age. When Tristan mentioned "church," the kid had literally never heard of the word. Nor was it possible to explain what it meant. He also couldn't understand the concept of a stay-at-home mom (his mother is a divorced career woman). He was like, "no, I mean what does your mom do?"

Gagdad Bob said...

"Well, for starters, she's married to my dad."


Gagdad Bob said...

Wait, that was Magister, not Magnus. I'm confusing Astute Commenters.

ge said...

and poor 'Gnostic' is stuck in the middle, between Gnosis & Gnosticism
---No stick is stuck, oi loike dat

ge said...

Looking for Culianu quote found this:
... Eric Voegelin, who in his efforts to defend genuine transcendence thinks everything modern is gnostic. Undoubtedly there are gnostic currents running though western Christian culture, and these currents could be charted more precisely, in view of some rather exaggerated claims made by Eric Voegelin and others. It is a worthwhile though necessarily limited task to determine how useful it is to attach the label ‘gnostic’ to a text, trend or movement in theology, philosophy, or literature.
Ioan Culianu, bemoaning the fact that everyone is a gnostic according to someone:

"Not only was Gnosis gnostic, but the catholic authors were gnostic, the neoplatonists too, Reformation was gnostic, Communism was gnostic, Nazism was gnostic, liberalism, existentialism and psychoanalysis were gnostic too, modern biology was gnostic, Blake, Yeats, Kafka, Rilke, Proust, Joyce, Musil, Hesse and Thomas Mann were gnostic. From very authoritative interpreters of Gnosis, I learned further that science is gnostic and superstition is gnostic … Hegel is gnostic and Marx is gnostic; Freud is gnostic and Jung is gnostic; all things and their opposite are equally gnostic..."

but the greatest Gnostic of all was...Gnossos Pappadoupolis

Gagdad Bob said...

That's one way of looking at it.

julie said...

Yikes. Keep kids away from church, and next thing you know they're praying to the president. I'm suddenly reminded of Kim Jong Il...

mushroom said...

European revolution is just a revolving around who gets to say, L'etat, c'est moi. And that is, indeed, what the left has sought here. They saw themselves as being "out" and wanted "in". Obama is the pinnacle of that -- although I think it was Clinton's guy with the big empty forehead who said, "Stroke of the pen; law of the land."

To anyone who understood what the American revolution involved, a person saying, "I am the state" is as nonsensical as a baseball umpire saying, "Le jeu, c'est moi." Even the Unforgiven Dan Denkinger would know better than that.

Open Trench said...

Where should our collective heart be as a nation, in order to fulfill our highest national mandates?

Grade the following on a 1-5 scale:

Space Exploration


God Consciousnes

Moral Rectitude

World Influence

Military Supremacy

Educational Reform

Physical Health

Parks and Recreation

Fine Arts

Counterculture Revolution

Walmart Bashing

Walmart Praising

Studied Indifference

Total Acceptance of What Is

Total Resistance to What Is

The Middle Path

Eat Drink and Be Merry


Hate and Despise

A Little Bit 'O Everything

Van Harvey said...

"Thus, "Turning toward, and turning away from, the ground become the fundamental categories descriptive of the states of order and disorder in human existence."

This is not an abstract statement. For example, America's founders, in anchoring our very political existence in unalienable rights conferred by the Creator, explicitly turned toward the ground of order. Conversely, Marx -- and all ideologies flowing from him -- explicitly reject this order.

Voegelin calls this "willful turning away from the fundamental experience of reality" a "disease of the mind.""

Speaking of which, from the California of the east:

"Parents across Massachusetts are upset over new rules that would not only allow transgender students to use their restrooms of their choice – but would also punish students who refuse to affirm or support their transgender classmates.

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Education issued directives for handling transgender students – including allowing them to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify."

The word 'Identify' is now explicitly intended to no longer accurately describe reality, but only what some particular person might wish it were.

I'd call that dis-ordered 'thinking'.

Van Harvey said...

... speaking of which, open stench said "...ctive heart be as a nation, in order to fulfill our hi..."

- why do you breathe?

Van Harvey said...

... speaking of which, Cousin Dupree... whas' up Cuz?

Open Trench said...

Our national mandate is to increase global God consciousness. I realized this when I woke up this morning.

Everyone get crackin.

That means you, Van. Especially you.