Friday, October 16, 2015

Give Liberals a Child to the Age of 27, and They Will Give You Back a Bigger Child

You know the old gag -- "give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." The left has taken that to heart, minus the man. Tack on graduate school, and the liberal motto should be: give me a child to the age of 27, and I will give you back a terminal child.

Like our reader Van, Esolen places much of the blame on John Dewey, whom he characterizes as a "philistine with a hypertrophied brain." Assouls like him are "senile without ever having been young."

That's some useful insultainment, because it is true of liberal academia in general and of our president in particular, who is simultaneously infantile and sclerotic.

Obviously their whole brains cannot be hypertrophied, but only a part. I wonder which part? We'll return to that question later. But there certainly must be a dominance of left brain over right in order for ideology to be superimposed over experience.

In fact, Dewey was explicitly anti-right brain, as it were, in that he had no use for the child's imagination.

Now, to steal or thwart a child's imagination is a serious crime, because without it, life is hardly worth living. Art, beauty, love, religion, even truth itself all disclose themselves in this transitional space.

We want to deepen and broaden this imaginal space, not foreclose it. Anything of significance is only significant because it faces in two directions, objective and subjective. You might say that we probe an object by extending our subjectivity into it in imaginative ways. See Polanyi for details.

I've mentioned this in passing before, but I believe this is one of the vital functions of religious imagery.

Let us say there is a "spiritual space" where we may have experiences of different kinds. This is something even an atheist will concede, i.e., that spiritual experience exists, even if, in his opinion, it has no object and is wholly subjective.

But a blind worm, say, could affirm the same of the third dimension. Since the worm has no means of probing it, it might as well not exist.

For us, the sense of touch (and taste) is one dimensional, and this is the world Hellen Keller lived in before her awakening to language. It is simultaneously infinite (as is a point) and yet horribly enclosed: "confined in infinite meaninglessness," you might say. Pure Ø.

The sense of smell introduces a two dimensional world, as the smell is separated from its source. Sight opens up the third dimension -- space -- while hearing opens the fourth -- time.

I would say that the spiritual sense -- and all normal humans have it -- opens up the transdimensional space.

But just because you have the space, it doesn't mean it is mapped. Humans, for example, became aware of three dimensional space long before they were able to map the globe, much less the heavens.

Looked at from a certain angle, human evolution involves the more or less accurate mapping of the spiritual dimension.

If you are a Christian, you learn, for example, that the space is trinitarian and relational. It is certainly intelligible, and this intelligibility is characterized by Light. In it we discover the divine beauty, AKA glory. We also discover objective virtues and other archetypal realities.

So, what I mean to say is that John Dewey is all wet when it comes to the imagination. In a particularly diabolical passage, he claims that children

"are occupied only with transitory physical excitations. To symbolize great truths far beyond the child's range of actual experience is an impossibility..."

To which I can only say that my 10 year old is truly wiser than John Dewey, who thinks like a retarded, neglected, or abused child who was never given the space to dream, or even just be. And then he systematically takes it out on generations of innocent children under the guise of "education."

Esolen notes in passing how Charles Darwin claimed -- big surprise -- "that poetry meant nothing to him. He had no ear for it, and he noted its loss with mild regret."

Likewise, "John Dewey had no poetry in his heart," except that in his case he "never noticed the lack." Therefore, like many contemporary atheists, he had a spiritually fatal case of Dunning-Kruger, in that he was completely unable to recognize his own spiritual impoverishment.

"A child is a human being: and human beings are made in the image and likeness of God." This "implies that the child is made for goodness and truth and beauty, and that he will respond to it, despite Dewey's absurd contempt for it..." (Esolen).

To deprive a child of the primordial knowledge in the paragraph immediately above is analogous to performing a spiritual lobotomy: a logotomy, perhaps. True, you'll create a robot or a beast, but robots can be programmed while beasts can be imprisoned.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

God is Not Seen, But the Means of Seeing

There is of course a proper kind of humanism and a healthy form of liberalism that go something like this: they give men "the freedom of the height and breadth and depth of human experience, including man's mysterious encounter with his Creator. To be free is not to live in no place and at no time but to live in one place as in the shadow of all places, and to live in time as in the morning twilight of eternity" (Esolen).

This is what Joyce is trying to drive home in both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake: human life from the perspective of eternity, or at least "temporal fullness." In the former he tries to cram it all into a single day, while in the latter he does so in a single dream. In both cases a solitary man stands for every man, or Here Comes Everybody. The point is that Anybody is Everybody if life is lived "in the shadow of all places" and "in the morning twilight of eternity."

In the case of FW, it revolves around various permanent complementarities such as male/female, old age/youth, life/death, love/hate, men of action/contemplation:

"[T]hese, by their attraction, conflicts, and repulsions, supply the polar energies that spin the universe. Wherever Joyce looks in history or human life, he discovers the operation of these basic polarities. Under the seeming aspect of diversity -- in the individual, the family, the state, the atom, or the cosmos -- these constants remain unchanged.... [He] presents, develops, amplifies, and re-condenses nothing more nor less than the eternal dynamic implicit in birth, conflict, death, and resurrection" (Campbell).

I know what you're thinking: isn't all that frantic energy just maya, i.e., cosmic illusion? That would be the Buddhist or Vedantic take, but Christians are not permitted to look at it that way. Rather, we are charged with participating in the whole existentialada and jumping into the cosmic catastrophe heart first. That's what God did: all the way from Incarnation to Crucifixion and beyond. At no point does he flinch from his commitment. Except momentarily in that garden the night before.

This is also in contrast to Schuon. I'm reading a book of his I'd never heard of, called Primordial Meditation: Contemplating the Real. First of all, I do not recommend the book except for truly extreme seekers. It was his first book, published in 1935, when he would have been 28 or so.

You might say that it contains everything he would write about later in a more refined and comprehensible manner. In contrast, this is simultaneously raw and overly eggheady, possibly because he wrote it in German, whereas all the later books are in French. (He says the latter is much more conducive to philosophical precision, while the former is more existential, symbolic, and emotional.)

You could say that the book is the diary or journal of an awakening, so in that sense has has parallels with far more digestible books such as Merrell-Wolff's Experience and Philosophy: A Personal Record of Transformation, Bede Griffith's The Golden String, or Sri Aurobindo's On Himself.

In the introduction, it says that "In these early writings it is as if an immense energy were forcing a passage through a narrow channel, or a huge mass were being compressed to its utmost. The sheer scope and power of the content constantly threaten to burst the confines of the verbal receptacle."

From the standpoint of container/contained, you could say: we're gonna need a bigger container. Schuon would spend the rest of his life attempting to do so, to find language adequate to the experience and the reality. Compare with Aurobindo: "One commences with a method, but the work is taken up by a Grace from above, from That to which one aspires, or by an irruption of the infinitudes of the Spirit" (emphasis mine).

Now, in my view, the purpose of dogma and tradition and revelation is to have a kind of God-given channel for the Spiritual Irruption. Without the channels, the irruption can be good or bad, depending. In other words, it is just, as it were, "energy." By way of comparison, think of the endless damage done by the left because of their admittedly great "moral passion." But moral passion is neither here nor there in the absence of objective morality.

What is interesting about these early journals of Schuon is that there is no attempt to frame his experiences in any known religious context. I'm only up to page 39, but so far I don't recall mention of any religion or prophet or savior. The closest he comes is p. 33, where he speaks of "The precepts given by the envoys of God," which "point to a non-contradictory attitude in man..."

So already he is giving a Vedantin twist to his experiences, such that the seeker "dissolves his own will, contradictory in itself, by becoming one with this divine Will, just as he dissolves and liberates himself..." Conversely, in a trinitarian context, one would not say that liberation comes via dissolution of the self, but through relationship to the Source.

I think I see the basis of our friendly disagreement. Note how we are always going on about those orthoparadoxical complementarities such as God/man, man/woman, time/eternity, etc. Schuon takes a different tack, and characterizes these as dualities; although there is a complementarity, it is between, on the one hand, the world of incorruptible unity, of pure reality; and on the other, the fallen world of duality and fragmentation, AKA maya.

Thus, where we see a complementarity of Creator/Creation, he sees one of Unity/dispersal. There is "pure Reality, which is above, outside and beyond Being, and fragmented Reality, which is below, within and on this side of Being." Thus, the World is a kind of negation of Being -- just as Being is a negation of God -- instead of the world being a creation motivated by love.

If I am not completely wrong, then Schuon is half-correct in asserting that everything on this side of God must by definition be a negation.

However, I would frame this in terms of creation, i.e., that things have their source in the creator God (i.e., they are not passive emanations from an impersonal God).

Or, from a slightly different angle, the reason why we can know anything about an object is because we cannot know everything about it, the latter of which being reserved for God. Even so, all knowledge and all existence speaks of God, or it neither exists nor is knowable (which amount to the same thing).

To paraphrase a remark by C.S. Lewis, God is not what I see, but the means with which I see. More generally, I think for the mature Christian, Christianity is not so much seen as the means of seeing. Once one starts seeing through its lens, then that is in itself the seeing of it.

But this is scarcely different from any scientific theory. For example, one cannot really "see" Darwinism, or leftism, or scientism. Rather, these are ways of seeing the world.

And by their fruits you shall evaluate them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

We Need Free College Because Liberal Robots Won't Build Themselves, You Know

Speaking of how to wreck a child, reader NoMo left a comment that "Life should begin in a world of love and boundaries. It should end in freedom and certainty. Moving a child from one to the other is parenting."

This implies that to ruin the child, all you have to do is start them on a diet of tension and ambiguity, to ensure that it ends in confusion and compulsion.

Along those lines, Esolen writes (speaking of education) that "There are only two reasons why one would study a thing that is not of ultimate concern or that does not bring delight that carries us out of ourselves, as experiences of love and beauty do.

"One is that it is useful, a means to a farther end. The other is that we have no choice. We are compelled to do it. And since the experience of love or of beauty is by its nature impossible to compel, any justification for the compulsion must rest on utilitarian grounds."

Or in other words, if you're going to compel a child to learn something unpleasant, you'd better have a damn good excuse. I know that when I was a child, no excuse was forthcoming. Rather, it was all compulsion tied to some hypothetical utility. It wasn't so much that the knowledge per se was useful, but that somehow it would turn me into a useful human being.

I can only thank God it that the project failed, and that I remain as useless today as the day I was born!

Which I mean quite literally, because a human being has no end beyond himself, so he is the last word in uselessness. A human being is not "for" any other purpose except to be more fully human -- which is where God enters the picture, because to deny God is to mutilate man, as occurred in all those atheistic paradises such as the USSR, Nazi Germany, Mao's China, etc. Note that the damage continues down the generations, because it's difficult to give what you never received, or what was violently stolen from you.

So, when education becomes a utilitarian hammer, children are the passive nails. "They are treated as advance troops in remaking the human material known as their parents" (ibid.). Note that there is no question of being "made in the image and likeness of the living God," but merely being "pawns in a sociopolitical game..."

Between innings of the baseball game I caught a few moments of last night's debate and overheard our socialist candidates going on about "free" college, as if there could exist such a thing, instead of merely shunting the cost to third parties.

But more to the point, no Democrat would favor such a thing if there were some danger of college producing human beings instead of properly indoctrinated antihuman socialist robots. Indeed, if all colleges were like, say, Hillsdale, they would deny all federal funding (which is precisely what they have done in the case of Hillsdale, since it refuses to discriminate on the basis of race).

The bottom line is that Democrats will help you get an education so long as the education makes you useful to Democrats. Otherwise you are a menace to society.

Going back to NoMo's maxim, remember that the goal is Freedom and Certitude, as opposed to license and compulsion, or dogma and relativism, or doubt and force, etc. Esolen writes of how children are "rewarded according to how well they adapt themselves to the Teaching Machine, whose judgments are at once lax (for the Machine does not actually teach a great lot) and severe (for the judgments enter the Book of Life, with implications for college and employment...)."

The other day I was chatting with the pharmacy tech -- when you have diabetes you're on a first name basis with your pharmacist -- and she asked how the boy was doing in school (the new semester had just begun).

I said something to the effect that I really didn't care, and that I'm still trying to unlearn what I didn't simply forget about my primary education. I said that we were much more concerned with him being a good person than successfully adapting to the Machine. Although she was surprised to hear my good-natured rant, I could tell from the delighted look in her eyes that she knew exactly what I was talking about. In contrast, a couple other techs overheard the conversation, and I could tell from their faces that they disapproved. You know the look -- the liberal stink eye, like Michelle Obama's permanent expression.

The Machine "is not for teaching children, but for socializing them" (ibid.). Now, "socializing" is a completely relative term. I surely want my child socialized, the question being into what?

"Socializing, writes Esolen, "does not mean that the Teaching Machine imparts the difficult virtues of courage, temperance, prudence, and justice, much less family-building and family-protecting virtues as manliness, womanliness, and chastity. Those virtues set a people free. But we do not want to a free people. Free people are not predictable. We want a managed people" (emphasis mine).

Emphasis NoMo too, because this again goes to the freedom/certitude vector of development. Instead of genuine freedom, which can only flow from those rock-solid virtues, children get predictable robots who know all about recycling, tobacco, and homosexual contributions to History.

If you've ever wondered how liberals Get That Way, it must be rooted in their subservience to the Teaching Machine, where one learns "how to make insipid cliches pass for thought, how to be 'subversive' in trivial and uniform ways, how to think 'outside the box' of tradition and wisdom and into the stainless steel cage of the politically correct..." (ibid.).

Yes, it sounds bad, but

No Matter How Bad You Think It Is

"It's worse."

Because "Chasing after truth is to a child's mind what good food and fresh air and exercise are to a child's body."

And we are all children. The alternative is to be a square and uniform brick in the leftist wall. You know, like Roger Waters.

Virtue liberates; vice enslaves. A passion for genuine beauty liberates; to submit to the ugly, the drab, the slipshod, and the squalid is to give up the noble journey.... A passion for goodness -- not niceness, not political etiquette -- liberates; to submit to the venal, the self-indulgent, the wanton, the mendacious, is to agree to be bound by lies. --Esolen

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Obama: Proof that in America, Any Kid Can Grow Up to be Petulant!

Genesis delves into a number of our orthoparadoxical complementarities, including individual/community and male/female. It troubles me when Biblical literalists appeal to some obscure passage in Leviticus to frame their arguments against homosexuality, when the issue is so much larger than that. As Brueggeman puts it,

"On the one hand, humankind is a single entity. All human persons stand in solidarity before God. But on the other hand, humankind is a community, male and female." Neither alone is the full image, thus the community of Israel, the body of Christ, and marriage, each of which illuminates the part/whole relation: we ourselves are only whole when we are part of something larger. Which goes to the trinitarian nature of the Godhead.

Thus, Jesus "is not an idea which lives in a cosmological vacuum." Rather, "it is an explicit call to form a new kind of human community in which the members, after the manner of the gracious God, are attentive in calling each other to full being in fellowship."

Or in other words, we help each other to become more human, to actualize our potential, to become who we are, to discover our idiom.

This can only be accompliced in the proper community. In fact, most communities not only do not facilitate these things, but actively block them. I know that's how it was for me in my depressing slog through public education: it digested me rather than vice versa.

And it's only getting worse. In Psychology Today, of all places, there's a perceptive piece on how fragile students have become:

"[S]tudents’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when it comes to grading. Some [teachers] said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such 'failure' as the end of the world."

Teachers "described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively. Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, 'Buck up, this is college.'

"Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.

"We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have: Young people, 18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it."

Tell me about it. This may be my last season of coaching baseball, because I cannot believe what I am seeing: eleven or twelve year old boys who cry when they are called out, or who ask to sit out an inning because they are "too hot," or who insist on pitching when it will only hurt the team because they can't freaking throw a strike.

Before the first game, when we were handing out uniforms, one kid started crying because he wanted a different number. He became petulant and refused the jersey, even though the number he wanted was on a much larger jersey and would have looked like a dress on him. I could go on and on... But how are we producing these dysfunctional pussies? If you tell them to be a man, they genuinely have no idea what you're talking about!

The implications are not trivial, because I think this is ultimately how we end up with a president Obama. Mitt Romney received 62% of the white male vote in 2012, which translates to 100% of the white male vote.

Another unblogged book sitting on my desk is Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child. It's only so-so, but I'll bet it goes to some of what was just said above.

Esolen addresses the critical distinction between freedom and compulsion. For example, back in my day, no kid would have been "free" to pout and refuse his jersey. It was beyond the horizon of anyone's imagination, unless the kid were retarded or something. So what was this brat exhibiting, if not freedom? Such boneless wonders are "in the deadly habit of simultaneously exalting themselves and making themselves puny" (speaking of Obama!).

"I believe we are bringing children up not for the freedom we enjoy but for the compulsions we suffer. Some of those compulsion we even mistake for freedom, so that the more of them we win, the more tightly we bind ourselves, body and soul." So if that kid wins the Battle of the Jersey, he really loses, as he remains mired in his infantile compulsion.

I have to admit, I could have handled the situation better. I was so taken aback that I was caught somewhat speechless. If I could go back and do it again, I would have simply dropped the jersey at his feet, said "man up," "not my problem," or "deal with it, Private Snowball," and moved on. After all, that is what he desperately needs.

Esolen: "To be 'free' is not to do as you please but rather to realize the fulfillment of your natural and created being, without impediments." The "drive for love and truth is itself [man's] liberty." This is opposed to a range of counterfeit choices that convince the person he is free, when he really dwells "in a cramped world, spiritually and intellectually and humanly speaking."

Esolen implicitly touches on the subject of mind parasites. As we have discussed in the past (and in the book), when you are under the compulsion of a mind parasite, it can be accompanied by a subjective sense of freedom. But its freedom is really your compulsion; thus, they "make us less than human. They bind us to automatisms. They give us choice in what is evil or foolish or trivial, just as the keepers of an asylum will let their charges watch television or play poker for pennies."

This is the same liberal stupidity that sets you free. It is a wholly negative freedom, or a freedom without content, direction, or telos. Thus it is the very quintessence of nihilism, literally another word for disordered or worthless or futile. And it is, by the way, the same freedom promised by the serpent in our nonlocal garden.

"Freedom, in the end, is an intrinsic virtue, not an extrinsic condition, an accident of politics. It is not a negative -- freedom from. Instead it is positive -- freedom for." It is "the unimpeded capacity of a creature to make real the fulfillment that is built into its very nature" (Esolen).

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thank God for Atheism!

I really need to clear the spindle. Somewhere along the line the cosmic flow was bottlenecked, such that I have at least a dozen books strewn around the desk, either partially or totally unblogged. Granted, some of them aren't especially blogworthy, but even the worst of them has a few nuggets. Maybe I'll start with those and work my way up, because I can eliminate more of them that way. A less cluttered desk is a less cluttered mind.

Which reminds me: some people think this song is about God (Good Old Desk). Apparently it's just about a desk. But I think it's really about his piano. Before he was almost famous, he worked the graveyard shift in a bank, but had a nine-to-five job as songwriter with a publishing company. His "office" consisted of a small cubicle with a piano. So his desk really was his piano.

Anyway, another thing that contributes to the backblog is that I end up not blogging about things contemporaneously. The whole operation runs more smoothly when I blog about what I'm actually working on.

At the moment I'm reading a book called Essential Theological Terms, but there's not much in it worth blogging home about. More like taking my medicine or getting inoculated so as to avoid future heresies. Or completing my continuing education units for my cosmic bus driver's license.

Here's a book on Genesis which we've sporadically referenced. The best thing about it may be the cover shot of the cosmos, because that's how I picture it -- like a dʘnut with a space of light in the center -- the vast space of the divine Nothing. It conveys the idea that God is at the center, and that the further from this center, the darker things get -- whether morally, ontologically, epistemologically, aesthetically, or politically.

And only man can see and understand what we just said, for "God speaks directly only to human creatures. The others [in Genesis] have no speech directed toward them at all." They are -- like all creatures -- spoken, but only man is both spoken and spoken-to.

Twice God addresses human beings as you, which he couldn't do if we didn't share an I with him. This I to I communication goes to our intimacy with the creator, with the creation, and with each other, for man

"is the speech-creature par excellence. This is the one to whom God has made a peculiarly intense commitment (by speaking) and to whom marvelous freedom has been granted (in responding)."

In a sense, freedom is founded upon our freedom to reject God. To put it conversely, if we couldn't reject God, then we wouldn't be free. Which means quite literally that the atheist can only thank God for his atheism. Again, if God doesn't exist, only He knows it. Sounds like a joke, but it is one of those statements we can know with absolute certainty. In order to rule out God, we'd obviously have to hear it from the source. Otherwise it's just a rumor.

Now that I'm thinking about it, could it be that the primordial catastrophe described in Genesis is really just a description of what happens when man becomes man? What I mean is that there is this (literally) infinite gap between all of creation -- including all its sublinguistic creatures -- and man.

Although there is of course continuity, there is also a kind of absolute wedge between us and the rest of creation. You could say that the ultimate wedge issue is Creator/creation, but the penultimate one (which is an analogue of the first) must be Man/world (since we always transcend the latter, even while being immanent in it).

The text describes this from a number of different angles, including language, law (only man is conditioned by a non-genetic Ought), relatedness (it is not good that we should be alone), knowledge (we get to name the other creatures, which implies knowledge of their forms or essences), awareness of evil (AKA the wily serpent), a nonlocal soul (which God blows into us), and the reciprocal freedom to blow him off in return.

Now, in a weird way, if not for man, then God is absent from the cosmos. In other words, only man can be conscious of God, i.e., render God present. "There is one way in which God is imaged in the world and only one: humanness!" There is a fine line, however, between this and idolatry. Man is analogous to the moon, which has only reflected light. But if we forget that, we can become lunatic moonbats and worship the wrong object.

But "God is not known through any cast or molten image. God is known peculiarly through this creature who exists in the realm of free history.... The contrast between fixed images which are prohibited and human image which is affirmed represents a striking proclamation about God and about humanness."

And it is surely a premonition of what is to come, i.e., the Incarnation, in which image and likeness are mutually illuminated in the same body. In order for this to happen it must first be possible for it to happen. Therefore, we might say that man is ultimately the possibility of God (in a manner of speaking).

Man has freedom and authority over the other creatures, but the first implies responsibility while the second implies truth. Thus, man ought to exercise power as God does, a "creative use of power which invites, evokes, and permits. There is nothing here of coercive or tyrannical power..."

And like Jesus, "the one who rules is the one who serves. Lordship means servanthood." How much you wanna bet Ben Carson would understand what was just said, whereas Barack Obama would regard it as a cow does a poem?

So, "The role of the human person is to see to it that the creation becomes fully the creation willed by God."

This whole perspective is cosmically revolutionary, such that it turns the cosmos bright-side up: "The text is revolutionary. It presents an inverted view of God, not as the one who reigns by fiat and remoteness [cf. Allah or the left], but the one who governs by gracious self-giving."

By the same toking, "It also presents an inverted view of humanness," because human beings "are not the chattel and servants of God [cf. Allah or the left], but the agents of God to whom much is given and from whom much is expected."

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