Friday, August 17, 2018

Okay, but How Did Patient Zero Get Sick?

This post began with an innocent attempt to respond to a comment from yesterday, and just got out of hand. It's a little rambly, but it's too late to fix it.

The search for Patient Zero of our troubles inevitably leads to questions of how this patient got sick in the first place.

Genesis tells us that it started with a serpent, but that's frankly not very helpful. Or, conversely, maybe it's very helpful, in the sense that it is basically telling us to stop asking questions about something we'll never fully understand anyway.

Analogously, I've heard Dennis Prager say that this is the purpose of the very first sentence of the Bible, that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

The larger purpose there is to cut off our idle speculation at the outset, and to let us know that the transcendent divine principle is responsible for all of creation, so deal with it. It's supposed to be helpful, in the sense that we now have a kind of unchanging foundation on which to build our metaphysic.

Put it this way: either the world is created, or it isn't. Obviously there is no merely human way to resolve the issue. Therefore, knowing this world is created is a kind of liberation from truly pointless speculation. For if the world isn't created, then all speculation is utterly pointless anyway. So ultimately, the doctrine is a gift to our intellect.

For Whoever does not believe in myths believes in fables (Dávila). You might say that God gives us certain fruitful myths so we don't descend into the childish fables of the tenured.

Likewise, perhaps the "doctrine of satan" (or of the adverse cosmic power) is a kind of helpful gift. Just accept it, because it explains a lot, even if we can't quite figure out how the principle fits into the overall scheme of things.

I mean, if you think theological explanations of evil are naive, then try the psychological, or economic, or feminist, or Marxist explanations! They're way too stupid for any intelligent person to take seriously, and yet, these childlike fables are the psychic petroleum of the left.

Besides, the satan principle is not as much a straightforward answer as a mystery to be pondered. Therefore, it operates quite differently from those concrete answers of the left that unambiguously locate evil in white males, or class warfare, or misogyny.

Time out for more aphorisms, because I can always rely on Dávila when I'm flailing around. For example, He who speaks of the farthest regions of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary. For precisely this reason, speaking of the farthest reaches of evil also requires a theological vocabulary.

Some of the relevant aphorisms are a bit indirect or oblique, such as this one: When man refuses the discipline the gods give him, demons discipline him. So, demonic influences rush in when we close ourselves off to divine ones. This makes a great deal of sense. As we know, nature abhors a vacuum. But so too does trans-nature.

An irreligious society cannot endure the truth of the human condition. It prefers a lie, no matter how imbecilic it may be. Boy and how! Think of the crazy alternatives to the doctrine of creation alluded to above.

Evil only has the reality of the good that it annuls. Its only real power is via privation -- like the way an air conditioner runs on heat-producing energy.

Have you noticed how every evil regime on earth derives power by pretending to be the opposite of what it is? For example, The Islamic Republic of Iran, or The Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea. Or even the Democratic Party, which has always revolved around racial division and hatred, from Judge Taney to Sarah Jeong. At least they're consistent.

There is something to be said for the idea that, in the words of Schuon, the devil is "the humanized personification –- humanized on contact with man -- of the subversive aspect of the centrifugal existential power."

Therefore, Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized, and Man will have created a world in the image and likeness of hell when he inhabits an environment totally fabricated by his hands.

More generally, Hell is any place from which God is absent. And only man can render God absent, at least in imagination. Thus, The proclamation of our autonomy is the founding act of Hell.

Tolerance? No one is more respectful of “others’ beliefs” than the devil.

The death of God? The greatest modern error is not announcing that God is dead, but believing that the devil has died.

Truly, this could be the motto of the left: The devil can achieve nothing great without the thoughtless collaboration of the virtues.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Patient Zero of the Left

Another idiosyncratic post that goes nowhere, but may get there tomorrow...

I'm starting to think there may be no longterm cure for liberalism, i.e., that it is fatal. If it were just an acute illness -- say, something that only emerged in the 1930s, or 1960s -- then it might be treatable. But what if we are in the end stage of a centuries-long disease process?

Judge Bork implies as much, suggesting that certain odious developments "have been coming on for a long time and may be inherent in Western civilization."

Usually I think of Western civilization as the solution, not the problem. But if it is the problem, then there is no solution.

If the U.S. fails, then mankind fails. And if conservatism fails -- i.e, if we fail to conserve the vision of the founders -- then America fails.

Interesting how extremes meet. The left would agree with Bork that Western civilization is fatally flawed, but for very different reasons. Indeed, for Bork, the left's devaluation of Western civilization -- its self-loathing -- is just a symptom of the real problem.

Just this morning I was reading of how our whole sinister regime of state-mandated racial discrimination ("affirmative action") was created via an executive order by LBJ in 1965. Thus, it could be rescinded with the stroke of a pen.

In the presidential campaign of 1980, Ronald Reagan promised to do just that. Which, of course, he never did. Why not? How can something so intrinsically un- and anti-American, something so fundamentally at odds with our values, survive?

That's a somewhat rhetorical question. The answer is, violence on one end, cowardice on the other. Prior to Trump, no president has been willing to so subject himself to the violent and hateful rhetoric of the left. But to my knowledge, even Trump has never spoken of undoing this indefensible injustice.

How can we tolerate federal funds going to universities that openly engage in racial discrimination, and which systematically violate the right to free speech? What's the problem here? What is our major malfunction? Why is this happening in America, of all places? That modern liberalism "is intellectually bankrupt diminishes neither its vitality nor the danger it imposes" (ibid.).

And a central reason why it is so dangerous is precisely because it is so intellectually bankrupt. In short, like any other cultish ideology, the progressive left is a closed system that is impervious to evidence, fact, and logic. And vertical closure = hell on earth.

I mentioned this passage a few posts back, but it is certainly worth repeating, because it goes to the essence of the problem:

Modernity, the child of the Enlightenment, failed when it became apparent that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason. The response of liberalism was not to turn to religion, which modernity had seemingly made irrelevant, but to abandon reason.

And once the left abandoned reason, it rendered reason impotent in defending us from the left. Brilliant! In a diabolical way.

When truth is eliminated, what's left to arbitrate disagreements? Just power. What, for example, keeps the state discrimination regime thriving? Power. Absolutely no different from the days of Jim Crow, showing once again how Democrats never change. They never change because they are animated by certain false principles that can be traced back hundreds of years.

Thus, what we call "modern liberalism" is more like terminal liberalism. It is, as Bork says, just "the latest stage of the liberalism that has been growing in the West for at least two and a half centuries, and probably longer."

Is there a patient zero? I tend not to think of this in strictly historical terms. Rather, I've long interpreted Genesis 3 as a fable about "patient(s) zero," only repeated ad nauseam through history; the story brilliantly reveals timeless archetypes that play out in time. Every time.

What are the lessons of this complex archetypal narrative? What it is trying -- desperately! -- to convey to us? We've probably posted on this subject dozens of times, so I won't re-belabor the point. But at the very least, it is telling us something about human nature, about male-female relations, about divine-human relations, and about human intercourse with certain "lower-vertical" energies symbolized by the serpent.

What does it tell us about human nature? To me it goes to a certain unavoidable "design flaw" in man; not to say that the Designer erred; rather, that in creating a creature with free will, certain adverse developments are inevitable (or, inEveateapple, as we always say). These adverse possibilities range along a vertical spectrum from venial misdemeanors to felonious plunges into auto-divination.

Another lesson is that man is in permanent exile, and that utopia is no longer an option. That ship has already sailed. The horses have bolted and it's too late to close the barn door. We are all "wandering Jews" who will not return to any terrestrial promised land. It's a vertical diaspora, and the Raccoon has no place to lay his head. Life itself is a mid-life crisis, just as history itself is an endless cosmic war -- or the shadow of one, anyway. Can't you hear the echoes?

All of this was brought home to me in an unlikely way, when I first encountered Joyce some 35 years ago. Let me see if I can explain what I mean without excessive bloviation.

First of all there was Ulysses, which tells the story of an Any- and Everyman wandering through the corridors of archetypal time, such that 24 hours is as if 24 centuries (and vice versa). In short, every day is a kind of "structured eternity" telescoped into a human framework. But then Joyce did himself one better, and situated our Everyman in the historical dreamscape of All Time.

I'm not saying I ever understood the book, but I did spend many months trying. Or better, it was like trying to understand one's dreams. Rarely do I truly understand one, but I very much enjoy dwelling in their protean creative mystery.

Let's try to narrow down our exegesis of the Wake to what went wrong and to what has gone wrong with liberalism. Interestingly, Joyce frankly doesn't pretend to know the details. On nearly every page we are reminded that something has gone wrong, but it is exceedingly difficult to find out what it was. Rumors abound. There are plenty of opinions. You could call it "original sin," which is a little bit like how liberals talk about "structural racism" -- which is to say, racism without any actual racists.

Analogously, original sin is a little like a structure in which we are situated, even if there were no sinners per se. Down here, even perfection is imperfect.

Which of course reminds me of what Schuon says about the subject: something to the effect that existence itself is the most consequential sin. Er, why? For reasons alluded to above: in the very act of creation, God creates something separate from God (even while not radically disconnected, for this would be impossible). The rest is history. Literally.

As Campbell and Robinson write in the Skeleton Key,

The Wake, at its lowest estimate, is a huge time-capsule.... If our society should go smash tomorrow..., one could find all the pieces, together with the forces that broke them, in Finnegans Wake. The book is a kind of terminal moraine in which lie buried all the myths, programs, slogans, hopes, prayers, tools, educational theories, and theological bric-a-brac of the past millennium. And here too will be found the love that reanimates this debris.

And as Joyce "never tires of telling us, 'The same returns.'" Which means the same bad stuff. But if he is correct, it also means the same good stuff. I suppose our theological hope is that this is a spiral and not just an endlessly recurring circle, much less an entropic decay into oblivion.

The radical error -- the deification of man -- does not have its origin in history. Fallen man is the permanent possibility of committing the error. --Dávila

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Center Cannot Hold if the Top Can't Rule

Slouching Toward Gomorrah begins with a passage from Yeats' The Second Coming, which is so often repeated -- by left and right -- that it has become a cliché. You know, Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold, so mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Welcome to Any Day, Every Year.

I'm pretty sure humans have been thinking this from the beginning. Written in the wake of WWI, it could equally apply to the fall of Rome, or the wars of the Reformation, or the French Revolution, or, for an ahistorical leftist, the election of Trump. Leftists may be ignorant of history, but they feel like the world is ending, and that's what counts.

Another frequently cited line is The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity. You often hear a passionately intense cretin -- say, Bill Maher, or Michael Moore, or MSNBC hosts -- complain about how timid and reasonable their side is. The absence of self-awareness makes me lightheaded.

By the way, because of the Dávila influence, I find that I've begun thinking in terms of spontaneous aphorisms. Often they float into my head fully formed, although sometimes I have to tweak them a little for that extra tang. I'm not saying they're as penetrating as his, but you have to start somewhere, right? For example,

If you're not a liberal at 20 you have no self-righteousness, and if you're not a conservative at 40 you have no self-awareness.

Or, Ideology fills the vacuum created by tenure.

--The news is a commercial for liberalism. The commercials are news about capitalism.

--Anything deep and true is conservative.

--A "male feminist" is either a wolf in sheep's clothing or a sheep in sheep's clothing. Useless either way.

--The cogito of the left: "I envy, therefore RACISM!"

--Universal human nature and self-evident truth are two sides of the same coin; likewise, identity politics and the tyranny of subjectivism.

--Since progressivism is a state religion, public schools should be abolished on 1st amendment grounds.

--The concept of "cultural appropriation" was invented by white Marxists, so blacks & Latinos need to stop appropriating it.

--Capitalism is unfair to people who want power but have no talent.

--Say what you want about the liberal arts, but they've found a cure for common sense.

--All socialists have to do is stop pretending to be God. But then they wouldn't be socialists.

I'd like to move more into the aphorism department, if only because it is a great courtesy to the reader. As I've said before, the world is filled with 400 page books that contain one idea. Conversely, Dávila has thousands of aphorisms that could be expanded into a book, -- or, better yet, are the distillation of that book, so it needn't be written in the first place.

Think too of all those books that contain one idea, but the idea is totally stupid (or monstrous). For example, the most popular history book on college campuses is Howard Zinn's History of the American People. Let me summarize it for you: America (and capitalism, and white males) is evil. There's no clever or witty way to say that, so he had to write the book.

Back to Yeats. When the center can't hold, why not? Is it because there are no centrists? That can't be right, because to be a centrist is to compromise with evil. There is no centrist position between conservative classical liberalism and Antifa fascists. A leftist would no doubt respond that there is no centrist position between them and white supremacism.

Which is a red herring, since the latter doesn't exist in any meaningful way, and certainly wields no political power whatsoever. And this leaves aside the fact that all wholesale racism comes from the left, not from conservatives. Conservatism is founded on ideas, not on blood or identity.

In the margin I have a note to myself: "The center cannot hold because the top cannot rule." That might qualify for an aphorism, except that it actually needs to be fleshed out in order to be understood, at least by most people. Very senior Raccoons might get it right away, and see all the implications, but our culture has been so saturated by egalitarian thinking, that Absolute Authority sounds downright un-American.

But if there is no absolute authority, then there is no center. Note that this vertical authority bisects reality, which is precisely what creates the center: you might say that "truth" is anywhere verticality bisects horizontality.

This verticality is also the source of legitimate order, organization, and hierarchy. Now, hierarchy is the opposite of anarchy; put conversely, the only cure for anarchy is hierarchy. I don't mean this in a polemical way. Rather, it is just the literal truth. For example, the campus anarchy of the 1960s was a result of administrators abandoning hierarchy and placing themselves on the same level as the rioters.

Obviously, anarchy cannot be cured by anarchy, because horizontality cannot transcend horizontality. Which is precisely why leftism always ends in tyranny. It is baked into the cake. As Dávila says, When the exploiters disappear, the exploited split into exploiters and exploited.

Thus, the immediate result of the communist revolution of 1917 was a two-tier society. This was the new order, the new center, the new verticality. And No social class has exploited the others more brazenly than the one that today calls itself “the State.”

Now, man is the center of the world. Indeed, you could say he is the center of creation. This is a literal truth, and it is uncontroversial. It can only be denied from the standpoint of the center which it denies, thus refuting itself.

Besides, leftists are forever making pronouncements that could only emanate from a vertical cosmic center, even if they deny any ground for this center. Here is a typical "activist scholar" who is full of passionate intensity about denying normality and deconstructing reality (check out her CV: madness!).

So, don't ask why the center cannot hold. It can't hold because the top -- AKA truth -- can't rule. Therefore, the bottom dwellers fill the vacuum. Which is why leftism always comes down to rule by sociopaths.