Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Secondary Realities and Metastatic Hope

A secondary reality, according to Voegelin, is a kind of microcosmos or dreamworld that reflects a universal possibility in man. Always and forever, man is faced with a choice: reality or fantasy, which is to say, truth or desire. (I trace this all the way down and back to Genesis 3, which is indeed its deeper lesson: that man prefers to create and inhabit his own world over the one created for him.)

Modern political gnosticism -- like its premodern religious variants -- is an expression of "the horror of existence and a desire to escape from it." You will have noticed that for leftists from Marx to AOC, the dream world blends into the real world, such that "the dreamers adopt the vocabularies of reality, while changing its meaning, as if the dream were reality" (Voegelin).

If you've been paying attention to the Democrat clown show, what you see is a magical effort to transform the dream into reality and reality into dream. These two processes necessarily co-arise once immanence and transcendence are conflated and confused. Realms that must be distinguished in order to properly think about existence are promiscuously blended. Thus, "in the Gnostic dream world,"

nonrecognition of reality is the first principle. As a consequence, types of action which in the real world would be considered morally insane because of the real effects which they will have will be considered moral in the dream world because they intended an entirely different effect.

Then -- just watch! -- the inevitable gap "between intended and real effect" is blamed not on the Gnostic's failure to appreciate reality (including the reality of human nature), but on "the immorality of some other person or society that does not behave as it should behave according to the dream conception of cause and effect. The interpretation of moral insanity as morality... is a confusion difficult to unravel."

To put it mildly. Consider poor Joe Biden, who has been doggedly asleep in the liberal dream for some fifty years. But the dream has moved on -- which is to say, metastasized -- so rapidly that he simply can't keep up: busing is good, borders are bad, gender is whatever we want it to be. Frankly, when the first principle is nonrecognition of reality, there's nothing to grasp onto, not even straws, because there is no solid ground to thought:

The identification of dream and reality as a matter of principle has practical results which appear strange but can hardly be considered surprising. The critical exploration of cause and effect in history is prohibited; and consequently the rational coordination of means and ends in politics is impossible.

"Dangers" are recognized -- they cannot not be recognized -- except "such dangers will not be met by appropriate actions in the world of reality. They will rather be met by magic operations in the dream world, such as moral condemnation, declarations of intention, resolutions, appeals to the opinion of mankind, branding of enemies as aggressors," etc.

In short, irrespective of what happens in the real world -- say, for example, a flourishing economy -- Orange Man Bad! And if you are delighted by the record low unemployment of People of Color? White supremacist!

A deeper point, I think, is the jettisoning of our western tradition, which can only result in the eradication of civilization. I mean this literally, for the first step of civilization must be the vertical distinction between transcendence and immanence, which must be maintained in order for order to persist. (The creation story of Genesis is all about ordering primordial chaos by drawing and maintaining vertical and horizontal distinctions between God and man, light and dark, good and evil, man and woman, adult and child, life and death, etc.)

But it doesn't end there. Rather, you might say that the whole arc of salvation -- which is nothing less than the story of the West -- is the elaboration of the transcendent, ending, for the Christian, in Christ and his Church.

However, that "end" is only another (and endless) beginning, as it fertilizes and transforms the immanent. But the Gnostic has no patience for the time this takes (or just say Time, which is qualitative and organic, not mere quantitative duration). Rather, he wants his heaven here and now. He is too sophisticated to believe in God, but not sophisticated enough to distinguish God from man, the celestial from the terrestrial. Terrible consequences follow, every time. In short, this is where the dream turns to nightmare

Hope itself isn't the problem, properly understood. After all, it is a theological virtue. I have here a handy little book called The One-Minute Philosopher, which distinguishes between Hope and Wish.

The former "involves the conviction that, despite appearances to the contrary, truth and goodness will prevail." Thus, it isn't at all easy to maintain hope in the teeth of this depraved world, which is precisely why it is a virtue.

Please note that this is not the magical hope of Gnostic dreamers and ideologues. Any tenured yahoo can imagine a better world, but that isn't what we're talking about.

Rather, we're talking about accepting (and even loving) the world for what it is, and committing ourselves to its betterment. If we do not accept the world for what it is -- and human beings for what they are -- then our hopes will be completely misplaced. They will be reduced to wishes, and wishes to ashes.

For what is a wish? It "involves the fancy that, despite appearances to the contrary, our desire will be satisfied. To wish is to invoke fortune to bring us what we want, even when what we want is not good" (Brown).

Consider some of the implications drawn out by Brown: "hope is creative," but "wish is imaginative." While "I can wish for anything, I hope only for what is possible. My hope looks to the future, but is rooted in reality as it is."

And importantly, "what we hope for, we are also willing to work for." Conversely, a wish "has no particular bond with reality as it is, but feeds on fantasy.... Wishing is like dreaming: it is not confined to reality as it is, nor is there any good reason to believe that my wish will come true.... [U]nlike when we hope for something, we are not necessarily willing to work for it. We wish for all sorts of unattainable and frivolous things" (ibid.).

The left wishes socialized medicine would work, that college were free, that borders didn't exist, that members of the same sex could exist in a state of matrimony, that racial discrimination could end racial discrimination, that human fetuses weren't human, that women weren't women, that men weren't men... the wishlist is endless because desire and imagination are infinite.

But none of these things can be. We can try to force them to be, but the system will crack under the pressure of the denied reality. You could even say that politics -- which deals with the finite -- becomes cancerous when forced to conform to infinitude.

Why, for example, have our Supreme Court hearings become so malignant? Largely due to the twisted pettifoggery of Roe v. Wade. The left wants us to bow before this grotesque example of judicial wishery, so that only those who reject reality -- the reality of the human person -- are acceptable to liberals. This is bound to create tension, a tension that forces infinitude (the human soul) to be finite and finitude (a "woman's right to choose") to be infinite.

The marketplace of ideas is supposed to be a struggle of truth against truth, or, more accurately, a struggle for or toward truth. But what if it becomes a struggle for and against truth? For Voegelin, that is precisely what the political struggle involves, because it is the same struggle that is "waged on every level of human existence."

For example, it is axiomatic in psychology that pathology results from one part of the mind being at war with another. An unwanted truth is denied, repressed, or projected, and the psychic lacunae -- AKA the hole in your soul -- is unconsciously filled with the wish, the desire, the preferred state of reality.

Likewise, we enter dangerous pneumapolitcal waters when confronted "with persons who know that, and why, their opinions cannot stand up under critical analysis and who therefore make the prohibition of the examination of their premises part of their dogma." The result is "a conscious, deliberate, and painstakingly elaborated obstruction of ratio..." (Voegelin), or what we call logocide.

Yes, the cognitive tyranny of political correctness. I wish it weren't so, but for the left, it is what it isn't.

10 comments:

Gagdad Bob said...

A related bag of scary mush:

"It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions, and social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty -- a renewed relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to the land.

"This is the revolution of the new generation. Their protest and rebellion, their culture, clothes, music, drugs, ways of thought, and liberated life-style are not a passing fad or a form of dissent and refusal, nor are they in any sense irrational. The whole emerging pattern, from ideals to campus demonstrations to beads and bell bottoms to the Woodstock Festival, makes sense and is part of a consistent philosophy. It is both necessary and inevitable, and in time it will include not only youth, but all people in America."

****

Speaking of the acceleration of time, this kind of kooky talk has moved from the fringes to the platform of a presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson.

julie said...

Frankly, when the first principle is nonrecognition of reality, there's nothing to grasp onto, not even straws, because there is no solid ground to thought:

A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest at a relative's house. Got up to use the bathroom during the night; I remembered that there was a step down outside the bedroom door, but didn't realize there were actually two. Nothing like expecting solid ground and finding only thin air beneath your feet. At least I had the good fortune to be fully awakened by the experience...

Thus, it isn't at all easy to maintain hope in the teeth of this depraved world, which is precisely why it is a virtue.

Someone this week - Vanderleun, probably - linked to a series of essays regarding the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge quake. It was strangely reassuring, in the sense that, in spite of the ridiculous lack of preparation exhibited by the so-called authorities whose job it is to be ready for such eventualities, things worked out. The author quoted someone else who said, in essence, that when disaster strikes, don't just hope for miracles, count on them. He's right. This world is depraved, there is no doubt of that. But it is also full of miracles, which shine the more brightly when things seem darkest.

julie said...

Re. the bag of scary mush, I take heart from the fact that the younger generations seem to be rejecting this new cultural revolution in greater and greater numbers, much to the dismay of the cultural commissars. Having been force-fed this nonsense since birth, many see it for the pure, unadulterated BS it all is.

Anonymous said...

If people are natural born sinners, and those compelled to acquire power even more so, is there any way we sinners can mitigate the excesses of the even-more-sinning powerful? For the children? Seemed that was the general idea not so long ago, before sharia took over.

Speaking of the democratic clown show, the media is obviously pushing Biden, the least progressive and most corporatist of the bunch. Trump overcame his similar battles in defeating Republican establishmentarians like low energy Jeb and lyin Ted. But it seems that McConnell is being a most effective status-quo gatekeeper.

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't like to make predictions. But Petey does, and he says Biden is finished. If you add up the support of all the woke contenders, it dwarfs his numbers. Once the herd is thinned and the woke Dems put their support behind a single clowndidate, sleepy Joe is done.

Doug Saxum said...

(The creation story of Genesis is all about ordering primordial chaos by drawing and maintaining vertical and horizontal distinctions between God and man, light and dark, good and evil, man and woman, adult and child, life and death, etc.)

I like that. 😁

Doug Saxum said...

Oh, by the way,
Checking in

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Godwin

Another great post, you are in great form.

Regarding reality:

Although it is undeniably important for a person to have a functional relationship with reality, an inner fantasy life which does not conform to reality should be recognized as having great value.

It is common for persons to have an inner world to spend time in, and this inner world is a source of great entertainment, solace, and self-nurture. I agree it should not be transposed onto reality without fact checking and a clear head. The safety and well being of others should always be paramount. To this end sincerity and purity are the safeguards.

Yet, visionaries, inventors, and great thinkers do get new, game changing ideas from fantasy land which can be transposed on to reality with great results.

No offense intended to you Godwin, but in regards to your accusations against Democrats as promulgating doctrines out of touch with reality:

Said accusations seem moderately out of touch with reality as well. Although you bring up good points, your brief and blanket condemnations betray a lack of a thoughtful analysis considering both sides of the debate.

All this means is that you too have your own fantasy world with unique doctrines, and I note you are careful not to harm others with them, confining it to written diatribes without calls to action. You have not sought public office or policy-making authority.

On some level you must suspect your views might not stand up to scrutiny. Your blog comment section is notorious for the lack of tolerance for those who question the validity of the statements.

To your credit, you pointed out this element as diagnostic for fantasy doctrines.

Respectfully, Professor Tenured X

Van Harvey said...

"A deeper point, I think, is the jettisoning of our western tradition, which can only result in the eradication of civilization. I mean this literally, for the first step of civilization must be the vertical distinction between transcendence and immanence, which must be maintained in order for order to persist. (The creation story of Genesis is all about ordering primordial chaos by drawing and maintaining vertical and horizontal distinctions between God and man, light and dark, good and evil, man and woman, adult and child, life and death, etc.)"

Without care and reverence for what is True, there can be no West... only the rest.

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad ref'd "A related bag of scary mush:"

But enough about our educational system, and the plans it openly stated over a century ago.