Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Fredogate and Spiritual Warfare

This is an all-new post. I apologize in advance for its wooliness and circuitousness, but it is spontaneously unfolding in real time, and maybe I'm out of practice.

It has come to our attention that there are two types of conservative, one that thinks the left is in error, the other viewing it is satanic. No doubt never-Trumpers fall into the first category, and many of them wonder how a conservative Christian could support this president. But if the left is satanic, the question answers itself.

A trivial but illustrative example occurred yesterday, with the Fredogate kerfuffle. A fair number of prominent conservatives defended Fredo and denounced his heckler, on the grounds that conservatives should never behave this way. If we do, then we are no better than the left.

First of all, if only. If Antifa restricted itself to giving clever nicknames to conservatives and requesting selfies with them, we could hardly condemn that. All in good political fun.

I was listening to the radio yesterday morning on the way to work, and while Rush Limbaugh reacted to the incident with merriment, Dennis Prager dismissed the Fredo-baiter as a jackass and a fool, and adopted the view that we should never do this to a public figure. This is one of the rare times I disagree with him, because this was nothing like chasing public figures out of restaurants, or harassing them outside their homes, or in any way encouraging violence. The Fredo-baiter should not be compared to, say, people who camp outside Senator McConnell's home and threaten to stab him in the heart, or who spit on the president's son.

In short, this is spiritual warfare. There are rules.

What's the difference between calling someone a Nazi and suggesting they are diabolical? For if someone is literally a Nazi, then we are wholly justified in stopping them by any means necessary. Not only is it morally acceptable to punch a Nazi, you could even argue that failing to do so is a sin of omission.

But we are not Nazis, to put to put it mildly. I won't go so far as to say I am a good person, but I'm certainly not evil. I don't deserve to be punched or worse, just because I am a Trump supporter. Nevertheless, that's what they say.

Which is a hint into the diabolical nature of the dynamic. But first we need to define our terms, beginning with diabolical, which is to say, relating to the devil, AKA Satan. Let's say the leftist grudgingly concedes I'm not a Nazi. But I'm calling him satanic! Isn't that worse? Besides, isn't that a priori crazy, since Satan doesn't exist, whereas Nazis do?

I would turn it around and say that the very existence of Nazis is a proof of the diabolical. I remember coming to this conclusion at least a couple decades ago, when I was trying to wrap my mind around the Holocaust with the meager tools available to a psychologist, and came up far short. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but evil of this depth and on this scale requires a proportionate explanation. True, Hitler had an abusive father and deeply painful childhood. But so did Churchill. File under "so what."

I was discussing the question of Satan the other day with my 14 year old. I made the point that the story of, say, Adam & Eve is clearly allegorical, symbolic, archetypal, etc., but the Church does not view Satan in this manner. Rather, he is a person and he is real. It's up to us to figure out how this could be so, but it does explain a great deal, like an unknown variable in physics that ties the cosmos together.

Quick timeout for some aphorisms while I gather my thoughts. Note that each of them would apply to conservative Never-Trumpers, if any still exist:

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

The devil can achieve nothing great without the thoughtless collaboration of the virtues.

He who does not smell sulfur in the modern world has no sense of smell.

Many think that the devil died, but he merely walks around today disguised as a man.

I also find some of Schuon's thoughts on the subject helpful. Somewhere he draws a distinction between the satanic and the luciferic: the latter merely opposes and subverts the good, while the former inverts and thereby renders it evil. And woe unto them who call evil good and good evil, and who turn darkness to light and light to darkness!

What I want to say is that political warfare must have different rules from spiritual warfare.

But first, back to our definitions. I was reading a book the other day that asks Who is the Devil?, and it says he is, among other things, "the Commander-in-chief of the fallen angels."

Angels? Aren't we just digging a deeper epistemological hole? No, because I also snatched up another volume at the church rummage sale called What is an Angel?, and angels -- I'll bottom line it for you -- are simply the spiritual intelligences that fill and complete the hierarchy between man and God. Human beings are ensouled matter, while angels are purely spiritual beings unencumbered by matter (there are other differences, but this will do for now). These beings populate the vertical world both above and below, the latter being the whereabouts of the fallen angels.

There are, by the way "angelic intelligences" (so to speak) among humans, by which I mean an intelligence that is simple, intuitive, and cuts straight through to principles, essences, and primordial causes. I certainly experience Schuon in this way. It is quite distinct from garden-variety human thought, no matter how intelligent or penetrating. Not to imply that Schuon is omniscient or infallible, only to highlight this different form or modality of thought. (And of course, there are also counterfeit versions of this, e.g., Marianne Williamson, Deepak, and all the rest.)

Speaking of the Devil, let's get back to him. A big difference between standard and fallen angels is that the former love, while the latter hate and are motivated by hatred. Which reminds me -- and you will have noticed this -- of how we conservatives hate because we love, whereas leftists love because they hate. For example, they hate the world as it is, they hate human nature, and they hate the constraints of reality in general. Which is why they always offer political solutions to existential problems, as if we can ever be free of the latter. Yes, we can transcend them, but through religion, not politics.

Now, you might say that in positing this vast realm of vertical intelligences, I am confining myself to a world of superstition. However, "confine" isn't quite the right word. Above our world, writes Corte, is "another domain even even richer, more wonderful and diverse," with an "infinite variety of invisible essences":

Let unbelievers enclose themselves within their narrow thoughts and limit their vision to this small world that we can see, to this brief life which is but a preamble to our immortality. They sometimes say religion narrows the mind! We answer them with the grandiose vision that faith unfolds before us....

The earth is so small and the heavens so vast! What could be more natural than to admit that between the human race and God's throne there is a great multitude of pure spirits, of ardent thoughts, with intuition as vivid as lightning and as big as the stars, spirits endowed as we are..., with intelligence, will and liberty...

At the very least, even if you don't want to call them angels, you need to deploy some sort of cognitive placeholder for this mysterious realm, just as, say, physics has a category of "dark matter" without having any idea what it is. But it's there just the same, whatever it is.

Another important principle to bear in mind as we proceed is that the cosmos is one, or it wouldn't be a cosmos. The cosmos isn't just an exterior totality, but an interior unity as well, and this unity obviously encompasses the vertical as well as horizontal. So, there is indeed a lower vertical, the question being how it fits into the unity. (Note that various forms of Gnosticism solve the problem by positing a separate and coequal power of evil, whereas materialists affirm the unity by simply banishing both good and evil to the contingent world of illusion and opinion.)

Returning to the reality of pure spirits. Yes, you could say that's pretty weird, but not as weird as spirits bound up with matter. In other words, human beings are actually weirder and less obviously explicable than angelic beings. And in the words of the Aphorist, The world is explicable from man; but man is not explicable from the world.

To be continued, I guess....


ted said...

Glad to see it was a Corleone wannabe that brought you back to form!

Mark said...

A couple of comments pop up in me as i read your latest, since I've been reading Girard lately. Obviously, your topic touches on the political polarity, and is trenchant as usual.
But in my nascent reading of Girard, Satan is described as the whole mimetic scandal/contagion/rivalry. Always showing up as someone, a serpent, a fallen angel, Judas, even Peter, giving a stage presence to a mimesis mechanism involving a victim. He is the prince and principle of this world. Ofttimes it is ourselves he inhabits to greater or lesser degree, in our interactions and relationships. Same with other angelic beings, perhaps. Sitting on our shoulders, left or right. But Orthodox teaching withholds from him the quality of realness in some sense of equivalence to God's realness, or ours for that matter...
I'm sorry, i haven't yet wrapped my head around all that Girard has developed, so i can't really explicate it well enough to flesh out my thoughts. However...
I imagine you are much more familiar with his ouvre than i. I would love to read your thoughts in this regard sometime, especially as it cuts across the current post. You may have already written about it but i haven't stumbled across it as yet.
Other thought: this keeps cropping up for me, and you touched on it in this post, and that is the manichaeism or duality that often seems implicit when satan is discussed. It is in Girard that i have begun to see glimmers (only) of the solvent for this impasse in exegetical literature. (I'm not widely read and i am a slow reader with low retention. And I haven't read your book either, mea culpa, but i frequently read One Cosmos these last several years. Thank you!)
Let the wooliness continue.

Gagdad Bob said...

Eh. Girard just doesn't do much for me. Simultaneously explains too much and not enough.

neal said...

Angels that don't matter matter. Not exactly vice versa but close enough for army work.
I heard somewhere that information and entropy are exactly as entangled as space/time, or electro/magnetism.
No dark matter just the way the geometrics play out.
That is actually ok with that whole there is the One but not the One deal.
Diabolics is just game theory working with the big map but I do not play judge with that. I see miracles.

Mark said...

What a niggardly response. Sorry to bother you, and sorry i bothered.

Gagdad Bob said...

Sorry. That certainly wasn't my intention. It's just that Girard's theories seem to me like a reduction of metaphysics and theology to anthropology, when it should be the other way around. His ideas sounded interesting when I first encountered them, and they still do to a certain extent, but I guess my primary interests lie elsewhere.

The motif of scapegoating and sacrifice is important, but it's not everything.

julie said...

Let's say the leftist grudgingly concedes I'm not a Nazi. But I'm calling him satanic! Isn't that worse? Besides, isn't that a priori crazy, since Satan doesn't exist, whereas Nazis do?

The bitter irony is that a great many of them literally are Satanists, whether they “believe” in it or not. It’s actually rather shocking just how much Crowleyism has injected itself into our popular culture, but they inject its symbology into a lot of what they create. Most people, having forgotten or never learned the language of symbology, never pick up on it. Once you see it, though, it can’t be unseen.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie:

Yeah, you're right. Crowleyism, aka occultism, is especially popular among youth, however this fades out and you won't find much occultism among 30 + year-old individuals. Generally the preoccupation with money and chores, aka "adulting," forces people to focus on what's important and drop the nonsense.

Likewise Antifa field squads consist of 16-22 year old people, We don't want adults who have responsibilities to get involved. Same as it always was for the American GI. Incidentally an Antifa regular officer will not target individuals unless their link to Nazism is evident from reliable interviews, document review, and observations. Findings of Nazi paraphernalia do not alone constitute cause for action, as there are legitimate collectors of such things. The exception are portraits of the Fuhrer displayed in the home. These when found constitute probable cause.

Mistakes have been made. Agreed.

Dr. Godwin's take on Satan is consistent with his gradual movement away from Eastern mysticism and ever more pronounced affinity for Biblical scripture. Dr. Godwin is converging on Puritan thought and has written John Edwards style fire-and-brimstone sermons of which this is a continuation. He does smell the sulfur, ladies and gentlemen. And it is coming from Democrat orifices.

The acute and well-executed description of the beings of the intermediate zone seems to spring from Robert's intuitive thinking. These were similarly described by Aurobindo and there can be little doubt they exist.

The Sri advised not to truck with any beings of the intermediate zone, as those claiming to be angels can approach under false pretenses. Crowleyites be advised of this also.

Mark said...

Thanks. Yeah, reduction is a bitch.