Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Sturgeon's Law and the Plague of Ismism

I'll be brief. Or maybe not. Let's just say I have two conflicting aims: on the one hand, I need to attend to something in my worklife I've been putting off for a couple weeks. On the other, I'd really like to finish discussing this big ol' book of late essays by Voegelin. It seems that the only solution is a speedpost, on the double.

Let's begin with some questions about ideologues, whether they subscribe to positivism, scientism, existentialism, psychologism, evolutionism, leftism, whatever. Let's just call it the modern and postmodern plague of ismism:

why do they expressly prohibit anybody to ask questions concerning the sectors of reality they have excluded from their personal horizon? why do they want to imprison themselves in their restricted horizon and dogmatize their prison reality as the universal truth? and why do they want to lock up all mankind in the prison of their own making?

Why do these narrow-minded assouls want to "engulf Western civilization in their political prison culture"?

Not only would answering this question require a lifetime, but we could say that this is what a "lifetime" is, precisely. I wish I could.... well, not literally, but for the purposes of this essay, I wish I could go through college again, knowing what I know (and unKnow) now, and thereby observe the whole pathological process from an objective standpoint. As it was, I internalized the pathology and then spent the second half of my life undoing it. Or with luck, the latter three fifths.

In this meditative essay on his own intellectual development, called Remembrance of Things Past, Voegelin says that he too was subject to the same pressures to conform to ideology:

A school [i.e., a school of thought] is a formidable force indeed. Considerable time had to elapse before I understood the situation and its implications.

For my part, it wasn't until well into graduate school that I began to realize that the relevant issue isn't so much the philosophy as the philosopher, by which I mean that "philosophy" is just the means for a great (or not so great) intelligence to grapple with existence.

In my specific case -- in the discipline of psychoanalysis -- I noticed that it was full of intellectual mediocrities who had simply internalized the catechism, sprinkled with a few great intellects who used the tools and concepts of psychoanalysis to express a much deeper and wider apprehension of things. You might say that they deployed psychoanalytic concepts to transcend the limits of the discipline from within.

The analogy to music, or religion, or painting is exact. Anyone can learn music. But how many can use it express great artistry? Anyone can learn theology. But how many great theologians are there? Isn't there an informal law governing all disciplines regarding the excellence-to-crap ratio? Some people say rock music is crap. Which is true, except for 1%. Same with TV, movies, books, blogs, whatever.

Here it is: Sturgeon's Law, "an adage stating that 'ninety percent of everything is crap.'" Clearly, Sturgeon had low standards.

Come to think of it, Sturgeon's Law must intersect with the Dunning-Kruger effect, such that the lower one's ability or expertise, the lower the perceived ratio of excellence-to-crap. In other words, a person with no musical discernment thinks all music is pleasant. He enjoys Harry Connick as much as Frank Sinatra, or Bruno Mars as much as James Brown. A person with no journalistic standards is satisfied with CNN or the NY Times. A wife with low standards is content with me.

Back to Voegelin: an analysis of the phenomenon of consciousness

has no instrument other than the concrete consciousness of the analyst. The quality of this instrument, then, and consequently the quality of the results, will depend on what I have called the horizon of consciousness; and the quality of the horizon will depend on the analyst's willingness to reach out into all the dimensions of the reality in which his conscious existence is an event; it will depend on his desire to know.

This is what you call a Key Principle. It is irreducible to anything else, although we hasten to add that it is necessarily complemented by the Divine Energies, so to speak.

In other words, our openness is either open to the transcendent object or it is actually enclosed within its own genetic, neurological, cultural, ideological, and/or philodoxical horizons. There are only two possibilities, but if you keep thinking through your limited horizon you'll realize there is only one. Break through that glass ceiling!

The resultant consciousness

is a ceaseless action of expanding, ordering, articulating, and correcting itself; it is an event in the reality of which as a part it partakes. It is a permanent effort at responsive openness to the appeal of reality, at bewaring of premature satisfaction, and above all at avoiding the self-destructive phantasy of believing the reality of which it is a part to be an object external to itself that can be mastered by bringing it into the form of a system.

Oh well. Didn't finish the book, and now playtime is over. I have to get some work done.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Intellectuals vs. Intelligence

To which the typical intellectual will respond: a distinction without a difference! But we know better: for just as a manual laborer is someone who works with his hands, an intellectual laborer is someone who toils with his head. The designation implies no qualitative evaluation. Some intellectuals are geniuses, others idiots.

For example, Thomas Sowell and Paul Krugman are intellectuals, both being involved in the production of explicitly articulated abstract ideas. Which tells us precisely nothing about whether the ideas are good, bad, or even diabolical. Although if you read it in the Times, you can be pretty sure it's the latter.

Diabolical ideas. Note that only a human being can entertain and act on them. Speaking of evil ideas, yesterday I read that Pope Francis says it's “immoral” for nations to possess nuclear weapons. Criminals, Islamists, and Chicoms, you heard the Pope. Eliminate your nukes! Come to think of it, all you rioters and looters in Chicago and Portland? Stop being naughty!

Only an intellectual could believe objects can be immoral, or that there is no moral distinction between Iran and Israel possessing one of these objects. But thank God Truman had one and Hitler didn't.

In the words of Francis, “It has never been clearer that, for peace to flourish, all people need to lay down the weapons of war." Which proves that, in the words of the Aphorist, "In the Christianity of the leftist Christian, one of the two elements sooner or later eliminates the other." Score one for leftism.

The diffusion of a few drops of Christianity into a leftist mind transforms the idiot into a perfect idiot (Dávila).

Back to the main point, which is knowledge and the people who know it. As we mentioned in yesterday's post, intellectuals deal with articulated and abstract knowledge -- AKA ideas -- which is a small subset of knowledge per se. Sowell points out that a gifted surgeon, for example, is not considered an intellectual, even though he knows infinitely more than, say, Thomas Friedman or Charles Blow.

Political talk shows don't feature engineers, architects, or scientists, even though it requires more intelligence to excel in these fields than it does to succeed as a political pundit. For one thing, these activities offer immediate and decisive feedback that lets the practitioner know if he's doing an adequate job: the bridge falls down, the plane crashes, the patient dies.

But there is no penalty for a college professor being catastrophically wrong. He is completely insulated from feedback. Which is why leftists want all young adults to be indoctrinated by these credentialed buffoons at the taxpayer's expense. For

Until we come across instructed fools, instruction seems important (Dávila).

They say that people are always conservative with regard to what they know best. Which is why people who know nothing are the best leftists. Joe Biden doesn't even know what day it is. Perfect! Nearly as good are people who know things that can't possibly be true, but are oblivious to any kind of corrective feedback: the media, academia, AOC.

Wisdom is costly. Ideology is free. No, better than free, for it confers zero-cost omniscience: the ideologue has a ready answer for every question and a solution to every human problem, especially the permanent ones that are intrinsic to the human condition. Yes, Ideologies were invented so that men who do not think can give opinions. Which is why The intelligent man quickly reaches conservative conclusions (Dávila).

If there are intellectuals without intellect, there are religionists without God, so to speak: they know the words but have never heard the music which words can only distantly describe but never replace. Voegelin:

There were always Christian thinkers who recognized the difference between experiences of divine reality and the transformation of the insights engendered by the experience into doctrinal propositions.

There is, and must be, a dynamic tension between dogmatic and mystical theologies, which is precisely analogous to saying there must be a dynamic tension between the ideas of the intellectual and the reality which is prior to them.

Ideas -- whether secular or theological -- are true to the extent that they are adequations to real objects, whether God or world. In both cases, truth can degenerate into an ontologically closed and empty ideology.

But let no Raccoon suppose there is any intrinsic conflict between intellect and revelation, doctrine and experience, truth and being: "we believe that knowledge exists and that it is a real and efficacious adequation"; that this integral knowledge is "at once intellectual and spiritual"; and that this fruitful tension "is the reason for the existence of the human spirit" (Schuon).

One God, One Cosmos, One Intelligence, One Truth, One Post, etc.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Words Fail

Worlds are colliding. Lately I've been reading Voegelin, Schuon, and Sowell, and these three -- who have never before inhabited the same sentence (I just checked: It looks like there aren't any great matches for your search) -- converge on one key point: that articulated knowledge can be a poor substitute for the experiential kind.

This post is primarily about mystical knowledge, which is to say, experiential knowledge of God. But the principle applies to every realm, which we already know from reading our Polanyi.

Let me begin with Sowell, since he is the most down to earth: literally, because as far as I know, he is completely secular. I've read all of his books, and don't remember him ever touching on religion except incidentally.

But principles are universal, otherwise they wouldn't be principles. Supposing you discover one, it may apply to things you don't intend. Suppose, for example, you believe in the principle that all men are created equal, but you also happen to be a Jim Crow or BLM or Antifa racist. Oops! You are unintentionally cancelled by your own principle. You can kill MLK, but his principle will take its revenge.

How exactly would we formulate the principle we are about to discuss? It's easier to do so in the context of aesthetics, since no amount of yada yada can contain or exhaust the mysteries of sound or color as conveyed by a master. But we're talking about plain old knowledge of any kind. Can our epistemological principle be reduced to an aphorism? Calling Sr. Dávila!

Each of the following touches on our principle from a different angle. Or, imagine trying to describe a hyperdimensional object with 3D language: even an infinite number of circles won't add up to a single sphere. For that matter, even an infinite number of posts will never exhaust that to which I am alluding. For

Certain ideas are only clear when formulated, but others are only clear when alluded to.

And Words do not decipher the mystery, but they do illuminate it. Light comes from Light. And returns to it.

B-b-b-but As long as we can respond without hesitating we do not know the subject.

This one is perfect: We do not know anything perfectly except what we do not feel capable of teaching.

What is the timeless truth taught by our trolls? That Nothing seems easier to understand than what we have not understood.

How to distinguish between the intelligent man and the learned fool? That which is incomprehensible increases with the growth of the intelligence. And this one is particularly obvious: Whoever is curious to measure his stupidity should count the number of things that seem obvious to him.

Honesty requires us to place strict limits on what we know, and certainly what we may express about it. This isn't just rudimentary humility, but common courtesy:

The honest philosophy does not pretend to explain but to circumscribe the mystery.

I'll say it again: One can only reread what suggests more than what it expresses.

You are no doubt familiar with the phenomena of "intelligent stupidity" and "mature immaturity." But in reality, To mature is to comprehend that we do not comprehend what we had thought we comprehended.

I know that I don't know. What's your excuse?

We especially see this unbounded pseudo-intelligence in our so-called elites, whether in politics, the media, or academia. One of the reasons mean girls such as Jim Acosta and Barack Obama so hate President Trump is that he has torn away the masks of competence, intelligence, and emotional maturity. High school students, Dude.

I wish I had more time, but I don't, so we'll pick up the thread tomorrow.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Paranoia, Metanoia, Agnoia

You know about the first two. The third implies having no spiritual or vertical direction at all, i.e., being lost in the cosmos. Here it is defined as "lack of knowledge," "ignorance, especially of divine things," and "moral blindness," the last being a necessary consequence of the second, since the conscience is a celestial errand boy.

In the context of a discussion of Stoic thought, Voegelin characterizes agnoia as a form of madness: "a man is altogether raving"

when he is ignorant about his self and what concerns it; this ignorance is the vice opposite to the virtue of true insight; it is to be characterized as an existential state in which the desires become uncontrolled or undirected, a state of fluttering uncertainty and overexcitement of passions, a state of being scared or terrified because existence has lost its direction...

Given the psychic pain associated with such an existential condition, the agnoiac will often turn to paranoia as a bogus cure for the absence of meaning and direction. Say what you want about paranoia, but self-styled left wing victims and tenured grievance mongers don't wonder about the meaning of life. Some folks obtain meaning and comfort by knowing they're loved by God. Others do so by imagining they're hated by white people.

Others may experience a faux metanoia or misgodded spiritual breakthrough. This is how cults and cultists are born (the sincere kind, anyway), including a great many seemingly run-of-the-mill religionists. You know the type:

Nothing is more dangerous for faith than to frequent the company of believers. The unbeliever restores our faith (NGD).

Still, a dubious metanoia is usually preferable to agonoia or paranoia. It often keeps the person out of trouble, if only because they find themselves in a context of social support for healthier attitudes and behaviors. Mormon theology, for example, is utter nonsense, but Mormons are usually very nice people. In my personal experience, Harry Reid and Mitt Romney are the exceptions.

There is also the more mysterious factor of God Knowing His Own. Ultimately he cares about persons, even if the person in question believes some pretty kooky things. This is somewhat tangential to the main subject, so let's refocus.

To review, the only proper existential attitude for man is metanoia (which is somewhat awkwardly translated as "repentence"). For us it is functionally equivalent to an open engagement with our transcendent ground and source. Or just turning around and looking out the damn cave door. We have a choice: shadows or substance. But who in his right mind chooses the former when he can have the ladder?

Analogously, we do not recommend that you breathe oxygen or drink water. Rather, these are a function of the way we are designed. If you are thinking to yourself that wings prove the existence of air, go to the head of the class. Likewise, metanoia -- which is a kind of vertical flight -- proves the existence of spirit, or of the divine energies that blow up and down between man and God.

Yesterday I read an article that provides a perfect example of how agnoia can lead to paranoia, which can then lead to 35 years in the federal penitentiary. It is an absurdly sympathetic account of the two NY lawyers who were arrested during the BLM riots.

The Molotov cocktail waitress and her consort are accused of seven federal crimes, including arson, conspiracy, and using a destructive device in the commission of a crime of violence -- or, a "destructive device" and "crime of violence," as the "writer" puts it.

What struck me is how the crimes of these two lost souls make perfect sense in the context of a thorough indoctrination into paranoid leftist ideology. If Trump is Hitler, or Cops are Racists, or White People are Evil, then why wouldn't you use violence to stop them? Assuming you still have a conscience, you would be derelict not to do so.

Note that this resembles conscience but is in fact what is called a "corrupt superego," which allows one to commit evil in good conscience. It has a certain appeal, because it permits one to project one's own evil into others and thereby commit violence against them. Both history and myth prove this to be man's second oldest intoxicant (cf. Cain and Abel).

Check out this idiotic but telling tweet:

A terribly sad story. Two young and idealistic lawyers, get wrapped up in the BLM protest movement. In a moment of madness they throw a Molotov cocktail into an abandoned police car and burn it. Now they face a minimum 35 years in a federal prison.

"Idealistic"? Yes, they are full of ideas. Sick ones. A "moment of madness"? No, just madness, i.e, their delusional ideology. Their entire belief system is an extraordinarily consistent microcosmos of lies. If there is injustice here, it is that their professors -- or whoever taught them this twisted nonsense -- won't be sharing a jail cell with them.

Too bad prosecutors can't use RICO to get them to turn state's evidence against their universities. For this isn't some random, street level crime. Like all the "protests" we've been seeing for the past couple of months, this is organized crime that starts at the top. These are the shock troops of ideology, just as the Mafia has capos, captains, and soldiers. You can arrest ideological soldiers all day long, while leaving the organization untouched. They'll just graduate more.

The agitated Voice of Paranoia:

“We’re all in so much pain from how fucked up this country is toward Black lives. This has got to stop, and the only way they hear us is through violence, through the means that they use. ‘You got to use the master’s tools.’"

“This is the way that people show their anger and frustration,” she says a minute later. “Because nothing else works. Nothing else.”

Here is a lawyer "who had come of age in an increasingly activist mainstream left." She made just one mistake: she actually believed her loony professors. And the media:

when a president and his advisers seem to regard the law as an obstacle course; when an attorney general metes out favors, not justice; and when immigrant children are held in cages and men are killed on video by police, some lawyers may want to embrace a more flexible definition of “lawless.”

Yes, if you believe crazy things, it just might lead to crazy actions! Besides, it's just a bit of political vandalism -- you know, like burning a cross on a black person's lawn. Like MLK, they might be regarded as "civil-rights heroes, even martyrs, instead of professionals who crossed a line."

I don't know if I'd go that far. Being a real Civil Rights Icon, like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, requires a lifetime of lies, threats, and blackmail, not just a single moment of madness.

These two are "unfailingly kind, gentle, and decent." Or in other words, they are leftists who believe all the right things. She even saw "the parallels between the American Black struggle and Palestinian oppression." Unfortunately, the wrong ones. Here's a good description of the agonoia that preceded her paranoia:

Rahman’s cohort of kids was more “free-form, adventurous, bohemian, some version of that,” he said. “Somehow, the rules about success were tarnished, and they had to go out there and make their own rules, make meaning themselves. The world had become a more insecure place, more foreboding, and these kids were searching for a way to find meaning, whether you became a filmmaker or a world traveler or an activist lawyer.

Or domestic terrorist.

I do have sympathy for these two, as I suppose I have sympathy for some 18 year old kid who is brainwashed into believing Jews are evil and straps a bomb to himself.

The best excuse for victimizing others is to identify as a victim. Doing so purifies one's motives and legitimizes anything, up to and including murder.

We've talked about agnoia and paranoia. What about metanoia, which is the only real cure for the first two? It

is distinctly joyful because the questioning has a direction; the unrest is experienced as the beginning of the theophanic event in which the Nous reveals itself as the divine ordering force in the psyche of the questioner and the cosmos at large; it is an invitation to pursue its meaning into the actualization of noetic consciousness (Voegelin).

Alternatively, you can make it go away with paranoid ideology and violent acting out.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The Call is Coming from Inside the Cave

The previous post referenced an introduction to Voegelin that I must have read when it was published in 2002 but hadn't looked at since.

Before returning it to the shelf, I wonder if it has any last words?

With regard to the bored and boring activists who rule the streets in Democrat-run cities, Federici writes of those "Spiritually indolent individuals" who "look for ways out of this difficult and unpleasant reality" -- that is, the unpleasant reality of existing in an ideologically closed world. Who wouldn't rebel?

The problem is, our brownshirted miscreants have misidentified the source of the oppression: the call is coming from inside the head!

For a cure to be efficacious, it requires the proper diagnosis. Antibiotics are great, but they don't mitigate psychosis. Nor, for that matter, does anti-Trumpism.

There is no political cure for a spirital illness. Indeed, it will only aggravate the disorder, since you can never get enough of what you don't really need. You'll end up "chasing the high," trying to replicate that triumphant feeling of winning the election for junior high student body president. Ideological activism is like a... like a time machine or something.

Political religions are the disease they pretend to cure: a "revolt against God," they are "brimming with revolutionary pathos," attracting "revolutionary-minded individuals" who are "impatient with the world as it is" and "looking for a solution to all social problems."

Let's not be too quick to dismiss the value of social problems, for they are the wonderfully diverting refuge of people fleeing their own personal problems; psychotherapy is too expensive, and besides, it won't help if your psychotherapist is as ideologically enclosed as you are.

I just went over to the APA website to fetch a typical example, and this unironical, ungrammatical, and unsatirizable unsanity is on the home page:

(Ir)rationality and Religiosity During Pandemics: Phenomenologizing Causal Connections

We invite papers which explicate the aspects of (ir)rationality, on a societal, social, communal, and personal scale. Our working hypothesis is that the lapses of secular reason contributed, if not lead to, the COVID-19 pandemics.

With the toll of deaths nearing 100,000 in early April 2020 and industrial countries such as the United Stated leading the numbers, what does it tell us about the status of knowledge, consciousness and its relationships with the power networks? Given the astounding denials of both trivial-ontic-empirical and scientific facts of epidemics, the relationship between the reason -- in action, politics, press, local decision-making -- and the subjective dimension of religiosity stand out in this new light, calling for the phenomenological reporting and reflection which must precede the care and the cure. While religious experience has been shown to have emancipatory value and enhance resilience and decrease stress, we'd like to clarify if this assessment still stands in this new situation.

I defy anyone to spend ten minutes on the APA website and not conclude that clinical psychology has devolved to a politico-religious cult. Fortunately, it's not my problem, since I'll be retiring soon. Let's move on.

To what? I don't know, how about the next essay, which, coincidentally, begins with the observation that "The climate of our universities certainly is hostile to the life of reason." However, "not every man is agreeable to having his nature deformed." For example, you and I.

Just look at what has happened to the field of psychology in my professional lifetime: back when I took the licensing exam in 1991, it was of course possible for a mentally disturbed individual to slip through the cracks. But nowadays, I don't see how a sane person could slip through.

Another synchronicity: "Education is the art of preventing people from acquiring the knowledge that would enable them to articulate the questions of existence. Education is the art of pressuring young people into a state of alienation that will result in quiet despair or aggressive militancy" (Voegelin).

And if the educational establishment should fail in its pneumocidal mission, the liberal media is there to complete the process of alienated idiocy.

Interesting that although this essay was published nearly fifty years ago, Voegelin saw that critical theory is "a euphemism for irrational, nihilistic opining," and how "the life of reason" was already being reimagined as "a fascist enterprise." Moreover, he recognized that the formerly liberal arts were rapidly becoming "an occupational therapy for persons otherwise employable."

Resistance? You call that resistance? That's not resistance, let alone courage, it's complete and total conformity to permissible opinion. Yes, I'm a member of the actual resistance, but I don't make a big deal out of it. Who boasts that they aren't insane? Yes, the unsane.

Genuine "lovers of wisdom" -- AKA philosophers -- are "engaged in an act of resistance against the personal and social disorder of their age." Would you like to commit a dramatic, world-shattering act of resistance? Would you like to stick it to the man? Would you like to overturn the order of the world? Would you like to leave your mother's basement?

Good. Here's how it's done: 1) turn around, and 2) step outside the cave. See what we mean? Some things never change, least of all the Light.

I suppose we'll end with this: there are those "who live in the one and common world (koinos kosmos) of the Logos which is the common bond of humanity, and the men who live in the several private worlds (idios kosmos) of their passion and imagination, between the men who lead a waking life and the sleepwalkers who take their dreams for reality (ibid.)."

If I've translated correctly, you can live in the one real cosmos or your own real idiotic one.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Bring Back My Oppressors!

Not much time today, and none tomorrow -- perhaps enough to finish our little snidetrip into the cosmic nul-de-slack of Marxism.

Marx is on odd figure: at once totally irrelevant, but at the same time the most consequential intellectual of the last century, right down to the present day. He wanted his ideas to change the world. Well, they're still changing it -- in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and other epicenters of leftwing Progress. Marxist inspired ideology continues to be the most dynamic and successful religion on earth.

Why? Taylor agrees that it "is the most influential formulation of a widespread modern protest against the course of our civilization." I would just say civilization, period, for it is the return of paganism, barbarism, and polytheism (or perhaps poly-antitheism). Yes, but why?

"The idea of overcoming the injustice and expressive deadness of our world at one stroke by recovering control and radically reshaping it according to a freely chosen design exercises a profound attraction," such that "We find it almost everywhere among the protest and liberation movements of our day" (ibid.).

Now we have some clues: idea, injustice, expressive, deadness, freedom, radical reshaping. Here again, these are all deeply religious categories; in fact, they draw from an intense religiosity, minus the religion, perhaps the deadliest combination in man's intellectual arsenal. Which we mean literally. See 20th century for details.

We'll come back to those religious categories in a moment. Let's just finish off with Taylor, so I can return him to the shelf and clear the desk a bit.

To the extent that the aspirations to radical freedom are influenced by Marx, they descend also from Hegel. But what is much more important, they encounter the same dilemma, which emerged from our discussion of Marxism. They face the same emptiness, the same temptation to the forceful imposition of their solution on an unyielding world, the same inability to define a human situation once the present one is swept away.

Note that our struggle against the left's intrinsic coercion is necessarily asymmetrical, in that they haven't evolved to the point of differentating politics from religion. Therefore, properly religious people are at a disadvantage, since we don't focus all our energy on politics. We have a life. Does anyone think Antifa members have one? No, and that's the point: politics is their life, albeit an empty and pseudo one. It is soul-deadness pretending not to be. Zombies.

Taylor:

This whole tradition, whether Marxist, anarchist, situationist, or whatever, offers no idea whatever of what the society of freedom should look like beyond the empty formulae, that it should be endlessly creative, have no divisions, whether between men, or within them, or between levels of existence (play is one with work, love is one with politics, art is one with life), involve no coercion, no representation, etc. All that is done in these negative characteristics is to think away the entire human existence. Small wonder then that this freedom has no content.

Or telos. Humanism without those messy humans.

So, what's the catch? Well, no more Ultimate Struggle Against the Forces of Evil, Fascism, Racism, etc. The cosmic melodrama is over, and with it, the existential meaning that had so animated and motivated the ideological zombie. Who knew paradise could be so boring with no one left to hate and bully!

Here's a key: "This is in a sense a negative conception of freedom." But this is by no means equivalent to the classical liberal conception of negative freedom, which is always teleological, i.e., ordered to virtue, to an archetypal pattern of human actualization and thriving.

In the absence of the vertical it is necessarily an empty freedom that immediately reduces to nihilism and will, AKA power. These postmodern nihilists constantly speak of politics reducing to power. Well, here it is. No truth-of or freedom-to, just blind will. Supposing it could be attained, it

would be a void in which nothing would be worth doing, nothing would deserve to count for anything. The self which has arrived at freedom setting aside all external obstacles and impingements is characterless, and hence without defined purpose, however much this is hidden by such seemingly positive terms as "rationality" or "creativity."

Do you really think the average BLM or Antifa member would be doing something creative, charitable, inventive, or beautiful if he weren't immersed in his psychodrama? Do you think Al Sharpton would be a great novelist, painter, or scientist if he weren't so preoccupied with political liberation? Do you think Barack Obama would be something other than a community agitator if not for The Man holding him down?

Here's a frightening thought to the losers of the left: what if you are already free? What if your unhappiness is primarily a consequence of your own bad choices, or the bad choices of your parents having you out of wedlock? What if there is indeed a systemic racism, and it's the local government indoctrination center you were forced to attend, and which has left you without knowledge, skills, or even basic literacy? What if the ideology that fills your head is part of a conspiracy to fill your head with ideology and thereby perpetuate a misdiagnosis and bogus cure for what ails you?

Back on the shelf you go, Professor Hegel. We'll get back to you if we need anything else. Meanwhile, let's close with this:

The relationship between gnostic thinkers like Marx and Christianity is parasitic. Marx takes from Christianity; he saps the spiritual life from it and ultimately displaces it with Marxism -- the existence of Christianity and its death are necessary for Marxism to live (Federici).

Some people wonder why they would burn Bibles in the street. I'm not one of them. I just wonder why they don't crucify them.

Marx's concept of "emancipation" is a deformation of the Gospel idea of "metanoia." Rather than a transformation of the soul, as is the case with metanoia, Marx posits a social transformation that is based on material conditions (ibid.).

Understanding the connection between the Christian image and its inverted likeness

helps illuminate the meaning of modern ideas like "social justice" and why they are the products of souls that have lost their sense of authentic Christian spirituality (ibid.).

So, with the success of the Revolution, the soul has everything it could possibly desire. Except a soul.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Heaven on Earth in Two Easy Steps

For someone who hates capitalism, Marx is quite the salesman. Here's his pitch for communism:

It is the definitive resolution of the antagonism between man and nature, and between man and man. It is the true solution of the conflict between existence and essence, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be this solution (in Taylor).

Sold! I'll take one in moonlight blue metallic.

Sorry. Only have black. And those are out of stock. How about size 13 work boot in moonlight blue metallic?

Marx does indeed make an attractive offer. The problem -- one problem, anyway -- is that if one limits oneself to Marxist categories, no such claim is possible. But the founder of an ideology always makes an exception for himself, and this is one of its giveaways.

For Marx, consciousness is conditioned by class. Except for Marx, who is totally classless. As it so happens, everyone who knew Marx agrees that this was the case, but we're not taking about manners, hygiene, and body odor.

I was introduced to this problem back in graduate school. For example, Freud claims that all our thoughts and actions are motivated by unconscious conflict. Except for Freudianism. At the other end, Skinner claims that everything is reducible to conditioned responses. Except for the ideology of behaviorism, which is unconditionally true. Others prefer to reduce consciousness to electrochemical brain activity, but nevertheless expect us to take their brain activity seriously.

Back to Marx. Let's evaluate his claim. First of all, it is definitive, which means absolute and final. It is unsurpassable, just like any other revelation.

In the past we've explained that one of the enduring and ineradicable appeals of leftism is its promise of political solutions to inevitable existential problems that are part of the human condition. It can even make this appeal in a sincere and intellectually consistent manner by merely turning the cosmos upside down and inside out. Thus, by placing existence ontologically prior to essence, it follows that man has it within his power to transform both himself and the world.

Therefore, communism can indeed make the honest claim to resolve the antagonism between man and everything. As indicated in the paragraph above, it is the True Solution to the conflict between existence and essence, because it makes the latter a side effect of the former. It resolves freedom and necessity by conflating the two in the dialectic of history, and resolves the conflict between individual and species by subsuming them in the same inevitable movement.

Are you confused by the complexity of reality? Your perplexity is over: Marx has given us the definitive solution to the conundrum of history. He has seen the blueprint, "the laws which govern man and history with an iron necessity."

But before committing ourself to the sale, we might want to conduct a bit of due diligence, because Marx has an inflexible policy: all sales final. No returns. One vote, one time. Purchaser assumes all risk.

It reminds me of those signs that say You break it, you bought it. With Marxism, it's Since you bought it, your common sense must be broken. Or, If you buy it, make sure it's the Elite Package, because then you get to break lots of other people. Eggs & omelets.

Let's think about this product before we pull the trigger. Are there any other philosophies on offer that make the same extravagant claims as Marxism? National Socialism? Maybe, except for the bit about resolving the antagonism between man and man. Unlike Hitler's national socialism, Stalin's international socialism is totally nonviolent.

Wait. Christianity. Or, more to the point, the Incarnation. The purpose of the Incarnation is similar to that of communism, in that it too claims to be the definitive and unsurpassable resolution to various existential and ontological rifts between man and man, man and cosmos, man and God -- even man and woman!

The Incarnation is the very synthesis of existence and essence, freedom and necessity, individual and species. Why, it's the perfect (!) to the (?) of history.

So, now our choice is complicated. Or, perhaps not. For Marxism doesn't actually offer us a choice, since it is a science: unlike previous versions, this is scientific socialism, AKA dialectical materialism. All you anti-science conservative rubes don't get it: it doesn't matter whether you join Marx and Obama on the right side of history, it's coming anyway, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Except perhaps join the vanguard of the revolution and participate in the dictatorship of the proletariat. That's the only way Lenin could figure out how to square Marx's absurcular thesis.

There's another commonality between communism and Marxism, and it is the "leap." Both require one and result in one. For Christianity there is the leap symbolized by vertical rebirth into the Kingdom, into open engagement with the divine attractor.

As to the communist leap into paradise, Marx

had an extremely simple-minded view of the transition. The revolution would abolish bourgeois society and hence the laws of its operation, and a united class of proletarians would take over and dispose freely of the economy it inherited....

[I]t is as though the laws of bourgeois society fall away with the abolition of this society the way the technology of carburetors would fall into irrelevance if we got rid of the internal combustion engine (ibid.).

So, paradise in two easy steps: 1) destroy existing power structures, and 2) usher in heaven on earth. Like what's happening in Democrat-run cities across the nation.

We're about out of time. The bottom line for today is that Marx makes claims and promises that literally only God could fulfill. No worries: as his followers might say, there is no God, and Marx is his prophet.

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Impossible Scheme

This and subsequent related posts are necessarily going to be a bit wild & wooly. Given the size and scope of the subject -- which touches on everything and everyone -- it can't be helped. We're trying our best. Well, not "trying." Rather, just letting it rip, as usual.

Godlessness does peculiar things to a mind. Under the best of circumstances,

When the gods are expelled from the cosmos, the world they have left becomes boring (Voegelin).

The world necessarily becomes boring -- at least to the intelligent-but-unwise -- because it is drained of intrinsic meaning. But this is easily remedied with recourse to politics and to political activism. For awhile, anyway. For human nature always catches the leftist by surprise. It can be distorted and suppressed for awhile, but not forever.

By the way, we're discussing an essay by Voegelin called On Hegel: A Study in Sorcery. Hegel is a particularly important thinker -- not to you and me per se, but indirectly, for he is one of the most important influences on Marx and on the first wave of American progressives -- in particular, on the odious Mr. Wilson, our first president from the tenured class of credentialed idiots (Obama being the second).

If you want the grotesque details, there are plenty of good books on this bad man, nor do we want Wilson to hijack the post. Suffice it to say that you may not care about Hegel, but that Hegel (via Wilson and his ilk) certainly cares about you -- about your rights, your property, and your so-called "living constitution" (their euphemism for a dead-because-they-murdered-it one):

Hegelians believe that, until we reach the end of History, "enduring" rights exist only to be negated by future generations. Thus, Wilson wrote, "Justly revered as our great constitution is, it could be stripped off and thrown aside like a garment, and the nation would still stand forth in the living vestment of flesh and sinew, warm with the heart-blood of one people, ready to recreate constitutions and laws."

Yes, he was an awful writer too.

But let's be fair to Hegel. Let's approach him with an open mind and try to understand what he was up to and sympathize with the problems he was attempting to remedy. As we've said before, every comprehensive philosophy begins with a diagnosis of the world and of man, which is followed by the prescription (whether explicit or implicit). The former can be *interesting* even if the latter will prove fatal if strictly applied.

Jumping ahead a bit, Marx famously placed more emphasis on the cure than the diagnosis. Inscribed on his gravestone is the diabolical boast to the effect that The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. Well done, good and faithful servant!

What can we say of a man who wants to transform the whole world -- you included -- but can't even govern himself? Correct: you can say he's an activist: whether Antifa, BLM, homosexual, feminist, whatever. Each attempts to treat himself by curing society. It never works, neither for society nor certainly for the activist. Except perhaps financially.

However, I actually agree with leftists that we can't blame Marx for everything his wackolytes did with his ideas after he was safely beneath the sod, and this for at least two reasons: first and foremost, his principles are impossible, and nothing can render the impossible possible, not even the most fashionable word magic of the tenured. This is the problem of external inconsistency: to paraphrase E.O. Wilson, good theory, wrong species.

There is also the problem of internal inconsistency, not just between the young and old Marx, but in any number of areas that he simply patches up with abuse and vilification (as do leftists down to the present day). If your only tool is the hammer of denunciation, everyone looks like a class enemy. Who and Whom, Master and Slave, proletariat and bourgeois, end of story.

Back to the essay:

The new freedom and activism of self-salvation is experienced by Hegel as the core meaning in the great [revolutionary] events that shook the world.

Boom, there it is: self-cure via the manmade drama of imaginary meaning and real activism.

But in reality,

Nobody can heal the spiritual disorder of an "age." A philosopher can do no more than work himself free from the rubble of idols which, under the name of an "age," threaten to cripple and bury him.

Yes, I absolutely believe in liberation theology, but with this caveat: one assoul at a time! Would you like to do the world a lovely favor?

The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself. A saint is a void open for the passage of God (Schuon).

This is what the ideologue refuses to do. Voegelin:

The deformed cognitive core, then, entails a deformed style of cognition by which the First Reality experienced in open existence is transformed into a Second Reality imagined in closed existence.

Models are nice, but they're not the world, let alone the cosmos, to say nothing of the meta-cosmos. As Schuon points out,

The rationalism of a frog living at the bottom of a well is to deny the existence of mountains: perhaps this is "logic," but it has nothing to do with reality.

So, ideology is rational within its own closed system. Even Paul Krugman makes sense to himself.

Shifting gears a bit, for my money, one of the best books I've read on our subject is Charles Taylor's Hegel. It is at once scholarly, sympathetic, and accessible. Regarding the sympathy, Taylor spends a good deal of time laying out the philosophical problems Hegel's philosophy attempts to address.

Cut to the chase, the bottom line is that Hegel's problems aren't my problems, so his cure is certainly not my cure. Jumping ahead, even less are Marx's problems my problems, and let's not even talk about his cure for my non-problems.

True, every man that comes into this world is going to be aware of "alienation," but for us the sufficient explanation is Genesis 3 (understood metaphysically). It can only be "treated" on its own metaphysical plane, not by reducing this plane to the dialectic of class struggle or the labor theory of value. Nor is it in man's power to reinstate paradise lost; attempting to do so only ensures hell found.

What was Hegel's Big F-ing Problem? And why are we paying for it?

We cannot really understand what he was about until we see the basic problem and aspirations which gripped him, and these were those of the time (Taylor).

As we've mentioned before, it's always dangerous to apply permanent solutions to temporary problems. Rather, we're only interested in a permanent solution to permanent problems, i.e., those that are in the very nature of things, both human nature and the conditions and constraints of human existence. That Marx couldn't support himself is not my problem. There are plenty of explanations for his loserhood which don't involve the murder and enslavement of hundreds of millions of people to set things right.

Frankly, I don't know that I even want to get into Hegel's problems or Marx's issues. Bor-ring. Let's cut to the interesting part: how does it affect me, Bob? For this let's jump ahead to chapter 20, Hegel Today. Like Marx -- and generally through Marx -- Hegel is still torturing us, and not just through his tortuous prose.

For Taylor, Hegel's influence is obviously present in ideologies of the left, but also in the so-called right (which has nothing whatsoever in common with American-style conservatism). The leftist tradition of Marx is more "Promethean," while fascism is more "Dionysiac," but each is present in the other.

One has only to turn on the television to witness the ecstatic Dionysian violence of the left. The left's reactionary attempt to undo the principles of the founding is both totalitarian and fascist, half Prometheus and half Dionysius. We -- and the founders -- are at a bright angle to both their diagnoses and their cures (not to mention their pagan gods). Ordered liberty, limited constitutional government, and unalienable natural rights are incompatible with both.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

One Rung Can't Make it Right: The Irrationality of Rationalism

We're still discussing Voegelin's essay on The Gospel and Culture, i.e., the hows and whys of the spread of Christianity. It's slow going, but I guess that's okay. I certainly find it interesting, because it touches on a number of "ultimates" beyond which there is no touching aloud, which is precisely the aim of this blog: the outer limits of what man may know.

About those ultimates: they involve little things such as what man is, what the cosmos is, and what history is. Turns out these three are interrelated in surprising ways, but then again not: for knowledge of what man is clearly has cosmic implications, nor does history exist in the absence of man. As for the cosmic implications, one has only to ask onesoph -- or one's oaf, depending -- in what sort of cosmos is man even possible?!

Voegelin observes that "The movement that engendered the saving tale of divine incarnation, death, and resurrection as the answer to the question of life and death is considerably more complex than classic philosophy."

This is true for a number of reasons, but in particular because it poses a challenge to the otherwise merely rationalistic mind to dialogue with and assimilate what grounds and transcends it.

In Other Word -- the Ultimate Word of the Absolute Other -- the gospel transcends reason in confronting us with the very source and ground of reason, AKA the Logos. It also challenges the mind to reconcile other limit categories and complementarities such as subject and object, person and cosmos, man and God, vertical and horizontal, etc.

But the real trick -- and a mark of its divine provenance -- is how the movement is "broader by its appeal to the inarticulate humanity of the common man" (emphasis mine). Let's see you come up with a metaphysic that makes as much sense to the unlettered as it does to a translettered being such as Thomas Aquinas. Here it is important to bear in mind that there is an "unarticulated knowledge" that can far surpass the merely articulated kind.

As it so happens, this is one of the recurring themes of the book I'm currently re-re-reading, Sowell's foundational Knowledge & Decisions. I don't want to veer in that direction, because it will hijack the post for the next six months.

Suffice it to say that articulated knowledge tends to be highly overrated, in particular, when intellectuals (the vulgar middlebrow kind) are dealing with complex systems such as the economy. This is not in any way opposed to reason; rather, it simply recognizes the limits of reason. And what could be more reasonable than that?

It is simply a recognition that the weight of generalized but unrecorded experience -- of the individual or of the culture -- may be greater than the weight of other experience which happens to have been written down and spelled out.

Consider the example of, say, Marxism, which presumes to be a total explanation of economics. However, the sum of all the articulated knowledge of every single Marxist who has ever existed is utterly dwarfed by the unarticulated knowledge that is spontaneously conveyed to and from free agents in the complex system of the market. Marxism isn't just wrong in the details but in principle.

Another example would be science; see Michael Polanyi for details. Now that I think about it, only a handful of thinkers have been with me on the bus since the beginning, and Polanyi is one of them. If you are one of those people who is enclosed and limited by what you pompously call reason, Polanyi is your way out; he is a portal to infinity, at which point other nonlocal operators will take your hand. Whom would I raccoomend once you cross that threshold?

Good question, BoB. Wouldn't it be interesting to describe the cosmic ladder by assigning a particular thinker to each rung? I suppose I did that in the book, albeit not consciously. The Cosmic Ladder... Let's think about it and get back to you.

Back to the Sowell quote: the philosophy of rationalism

accepts only what can "justify" itself to reason -- with reason being narrowly conceived to mean articulated specifics. If rationalism had remained within the bounds of philosophy, where it originated, it might be merely an intellectual curiosity. It is, however, a powerful component in contemporary attitudes, and affects -- or even determines -- much political and social policy.

Boy and how. Leftists routinely accuse us of being "anti-science" when we are plainly trans-scientific. They level the same charge when we are being ultra-scientific, for example, with regard to climate change hysteria. For to be ultra-scientific is to recognize the fatal conceit of pretending their articulated models actually describe the complex system of climate.

As the appropriately humble Richard Feynman put it, "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Your climate model may well be a beaut, but since it can't even account for the present or retrodict the past, what makes you think it can predict the future? That's not good science, just bad religion.

Back to our main attraction -- and attractor: "the gospel agrees with classic philosophy in symbolizing existence as a field of pulls and counterpulls" (Voegelin). Christ says -- and how did he know? -- that "he will, when he is lifted up from the earth, draw all men to himself."

In John 6:44 "this drawing power of Christ is identified with the pull exerted by God." And "To follow Christ means to continue the event of divine presence in society and history." God's in-carnation is our ex-carnation; again, God's way in is our way out (and vice versa).

Yes, the good news implies the bad: there is a diabolical presence in "the man who has contracted his existence into a world-immanent self and refuses to live in the openness of the metaxy" (which refers to man's existence in the vertical space between the horizons of immanence and transcendence).

Oh, good. The end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Saving Tales and Broken Minds

To repeat: The answer will not help the man who has lost the question. And the predicament of the present age is characterized by the loss of the question rather than of the answer.

These are worth some further pondering. First, life is obviously a predicament. Always has been, always will be. And yet, Voegelin implies there is an answer, so long as we remember the question. Thus, a worse predicament than life itself is losing sight of the question, because it results in either no answer or a multitude of bad ones.

Speaking of which, our recent revisiting of Koestler's Creative Act prompted me to check out his biography. His most famous book is Darkness at Noon, an indictment of communism from the perspective of a former True Believer.

But he didn't fall for just communism. Rather, his whole life was a quest for meaning, going from one belief system to another, from communism to parapsychology and everything in between. And yet, nothing stuck.

The author suggests that he suffered a kind of "absolutitis," which sounds about right: as we said the other day, the Absolute always is, and cannot not be. Life is a perpetual engagement with it, failing which we will substitute one ideology or another and thereby foreclose the divine-human space. This is good news / bad news for the radical secularist, because his denial of God results in the abolition of man, whether symbolically or literally.

Koester's flight from one cause to another "was as psychologically important as the causes themselves," motivated by

a deep instinctual urge, powered by personal unhappiness and psychological frustration.... it was the cause of causes lurking behind everything he wrote, emblematic of the twentieth century's own flailing in search of a workable form of utopia. Koestler was bound to fail in the quest, of course, but the quest itself was the point.

Why was the quest bound to fail? He found plenty of answers. Yes, but The answer will not help the man who has lost the question.

In this regard, it is particularly important to avoid collapsing the vertical hierarchy, and thereby formulating answers that are appropriate to one level but wildly inappropriate to another (e.g., materialism). This always results in a form of tyranny -- it is auto-tyranny at best, but becomes collective tyranny when imposed upon others. Ideology is never a victimless crime.

His conversion to communism was literally a religious experience:

something had clicked in my brain which shook me like a mental explosion. To say that one had "seen the light" is a poor description of the mental rapture which only the convert knows. The new light seems to pour across the skull; the whole universe falls into pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke. There is now an answer to every question, doubts and conflicts are a matter of a tortured past -- a past already remote, when one had lived in dismal ignorance in the tasteless, colorless world of those who don't know.

Born again! With one small catch: for that is not the sound of liberation. Rather, it's the sound of the prison doors closing.

How do we know? The giveaway is the answer to every question and the dismal ignorance of those who don't know. This is a concise description of the political Gnosticism that characterizes modernity. Our struggle is always against those who would enclose us in their ideology by collapsing reality down to the size of their own shrunken heads and shriveled souls.

Koestler had similar quasi-mystical experiences with other creeds, and come to think of it, so did I -- sometimes with his help (back when I was a new-age/integralist type). I distinctly remember it happening with existentialism, psychoanalysis, Jungian psychology, Zen, and others.

Another giveaway of Gnostic ideology is the internal and external inconsistency that can only be resolved by force, for example, the political correctness that has always characterized leftism. Leftism simply cannot be logically maintained, so certain avenues of thought must be forbidden or explained away. It is why their first resort is always to the accusation, the smear, the condemnation. Cancellation is the feature, not the bug. It is of course at antipodes to Christianity, in which forgiveness is the feature.

In fact, if you're a conservative and you haven't been called a racist, a fascist, or a Nazi, you're just not trying.

Another feature of the gnostic revolt is the inevitable attack on language, e.g., more murders and shootings of blacks = black lives matter. Upon Koestler's politico-religious conversion, "My vocabulary, grammar, syntax gradually changed." He "quickly learned an early form of doublethink" which "appeared as natural and justified as the choice of the cause we were championing."

"As a 'closed' system of thought," Marxism "could provide answers to every question in terms of its own theory..." He "was delighted with the dialectical muscles he was able to build, reveling in the competitive advantage they gave him in argument. He knew the 'right' questions and answers 'as though they were the opening variants in a chess game...'"

Here are some recent examples of Marxist dialectic, yoinked from our own comment section. Note that the sweeping condemnation is the argument, and vice versa. Marx himself could have been the author of any of these:

--Any black person stupid enough to support Trump is not going to change their mind over him being slightly more fascist today than he was a year ago.

--Religion is a powerful force for making people act against their own interests.

--The right has a large variety of morons and liars, but the ones who try to link the left and Nazism are really the cream of the crop.

--You are projecting from your shitty, imperialist, fundamentalist religion onto the more honest and humble faiths of the people Christianity aims to conquer

--Your racism is completely obvious. You should own it instead of denying it.

--Everything in conservative culture is basically lifeless, a feeble imitation of actual culture, which is alive and hence leftist by nature.

Well, let's stipulate that mass culture is indeed lifeless and broken, and that vulgar politics is downstream from this. We are

plainly in a period of massive deculturation through the deformation of reason.... the deculturation of the West is an historical phenomenon extending over centuries; the grotesque rubble into which the image of God is broken today is not somebody's wrong opinion about the nature of man but the result of a secular process of destruction....

The question of the search cannot be recovered by stirring around in the rubble; its recovery is not a matter of small repairs, of putting a patch on here or there, of criticizing this or that author whose work is a symptom of deculturation rather than its cause, and so forth (Voegelin).

It's not ideology vs. ideology, but ideology vs. reality:

there is no Saving Tale other than the tale of the divine pull to be followed by man; and there is no cognitive articulation of existence other than the noetic consciousness in which the movement becomes luminous to itself (ibid.).

****

There's a new Dane in town. One isn't enough:

Monday, July 27, 2020

Ask a Dishonest Question, Get a Dishonest Answer

Yesterday's post didn't come off as one might have hoped, so I checked the Catechism to see how far off we were.

Not that far. For example, regarding man the (?), it says that the human person is by nature open to truth, beauty, and goodness, which provokes "longings for the infinite" and "questions about God's existence." It's not as if such questions and longings are a little bit present in other animals. Rather, they coarise with and define man.

About (!), there are various allusions to an overwhelming communication to man of something that isn't man. Haven't you ever been (!)? I don't know anyone to whom it hasn't happened. It's part of the standard equipment.

For example, the Catchism speaks of faith as our response to "a superabundant light as [man] searches for the ultimate meaning of life." Not just abundant but superabundant, which is beyond extravagant; it is more than we could ever contain, "abounding to a great, abnormal, or excessive degree; being considerably more than is sufficient" (my dictionary).

Lucky for us, this "unapproachable light" deigns to approach man, albeit gradually. Baby steps. Milk before meat. It also does so endlessly: for even when God utters the last Word, "it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of centuries." Moreover, "the sacred Scriptures grow with the one who reads them."

This superabundant L!ght communicates the certitude of its own truth, such that "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." Seeing is believing and believing is seeing; rinse and repent.

I'll bet I can reduce the whole message to... seven aphorisms, each a rung in the vast Circular Ladder that is existence:

God does not reveal with discourses, but by means of experiences.

In certain moments of abundance, God overflows into the world like a spring gushing into the peace of midday.

Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.

Religion is not a set of solutions to known problems, but a new dimension of the universe. The religious man lives among realities that the secular man ignores...

Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge.

Faith is not knowledge of the object. But communication with it.

Religious thought does not go forward like scientific thought does, but rather goes deeper (Dávila).

That last one is particularly important, as it speaks to our permanent condition. It can only be "cured" by ideology, but ideology is always the very disease it pretends to cure. Leftism, progressivism, feminism, scientism -- all are objectively pneumopathological.

Now, back to Voegelin's essay on The Gospel and Culture, with a particular focus on man the (?) and God the (!). He speaks of "man the questioner," i.e.,

the man moved by God to ask the questions that will lead him toward the cause of being. The search itself is the evidence of existential unrest; in the act of questioning, man's experience of his tension toward the divine ground breaks forth in the word of inquiry...

There is always a kind of ontological circularity at work that very much reminds me of Eckhart, but let's refrain from veering in that direction, because the Meister will inevitably hijack the bus. Voegelin:

Question and answer are intimately related one toward the other.... This luminous search in which the finding of the true answer depends on asking the true question, and the asking of the true question on the spiritual apprehension of the true answer, is the life of reason.

This is a subtle point, because we know all about the contemporary plague of intellectual dishonesty that pervades both academia and the liberal noise media. But there are also dishonest questions. Some people say there's no such thing as a stupid question. But this is only because they haven't seen a White House press briefing, where the superabundant stupidity of the media is on display.

Speaking of sick questioners and fake questions, Voegelin describes how man may

deform his humanity by refusing to ask the questions, or by loading them with premises devised to make the search impossible. The gospel, to be heard, requires ears that can hear; philosophy is not the life of reason if the questioner's reason is depraved. The answer will not help the man who has lost the question; and the predicament of the present age is characterized by the loss of the question rather than of the answer (emphasis m!ne).

Examples are everywhere. I receive a daily propaganda briefing from the NY Times, and this morning's spin is hilarious but typical. It concedes that President Trump is doing well with Blacks and Latinos, and that his support is higher than it was four years ago. "Why?," they pretend to ask.

Most political analysts admit they aren’t sure. “I don’t think there are obvious answers,” Shor said.

Yes, it's a Total Mystery. It makes no sense that blacks would support a racist, for which no evidence is needed or offered, since this is an a priori axiom of the left.

Black and Latino Americans who still vote Republican may simply not be bothered by it.

Riiiight. Or perhaps they don't share the group delusion that the president is a racist. That's not askable or even thinkable, any more than it is permissible for a Nazi or Islamist to wonder if Jews might not be subhuman after all.

Note how the field of honest answers is foreclosed by the dishonest question (and questioner). This pathological process is seen every day by the clinical psychologist, AKA me. But who needs psychotherapy if your sickness is mirrored and supported by millions of people who share the same sickness? If you normalize abnormality, there's no need to help the abnormal to be normal.

You get the point, but this one is just as funny. Why on earth are those Mostly Peaceful protests suddenly turning... volatile? It's Trump's fault!

Protests across the U.S. grew more volatile over the weekend, spurred by the presence of federal agents in Portland....

“I’m furious that Oakland may have played right into Donald Trump’s twisted campaign strategy,” said Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, Calif. “Images of a vandalized downtown is exactly what he wants to whip up his base and to potentially justify sending in federal troops that will only incite more unrest.”

Ask a dishonest question, get a dishonest answer.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

And the (!) Became (?)

We've been discussing how and why Christianity spread and eventually triumphed over all its competitors, such that no one today practices Mithraism or worships Athena or Dionysus. To the extent that Christianity is true, or taken to be true, it must provide an answer -- even the most complete possible answer -- to the question What is man? Or, what is man, what is man, and what is man???

So, what is man? Let's approach this question with no preconceptions, religious or otherwise. I think we can agree that man is a mystery to himself, even to this day. Indeed, any thinker who claims to exhaust the mystery thereby renders himself a sophist and philodoxer: a lover of opinion and pseudo-thought. A counterfeit man. An ideologue. A troll.

Can we say that man is a permanent mystery to himself? If so, how could we know it? It's a little like saying "there is no truth, and that's the truth."

Let's try to go all the way back -- both horizontally and vertically -- to the existential and ontological birth of man (the second is less difficult to approach, since it's happening now, and in every now). We know we are different -- different from the animals and from every other thing in existence. But how?

Well, all other animals are complete on their own plane. Yes, they need to eat, but once they do, that's it: it is as if their little circle re-closes on itself. Nap time. My dog doesn't wonder about the nature of dogs, much less Danes.

Like other animals, man eats. But that doesn't complete the circle. Or, it completes the circle of biology, only to open other circles and render them more vivid or something. Scratch one itch and a new one takes its place.

Here again, this pattern persists down to the present day. Anyone who studies psychology learns about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which I haven't thought about in forty years, but then again, have never stopped thinking about.

How's that? Well, in those three or four decades I've generally had adequate food, water, shelter, safety, relationships, and prestige (yes, I have low standards), leaving only the toppermost of the poppermost unfillfulled:

That's right: self-actualization, i.e., achieving one's full potential, including creative activities. Yeah, this: I'm doing it now. What can I say? A modest thing but thine own.

Interestingly, one thing I've noticed over the years is that by indulging in activities at the top of the pyramid, they've gradually come to displace or at least overshadow those at the bottom. Of course I still need to eat, but I scarcely care what I eat, so long as my blood sugar stays low. Whatever a "foodie" is, I'm the opposite.

Likewise "prestige." I'm mostly autotelic, with the caveat that I care very much about the opinions of God and a few other persons. A pure autotelicism would be anti-trinitarian in the extreme. But I'm always focused on that which surpasses me and is just over the subjective horizon. Anything less than this is frankly boring.

The moment arrives in which one is only interested in stalking God. --Dávila

Here's a thought: let's call man (?), the being who never stops asking questions, such that no answer is sufficient to eliminate the questions. I would add that a philosopher is simply someone with an acute case of (?), such that it becomes (?!). But for the true philosopher, (?!) is a truly chronic condition. In one sense there is no cure, but in another sense (?!) is the cure, or at least treatment.

No, I'm not trying to be cute or paradoxical. I try never to be the former, and to the extent that we're indulging in the latter, it is in the nature of the subject under discussion: writing of infinitude within the context of finitude always comes out paradoxical, and the paradoxes must be respected and preserved, otherwise they cease being generative and fruitful. Every heresy -- whether religious, philosophical, or ideological -- always defaults to one side of the paradox.

So, man is (?). The question before us is, what is the relationship between Christianity and (?)? People walking around in first century Palestine were (?), like anyone else. How and why was Christianity such an adequate response to (?)?

Recall Maslow's hierarchy: for early Christian martyrs, Christianity -- or Christ, rather -- literally displaced everything below. Christ was more important than food, social standing, and even life itself.

Again, let's try to dispense with preconceptions. Just looking at the situation historically, for these early Christians, Christ was the perfect and unsurpassable answer to (?). But wait -- didn't we say that man is the being who by definition never stops asking questions?

Yes, that still holds true. But let's suppose that the ultimate Answer -- the Absolute, Infinite, Eternal, Ground, Source Beyond Being -- becomes the (?). Supposing it happened, what would that be like?

It would be somewhat like (!) becoming (?), a kind of endless and inexhaustible explosion on his end and implosion on ours. But we're out of time. To be continued...

Friday, July 24, 2020

Fact-Checking God

Yesterday a commenter took issue with our characterization of the purpose of religion, which is to provide man with knowledge of the Absolute -- not absolute knowledge, of course, since this is reserved for the Absolute, AKA God. As he so eloquently put it, in speaking of the Absolute, I am simply projecting my "shitty, imperialist, fundamentalist religion onto the more honest and humble faiths of the people Christianity aims to conquer."

Which isn't exactly what I said, but details can get lost in the heat of the moment.

Of course -- contrary to the imputation of fundamentalism -- the language of religion is often conveyed via symbolic points of reference; by way of analogy, this is similar to the relationship between a two-dimensional painting and a three-dimensional landscape. The painting is a transformation of the landscape made possible by various constants that are preserved and transmitted to the viewer.

In the absence of the Absolute no genuine knowledge of any kind is possible, since all knowledge partakes of absoluteness insofar as it is true. We might go so far as to say that any "proven fact" is like a fragment of God: a luminous clue coming into view.

So human beings have an implicit grasp of the Absolute, regardless of whether they choose to deny it. To the extent that we think at all, we are engaging it, either in a from-->to or to-->from direction (i.e., inductive or deductive, respectively, leaving aside direct vision or intuition for the moment).

One of our favorite little books is Schuon's Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, which reduces his thought to bite-sized aphorisms. Here's the first one:

The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute.

Boom. Please don't misunderstand him and say to yourself, "I'm not aware of this Absolute of which he speaks. Is he saying I'm worthless?"

No, the opposite: you are a human being and therefore conscious of the Absolute, whether implicitly or explicitly. You may not think well, but you can't even think badly in the absence of this ground.

With this in mind, we see that dysfunctional thinking is obviously a privation -- just as, say, blindness isn't just another type of sight. In order to repair and restore our thinking... well, we'll get into that later. But this is certainly one of the purposes of religion: to helps us to think properly and fruitfully about ultimate things -- the Permanent Real -- and to adjust our behavior accordingly.

Second aphorism:

Man is made for what he is able to conceive; the very ideas of absoluteness and transcendence prove both his spiritual nature and the supra-terrestrial character of his destiny.

One can see the necessity of this metaphysical truth directly via intellection, as we are now doing; one can also see it via the grace of faith, which provides man with a way to know truths he cannot or does not grasp on his own; or one can grasp it implicitly, say, by disagreeing with it. For on what basis do you disagree? Keep thinking, and don't stop. You'll get there.

Jumping down to the fifth aphorism,

Our deiformity implies that our spirit is made of absoluteness, our will of freedom, and our soul of generosity...

"Deiformity" is one way of putting it. America, for example, is explicitly founded upon this self-evident principle: that man is created by God, which has a number or immediate implications, in particular, natural law and natural rights.

Although these two -- law and right, truth and freedom/will -- are horizontally complementary, the former nevertheless takes precedence, for who -- besides the left -- would want to give absolute rights to an intrinsically irresponsible being? Rather, we are given rights because we are first responsible, i.e., capable of knowing the Law and feeling guilty when we transgress it.

Of course, our fallen nature shuffles the cards, clouds the intellect, disorients the will, and generally disrupts our intimacy with the Absolute. We'll no doubt return to this subject later, but again bear in mind that our fallenness is a privation. Thank God we can know of the privation, for if we can't, then... well, ideology is just one of nasty developments that follow the denial of this reality.

One more passage from Schuon before we jump back to Voegelin:

One of the keys to understanding our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing. The Absolute alone confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish and to be wholly what it is.

Wait -- let me fact check that....

Yup. I have consulted both the cosmos and my own head, and I rate this fact absolutely true: I AM contains the cosmos, not vice versa; and we can either know truth or we can't, and our vertical adventure in consciousness never ends. Nor can the cosmos be just a little bit pregnant with meaning.

In his Gnosis: Divine Wisdom, Schuon has a whole essay devoted to The Sense of the Absolute in Religions. It is highly raccommended, but I think we'll move on, because we've discussed it all before ad gnoseam.

If I hadn't first read and assimilated Schuon, I don't know what I'd have been able to make sense of Voegelin's claim (mentioned in yesterday's post) to the effect that "Christianity is not an alternative to philosophy, it is philosophy itself in its state of perfection."

Another one of our favorite books is The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Clement. If we're not careful, this post will end up excerpting it until the clock runs out. Oh well. Can't be helped. The Spirit bellows where it will.

Christianity is in the first place an Oriental religion, and it is a mystical religion.... When we see the shallow syncretism, the sentimental fascination with anything Eastern, and the bogus "gurus" crowding round for the pickings, it is easy to sneer. Whose fault is it that so many have had to resort to Tao or Zen in order to rediscover truths which were actually part of the Christian heritage right from the beginning?

So, don't blame the pneumopathic Chopras of the world for Deepaking the pockets of the ignorant rubes. I myself was once one of them. I suppose every new age nitwit is hoping that he too can learn the Secret -- the secret of charging the rubes $100 a month to be a resident of nirvana. The Brooklyn Bridge? That's $200 a month.

Remember: A Raccoon will never ask for money, because where they get it, it doesn't cost a thing.

This is beyond the satirical powers of the Babylon Bee:

The Integral community includes tens and even hundreds of thousands of people all across the globe —- but, due to something we might call “developmental privilege”, remains predominately white.

We white folks can't help it how enlightened we are! Don't hate us because we're more brilliant and virtuous than negroes!

Back to Clement. Recall what was said yesterday about how "the gospel appeared to offer the answer to the philosopher's search for truth." Clement agrees that for early Christian thinkers, "The whole of life, the whole universe was interpreted in the light of Christ's death and resurrection."

"Our higher faculties reflect divine qualities" and arouse "within us an attraction towards what transcends us, a 'desire for eternity'":

Thereby we become greater than the universe into which we were born and which seeks to take possession of us. Thereby we assert our basic freedom. Ultimately, then, being in the image of God signifies personality, freedom.

Wait. Better fact-check that one too.

100% true, at least for those with eyes wide open. Of course, for "someone who chooses to hide his eyes by lowering his eyelids, the sun is not responsible for the fact that he cannot see it" (Gregory of Nyssa).

Again, ignorance of the Absolute is a privation. If not, then absolute ignorance is the standard, and our trolls -- not to mention the new age integralists, the most virtuous and evolved white people ever -- are the best and brightest the cosmos has to offer. And that's a fact.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Word Made Fresh

Back to the questions raised in the previous post: how and why did Christianity triumph over its cut-rate competitors, e.g., pagan polytheism, human and animal sacrifice, ancestor worship, various spiritual nostrums & Gnosticisms? Was it just survival of the fittest & littest?

Yes, in a sense, in that Christianity is obviously... how to put it... a more adequate reflection of human nature and therefore of our pneumo-cognitive striving. It's a far superior map to what preceded it (and to what lay ahead), to put it mildly.

Indeed, if it is what it says it is, it should be the most adequate map conceivable, of both man and cosmos (speaking metaphysically, of course). However, bear in mind that we're attempting to approach this subject with as few preconceptions as possible, religious or otherwise.

For example, we could say that Christianity triumphed because of the Holy Spirit, or because Christ promised it would, or because of the supernaturally graced courage of Paul, but these beg the question and assume what needs to be proved. Leaving out purely supernatural factors, what was the appeal and why did it spread?

Well, we can't leave out all supernatural factors, for the simple reason that man qua man is the being with inherent supernatural needs and drives. (I will henceforth use the less saturated term transnatural.)

As the saying goes, you can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back. But you can also drive out the transnatural with a pitchfork -- or with anything from lions to guillotines to Antifa mobs -- but he always comes back too. With a vengeance. Which our contemporary political religions prove every day. The gods of godlessness are a jealous, zealous, and bellicose bunch.

Let's be perfectly accurate: man is a religious being with a transnatural nature and transnatural needs. This is so obvious that we shouldn't even need to say it, but we are living in an age in which a host of perfectly settled fundamental truths and natural laws are under assault and being relitigated by the left -- everything from freedom of speech to human equality to the right to self-defense and more.

It is wrong to think of this as a war between the religious and irreligious. Unless -- ironically -- the left is regarded as the former and we represent the latter (or perhaps better, they are merely religious while we are transreligious).

It is clear enough that leftism in all its forms is a political religion. What is less well understood is that Christianity may be regarded as a cure for the primordial religiosity that has plagued mankind since time out of mind (c.f. Gil Bailie's Violence Unveiled or God's Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love).

In other words -- again, if it is what it says it is -- Christianity cannot be "a" religion; it cannot be merely a particular species of a more general class. Rather, it would have to be the other way around: Christianity is the kingdom, as it were, of which other religions must be members.

Of course, this is what all religions claim, or people wouldn't follow them. No religion announces that it has discovered a small piece of the puzzle, so we ought to adhere to it with our hearts, minds, and lives. Rather, every religion claims to be an absolute and total explanation.

Or, let's just focus on the Absolute. Man has an an implicit understanding of this category, for it is the ground of the very possibility of thought. I could explain in detail why this must be the case, but if I do, it will swallow the whole post.

Really, it's rather self-evident. Axiomatic. You can always argue your way to the principle, but arguing itself presupposes the principle, or why bother arguing? By virtue of what principle do you suppose that argument -- or reasoning -- will arrive at truth? In other words, why argue if there is no ground from which it proceeds or telos to which it is ordered?

So, the Absolute is. And truth is conformity to it. What's the alternative? There is truth but we can't know it? There is no truth and we can know it? There is no truth and we can't know it? These are all logically self-refuting, so we have only the one alternative: there is truth and man may know it; the universe is intelligible to intelligence, and these two resolve to One, AKA the Absolute.

Or, viewed from the top down, the absolute bifurcates waaaaaay updream into subject and object, knower and known, transcendence and immanence, heavens and earth, vertical and horizontal, Adam & Evolution, yada yada and blah blah.

Again, I could say much more, but longtime readers are already falling asleep. Let's move on.

Recall that we're rereading an essay by Voegelin called The Gospel and Culture. In it he writes that

If the community of the gospel had not entered the culture of the time by entering its life of reason, it would have remained an obscure sect and probably disappeared from history.

He goes on to say that -- and this is still big, it's the thinkers that got small -- "The culture of reason"

had arrived at a state that was sensed by eager young men as an impasse in which the gospel appeared to offer the answer to the philosopher's search for truth.

In other words, Christianity didn't just spread because it appealed to the unlettered peasantry, but because it explained a great deal more to intellectual elites. "The Logos of the gospel," writes Voegelin, is the sophsame Logos of philosophy, reason, and history, from Abraham to Plato and everyone in between (and since):

Hence, Christianity is not an alternative to philosophy, it is philosophy itself in its state of perfection; the history of the Logos comes to its fulfillment through the incarnation of the Word in Christ.

Okay, but is it still perfect?

As if perfection could ever surpass itself! It only goes to 10, not 11.

True, but lʘʘked at from a slightly different, orthoparadoxical angle: as if it could ever stop surpassing itself!

What could we mean by this? What we mean is that Christianity isn't just about a fixed doctrine.

Yes, it is that, but the purpose of this affixed doctrine is to ceaselessly surpass ourselves; we can never arrive at the father shore toward which the surpassing is ordered in this lifetime. It is the Word baked fresh anew each morning in boundless depth, toward the infinite horizon.

Throughout all ages, world without end. A drop embraced by the sea held within the drop. The food that never runs out, the dream that never runs dry, the son who never stops rising in the yeast, the yada beyond which there is no yadder.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

We are All Christians Now

Especially secular and anti-Christian westerners. We could delve into the reasons why, but this would be the subject of a different post. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of excellent books on the subject, and that leftism is just another boring and stupid Christian heresy.

One thing that renders it heretical is that it can only be imposed by force, because ultimately it is force. Christianity has the force of truth, whereas leftism must always force its truth, beginning with the young and immature. We certainly teach our son about the left, but I would never force it (or any other ideology) on him. In other words, we homeschool him.

The left is always at war with freedom and truth (each being unthinkable in the absence of the other) because it is at war with transcendence. When this war goes from symbolic to literal -- as we are seeing in our streets -- this is fascism (now unironically referred to as antifascism).

For fascism is the violent resistance to transcendence. For example, to recognize the transcendent greatness of a Washington or Lincoln, let alone Jesus and Mary, is to understand the reasons for the left's antipathy toward their symbolic representations. In the words of the Aphorist, The progressive travels around among literary works as the Puritan did among cathedrals: with hammer in hand. On the other hand -- the hammerless one -- symbols of immanent terror such as Marx, Lenin, Castro, and Che won't be touched.

In an essay called The Gospel and Culture, Voegelin asks,

Why could the gospel be victorious in the Hellenistic-Roman environment of its origin? Why did it attract an intellectual elite who restated the meaning of the gospel in terms of philosophy and, by this procedure, created a Christian doctrine? Why could this doctrine become become the state religion of the Roman Empire?

How could the church, having gone through this process of acculturation, survive the Roman Empire and become the chrysalis, as Toynbee called it, of Western civilization? -- And what has blighted this triumphant cultural force, so that today the churches are on the defensive against the dominant intellectual movements of the time... ?

That's a lot of questions, and the questions could scarcely be deeper, because they go to the very foundations of everything and everyone. Moreover, we still live in the light of the reality that engenders these questions. And as we know, there is far more Light in a good question than a bad answer.

As to the latter, much of the contemporary crisis of culture consists of bad answers to poorly formulated questions. Nevertheless, the questions arise out of Christian civilization and could only arise out of Christian civilization.

(BTW, in order to comprehend the Christian west, we must properly speak of the Judeo-Christian stream that begins with Abraham's Yes to God; prior to this -- or between Abraham and Genesis -- is a general typological/mythopoetic sketch that applies to mankind as such, or to HCE [Here Comes Everybody].)

After all, only a Christian can logically affirm that black lives matter, because saying so is rooted in the deeper principle that all lives matter. And all lives matter because human beings are uniquely individual persons created in the image of God.

To insist that black lives matter merely because they are black is to sacrifice a universal principle to a concrete and contingent attribute. There's a name for the ideology that privileges the particularity of race over universal principle: Nazism.

Unlike in the Christian west, there is no principle in Chinese Marxism -- or any other form of Marxism -- affirming the inviolable dignity of Uighurs, let alone the Christians whom they presumably marytred just yesterday because they do so pretty much everyday.

Nor in Islam is there anything about Jews and Christians -- the kaffir -- being equal to the ummah. Rather, these vertical distinctions of human beings are built into their heretical teaching. I myself live in California, where conservatives are routinely persecuted and silenced for their wrongthink by the Caliban. I can't blame them, given their twisted assumptions and post-Christian superstitions: garbage in, Gavin out.

Ramblin' again, and now we're out of transcendent timelessness. To be continued for sure...