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.


Anonymous said...

Evil is hardest to fight when people are paranoid, naïve and easily brainwashable, and the masses are feeling especially powerless.

In the corporate world I lived by three philosophies.
1. Always make the boss look good.
2. Always provide a good bottom line for the company.
3. Always get along with your peers.

It was an unequivocal disaster.

I’d already learned about providing a bad boss with moneymaking ideas – they’ll just take full credit for them and you get nothing. So, I announced my new idea at a group meeting, with much support from my superiors and peers. Afterwards my rival, well connected in the rumor mill, spread that I had overheard him talking with his own boss about that idea and that I was trying to take all credit for it. At the next meeting where we were to flesh out my idea, I received a subtle warning about stealing ideas. Half my peers believed it (since I was a rival in this very paranoid business) and admonished me. The other half got the message that providing new moneymaking ideas was a very bad idea. To succeed one must keep their head down, do a mediocre job, and get connected with the sociopathic players. My own career never recovered.

Today for many, integrity is a losers game. This could make somebody want to create a Molotov cocktail just for the helluvit. I think stories like this one are closer to reality than somebody just getting so emotionally swept up into some questionable movement they go nuts.

Cousin Dupree said...

Yes, you can always throw a Molotov cocktail at your enemies. But what happened to just not inviting them to your birthday party?

julie said...

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...

It's the spiritual equivalent of an anxiety attack; no doubt, it also leads to actual anxiety issues.

Gagdad Bob said...

Agreed. Saw the following retweeted at Happy Acres:

"I’ve said this before, but one of the greatest benefits of my faith in this insane modern world is deep level on which I **know** that I am Seen and I am Known. It short-circuits that panicky affirmation-seeking that I even exist as a human being that I see so much of these days."

julie said...

Yes, just so.

This year has been extraordinarily difficult; yet, through faith, we know that a) this, too, shall pass, and b) all things work to the good for those who love God. And so, we find our narrow way through whatever comes.

For those who don't have that understanding, what is there to do but shriek and run riot in the mistaken understanding that it's their job to make utopia right here and now? Frankly, if that's all I had to believe in, I'd probably just kill myself and get it over with.

Anonymous said...

Utopia is a bit of a stretch. Not-dystopia seems a lot more practical.

It’s a lot easier to not-invite filthy commies to your birthday party than it to not-invite the clean cut Christians who you used to hang out with. It seems that the latter messes with your head a lot more.

I'd suggest calling out the bad sins just a bit more often, especially those from our own team leadership. Crying "Sure our team sins, but their team sins way worse!!" is reaching its limits. Then maybe we'll have a lot less crazy people running around burning things just for the nihilistic helluvit. And maybe our leadership might start acting like they have to be accountable, since there'll be consequences for bad behavior.

But then I am a fan of The Purge movie series. Would having a "Day of Sinning" be cathartic?

Gagdad Bob said...

I realize I'm fortunately situated, but this has been a year of tremendous growth for me, thanks to the confluence of crazy times and the full immersion into Voegelin. Although it no doubt looks like I'm blogging about the same old things, it feels to me like I'm digging deeper down to the root of the pathology. The lockdown doesn't bother me, because I hate Doing Stuff anyway. Life is too interesting to merely live it. I notice that I've written 122 posts this year, already surpassing last's year's total of 103. Not that quantity is everything. It's just the fruit of having more time to wander in the abyss of unknowing.

Gagdad Bob said...

That was in response to Julie @ 1:09. In response to anonymous @ 1:35, shrug. As usual.

julie said...

Agreed, it has absolutely been a time for growth. I'd like to say I've been doing something as beneficial as getting immersed in Voegelin, but being able to recognize the blessings we've been granted even as the world loses its collective mind is a tremendous gift.

One thing I've been really grateful for, the Bible study I used to attend in Florida is being held as a zoom meeting for the foreseeable future. Weirdly, being unable to do things the usual way is allowing for a connection that would be otherwise impossible.

God is good.

ted said...

Yes, the lockdown has had all sorts of interesting manifestations. Highlight for me, finally dived into Dante! Very rich journey that keeps deepening.

Gagdad Bob said...

Don't forget those books by Jennifer Upton on the Inferno & Purgatory, which we spent some time blogging about. Can't tell the players without a program.

ted said...

Yes, I recall those books and your posts. I wanted to read the original text first before I got into commentary. That will be soon on the list!