Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Left: Diabolical or Just Barbaric?

Perhaps it's the heat -- or humidity -- wave we've been under, but I haven't felt impelled to write much for the past week or so, although I've been thinking a lot about the diabolical nature of the left, so it was a synchro-nicety to bump into this review of a book called The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism's Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration. Let's read it together and see what stands out.

The first sentence stands out:

Paul Kengor is a teacher and writer who has always had an eye for the spiritual dimension in history, politics, and economics.

Yes, the spiritual dimension in history, politics, and economics; or in other words, the vertical dimension that runs from God on down and back up again. Always and everywhere, leftism is a passionately spiritual movement.

As if that's a good thing! No one -- obviously -- believes more firmly in God than Satan. Indeed, Where religion is secularized, Satan becomes the last witness to God (NGD). And speaking of the Aphorist,

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

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

In that order: the devil walks around disguised as a virtuous man -- or signaling himself as one, to be precise. But such a man cannot do this without the projection of evil into the innocent: come for the cheap virtue, stay for the human sacrifice and spiritual cannibalism, i.e., the satanic eucharist (or dyscharist).

By the way, the leftist will say that we are utterly lacking in self-awareness, and that we are simply projecting evil into him; there are many ways to disprove this, but this will take us far afield. Let's just respond with a few preemptive aphorisms:

Men are divided into two camps: those who believe in original sin and those who are idiots.

Nobody will ever induce me to absolve human nature, because I know myself.

We can never count on a man who does not look upon himself with the gaze of an entomologist.

Those who remove man’s chains free only an animal.

Show me the Antifa or BLM member who understands these.

Let's continue reading: "terms such as collectivism and individualism only take the debate so far... Ultimately the fight comes down to spiritual warfare: good versus evil."

Precisely. This is one of the main things that prompted me to leave psychology behind and below, because when it comes to explaining the psyche, mere psychology doesn't cut it.

To put it another way, psychology is far too important a subject to be left to psychologists; for the person who is only a psychologist isn't even that.

Communism isn't so much a collection of economic policies, but a psychological phenomena, whereby losers and degenerates and resentful people take revenge and try to harm others.

Agreed, with the caveat that there is something about the psychological wound that opens the person to noxious vertical-spiritual influences, similar to how a wound in the skin opens one to harmful bacteria. (Also, it seems that these Antifa volks aren't just ugly on the inside.)

At the same time, there must be a weakened (or worse, wakened) immune response that allows the spiritual energies to enter and take root. The person must misidentify these as "good" and even virtuous. It's why the leftist is always morally superior to us. It's a large part of the appeal. Remember? I certainly do: to be on the left is to be more moral, more intelligent, and even more attuned to "art." A couple weeks ago one of our trolls made the claim that all art, creativity, and humor come from the left. Nuff said.

Clearly, Marx was a repulsive assoul. What then explains his appeal, being that he is probably the most influential single philosopher who has ever lived? At the moment, major American cities are being destroyed in his name. Can this be said of any other intellectual?

Although I agree with the inescapable connection Kengor makes between Marx’s life and his philosophy, I might not place so much emphasis on the man’s early life.

Yes, exactly. In hindsight, psychology can explain anyone. Hitler and Churchill both had abusive fathers. So what?

Let's see if amazon reviewers have anything helpful to throw onto our pile of insultainment.

The other point the book shows is that Marx was intent on subverting Christianity. That is a theme that runs through the book. Concrete examples of how Marxists would focus on undermining Christianity and Christians.

Yes, of course. Why wouldn't they? I was just reading yesterday in a book on Balthasar, how "the will to evil becomes the more entrenched the greater the counterpower of the divine goodness inviting it to convert." Yup. That's a soph-evident claim. Well, maybe not to Pope Francis.

I'm also rereading Hayek's The Fatal Conceit, which is a fine example of how far a secular economist can go without recourse to the vertical: pretty, pretty far, but not quite far enough. Examples:

To follow socialist morality would destroy much of present humankind and impoverish much of the rest.

... our language [Logos!] has been debased under socialist influence and we must keep ourselves from being seduced by it into socialist ways of thinking.

The savage is not solitary, and his instinct is collectivist.... an atavistic longing after the life of the noble savage is the main source of the collectivist tradition.

... a naive and childlike animistic view of the world has come to dominate social theory and is the foundation of socialist thought.

If we wish to save the world from barbarism we have to refute Socialism... (von Mises)

We'll see you next Tuesday, I guess, humidity permitting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

If You Meet the Bob on the Road, Just Keep Going

If you've followed the argument thus far, the upshot is that "Spirit and the totality of the real"

are reciprocal concepts that correspond to one another. One cannot "have" the one without the other (Pieper).

As I was typing that sentence I had the flash of a half-baked proto-thought, one I hadn't really thunk before. That is, how exactly does one organize one's interior?

Further instant reflection suggests that this is essentially what we've been endeavoring to do lo these past three or four decades, and especially the last 1.5, i.e., since the dawn of the blog. Like Travis Bickle, we're just trying to get organizized.

I suppose it goes without saying that the less cluttered your head, the easier it is to organize the content. In other words, it helps to be stupid or ignorant. Then again, stupid people can be quite dangerous when, for example, they collectively grab hold of a simplistic principle to organize their otherwise chaotic lives. You know, the Terrible Simplifiers: BLM, Antifa, CNN, et al.

Not to re-belabor the point, but this is obviously the intrinsic appeal of ideology: whatever else an ideology is "about" -- e.g., race, class, gender, sexual deviation, etc. -- on a deeper level it is about the order of being. It is about trying to live in One Cosmos, even when the oneness is a delusion. Which I don't mind, so long as they don't force it on me and try to reduce my cosmos to theirs.

Recall Voegelin's zinger that The order of history is the history of order. True, but I hadn't thought of applying it to individual development: the order of psychological development is the development of psychological order. Which is always a process structure (as it so happens, one of the subjects of my doctoral dissertation.)

This subject is triggering so many associations that I don't know which way to turn: in other words, I'm once again faced with the challenge of ordering... my own mind. Same as any other day. The order of this post is a post about order.

If some bored scholar from the distant future were to undertake an exhumination my dead corpus, I believe one of the themes he'd discover is a search for Order; and if he were to dig a little deeper, he'd discover that the order of the search was, is, and always will be the search for order.

Rather than trying to explain what I mean, I think I'll hand the wheel of the bus over to Pieper, because he has an appealingly straightforward way of saying the same thing. Or maybe I just have an unappealingly obscure way of saying it. Either way, I'm going to cite a number of disparate passages that add up to the point I'm trying to make, but you'll have to do the math:

man is without environment and open to the world.... it is precisely this ability to have a world which is spirit!

"It belongs to the nature of existing things that they lie in the spirit's field of relations." Therefore,

"To have being" is synonymous with "lying within the spiritual soul's field of relations"; both expressions refer to one and the same state of affairs.

The potential danger here is that an improper understanding of what this means may reduce to postmodern solipsism -- to "perception is reality," AKA the whole "My Truth" industry. This is deicidedly not what we mean! What we are saying is that Truth is a process of its own discovery occurring in the space between Spirit and World. It's not just anything.

And now I'm reminded of Hayek's The Fatal Conceit, which I'm also rereading at the moment. He comes at it from a very different angle, but it nevertheless points to the same truth and the same world. First of all,

neither biological nor cultural evolution knows anything like "laws of evolution" or "inevitable laws of historical development" in the sense of laws governing necessary stages or phases through which the product of evolution must pass, and enabling the prediction of future developments.

You've probably heard the old wisecrack, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Likewise, and for much the same reason, if you run into a man who claims to have discovered the Order, he hasn't. Rather, he's just an ideologue who wants to confine you to the prison of his own (dis)order. Folks like Marx and Comte -- who drew up the blueprints for the prisons of leftism and scientism, respectively -- are prime candidates for roadkill. Should you meet them on the autobahn of life.

"Spirit is the ability to grasp the totality of Being," but the task is never complete. And "the more extensive the power to entertain relations, the more multi-dimensioned the accompanying field of relations, the corresponding "world."

.... The more comprehensive the ability to relate to the world of objective being, the more deeply rooted the support for such expansions is in the interior of the subject (Pieper).

Thus,

To have a world, to be related to the totality of existing things, can be attributed only to a being that is grounded in itself, not a "what," but a "who," the self as "I," a person.

This person is finite, but grounded in the Infinite person, and this makes all the difference. For it explains how and why we are always on the way -- not to nowhere, but to somewhere and the samewho (the telos is a Person). The "in-between" -- of man and God --

corresponds to the realm of the genuinely human. It is genuinely human not to comprehend (the way God does) but also not to become rigid; not to confine oneself within the presumably fully illuminated world of everyday life; not to rest content with one's ignorance; not to lose that childishly fluid openness which is peculiar to the hoping person and only to him.

"Only God comprehends the world 'from a single point.'" This is the necessary condition for our being able to comprehend it from any point. But it is also why there can never be a closed system of philosophy, for "the claim to have discovered a cosmic formula is... by definition non-philosophy and pseudo-philosophy" (Pieper). So, if you meet that guy on the road, you know what to do.

Monday, August 24, 2020

A World ≠ The World

No time for an all new post, but out of curiosity I scoured the hull of the arkive to find out what I wrote about For the Love of Wisdom the first time I read it back in 2007.

Think of what we do here as metaphysical mind jazz, i.e., spontaneous improvisations on certain chord changes. Yes, we repeat ourselves, but never the same way twice. I must have a dozen versions of Statesboro Blues by the Allman Brothers, and I love them all equally. Or at least that's what I tell them.

I'm not a bitter person, but I do still mildly resent that it took so long to deprogram my left wing brainwashing and soul-tainting to rearrive at where my philosophical endeavors should have started to begin with. All that wasted timelessness contemplating impossibilities and assimilating falsehoods!

So: what's it all about, Alfie? What in the world is the world?

Or, to put it another way, what kind of world is the world of man, and is it the same as the world? Ever since Kant, the grumpy answer has been: No! Our world -- the world we perceive -- is just a form of our sensibility, a kind of projection of our neurobiology. Therefore, it is not the world. Rather, the world -- whatever that is -- is radically inaccessible to man. (Which begs the question of how we can even posit it, but whatever.)

This question is addressed in an enjoyable book I'm currently reading, For Love of Wisdom: Essays on the Nature of Philosophy, by Josef Pieper. One of the themes Pieper develops is the idea that all other animals merely live in a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world.

For example, people assume that all animals with eyes, when they look at an object, see the same thing, when this is demonstrably untrue.

Pieper cites the example of a certain bird that preys on grasshoppers but is incapable of seeing the grasshopper if it isn't moving. Only in leaping does the grasshopper become distinct from the background -- which is why many insects (and higher animals) "play dead."

In their resting form, it isn't so much that they are dead as literally invisible. It is as if they drop into a hole and no longer exist in the world of the predator. Even if the bird were starving, it could search and search, and yet, never find the unmoving grasshopper right under its beak.

What this means is that the animal cannot transcend its biological boundaries, even with an organ -- the eye -- seemingly equipped for just this task.

Pieper quotes the biologist Uexküll, who draws a distinction between the animal's environment and the actual world. As the latter writes, "The environments of animals are comparable in no way to open nature, but rather to a cramped, ill-furnished apartment."

Animals are confined to an environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world didn't come into view until human beings happened upon the scene. What a mess! To which the first human exclaimed: Not my fault! It was this way when I got here.

Given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its own cramped apartment and open the door to an infinitely wider, deeper, and higher world?

Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as our tenured apes? If so, then neither science nor philosophy are possible. Like the bird looking for the immobile grasshopper, we couldn't locate reality despite the most diligent searching. Indeed, we wouldn't even know of the existence of the reality for which to search.

Pieper writes that the human spirit isn't so much defined by the property of immateriality as it is "by the ability to enter into relations with Being as a totality," in a way that transcends our mere animal-environmental boundaries.

Now, as Schuon always emphasizes, the intellect is not restricted to a particular environment. Rather, it is universal -- "relatively absolute" -- and therefore able to know the world. Similarly, as Pieper writes, "it belongs to the very nature of a spiritual being to rise above the environment and so transcend adaptation and confinement"; which in turn explains "the at once liberating and imperiling character with which the nature of spirit is immediately associated."

This is what we were driving at on p. 92 of the book:

Up to the threshold of the third singularity, biology was firmly in control of the hominids, and for most of evolution, mind (such as it was) existed to serve the needs of the primate body. Natural selection did not, and could not have, "programmed" us to know reality, only to survive in a narrow reality tunnel constructed within the dialectical space between the world and our evolved senses.

But then suddenly Darwin was cast aside and "mind crossed a boundary into a realm wholly its own, a multidimensional landscape unmappable by science and unexplainable by natural selection"; humans ventured out of biological necessity and "into a realm with a vastly greater degree of freedom, well beyond the confining prison walls of the senses."

Thus, natural selection is adequate to explain adaptation to an environment, but it cannot explain our discovery and comprehension of the world. As Aristotle recognized early on (which for him was actually well past bedtime), "the soul is in a way all existing things."

What does he mean by this? What he means is that the soul is able to put itself in relation to the totality of Being. While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to encounter Being as a whole.

Thus, to be in Spirit is "to exist amid reality as a whole, in the face of the totality of Being." Spirit encounters not a world, but the world. Or, to be precise, "spirit" and "world" are reciprocal concepts, the one being impossible in the absence of the other. Science itself is a spiritual world, or it is no world at all, only an environment. Usually an academic environment.

Bottom line: there is no naturalistic way to get from the restricted intelligence of animals to the open intelligence of humans.