Friday, March 19, 2021

Give Us this Day Our Daily Fraud, and Deliver Us from Ego

Yesterday I read Eric Hoffer's classic The True Believer, which I'd previously read a couple of times, but not in many years, and certainly not with the eyes of a true believing privileged dissident insurrectionist white supremacist crimethinking badwhite member of the patriarchy. 

Hoffer's thesis is that while mass movements vary, they all feature the same kind of person. Not just anyone can be a True Believer, nor does it matter much what he believes. Rather, it's the fervent believing that counts. 

Think of Mumbly Joe. The party he entered 60 years ago is very different from the party of today. Back then it at least pretended to be liberal, whereas now it is openly racist, authoritarian, and anti-American, but he fights for it just the same.  

We've said for a long time that man cannot not be religious. Since religion provides a kind of "folk metaphysic" for the average man, the average man who rejects religion will simply replace this with a bad, unexamined, and implausible metaphysic such as Marxism, or atheism, or feminism, or critical race theory. 

Worse, as explained by Polanyi, the True Believer will have the same religious energy as anyone else, only now unhinged from religious constraint. This redounds to violence and destruction, every time -- most recently, the months of BLM and Antifa riots in 2020.  

The absence of religious constraint is analogous to the claim of rights without concomitant responsibilities. In truth, just as duties are antecedent to rights (since you don't give rights to an irresponsible person), humility is prior to grace, so to speak. 

Yes, man is in the image and likeness of the Creator, but he is also fallen, and if he fails to appreciate the latter, then the result is cosmic narcissism. 

Genuine sanctity covaries with humility, and no one is less humble than the true believing leftist who not only presumes to know better how to run your life, but is so ignorant of his own ignorance that he never stops dreaming of "political solutions" that only set off a new round of problems. Just look at the border: Biden's solution is the problem. 

Why is someone attracted to a mass movement, anyway, and why especially would an American be so attracted? The left is composed of losers, misfits, and weirdos at the bottom end, and a privileged class at the top end. In other words, it's a coalition of losers of the meritocracy and winners of the mediocracy, and neither class is able to recognize the truth. 

If the left didn't exist, the losers would have to invent it on order to account for their failure: in short, it's much easier to blame racism or sexism than it is to acknowledge one's own shortcomings. 

At the top end, the belief in "white privilege" and other such nonsense is like "envy insurance," so to speak. On some level, an Obama must recognize his own mediocrity and blind luck, so he deflects envy via an ideology that redirects it to acceptable objects. In reality, the left is an alliance of the top and bottom against the middle. Both are resentful but for different reasons.

Put it this way: a successful person who has succeeded on merit will see the system as generally fair. But an unsuccessful person who has failed due to his lack of merit will be sorely tempted to look for an alternative explanation. And a person who has succeeded despite his abundant lack of merit will know the system was rigged in his favor, and thus harbor bitterness about it. 

Thus, the bitterness of the lucky winners joins forces with the bitterness of the luckless losers. How else to explain the bitterness of an Oprah, the Obamas, the Kamalas, the Markles, the Sharptons of the world? 

Celebrities, journalists, and celebrity journalists must know deep down that they are just interchangeable lottery winners, which is why they are down with the revolution. This is how ridiculously privileged clowns such as Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo can be so vocal about white privilege: don't look at me, look the Orange Man! 

For Hoffer, the impulse to join a mass movement goes beyond mere ideas and even existence, all the way to ontology. In short, the true believer wants to rid himself of his self and be someone else. 

In my view, this is an inverse analogy of religion, in that the mass movement offers transcendence of the ego, only from below instead of above. It appeals

to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self. A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.

People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worthwhile purpose in self-advancement. 

There is an  "innermost craving for a new life" or "rebirth" which brings "a sense of purpose and worth by identification with a holy cause." These people hope for change, but the real hope is to change into someone else. 

Since it never works, it requires further change, which is the recipe for fanaticism. Democrats believe the stimulus will work this time if they only make it big enough, as Islamists believe the jihad will work if only they murder enough Jews.

The book has a number of aphorisms:

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.

Why can't, for example, Gavin Newsome mind his own business? What is he running from? And what is he hoping for? Hoffer describes the various types who are drawn to mass movements. Perhaps Newsome is among the Bored:

When people are bored, it is primarily with themselves that they are bored. The consciousness of a barren, meaningless existence is the main fountainhead of boredom.... By embracing a holy cause and dedicating their energies and substance to its advancement, they find a new life full of purpose and meaning.

Which would be great if it were't at our expense. I have a lot of hobbies that give my life meaning, but none of them involve bullying and bossing other people around, let alone wrecking their lives and livelihoods.

Mass movements also appeal to criminal types such as the Clintons, for they allow one to steal on a grand scale while laundering one's conscience in ideology. Come to think of it, this must apply to Andrew Cuomo and to so many other vocal male feminists. Public commitment to feminism is the perfect cover for private predators.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Careful, Mankind, There's a Beverage Here!

As mentioned a few posts back, I don't like to call myself an "esoterist," even though I find the purely exoteric approach to religion tedious and sometomes frankly off-putting. Not only does it not speak to me, it often pushes me away. 

Now, you may say that this is because I am proud, or willful, or just seeking after frivolous spiritual innertainment. While this could be true, I am inclined to think not, for the simple reason that I used to be all of those things and more --  a proud and willful spiritual adventurer chasing after vertical thrills and spills. 

"It is in the nature of theology," writes Schuon, "to over-accentuate and exclude, and this is why no theology is intellectually perfect, though there are certainly degrees in this." 

For me, Thomas's theology is more perfect than Luther's, but the difference between the two is trivial compared to the gulf between ology and theo, or between our thoughts (which are necessarily finite) and God's being (which is transfinite). Thomas himself vaulted over this latter abyss in 1273, such that his soul left his own corpus behind and below.

There's a saying in Zen that once you've crossed the river, you leave the raft behind. This is in no way to denigrate rafts, since you won't get far without one, and may even drown. 

The image comes to mind of Jesus walking on water -- or of turning water to wine, or of blood and water coming from his side, or slaking one's thirst with living water. 

Maybe you think this post is going nowhere. To which we say: careful, mankind, there's a beverage here!

Come to think of it, images of water are everywhere in revelation history, which is to say, meta-history, beginning even before the beginning with the formless void of the primordial waters: God's very first act is to separate heavens from earth and waters from waters. 

This latter is intriguing, because the text alludes to both horizontal and vertical waters: the former are separated by dry land called earth, while above or beyond the vertical waters is a firmament called heaven, or what we call the Father shore

Some (timeless) time later we are visited by a flood, which is nothing less than the return of primordial chaos. Then there is the Exodus, which is once again made possible by another separation of waters. Here there is an intriguing subtext that links slavery to chaos on the one hand, and order to liberation on the other.  

Which Jordan Peterson often talks about, i.e., our perennial struggle against chaos. Come to think of it, his latest book is Beyond Order. Now, Jordan is the river where Jesus was baptized, and Peter is the rock on which the Son founds his church! Now I'm sounding like Pepe Silvia, and Pepe is a pet form of the Spanish name José, the latter being Spanish for Joseph, the father of Jesus!!!

Jesus's first public act revolves around water, death, and rebirth into a new and higher order. This latter order evokes the firmament (kingdom) of heaven alluded to in the Beginning, but also hearkens back to Exodus. Then Jesus ventures into the desert, which implies a place devoid of water. (I have a literal translation that specifies desert and not "wilderness.")

I'm gonna say that the divine substance must be analogous to water; or rather, water is its adequate symbol. As Schuon characterizes it,

If we compare the Divine Substance with water, accidents may be likened to waves, drops, snow, or ice.

Or fog, clouds, rivers, etc. These latter phenomena are accidental limits or forms which don't alter the substance of water, which is unchanging.

In a comment the other day, I made reference to Schuon's complementary or dual-track metaphysical map of the cosmos. One image involves a point surrounded by concentric circles (which goes to the accidental discontinuity of things), the other a point from which lines radiate outward in all directions (going to substantial continuity).

This latter, radial image can be seen as the watery model, while the concentric model provides the dry land. At risk of sounding all wet, there is obviously a kind of "flow" from the source or ground, i.e., a vertico-central spring without which we would die of thirst, not only spiritually but cognitively and aesthetically. This spring pours forth being.

However, at the same time and on another level, the concentric model provides us with firmament, or islands, so to speak, from sea to shining sea. 

For example, there is a mysterious (but substantial) sea between the islands of physics and biology, in the absence of which the cosmos could never have sailed from one to the other. Truly, we would have been up the creek of lifelessness with no paddle.

Now I'm thinking of the image in Revelation of a throne of living waters that will "wipe away every tear from the eyes." Here again, the waters merge, only the substance shall remove the accident, or the accident (tears) shall return to the substance.

As the Fathers like to say, God becomes man so that man might become God. Or, you could say, that water -- the substance -- becomes form so that the form might become substance.

At any rate, our thirst runs out before the water ever does. Or something. It's a little foggy.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Athens, Jerusalem, and DC; or Hemlock, Cross, and Cancellation

It is often said that western civilization is a fusion of Athens and Jerusalem (and sometimes Rome), in reference to the genealogy of our religion and politics. Interesting that the two most important names associated with these cities -- Socrates and Jesus -- were both subject to cancellation, big time.

Dennis Prager has often remarked that the most dynamic and successful religion over the past century has been leftism, irrespective of whether one counts converts or victims. 

Leftism is dynamic, in that it readily changes form in order to adapt to contemporary needs, while keeping the substance in tact. "Cancel culture" is its latest form, but it's the same old human sacrifice -- the same sadism expressed toward atheists who refuse to honor the gods of the state.

If theology is the queen of the sciences, then philosophy must be king or something. If so, then -- extending the metaphor -- the royal line of the latter begins with Socrates. Whitehead quipped that western philosophy is but a footnote on Plato, but Plato is a footnote on Socrates (if not in form, then in substance, more on which as we proceed; suffice it to say that the essence of philosophy is a way of life, of endless seeking after and loving wisdom).

So, you can say that western philosophy is founded on a cancellation -- as is Christianity. For that matter, Judaism is founded on Abraham's near-cancellation of Issac. In this context, I suppose we could say that ritual circumcision is a kind of symbolic auto-cancellation, but that's another story, mohels away from this one.

It seems that where religiosity is, sacrifice isn't far behind. At the moment, we're in the middle of Lent, and what is Lent but a voluntary sacrifice to God, for the sake of increased purity? This is on the perfectly trans-logical grounds that God and impurity don't really mix: the more of one, the less of the other.

Again, the trial of Socrates is one of the most famous cancellations in history. Why was he cancelled by the progressive mob of the day? The usual reasons: atheism, corrupting the minds of the youth, refusing to honor the popular gods of of the state. 

At his trial, Socrates describes a familiar sounding breakdown in the educational establishment, such that many of his accusers had been indoctrinated to believe Orange Robed Man Bad! (http://cotechnoe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Socrates.jpg)

they approached you at the most impressionable age, when some of you were children or adolescents, and they literally won their case by default, because there is no one to defend me.

Socrates goes on to read the indictment of his thoughtcrimes: first, he "is guilty of criminal meddling," insofar as 

he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example.

This is reminiscent of how, in our day, one will be cancelled if one presumes to, say, defeat the stronger arguments of Antiracism with the science of IQ, or mock the arguments of feminism with the fake science of sexual differences, or ridicule Transgendersim with recourse to mere biological reality.  

More generally, mocking the stupidity of the ruling class is reason enough to be cancelled. Socrates:

And by dog, gentlemen, for I must be frank with you, my honest impression was this. It seems to me, as I pursued my investigation at the god's command, that the people with the greatest reputations were almost entirely deficient, while others who were supposed to be their inferiors were much better qualified in practical intelligence.

This, of course, is why both sides of our ruling class agreed that Trump had to go. You can't just go around saying that smelly Walmart shoppers and inbred deplorables have more practical intelligence than a Puerto Rican barmaid or a demented tool on China's payroll.  

Socrates also got in trouble for mocking the artists and celebrities of his day, as if "the very fact that they were poets made them think that they had a perfect understanding of all other subjects, of which they were totally ignorant."

Fasting forward to today, you can't just go around making fun of some Poet Laureate of the Left Side of the Bell Curve, whose soothing words speak of that sacred place

Where a skinny Black girl / not that there's anything wrong with being a fat Black girl / descended from slaves, like everyone else on earth / and buoyed by affirmative action / can dream of advancing the cause of the racist left / and vilifying whiteness.