Sunday, October 09, 2011

Genealogy of mortals

Play-texting with a travelling friend this morning, asking him where he intends to go to Mass. "St. Starbucks" was the answer. When queried where Ex Cathedra was going, I replied that after 20 years of Mass every day, I had a free pass for the rest of my life. A quick calculation shows that 20 years of daily Mass equals about 140 years of Sundays. So I guess I'll be going to hell for other reasons...

Speaking of religion.

David Solway's review of Salim Mansur's take-down of multiculturalism, Delectable Lie, passes along (Muslim liberal) Mansur's theory of why the West is destroying itself from within. What are the internal dynamics that fuel the Untergang of the Abendland?

Oedipus and Hamlet.
Both are royal leaders, one a king and the other a prince in succession to the throne. Both wish to purge their kingdoms of corruption, sickness, and the scourge of illegitimacy. Both are driven to find and expose a buried truth so that the realm may be healed and purified.

Herein lies the problem and the paradox, for in seeking to disinter what is hidden or suppressed, both Oedipus and Hamlet in their diverse ways bring disaster upon themselves, one as a result of a relentless pursuit and the other owing to relentless reflection. One acts and the other fails to act, but the consequences are no less destructive: blindness and death.
Critical thought...including self-critical thought...becomes a kind of cancer, cells consuming its own body.

Using Occam's razor --dreadfully Eurocentric of me-- I have been very impressed with the explanatory power of James Burnham's view that the Western liberal is "morally disarmed in the presence of anyone he deems less fortunate than himself." Once the Western liberal judges someone or some group to be a victim, --and he usually assumes that he, the liberal, is the responsible or at least complicit oppressor--he loses all defense against him. And when the victim eventually shows himself to be developing into a tyrant himself, --the usual outcome--the liberal cannot notice, caught up as he is in a masturbatory ecstasy of ethical righteousness. When the less fortunate victim disembowels him, he refuses to protest. After all, did he not deserve it? Atonement by suicide.

But why was liberalism so able to infect us? My amateur guess is that the alliance between Athens and Jerusalem --which made the West after 476-- was, as are all alliances, unstable. That mix could give it dynamism. And it could compensate each side for the excesses and blindnesses of the other. Liberals will be happy to paint the days when Jerusalem dominated as dark times of oppression and superstition. But what happens to the civilization of Socrates, Oedipus, Hamlet when the triumph of the Enlightenment plays itself out --including deconstructing itself-- without Faith to counter it? First, national and ideological totalitarianism; then chaotic post-modernism: the will to power shaped by nihilist egalitarianism and fueled by a psychotic mix of utopianism and self-hatred.

Burdened by a Christian conscience but bereft of the God and religion that somehow made that conscience bearable, the modern Westerner must be both God and sinner at once: ultimately responsible and irredeemably flawed. Still infected with the disease of Christ's impossible ethics, he rejects the vaccine of the Church. Like his unconscious model, the only way out is to let himself be crucified. But then there is no longer any God to receive his sacrificed life. He offers his life not to an appeasable God but to an unappeasable mob.

Pope Benedict, both in his (in)famous Regensburg speech and since, repeats a very deeply Western (and Catholic) theme, the representative of Jerusalem speaking for Athens: Jerusalem needed, still needs, Athens. But the reverse is also true. Faith without reason leads to superstition. Reason without faith, to relativism. Reason, limited but crucial, offers a necessary corrective to the secular dictatorships of post-modern liberalism and the religious dictatorship of Islam. To the voluntarist* totalitarians of Islam, he asserts the priority of logos over even Divine will. To the egalitarian collectivists of Europe, he asserts the power of reason to reach the real, beyond the fashionably skeptical angst of humanist statism and hedonism.

Anyone who knew me in the 80's would be astonished, as I am, to find me supporting Papa Ratzinger in this. But as I have written elsewhere,  
“I'd rather go to the ramparts with the irascible folks who want to save our town from the invading barbarians than stay at home with the charming pacifist intellectuals who argue about re-designing the bedroom.”

*The Catholic settlement about faith and reason --which will always be a matter of dispute about individual cases as history moves along-- is that God is the Truth, Logos, and so faith and reason, both from God, cannot contradict each other. Faith goes beyond reason but may not go against reason.  Lutheran fideism in the West (which led to Kant?) separates the two entirely. In Islam, the rationalists (mutazili) lost the battle to the (Asherites) theologians by 1000 AD.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the problem that "self-critique" isn't self-understanding? Critique: the ersatz kantian quasi-metaphysics that replaces substantive thought in the developing ego with thought on how substance isn't thinkable, supplemented by a value-neutral awe for the starry vault above and the one-seize-fits-all moral law within the obedient developing ego ("me").

The Prodigal Son figures out that the Father needs to have his ousia in a son or ego apparently wasted (by authority and in mystery [loose women] and miracle [riotous living], as the Grand Inquisitor would say).

The nondual West is wasting its ousia, no doubt about that, but how? by pretending that wasting is 'real growth' and no waste at all? Or that killing one's father and doing generation with one's mother is no big deal (Canaanitization of Japheth).

In contrast to Oedipus, the Prodigal and Hamlet, then, the nondual son perceives no horror in what he does: the nondual prodigal doesn't repent, doesn't declare to himself that he isn't worthy to be call'd a son, but instead in confident entitlement strolls back to his father's estate and expects to be celebrated, rewarded, fĂȘted? The nondual son's eyes have been open'd but they remain more blind than before? Or is self-transcendence in fact a cinch, and not the tremendous difficulty it was for Plato, Augustine, Maimonides, Luther, Spinoza, Nietzsche et al?

Blue Oyster Cult: »Don't fear[worship, revere, dread, revalue] the Reaper« »like Rome Io, [Italian sc Dante-Machiavelli ego] and Jew-lite«?

Anonymous said...

Lutheran fideism, perhaps, but I think not Luther, who was after all a great preceptor of reasoning (95 theses, especially on the God of the Cross, the theology of the cross vs the theology of glory; and the Heidelberg[?] Catechism). His publications were obviously more demotic than Aquinas, but the great objection to the Summa is that it has been permitted to remain only within the Aristotelian Church (as nighttime fright reading?).

Luther refers to "the whore, reason," or in today's terms, reason as sex trade worker. Isn't that accurate of ratio, logos? Isn't it precisely reason in this sense that is — or at least should have been — assisted by faith and revelation in "sacred doctrine"? What Thomists wouldn't do Luther did when he remark'd in one of his most widely publish'd works that Aquinas understands accident and essence very differently from Aristotle. The Summas are, I suppose, great works of proceeding along by whorish ratio-giving. Lady Reason could provide only the eternally unconsummated marriage of the (Cathari) troubadors - the 'gay marriage' of Aristophanes' original male and original female who feign to be unto themselves. Robert Graves: prior to the Greeks, the Mycenaeans didn't reveal that Ham, interpretation, had any relation to generation, Shem.

Faith could not _lead_ understanding if ratio or logos were simply rejected. The insufficiency of reason (cf Lao-Tsu: the ratio that provides a ready way is not the eternal way) would not be provable to the faithful understanding except by reasoning.

Hegel declares that the ladder (the rungs of whorish reason; the great chain of being; the lines of karmic causation from first for itself and first for us and vice versa; Jacob's ladder) should be kick'd away once the a preliminary view of substance is attain'd. Evidently the ladder is very threatening to the unhappy consciousness in Hegel who nevertheless wishes in spirit to remain splitting off matter and spirit, or nature and spirit -- as if nature is without spirit, or spirit without nature.

Anonymous said...

& "pacifist" sc shalom-ist, Islamist?

Anonymous said...

"A quick calculation shows that 20 years of daily Mass equals about 140 years of Sundays."

You have amassed enough Masses for two!


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