Conservatives must feel the temptation to join the religious movement opposed to modernity. It withdraws from the world, has unity and a clear purpose. Many are tempted to state that the origin of conservatism rests in religion.
I discourage this approach and encourage instead that we remain secular. Secular, in the oldest sense, means simply “religion is not required.” It does not assess the truth-value of religion at all, or encourage anything less than full acceptance of it. But it does say that you do not need to be religious to participate.
This approach is distinct from that of atheists, who take the position that religion is illogical, and agnostics, who believe in the possibility but not certainty of a metaphysical presence.
A workable conservative position needs to be proved via common sense, fact and observation of the world through history and human nature. It cannot rely on religion. To do so not only excludes many good people, but creates a single weak point of attack. That encourages people to flip polarity when they have doubts and turn on the whole package.
Instead, conservatives should make the point that religion and common sense agree: conservatism is the most realistic response to life. It not only provides true answers, but provides a way to produce a society that rises above functional to levels of beauty, awe and goodness.
Any other basis puts us into the camp of manipulators and clubhouse doorkeepers. People can join us simply by understanding reality and applying what they learn. We are those who conserve: learning, culture, heritage, nature, values and spirituality. We do that by not requiring spirituality first.
History is our laboratory. We have 6,000 years of human nature on record and every type of government that can be invented. We have studies of great personalities and philosophy that analyzes moral questions. What we need is well known, it is simply denied. The only way to crush that denial is to go to the root of the issue, which is that conservatism is realistic and everything else is wishful thinking.
This does not say that we should be hostile to religion. Rather, we should be welcoming to it. However, if we make it a requirement for our belief, we enfeeble conservatism and replace it with a social group. That will inevitably lead to small-mindedness, self-enforcing dogma and circular firing squads.
I have a simple formula for man: if you want to gain something, you must lose something. For thousands of years man’s entire life revolved around gaining. One could not gain enough food given the uncertainty of the future. Now obesity is the problem, not starvation. Thus we do something that is completely at odds with thousands of years of human instinct: turn down food. The result creates a case of doing by not-doing. For thousands of years health implied eating; now health implies not-eating!
In the past, gaining awareness was important. Now people think religiously that obliviousness is bad and awareness is good. The way I see it, one will always unavoidably be oblivious towards something. They say multi-tasking is doing several things poorly; similarly, there is a limit to how many things a person can be aware of at any one time. If there is such a thing as perfect awareness there would actually be much that was ignored, which is also doing by not-doing.
And yet the propaganda of awareness proves effective time and again. Like our hard-wired instinct to hoard food, we now hoard information. The awareness campaign uses our instinct of gaining against us.
I believe there is a value in being oblivious. You can either be oblivious to the details, or you can be oblivious to the big picture. When you focus on the big picture, you lose the details; when you focus on details, you lose the big picture. Awareness campaigns work on the assumption that to be oblivious is to be oblivious about details. Awareness campaigns work to actively obscure the big picture by claiming awareness of details and minutiae.
What looks like lack of awareness is actually obliviousness towards details but a strong awareness of the bigger picture. In the final analysis, information is meaningless in and of itself. If I hoarded thousands of news articles from around the globe, what would I actually know? The idea that awareness provides an absolute good ignores the fact that for every gain there is a loss. To be aware is to blind oneself to the context in which that awareness might have meaning, and to focus on the surface appearance of meaning instead.
Think about how the human body works. The most important part is not what it takes in, but what it gets rid of. Visualize the digestive system and the immune system. The body must err on the side of eliminating waste, not keeping it around on the outside chance it might prove beneficial. Same thing with the human mind: what matters is what you retain, not what you are presented with. We ought to choose “ignorance” and “obliviousness” as a default position and err on the side of ignoring superfluous information rather than indulging the outside (and probably nil) chance of it being meaningful and important.
Anyone who has ever had to move a full house, and spent moments puzzling over why this particular broken cell-phone charger was kept for the last decade, will understand how vital the discarding can be. In the world of awareness campaigns, all information must be processed just as all opinions must be heard. However, a standard trope in literature is conflict based on false information. Othello comes to mind. Although we can blame the producer of false information, Iago, a subtler reading also implicates Othello and his desire and eagerness for more and more information.
When we are told “not to give up,” what does this amount to but saying ignore failure? In this sense, ignoring is good, not noticing is good. You succeed because you are almost too dense to give up. Quintessential awareness, like quintessential knowledge, is impossible. A “best possible awareness,” would, according to a standard and every-day definition of “awareness,” be considered oblivious or ignorant as its broad view would render details insignificant. We kid ourselves that what we need is more knowledge, more awareness. They say the devil is in the details, if that is so, then God must be in the big picture.
Considering the death knell of civilization sounded here on Amerika, it may seem paradoxical that what we really want is in fact civilization itself.
The paradox is only skin deep, however.
What we are pointing out is that what we have now in the modern West is in fact not civilization at all but the empty husk of a once-great one. The soul has left the body and maggots are consuming the corpse from within.
For a civilization to be alive and well, a goal is needed. The goal is to create and nurture a soul. It is what separates the living from the dead, and the rising from the falling. And the downfall of our civilization is at the most basic level a matter of the vanishing of a great goal.
It is like a once bright and shining star, that has collapsed into a black hole. Where there used to be light, now there is all-consuming darkness.
Once upon a time, the individual was nothing separate from the family, the family nothing separate from the community, and the community nothing separate from civilization as a whole. This order wasn’t enforced by rules, ideology and self-important governmental propaganda — it simply Was — in such a natural way that no one would even consider to question it.
To even think of criticizing this order would have been as useless and foolish as shaking your fist and yelling angrily at the sun.
He is blind who does not see the sun, foolish who does not recognize it, ungrateful who is not thankful unto it, since so great is the light, so great the good, so great the benefit, through which it glows, through which it excels, through which it serves, the teacher of the senses, the father of substances, the author of life. — Giordano Bruno, Explanatory Epistle, “The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast”
But alas our sun has collapsed. What used to be an outpouring of light, love, energy and truth has become self-absorbed, voracious and inward looking.
In the place of a goal, we have an anti-goal which is called by many names: equality, liberalism, solipsism, leftism, consumerism, radical individualism and fatalism. These are nothing but different aspects of the same beast, a terrible dragon with seven heads.
The dragon lives by dragging down. Everything, that was once high must be made low, as a sacrifice to the anti-goal.
In return it promises satisfaction. All your desires will be fulfilled. Your wildest dreams will come true. You too can become the untamed, unrestrained, all controlling One. But only if you pay the dragon its due.
When our goal collapsed, everything was inverted. All that was once recognized by everyone as the good, the true and the beautiful became cursed with the outward appearance of evil. And in turn, all that was once recognized as evil was made to look attractive and self-evidently good.
As a result, the masses, who never wanted anything but to live for the simplicity of life itself, guided by the ever apparent light of the goal, not questioning, simply following, have reverted from the steady pulse of a life of duty and day-to-day joys to an uninhibited life of impulse and desire.
Where they once were humble cells in the civilizational organism, animated by the soul of the whole, working for themselves for the benefit of all, they have become a self-referential, cancerous forces of destruction, guided by nothing but unquenchable, indefinable desire and the restless rush towards the next temporary fix.
And so civilization itself must be sacrificed for the sake of community, community sacrificed for the sake of family, family sacrificed for the sake of the individual, until, finally, the individual must sacrifice himself to the dragon of desire, realizing at last the true nature of the dragon: death is the only thing, that makes us all equal.
Recognize the anti-goal for the transition that it is. A black hole is a gateway to a new universe: a passage between dimensions.
What we are seeing now in the great civilizational collapse is that there was always darkness hidden within the light of our once shining, life-giving goal, just as death has always been at the end of life. Those who look to the past with the humble attitude of understanding what made it great will at some point realize that there is also light hidden within the current darkness.
The body dies, but the soul lives on in a new form, as surely as the corpse that is put in the earth will eventually dissolve into nutrients for bushes, trees, flowers and grass and thus in death sacrifice itself to life. Before religion dissolved into empty ritual and symbology, this was the center of spiritual awareness: a realization of the nature of reality itself. It is not religion, nor politics, nor philosophy. It is all of the above and infinitely more.
This is why we here at Amerika do not concern ourselves strictly with ‘issues,’ but with spirituality as well, because we are seeking to cultivate a spirit that strives beyond itself, and reaches towards the dawn of a new sun.
In this striving we must realize, that the great goal may have all but vanished from civilization, but that it lives on inside of us as a drive to reach beyond ourselves. Not inward, but outward, towards the greatest challenge of all: Laying the foundation that will at some point support civilization yet again. It is impossible to realize this journey, without at the same time realizing, that this future goal has always been what we were working towards, even in our darkest, most pessimistic moments, where we were most doubtful about whether it could ever be.
The slow collapse of society may have forced us, the individuals, to withdraw, and to look deeply into ourselves. Why did we reject what society at large propagated as ‘good’? Because it wasn’t right, as we deep inside knew the good to rightly to be. It was so far removed from that magical something, which we clearly recognized in the remnants of ancient cultures, that simply giving up and accepting ‘what everybody knows to be true’ wasn’t an option.
We have taught ourselves as we went along, becoming evermore certain that there was something missing today. And the final realization of this indefinable something is, that this something had been teaching us. Something called soul or spirit. Something to be found within — but which, once found, transcends the individual — that and makes him or her something infinitely greater than this perishable vessel of flesh and blood.
The dragon itself is nothing but the spirit of collapse. It is evil; true. But rightly realized, it will become a guide, that will eventually lead beyond evil, just as the faint light of the morning star, that the Christians called Satan, the father of sin and death, is also a messenger of the coming dawn. The dragon, like tornadoes and epidemics, is beyond good and evil. It is the last step, and the first step toward what comes next.
Those who do not see the dragon for what it is will ultimately give their lives to something unfulfillable, namely their own desires, or what they think that they want, thus having led meaningless lives. And that those of us who do see it will, by the ego-crushing immensity of it all, develop an inner certainty, that makes life a joy and a challenge. We will rediscover a purpose and a soul as we create the civilization of tomorrow.
This is our goal: To nurture the soul. To rise above the dead and the dying, by joyfully sacrificing our own desires on the altar of everything there is – and thus to affirm the ever turning cosmic wheel of reality itself. To encourage others to do the same. And thereby to strive towards transcendence, with every living breath. We want life and we choose it with every breath. They fear death, and their breathing is nothing but buying time, before the inevitable. We are as different from them, as day is from night.
Feel free to join us.
We are the future.
In our time that is unnerved by any hint of life beyond the physical, the term “secular” has changed definition. It now means: completely removed from religion, based in materialism and the related arguments and nothing else.
Originally it meant something far more benign, which was “you don’t need religion to appreciate this.” That in turn implied a dual character to what was being discussed: it could be derived through physical means or metaphysical ones. It was not limited to one of the two ways of viewing reality.
As a parallelist, I see the material and the metaphysical as existing in a sort of unison. That is, the metaphysical includes the physical in a type of system we call monism. This means that whatever is ideal according to metaphysical means can also be derived with materialist means and the same truth will be reached. All that is required is honesty.
Perhaps it is time to recapture this word “secular.” It does not mean throw your religion away at the door. Rather, it means that you can get there with religion, or without, but the same logic, common sense, honesty and realism that get you any correct answer will get you there in either a metaphysical or physical context.
Here’s a great example of secular thinking:
I still believe that the ideas I espoused in my first post are self-evident and true regardless of religion, that they are based on reality and are thus immutable, but I found that the Bible is an incredibly realistic text. A lot of the platitudes that people had been parroting at me over the years — and that I foolishly took to be real Christianity — were, at best, misunderstandings of Scripture and, at worst, willful misrepresentations meant for personal gain.
I have traveled various paths to get here: atheism, paganism, occultism. What I discovered about these various paths and about secularism is that they all have “self” at the center. When you’re praying to a god in a pantheon or when you disavow God altogether, you’ve put yourself and your wants at the center of your universe. We can’t all be the center of the universe. It’s no wonder we can’t all agree on common goals.
While many in the Traditionalist community want to base the practice in religion alone, in my view (and that of others) this is a mistake.
Nothing in religion contradicts reality.
What we need is logical, clear and realistic thought. It will be compatible with both sides of the human perception coin.
Christianity doesn’t get many things right, and doesn’t do many things well.
One thing it really does get right, though, is transforming the simple into the impenetrably complex.
And one thing, that it does really well, is drive its adherents away, in droves.
Why is this? Why do former Christians, and nominal Christians, fall so easily away from their religion?
One reason, of course, is the rise of atheism, and with it, the virulent style of atheist that is not content to simply ignore Christianity, but who must completely destroy it, ridiculing all things sacred, along with anyone who holds anything sacred.
Christians, confronted with this, are hard-pressed to find a workable counter. Often they go into reset-mode, and start quoting Holy Scripture as if their very lives depended upon it. Which has the entirely predictable effect of reinforcing the argument of the atheist, and driving him on to even greater destruction.
No. Sorry. Christianity is a modern-day fail. There may be truth in it, but that truth has become so flimsy and tenuous, so misunderstood by so many, that any power it once had is a sorry shadow of its former glory.
Like many, you may be saddened at its demise, while not being very affected by its absence. At least, not immediately affected, in a way that is very obvious. It leaves a big hole, though, and you may be all too aware of that.
The problem with Christianity is that it was designed around a lifestyle and a set of circumstances that no longer exists. It is archaic and unable to self-update. Every time it attempts to become more relevant, it further weakens itself, until it has come to resemble, more than anything else, a left-wing socialist dogma.
If you are happy with Christianity, as-is, fine. If you are happy to let it decline and bleed-out, well fine, too. If you are not, though, read on. I will present you with something clearer, simpler, more true, and more applicable, than Christianity both ever-was, or ever-will-be, again.
Dharma is an Indian word that has no direct translation into English. It is a central part of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. What it means, roughly, is:
Reality, and The Way Reality Works.
Forget the word ‘God’, for now, and replace it with ‘Reality’. The Divine Order that suffuses all of the cosmos, as well as the earth, the oceans, the solar system, and space. It all works in a predictable and demonstrable way. Nobody understands it, or how it happens, or works, because nobody can. It is not a thing that is remotely understandable, simply because it does not depend upon being understood in order to work.
That scientists expend vast amounts of time and resources trying to understand it, coming up with various theories and pseudo ‘proofs’ changes nothing. It is what it is, and that is that.
It is, however, something that demonstrably endures, and works. Another quality it has, is that it is somewhat bigger and more complex, than the human brain, or anything the human brain can conjure up. It is, in fact, so big and so impressive, along with being so utterly mysterious, that a human is either in awe of it, or a human is insane.
Mystery. Incomprehensible magic on a cosmic scale. From a neutron star to a hummingbird. From a galaxy to a frog. Beat that, Mr. Intellectual!
Dharma. The nature of things. The way that nature works. All of reality, able to continue on, forever, untouched by human hand or intellect. Dependent upon nothing but itself. Kneel, puny human, or die!
And so, in light of this, a human is advised to look out into the night sky, and see the myriad stars not as something alien, something out-there, but rather as oneself as part of it. To see the vast distances not as something frightening and distant, but as room to move and grow.
The latest buzz about space, is that it is some sort of super-fluid, and not just a nothingness. This may well be so. Spectral beings inhabit it, as deep meditation will show. They drift, float, bob to an unseen current, and display no hostility whatsoever. Resembling nothing so much as microscopic luminous plankton, of the deep oceans. Again: magic, mystery, wonder.
Dharma. Divine Order. It runs as it runs, and one is well advised to run with it, rather than counter to it.
The Angry God of Christianity, is Reality resisted. Biblical Truth is Dharma. Jesus, one who discovered Dharma. As did Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. As any man can, or could, but rarely does.
Nobody really has to become an enlightened being, since those few who have, show the way, read the maps, tell the Truth of It.
By living in accordance with Reality, one worships. And that is all worship is. Reverence for Dharma. The greater system. The way the greater system works. It is working, with joy, in a way that has one doing one’s best, for what one does, not for reward, but for the greater whole.
That all of this is true should not matter. It doesn’t even have to be. Lived accordingly, this belief-system yields the best results possible. That it is not a belief-system, should not matter. If one behaves as-if it is Truth, one achieves the same results.
It is Truth. As Reality is Truth. And its nature is not to be understood, but to be lived.
Not to be intellectualized, but to be manifested.
Not to be believed, but to be.
The human brain is actually a life-simulator. Did you know?
It runs simulations of what could happen in real life. What would happen, if…
But people have largely forgotten it is only a simulation, and has, in itself, no life.
They concern themselves with gathering ever more data to input, in order to run the simulation, because the simulation never gets quite life-like enough. But they often demand the data be unquestionably accurate, and verifiable, depending upon how intellectual they happen to be. They demand proof of it being virus-free, and certified, by others, before they will touch it, and load it into the simulation.
Meanwhile, actual life never happens.
Originally, the simulator was a superior way of deciding how best to kill a mammoth, without winding up dead.
Dangerous days, those. Crouched in a draughty cave, with saber-toothed tigers lying in wait, just outside. Only a flint spear for protection, and no armor to speak of. A man could get seriously hurt, trying to feed himself and his grubby clan, without a proper plan of action.
Later, a few thousand years on, the simulator morphed into a sort-of last-ditch means of living a sort-of last-ditch life, if one could discern no actual life to live. Deaf, dumb, noseless and blind, the quadriplegic could still enjoy some kind of existence, by living inside his skull. No need, any more, to venture forth. The mind supplied every need. Well, almost every need. Even it still needed some physical input, occasionally.
Knowledge, truth, wisdom, well, who had any use for things like those, when opinion seemed to serve just as well.
When everything could be rubbed-out, edited, and run as a new instance, who really cared about the effectiveness of anything, or the utility of decisions taken? Not a place of consequences, this simulator. Just reload…
These days, the simulator has all but completely replaced life, and is a highly unsatisfactory end in itself.
People actually believe that there are many realities, and every one of them is completely arbitrary.
You can see how they came to this, and even, to an extent, sympathize.
When safety, security, comfort, and longevity are the overarching concerns, who in their right minds would ever want to take any risks? Clearly, only the insane.
Thus did insanity come to replace sanity, as the barometer of so many societies.
Get enough fakes together, and fake becomes real, while real becomes fake.
Being able to exist outside the termite mound becomes a crime punishable by incarceration.
Bring him back into the fold! For his own good! Take away his life, for a better tomorrow!
So much for thinking. Which is really nothing more than ego, manufacturing its manipulations of what-is, for its own gain and standing. Intellect is not the noble thing it poses as. Not at all. It is ego made Godly. Idol worship, with itself as God. The seedy nirvana of the atheist.
I’ve often wondered, you see, what thinking actually is, since I do so little of it.
The only way to get an objective view of it is to stand somewhere outside the process.
I have. And I do. And now, with a little consideration, and a little contemplation, along with a fair bit of practice, so can you.
The denial of free will is a curious thing. One almost has to wonder why there would be a question in the first place. I suppose it is because we all have limitations and therefore construe that we are not “free.”
On the other hand, when one overcomes a challenge, we realize we are capable of more than we thought. We are not at the mercy of fate. We are unstoppable and we choose our destiny.
I think that the free will deniers simply take exception to the term “free will.” They would say we are limited by our circumstances. Not everyone can be a professional athlete and there are only so many options. I believe that they would prefer the term “limited will.”
That is fair enough, and strictly speaking, true. You can’t flap your arms and start flying if you wish hard enough. You did not will your birth; you did not will your circumstances. However, this misses the broader point that choice exists.
I suspect that many people know darn well what is meant by free will. It means you can either choose to do something or choose not to do something. If you do X, Y will happen; if you do B, A will happen.
You could just as easily cast a straw man the other way, and liberals do this on a regular basis. You cannot blame me for anything, I have no free will. Criminals? It’s just their genetics, there’s nothing that can be done. We are all helpless, hapless victims of reality. Why leave the house? Why deny myself another candy bar? If I don’t eat food I will die — I’m enslaved by the Culinarchy!
Absolute helplessness goes hand in hand with the demand for absolute freedom. If we are not absolutely free, we take it out on the concept of free will. We feel better about our helplessness now. The denial of free will becomes the alibi and backwards rationalization of our bad decisions and lack of both assertiveness and restraint.
I propose we stop nitpicking the term “free will” and go with it for tradition’s sake. The concept is already too well established to cede ground on this. The bottom line is that free will means choice and capacity for assertiveness or restraint. If you give in on a technicality the rationalizers of helplessness win.
Logic has held a special place in Western philosophy since the time of Aristotle and Plato.
It depends upon logical language, which is words having specific, exact, and agreed-upon meanings.
It also depends upon an agreed set of assumptions about the basic nature of things.
For a long time, logic was more or less dependable. It was one of the foundations of civilization.
Enter the notion of ‘equality’, which first claims, then demands, then writes into law, that all people are equal.
Combine that with political correctness, which changes the meanings of words, often inverting their meaning completely, and the result is that logic becomes purely arbitrary, depending upon whatever one’s personal meaning of the words used happens be, along with the baseline agreement of the way things are, changing from person to person.
What do you get? Spend any time on an online forum, especially one populated by self-imagined intellectuals, and you will find utter chaos. No two people can exchange information on anything. Because each will claim that their logic is logic, and that anybody else’s is not, if it in any way disagrees with their own. This leads to a curious binary state of either ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’.
If one agrees with a statement, one does not challenge it, so its logic is taken to be sound.
If one disagrees with a statement, there ensues a battle to establish whose logic is more logical, or if it is even logic at all.
In this climate, it becomes impossible to actually get anywhere, since the logic that is the most popular is the one that prevails.
Should one actually know what one is talking about, which, in itself is a rare thing among people so lacking in real-world experience, one finds it is beyond the bounds of possibility to convey what one knows, to those who can merely theorize, without knowing, purely on the basis of their own flawed logic.
The most common flaw is the baseline assumption that everyone is equal. From there, everything else crumbles.
Another one is the assumption that there is no God, and religious people are insane, and thus valid targets for justifiable — often shockingly cruel — abuse.
Yet another, is that ‘nobody can know’ whatever it is that is presumed to be unknowable, so their statements can be ridiculed as delusion.
Along with the labeling of anyone with knowledge not known to the larger group, as a charlatan, fake, or egomaniac.
Logic, sadly, no longer has much to do with anything, and henceforth will be about as useless as mammary glands on a bull buffalo.
We have arrived at a point where it is no longer possible to ‘talk to people’ as a means of communicating anything much more complicated than the state of the weather. And even that may well fail. In fact, the only people one may successfully communicate with, in any satisfactory way, are those few people one may meet that already hold views, or knowledge, substantially similar to oneself.
The really, really terrifying thing about all of this, is that only older people will have a comparison to make, regarding just how far this decay has gone. The young, having no such comparison to make, have no idea anything is even wrong. They can — to an astonishing degree — no longer listen, deduce, reason, think, or learn, except in rare cases where their own particular brand of rebellion happens to mesh with the fast-disappearing tradition of civilization.
And older people, apart from being not-listened-to by the young, and often ridiculed, instead, are inevitably dying out, and so are ever less able to contribute anything that might slow, or reverse the coming dissolution.
A woman said to me once, imagining me as a man of violence, that: “You can always talk to people, you know”.
It wasn’t particularly true, even then. It is very, very much less true now.
Howard P. Lovecraft died March 15th, 1937 and his fiction about the terror of the great beyond is less of a fantasy and more of a warning.
The predominant philosophers of the 19th century spent their time imagining and theorizing about the limits of our world and the extent to which we humans can explore those limits. H.P. Lovecraft wasted none of his time on that and instead cut straight to the chase and told us unflinchingly what exists beyond the limits of our perception.
In Lovecraft’s cosmos, the world beyond is a world hidden within our own world. We pass through it as it passes through us, but we can never know about it or see it. Unless, of course, we are properly attuned to it.
German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) is one of the pre-eminent thinkers in philosophy, and one of his views on human perception is called the Two Worlds View or “dualism.” In this outlook, there is the world that our sensible intuitions present to us, and then there is the Thing in Itself. The Thing in Itself has also been called the Absolute. We can never know the Absolute because our faculties of intuition are limited, and we can only know an object and the world around us as well as our senses represent the object to us. Because of this we will always be ignorant of any absolute truth.
For in this case that which is originally itself only in appearance, e.g., a rose, counts in an empirical sense as a thing in itself, which yet can appear different to every eye in regard to color. The transcendental concept of appearances in space, on the contrary, is a critical reminder that absolutely nothing that is intuited in space is a thing in itself, and that space is not a form that is proper to anything in itself, but rather that objects in themselves are not known to us at all. – Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Reading Kant is not easy. Depending on who you ask, German philosophy has killed more people than the electric chair. Nobody knows if it is because of the dense text or if it is because of its tendency to invoke existential crises in readers. If you are faint of mind, then I suggest you return to reading more tame philosophy from a more contemporary thinker like Dr. Suess.
For those who wish to brave the brinks of existential terror in Kant’s philosophy, then the Two Worlds view would lead to the logical conclusion that everything before us is merely an illusion. It’s an easy enough of a mistake, but Kant would prefer to have us believe that the Thing in Itself is real, and that we shouldn’t take everything before us as an illusion. Considering Kant’s hopes and also his propositions about the nature of objects and the painfully limited nature of our sensible intuitions, I don’t know which is more terrifying — the possibility that everything we see is an illusion, or that there are unknowable objects that will forever confound our senses and intuitions.
But, is it desirable to have access to the Absolute, and can we learn anything from it?
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) would disagree. Schopenhauer was properly steeped in Kant’s philosophy, and he was renowned as the philosopher of pessimism. We all know what Schrodinger did with his cat, but if Schopenhauer had a cat it would be Grumpy Cat. If that doesn’t put things into perspective, just know that there wasn’t a more pessimistic thinker in all of history than Schopenhauer. But, as Schopenhauer says, if we could overcome the limitations of our own cognitive abilities and sensible intuitions then we should be able to encounter the vast gulf of the incalculable infinity that is all around us.
If we lose ourselves in the contemplation of the infinite greatness of the universe in space and time, meditate on the thousands of years that are past or to come, or if the heavens at night actually bring before our eyes the innumerable worlds and so force upon our consciousness the immensity of the universe, we feel ourselves dwindle to nothing as individuals, as living bodies, as transient phenomena of will, we feel ourselves pass away and vanish into nothing like drops in the ocean. – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Inner Nature of Art,” from The World as Will and Idea
This is what Schopenhauer calls the Sublime. The sublime is what we feel when we are encountered with something that exceeds the limits of our senses. When we are faced with the sublime, our senses of reason and comprehension are suspended; our capacity to reason and communicate become ineffective. The sublime is not something which is simply inconceivable to us, or something which confounds our reason. The sublime is not a mysterious puzzle to which we cannot find the solution. The sublime is terrifying because it is impossible for our senses to completely register, and it completely overwhelms our senses in a forceful and uncompromising assault.
The Thing in Itself and the Absolute are completely beyond our sensible intuition, and thus must fall entirely within the realm of the sublime. Access to the Absolute would be nothing less than complete absolute mind-bending terror.
This is where Lovecraft comes in.
While the other philosophers were busy trying to draw the line at where our senses would stop perceiving the given world, and what it would feel like if we could have access to the Thing in Itself or the Absolute, Lovecraft told us what it would look like.
Imagine if we had a machine like the one from Lovecraft’s story “From Beyond”, one that could pull back the veil of ignorance which we live under, and reveal the true nature of the things that we encounter world…
‘You see them? You see them? You see the things that float and flop about you and through you every moment of your life? You see the creatures that form what men call the pure air and the blue sky? Have I not succeeded in breaking down the barrier; have I not shewn you worlds that no other living men have seen?’ I heard him scream through the horrible chaos, and looked at the wild face thrust so offensively close to mine. His eyes were pits of flame, and they glared at me with what I now saw was overwhelming hatred. The machine droned detestably. – H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond
There are only two options when we are faced with the Absolute. It will turn us stark raving mad, or cause the urge to break from contact with the Absolute in a complete panic. In no case is it desirable to have contact with the Absolute, and we should be thankful that our senses restrain us from encountering it.
Is ignorance bliss? Perhaps, but a life of ignorance and apathy will be the death of us all.
The rise of the machines continues. Right now we have a self-driving car in the works that is apparently safe enough to be street legal. It scans the world around it using 64 lasers to produce a constant topographical map through which it navigates using GPS and road data.
People get nervous when this happens. Who really trusts the machines? Not just the type of scary scenario as found in 1984’s Runaway, perhaps Gene Simmons’ best appearance on film, but the everyday ability of machines to screw up, get hacked, misjudge or just go haywire.
Even more, the self-driving car presents a view into the division of human thought. There is knowledge of what is, and knowing what to do about it. The self-driving car for example is very good at driving, and can even find the route there, but how does it know where to go? We can set up the computers to do anything, but in all aspects, that is a question of knowledge of what is. We still don’t know what to do about it, or in human terms, what goals and values we should have. That belongs to a discipline still far removed from the digital machines of the self-driving car.
The question of goals and values is one feared by most people. It is tied intimately with death and with the question of whether our lives were worthwhile. When we can’t tackle that, we focus on self-driving cars and try to make them stand in for us as a type of direction. For the past two centuries, we have chased industry (technology) and administration in the hope that our method can stand-in for our goals (which we no longer have). With equality as our focus thanks to the French Revolution in 1789, we can no longer have goals unless the majority of our citizens share them. Since majorities do not form around anything but threats or benefits, this translates to no actual goal, only a reshuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic so that everyone gets a piece of the pie.
Ultimately the question of politics distills to this question of a goal, which is tied to values, and then the question of method which comes with it. When we choose to have a goal, leadership becomes important. The crux of politics is to be found in this question: how do we achieve good leadership? Our hope with democracy and capitalism has been to produce a self-driving car, e.g. a system that “automagically” selects the best leader based on who is popular. However, popularity is a lowest common denominator based on what flatters the self-opinion of others, and thus popularity becomes a quest to evade reality not confront it.
In this light, the debate over totalitarianism, democracy, monarchism, et al. takes second place to the primal question of leadership, which is How do we get good people in positions of power? Agnosticism toward political systems makes sense here in that those are secondary as they are designed to be means to the end of good leadership, not leadership in itself. The healthiest political sentiment might voice itself as a will to brush those concerns aside and focus only on who are the natural leaders among us, and how to promote them to power. In first world nations, good leaders are far-sighted; in third world nations, they are warlords and capos.
The debate over political systems is an artifact of progressive ideology which emerged from the Enlightenment. In this view, humanity changes as the year numbers do, and we emerge from the requirements of the past — life as nasty, brutish and short — into a time when we are all enlightened beings. But that mode of thought has died, as Richard Fernandez points out:
It was consistent with the view that mankind had entered a kind of post-historical phase, where no one, not even Vladimir Putin, could possibly revert to the 19th century mode any more. In this brave new world, the only problems left to fix were Global Warming and establishing Universal Health Care. In line with that enlightened view Europe not only neglected its defense, it acted as if none was necessary…
A Western elite that was no longer interested in war found that war was still interested in it. It discovered that mankind believed to have been transformed by the turning of the calendar was the same old grasping, greedy and violent collection of individuals described in the Bhagavad-gita or the Bible. It has not yet come to terms with this turn of events.
A conservative viewing our time might see the late 20th century shuffle over political systems to be a distraction. The question is leadership, not mechanisms. Our efforts to find a self-driving car for politics have failed as the past century of world wars and corruption — and our own consistently declining fortunes as our nations are less unified and more kleptocratic — should show us. We cannot substitute method for goal. We cannot substitute political system for good leadership. We need to cut out the middle man, and simply select our best and follow them to whatever end.