Narcissism: The Human Condition

I will always keep coming back to this theme, over and over again, because it is fundamental to our situation. If man is the sick animal and his world is a sick world, it is because of narcissism. And narcissism is, fundamentally, the attempt of the ego to ground itself in something permanent, which is unreal because this world of our experience is a world of flux, transience, relativities, and impermanence. Most especially narcissism is the attempt of egoic being to ground itself and sustain itself in a self-image, summarised and focussed in the named entity we are as social beings.

This is idolatry. Yet, it is the very meaning of the myth of Narcissus and Echo. Because the narcissist feels inwardly dead and empty, he compensates by seeking “to make a name for himself”, as they say. He believes that to be is to be perceived and to be recognised, even if it is only as notoriety. The fame he craves, even as notoreity, is his narcissistic attempt to ground his sense of self in and through an external or phenomenal — even as honour or reputation — by making a name for himself that he can then lodge in because he has no inner life of his own.

This is the meaning of the “vampire” theme so prevalent today — a dead thing that can only be revived and resuscitated by continously feeding off the life-blood and energies of others. It is the golem of Jewish legend. His “handle” becomes his identity. He is moved, but he does not act. People fret anxiously today about “identity theft” because one’s identity has been invested in externals. (And such “identity theft” is a problem in a society where identity is externalised, and the impersonator can function because society has become impersonal. But impersonation is not literally “identity theft”).

Idolatry is unsatisfactory. It is another form of dukkha (dis-ease, malaise). The idolator suffers from a lack of an inner life through attachment to the phenomena, particularly as possessions. He requires external stimuli to feel animated. Divesting oneself of one’s possessions, in whatever form these may take (private property, ideology, self-interest, self-image, “honour”, “dignity”, “reputation”, “principles”, etc) is the hardest thing for the egoic being to do, because it is experienced as diminishment and as a little death. A rich man loses his possessions, like the lover loses his beloved, and he commits suicide. He jumps off tall buildings or throws himself in front of speeding trains.

The narcissist invests himself in his possessions, which he calls his “interests”. He flows out into them and these then become his power objects and idols (he may even call these his “principles”). These idols are sustained in their power by this efflux and influx of energy, which is called “sacrifice”.  As the idols become more powerful and more demanding, the energies and resources of the inner life are correspondingly diminished and depleted (apathy). This is often cited as a common symptom of narcissism — feelings of deadness within, feeling like a computer or machine, an inner emptiness, weariness, fatigue. These feelings he then calls by names like “absurd” or describes in terms of “meaninglessness”. This was Andy Warhol’s paranoia, too. He dreaded waking up one morning, looking into the mirror, and seeing nothing there.

A rich man once came to Jesus for instruction. Why did the rich man come to Jesus to seek instruction? Because he felt spiritually, inwardly unfulfilled. He felt a deficit in his life despite his wealth and possessions. Jesus gave him his first lesson. “Give up all you have”. The rich man went away sorrowful, because he was very attached to his wealth. He didn’t realise that Jesus had given him the most powerful spiritual lesson he could have. The rich man had invested himself in his possessions, and that was the cause of the absence of a rich inner life, his sense of deficit. The richer he became in externals, the deeper the deficit in internals. Jesus diagnosed the man’s “dukkha” or malaise precisely — his attachment to his wealth, in which he had invested his being and identity, was his obstacle to entering into the Kingdom of Heaven right then and there.

Ernst Becker once wrote two books. One was called The Denial of Death. The other was called Escape From Freedom. I have not read these books (except in brief summaries) but I can already determine from the titles that the one follows from the other. The false self falsifies, because it exists through continuous self-deception. Everything that people today call “freedom” is the exact opposite of its meaning and is itself tainted by human narcissism, particularly where freedom is defined through the institution of “private property” in which egoic being invests itself, which then becomes “sacred” principle. More self-idolatry.  At best, in the social context, we can speak of certain “liberties” (personal possessions being one of these) but not of freedom in the fuller sense, which is the meaning of absolution (and Absolute). It would be good if we distinguished between liberty and freedom, because they are not the same (and that confusion, too, is a result of narcissism).

Private property is not sacred. It is a secular institution. It is even the opposite of sacred. Anxiety and paranoia are the inevitable fate of any soul that tries to ground itself and its sense of being in and through external things, for all these things pass away in time.

A Zen master, returning from a night-time stroll, discovers his house has been burglarised. “Too bad I couldn’t give the thief this beautiful moon”, he muses. That man is free, which is why he is a master. A lesser man would take offense at being so violated. Did the Zen master forgive the offense? No and Yes. To forgive, in human terms, means, first to take offense, but afterwards relent. In the case of the Zen master, there was no self left to be offended, so there was nothing to offend and therefore nothing to forgive. The covetousness and avarice of the thief was his own slavery and dukkha. While the theft may have caused an inconvenience, it did not cause a sense of loss. No one, for example, could steal anything from a man like Rumi.

Here is the fundamental paradox at the root. If one becomes nothing, nothing can be stolen from nothing and there is nothing to take offence or suffer violation.  At the same time, in becoming nothing, one becomes everything (the “One”). And where one has become everything, also nothing can be stolen.

(In the meantime, though, the practice of forgiveness is necessary until such time as one reaches the station of total freedom (the Absolute) where one realises that, where there is no-thing to take offense, there is no offense to forgive. This station is called “innocence”, which is different from what people normally understand as “innocence”. This is a divine innocence which knows nothing of sinners and guilt, for as is said, God has forgiven your offences already even before you ask).

Here is another description of this, already familiar from Rumi’s poem cited in the last post. This describes a satori of a Buddhist monk,

“Ztt! I entered. I lost the boundary of my physical body. I had my skin, of course, but I felt I was standing in the center of the cosmos. I saw people coming toward me, but all were the same man. All were myself. I had never known this world before. I had believed that I was created, but now I must change my opinion: I was never created; I was the cosmos. No individual existed.”

This is the realisation of the Buddhist teaching of anatman or No-Self. “No individual existed”, and yet “I was the cosmos”. Although some call this realisation “cosmic consciousness”, it is the result of losing the human form and escaping beyond the boundaries of the self. This has been called “becoming nothing” or “empty mirror” (or the perfection of wisdom, or “stopping the world” or “stopping the wheel of time”).

And yet, “I was the cosmos” would seem to be the ultimate expression of a thorough-going narcissism (and some critics have called this “cosmic consciousness” precisely that, without much understanding). This paradox exists because of Omar Khayyam’s insight that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. This is why Almaas (Hameed Ali) writes of “the transformation of narcissism in self-realization” (in his book The Point of Existence). You are the world. The truth is very subtle (but so is the falsehood). It is very easy to confuse narcissism and self-realisation, or false self and true self, because they are closely connected as (little b) being is with (big B) Being. You cannot really separate the one from the other. It is the very attempt to do so that makes for human narcissism.

The paradox, the ironies of it all, are captured by a wonderful Zen proverb I (re)discovered today

Ten years of dreams in the forest!
Now on the lake’s edge laughing,
Laughing a new laugh.

“Ten years of dreams in the forest!” — This is narcissistic existence. The image of the forest is also Dante’s “deep, dark woods”.
“Now on the lake’s edge laughing” — Entering the clearing. This lake is the sea of awareness. It is Rumi’s “ocean”. It is self-realisation in the form “I am the cosmos”.
“Laughing a new laugh” — this “new laughter” is the free laughter of the self-realised, not that of the narcissist. This is “the laughter of the gods”, as it has been called. It is the laughter of Nietzsche’s “free spirit”, the bemused laughter of one who has suddenly realised that “only a hair separates the false from the true”, and that Man has ever played a great joke upon himself. What we call “happiness” (or pursuit of happiness) is just a shadow of this kind of joyous laughter that comes from the depth of Being. Happiness is only the shadow of the joy, which shadow we call “the unredeemed”. But it is “unredeemed” because it is but cheap coin compared to this “pearl of great price”, as the Sufis call it.

Narcissism is shadow-boxing taken all-too seriously. Our image of God is quite mistaken. God’s Being is laughter from end to end. The man who stood by the lake’s edge laughing, and laughing a new laugh, was the laughing God’s laughter. We call that kind of real laughter “belly laughing” because it comes from the depth our being.  Have you ever seen the image of the Laughing Buddha? He has a huge belly. That’s what it means. His joyous laughter comes from the depths of Being. He must laugh. Our image of God as stern and heavy is because we are ourselves heavy with our own self-importance. In fact, we are so heavy with our own self-importance that we even believe that the eye of God is on us all the time. That’s how self-important we think we are. Self-important people take offence at everything. Consequently, our God mirrors our own sense of self-importance by glaring back at us — offended.

It would be far better for the world if God were perceived as the Joyous God. “The Laughing God” should be one of the names of God. God’s creativity is his eternal joy and laughter. Our world would change immediately if we were to know God as this eternal laughter as did that Zen monk.

This, actually, Nietzsche tried to do. He called this new God by the old name Dionysos — the Laughing God. But, by any other name, Dionysos is just another one of the names of God.

 

That, actually, was the beauty of yesterday’s rally in Washington — the Rally for Sanity (and/or Fear). It was held in the presence of the laughing god. The reactionaries were offended, of course. They take themselves very seriously (and they expect you to take them just as seriously, too). Comedians, they declared, should stay out of politics. But actors, it seems (Ronald Reagan, Schwarzennegger) are OK because they’re conservative actors.

Well, that’s just narcissism for you.

(I tried to find an image of the Laughing Buddha on the web. I couldn’t find any good ones. I think that just goes to show that we aren’t yet there, when we can’t effectively depict or symbolise divine joy imaginatively. It would still seem to be beyond our capabilities.  No man can look upon the face of God and live…. because he would die laughing).

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18 responses to “Narcissism: The Human Condition”

  1. alex jay says :

    “That, actually, was the beauty of yesterday’s rally in Washington — the Rally for Sanity (and/or Fear). It was held in the presence of the laughing god.” …”Comedians, they declared, should stay out of politics.”

    Somehow, I can’t see Jon Stewart as a Perceval (choose your spelling) heralding in a New Age, though the metaphor of the fool becoming a knight is appropriate (I’m sure if Stewart was a British subject he’d be a Sir Jon Stewart by now). At the same time, thinking about it, Obama sure has all the traits of a Don Quixote who ended an Age: starting out as a knight in shining armour, but turning out to be a fool.

    • Scott says :

      You don’t see it?

      “There must be some kind of way out of here,”
      Said the joker to the thief.
      “There’s too much confusion,
      I can’t get no relief.”

      The jester is an eternal archetype — the representative of holy madness (and Colbert and Stewart are the embodiments of that archetype). When, now, even the jesters find it all too mad and insane (which is what the Rally for Sanity was about) well…. you see the obvious enantiodromia in action. It is a reversal. The jesters of the past — the Lords of Misrule — promoted insanity as a form of relief from the rigidity of social order. Now, the insanity has become too much even for them.

      It couldn’t be clearer.

      • alex jay says :

        Oh … I understand the archetype alright. I just don’t find Jon Stewart all that funny. But then, I don’t find the modern day comedians en masse funny at all. Give me a Lenny Bruce or George Carlin (or the less dark variety like Bob Newhart) any day of the week. Maybe it’s a generational thing like music. Though, any art form should be universal and timeless – in theory anyway.

        After all, I’ve aways harboured the suspicion that God is a joker. That’s probably why Dante decided to call his opus “The Divine Comedy” (or your “laughing Buddha”). The Plains Indians always viewed insanity as being touched by the great spirit and gave special prominence to those afflicted/blessed, while we lock them up in asylums.

        Besides, Stewart mocks those who seek to unravel the 9/11 hoax (ergo the phony “war on terror”). So he’s bound to get my back up. Just another corporate shill as a counterweight to his alter-ego Glen Beck: two cheeks of the same arse.

        Don’t fall asleep in the “Watchtower” for “the times, they are a changin'” and the way things are going it won’t be long before we’re “knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door” : )

        Time to sing those “subterrainian homesick blues” … “don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters” …

        • Scott says :

          Besides, Stewart mocks those who seek to unravel the 9/11 hoax (ergo the phony “war on terror”).

          So, it’s a personal thing? But there’s nothing personal about the archetypes. When the personal comes into conflict with the transpersonal, it always loses.

          By the by, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are all about the transactions of the archetypes. The persons we encounter in his pilgrimage are actually representations of the transpersonal. So it is in everday life. The “ruling idea” of any age is its archetypal form, and the modern incarnation of Oedipus stands on the street corner waiting for the walk lights to change, while Odysseus frets anxiously at the wheel of his car while the sirens sing around him.

        • Jack Trainor says :

          Thank you, alex jay…. and only to add th’nod to Leon Russell,

          “Beware of Maya”.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I find Stewart and Colbert as funny on occasion as most, but have to agree with Alex’s last comment otherwise. Not only are their shows “entertainment that still toes corporate lines and regulations”, as I’ve heard it put, but they also merrily reinforce superficial, stereotypical, propagandistic notions about the present constitution of American society while simultaneously “standardizing the human experience”. (Belly laughs, incidentally, are quite rare.)

        Sarcasm may be considered the lowest form of wit, but Carlin was a real “court jester”, imo. Overwhelmingly titled “We Like War” — because “we’re a war-like people” — on YouTube, his routine highlighting the palpable adolescence of US “foreign policy” (especially in the Persian Gulf) is unparalleled — at least, in its accuracy concerning the mindset of our so-called leadership.

        I would only disagree with Carlin, who was obviously a “leftie” ideologically, that it’s a male thing. It’s not a male thing. It’s a (supposedly mythical) Social Darwinism thing that the vast majority of the so-called “developed” world nations share with their American neighbor.

        I disagree with alex that there must be some kind of official Social Engineering Manual hidden away somewhere or being passed around among “conspirators”…unless, perhaps, it’s the AMA Manual of Style.

        The “engineering” of society is as unconscious as the scientific “re-engineering” of Nature, ntm the ubiquitous doctrine of pure good versus pure evil.

        • Scott says :

          I only know of Colbert through his unwelcome reception at Bush’s press soire where Colbert mocked the press and the administration for their “truthiness”. That really too some guts, I think. The only other time I’ve encountered Colbert (I’ve never seen his show) is his testimony, as I read it, before the Senate (Congressional?) committee about illegal immigration, which was (as they say oddly) “funnier than hell”.

          (Maybe Hell is funny. You have to laugh at some of the characters Dante decided to put in his hells — popes, cardinals, bishops).

          Ditto Stewart. I only know Stewart through the cover of his book “America (the Book): a Guide to Democracy Inaction”. It’s a witty title. The only other thing I know about Stewart is from the Rally for Sanity (as reported in the press) and some of his props were quite funny.

          Of course, trust a journalist to suggest that this was “a Woodstock moment”. Blech…

        • alex jay says :

          IW — “I disagree with alex that there must be some kind of official Social Engineering Manual hidden away somewhere …”

          You’re kidding? Right? It’s not hidden at all. All you have to do is look. I’ll give you a classic case that will be right up your street (and possibly make you inclined to make an effigy of me to stick pins into). The general consensus is that womanhood had some spontaneous collective awakening in consciousness sometime in the 1960s to the plight of their subservient condition opening the floodgates of the Women’s Liberation Movement. That’s not what happened at all. While the consciousness had always been there at least from the time of the Suffragettes it was latent and going nowhere — enter CIA asset Gloria Steinem. You see, the male dominated elites – led by the Rockefellers – came up with this idea that it would serve their social engineering agenda to weaken society by fracturing the core of its strength, which was the family. While trying to recruit film maker, Aaron Russo for the CFR, Nicholas Rockefeller told him that his family foundation created women’s liberation using mass media control as part of a long-term plan to enslave humanity. He admitted they want to “chip us.” Google “Rockefeller Foundation” and “Women’s Studies” and you’ll get a thousand citations.

          The hidden goal of feminism is to destroy the family, which interferes with state brainwashing of the young. Side benefits include depopulation and widening the tax base. Displacing men in the role of providers also destabilizes the family. Thus was the bankers agenda.
          Gloria Steinem worked for the CIA spying on Marxist students in Europe and disrupting their meetings. She became a media darling due to her CIA connections. MS Magazine, which she edited for many years was indirectly funded by the CIA.
          “One of Steinem’s CIA colleagues was Clay Felker. In the early 1960’s, he became an editor at Esquire and published articles by Steinem which established her as a leading voice for women’s lib. In 1968, as publisher of New York Magazine, he hired her as a contributing editor, and then editor of Ms. Magazine in 1971. Warner Communications put up almost all the money although it only took 25% of the stock. Ms. Magazine’s first publisher was Elizabeth Forsling Harris, a CIA-connected PR executive who planned John Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade route. Despite its anti establishment image, MS magazine attracted advertising from the cream of corporate America. It published ads for ITT at the same time as women political prisoners in Chile were being tortured by Pinochet, after a coup inspired by the US conglomerate and the CIA.”

          In a nut shell, no matter how good/bad the feminist movement is for the benefit of society, the truth of the matter is that it was initially planned, orchestrated and funded for social engineering purposes.

          Birth control (Planned Parenthood) has a similar history, as does water flouridation (why do you think the Nazis flouridated the water in their concentration camps – it wasn’t because they cared about peoples’ teeth, advertising, the dumbed down inanity on television and dozens of other examples I could give you to illustrated how the powers-that-be are executing a social engineering onslaught on humanity.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          alex wrote: “womanhood had some spontaneous collective awakening in consciousness sometime in the 1960s…. at least from the time of the Suffragettes it was latent and going nowhere”

          The movement’s modern origins are attributed to 18th century France. In 1906, Finland was the first nation in the world to give full suffrage (the right to vote and to run for office) to all citizens, including women….

          Women’s suffrage has been granted at various times in various countries throughout the world, and in many countries it was granted before universal suffrage. Women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the United Nations in 1979. ~ Women’s Suffrage

          All forms with the exception of non-equal pay for equal work, apparently.

          No question the Rosie the Riveter image is as contrived as any other form of propaganda, but I’m afraid I don’t buy the notion that the feminist movement itself (of which I desire no part despite the associated ‘stigmata’, thank you) is centrally-controlled by anything other than the “Architect” of the human ego. The reason I don’t think so is that I happen to have been born into a “white male” culture that earnestly believes a woman’s place is “properly” that of Suzie Homemaker. I’ll spare you the hilarious anecdotes. The point is that this is a “just the way things are” paradigm like any other “just the way things were” paradigm.

          As it happens, though, another sort of awakening is occurring among both women and men. Many of us find the “do it all, have it all” mentality a formula for burnout and exhaustion and are rethinking our lives and priorities — a phenomenon obviously not driven by politics. Of course, just as many of us don’t and aren’t, but the point is that everything is not political.

          alex wrote: “the truth of the matter is that it was initially planned, orchestrated and funded for social engineering purposes.”

          The truth of the matter is that the continued subjugation of women is as unconscious as it has ever been and flows, I think, from what Carlin calls our “big manhood problem”.

          I saw an advertisement recently for a TV show (that I don’t watch) starring Glen Close in which her character muses, “never try to take power from a man”. Though I haven’t seen the episode, I very much doubt it was intended as sound advice, but rather as an example of the need for power-mongerers (both male and female, imo) to “change their values from power and authority to responsibility” in Lyons’ terms.

          alex wrote: “they want to ‘chip us'”

          This is itself just another side-effect of the thoroughly industrialized, technological mindset, I think. I distinctly remember sharing a favorite, if rather silly, short story on the subject: “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellision. (“Count the Clock that Tells the Time” isn’t half-bad, either. In fact, I feel fortunate to have grown up with a penchant for off-beat comics and Speculative Fiction. I probably wouldn’t have a clue, otherwise.)

          Another (very strange) favorite that fits the Zeitgeist of the times might be “Skeleton” by Ray Bradbury. The Munigants of the world will be more than happy, indeed, to strip the very skeleton from our anxious and paranoid bodies if we passively or impassively beg them to do so and, as long as people (certain Biologists, especially) continue to insist humans are all just “hairless apes” and naturally “self-interested”, I imagine a great many of us will go on believing we should all act like baboons.

          In defense of other mammals, they can be even more humane than the average human in my experience, but — come on and get real! Ceaseless “wanting stuff” for the sake of “having stuff”, conflict and competition for resources is hardly a “higher calling”.

          Where pure, unadulterated Physics isn’t applied in our thinking, it’s patently obvious that Social Darwinism is.

          alex wrote: “Birth control (Planned Parenthood) has a similar history”

          Do you honestly think that planned parenthood (though the moniker is obviously unfortunate) is a bad idea? That the notion of fully conscious parenthood and parenting has been turned into just another political ideology is actually more unfortunate, I think, but it did not begin as a “social engineering experiment”. It’s merely being perpetuated as one.

          the powers-that-be are executing a social engineering onslaught on humanity

          The “powers that be” always have and — very likely — always will do everything in their (supposed) power to establish and maintain “power over” people, but this mentality is just as driven by what Loy calls “ungroundedness as an uncomfortable emptiness or hole at the very core of our being”, imo.

          Seemingly everyone wants to consider themselves somehow “better” than someone or, more often, everyone else. In fact, those political stereotypes are not, I’ve learned, entirely inaccurate. Here in America, if most people don’t want to think they’re more intelligent than you, they want to think they’re more moral than you. They don’t have to be Dems or Pubs to feel this way, either. It’s unconscious.

          As Loy suggests…

          [E]ven those who are wealthy and healthy nonetheless experience a basic dissatisfaction that continually festers…. It is the very nature of the unawakened mind to be bothered about something, because at the core of our being there is a free-floating anxiety that has no particular object but can be plugged into any problematic situation.

          The “core of our being”, however, just happens to be the source of the “wellspring of eternal life”, currently and continually well-dammed though it might be with ideological logjams and bottled up in anxious fretting.

          When we come right down to it, the heart of humanity at large is now and ever has been “a ruby embedded in granite“. That includes power-mongering “elites”, imo. Certainly Jesus must have thought so. Otherwise, I can’t imagine why he spent half his time telling Pharisees and Sadducees what, at some level, they already knew, as have all other great masters of the Internal Arts.

          Those who decry the quest for mutual understanding (i.e. meaning) might want to bear in mind that until our “elites” do understand what they already know, nothing will change and, in fact, it’s far more likely that humanity will “choose” instead to “progress ourselves to death”.

          Trans-form-ation (or trans-figur-ation) is, imo, a mutual understanding between “forms” — simply a different way of being in the world into which we happen to have been born rather than some kind of magical metamorphosis into a different configuration of being, which is already “energetic”.

    • Scott says :

      On the question of social engineering….

      There is social engineering, and it has been underway since God was reconceived as the Great Engineer and Architect. Once that occurred, what Nietzsche disdainfully called “the improvers of mankind” became a kind of new priesthood — the elect intermediaries between the great Engineer and Architect and the world that God had (as they conceived it in their minds) intended. This became especially so in the case of Newtonianism as the new faith, and the attempt to remake all society along Newtonian lines — “as above, so below”, as it were. That was much the import of Pope’s lines which I quoted earlier, about god saying “Let Newton Be and all was Light”. In some ways, it is valid to say that “culture war” is a struggle between the old order of Newtonianism and the newer “quantum” way of percieving things. But that is just a way of representing it, although it has some substance.

      This doesn’t have a Central Organising Committee, though, which is why I disagree with Alex. It’s true that the Bush White House attempted to re-engineer society along neo-conservative lines (both at home and abroad — the Iraq War for example) on the presumption that the White House was the new Central Committee in a unipolar world (very Stalinist, in some ways). But that was just a reaction of a growing anxiety within “the patriot community” that American power (and society) focussed and exercised through the White House was in decline (hence the PNAC doctrine). In fact, for many reasons, it is. Obama recognises that the US must play a more cooperative role in a globalising world and that the White House is not the Central Committee of the known universe. The Amerika ueber alles crowd (otherwise self-styled as “the patriot community”) detests him for that.

      “Perception management” is necessarily a part of social engineering (as is much public education — the theme of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, essentially) but it is far from being centrally organised. Nor does the presumption that human beings are simply blank slates upon which any elite power can write its own agenda have any validity. Of course, there are some people who feel they have no inner life (Loy’s “lack”) who need “commanding figures” to bestow one upon them — any purpose, any reason for being, which they will obey blindly. As Nietzsche put it in that respect, they feel it is “better to will nothing than to have nothing to will”. This type (which is rather widespread if you understand Loy) is particularly vulnerable to social engineering and very pliable and compliant. They are sometimes called “the true believers”.

      Other than that, though, can’t say I can follow or credit Alex’s history of feminism. It recalls to mind the Merovingian’s explanation of the system to Trinity, Morpheus, and Neo in The Matrix. As it turns out, the Merovingian was quite wrong about “cause and effect”. There were other influences at work that negated his presumptions about that — even they were conditioned assumptions.

      • Scott says :

        They are sometimes called “the true believers”

        Let me add a touch of irony to that — a touch of irony in this present ironic world. The “true believers” are what are presently called “the base” in political discourse. Ironically “the base” is the meaning of “Al-Qaeda”.

        Like shadows seeking each other out in a moonless nocturnal darkness.

        That pretty much describes — very concisely — our present Dark Age.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        There is social engineering, and it has been underway since…

        I think it’s been underway far longer than that. Perhaps the “Newtonian faith” simply refined the practice, turning it into a more “exact” science? I read something recently in which the sentiment was expressed that if religion lost its mind at the beginning of the Enlightenment, science lost its soul.

        it is valid to say that “culture war” is a struggle between the old order of Newtonianism and the newer “quantum” way of perceiving things

        This is obviously a note regarding “configuration”.

        Organization and rigid institutionalization are not one and the same. Perhaps the term “agreement” is more appropriate than “understanding” given the political contexts in which literally everything is incessantly, insistently cast.

        One of the (more unnecessary) struggles in America today is obviously between back-to-the-future and past. One look at the political arena in America and one is instantaneously transported back to the sixties, if not the forties and fifties (when not the “birth of the nation”).

        But this is an illusion. The “configuration” of American (and global) society has changed continuously and dramatically all along. “Underground” streams never stop flowing; they’re just perpetually kept underground.

        I’m not sure the “quantum” way of perceiving things is all that new, btw, so much as a different “way of presenting it”, as you put it. Masters of the Internal Arts may not have been scientists as the term is narrowly defined today, but they certainly saw more deeply into reality.

        The “true believers” are what are presently called “the base” in political discourse.

        Which “base” constitutes the “true believers”, though?

        Much ado is made about the the self-styled patriot community, which you define as “the true believers”, but the “patriot community” is not the only one obviously determined to camp out on their hoisted petards.

        As long as left/right, goose-stepping, tug-of-war political conditions exist, I’ll continue to say that the only difference between “liberals” and “conservatives” today is that one is all about hate and the other all about fear. We hear a lot about the fearful aspect; not so much about the hateful aspect. The hateful aspect, you see, is supposedly “right” and the fearful aspect supposedly should be “left” when the “facts of the matter” (read them as one may) is that both are “much ado about nothing”. (“Democracy Inaction”.)

        As you (and Rosenstock) say, the term “liberal” is not understood in the context it should be. Neither is the term “conservative”. In fact, environmentalists might want to come up with a new term for environmental “conservation”.

        While an essay I just read goes on and on about how courageous it is to combine the terms “elite” and “intellectual” as “intellectual elite” — sans anything remotely in the way of “heart” or “spirit” — apply it to self-interested groups and call them “wise”; while the American public returns control of the US House of Representatives to the Republicans who drove the country to ruin (albeit with the aid of most of their Democratic pals); while Obama wisely takes off for other portions of the globe (probably more to get away from the insanity than to speak with members of the “intellectual elite” who are doubtless far more sane than any “intellectual elitists” one will find in the States at present); and the world (better, ‘cosmos’, methinks) continues to stumble about that “moonless nocturnal darkness”…

        I think I’ll play a round of The Force Unleashed. (Gripping and throwing Imperial Stormtroopers off the platforms of a cloning facility sounds like just the ticket to vent a little excess steam.)

  2. alex jay says :

    On a more serious note: what exactly did you find so refreshing in this “Rally of Sanity”? If it was meant to be a reaction of disgust to the school ground screaming and fighting prevalent in conpemporay American poitical discourse, fair enough (though in Stewart’s case, I would say “physician heal thyself”). However, gleaning some of the text of his speech, it sounded to me that he was calling for people to get back to their hum-drum existence by preserving a way of life, which is over, caput! These are revolutionary times, which call for revolutionary action and solutions. Trying to pretend there is a possibility of maintaining the status-quo by carrying on with business as usual as a laudable option is a deception straight out of the social engineering manual. The policy as formulated by one of its architects (name escapes me for the moment) in the 50s/60s is named “learned helplessness”. It occurs to me, from the central message that I got from the speech, is that this is precisely what Mr. Stewart is advocating. Be good boys and girls, watch the TV and don’t upset big daddy, ’cause he knows what’s best for you, and get on by just getting on with your “normal” life. “Sanity”? Sounds, more like complacency. Correct me if I’m wrong?

  3. Scott says :

    These are revolutionary times, which call for revolutionary action and solutions

    First understand actions. Then follow through on revolutionary ones. Otherwise, it’s just the same-old, same-old. (Although I prefer the term “transformative” to revolutionary, which is a term that is a throwback to Copernicus’ book de Revolutionibus about the circular orbiting of the planets — progress along the circumference of a circle tends to bring you back to where you started). Alas, we still cling to Galilean-Newtonian thought habits, which is why “revolution” per se, is psychotic. We still call social “mobilisation” by the word “movements”, which is pure physics. We still call persons “individuals”, which is pure atomic physics (the word “individual” meant “atom” originally. And “atom” today doesn’t even mean what it meant when the social particle of an “individual” was conceived on the model of the atom while society was considered “the mass” molecule).

    As Morpheus put it, “free your mind” then maybe one will see clearly enough to free other minds.

  4. alex jay says :

    Holy Cow! I love it! Don’t know whether to start with IW or Scott, so I’ll deal with both at the same time … depending on my enslavement to our mutual jailor, “time” (i.e in a practicle sense, so don’t go quantum or metaphysical on me).

    I’ll begin with Scott’s reply as it’s fresh in my mind, since I’ve just finished reading it. After all, this is – correct me if you see it differently – where you and I take a different fork on the road to wherever/nowhere. Incidentally, I took a slight offence to your earlier professorial pedantry on my use of “revolution” in an earlier remark. Indeed, I’ll go so far as coining a new term applicable to your good self, which I will call Wittgenstein’s Caution (not quite, but somewhat related, in funny sort of way, to Khayyam’s Caution): Wittgenstein provided a detailed account of the many possible uses of ordinary language, calling language a series of interchangeable language-games in which the meaning of words is derived from their public use. So, don’t demean yourself by playing language-games (even though your etymological alternative might be more accurate) because you know exactly what was meant to communicate the thought, and, dare I say, far more relevant in “public use” than your more precise alternative in the new consciousness (post-Newtonian), which has yet to advance from a crawl to a walk. Ergo, I stand by “revolution” and find it churlish of you to concentrate on the word instead of the context to which you didn’t address. I finished my formal schooling (indoctrination) almost 40 years ago and I’m not interested in the precision of word-smithery (sometimes, I’m even prone to making up words, like word-smithery … still you know what I MEAN without the necessity of pedantic correction, which, dare I say … ouch … verges on egoic lexical elitism – the refuge of Sophists and Brooker Prize judges)

    But I digress …

    When have I specifically mentioned a “Central Organising Commitee”? You’re obviously misinterpreting everything I say, or I’m doing an extremely bad job in conveying the message. It’s not so simple that you can apply a conventional (naive) understanding of power structures in an atomic – reductionist – context. It did, of course, start out historically with strong men that led to bloodline dynasties (the Catholic Church was far too savvy to allow that problem to interfere with the succession process so they introduced celibacy), which in turn created a hierachical system in partnership with the emergent merchant classes primarily controlled by bankers.

    Oh Heck … just got a phone call, so I must be off and won’t be able to continue with volumes of reasons why I think you’re both historically challenged. It took me over 30 years to realise that 90% of everything I was led to believe from the mainstream garbage shovelled down my throat is utter bullshit. I can’t convey it to you in a reply on a blog site, which you would be prone to dismiss anyway as rantings from an idiot running through the church shouting God is not dead but humanity is.

    Suffice to say that I won’t continue on with all the reasons why I think y’all are off with the fairies : ), though the simple reason is you’re singing on a higher octave than the majority of the choir. God bless you!

    Scott and IW are playing Mozart. I’m doing my Elmore James. And most of everybody else is into Lady Gaga. Still … I love Mozart as well.

    • Scott says :

      Let me put this in a more concrete way. When you use the word “revolution”, what model of revolution springs to mind? Maybe it doesn’t spring to mind, but is only an vague assumption at the back of your mind. Is that model revolutionary — Luther? Cromwell? Robespierre? Lenin? Hitler?

      You see, your “public use” meaning and “common sense” is a lot more involved and entangled in history and historical personages than you give. Am I supposed to intuit your assumed revolutionary model by telepathy? your own understanding of “revolutionary action”?

      Lay it out.

  5. Scott says :

    …. in which the meaning of words is derived from their public use. So, don’t demean yourself by playing language-games (even though your etymological alternative might be more accurate) because you know exactly what was meant to communicate the thought, and, dare I say, far more relevant in “public use” than your more precise alternative in the new consciousness (post-Newtonian), which has yet to advance from a crawl to a walk.

    Have to disagree with practically everything you wrote there, (and I think you badly misinterpret Wittgenstein). Yes, language derives its meaning from “public use”, but a “public” is an historical entity. It is multi-generational and not just what-exits-today (and what was a generation gap but a linguistic gap? As Rosenstock put it, “two languages are spoken under the hypocritical veneer of one”). Language, after all, wasn’t just born yesterday. It has evolved like your genes have evolved. Do you discount that evolution is irrelevant to who and what you are, too? (Dawkins faced that embarrassing contradiction in his own discourse by having to add “memes” alongside his “genes”). Words and names have evolutionary histories and geneaologies just as the name “alex jay” has a history and a geneaology (which is your “personal history” — the sum meaning of your life organised around your name). Just when did a “public” begin that had the power and means even to re-invent language (and meaning) from nothing but itself and its immediate experience? (Strange hypothesis from someone who believes in social engineering to begin with — isn’t “public” the very thing engineered?). I tell you, generation after generation has had its perceptions altered by mutations in the meaning of significant words and names. What began in many cases as “slang” in the morning became the cliche at night. You have heard of “rewriting history” and “history is written by the victors” haven’t you? Are you saying that a very socially loaded word like “revolution” hasn’t also undergone massaging by those who… well… won the right to define it to their own liking and preference? Aren’t you, then, following their lead in doing so without questioning how this word emerged and shaped “the public perception” historically?

    No, alex, I can’t credit your critique at all, since it seems to slide out from underneath the weight of a mighty self-contradiction — that the very thing you claim to deplore — social engineering via propaganda — you now justify as the norm of “public usage” — the “common sense”. Yet what is being engineered but this very “public”? Did Wittgenstein ever interrogate propaganda and perception management as elements in this “public usage” (in the way Orwell did in Politics and the English Language, for example? or Owen Barfield in History in English Words).

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