Soul one might say is more imperfectly infinite than spirit, because soul tends to abolish the ego-consciousness that it absorbs or overwhelms, reducing its particularizing structure to pure sublime feeling (immediacy); but spirit is more successfully infinite than soul, even though also more difficult and abstruse, because it digests the functions of consciousness into itself and thus preserves and deploys the senses and intelligence of conscious ego to higher ends.
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Kafka's writings often display an insidious power to describe a wholly secular and "factical" world in which the eerie or "unheimlich" elements gang up behind or beneath the ego's awareness and immerse it in a waking dream of something Other, an alien world-order similar to ancient irrationalist cultures (in transition from primitivism to civilized mythos-culture).
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The ideological are individuals ultimately swamped by the complexities of modern life and political and economic relations; they have deliberately attached themselves to some caricatural maven like Falwell or Limbaugh who speaks to their manipulable pathos. The gulf between such individuals' education or intellectual competence or information and the actual issues of our times is simply too great. They were bred to be culture-media for false consciousness, junkies who crawl on their bellies across broken glass for another hit of "clarifying wisdom" from some ideological Pope.
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Indisputably we live in a shaped reality, an artificialism. Most people who grasp this are thinking only at a consumer-level, of the "things" they like and need and feel impelled to acquire. But our societal and political arrangements are just as much manipulations of game-pieces and rules as is any Atari or Sega product. The subliminal psychology that drives people to become addicted to games, not to be able to see over the edges of their labyrinths, is transferable to any field whatsoever.
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One can hardly appreciate how academia has perverted its highest tasks and "ideals" without pondering long and hard the implications of Jacques Barzun's House of Intellect and its Hegelian/Bergsonian contrast between rigidified "intellect" and always-growing "intelligence." This fundamentally Hegelian distinction, needless to say, cuts to the quick of the contrast between Platonic and Aristotelian forms of philosophy.
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But for the Jews this moral-spiritual issue raises the same societal problem it does for the Greeks: how can a man have the "right" to make himself spiritually or rationally destitute or retarded when this corrupts the whole quality of the culture that we all together need and depend on? If anyone wants a cloistered and closed-minded life, an anti-aristic life, let him either go off and live among the wolves-or else join the community of like-minded idiots that (alas) compose and define the basic terms of modern society.
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Human life is an extension of the principles of nature, and human civilization is a venture extrapolated out of human natures: man and his natural potential are the root of the entire human domain. The great task of all philosophizing is to become competent to interpret and steer the potential developmental forces in human natures and in the human condition, both of which are prodigiously fatalistic.
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What may be the significance of so many forms of "spirituality" on this planet that are antagonistic to "life" - and Christianity at the head of that list, with its "calumny" against life, its faith that just because nothing in life is eternal therefore life itself contains no value, nothing that makes it worth living, investing our souls in, committing our consciences to?
Not the least of the problems in clarifying one's consciousness is developing the stoic determination to criticize one's own softness or sentimentality toward oneself. Ego, self-solicitous about its own tenderness, is the ultimate policeman over its own false consciousness, dementedly uprooting every healthy seedling of insight into the truth. As Kierkegaard remarked, most people are subjective toward themselves and objective toward all others, but the real trick and task of life is to learn to be just the very opposite.
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People compose the schedules they do out of the priorities they have; and someone who says otherwise is deceiving himself about what he really values. The same thing applies to money that applies to time. I make a practice of watching what people do, never what they say. Whatever is important, to anyone sane, he will make a place for it; people live out their values. Values are different in this respect from "ideals," which are typically vain and effete and thus exist mostly for the sake of promoting self-delusions.
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Those who have chosen the path of least resistance in life, who cannot bear to bring themselves to make a stern value-judgment in criticism of their own most intimate feelings, achieve what they deserve: not self-understanding but radical self-superficialization, not a discovered but a self-ascribed identity that explains nothing, reveals nothing, means nothing, and ultimately accomplishes nothing culturally or intellectually.
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All that the posture of skepticism accomplishes is to freeze the ego in an ignorantist poverty that never stretches or diversifies its resources of imagination or understanding. Any uncultured cretin can close his eyes and try to reduce the issues down to linear simplisms and say, "I am doubting, I am proving my magisterial or sovereign control over my own mind." Doubt is a useful and significant test of one's critical powers, but by itself it bears little if any significant cultural charge of enlightenment or satori; indeed it is the very opposite kind of thing.
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It is man's intrinsic and irreducible self-responsibility to humanize himself, to exercise his entire range of rational and moral resources to raise his mode of being and seeing and acting above not just that of animals, but also above that of the majority of subhuman (never to be self-realized) humans who will never draw themselves into a self-punishing position of focal self-diagnosis and self-accountability.
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Americans are cultured from their earliest years to be either one-sided douloi or one-sided banausoi, i.e. either they cannot think abstractively/conceptually/orchestrally or else they can only think abstractively. Thinking in a truly rational dialectic between intuition and intellect is just beyond the reach of our nation of emotionalist helots. What prevails among us truly has to be called not thinking but "thinking," a pathetic surrogate for actual thinking for the benefit of existentially or modally crippled mentalities.
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Instant enlightenment. A quintessential modernism, culture and religion accommodated to the age of fast food and bumper stickers. But psyche and spirit are not so exempt from the natural domain that they can simply produce self-change instantaneously, on demand. Wisdom precipitates through a notoriously slow apparatus of retorts and flasks, and it has to find receptive ground only in a properly seasoned mind.
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The music of all the different media of life-memories, images, feeling-tones, poetic-musical connotations of phrasing-is kaleidoscopic and doesn't repeat itself or recur. -People who think they are trapped in a river of regularized and ever-repeating time are merely the victims of their own ordinarizing minds that have elaborated for them a prison-cell of everydayness. The fountains of time, history, life, inspiration, etc. are fresh every instant, if one knows how to grasp them with some finesse: every instant within natural, historical, and personal time is unique.
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(The terms douloi, banausoi and aristoi) are in a way more precise, but what is more vital and valuable, they are more comprehensive: they project a concept of psychic order that embraces entire fields that we have no other way of seeing all together as the working of a single principle. If we think of the human domain as the collaboration and the conflict of these three diverse character-types, we can understand the weave and the stress and polemics of their very different basal teleologies or ultimate governing purposes of life.
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Some form of gnosis or immediacy is attached to all thinking as its root-form or primitive origination; every act of thinking has this passive derivation, this coming-into-being of thinking not out of nothing (as it likes to imagine) but out of some unthinkable something. But the most self-abstractivist or self-reductivist kind of thinking cannot tolerate even the notion (much less the traumatic experience or confrontation) of an incurable pathos, a weakness or blind-spot, within consciousness. The very idea is an insult to the autonomy or self-determinability of ego/will/reason.
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The Zen masters have the right idea-no pain no gain: thwack a silly nebbish and he'll remember it far longer and more indelibly than any words you muster at him. Not absolutely everything can or should have to be explained, and particularly not to everybody. But a concussion is a value-judgment anyone gets the point of.
People who turn to philosophy expecting to harvest a crop of formulas of wisdom or understanding do not understand-philosophy has such things, but they are merely incidental, not the essence of the matter. Philosophy is about subtilizing and tuning up the coherence and acuity of one's seeing, it is about opening new dimensions for insight, learning to think about what one is doing when one thinks instead of just blundering through the processes of putting thoughts together.
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Sadly the very thing that strikes us as obvious always defeats our thinking about it in more penetrating ways: just as the Romans said that "the good is the enemy of the better," so too "the self-evident is the enemy of the very process of clarification or understanding," not to mention the enemy of the "transcendent or ultimate."
There is a form of poetic and esthetic and moral genius necessary to make philosophical issues truly incandesce for students, and even though I indeed had some world-class professors myself when I went through the curriculum, I rarely saw such gnosic or concretist/poetic passion among them. I am not speaking of broad histrionics or melodramatic delivery, but rather a moral investment of concern, of loving delight and pathos in exposing one's consciousness to the full horrific and magnificent implications of the materials.
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American democracy is a chess-game in which pawns imagine themselves to be free individuals with wills of their own: that delusion is one of the rules of the game, without which the game could not continue. I doubt anyone, no matter how sharp and sharp-tongued, could succeed in getting across to high school students how vital an acute mind is for just keeping a grip on one's life and earnings in our mendacious politics and economics. No wonder our school system is devoutly dedicated to demoralizing and blunting such minds.
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The approach of intellect or noesis will forever be an effete and limited sort of thing by contrast with the vigor and color of gnosis; but in academia there is virtually nothing but noetic minds to be found, and the very idea of gnosis is alien and untranslatable, not to mention discreditable.
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So successful has the ideological-political-cultural purge been executed that it is hard indeed to find vigorous liberals, and no energetic, coherent and cogent leftists at all can find expression in our controlled media and educational systems. Forget about wholesale culture- or civilization-critics like Marxists. Universities have to be purged of any "radicalism" that can see through to the roots of issues and pathologies, for the same reasons that workers have to have nascent unions aborted among them and contrarian newspapers and media have to be starved of advertising.
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How infinitely happier and more grateful is the whole personality or spirit when it finds something nourishing in art or writing or thinking, than the mere mind or intellect is: the kinship you celebrate in these personalities is your own dismembered Orpheus stumbling across another fine organ to rejoin to itself. I put it this way: aristic psyche loves itself enough to chasten itself, to put itself through boot camp for the sake of being competent for life, alive to life.
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Human cultures are all experiments in trying to find a form that will fit the matter of our immediacy; but it is absolutely not the case that all such experiments are of equal merit or value. Some cultures - and modernity is patently one - have managed to transmute consciousness into the "disease" that Nietzsche called it, the self-affliction of a self-centeredness that has purged itself of all vestiges of wisdom and value.
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"The people" is that massive portion of a society that lives by its pathetic subjection to sheer immediacy or self-obviousness, and that therefore uncritically seizes upon the most simplistic and abstract ways of filling its vacuous self-consciousness. Not philosophy but dogma and rhetoric, not rationality but indoctrination and conditioning, provide the cultural junkfood by which the Many perfunctorily slake their thirst and hunger.
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The anorexic is the fuse nakedly exposed to the direct power of modern media, a psyche whose wiring has no insulation. The anorexic is an analog to the ideologue, who is likewise devoid of common sense, independent ego, culture, intuitive intelligence, etc.: all the ideologue has to orient himself by is the formalist or abstractivist directives inlaid in modern mass-culture. Both are forms of the True Believer, minds in whom factors of self-active life are reduced to negligibility and pathos reigns.
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Academia is alas full of special interests and specialists who presumed it was possible to "leapfrog" over this or that entire line of development. These minds hoped to distance themselves from the pernicious vices of a whole way of thinking, but of course at the same time excluded all of its virtues too. Modern abstractivism in its simplex form (which does not preclude a high degree of articulate facility within the ambit of what is preconceived and accepted).
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I start off with the obvious, that it makes no sense either to believe or to disbelieve in God until a substantial and intelligent definition or concept should be offered. Belief or disbelief is a secondary consideration, contingent on the intelligibility and cogency of the premise; the primal unintelligence or irrationality of moderns is revealed by their eagerness to leap to a conclusion without ever being curious what the hell the original premise was.
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Should a reasonable person not demand that philosophy should not be foolishly purveyed before people incompetent to see the point of it, as pearls before swine? For Nietzsche is utterly correct: philosophy is only for the healthy and whole-minded, the sick it has always only made even sicker. By means of philosophy they dig themselves even deeper into their pathetic delusions.
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Most people traffic in abstractions and generalizations because they are grossly incompetent at culturing their intuition or powers of evidency, refining it to grasp the Thisness (Haecceitas) of what is before them. Thinking is like a Stradivarius that has more potential variations in how it is played than any human can finitely perform or capture.
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Take a good long look at human beings in their actual practices and motives; bring the utmost psychological and bio-economic factors to bear on making sense of their illusions and delusions. What then would the truth have to be, such that such human beings are FIT TO KNOW IT at all, even provisionally or tentatively?
Misfortune occurs or can occur to anyone, of any sort of character. The eudaimonic has more resources to avoid it (being in autonomous control of his appetites and assumptions) and more resources to deal with it if it occurs (being better able to put it in perspective and maintain his own evenness of self-mastery). Tragedy as a dramatic form is meant to foster the ethos of sophrosyne or moderation, "nothing to excess"; it nurtures a sense of distance from the dominant illusions and delusions that may infect even aristoi.
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Hegel understood the Heisenbergian reality of knowing: yes, it would be nice if we could somehow delicately capture the truth and bring it closer to ourselves without altering it, "like a bird caught with a limestick." But the reality is, every truth we manage to know is altered, deformed by our very "encheiresis naturae," by the act of our taking-in-hand of nature (to borrow the alchemists' phrase from Goethe's Faust).
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Ultimately, love is only possible for humans insofar as they can achieve some comprehension of their place and their duties and their values and their significance within the whole of life, of society, of spirituality, of history, of nature. In all merely partial or fragmentary perspectives, there necessarily remain undigested irrational factors, surds that one is merely tolerating and not truly respecting as essential and integral to the whole of what we are.
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I am caught in a terrific bind of characterologically and rationally needing to think in the most comprehensive terms possible, forming a continuous system of argument with a gradient that runs from concrete to abstract, and unfortunately being caught also in a culture in which hardly anyone seems capable of applying himself to understand such a demanding form of argumentation.
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The will and self are ultimately dynamic, they are their actions. This energy can be trained and directed, tuned like an orchestra. It is not a matter of a "rational interior" that poses a problem for a decorator, rather a feng-shui intelligence is called for that orients the "house" to the flow of life that takes place in it (I rather suspect this is turned on its head in most cases of feng-shui, i.e. Americans capitulate once again to "experts").
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In late modernity we grow more and more accustomed to politicians and public figures who are indebted to their appetites for their "values," to their intellectual sloth for their "principles," to their rhetorical cleverness for their "conscience," and to their regimented conformism for their "philosophy."
Modern value-neutral society (Gesellschaft rather than Gemeinschaft) is systematized predation tempered not by conscience or values but rather merely by a system of law, which is no less corrupt with private interests and its own forms of predation. In modernity sophism is the order of the day, and this obliges its most adept practitioners to learn how to develop the art of appearing to be other than one actually is.
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Nietzsche is absolutely correct, even more correct today than when he wrote it in Thus Spake Zarathustra: I looked all about me for human beings but all I saw were fragments, deformed creatures with too much eye or too much ear. This is what the modern culture of specialized intellect-the kind of one-sidedness that banausic utilitarianism alone can value-works so hard to produce.
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Myth is the practical metabolism of our soulish life, the logic of our obsessions and oversights for which we have no language or code. Myth is the "morality" that the ineffable puts upon us, our unaccountable imperatives, our inexplicably selective clarity and obscurity, the mortal one-sidedness of our talents and wits, the passion and apathy that make such a transient passage through our hapless minds; that weave a pattern of fatality others will see before we do. Myth is distinctively human or sublime higher-order instinct, the "reason" in culture that reason knows not of.
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Thinking is the subtlest form of self-polemics, the art of a certain finesse in psychological self-vivisection and self-crucifixion (Hegel of course called the path of self-disillusion the via dolorosa or "highway of despair," in Baillie's fine and florid rendering, like Jesus' route to Golgotha).
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The problems of human subjectivity replicate themselves at many different scales, like the overtones and undertones in a stringed instrument striking ghost-intervals up and down into infinity. This is not Hegel's ingenuity, it is his responsiveness to the organic structure in us that echoes itself throughout the whole architecture.
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There is no extrahistorical or eternalist or abstractivistically pure standpoint where we can get oriented in the absolute Truth per se before dealing with the concrete lineaments of how we happen exist in this time and place. We are participants in a dynamic system and we know its profile only by its action in organizing how we interact together and how we see our own selves. "The truth is the whole," and the whole is a system of living energy: our life as human and historical spirits.
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"Playing" the resources of characterology for the sake of clarification and insight into the structures of actual existence is many times more daunting than playing a piano; it requires the thinking of chords of thoughts, not just isolated simplisms or abstracta; it demands the shaping or encompassing of morphological modes of intelligence that can comprehend gestalten, syndromes, historical and civilizational patterns in which it is not the particulars but their interactive significance (as an ensemble of actualities or principles) that is vital.
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I can't convince myself that it does much good to try to challenge the everyday political delusions and dementias of Americans at large. Their contained and confined mentalities by far prefer the petty and parochial prisons of the kind of sense they have been trained and rewarded for making out of their lives (and are punished for deviating from them). What it costs them ultimately to be such slaves and infants and ideological zombies is a thought too monstrous and rending and spiky for them even to want to glance at.
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"Cynicism," like "heresy" and "heterodoxy" and "atheism" and "agnosticism" and "paganism" and "heathenism," is above all else a way for organized orthodoxy's caste of official censors to encyst and segregate and thus neutralize all contrarian forms of seeing and thinking, all (necessarily implicitly) prohibited and repressed ways of exercising disruptive and iconoclastic intuition and intellection (for to analyze and explain these things too openly is to give them publicity and potential cogency when the point is to asphyxiate them).
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