Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Post of Year

It has been by all accounts an extremely miserable year for President Bush. I've been highly critical of his policies--even more so of late.

So for the final post I'm goinig to end on a positive and a compliment to the President. Story here from WashingtonPost on how Bush has tripled aid to Africa.

Good story diminished by stupid a-- subtitle: Increase in Funding to Impoverished Continent Is Viewed as Altruistic or Pragmatic. What is the deal with this stupidly unnecessarily binary commentary--as if altruism wasn't the most pragmatic option of all.

Anyway, that ignorance aside, key quote:

To many longtime Africa supporters, all of this is surprising for a president who is often criticized as lacking curiosity about much of the world and who heads a political party traditionally skeptical of the efficacy of foreign aid. But attacking African poverty has become a growing priority of some of the religious groups at the core of Bush's political base, and some lawmakers credit them with stoking the president's interest in the subject. "The evangelical community raised the awareness of HIV and AIDS to the president," said Rep. Donald M. Payne (N.J.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa. "When the Bush administration came in, HIV and AIDS were not an overwhelming priority. Now we have seen a total metamorphosis."

Africa is also where the next (and last) major phase of globalization and cultural push back--in the form of jihadism and/or some new to be formed anti-global ideology to spring from the mother continent. There are other fringe areas--Caribbean which whose push will begin as soon as Castro dies and Andean South America which is already seeing anger with Morales from business sector Ecuadorians--but the two major disconnected blocks are ME and SubSah. Africa.

It is a good thing that evangelicals are pushing the White House on human rights, religious freedom, and interventions in Africa. Now if they would only push for a Dept. of Reconstruction. Call it my New Year's Wish.

Why KA?

I realized after last night's post on Kosmic Addresses, before I delve further into the more philospohical end, I should give some background on why the interest now.

I've reached a kind of stuck point with my blogging here. The last time I reached a somewhat similar place, I didn't really know what to do, so I just stopped blogging--for a considerable length of time. I don't want to do that again. But I want to keep challenging myself as well. Otherwise I get the feeling I'm just mailing it in.

I think I do a decent job of laying out a view beyond what I perceive as deficiences of both conservatives and liberals (both inside and outside of political parties) on a number of larger issues: terrorism, failed states, Islam, energy-environment, 3rd World Christianity, wedge ethical issues (e.g. abortion). Not great but decent (on a good day). Issues about which I have passion.

But while I still do it, it doesn't have that extra zing, that sense of immediacy and structure-creation about it that it once did. It's more a plateau sense--hence the feelng of mailing it in.

And then during the days of silence I took last week I returned took a space I've mentioned on occassion, rather obliquely since I"m not much into personal reflection on this blog, via some of the teachings of evolutionary enlightenment through Andrew Cohen of what he calls the Authentic Self, what in integral-speak is (late indigo) violet. But this inner experience seeks a deep communion, communion of its type. And this really isn't a reality in my life as currently constructed (which is a known consequence of the way I have chosen to live my life). It is also a space that really is only interested in the so-called edge--the cusp of an evolving Kosmos in real time. So there is very little in the way of what to say, other than the deconstruction (and reconstruction) of one's identity pattern. Beautiful experience, more important in terms of its opening for the future--but that is way off.

[One difficulty in speaking about the 3rd tier is that 3rd tier is a 2nd-tier notion, if you will. It arises out of the "2nd-tier" integral context. Integral as a wave not only re-translates downwards--what Wilber calls interpretively intrinsic features and which overall is good--but upwards, to levels beyond turquoise/early indigo. This upward integralization has some inherent flaws. And experiencing moments beyond the integral really exposes those flaws as well as the great gifts, which themselves appear in a new light.

The biggest flaw, as it were, is that each level is the similar pattern of transcend and include--that is true I would say but in a different way. The use of tier points to that--as in not every level jump is the same. The move from green to yellow is termed a momentous leap, a leap into a new tier, so the deeper 3rd-tier leap is itself a new tier. And that tier/stage leads to a deep intuitive wisdom that no amount of integral parsing will ever succeed with. [I mean in the real depth of 3rd-tier not in an altered state at any stage. Otherwise that criticism just becomes an excuse to intellectual and spiritual laziness as I see it. Particulary in my experience among Boomer spiritual types.]

But I sense a space in between these two and that is the one I want to explore. It involves the making transparent one's language/perspective that I discussed in the last post, one way of exploring that is Kosmic mathematics, although that's not my major strength.

And to more consciously (as it tends to the 1st and 3rd person points of view) to emphasize the second person and devotional aspects--to search/test push my limits for service not for self conquest.

I'm not sure if anyone will be interested nor follow some of these thought experiments, mental yogas. Or I guess the immediacy and the urge behind the drive to explore them. I'll find out.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Kosmic Addresses

A few posts on what I consider to be the most important aspect of Ken Wilber's thought: integral post-metaphysics and the question of meaning (integral semiotics).

C.S. Peirce told William James "perception is semiotics." In other words perception is not "pure" phenomenology. What an individual perceives is deeply molded by the relations, chains, and cultures s/he stands in. It is not what is simply arising to consciousness. It is not even that structures of the mind as Kant argued mold what I see/experience (although it includes that), but even more so my culture/language influences the structures of my mind which shape what I perceive.

Post-metaphysics goes even a step further. What post-metaphysics I think would say is: Perception is semiotics. But more, semiotics is already a perspective.

Gottfried Leibniz, the great modern philosopher, the only one to keep a holonic view of the universe (monads and consciousness in various forms extending down a scale to animals, plants, etc) saw all monads (read: holons) as occupying a unique position in time and space. He never really elaborated the point; he simply stated that all these holons were set up from the beginning by God in a pre-established harmony that made this the best of all possible worlds--though by no means a perfect one.

Following on that insight, if every holon occupies a different position in time-space, then their perception is shaped by their location. Think of Star Wars Episode I where all the ambassadors sit in those little pods at the Republic's headquarters--what they see depends on where they are located.

So for them to describe to another what they see, they have to acknowledge both how they are seeing--i.e. in what direction they are looking--and where they started from.

Now if we apply that analogy from the exterior world to the interior one, integral post-metaphysics starts to arise.

Wilber's description of life as quadratic is not unique to him. As he admits they were forerunners (Habermas, Adi Da). And developmental psychologists certainly talked about levels of complexity. Wilber united those two strands which was an achievement, but a more radical one lay to be discovered.

That is if there are levels of consciousness--which has always been to my mind the most controversial aspect of the whole praxis-theory--then meaning of a statement/what one experiences-observes, is in part, dependent on what level one occupies.

It is what Wilber calls a "developmental signified". Now, before delving in a little more--this notion is open to abuse. No doubt about that. The abuse is to say that because one doesn't occupy a certain level, one can not criticize what the purported higher level-er is saying. There is a sorta of imperialism in that tone.

The (AQAL) integral maxim is that everyone is partially correct. So being true to those roots, an individual at say orange can criticize elements of turquoise--because every system is flawed in some ways. But it it still true that such a criticism would itself be deeply affected by limitations of the orange stream: tendency towards ahistorical analysis, uniformity over heterogenity, functionality over expressive mode, etc. Moreover, such a critical perspective, will not be able to experience/"see" the truthful elements of a turquoise analysis (unique to turquoise): e.g. cross-paradigmatic analysis, multi-perspectivality, etc.

This notion of a developmental signifier is I think deeply antithetical to the democratic sense of America as well as the relativism of postmodernity. It also (correctly in my view) strikes at the unnamed egoic patterns that can easily lie in spiritual circles. Because states of consciousness, what spiritual traditions (particularly Eastern) tend to emphasize, do not automatically bring about stage development. If we are dealing with developmental signifieds in the structure-stage sense, which I am for the moment. There is state-stage developmental signification as well.

The most basic assertion then in post-metaphysics is that one must describe (at minimum) the (rough) altitude and quadrant of both the observer and observed.

It is analogous to Einstein's theory of general (read: universal) relaitivity. Universal or absolute relativity captures the paradox perfectly. Going back to the ancients, Ptolemy held to a geocentric model of the universe (earth-centered). Then Copernicus taught a heliocentric with the sun at the center. Then Einstein and modern cosmology which teaches what is best termed omnicentricism: every point is at the center of the universe. Or alternatively no point is center. No fixed point around which everything revolves.

Truth acts, and all ther est then is not meaningless. There are still universal propositions, and objective facts; they must however be located in contexts. And what is perceived as the proepr context is determined in part by the perceiver. Not in a spooky New Age way but in the sense of humans demarcating where galaxies begin and end--giving them names and such.

This same process integral applies to the interiors as well. As difficult as it is to delinate boundaries, define terrain, and tease out the being of astronomical orbs and processes, so much more so the human thought and feeling.

The human is the universe aware of itself thinking said Teilhard. That truth itself Teilhard did not understand does not emerge until a certain point in development and only from an interior point of view. Altitude + Quadrant.

[This insight can be re-formatted for alternate integral praxis/theorems: collective holons as having interionality, single scale holarchy verus levels, etc.].

To me this mining into the very processes which emerge and by which we have come to know of our own depths and meaning-making abilities, is the most radical (i.e. to the root) of all philosophical expressions today.

When I really meditate on what it is saying (as I see it) it means all of us are speaking in ways that are out of touch with the evolution of the planet. And hence our world is a confused mass of disinformation, misunderstanding, and (conscious or otherwise) falsficiation/hyping, etc. Even well intentioned attempts. From one angle they are still well intentioned and good, but from anotehr they are even more increasingly marginal.

I speak, I write, and I read others whom seem to me in the same boat--it is as if humans assume we know what we are doing in communicating. We/I do not. Integral post-metaphysics to me is about making transparent to the mind the processes of which it engages in. It will never ever fully bring "wholeness" or integration--that is its Kosmic IOU. But it can at best make one aware of the process by which when even begin to begin to do anything.

Joe Perez I think has taken some tentative steps down the road. Joe in his Kronology has added a real contribution by pointing out the need to reference depth (as well as altitude-height). He also has begun to use colored-text corresponding to altitude for certain words.

Artists sometimes I think by accident/inspiration tap into some force that generates something. Spiritual leaders know of states, but typically will not admit that individuals will interpret those states differently and are too naive about how much communion is created through the good vibes of altered temporary attention and feeling. Humans are good at speaking with those who they already more or less agree with--or understand the disagreement so as to employ a form of argumentation already manifest in social norms and learnings.

But what does it really, I mean really, mean to learn how to generate meaning? To learn how to communicate in a world where (from this perspective--see how easy it is to fall into the myth of the given-ness of realities?) people ex-ist in different levels of discourse, streams, and dimensions of discourse?

How do I, does any one, speak about anything while recognizing the space from which speaking arises? And not only the space but the current and altitude/perspectives of all employed at any moment?

This is the question I want to take up in a few posts. It is really beyond me. And I see no one really addressing this issue--integral blogsphere and elsewhere. My working hypothesis going in based on a decent amount of thought/reflection on the subject is that while there may be in some a general cognitive awareness and discussion of wanting to overcome the myth of the given, emotionally and communicatively, it hasn't manfiested yet.

In my case this is true. At least when I focusedly relax I am aware of cascading perspectivality. I can feel/see where just about every human I meet is, as it is said, is coming from. And I can even, for those already with some know how, parse with the help of the terminology, the crutch of system (AQAL), but my speaking is still very much riven with the myth of the given.

Even in the moments of colorizing and all the rest.

How do I speak about speaking while speaking what I'm speaking?

If anyone has thoughts on the matter, I really welcome them.

Week in Politics

Big news in Iraq this week is of course the execution of Saddam Hussein. Although I think as events go there that is a more minor occurrence--in terms of historical reference perhaps significant (although less so than his toppling I think) but in terms of events as they transpire daily, I think not a huge deal.

In the short term the only result may be more violence. Although at this point the violence is so rampant and brutal, who knows.

Anyway, much more important I think was this article in the NYTimes by SABRINA TAVERNISE on the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad. Click the map for a neighborhood by neighborhood summary.

Some key pieces:

At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials...The Shiite-dominated government publicly condemns violence against Sunnis and says it is trying to stop the militias that carry it out. But the attacks have continued unabated, and Sunnis have grown suspicious. Plans for a new bridge that would bypass a violent Sunni area in the east, and a proposal for land handouts in towns around Baghdad that would bring Shiites into what are now Sunni strongholds underscored these concerns. Sunni political control in Baghdad is all but nonexistent: Of the 51 members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, which runs the city’s services, just one is Sunni.
The article also lays out a key theme under-repesented in the so-called MSM press: that the militias are not just death squads running around killing people (although plenty of that too) but the real protectors of their own ethnic groups. Like a mafia ring. And not just the big name ones: Mahdi Army, Badr Brigade, etc. There are numerous sub-militias at times allied with the bigger name ones, at times not.

The internal displacement of the population is well underway and has been since Saddam's statue was torn down. The Shia who have long been the oppressed are now in control and will give nothing to the Sunnis. As one Shia leader said: "They [Sunni Arabs] should believe in the new equation." The new equation is Shia dominance. And Baghdad is increasingly becoming a Shia town, and by the end of the sectarian killing and the eventual de-centralization or perhaps tripartite division of the fake/failed state of Iraq, will likely be all Shia.

There is no political give among either the Sunni or Shia, so I see no way that adding a paltry 20,000 or so troops means anything except (very) short-term possible downtick in violence in Baghdad. Those troops are coming from other parts of the country not from outside--further straining the already breaking US military--and therefore the violence in other areas, e.g. Anbar, will rise as the troops leave those areas. American casulties will increase significantly after New Years. I predicted a week or two ago that Bush would slide perilously close to the 30% or even dip below 30% approval rating. Changing a tactic in a failed strategy does not make the strategy work. The Senate Dems are going along with the troop increase because politically it is Bush and the Republican's War. They don't want another Vietnam where they are blamed for pulling the troops out right before victory. The Dems are going to sit back and let Bush fail even more profoundly in Iraq in this coming year--which whatever crass political ends it serves it is going to mean more US deaths and more lost influence around the world for the future.

The only way a troop increase would possibly have any lasting positive effect if it was designed to create a small window of opportunity to move massive population numbers within the country. The Army would led hundreds of thousands of Sunnis out of Baghdad to the Western provinces--they would be vulernable and exposed particularly to an evil-time al-Qaeda attack blamed on US to pull Sunni support away. But this is nowhere in the cards. Bush won't admit the country is breaking apart ethnically--he would need a massive logistics campaign which his administration is incapable of producing either internationally or domestically. And Sunnis likely wouldn't go for it.

When asked what the strategy in Iraq was, President Bush again reiterated that it was a unified Iraqi state, ally in war on Terror, model of democracy in the region. That set of prospects are goals not strategies. Strategy is a long range planning on how to achieve one's goals. Having goals and declaring we're winning (which is now described as "not winning nor losing") is not a strategy.

Also less on the radar has been talk of a new parliamentary alliance meant to isolate Moqtada al-Sadr. Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani essentially put an end to that discussion. His position throughout has been Shia unity, and I think that won the day. al-Sadr's people are back after a protest, participating in the government.

The next member of the Cabinet who should be pressured by Congress to be relieved of duty is Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice, who has been an abysmal failure. Her Palestinian-Israeli push that will occur after the New Year's is also headed (before it even begins) down the drain, I'm afraid. The opportunity to make a move came with the election of Hamas and a chance (and only that) to peel a percentage of Hamas away from Syrian Hamas and create something a unity coalition among the Palestinians. The immediate withdraw of funds and public announcement of such by the US, EU, etc was the end of that moment. The Palestinians are on the brink of civil conflict, as Hamas has no other means available to it than violence--other than accepting Israel, cowtowing to the West and losing their political base (when is that going to happen?).

Bush has left his "allies"in the region President Abbas of PA and President Sinora of Lebanon in almost complete isolation and de-legitimated/weakened. Some friendship--his got the reverse Midas Touch, did the same thing to Tony Blair.

Iran-Syria are here to stay through Hezbollah, through Hamas, etc. You have to deal with them at some point. You don't have to like them, you can still be (if adept) marshalling support for containment strategies, but this idea that "pressure" is put on them is just stupid.

The reason a containment isn't working is because the US since the fall of the Soviet empire has played a game of world policeman without inviting in post-Soviet Russia and post-economically communist China. China and Russia block the US at every turn on Iranian containment because it gets them nothing in return. This is how politics works--I scratch your back, you mine--but Bush has believed a show of American force would just shock and awe every one into obesiance. Unfortunately it has done the exact reverse: exposed US weaknesses, emboldended opposition, etc.

The way to deal with Iran would require a fundamental re-do of our relationship with Beijing and Moscow. You see Condi on that trip anytime soon?

Meanwhile the "wacko" Ahmadinejad continues to out manuever Dr. Rice at every turn. The analysis in US press has been that Iran needs a stable Iraq and therefore needs the US. Quite the opposite is true. Iran's interests in Iraq are quite well established and if the US were to pullout and Iraq descends into Bosnia-Rwanda style bloodletting overnight, Iran has powerfulyforces within the country that will achieve its goals. It is rather the opposite: the US needs Iran. Iran is far more influential than the US (which is just a large gang at this point) in Iraq.

I'm working hard to be as positive as I can--while still having a brain--this post was originally much darker (if you can imagine that). The reason I'm being so critical is because the moment (unbelievably) still exists for the two/three deals necessary for major global peace and stability: US-Iran/Syria and US-Russia/China.

They are going to come with drawbacks, no doubt, and the price paid now will be much higher than it was even 1 year ago. But in 2 years time it will be exponentially higher or worse no longer possible.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Limits of Classical Liberalism

The primary limitation of classical liberalism, in my mind, is that it arose during the modern world. That is prior to the realization of the inter-subjectivity of existence. Modern philosophy is rife with deus ex machinas whose job it is to create a larger harmonized whole out of the actions of separate atomistic indivduals. This is particularly true of the Anglo-American tradition of liberalism: Smith's invisible hand, Leibniz's pre-established harmony of the monads are good examples of this trend.

The reason this vision is so limited and these epicycles of invisible hands or providence have to be thrown in, is that humans are always already arising in worldspaces. What is acting in self-interest rationally does not emerge until the human has gone through (at least) 4 major transformations. It is true that there is such action but it is discovered and praticed only (at least) at the modernist-orange wave.

The social-collective is an inherent dimension to existence not an extra piece that descends to cover the gaps.

This is why of the many varities of conservatisms, hardcore economic libertarians I find the most partial. They are very helpful when the constantly criticize government waste and excess--not good when used as a primary guiding philosophy imo.

If every individual is acting in his/her rational self-interest, things do not automatically as a reuslt go well. The market for example does not save us--as the fulndamentalist clergy of economic libertarianism have been telling us it will for ever.

Capitalism is the best form of economic activity to generate wealth as quickly as possible. Fatually this is the case. Capitalism also has within it no praxis for equitable (not equal) distribution of that wealth. Unregulated capitalism intrinsically tends to gross wealth disparities, corruption, and monopolization.

Smith's economic theories got around this by saying his ideas only applied in the theoretical case of the completely transparent, level playing field of the market.

Of course in actual practice, as postmodernism would show (or even muckraking modernism), that test case hardly if ever really exists. Now there are the great heroic econ stories of Google, self-made millionaries, etc. it can happen. But for everyone of those, numerous counter-examples could be marshalled.

Because capitalism of the Anglo-American variety emphasized individualism and had within it no injunction for larger social-communal reality, other the negative freedoms of the Bill of Rights (freedom from censored speech, religious tests, etc.), it left the door open for social philosophies that placed the primary on the collective.

The most brutal of these were the totalitarianisms of communism and fascism. Softer varieties included European welfare states/state socialism. But all of these have intellectually failed (see Hayek).

Certain forms of Islamism represent another such rising of the social-collective. As long as a quadrant is forgotten, then it will re-emerge and sabotage what is.

That is why I do not make, what I consider, unhelpful stark dualisms between say classical liberalism/modern conservatism (good) and leftism (bad). Because I see intrisinc flaws in the classical liberal tradition which generally "leftist" tracks can help ferret out and name. I don't however accept that any of them do anything other than that--critique the destructive sides of liberal modernity.

That is why I think some other future integrated form must emerge (radical middle, 3rd Way, etc), but until then the choices for me are between the lesser of evils.

Consider the following two quotations in this context. I'll just say my view is the former.

Liberal democracy is the worst form of government on earth--until you study all the alternatives. --Winston Churchill

America is the greatest country on earth. --Robert Godwin

From whose point of view? The second quotation strikes me as context-less and can easily come across as out of touch, insensitive, call it whatever you like.

You might not think the US is the greatest country on earth IF you were say:

--born on a reservation in South Dakota and had to live with the fact that this greatest country on earth massacred and systemetic policies of genocide against your ancestors, destroying their traditional ways of life. And to this day the country operates as if ur people do not today exist. That Indians exist in musuems and in cowboy movies.

--a Marshalese (Marshall Islands) woman who three generations since the testing of the Hydrogen bomb off the coast of ur islands has what in the local language is called a grape baby. A grape baby, is a horrific birth defect that is 100% fatal to infant due to continued fallout from the radiation, where the child is born with no skin. The infant's organs are fully visible and their "skin" is like translucent grape-quality.

the list could go on and on--descendent of enslaved humans, from the largest segment of poverty in the US...poor, white Applachian, Vietnamese, now Iraqi, murdered by death squads funded/trained by US in Nicaragua, El Salvador--including Roman Catholic priests and their housekeepers.

To quote Sam Harris: "The US is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen-pregnancy, STD infection, and infant mortality. Southern and Midwestern states, characterized by the highest levels of religious literalism, are especially plagued by the above miseries, while the comparatively secular states of the Northeast conform to European norms."

I live in Vancouver whose worst neighborhood consists of (sadly) strung out drug addicts. But there is no weaponization of the drug trade, so there are no guns and no homicides like in US ghettos. I used to live in the Bronx and can tell you there were many many streets I knew I couldn't walk down. In fact the few blocks right behind my house were safe to walk at night because they were Mafia controlled. If someone tried to pick-pocket me, they would have been executed Sopranos-style for their action.

That said to point out there are awful shadow sides, but there is a positive in terms of the amount of people who are not killed, wounded, or psychologically devastated (police) in our urban war zones comparable to our Iraqi ones.

The US also pays the most per person for the worst health care in the industrialized world. In part because we spend no moneys on preventive care, that due in part to libertarian rhetoric of not being told what to do (excuse me, I forgot the trans-fat ban in NYC).

I'm not saying its all relative or Americans are the evil baddies in a world where everyone else is peaceloving do-gooders.

Let's say America is the greatest country on earth taking all that into account. To me what that means is that human beings have an abysmal record. If this is the best that we can come up with, as a species we generally have failed and continue to do so to this day.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in my view one of the greatest 20th century Christian theologians, wrote after living in America (he was a German Lutheran) for a few years teaching at Union Theologicla Seminary in NYC, that America had never fundamentally questioned the modern world. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis for his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Similiarly Bonhoeffer said of American religion, particularly Christianity, that it is very good at fund drives, social outreach projects, getting people to church, revivals, etc, but it has never fundamentally asked whether religion is not the solution but possibly part of the problem. Bonhoeffer at the end of his life in letters ferreted out from his prison cell to friends spoke on an ir-religious Christianity (or what I would call a post-religious Xty).

I'm not suggesting the way of the Europeans or the deconstructionist American left. They certainly questioned modernity and see religion as part of the problem. But that has led to a deadend, emotionally, politically, and spiritually.

A better figure to consider would be a Martin Luther King, Jr. Not the white-washed Aemrican saint whose feast day we celebrate. But the man with a vision and a deep and abiding criticism and love of the US. But as he say it from a higher moral plane. King as long as stayed to the question of Black Civil Rights was harrassed but eventually tolerated. I find it not surprising that he was killed at the time he began saying that the experience of the American black was comparable to that of the Vietnamese, the African, and the 3rd World in general. Then he was killed.

He did not represent a deconstructionism. He believed in right and wrong but he was guided by what he saw as a higher moral value than simply the Anglo-American common law/republican constitutional tradition. He was certainly willing to use that and saw that system as having advantages of others. Only Anglo-American traditions allowed for succesful non-violent civil disobedience: Gandhi in British India; King in US. But they are still deeply flawed institutions.

Godwin writes that classical liberalism is the best way to achieve freedom from tyranny. He's right about that. But to me that is also its shadow: freedom from as opposed to freedom for. What do we do with that freedom from tyranny? All become middle class, 2.3 kids, white picket fences, bourgoise consumers?

After the Soviets fell, John Paul II who was attempted to be Americanized by his biographer George Weigel and First Things Editor Richard John Neuhaus, said "1 down (i.e. communism), 1 to go (capitalism)." Weigel and Neuhaus attempted to gloss over JPII's rejection of the War in Iraq (which both theologians supported and which both JPII and Benedict have from the beginning denounced repeatedly). Neuhaus attempted to read into JPII's encyclials a support for US free market libertarianism. He was thrased in theological circles for his idoelogical reading. The encylical if you read it, supports democratic socialism. I'm not saying that means its right or what we should aim for because the Pope said so, just that is what he said.

With JPII and MLK I support a higher moral law, which I believe always stands in judgment o
safeguarding the possibility for people to pursue that higher moral law and spirit. But it for me is only the best of those currently represented and even as best has massive limitations and evils inherent in it. I also hold out the belief that there will be some better form of human organization and governance, but likely never in my lifetime. Something of a federation--not the UN--of global wide concern transcending the limitations of even the best of nation-states.

But that relative issue aside, human laws/politics will always stand in judgment from the divine. God is not an American nor a classical liberalist. Or rather that version of god is--from this perspective--idolatrous and the worship of a human-made abomination. [Bonhoeffer's point]. Governments are, as Augustine said, barely more than legitimated bands of robbers.

See Sandy Berger stealing documents here. See George Bush silencing a critic and politicizing yet again our foreign intelligence services by lying that the Iranians support for the US in Afghanistan was classified here. The author, Flynt Leverett, one of the smartest Americans on the topic of Syria and Middle East used to work for Bush. That information by the way was publicly stated by the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. So why isn't she being threatened with criminal proceedings?

But that aside, the form of modernism, whch rising powers like China, India, Russia, and Brazil maintain will not be American libertarian tradition of free markets. It will still be modern and yes there may be more tyranny (by American definitions) and possibly better communion relative to the US--it's not zero-sum games around--but the US will have to learn to live with those realities.

A reliance only on an American form of modernism is preventing America in terms of foreign policy and education from seeing itself as part of the globalized world and promote a vision for the 21st century. Not the isolationism that is now setting in.

Strengths of Classical Liberalism

First strenghts, then limits of classical liberalism.

Classical liberalism I define as the political philosophy of rule of law, constitutional order & rights. Those rights, as the Declaration of Independence states are inalienable, endowed in us from the Creator. They are not voted on nor rescinded so long as the Constitutional Republic stands. Rights of free speech and information, private property, protest against unlawful seizure of property or torture of body/person by governmental forces, etc.

A tradition that calls forth a large civil society outside the direct control of the state.

The American (more widely the Anglo-American tradition) tradition's biggest success has been that it succumbed to neither a far left nor far right government. Only England and its dependent colonies as well as the United States repelled fascism and soviet communism.

There are many reasons as to why that occurred (fortune being one), but that record is not accidental. The fact that the US Constitution for example has held as the law of the land for more than 200 years is a great achievement. For an opposing example see France which has had Five Republics and 2 Imperial Monarchies during the same time frame. Democratization--increasing the eligiblity of voting (women's suffrage, civil rights, etc)--did not cause a populist uprising against liberal rule of law.

The other strength of the American classical liberal tradition has been religious pluralism. America including the genocide of indigenous religions arguably has the best record of non-violent religoius pluralism on the planet. In other words, that is how bad the history of religious violence is.

Only in the US do Christians (of multiple denominations), atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims live in peace. Ramana Maharshi of all people said that America was the dawn before the light of his own India.

The nexus of classical liberalism with markets has led to America being the primary innovator and producer of world's goods for the last 50+ years. American influence in globalized economics has brought more people out of misery and poverty in the last few decades than all of human history combined. [On the other hand as detailed in the following post on limitations, greater disparities unparalleled in history also resulted].

Again, along with Britain, the classical tradition in the US absorbed a massive non-violent civil disobedience campaign for justice within its borders that was largely (though far from totally) successful.

American Exceptionalism II: Religion

Following up on American exceptionalism: on religion.

European Chrsitianity, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Dutch/Swiss Reformed, all were aligned with the old order. All were fused with the state. When the imperial European order fell after World Wars I and II, Christianity died with it.

From the Revolution on, American Christianity was not aligned with the state so it when the old blue order gave way to the orange order, Christianity was able to adapt in North America in a way it was incapable of doing so in Europe. Or in a modified form in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc.

Another reason is the land. America is a very de-urbanized society. Especially in the "fly-over" country. Agricultural lifestyle is predominantly associated with traditional religious belief. Urban modern society is usually not. The parts of America that are headed more "Euro" are the urbanized coasts, particularly the West Coast, where religious attendance is lowest in the country.

But the key point is that American conservatism is always modern/quasi-modern in its outlook. It is radically different than traditional European conservatism. American's myth (blue meme) lies not in a traditional Great Chain cosmology-hierarchical social order as in Europe, but in the democratization "freedom" of the entire planet.

It is as I said before with the Founding Fathers "elite egalitarianism." It is a higher/deeper worldview that opens the possibility for wider embrace (worldcentric) but tends to destroy any hierarchy in the process.

So the Christian vision gets stripped of its cosmological roots and assumes a modernist, so-called flatland approach and focuses on so-called Judeo-Christian values. Everything gets reduced to morals and political outlook. It's still myth (blue) but stripped of large portions of its past structure.

Roman Catholicism which in other countries would have been the insitutition to attend if one was seeking insight into traditional cosmology or even more radically the mystical insights hidden in that stage, did not do so in America because it was a religion of immigrants and took on many of the Protestant facades of the country: social service, church building, legal appartuses to protect itself from litigation, etc.

Partly I think the strength throughout the last 100+ yrs of New Age thought, the explosion of Eastern forms of meditation, even occultism, is derived from this failure on the part of the Catholic Church.

So when American Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah's Witnesses missionaries are sent out around the world they teach this elite egalitarianism. Go anywhere in the developing world and you can immediately spot which locals have converted to Pentecostalism, Mormonism, or Seventh Day Adventism: they all look, dress, and act like American bourgeoise. Suits, sobriety, and a definite lack of a earthy sense of humor: i.e. the Protestant ethic.

Mainline Protestants--Methodists, Anglicans, even Baptists and progressive evangelicals have gotten much better at this and are starting to see that Christianity is not the same as being a Westerner culturally. But the other churches mentioned have unfortunately not caught on with that.

Particularly in Latin America this means being cut off from one's Roman Catholic-indio heritage (purple-blue): no Mary, no saints, no devotion. An elite egalitarianism. Egalitarian with the other like-minded members and it is well known that many of the converts are attracted by the wealth, business connections, and opportunity to "get out" of their situation that brings them on.
Brazil the rising power of South America has in its urban centers, near 50% Pentecostal faith. Within a decade or two it will cease to be a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Good old Protestant orange.

When the flatland card is pulled on Protestantism, particularly now American or American-missionized forms, it is not that the tradition does not make distinctions between better or worse, which it certainly does.

It is that those distinctions are predominantly exterior actions: moral, lifestyle choices, political and business dealilngs, etc. That is why the movement to "cure" gays, lesbians, and transgenders, has such force in those circles. Because you simply change the exterior behavior and poof, cure.

This has to do theologically with a tendency, particularly within Calvinism (in American Puritanism and Congregationalism/Baptists) that the interiors of the human are so totally vitiated that God must simply come from "above" or "outside", metaphorically, and redeem us.

It is sometimes calld the light switch theory of salvation--on/off tab that God just flips.

Because of this belief, Protestantism has an extremely poor track record of mystics and just basic depth in the interior at all. Even more so in American history. The tradition that kept depth and at least altered states was the African American tradition--from which Pentecostalism sprang.

Which explains why the first task among many very conservative such traditions is to strip the individual from their cultural-religious background. The Catholic model is transcend and include, which since Vatican II is having more effect on moderate/liberal Protestants but not yet the conservative branches.

America is a Protestant country in its formation. Not in the formal sense of a state-church but that just about everybody was Protestant. The dominant culture has always been Protestant of one form or another. In today's version that is evangelical, megachurch, and Pentecostal. In the 19th century it was Methodism.

Rick Warren calls the dis-establishment of a state church applying the free market to religion: may the best idea win. What that has done positively is allow for religions and denominations to get along in this country in a way nowhere else in the world. And not just get along but flourish. The recent furor over the first Muslim-American Congressman wanting to swear on oath on the Koran only proves the point--which all the ignorant conservative debate against it missed imo--its assimilated. Would a Euro Muslim legislator do the same thing? What country does everyone hold the Constitution in such high regard? He wants to bring the Quran into the stream of the US Constitution. He is not promoting the Quran as an alternate form of human social-political organization (Islamism).

Everytime a new religious group, say the Catholics, moved to enter that stream then immediately there was emotional prejudicial backlash, as with Muslims, but in the end the community wants to participate on the terms of the mainstream, with their own unique flavor no doubt, but on essentials, right down the line.

I saw it far less as cultural-religious narcissism as wanting to unite one's tradition with the mainstream. Which is exactly what conservatives in America say is the danger elsewhere around the world, and yet we have done that, I think, correctly in this country, and some, though by no means all and certainly not even a dominant majority from my perusing of the right-wing blogosphere (however representative that is [?]), and it gets blasted. I just didn't get that. To me, it is so stuck in a story about the past and doesn't see the tradition as a living breathing thing that is staying true to its roots and progressing forward.

That's a product of my own synthesis of progressive and traditional currents. As happened at the Second Vatican Council, true reform/revolution happens by first returning to the sources, freed from the dross of usual interpretations, and then re-applying those same essential insights to the current.

On the negative side, it is a country not just with a lot of religion, but a lot of bad religion. Or I guess I should immature religion--imo.

In other words, the problem I see with conservatives is not that they put too much faith in traditions. It is rather they don't put enough. When conservatism goes south it ceases to be able to recognize what the traditions that need to be conserved are from the form/container in which they historically have been kept.

The traditions have an essence that need to be stripped of the accretions that have built on so they are free to be placed within the next context. Liberalism goes south when it forgets the traditions have something worth conserving.

The Quran-Bible swearing in dispute a case in point. From this pov, the essence of the tradition is that religions that emphasize justice and morality (which the Quran does) can help the moral fiber of a pluralistic society which has no established church but is open to speaking of "divine providence."

That essence historically was, given the religious background of the country, mediated by the swearing of the oath on the Bible. But the Bible itself is not I would argue part of the essence. That is I am saying the essence could be re-contextualized with the Quran. And yes I do think eventually that could be a Gita or Sutra, if Buddhist or Hindu Americans are elected to office.

Again I see that as part of the strength of America and the European analogy vis a vis Islam is all backwards imo. American Muslims are well educated and connected economically in large part and are promoting some of the most progressive Islamic theology in the world. In Europe there are no job opportunities for Muslims, who are generally disconnected from mainstream society--is it any wonder then the dominant vision in European Islam is Islamism, i.e. installing a new non-secular order?

We say that Islam needs to enter the modern world and here is a Muslim who wants to--who runs and is elected to serve in public office the citizens of the United States--and apparently now modernity is not just modernity but Judeo-Christian modernity.

Which then opens up the question I've had all along of conservatives who are against Rep. Ellison (e.g. Dennis Prager, Rep. Goode)--many are not, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is a good example--what do you actually want?

Do we really trust that our tradition of pluralism is too fragile the influx of Islam? That's what similar minds said about Catholicism when JFK ran for prez, against Mormons, against Quakers, on and on. And everytime our tradition has held strong. Why is it any different this time around? Why so little faith?

American Conservative Exceptionalism

On American exceptionalism--of the conservative variety. From an interview discussing their book The Right Nation (British) authors Aidan Woolridge and John Mickelthwait. The authors mention 6 points about American conservatism that separates it from other Euro. conservatism, giving American conservatism its lasting vitality.

1) Religion
2) The attitude to the state. Americans—and this includes liberal Americans—are more skeptical about the role of the state than Europeans are.
3) Capitalism. America has always been much keener on capitalism than any European country.
4) Prosperity. The great sociologist Werner Sombart said that “the great ship of socialism has run aground on the shoals of roast beef and apple pie." Substitute for roast beef and apple pie DVDs and McDonald’s.
5) Tradition. Americans are very tradition-minded people, much more so than Europeans these days. Judges make decisions on fundamental issues, such as the right to abortion, on the basis of an 18th century document. If you look at the best-seller lists in Britain, it’s full of books on gardening, football, and cooking. Here it’s full of books on history.
6) Geography. America is a very big country. They have also preserved a frontier spirit, an individualistic, anti-government frontier spirit, which Europe has never really had.

Those two are something of deTocqueville's--they can see what Americans are too used to to notice--for the 21st century. I think the Right Nation is the best book on American conservatism as a movement, thought, history, I have ever read. Now to be fair the two are not just impartial observers they are promoters of the American right and their book was written under the height of Rove-ism: ie that the US was headed to a permanent Republican majority.

The Iraq War and the huge budgetary deficit and the lack of any movement on the social conservative front has distanced conservative thinkers from Republcan party. The party according to David Brooks a year in advance that it was going to lose the House of Representatives and did nothing. That is a sign of exhaustion and decay to be sure. Of coures a party is not the same as conservative thought. But neither are they completely separate in my mind either. I don't equate the two; I don't segregate them either. In intellectual terms such a division can be achieved, but in the praxis of politics the two are joined (though not identical).

In other words there are deficiencies, I think, within the modern American conservative political thought world that did play a part in the corruption of the Republican party. Particularly the modern right embrace of small/no government. I think you can't be the dominant party of the establishment whose governing philosophy is not to be the dominant player in government. It works as an opposition political voice that constantly calls out the insanity of expecting governments to fix all problems. But not very good at actually running the show. This comes from the very libertarian, Grover Norquist American Enterprise Institute conservatism.

When they got into power the joke was the only limited in that Rep. government was intelligence.

The other failure was for conservatives to back George W.Bush who in many many ways is a liberal. Or even worse than a liberal.

New Deal Democrats are/were tax and spend.
Reagan-ite thought was cut (taxes) and cut programs/spending.

Bush combined the worst of both: cut taxes and spend.

It is by the way the exact same thing he did as governor of Texas, where he also unsurprisingly ran up record budgetary deficits. Every Republican president since Nixon left the Federal Government in a worse fiscal position than entering. The line on that used to be it was because they always had Democratic Congresses--but not Bush.

And on foreign policy Bush's embrace of neoconservatism. Neoconservatism is a democratic form of Trotskyite thought. I didn't make that up. I'm quoting Francis Fukuyama. He ought to know. As Fukuyama says when he tried to talk about markets to say Bill Kristol (editor of the WeeklyStandard, New American Century member, 1st Dubya administration, etc.), Kristol had no idea about them. In other words they gave no thought to the necessity of marketization to create a middle class that could handle democracy. Hence Iraq.

Now compassionate conservatism was designed to be, I think, big tent conservatism. If the Republicans were going to become the de facto dominant party (as had been the New Deal Dems) then they would have to hold some difficult alliances together. Social conservatives and libertarians, isolationist patriots and neocons, etc. FDR aligned Northern progressives, unionists, and white Southern Democrats.

But anymore I don't know if Bush and Rove actually had a strategy for governing or whether compassionate conservatism was just their buzzword for power-grabbing. But either way, if it was genuinely intended it failed.

But back to the beginning thread. American conservative exceptionalism. American conservatism is not traditional conservatism. The Americans who were originally republican, small r, e.g. a Jefferson--what used to be liberal and republican are now reversed essentially. Hamilton, a classical liberal, would be today a Wall Street Republican.

In other words from the beginning all of them, whether Federalist or states rights, classical liberal or classical republican, all were not traditionalists.

Traditional European conservatism supported the ancien regime. It was a supporter of an aristocratic, medieval strict hierarchy. "Blue" bloods as it were. Edmund Burke, in his reflections on the French Revolution spelled out European conservatism: alliance with aristocracy, old guard, holding to traditions (like Church of England) to tamp down the mobs. His ideas on individual progress and skepticism certainly entered American conservative thought, but not his adherence to the old European order not as much.

In integral-speak all of the Founding Fathers were orange and by definition revolutionaries. Even if they were by our standards "conservatives" they were conservative revolutionaries. And that pardoxically mix of conservative, skeptical revolution is one of the key ingredients to understanding the American political experience and its divergence particularly nowadays with other Western liberal democracies.

Monday, December 25, 2006

America: The New Atlantis

Some thoughts on the connection between spiritual awakening and the American mytheme.

Jim Garrison interviewed by Jim Shapiro of Lightworks:

I asked the question, who was the first person in history in Europe to really understand the magnitude of what was going to happen in North America? There’ve been thousands of nations. There’ve been maybe 20 or 25 empires and there’s two that have emerged to the front rank of empire. That was Rome 2000 years ago and America today. The aggregation of power is so immense, that you’ve got to ask some deeper questions about how it happened here. Why did it happen here as opposed to Russia or China or Brazil? So I went back to the history books and asked the question, “Who was it? What was the original visionary imprint of what became the United States of America?” It came actually from Francis Bacon, who was one of the great mystics of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He wrote a book right before he died that was unpublished because he died very soon thereafter, called New Atlantis. He believed and asserted that the North American Indians were the survivors and descendants of the original Atlantean civilization, and he called to mind that Atlantis had risen to global power and then been destroyed because of its hubris. So whatever was going to be built in North America would be Atlantean in its basic archetypal pattern and destiny path, and at some point it was going to rise to the level global dominion. Then it would, like ancient Atlantis, have to make a choice between power for the sake of service and power for the sake of more power, and as it decided, the fate of the world would be determined.

It’s also worth remembering that the founding fathers of the United States, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, etc., were all Masons and Rosicrucians. They were all students of Bacon. They believed that what they were creating was the new Atlantis, the new Israel, the new Rome, the new Athens, and they consciously set forth to build a nation around light and power. Look on the back of a dollar bill and see the pyramid and the all-seeing Eye of Horus. It’s important for Americans to understand that we were born out of a mystical vision of human perfection that was basically Atlantean in its impulse. So the challenge today is to reconnect with the Wisdom Tradition that gave rise to Atlantis, that gave rise to the United States of America, and that is ultimately an esoteric pursuit.


This reading is controversial, so I'll just put that out up front.

This reading of the American Revolution and Founding involves concepts ususally foreign to historical/political analysis: e.g. mystical states and consciousness development. I don't believe everything is reduced to Spirit, states, etc, but I do not believe that the creative moment that was the US Constitution could have come into being without some connection to the deeper Source of the Universe.

Francis Bacon's New Atlantis--which you can read in its entirety here--equated America with the Atlanteans. The issue is not whether there was a real Atlantis or not, the issue is the mythic force and worldview behind that claim. America was to be Atlantean. By that Garrison means, imperial, global, beyond imagination in scope and power.

And so the US is. The greatest power in the history of the human race; I mean in terms of sheer power not necessarily qualitatively the greatest. And more importantly the lone country founded on a political theology--with a Sacred contract as Caroline Myss says. Read Bush's second inaugural address. The policy of the US is to found a new order for the ages (novus ordo seclorum, or as his father put it "A New World Order", see the back of any US $1 bill). It is the policy of this country to promote democracy at all times in all places.

Take China for example. A rising world-power, so to be more or less co-equal power to the US, but it has no such mission to the world. It is not going about trying to create Chinese style capitalism and one party rule the world over.

The US is meant to be the last imperial power in history--the transition between imperialism and post-imperial reality (a new order of the ages). That is why FDR and Truman spent so much time establishing US dominance (imperial) through institutions like WTO, UN, NATO, etc.
Bush II's main failure has been to think America was now at a point where it could do whatever it pleased to achieve that mythic agenda without the institutions. He did not see that people to be on board with this need to feel that it serves them. Hence as in Rome, citizenry extended through force of arms. Citizenry in this case meaning economic citizenry in the global oikos.

Atlantis was built on light. On the capturing of light (consciousness as power). The picture on the back of the dollar of the pyramid with the All-Seeing Eye of Horus is a Masonic image. Bacon was read by the Fathers. America became Atlantean because they saw Bacon as correct and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Founding Fathers/Brothers were as Charles Beard said "self-interested men". As I put it, they were both revolutionaries/visionaries as well as self-interested men. Self-interested meaning that they had a certain social agenda of supporting their own gentry class.

David Noble's Religion of Technology placed the Fathers within the line of technology as a way of restoring the image of God in fallen man--from John Scotus Eriugena through the original stone-cutting masons of the Medieval period to the Fathers to engineers of today. Again this piece placed with Beard signifies the ways in which the more mystico-esoteric side of the Fathers (read an account of George Washington's mystical vision at Valley Forge here)--in which their mysticism/emergent depth of consciousness was translated.

Now the translation was perhaps inevitable given the life conditions they existed in. But it is worth asking I think whether they are still valid and if so how far? And are there dark sides to the vision--for any light there must be shadow. What would these be?

The vision of human perfection (restoration of Godly image within fallen man) is perhaps the most controversial. Because is the perfection brought about by human effort, divine providence, a combination of the two? Were Americans specially chosen--did that mean others were not? Was this chosenness, if that is what it is, to be for service or domination (or both)?

And will we ever actually get there--the pyramid is cleaved with the apex separated from the body. This could be construed to mean an elite at the top are forever split from the population who will serve their bidding. Remember pyramids were built by slaves. Is the image then a symbol of slavery to the ideal of perfection (which can never be reached anyway)?

And correlative to the issue of human perfection going along with this theme of elite egalitarianism is the fear that this system will prescribe social engineering. Conspiracy theorists play off this fear. What happens when the egalitarianism is not embraced, when the people do not want freedom (as in Free-Mason)? [Insert your own Iraq reference here].

The Fathers were part of a strange movement. They were pioneers of a new depth which allowed for a greater embrace (worldcentric in nature) but which saw itself as undoing all hierarchies. It was I call "elite egalitarianism". The elite elements come in the self-interest, gentry class, Atlantean vision. The egalitarian elements: human rights, political freedoms, and the republic.

The modern worldview the fathers held to existed prior the realization of the co-construction of human consciousness through biology, linguistic upbringing, social-economic-cultural heritage. John Locke, another influential philosopher on the FFathers believed the human mind was a blank slate that society could write upon. This view translates today into, among other things, neuro-pharmacology and the rise of psychotropic drugs for children.

Locke and the modern empiricists did not understand that human nature is not blank and malleable. Humans evolve in worldspaces through lines of development with multiple stages--determined to greater or lesser degrees to the edge of conscious evolution at any time on the curve.

So there are definite downsides, but I see Myss' point as that those who are born American [minus indigenous population or brought into/attacted to the American vision are sourced in this myth. We can't get around it. We have to learn how to make ourselves aware of it, come back as Garrison says into the space, the power source of their vision for the future.

Because the Republic has gone astray--and I'm not just blaming George Bush although he certainly has his part to play. Of course this kind of discussion is verboten and the best that likely can be hoped for is a politician who can bring a measure of pragmatism, general sense of unity and bridge political divides to the country.

This kind of reading is radical; it cuts through and across party and political lines. It will be considered spooky or mystical (in a very bad sense) and certainly in no way is meant to be the final and all consuming reading of the events.

Just that I think, as radical, it goes to the root--it is the deepest in my mind.

The Purpose Driven Gospel of America

Couple of posts on America, American religion, conservatism in America that I've been working on.

As an introduction, a really fine chat on American religious belief with Rick Warren and Jon Meacham on the Meet the Press. Warren author of the best-selling hardback book in the history of the US(!!!), The Purpose Driven Life. Meachem, religion editor at Newsweek, and author of American Gospel.

I don't agree with Warren on all isues (esp. gay and lesbian issues), but the man is a genuine human being and Christian. He really loves and really is setting the stage for the future of progressive evangelism. Evangelical Americans are on the cutting edge of AIDS, poverty, justice, and security for Africa.

Warren has taken a lot of heat from more conservative evangelical elements for his work on AIDS--because and his wife have the temerity to want to treat sick people without from the beginning telling them ethically how to live. As in: I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was dying of AIDS and you gave me medicine.

They discuss a number of issues--Meacham is very good on the Founders vision of dis-establishment, their religious values, their belief in the moral upkeep of the nation, etc. Worth a listen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Eve of Xmas

Isaiah 35:1-10

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2itshall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, themajesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Bestrong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will comeand save you."

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then the lame shall leap like adeer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams inthe desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackalsshall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8A highway shall be there, and it shall be calledthe Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, butthe redeemed shall walk there. 10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing;everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

This passage, from Second Isaiah, originally was written in the context of the Jewish Exile in Babylon (6th century BC). Isaiah says that God will bring the ransomed--those tested and brought through the trial of exile--back to Zion (Jerusalem). After the long and harsh trials and time of chastisement put upon the people God has relented and will bring them back with joy. For the Lord ever breaks down in order to build up.

Christians then read in this passage a message concerning Jesus Christ. Of course Isaiah himself wasn't referring to Jesus and didn't prophetically "see" him 500 years into the future. But it is still one reading, legitimate as it creates a community of faith.

Christians celebrate the birth of their Lord on December 25th as a way of embracing and giving meaning (or co-opting depending on pov) the pagan festival of the Solstice. The Gospel says nothing about Jesus being born on December 25th. That was a later interpretation given by the Church.

The Solstice was the time of the lowest point of sunlight. From then on the sun is ascendant. Symbolically the light overcomes the darkness (Gospel of John). It is related to the ancient fertility rites of the King/Hero-God overcoming the forces of chaos/winter (Marduk slays Tiamat, Mithras sacrifices the Bull, Yahweh God kills the sea-monster Leviathan).

As the Psalms say, "The Lord reigns." It is not an abstract principle but a cultic ritual and expression of devotion to the Lord. The Lord reigns, alleluia.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks of a way, a highway ofor the Lord. This is a theme common in the tradition of Deuteronomy: following God as the Way (The Tao in Chinese). The originals Christians were not called Christians but rather followers of the Way. To depart from the way was not moralistic but rather an objective statement of consequences. Depart neither from the left or the right.

But this way Christians also see as a reference to the salvation of all--the way is so wide even the fool can not go astray. God comes with vengeance and recompense to bring salvation to the captives.

As Jesus first programmatic speech, according to the Gospel of Luke, quotes Isaiah: I have come to open the eyes of the blind...

The Lord reigns. It is not just a fertility rite that the Lord has overcome winter so we can have crops and babies. The Lord reigns to bring justice, overflowing water in the dry desert of human misery and injustice.

This hellish realm of pain and suffering. This realm of humans murdering humans, corpses and strewn body parts. The forces of hatred and war, of poverty, of billions of our brothers and sisters crying out from the abyss and we respond not. We care not for their misery. The way of the unclean who follow not the precepts of the Creator.

And yet we proclaim a God who comes to us in our pathetic-ness. Our cold hearted obstinacy, self-righteousness, cynicism, apathy, and sin. A God who reigns. But for the Christians a God who reigns via powerlessness.

A God who is born among blood and entrails, covered in puss and mucus. A God who defecates on himself and has to have his excrement wiped off by another. A God of day laborers, not the rich and elite well educated. A God who spends time with smelly illiterate fishermen, prostitutes, widows, tax collectors, and the poor. A God who humanity constantly shuts out--there is never room in our inner inns for the Lord, for devotion to the Almighty. A God who exists only in the backalleys and mangers of existence.

A God murdered.

This is the insane reason we rejoice on this Eve.

War in Somalia/Ethiopia

The Iraq War has become the Spanish Civil War for this century. The Spanish Civil War was a testing ground for both Communists and Fascists for the upcoming Second World War. Picasso's Guernica is a protest against the bombing by the Fascists of a small strategically unimportant town as target practice for the Nazi's eventual blitzkreig across the Continent.

[And just so we don't think only Nazis did that, the United States firebombed Dresden, Germany another strategically unimportant city near the end of the European phase of WWII, as practice for techniques the Americans would be using against the Japanese. Most people remember that the US dropped two atomic weapons on Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki); what is less remembered is that the US firebombed (on firebombing here) Tokyo, Kobe, just about every large and even not so large Japanese city.]

The techniques learned by the insugents in Iraq fighting the Americans has become the Spanish Civil War--a showcase, a preview--of what is to come in the next iteration of warfare (some call 5th Generation).

The practice of suicide bombing, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), de-centralization, open-source warfare, and attack systems and infrastructure is the new name of the game.

The large uptick in violence in Afghanistan occurred only after the Taliban adopted techniuqes from the Iraqi insurgents, most notably the dreaded suicide attack. This is a new phase of guerilla insurgency, which is why when President launches a troop surge under the recommendations of former Gen. Keane--who called for classical counterinsurgency methods--it will fail to achieve the goals setout.

Not only have these techniques spread to Afghanistan, but terrorism against foreign oil is on the rise in Nigeria, and now the Somalia and Ethiopian war predicted has begun.

Story from NYTimes (Sun) here. Islamists in Somalia control most of the country, but Ethiopia (with backing from US) support the government essentially in exile.

Ethiopia is a historically Christian nation; Somalia Muslim. This war could be a preview of the damage to come on the sub-Saharan continent from the de-centralization of violence and warfare to come.

The Global War on Terror is heading to sub-Saharan Africa, which gets little play in the press because of the focus on Iraq, Iran, Israel-Palestine, etc. But peace in the Middle East is only the freeing up of fighting the war in Africa. In a nod to this realization, the US has split Africa off from Middle East in terms of Command posts.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Robert DeNiro on SNL, suspected terrorists

Robert DeNiro gives a "list of suspected terrorists" on SNL.

This is great.

Are We Running Out of Oil? Or Gaining More? Or both?

Following up on my argument against Malthus and the Limits to Growth a piece from Newsweek on the state of oil. Read here.

The author has a vested interest; he is an energy business. Nevertheless I still think it is a very important voice in the debate.

Long but key quote:

Now doomsday forecasts are back, predicting the end of oil in this decade or the next. The verdict of the new catastrophists may appear more convincing because they use statistical and probability models that appear to penetrate the mysteries of our planet's subsoil. In fact, they do no such thing. In sum, what little is known about the world's underground resources justifies a positive view of the future.

Historically, high oil prices have always led to booming investment and a slowdown in consumption, and this is exactly what we are seeing today. Investors are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into energy, from conventional oil to unconventional oil (tar sands, shale oil) to all its alternatives, from natural gas to biofuels and liquefied coal. In other words, high prices are not necessarily bad news for the global economy, because they are boosting innovation and efficiency while encouraging conservation. In industrial nations, estimates of growth in demand for oil are falling for 2006 and could come in flat, as even American drivers turn their backs on gas-guzzling vehicles.

Still, no one can be sure how long this era will last. Given our fundamental ignorance of what lies below, the best bet is that the oil market will remain cyclical, characterized by boom-and-bust periods, for decades. We are in a period of high prices similar to the '70s, yet there are critical differences. Today more than 90 percent of oil reserves are under the control of producing countries, many embracing a policy of resource nationalism. Aimed at sustaining prices, this nationalist tendency could choke off new development. It could also raise the already growing tension we see between producing and consuming nations, pitting the West against Russia, the United States against Venezuela and so on. Put simply, the oil problem is not beneath the surface but above it.

Yet the perception that we are running out of oil retains such a deep hold on the popular psyche, it's worth correcting. The reason we have seen so many bad guesstimates is that even the most advanced technology can't tell us how much crude the Earth holds. No method has been devised to search for new reserves with precision, or even to gauge the true size of known reservoirs. While the mainstream view is that oil resources are finite, no one knows just how finite they are.

There are other voices involved. For an opposing view see here. Just look up peak-oil for a number of well argued (though possibly flawed) pieces on the subject. But I take with a major skeptical mind predictions of the end of oil given the history: repeated cycles of bad predictions.

Moreover, the predictions have usually been wrong because they do not take account that during periods of high price (due to high demand and low supply, even if artificially low as per OPEC), investment brings better technologies which then finds new wells, extracts better from the ones already known, etc. I imagine the truth will lie somewhere in between the rosy and gloom-doom projections of these opposing viewpoints.

Also environmental. Is simply getting more oil and burning it good for the earth? Don't think so, but I do think the only way is forward. I'm for personal choice of de-consumption and also open to taxation on consumption as long as it balanced (and actually drawn down) by an equal if not greater reduction of earnings/savings/investment taxation.

I'm also hugely in favor of tax-breaks revoked for oil companies and given instead to renewable starts and investment. On a huge scale. I'd much rather focus on developing alternative sources than simply trying to limit current consumption patterns (green) thereby slowing down economic growth (orange)--see the economies of Europe for example.

Part of the argument against a Malthus, I believe, has to do with Eros in the universe. Not a mainstream argument I know. In terms of a projection of future evolution based on past evidence--not some metaphysical belief--the human race is headed towards a hydrogen economy.

Human technology has been on a trend towards de-carbonization and inc'd hydrogenization for a long time.


Wood has 10 atoms carbons for 1 atom of hydrogen. Coal, 1~2 Carbon for 1 hydrogenOil, 1 carbon for 2 hydrogenNatural Gas, 1 carbon for 4 hydrogen.

Eventually the trendline suggests a pure hydrogen economy.

Now I'm not saying it is all going to be sweetness and light in the meantime. I'm very concerned (but not anxious) about possible negative outcomes, particularly for the poor of the Earth in tropical zones, due to carbon emissions, ecological/climate change, etc.

In the long term I agree that the trendline (which is different than predictions of how much oil is in the ground--there Crichton's arguments about the impossibility of precise prediction hold), that is the evolutionary trajectory, point towards a Singularity or Singularity-like event in the technological sphere.

Given that I hold to a quadratic-holarchic view the Singularity event represents a moment of choice whose effects could be very profound, both positively and/or negatively. In other words the biggest issue for the planet, I believe, continues to be the stuck nature of interior development (individual and collective) with increasing speed of the evolution of the exterior technological-economic spheres.

The diffusion of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous evil faced currently on the planet. But by the time of the Singularity (mid-century) nuclear bombs will not nearly be the most dangerous thing on the planet. That is a sobering thought. More deadly will be biological, nanotechnological, or perhaps rogue robotic technologies.

At that point we will be long past I imagine arguments about oil.

Wilber doesn't know evolution--or so we are told again

Frank Visser has re-posted an essay by David Lane entitled Wilber and the Misunderstanding of Evolution (here).

It involves the charge that Wilber misrepresents biological evolution/doesn't understand it and therefore his whole theory--a union of evolution in all quadrants, fails. I get really tired of this thread, so I'm posting this long one to finally be done with it.

Lane quotes a now infamous passage from A Brief History of Everything where Wilber writes the following:

Take the standard notion that wings simply evolved from forelegs. It takes perhaps a hundred mutations to produce a functional wing from a leg—a half-wing will not do. A half-wing is no good as a leg and no good as a wing—you can't run and you can't fly. It has no adaptive value whatsoever. In other words, with a half-wing you are dinner. This will work only if these hundred mutations happen all at once in one animal—and also these same mutations must occur simultaneously in another animal of the opposite sex, and then they have somehow find each other, have dinner, a few drinks, mate, and have offspring with real functional wings.

This view is then shown to be wrong via quotations from Dawkins which states that yes in fact there are half-eyes and half-wings in evolution. Lane repeatedly substitutes creationists--who are Dawkins real target--with Wilber. He even calls Wilber "more or less a closet creationist with Buddhist leanings".

Buddhists don't believe in a Creator God so by definition they can not be "creationists". I would have thought a philosophy professfor would know that. But sadly I guess not.

Creationists believe in a literal 6,000 year young earth. Please show me Ken Wilber believes the universe is only 6,000 years old. What Lane means, I think, is something more like intelligent design (ID): the belief that the universe is designed by a Creator.

Intelligent Designers are not held to a 6,000 year old earth; most believe in a standard timeframe for earth (4.5 billion years) and the universe (13-15 billion years). Others have charged Wilber is a ID-er, which is at least better than a creationist. Still wrong, but not that stupid.

The problem is that the two camps are conflated in both the media and the scientific community, where both are seen as anathema. Both creationism and ID use similar criticisms of the partiality of NeoDarwinian explanations as the total causal explanation of all evolution. So in that sense the two groups sometimes line up but their differences are vast.

Wilber however is neither of these. Even "theologically" Wilber is a Buddhist. So no Creator no Intelligent Designer. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. The closest it has to a "creator" is the law of dependent co-orgination and the skandhas.

Wilber does hold given the evidence, of all kinds biological as well as phenomenological and psychological, points to evolution in all domains (quadrants) and that these domains arise simultaneously and that there are emergent qualities in all domains--including the biological--that can not be predicted by the sum total of the preceding parts.

That is what he was getting at with the wing bit--right general idea wrong supporting detail.

So to clear up some confusion. The wing analogy is all wrong and the rhetoric around "simply" and "no one believes this" is no good.

That being said, a couple of points: 1--it's an old work ('96), but to be fair that is the same year Lane wrote this piece. That Visser is re-publishing now leaves questions marks given Wilber has written--albeit not much--in his latest work Integral Spirituality.

footnote on p.241

Proponents of ID [Intelligent Design] have on truth on their side: scientific materialism cannot explain all of evolution (it can explain pretty much everything except major holistic transformational leaps). With that I quite agree. But all that is required to get and keep evolution moving forward is a minimalist Eros (as an involutionary given). This force of creative advance into novelty is one form of Spirit-in-action, and that Eros is all that is then required for evolutionary theory to work just fine. That's why evolution shows so many fits and starts; it's a creative artwork not an intelligent engineering product (because if so the Engineer is an idiot). The proponents of ID parlay their one little truth [i.e. incompleteness of NeoDarwinianism as a total explanation] into the demand that the Jehovah of Genesis be that Eros, and there is not the slightest evidence for that anywhere in heaven or on earth."

That's fairly clear, particulary the Designer is an Idiot. So no more closet creationists, Wilber is an ID-er, etc. He (and I since I strongly agree with this formulation) might be wrong: that is there may not be interiority, inter-interiority, and/or evolution in those domains but let's get the debate right.

I think Wilber has taken the half-wing criticism without maybe admitting as such--although that could just be my reading. I took his saying that Neo-Darwinism explains in material evolution pretty much everything but emergent leaps to be a re-worded view on the matter (if not slightly amended).

NeoDarwinianism is the combination of Darwin's writings on natural and sexual selection working through survival of the fittest with Mendelian genetics (called in the language random mutation).

As I written elsewhere there is a lot of philosophy in all this. Darwin got his notion of survival of the fittest and population pressures from British economist Thomas Malthus who was the first of many who predicted that growth would be outpaced by population/consumption leading to periods of breakdown. Malthus on this point has been continually wrong--down to his modern day followers the Club of Rome (1970 report: The Limits to Growth) and more alarmist type environmentalists.

It could happen but hasn't yet. So in that sense we might hold that idea of Darwin's with a bit of salt. Darwin got his sense that evolution worked through uniform processes over long periods of time from the contemporary study of geology.

We now know that this theory (gradual uniformitarianism) is incomplete. It is a product of the tendency towards non-historical, non-dynamic nature of the orange worldspace. Higher order science, like complexity and chaos theories has shown that massive fluctuations, changes, mass extinctions, etc. do take place. This thinking, minus Stephen Jay Gould, Stuart Kauffman and Manfred Eigen & followers, not really sunk in to the biological community. Certainly not in a Dawkins who is still very much a gradualist and is representative of the main tradition in how biology is taught.

Darwin was also a member of the English landed class. His emphasis on individual survival, seen in his British modern day version Dawkins, is not unconnected to the Anglo tradition of individual rights and Lockean atomism as opposed to continental communalism/wholism.

And the big one the metaphysics (the belief system) that natural explanations explain everything. No piece of evidence in the material world discovered through the scientific process proves that all evidence is so found. That such pieces of evidence are the only ones in existence. It is a mind that is telling you that minds aren't real.

So all of these show not Darwin was wrong but limited in many many ways. Philosophical, political, and economic biases are involved and are still to this day. These subjects can not be raised--believe me I have tried--with such people because they threaten their worldview. Not their best insights just their partiality but it is an all-encompassing ideology when it comes from science and natural discovery to a system of belief (scientism).

The strongest evidence of the Eros is something like how the first individual of a new species is never found in the fossil record but rather a whole population just emerges in the record. NeoDarwinian (ND) biology can explain "pretty much everything" except how a population emerges. Wilber's quadrants simply say that they do and says there is creative novelty/Eros, mystery to the process.

Or the more basic fact that if evolution only proceeds by random mutation over long uniform periods of time, the mathetmatics doesn't work out. Statistically the amount of complexity is too fast for the age of the earth and how long we know life has been on this planet. It can not account for the increased speed of evolution.

And lastly of course it can not account, no matter how hard it tries, for consciousness, human invention, choice, etc.

ND isn't wrong--there are "selfish genes" as well as "Global Brains"--it just isn't satisfactory as an explanation for everything. By focusing only on batwing issues, materialists can leave completely untouched the issue about emergence, creative novelty, advance, whatever term is preferred.

Wilber was wrong about the half-wings, therefore all such thinking against ND evolution is crypto-creationist, hence the position is unassailable. That's about the level of sophistication of the analysis. All of which hides the pink elephant in the room: orders of complexity. That emergent properties arise that are not predictable by the sum of their parts.

Which then leads to another incident from June of this year on this same subject through Visser's site. The original article with corrects from Jim Chamberlain here. Chamberlain's main point is that Wilber in a recorded concall that was circulated in response to arguments Ken should get a "F" in evolutionary biology, cited mainstream experts Richard Lewontin and Ernst Mayr to support Wilber's views on evolution. The authors in question, via quotes from Chamberlain, are shown to directly contradict Wilber's position.

Which is true, neither of those men, would support a quadratic-Whiteheadian approach to evolution. However, that was never the point, which Jim missed. Wilber used those authors simply to say whether in biology (materialist or not) there is hierarchy/emergence. The answer is yes. That Wilber has a different view from them was never specifically stated by him but clear (at least to me) from his writings. I mean I read Mayr and I read Wilber and its real obvious if you compare them Mayr does not accept the quadrants/interiority.

Chamberlain then also misquoted Ken which got an acerbic response from Wilber. Chamberlain I think just actually screwed up and was not purposefully out to get Ken. Wilber I think was more targeting Visser's site, which is a source of information as well as disinformation concerning his writing--at least from his point of view, which I happen to agree with. I can see the point. If it were just a site where people wrote whatever they wanted and it was a nerdy exercise that would be one thing, but these ideas do travel through the blogsophere. Everyone remembers the critique and why (in this case) Wilber is wrong, never the critiquer. In Ken's words there is no accountability. Even Mark Edwards, one of the best of his critiques (and admirers) says Wilber shouldn't have to respond to the articles on the site--Edwards being one of the primary contributors btw--because they aren't vetted.

But anyway, Wilber's response to Chamberlain is here. I'm not so much interested in Wilber's views on how the site should be run and how the reader should approach it, but his response to the actual issue: the quoting of Mayr-Lewontin. Wilber writes (emphasis mine):

I will briefly touch on one point that has also been raised elsewhere, and that is whether I have claimed that mainstream biology supports my views. The answer is, what part of my views? Do I think Mayr or Dawkins or Lewontin or Kaufman believe in telos or Eros that is Spiritual in any way? Absolutely not. Virtually all mainstream theorists embrace scientific materialism. So when I say that there are leading-edge problems acknowledged by these theorists, I certainly do not mean that they believe those problems need a spiritual Eros to solve them, nor a transcendental Eros embedded in evolution, nor even a self-organizing drive. Again, virtually all of them believe the problems can also be fully (or certainly mostly) solved by more scientific materialism and physicalism. Whatever I might have said in conversations in hyperbolic style, I would never soberly claim that mainstream biology is anything but physicalist. In fact, next to physics, molecular biology is the great example of reductionism in the last two centuries.

I am simply saying that most mainstream biologists accept that there are problems and issues at the leading edge of their science, and I am saying that I recognize the same leading-edge problems that they do, but at that point we quickly part ways—virtually all of them believe those issues can be fully solved using scientific materialism, and I of course do not accept that quadrant absolutism and gross reductionism, but rather introduce a transcendent-immanent principle that is quite similar to Erich Jantsch’s idea, which he states as “evolution is self-organization through self-transcendence.” Of course, you find some daring scientists who go in that non-reductionistic direction, such as Erich Jantsch and, more recently, James Gardner’s Biocosm and Michael Ruse’s The Evolution Wars: A Guide to the Debate, with a foreword by Edward O. Wilson. But not mainstream biology. I am claiming agreement in that one specific way, but I am certainly not claiming that we both accept the same solutions—they go reductionistic and I clearly do not. (I was confused for a while here as to what the real criticism was, because I didn’t imagine somebody would think I actually thought that mainstream biology agreed that Spirit was involved in the show….)

So for God's sakes, could from now one I would really like people to deal with the primary issues--not bat wings--is consciousness explainable by physical processes only or not? if not, can consciousness forms be reconstructed through investigation? If so, does it show development/patterns of evolution (as well as non-evolutionary patterns).

What piece of evidence in the material world shows that only material things are real? What piece of evidence in the material world shows that material relations/interactions are the cause of everything?

Scientific materialists have a vested interest in keeping the debate be only between them and creationists/intelligent designers. And usually even reducing ID to creationism. It creates a false duality between the obviously enlightened scientists and the ignorant flat-earther types. Then open-minded non-scientists are forced to admit that the materialists must be right.

But it is a false duality and they are promoting it in order to serve their function of evangelizing a naturalist-atheistic point of view. It is a religious argument. Recall that in James Fowler's research of the Stages of Faith development, atheism is a modernist (orange altitude) faith system.

It is higher than mythic blue faith but on the same plane as orange level agnosticism and theism/deism. As well as transcended by still higher levels. [Although to be fair there is green atheism, yellow atheism, etc. in the case of a Harris or Dawkins it is almost entirely orange].

So it is incumbent for them to reduce all religious discourse to the level lower than them--although they would not formulate it in the way I am speaking.

Hence with this crowd it is all or nothing--the true sign of first-tier mentality--either it is a naturalistic position or supernatural mythic beliefs. Developed (post-blue) Christianity is not supernaturalistic. It moves to seeing God as Tillich said, as the Ground of Being. Or as Aquinas put it as Being, Per Se Being. The Possibility of all things to be and become. Not an old man in the sky launching lightning bolts at the unbelievers.

The way I put it, the reason the materialist scientist community must do this is obvious: they unconsciously realize their weakness. They know if someone in public spoke in a more Whiteheadian/Teilhardian fashion it would gain serious play. Such people could not be labeled irrational supernaturalists.

I hold that such a holarchic view--for the moment not mattering whether it is quadrants, sextants, single-scale, whatever--overcomes this false duality between mythic religion and materialist science. I use those adjectives very purposefully--so the issue is not construed as religion and science but those versions of each.

Holarchy, interior and exterior however conceived, is better science and better religion.