Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I'm Sorry American History Offends You

I'm not terribly surprised that some pundits went off about President Obama referencing the ills done in Christianity's name in pointing out that the atrocities of ISIL are a result of people hijacking the name of religion to sanctify the evil they do to humanity. I'm sure the subtlety of the point missed them entirely--even some liberals thought the remarks were a misstep. But what I appreciate is that he is telling the Bog-honest truth.

I'm an atheist in practice and theory. I'm not a great one--I guess I'd be considered a "faitheist" because I still hold truck with aspects of spirituality and the life invisible, and derive moral inspiration in some of what has been written by proponents of various faiths--but on the whole, my use for organized religion is very slim and my sense that one's own dealing with matters of the soul is one's own damn business on account of one being born and dying alone pretty much settle it for me. I've never been especially angry at the "Old Man in the Sky" image people boil Himself down to. I just take it for granted that if there is a universal intelligence, I'm a cog compared to it, and even if I'm being the best little cog I can be, my opinions on the matter don't count for a lot. But being an atheist means I am well and truly exposed to the anti-religion POV. And that means a nice soaking in history and its evils--including the part religion plays.

ISIL, as I've pointed out previously, is way more nihilist than anything else. This recent burning alive of a Jordanian pilot has been declared un-Islamic by clerics. The actions of groups like ISIL or Boko Haram need to be alienated from the whole religion they are making a mockery of because it is within Islam that any reformative action against extremism needs to be made.

The quote regarding the Crusades, I am sure, is not what rankled much Christianist ire. Although it is the case that the saying "Kill them all and let God sort them out" came from the Crusades. The Catholic massacre of the Cathars stands out in my mind as a sore point of Christian barbarity. The various Inquisitions (there were more than one, in several principalities, throughout Europe, and lo and behold, there were even Protestant ones--for example in Ireland) involved torture and even sometimes burning people alive. History is fucking brutal and we descended from apes. Shit is flung and backs get broken with stones (peine forte et dure). So what? The enlightened Roman Republic put down a slave rebellion and warned off other slaves (one of every three people--is that mad?) by crucifying the army of Spartacus, lining the Appian Way with six thousand bodies. The Empire that followed even crucified a Palestinian Jew in a way we still gawk about two thousand years later.

No--it's the business about slavery being preached from the US pulpits--as it was, and segregation being preached from the pulpits, which it was, that might have moved some believers to shame.

Let unbelieving me set you straight, Christian soldiers--it was Christian abolitionists, and Christian ministers who put their bodies on the line in nonviolent protest of racism who set our house right again. Those travesties about human dignity masquerading as the word of the Lord were squashed, eventually, by the power of people guided by faith. This isn't a dig against Christianity in America, but a story about how people did overcome. As it needs to be for today's Muslims who are fearful about their present need to overcome the stupidity and violence of extremists like ISIL, who faithlessly use the word of God to justify arbitrary and publically disgusting displays of disregard for human life.

We can not look at religion alone as the culprit in this evolving story about how we live on this planet together. And I'm also sorry, American public, but if you want to be offended by beheadings and men burned alive, you need to swallow what daisy cutter bombs, and the next-gen napalm and white phosphorus contraption called the Mark 77 did to Iraqis, and understand that a society in constant war since the early 1960's probably does have a perspective about violence, knowledge of it, intimacy with it, that we don't. We lost the moral high road with Abu Ghraib and Fallujah--don't actually try and pretend the moral battle got lost when President Obama pointed out that our shit stinks, too. It's just a fact.

I wish more people were historically literate enough that this shit did not have to be constantly explained, but I guess it does. I apologize for President Obama as one of his voters--he thought everyone was better informed.  I know people aren't.


Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, actually you don't strike me as an atheist at all. The limited interaction we have had suggests to me that you are sort of a pessimistic transcendentalist. Think of Emerson after a 3-day drunk, nursing a very bad hangover.

When I was in the civil rights movement I knew people in the Southern Leadership Conference (MLK's organization). One of my best friends was a Presbyterian minister. To look at him and talk to him you would have thought he was just another hippy. (Presbyterians believe in predestination.) Christianity was all over the civil rights movement. Regrettably, the high motives in that earlier period did not translate into today's activists.

President Obama should have known better than to make such a ridiculous contention.

The Crusades remark was utterly flabbergasting Frankly, it's the kind of thing one expects and anticipates with 17-year-olds or college students who are starting to become aware of a lot of paradoxes in history. Good for some rap sessions in the dorm. However, for the president of the United States to try to advance this as a legitimate argument in a public forum, surrounded by a roomful of people who have studied religion for their entire careers, suggests a level of thoughtlessness that is unexpected.

I can say some banal things in my living room or down at the local tavern that would never pass muster at a public event with an intelligent and sophisticated audience judging me by the thoughts I express.

Let me look at this from an unusual angle. An egregore is really the designation of the mana inside of a thought form or artificial elemental.

It would require a lecture to explain what and egregore and its effects.

Suffice it to say that an egregore is similar on one side of its meaning to the psychological idea of a group mind, somewhat like the idea of a corporate culture. In a corporation you pick up a common language, a common set of ideas, and all this creating a kind of groupthink sealed by the office of corporate identification and trademark.

The Western egregore has been losing strength because modern intellectuals have been deconstructing many of the platforms in the thoughtform.

Secular ideas disavow the existence of God. Secular ideas explore the relativity of cultures: their ingredients, their motives, and their intentions. Secular ideas encourage the diminishment of Western institutions.

Now I am not saying that some of these modern ideas have merit or not. I'm saying it takes the ingredients of the American thought form or elemental and changes it or weakens it, which may or may not have something to be said for it.

However egregores compete, and after their own fashion fight on their own plane of existence. And when we run into the archaic egregore that is Islam, swelled with fervency, devotion, and psychic inflation, then that egregore is at least temporarily very strong while the Western egregore is becoming weaker. Naturally this makes the Western egregore more susceptible to defeat as so many national egregores have been throughout history.

The US and the Western world need to strengthen its egregore, not weaken it. And it is not impossible that somebody's granddaughters will be wearing burkas or get beheaded. Now we are relying on the egregore of another Islamic nation, Jordan, to have the strength and will to carry on the fight.

It would be good if the president were less sympathetic with the thought forms related to Islam and more sympathetic to the ingredients that make up the US egregore. We have chosen a very bad time in which to elect a president who challenges some of the basic underpinnings of Western life. That sort of thing is best done when the egregore is strong and there are not outside challenges wishing to make war on you.

Vixen Strangely said...

My drunks are generally nightly affairs, culminating in blissfully short hangovers. My engagement with whatever "it" is is pretty individualistic, though, although I never thought of it as transcendentalist. And usually, my introspection is pretty Thoureau.

It's only the last administration before this that a handful of people gasped over the term "Crusade' being used by GWB and Bush himself maintain cordial relationships as absolutely necessary with meaningful partners in the Middle East, like our current partners in Jordan, and like our long-term, even if well-criticizable partners in Saudi Arabia (whose possible relationship with al-Qaeda as suggested by Moussawi may give us pause.)

I have a hard time saying that Obama understands America, because I only do a little better because my education was more middle-class--and I only just get it. It's true, he doesn't even have a good focus-group to run a truth statement against to see how it will respond--I think he weirdly believes making a statement will get people to deal with the statement they heard.

We are deceived if we try to apply the reaction of a middle-American egregore to the reaction of the world as a whole. Obama's audience isn't the National Prayer Breakfast. It's all over the world. How Obama's words play on people who "studied religion their whole careers" doesn't affect me so much as how it plays on people who studied the religion that wasn't represented there and is followed by the people not just as a matter of faith, but a matter of political determination for their whole lives.

My post references how Christian anti-abolitionists and Christian anti-segregationists had to do their part to rectify the injustices of the past--the house of Islam will need to do the same. But fashioning a response for the sliver of Americans who need to hear a statement like "Islam mostly bad and Christians mostly good" strengthens an egregore most unnecessary--division.

Such Breaks further a struggle that is unnecessarily broken into geography incompatible with a round planet, like East and West. Is Japan more or less a part of the West? What direction is civilization's true Qiblah anyway? Our war isn't with Islam, but Fundamentalism. I've even got beefs with those for whom nothing comes between them and their Calvinism.

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, when one is discussing an esoteric subject, one eventually runs into an impasse. This is also true for people who have been studying for years and suddenly hit something that requires a kind of gestalt to get beyond.

Our touchstone with reality or the ruler against which we measure all things is what we regard as “normal.” And “normal” means an assessment based on the physical world, the physical body and brain, and the assessment of objects located in time and space.

Naturally everything we know is ultimately measured and evaluated relative to the way it jives with our experience as physical beings. This is called sanity. When people begin to use a ruler with which to measure reality outside of the “normal” spectrum, they are regarded as insane.

Dion Fortune pointed out that “willed disassociation is the method of the mysteries.”

You will remember that Crowley defined magic as something that caused changes in conformity with the will. Dion Fortune improved on this by stating that it was “changes in consciousness in conformity with the will.”

As you can see, if you were going to work with “willed disassociation is the method of the mysteries,” then this disassociation is in the context of consciousness that has to be changed from the ordinary way of dealing with reality to one that is disassociated from normal conditions in order for consciousness to be so rearranged that magic can take place.

So real magicians are people who have trained for years to take consciousness, break it down, and put it back together like a Marine taking down his rifle and reassembling it in the dark.

When this change of consciousness has been engineered, one no longer is using the ordinary context of “normal” as measured by the physical world as the ruler against which one measures the phenomenological reality that one finds oneself engaging.

In the Western tradition that's where something like the Qaballistic Tree of Life becomes a new ruler by which reality can be measured when considering metaphysical elements outside of time and space.

It is similar when analyzing dreams, especially if you realize that archetypal material sometimes enters the dreams. The physical touchstone cannot apply to a white Cadillac being driven down the street by Apollo using the Caddy as a chariot with 8 white horses.

So if you're on the 32nd path in an induced dream state and your see people waving green lanterns around, you know you have gone off the rails somewhere, because the Qaballistic Tree of Life and the doctrine of correspondences have become your non-spacial, non-temporal arbiter of reality.

Formerly Amherst said...

Egregores operate half out of time and space reality. They are epiphenomena of the physical body and brain, but they develop lives of their own. They become a bit like the idea of a “god” (if this interests you, you can go back and read what I wrote about Slenderman, and you will see many of these principles discussed).

So egregores start out being created by human agency, but then take on a lives of their own. They struggle to survive, even fight with other egregores that would diminish them.

They do not simply change with the mood of some humans who wish them to go another way. They change slowly over time and become a sort of storehouse-battery that can reflect energy and sometimes events back to the people who believe in them.

You might say their conduct is a little like a “complex.” You can understand what makes up a complex, but that is a long way from being able to change the influence of the complex or the behavior that it causes. The complex itself exists in psychological or psychic space kind of like that of a compulsive hand washer. Even after the compulsive hand washer becomes aware of what's driving them, he still compelled to go wash his hands.

In the realm in which egregores operate, there is no evaluation that the world is round or that some people wish that life was other than it is. There are still egregores competing against each other from the 13th and 14th centuries. There are egregores connected with Native American nations technically still at war with one another and with their identities anchored in historic Native American reality.

Some egregores are a portion of the inhabitants of what Waite called the hermetic museum, a museum not of this physical world, but of a collection outside of the realm of time and space.

Vixen Strangely said...

So egregores start out being created by human agency, but then take on a lives of their own. They struggle to survive, even fight with other egregores that would diminish them.

They do not simply change with the mood of some humans who wish them to go another way. They change slowly over time and become a sort of storehouse-battery that can reflect energy and sometimes events back to the people who believe in them.

This fascinates me because it is not too dissimilar from memetics. The Abrahamic faiths could be said to share the same "DNA" in the sense that they have many memes in common--monotheism, regulation of the familial behavior of their adherents, certain strictures regarding what is pure and impure, certain common folklore, and admonishments against leaving the fold. A religion as egregore is a mimetic complex, which has the ability (perhaps the necessity) of evolving to ensure its survival.

It looks to me like, as far as westernized cultures are concerned, Christianity as a meme complex or egregore has evolved in the sense that the post-Vatican II Catholic Church is no more likely to start a pogram than the Anglicans of today are going to start bullying starving Irish. But some species of Christianity retain the same destructives means as the old Cathar-killers of yore--the Central African Republic has a marauding militia of such buggers, and the Lord's Resistance Army is another one.

(And it doesn't strike me as surprising at all that Scott Lively, who is linked with The Fellowship that is behind the National Prayer Breakfast, has made Uganda, the home of the LRA, his mission in furthering the cause of killing LGBT people.)

Vixen Strangely said...

If we consider a religion as a memetic complex that requires certain conditions for its survival, then that complex can either die under certain unfavorable conditions (as pseudosciences die under scientific testing and peer review) or can adapt through sheer necessity. The complex sheds memes that are not successful under its current circumstances or adopts more successful ones.

Creating an environment where moderate Islam is more successful than extremist Islam, where extremists are cut off and can't replicate their worldview in others, seems like an admirable goal in creating "a change within Islamic consciousness in conformity with the will of the people."

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, an interesting parallel between egregores and memes. I know very little about memes and am not in a position to compare the two without further study. However, my cursory reading does suggest that there are definitely some similarities.

My original statements were about the US egregore now in a contest against Islam, not Christianity. Islam is in conflict with Christianity just as Judaism is in conflict with Christianity on the level of egregores. If only a tenth of Muslims are prepared to do violence against the West then that is a very serious conflict.

As you point out, Christianity as an organized set of ideas has gradually changed over the years. Think of the amount of time it took to actually get to Vatican II. And how much time it took for the Reformation to start.

So the question is whether it is possible for moderate Islam to change quickly enough to keep the fundamentalists from killing all of us and changing our own Western culture.

I don't think we can afford to have open warfare against fighters, infiltrators, saboteurs, cultural change agents acting on the US egregore for 200 or 300 years while Islam endeavors to become moderate.

Something will have to be done to shorten this period.

Many Christians are not crazy about the idea of gays getting married, but Islam wants to torture and kill gays, mutilate them, and basically do genocide on the gay and lesbian communities. If I were gay, I know which side of that conflict I would be rooting for.

Really the US egregore and the Christianity egregore have to be discussed independently of each other. A religion has an egregore and yet is more than that egregore.

For whatever it's worth, my best guessimate is similar to Deepak Chopra's. The words of Jesus bin Joseph suggest someone advancing the enlightenment position in Semitic metaphors, terms, and language.

The problems with Christianity as I see it are:
1. Most of the people then and now do not understand what Jesus bin Joseph was talking about.
2. Very little has been left at our disposal to seek Christ or the Self within. Everything is extrinsic, all about outward action and changing behavior rather than changing consciousness that ultimately results in the enlightenment that my reading of Jesus bin Joseph's words suggest he was talking about.
3. Religious progenitors and organizations have gone forward to build an edifice that basically constructs dogma on top of mistaken theology so that error after error gets duplicated in the system.

Obviously it is impossible to construct a society on the basis of purely Christian teachings. You cannot create a justice system by turning the other cheek with serial killers. You cannot run an orderly society by telling people if a criminal steals your car to give him another car as well. Survival is compromised in terms of regulating a society. Many examples could be given.

“Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect” doesn't really help you become a better person unless you are already enlightened, and neither does addressing the enlightenment position to others who probably misunderstand.

The problem with Christianity is not in the position advanced by Jesus bin Joseph. The problem is that we have not been given a method.