Wednesday, December 28, 2011


A classic scene that has always remained with me: In 1939’s film version of ‘Gone With the Wind’, Jane Darwell’s proper Southern dame, Mrs. Merriwether, informed that Union troops were almost upon her beloved city, exclaimed: “Yankees! In Atlanta? How’d they git heah?”

The answer, which came to me as soon as I heard her voice the question, was that they had been coming all along, and for quite a while she had simply refused to entertain the possibility that such was so. Instead she carried on her wonted ways, living the life of a Southern dame as she always had.

And suddenly, the end was upon her.

At which point Gilbert and Sullivan’s obnoxious know-it-all comes to me as well: avoided by all decent company, whom he always loved to put down or to whom he always loved to administer a come-uppance, he laments his situation and “cawn’t think why” nobody wants to spend time with him.

Both thoughts came back to me as I recently put myself through law professor and touted ‘feminist scholar and thinker’ Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 book “Toward A Feminist Theory of the State”.*

Not that either she or any of her sorority of vanguard cadres have ever declared any such moment of self-doubt; indeed, quite the opposite. She continues to receive encomia from other feminist best and brightest (such as feminist historian Christine Stansell and feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum, to name but a couple of recent ones).

Such mutual and mutually self-serving encomia seem to be public valentines delivered to each other in assorted publications for all the like-minded to read. One thinks of the gilded if clunky encomia lavished by the early Soviet state upon those who cooperated with its utopian terraforming of Russia: Indefatigable Hero of the Five-Year Tractor Plan! Brass-hard Implementer of the Three-Year Cement Plan! Unswerving and Indistractable Protector of the Proletariat!


And behind each element of such encomia, the bloody, soul-flattening wrack and ruin to innumerable lives and the subversion of an entire society and its culture and its people. Oh, and the enslavement of same.

But all in a good, indeed a marvelous and history-shattering, Cause.


So anyway, in light of Our current omni-dimensional mess, I recently decided to look at this decades-old work, which contains thoughts which, she says (p.ix), she had been working on and talking about since 1971. Which, as it happens, is the year the Democrats decided to turn the Party toward the tempting female demographic, declare themselves “the Party of women”, and embrace whole-hog the agenda of radical-feminism (which, MacKinnon says, is the only feminism). Which, as it also happens, is the year before the Presidential election of 1972 when The People rejected the whole scheme  49 States to 1. And which, as it happens, is the year the Democrats began toying with the idea that since The People ‘just don’t get it’ then deliberative democracy (and the Framing Vision) were clearly not the way forward. **

And here We are.

And We are here, I will say, not because some amazing and powerfully coherent Theory suddenly swept all prior conceptualizations before it and had to be adopted simply in order to conform to a history-making discovery and revelation of how things work (such as, say, Newton’s Theory of Gravity), but rather because the desperate Dems (later to be joined by the Republicans for their own purposes) simply committed the entire power of the federal government and the Beltway behind it.

One thinks of Hitler promoting the utterly inexperienced von Paulus to command of the 6th Army in the Russian campaign, against all warnings that the man was a theoretician and war-gamer who had  utterly no field command experience – let alone in major combat – simply because Mr. Big figured that the man would be a pliable field commander who would without question carry out his orders. (Let alone that the orders von Paulus was to receive were increasingly militarily whackulent and lethally wrong to begin with.)

Radical-feminism ‘succeeded’ so quickly not because of the coherence and validity of its Theory but simply because the Beltway declared it overnight to be The Way in what has turned out to be a folie a deux of (ironically) nation-shattering proportions. Funny how the Theoretical, conceptual, and political night moves.

So let’s get on with this book – published in 1989, containing ideas she had been flogging since 1971 – and I think you will have a much clearer idea of a great part of the reason why ‘Yankees are in Atlanta’ now and the whole show now looks like it’s coming apart.

For that matter, I would recommend that We start looking at the history of the Confederate government – especially after the summer of 1863. (The Gettysburg and Vicksburg defeats were completed on the same day, July 4th, of that year. Who can say that History doesn’t have a sense of humor?).

What We would want to study, having looked at MacKinnon, is how a government starts to come apart after having fatuously committed itself to a lethal course, drinking vast draughts of the Kool-Aid of best-case outcomes and refusing to imagine any but the best Consequences issuing from its plans, and refusing – even as matters became ever more lethally serious – to ‘revisit’ its whole approach.*** (And can you say Iraq War?)

MacKinnon (henceforth: MacK) declares (p.ix) that she wants to demonstrate how “social power” shapes the way we “know” and how we “know”. In other words, MacK says here that there is no knowledge of reality that isn’t tainted with “social power”. Her plan is to replace ‘male’ social power with feminist social power and thereby create a whole new ‘knowledge’ – and anything built on the old way would be delegitimized.

You can see why radical-feminism was going to be – as Marxism/Leninism was – opposed to the Catholic Church from the get-go: the Catholic position is that there is a Reality, created by God, which human beings through their power of Reason (informed by Revelation) can reliably access: thus, humans can reliably (if not perfectly or completely) access Reality.

A Reality grounded not in human perception, but in God.

A Reality that reliably includes the nature and purpose of human beings, the ultimate meaning of their existence and the general Shape of being-human, boundaried but thus also focused.

Such a Vision was gall and wormwood to Marx as it is to MacK, since it leaves no ‘room’ to philosophically justify their agenda. (This is in no way a totalizing approval of capitalism or of theocracy, but simply a vital and utterly essential and basic aspect of the problem which Marx and MacK seek to merely sweep off the table as an element to be considered.)

MacK’s idea is that “gender hierarchy” actually distorts knowledge of whatever is ‘real’ and literally creates a false reality (p.ix). Therefore nothing that has previously been considered as ‘real’ (let alone Real) really is real, it is all thoroughly contaminated, and everything is up for grabs.

 Imagine, if you will, what such a corrosive idea will do if liberally poured onto the foundations – allowed to flood around, over, and under the foundations – of an entire culture and polity. This is what she’s going for (as Marx was going for) and it was clear not only from 1989 but from 1971 (when, she says, she first put together this book’s chapter on Marxism and radical feminism).

Did nobody in the Beltway care to give a thought to consequences? No. I would say that the Dems  and the Beltway entered into their pact with Marx and MacK and all their pomps and works with as much unthinking, delirious self-congratulation as the assorted State governments of the Confederacy as they seceded and envisioned the quick and easy winning of their war and the ushering in of their idea of the millennium, improving upon the Framing Vision at whatever cost it might take.

They imagined it would cost very little. It was to them as well as the people of the North that Lincoln admitted in his Second Inaugural that everybody had thought to expect “an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding”.**** And, for the Confederacy, catastrophic.  

She will look at the respective claims of Marxism and radical-feminism. (MacK considers radical feminism to be the only feminism; I shall refer to radical-feminism henceforth as R-feminism, to distinguish it from the ‘liberal’ and moderate feminisms which she helped kick to the curb.)

“Whatever its limitations”, she blithely says (p.ix), Marxism “confronts organized social dominance”.

Further, Marxism “identifies social forces which systematically shape social imperatives and seeks to explain human freedom both within and against history” (p.ix).

You have to wonder: did she give no thought to how Marxism actually wound up playing out? How perhaps it had to play out, in the further refinements of Lenin and Stalin and Mao? Mao, in the 1960s, was considered by the American far Left as the great liberator, whose Cultural Revolution – since revealed as a bloody and broad and deep wrecking of Chinese culture – was the clear sign that such a Way was the quick and easy high-road to ‘change’ and ‘progress’.

His 'example' particularly ensnared American leftists and Progressives – who had always harbored deep down an elitism of its elites against the unwashed and ignorant masses who wallowed in benighted ‘false consciousness’ and actually “just didn’t get it” and would have to be herded like sheep and stampeded like cattle toward the Great Good they were too weak and ignorant to embrace on their own.

But she – and she wasn’t alone among far Leftists in this country in those days – must have figured that there would be a way to import this plague bacillus and yet ‘baptize’ it with good intentions and make it work without ill-consequence here.

Or else she knew exactly what she was doing and said What the hell?

And the Beltway backed her to the hilt.

Marxism and R-feminism are alike in that they both have the good intention (let’s hope) of looking at a “social order” with an eye to “change” (p.ix).

And they are “theories of consciousness” before they are theories of change. In other words – sort of like religious belief – you have to “get it” before it all makes sense.

But how she can assert that Marx’s concept of “human freedom” (despite his admittedly good intentions) is valuable is beyond me. He reduced such human freedom to merely the material dimension, and the economic dimension, shearing off at a blithe but ruthless stroke any Higher dimension to human existence, and with it any Higher Purpose or Meaning.

She does the same, comparing R-feminism’s “explanation for the subjection of women” with Marxism’s “explanation for the exploitation of the working-class” (p.x).

This blithe assertion contains two huge assumptions.

First, the assumption that the economic exploitation of the working-class is accurately comparable to the “subjection of women”. Where the economic dynamics of capitalism were widely recognized as depriving the workers of a sufficient economic share of the wealth created, R-feminism’s theory of that “subjection of women” is a far more comprehensive and yet also immaterial, perhaps invisible and perhaps undemonstrable, claim. You almost have to “get it” before you can be sure you can see it … and even then …

Second, the assumption that the “subjection of women” as envisioned and asserted by R-feminism, is actually as easily attributable to some deliberate and determined “patriarchy” as the exploitation of the workers was clearly attributable to inequities in the distribution of the wealth created by the Industrial Revolution and capitalism.

While I don’t deny it as a theory or a hypothesis, yet there are surely alternatives and they are hardly minor possibilities. For one thing, it is equally possible that human civilizations – much like the builders of the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall – have from the beginning of human history built their social arrangements in some useful conformity with immovable physical realities.

Such as the quite probable evolutionary reality that since human beings are born so weak and require so long a time to reach even basic physiological and neurological maturity, the maternal human (i.e. the mother, a female by Nature’s decree) would be provided as a matter of evolutionary principle with the instincts and core-wiring to oversee that long developmental stretch. So that while the male is ‘gifted’ by Evolution with the urge to propagate, the female is gifted by Evolution with the urge to nurture; and the male is also gifted with the ability (and, it would be nice to say morally, the responsibility) to provide the material sustenance and protection during that long developmental stretch.

I am not here insisting that the Evolution-hypothesis is absolutely demonstrable, but it certainly qualifies as an alternative worthy of deliberation. (But of course, no such ‘deliberation’ was allowed and any such thoughts were, neatly, merely dismissed as “backlash” – not that Evolution seems to have gotten the Memo.)

The Evolution-hypothesis also gives some credit to prior millennia of human beings, who otherwise are hypothesized as being deliberately and mulishly engaged in or enthralled to some “patriarchal” conspiracy that has apparently existed since the beginning of recorded human history.

And that bit instantly raises rather difficult Questions.

How, for instance, did ‘males’ manage to effect this take-over in the beginning? How did they sustain it? If the plan was widely disapproved by half the species, how did it continue for so long (right up until the heroic cadres of America in the 20th century suddenly discovered it)? If the female half of the species did not sense that they were utterly oppressed and denied of some right, then what are We to make of that? If they did realize it, then what is it about them that enabled this thing not only to get started but to go on for so long (right up until the vanguard-cadres of R-feminism in the 20th century A.D.)?

We are induced to simply presume that the “oppression” has existed from the beginning of all time and must now be overthrown, just as Marx insisted that his materialistic reduction of all human meaning and fulfillment to the economic and material Plane of Existence simply be accepted as an irrefutable and fundamentally real given.

That is a huge given. And a huge give-away.

Of course, it is only when you have accepted a certain “consciousness” that you can simply accept the(huge and unproven) assumptions and gallop on from there, in the sure and certain ‘knowledge’ that your efforts to overturn the “dominant” and current “social hegemony” (p.x) are Right and Good and Real.

MacK is sure and certain that R-feminism had from the beginning presumed that it would have a theory of Gender as Marxism had a theory of Class (p.x).

But she establishes her cutting-edge creds not simply by taking Marx and substituting Gender for Class and ‘women’ for ‘proletariat’, but by insisting that Marx had not gone far enough.

So she has sought to “create such a theory by distilling feminist practice”, a theory that “could stand on its own” (p.x) and – nicely – perhaps blunt any objections that R-feminist theory simply took over Marx and made a couple of substitutions and then sought – alas successfully – to seduce the desperate Dems to buy what is basically Marxist analysis and put the resources of the American government at the disposal of the agenda to use that analysis and theory to attack American culture and society root and branch.

Did nobody see this in the Beltway? On the Hill? In the White House? Did the media not do any reading?

She quotes liberal thinker Sheldon Wolin that there are “epic theories” which claim to establish immutable basic principles in political life and then there are “scientific theories” that actually try to establish the facts of society and politics and effect changes here and there as much as they can.

Wolin, and MacK, humbly refuse to make “epic” assertions of principle.

But how establish “scientifically” the basic realities and facts of cultural, social, and political arrangements – especially if you plan to overthrow them from the get-go?

But that brings you right back to the queasy reality, even in MacK’s theory, that you have to “get it” before you can “see it”. And yet once you do “get it” then you “know it”, and even Know it with a capital-K since what your newly-raised consciousness is going to give you is nothing less than a reality (not just an opinion or viewpoint but a reality) that has been hidden from the beginning of time. It almost sounds like MacK has also done reading in St. Paul and John the Evangelist. And the Book of the Apocalypse.

And she surely has managed to resurrect the ancient concept of Gnosis, the special and secret knowledge that only the Elect know and that gives them the Key to all fulfillment and to how It All Works. How do you know the Elect? Only the Elect know the Elect and if you just don’t get it then you’re clearly not one of the Elect and you are hell-fodder so shut-up.

Such marvelous progress.

You hear echoes of MacK in the later John Rawls, as he tries to defend or cover the incoherencies in his own liberal-friendly theory of “justice” (first published, by the by, in 1972), by insisting that grand theories that explain everything (such as Christianity’s or any organized religion’s) with their unprovable assumptions should not be permitted to play a role in public deliberation and discourse since they are matters of belief; whereas his own – and MacK’s – theory does not indulge in unprovable assumptions but rather merely works with the ‘reality’ that “any reasonable person” could see.


Marx fails, MacK asserts, because until she came along R-feminism “had no account of male power as an ordered yet deranged whole” (p.xi). Neat! But her assertions are more properly classifiable as a ‘theory’ or ‘hypothesis’ and most surely not as an “account”. The latter implies that it is an accurate and more or less complete explanation of something; the former indicates that it is one possibility open for examination and deliberation and analysis and testing. Which former is not at all what MacK or any other agents of R-feminism have ever allowed. (After all, why should they? Most people “just don’t get it” and any doubts or objections are only “backlash” anyway so what’s the point?)

We are still left with the Question of whether there even is such a thing as an entrenched and millennia-old “male power”, working in every known civilization and great culture in recorded history, imposed for reasons of pure macho greed and aggressive, assertive “dominance” upon females. And that has been deliberately structured merely to “oppress women”; a sort of millennia-long and world-wide Crime Against Humanity, or at least against half of Humanity.

That’s not a small Question.

Nor is it merely an academic or quibbling Question. On the basis of an asserted and assumed Answer to it, the US government has embarked on a truly world-historical assault on not only one half of its Citizenry but on the entire Culture and Ground of American society and its (putatively democratic) polity.

And now that the Consequences inherent in such incoherent presumptions and assumptions are now coming home to roost, this is no small Question at all. (And let Us pass over in silence for the moment the next Question: how any government on the planet – especially the government of a democratic and Constitutional Republic – could dare to abet it. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao tried it – among a pandemonium of lesser totalitarian demons – but this R-feminist 'success' has happened in the America of the past forty Biblical years. And was presented as cutting-edge reform and a Good and Great Idea. What are they going to think of Us, in future – and not too distant – generations?)

The state, MacK asserts, “participates in the sexual politics of male dominance by encapsulating and enforcing it in law” (p.x).

And now We get to where the rubber (so to speak) is going to meet the road. Law professor MacK is going to make her mark by leading the enlightened assault on American law. And perhaps now We get a better inkling of why the Constitution doesn’t seem to be working so well recently, either in ensuring fairness (you can’t, after all, have fairness in a system that is rotten to begin with) or in keeping the government itself within bounds (if any ‘reader’ can interpret the Constitution as a literary text however s/he wants, then why can’t the President?).

So she is going to “create a jurisprudence of change” (p.xiv). Which means that the Law will now serve the Revolution … and neither Lenin nor Stalin nor Mao could have put it more succinctly. In fact, now that R-feminism has so thoroughly infected the Beltway and the government, it could find no objection, or grounds to make an objection, to Mussolini’s world-historically pithy formulation:  “Nothing against the State, nothing outside the State, nothing above the State”. (Funny how the conceptual night moves. And who can say that History doesn’t have a sense of humor?) For if
the State has now become the bearer of the Great (and Gnostic) Wisdom, then there can be no opposition to such a Good Thing. This is a fatal error for a democracy and for a Constitutional Republic.

Then (p.xv) MacK goes pre-emptive. Against some, even among feminists, who ask how if we are the only ones who “know”, can we possibly “talk to” anybody else in this democracy? – MacK answers blithely and dismissively that “just because some people don’t like or fear what you have to say doesn’t make your argument wrong or impossible or untrue”.

Which is so, as far as it goes. But the fact that other people disagree with your ideas, perhaps profoundly, doesn’t make your ideas right, either. Except to adolescents, who somehow console themselves with the conclusion that if the grown-ups don’t agree with what they’re doing, then the kids must be right. Because, of course, grown-ups only exist to ruin your day and – not to put too fine a point on it – oppress you.
And which doesn’t answer the rather valid question she herself chose to ‘answer’. And clearly indicates that she’s not looking to talk to other people at all, but merely shut them up so she can make her point, which – she is sure and certain – is ‘reality’ and so those who “just don’t get it” don’t need to be talked-to anyway. Or at least, they should be talked-to, but don’t need to be talked-with.

Is it any wonder that democratic politics seem to have somehow collapsed, to be replaced with some nasty, irrational and childish something-else?

And anyway, she goes on (p.xv), Immanuel Kant’s whole approach of constructing universal principles (you know, like the ones that the Framing Vision and the Constitution are based on) is useless and wrong because it takes “real particulars” but then erects them into a “false universal”. Meaning that if anybody disagrees with you on principles, then all you have to do is wave them away with the assertion that there are no principles anymore and it’s all a matter of who can get the political clout to capture the “social hegemony” (which maybe you shouldn’t say in so many words – at least not til the Revolution is complete – but that’s what you can tell yourself – and then walk out and go have yourself a nice glass of a good Chardonnay with your sister-cadres who “get it”).

Kant is not “engaged” (shades of the ‘60s!) and R-feminists are “engaged” – meaning that they don’t approach a subject in the old masculine, abstractifying, detached way, but instead approach it with their deep inner feelings, which only others who “get it” can also feel. In other words, as the old ditty goes: “Here’s to all who wish us well, and all the rest can go to hell”. That “rest” meaning most of the Citizenry – and We wonder why the sense of “common-weal” is gone now.

But this ‘stance’ can hardly be the only one; even for an individual seeking to accurately understand an issue. This ‘engaged’ stance requires one to remain rather stubbornly and monomaniacally focused only on the problem and more specifically, focused only on the problem as one sees it and further presuming that the way one sees it is a) sufficiently accurate and b) the only way to see it. (One is reminded of the declaration (with its subtext of ominous threat and warning) that accompanied Nazi newsreels describing Hitler’s ‘successes’: Mehr als dieses braucht ihr nicht zu wissen!: More than this you don’t need to know!) Modern politics, influenced direly by this entire approach, also includes the cartoonish ‘logic’ that if you do not remain thus focused, then you must be a deliberate supporter of the problem yourself.

Rather, in order to get a fuller comprehension of a problem, you absolutely must also stand – at least for purposes of accurate analysis – outside the Problem. Once clear of its hot atmosphere, you can get a clearer picture of other factors (and their possible consequences); that is to say, you gain a clearer, larger, and fuller perspective. But this is precisely what R-feminist ‘engagement’ slyly forbids: to do anything that might weaken your burning emotional involvement is to betray the cause. Which, then, is precisely the great psychological and epistemological danger facing all ‘revolutionaries’: they purchase their emotionally vital attachment at the price of any fuller and more accurate comprehension of what faces them. They thus run the awful risks of taking ill-informed actions – which, of course, revolutionary theory would insist is not important because ‘revolutionary ardor’ will see them through regardless of the wisdom or whackulence of their actions. Hitler, as things began to go south in Russia, did precisely this, dismissing the Prussian Halder and taking on the Party-friendly Zeitzler as chief of staff: in the face of intensifying bad news, Hitler told Halder that “what is needed now is National-Socialist ardor” and not Halder’s frumpy insistence on facts and military realities.

I also note that when this approach – already well established in the Beltway and the national politics by 2001 – was deployed by Bush-Cheney (from the Right) in the analysis of intelligence during the run-up to the decision to invade Iraq, with lethal consequences. And if one wished to make the case that Bush-Cheney had decided to invade Iraq even before 9/11, then I would say that this simply demonstrates my point even further: the Objective you have decided on is all that matter, ‘facts don’t matter’ (that crapulent and hoary R-feminist mantra), and your zeal and willpower will force history and reality to conform to your dampdreams. Thus baaaad ideas migrate in the Beltway, to the undoing of all.
The R-feminist ‘knower’ is “inside” the problem; she is “situated” within it – that’s the hallmark of R-feminist “knowing” (p.xvi). In other words, I know what I feel, and what I feel is more right than whatever you think, and so I don’t have to listen to you or talk about it – nyah nyah.
My God.

And the Beltway bought it hook, line and sinker.

American politics as a bad 1970s family sitcom. This is the real dynamic around Carol Gilligan’s Breakfast Table. And it is no basis for a system of mature, adult, democratic government. As should be increasingly obvious.

But perhaps it’s too late for all that now.

Well, that was the Preface. There’s more – stay tuned.

 And start thinking.


*My edition is the hard-cover edition published by Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-89645-9.

**See my Post on “Justice Brennan” here.

***In this regard, I remind you of Confederate General Pat Cleburne’s instant observation when informed, in the early months of 1865, that the desperate government in Richmond was going to allow ‘Negroes’ to enlist in the rapidly-dwindling army: “If the Negro can make a good soldier, then our whole theory of slavery has been wrong from the beginning”. Funny how the night moves.

****The text of that Address, here , is well worth a re-reading, imagining, as I have said, Ourselves in the position of the Confederate rather than the Union side.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011


I continue to share thoughts here about Terry Eagleton’s 2009 book “Reason, Faith, and Revolution”.*

Since my last Eagleton Post Christopher Hitchens, one of the triad of ‘New Atheist’ writers comprised of Daniel Dennet, Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, has died. I shall continue to use Eagleton’s handy though lightly facetious  term “Ditchkins” to refer to the triad’s common thought; it’s excellent short-hand.

Eagleton notes (p.39) that “the advanced capitalist system is inherently atheistic”. This is an acute insight, and should cause Americans a great deal of serious and urgent thought. He’s making a verrrry interesting point.

There is a sense in which the actual operating dynamics of many of modern humanity’s cultural or economic or political structures are – even without intending or considering themselves to be so – anti-Beyond.

That is to say, they require humans to focus their energies, and even hopes and dreams, largely on the Mono-Plane, on this PoE.** They require humans to focus and invest all of their energies on their own working on the Mono-Plane. (You may want to read Note ** now before you proceed, just to clarify my terminology.)

Which means that these dynamics almost inevitably tend to seek to swallow up human energies like black-holes in deep space swallow up light. These dynamics are ‘jealous’ and ‘demand’ that they be given complete attention; simultaneously seeking to reduce any ‘distractions’ by human investment in the dynamics of the Meta-Plane and the Multi-Plane.

Nor do the dynamics of ‘this world’ (as Scripture would put it) seek to be ‘under the judgment’ of those Higher PoE’s. They gravitate away from being judged according to their relevance or irrelevance, helpfulness or harmfulness, to the Core Purpose of a humanity made in the Image of God. The dynamics of ‘this world’ seek to avoid any ‘regulation’, seek to operate in a de-regulated or unregulated way, free of the constraints and bounds imposed by the Larger Purpose of the Meta-Plane, of – that is to say – God’s loving, Providential, and (incredibly dynamically active) Grace-full Plan for the genuine (Echt, as the Germans say) fulfillment of the life and being of the humans and the humanity Shaped in His Image.

The horses of this world – as it were – require a very attentive and competent human charioteer or they are going to run away with the wagon altogether (and you wind up in a ditch or over a cliff). It is to help in the charioteering that both Grace and the previously-departed continue to ‘ascend and descend’, interacting to help us still-physically alive human charioteers trying to keep our horses – personal and structural – from taking us off the Road.

So then, the New Atheism is primarily seeking to eliminate any human investment in the Multi-Plane and seeks – although it tries to put an upbeat optimistic spin on it – to Flatten humanity and humans, stuffing and squashing them  into an existence consisting of only the Mono-Plane.

And you can see why governments in the Modern and Post-modern era find a certain and definite usefulness to Atheism in its New variant: governments have a nasty tendency to not-want to live under the judgment of any Higher Plane or Power – they want complete and un-regulated authority to do whatever they think best and will tolerate no objections or ‘rival’ authority.

My objection to Atheism, New or otherwise, is that I can’t accept its grossly limited (and I believe inaccurate) vision of what Reality consists of, with all of the consequences to human individual and communal life that goes along with such a Flattened and inaccurate vision.

And any effort – no matter how blusterously strident or pleasantly kewt – to ‘re-frame’ what is essentially and profoundly an enslaving Flattening and reduction of human existence to the basal Mono-Plane is nothing but trying to put lipstick on a pig. And not just a barnyard bacon-bearing cuddly pink pig, but rather a rather nasty, feral, and lethally powerful wild warthog. And that's actually Warthog with the capital 'W'.

You can see where ‘religion’ – meaning the institutionally organized human effort to preserve and maintain the Great Vision of humanity and of existence, smoothing out the kinks in the Circuit of God’s energetic Grace in the still-unfulfilled Mono-Plane – is not really for kiddies. This is an adult’s work, and a vital, urgent Work it is.

In a very real sense humans are thus charioteers and bullfighters (except the bull is this Warthog I’ve been talking about). Again, this is not for kiddies. But then again – and this runs counter to the basic inertia of the Nanny State – human life is not designed to be lived to fulfillment by kiddies; adulthood is a vital requirement, toward which marvelous but strenuous challenge all childhood development and nurture should be unfailingly and unflinchingly directed.

(And perhaps, now that Americans are coming to see that the national Ship is going to have to put out to sea again and face the treacherous and monstrous waves of raw History – say goodbye to the 1950s and even 1999 and all that – then as the blinding and blingy glow of the past few decades fades ever more quickly, we shall be able to perceive more clearly just how vital maturity is and always has been. Time to take Maturity off the blocks in the national garage to which secularism and the Correctness of both the National Nanny State and the National Security State had consigned it. Time for “a new birth of freedom” – maturely and accurately conceived – and a Merry Christmas to you too!)

So then Eagleton rightly bells the cat as he classifies New Ageism as simply one more Romantic, sentimental, mushy and un-Grounded effort to put lipstick on the Warthog and somehow try to make it cuddly-kewt and tame.

(The happy-face logo so emblematic of the 1970s is not going to be able to bear the weight of the challenges of “strenuous liberty” – to use a 17th century English phrase – in the times ahead. A simple burbly ‘optimism’ isn’t going to get you very far on its own; as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said – and Ronald Reagan didn’t want to hear it – ‘once you have gotten on the wrong train and it’s moving at speed, walking backwards through the cars isn’t going to help much’.)

Western Romanticism, developed in the very late 18th century and flourishing in the early 19th century, sought to recover the shadowy and emotional ‘mystery’ and ‘otherness’ of human existence, which the bright, confident, piercing light of the Enlightenment’s excitements over a controlling human Reason had discarded.

But the Romantics also didn’t want to simply go back to the early 17th and 16th century Calvinism or of ‘organized religion’ generally. The Romantics therefore limited themselves to finding ‘mystery’ merely on the Mono-Plane, and any ‘beyond’ was limited to kiddie nightmares of dark, evil, shadowy forces beyond any human (or divine) ken or control.***

More efforts to put lipstick on the Warthog.

The Romantics sought to avoid ‘organized religion’ by getting rid of the Meta-Plane, but wound up instead emphasizing some Evil PoE, some ‘Meta anti-Plane’ where Evil dwelled and could come crashing or slithering into this PoE pretty much at will and raise hell.

Such progress.

Eagleton nicely mentions Marx (p.40), who sensed that somehow humans had this stubborn tendency to seek ‘mystery’, to find “some heart in a heartless world, some soul in a soulless reality”.

But Marx – a Mono-Planar guy from the get-go – ascribed this to a human weakness, to a human retreat from what he saw as the harsh realities of an urbanized, industrialized world where the only solution would be to take some practical action against the structures of this-worldly economic and political power. Which wasn’t a bad idea, but in disallowing the Meta-Plane as anything except the symptom of human weakness and fear and the desire to escape (rather than wrestle with) harsh and hard reality, Marx still wound up Flattening the human ‘world’. And then Lenin and Stalin and Mao (from the Left) and Hitler and Mussolini (from the Right) put the power of modern government behind that vision and that plan and you see where that all led.

The idea that humans stubbornly seek a Beyond because they are responding to the Image of God built into them by God … that wasn’t a possibility that Marx would consider. Like Scrooge confronted by Marley’s ghost, the Beyond was merely “an undigested bit of beef” or whatevvvverrrr. Yah.

(You can almost consider the human soul as something like a Good version of Tolkien’s evil Ring of Power: constantly trying to make its way back to its Source.)

For Marx religion merely reflected “the sigh of the oppressed creature”. But the solution to that “oppression” was only to be had in vigorous action in the political and economic realms, thus on the Mono-Plane. That eliminating the Meta-Plane and disallowing that humans might be made in the Image of a God Who sought to support and sustain and bring that Image to fulfillment … that eliminating that bit of Reality might create a profound and lethal “oppression” all by itself, did not occur to Marx as it does not occur to later Atheists who are also seduced by the Mono-Plane.

Better, Marx thought, for people to just get angry and start kicking butt and taking names. Better even than that, his erstwhile disciple Lenin thought, was for those ‘vanguard elites’ who actually saw the problem clearly to take over a government and force people to realize this. Since, Lenin thought, most people are sheep and are never going to ‘get it’ on their own; they need to be led – and if that means killing a whole bunch to encourage the others, well it’s all in a good Cause, said Lenin to himself one day. After all, you have to break eggs to make an omelette, don’t you?

Such penetrating and incisive analysis.

Get rid of the distracting illusions of religion, Marx thought, and thus enable people to focus on what they really might do against economic and political “oppression”, which – as I said – was the only and worstest form of oppression he could imagine. Lenin simply erected that thought into a Plan enforced by all the violence and terror which modern government could inflict.

And here we are.

Well, I’ll leave you with that much more of Eagleton for your contemplation.

As I’ve been saying in other Posts on this site recently, one of the watershed developments of recent American history (and it will be clear to future historians, even if it is not discussed by mainstream commentary now) is the importation of Leninist-Maoist thought and praxis, the Content of the vision and the Method by which it must be imposed, into this country when the Beltway embraced the Leninist/Maoist-based vision starting in the late 1960s (imported by radical-feminists as if it were all brand new and ‘cutting edge’ and embraced by the vote-hungry Beltway pols and the status-hungry Beltway elites).
The Leninist-Maoist vision was bound to create a Leninist-Maoist universe, but somehow the Beltway and the various ‘cutting edge’ thinkers advocating this and that either a) seemed to think they could somehow ‘control’ Leninist-Maoist dynamics; or else b) figured that they could ‘baptize’ Leninist-Maoist dynamics with ‘democracy’ so that it would all lead to something different and/or better; or else c) quietly decided that the Leninist-Maoist dynamics were worth the price of introducing so fundamentally anti-Constitutional and anti-democratic a set of dynamics into this country and imposing that vision on everybody.

And that’s why after 235 years now, it seems like the American Framing Vision doesn’t seem to be working well at all anymore – and perhaps hasn’t been for the past 40 or so years.

The genuine American Framing Vision hasn’t been working well recently because – although nobody in elite authority wants to admit it now – it has been continuously disconnected and replaced with Leninist-Maoist thought, vision, and praxis for all that time.

And that treacherous deconstruction has – in a hellish symmetry – served the purposes of both the putatively ‘liberal’ National Nanny State and the putatively ‘conservative’ National Security State.

So the country is faced – funny how the night moves! – with a multiplanar problem: it is 1) infected (and with government collusion) by Leninist-Maoist thought and praxis, while 2) most of the Citizenry don’t even realize that because it’s all been spun as either ‘patriotism’ or ‘reform’.

Now, in this Christmas season, we are faced with the stunning (but hardly surprising) fact that the President who was elected as the supreme triumph of American ‘liberalism’ is going to sign into law the authorization for the President to use the military domestically to round up anybody the President deigns to designate as somehow a ‘terrorist’ (which, in the words of the repugnant Senator Lindsey Graham, is defined with chilling clarity as “doing anything against America”).

This is all – in terms of what I am primarily speaking about in this Post – rather remarkable, and perhaps even Providential. Americans themselves can now share a bit in what God must feel like, seeing the Genuine Vision betrayed by self-satisfied but deluded humans “dresst in a little brief authority” (as Shakespeare puts it).

This can be food for profound spiritual contemplation, not simply ‘religious’ but ‘political’.

In fact, perhaps I can borrow a trope from Marx and Lenin (and their radical-feminist roadies): The spiritual is political.

Contemplate well and deeply.

But waste no time. There is not so much of it as there was before.


*New London: Yale University Press. ISBN: 978-0-300-15179-4

**Since it’s been several weeks, let me quickly refresh a couple of my own terms and the concepts underlying them.

Reality, in the classical Christian view, is Multi-Planar: there are several ‘planes’ that comprise Reality for humans, rising like Vulcan chessboards stacked one over the other. The bottom or base Plane of Existence (PoE) is the physical, material world we perceive with our five senses.

Then there is a Meta-Plane, a PoE where the ‘Meta’ (Greek for ‘Beyond’) is centered. On this PoE, there are non-material, non-physical forces; in the Christian view, this is the ‘heavenly realm’ and here dwells God as classical Christianity sees Him: omnipotent, omniscient, yet benevolent toward His Creation, especially human beings, who have been made in His Image.

While there are operating rules which apply to the material realities of the Mono-Plane (necessary to provide some sort of regularity and predictability to human existence), yet God’s love or Grace (the energy of His love) suffuse and interpenetrate the Mono-Plane.

There is also an intermediate PoE (I like to think) wherein dwell the spirits of humans who have already ‘died’, and who have yet chosen (given the choice by God) to remain close to the Mono-Plane to support the lives and efforts of the humans still physically alive. Under rules of ‘intervention’ set by God to preserve the integrity of living humans’ freedom, these ‘departed souls’ can also influence activities on the Mono-Plane.

Thus there is a Triadic Communion, a circuit of energy, based on God yet comprising also the necessary points of the still-physically enfleshed human soul and the souls of those humans who have physically died but seek to remain close to the Mono-Plane out of care and concern. This creates a remarkable circuit of spiritual energy.

And thus also the human being still physically alive ‘participates’ in this circuit in two way. One way is by developing his/her own interior competence through overcoming ‘inferior’ elements of the Self and thus approaching God through the interior path of self-mastery, continually conforming oneself closer and closer to that Image in which s/he is made.

The other way is by reaching out willingly and deliberately with one’s gifts and the skills resulting from that (life-long) ‘conformational’ project into the material and physical world of the Mono-Plane, seeking to help other humans and share in the common human task of bringing life on the Mono-Plane a bit closer to the fullness of the Multi-Plane and Meta-Plane life.

This, in the classical Christian Vision, is the Large and Ultimate and Foundational Reality of human existence, and thus the Core and Foundational Purpose of human beings.

All else is subsumed under that Ultimate Purpose. And all else is subject to the ‘judgment’ as to whether it is relevant to and conformable with the essential Integrity and Purpose of the human who is made in God’s Image and whose Purpose is to participate ever more fully in God’s energy-filled life of Grace.

There is also, alas, the reality of Original Sinfulness: to preserve human freedom, the human Will must be free to reject the path of its own Core Image and Purpose. (These aircraft, brother and sister pilots, can tend to get away from you if you don’t pay attention to operating them properly!)

Enough of that has been going on and continues to go on here on the Mono-Plane so that the tightly interwoven and interdependent and interacting nature of human life as it plays out on the Mono-Plane have become damaged or deranged. The derangement causes all sorts of malfunctions and hurts, and not necessarily to those who are the most deranged; there are plenty of physically-alive human beings who are ‘innocent bystanders’ or ‘collateral damage’ in the mis-, mal-, and non-feasance of other physically-alive human beings or even of now-departed human beings whose selfish screw-ups still continue to echo – like bad notes played in a symphony – on the Mono-Plane.

THIS is the great 24/7-365 drama of human existence in the Multi-Planar, Christian Vision (and how anybody can claim actual boredom or lack of interest in life and living is, frankly, beyond me).

I’ll also add that this Vision is at this point in human history most comprehensively retained (if imperfectly implemented) by the Catholic Church.

***Although among others,  Shelley’s “Frankenstein” did a nice job of making some sort of philosophical statement about what happens when human reason cuts loose from any Higher regulation and tries to do what God does. And American authors such as Hawthorne and Melville made their own powerful points as to the complexity and chiaroscuro of human motivation.

But you can see the result of the general Romantic thrust even today in the many horror movies on TV or in the theaters, where demons and malignant forces seem to run rampant and there is no God, no Good-Beyond as it were – that seems to have any ability to help. Although there are still films that pit God against Evil: Stellan Skarsgaard’s ‘Father Merrin’ and Anthony Hopkins’s recent portrayal of a crotchety old Roman priest-exorcist breaking in a Flattend, psychiatry-soused younger American priest still keep the flame alive. (Skarsgaard’s two films are “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist” and “Exorcist: The Beginning”; Hopkins’s film is “The Rite”.)

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