Monday, February 22, 2010

Knowing Energies

If you want to understand evolution, there are two basic approaches you can take. You can read books, take classes, and talk to experts in order to establish what the theory does and does not say, and how the evidence supports it. Or you can go on a piratical whirlwind tour of the history of ideas, plundering concepts from dozens of disciplines in order to force evolution into a philosophical tradition that can be dismissed prior to any real consideration of the evidence, and prior to any real consideration of the intellectual history on which your dismissal is ostensibly based.

Linda Kimball favors the latter approach, possibly because she's fallen prey to the deadly sins of sloth and covetousness. Thanks to The Goldberg Method, she has uncovered the connection between Renaissance Hermeticism and modern evolutionary biology. It's all a matter of knowing where to look and -- more important still -- knowing where not to look.

First, let's define our conclusion, so we'll be ready to ignore any facts that can't be made to support it. Daniel Webster said that we mustn't turn our backs on religious instruction and authority. He was right, obviously: why else would he have said it? And yet some people dare to disagree, especially when it comes to the study of biology. This is a sin against "the rational, personal God," who demands that we ignore the information our senses give us about the world He created just for us.

As a result, scientists have become "practical atheists" who wander around looking for meaning in the world's complexity and grandeur, which they can't properly appreciate because, unlike Ms. Kimball, they're paying way too much attention to how it works. If they'd stop fussing over natural phenomena, they might begin to appreciate the gift of rationality that was bestowed on them by a loving God.

But now, the whole house of cards is about to come down, because Linda Kimball has read -- or at least skimmed -- a book about the "occult intelligentsia" of the Renaissance.

Sound familiar? Well, it should, because there's an occult intelligentsia in our time too, as you can plainly see if you're willing to accept "occult" as a synomym for "materialistic."

If that sounds too difficult, never fear: Kimball has done the heavy lifting for you.

[T[hey eagerly embraced the pantheistic /materialistic occult traditions — Hermeticism, Theosophy, Buddhism, esoteric Cabbalism, alchemy, neo-Platonism, and Gnosticism — sweeping into Christendom at that time.
Right. 'Cause if you were asked what philosophy linked "Hermeticism, Theosophy, Buddhism, esoteric Cabbalism, alchemy, neo-Platonism, and Gnosticism," your answer would naturally be "materialism."

I love the reference to "esoteric Cabbalism," too. That's the sort of fine historical distinction that tells us we're in the presence of a really serious thinker.

Perhaps because she hasn't exposed herself to the earnest pieties of Ficino or Pico della Mirandola, Kimball has no problem identifying Renaissance Hermeticists as "the real powers behind what has been variously called the Progressive Underground, the Anti-Establishment, and the Counter Culture." If we're to have any hope of understanding this, we must first agree on terms.
Under the term occultism are included various practices broadly categorized as animism, astrology, divination (called channeling today), fetishism, shamanism, and underlying all of these is magic.
So the next time a shaman uses astrology to tell your fortune, please remember to refer to it as "channeling."

You also need to understand what magic is:
Magic is generally understood to be an interference with the normal 'way things work' in the course of nature. In short, it is an attempt at procuring godlike powers in order to "unmake" reality and then to recreate a second reality, which is really an illusion.
I guess you could say magic is "generally understood" in those terms. Unless you're talking about Renaissance magic, in which case it's absolute fucking nonsense, as anyone who has a general understanding of Cabbala or alchemy or Hermeticism or Neoplatonism can tell you.

Last, you need to understand that people who believe in magic -- materialists, in other words -- "claim to possess deep inner-gnosis," as opposed to shallow outer-gnosis.

Now that we've defined our terms, let's see how the rise of Hermetic inner-gnostic materialism led humanity away from the commonsense understanding that decaying meat turns into flies and geese grow from barnacles.
Western occult-pantheism speaks of animating spirit or soul while materialism speaks of miracle-producing 'knowing' energies that in their modern forms, animate and inform what can be viewed as either discarnate entities or 'force and/or voice ideas' called memes, genes, dialectical matter, chance, causation, determinism, evolution, and neurons, for example.
Alright. It seems that Kimball objects to the double reification of occult "knowing energies" into discarnate entities like neurons and genes, which are apparently the modern-day equivalent of the Paracelsian Archaeus or some such pagan devilry. The fact that we can look at photographs of neurons just goes to show how tirelessly the Father of Lies works to lead people astray. Besides, 1 Corinthians 13 says we see through a glass, darkly, and Renaissance scientists often referred to microscopes as "glasses." (All together now: So universal and perpetual an Analogy can arise from nothing but its Pattern and Archetype in the infinite God our Maker.)

A few centuries after Teh Renaissance, the Italian socialist Enrico Ferri also talked, more or less, about "knowing energies." You may not have heard of him, but you've heard of socialism, so you know he's bad and wrong. And of course, the Occult Intelligentsia of the Renaissance was bad and wrong too. See how all the pieces are starting to fall together?

A few short decades after Ferri, along came "madman Gustav Wetter," who explained that "the dialectical materialists attribution of 'dialectic' to matter confers on it, not mental attributes only, but even divine ones." (If you can't trust a madman to explain dialectical materialism, who on earth can you trust?)

Next, we need to lock horns with the "master-magician" Hegel, who as everyone knows "informally aligned himself with "Hermetic societies, the materialist-Freemasons, and the pantheist-Rosicrucian's" [sic, sic, sic]. And of course, we must note that when Marx "reworked" Hegel's magical dialectic, he inevitably included "the Hermetic science magic of Hegel's system," because of course he did. I mean, he's Karl Marx, for chrissakes. Why wouldn't he?

Now, we have to define yet another term. (I know this is complicated, but that's true of all hard sciences except climatology and biology, so bear with me.) Hermeticism "is the secret science of magic created by Hermes Trismegistus Thoth who lived in ancient Egypt."

Well, not exactly. But instead of quibbling over where Hermes Trismegistus lived, or when he lived, or whether he lived, or whether his "science" was in fact "secret," let's jump ahead to the good stuff:
The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurias Trismegistus relates Hermes mystical encounter with The Great Dragon. Calling itself Poimandres, the Mind of the Universe, the Dragon transformed itself into a glorious being of Light and proceeded to 'illuminate' Hermes with the forbidden knowledge that would eventually find its' way into Hegel's dialectic and from there into Marx's dialectical materialism.
Let's see now...giant allegorical dragon, universal mind, divine illumination, forbidden knowledge, Hegel, Marx. Yep, it all checks out. Which means that all we have to do now is link Hermes Mercurias Trismegistus Termaximus Thoth to the naturalistic pseudoscience of magico-dialectical occulto-materialistic endo-gnostic "evolution." And despite what you may be thinking, this is actually pretty easy. In fact, it's a lot like those word-search games you probably played as a child. The difference is that instead of looking for target words in a small square of jumbled letters, you look for target words in whatever books you happen to stumble upon while seeking an a posteriori justification for your own willful ignorance.
Though taught under the guise of empirical science, naturalistic evolution is really a spiritual concept whose taproot stretches back to the dawn of history. It was then, reports ancient Jewish historian Josephus, that Nimrod (Amraphel in the Old Testament) used terror and force to turn the people away from God and toward the worship of irrational nature.
Dig it, man! Nimrod forced people into nature worship, Renaissance Hermeticists sought illumination from the divine mind, and evolutionists dreamed up discarnate entities like neurons. No wonder everything sucks nowadays.

Now, let's move "forward in time to the Greco-Roman world," when evolution served "as the mechanism of soul-transference in metempsychosis and transmigration of souls." And then let's move backwards in time to the ancient East, where the concept of evolution was "refined" by "the mystical Upanishads" and became "the mechanism of soul-movement in involutions, emergences, incarnations, and reincarnation."

Involutions and emergences! Write that down in your notebook. And add this:
In that both rationalist/materialist/secularism and its' counterpart Eastern/occult pantheism are modernized nature pseudo-religions, it comes as no surprise that evolution serves as their 'creation mythos'.
Those of you who don't understand what "evolution" means should now turn to page 224 of the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, which explains that it "covers three basic areas: the origin of the universe; the origin of first life, and the origin of new life forms." Apropos of which -- sort of -- let's assume not only that evolution is "a rational process of development" set in motion by a "transcendent rational, personal God," but that any science which fails to present this proposition as an incontrovertible fact is unscientific, on the grounds that "it is Christianity and not naturalism that is the mother of modern science."

I know, I know. We've just gone on a global quote-mining expedition to prove that modern science is basically a pagan-gnostic homunculus cooked up for laughs by Renaissance alchemists. But it turns out that Christianity actually gets all the credit for modern science -- the good kind of modern science, that is -- because J. Robert Oppenheimer and Alfred North Whitehead both say it should, sort of. Also, medieval scholastics believed in the rationality of God and thus in the intelligibility of the world (unlike Renaissance Hermeticists, who were besotted with non-Christian philosophers like Plato and accordingly concluded that God was crazy as a loon and a liar to boot).

It may seem improvised. Contradictory, even. But the important thing to remember -- and this applies to climate science, as well -- is that once you've determined that a proposition ought to be false, all arguments against it are logically consistent, whether you consider them separately or en masse. Thus, Kimball is pleased to report that "original Darwinism" has been rejected by modern scientists as "useless," without considering why they rejected it or whether that rejection is really consistent with her vision of evilutionists as Thoth-addled occultists. All that matters is that they decided to replace it with bigger and better delusions, like punctuated equilibrium and panspermia. And how do we know for certain that these are delusions? Because new agers have embraced them and thereby refuted them for all time, just as Deepak Chopra's fascination with quantum mechanics revealed the Schrodinger equation as ugly nonsense.

Noted in passing: OMG Wiccans! OMG the unbearable queerness of gay shamanism!! OMG people who support disability rights want to hire people with disabilities even though they're crazy retarded cripples!!! OMG what's up with that???? OMG HITLER!!!!!

If you're not convinced yet, prepare to have your smug occultist satano-gnostic ecotopian materio-Zoroastrian worldview shattered by a veritable fusillade of hyphens, every one of which is a deadly arrow in the heart of the unbeliever:
In short, the age of irrationalism, lawlessness, hedonism, megalomania, and utopia-madness commenced when the rational personal God, His Revelation, unchanging Truth and Universal Moral Law were cunningly displaced by naturalistic evolutionism, astral-plane spirit-revelations, pantheistic-conceptions of god-forces, christ-consciousness, animated 'thinking' dead matter , 'force and voice ideas, ' inverted morality and moral relativism, Orwellian doublespeak, and terrible-willed megalomaniacs claiming to be supermen and god-men. These are the unifying factors of Bolshevism, Nazism, and America's Progressive Liberalism.
And that's "in short," mind you. You don't want to see what happens when Kimball has the room and the inclination to be expansive.

All of this is essentially an appetizer for the idea that it's Christian fundamentalists who are truly scientific. On the basis of a study (of sorts) by William Sims Bainbridge and Rodney Stark, Kimball argues that fundamentalism makes people more skeptical, rather than less: it's in communities of unbelief that pseudosciences tend to flourish.

Granting that people are pretty credulous across the ideological spectrum, for better or worse, and that atheism and rationality are by no means synonymous, there are a few problems here. First, disbelief is not the same thing as skepticism: rejecting astrology because the Church views it as unlawful is not the same thing as rejecting it on scientific grounds. Indeed, it's not even the same thing as disbelieving it, necessarily.

Second, if you want to take stock of American credulity, the distinction between fundamentalism and new age pseudoscience seems a bit arbitrary. Worse, it gives fundamentalists a rather unfair advantage, in that they get to believe in the Rapture without being scolded for holding an "unscientific superstition."

Third, the study seems to focus on belief in pseudoscience, as opposed to disbelief in science. Is someone who believes in the Rapture, but not in evolution or astrology, really more skeptical than someone who believes in evolution and astrology but not in the Rapture? And is it really necessary to figure out people's exact position on this continuum? I think there are grounds for debate, to put it mildly. But here's what Bainbridge and Stark have to say on the matter.
"It would be a mistake to conclude that fundamentalists oppose all science (when in reality they but oppose) a single theory (that) directly contradicts the bible. But it would be an equally great mistake to conclude that religious liberals and the irreligious possess superior minds of great rationality, to see them as modern personalities who have no need of the supernatural or any propensity to believe unscientific superstitions."
Fair enough. I've made more or less the same point myself, as have lots of other people. But somehow, we get from there to here:
It is the fundamentalists who appear most virtuous according to scientific standards when we examine the cults and pseudo-sciences proliferating in our society today.
It's not quite that simple. If I assume that homeopathy doesn't work because God would not let it be otherwise, I don't get to pat myself on the back for my grasp of scientific standards. To put it another way, fuck you.

Let's recap: We can speak confidently of an evolution from the Hermetica and the Upanishads to modern biology, during which these ancient heresies become "fitter" as they progressed from paganism to Rosicrucianism to Hegelianism to Darwinism to Marxism to atheism to evo-devo. And naturally, this descent from a common ancestor is no more "blind" than any other kind of evolution: it's directed toward a specific end (OMG gay marriage! OMG death panels!).

One of the many ironies here is that the Hermetic writings appealed to many Renaissance thinkers because they seemed to support the truth of Christianity, once the appropriate genealogical methods were applied (e.g., citations from Lactantius). In other words, the facts were distorted in order to support the preferred narrative. This process of verification is not much different from the one Kimball favors: history, like science, is "true" to the extent that it serves as support for what you already believe.

If our biology textbooks were a bit more like Cotton Mather's The Christian Philosopher, and waxed ecstatic over the divine gift of retrotransposon-induced mutations, I suspect Kimball would have no serious problem with these "force and voice ideas": evolution would simply be another stick with which to pummel her enemies. It's science's failure to be useful, from this authoritarian standpoint, which causes her to interpret it as a tangled web of occultist "knowing energies," while pining for a true science that is rightfully hers and must be reclaimed ASAP so's she can use it to beat up fags.

As she sees it, science must be Christianized, much as the Hermetica had to be Christianized during the Renaissance. Which necessitates "finding" a hidden narrative that will explain how this useful tool ended up in the wrong hands, and why it must be taken back. (Kimball may try to disagree, but how can she? I've made an analogy, and everyone knows those are logically unanswerable.)

Just to prove that I, too, can dig idly through old books, I'll leave you with this passage from Henry Corbin's "The Imago Templi in Confrontation with Secular Norms":
[S]ince the hidden meaning is nothing other than the letter raised or transmuted into symbol, and perceived henceforth on the level of the imaginal world, the symbol itself is no longer something which hides the thing symbolized. It is, quite simply, the form assumed on this level by the transcendent reality, and this form is this reality. Thus, instead of allegory, one could perhaps speak of tautegory.


Spiny Norman said...

You really need to put up a tip jar. I feel terrible reading your work and not paying for it. So many times I have paid so much more to read prose that I enjoyed so much less...

Spiny Norman said...

This is definitely my favorite part:

"Though taught under the guise of empirical science, naturalistic evolution is really a spiritual concept whose taproot stretches back to the dawn of history."

History begins in the deepest chambers of the Mole People.

Jazzbumpa said...

Or, in really short short:

Know energy, know Christ; no energy, no Christ.

Though, I am literally both sick and tired, so I might have the whole thing backwards.

Also, as a gray-haired old man on a fixed income, I actually feel quite good about reading your work and not paying for it.

But the mole people frighten me, in some vaguely pantheist-Rosicrucian fashion.

JzB the conclusion-defining, inner-gnostic, hyphen-loving trombonsit

chris said...

Spiny Norman, tip jar, yes.

I did not get out of the boat (renewamerica? nothanks) but I was sad to see no mention of the Lizard People and the true meaning of Teh Rapture. One can only hope that Ms. Kimball's scholarship does not lead her too much farther off the one true path.

Other than that, she spells quite well, a fact which I'm sure will be noted by her fans.