Thursday, November 25, 2010

Divine Causality and human will

The following poem seems to be an appropriate follow-up to the previous post. Actually, it was written a few months before I wrote the prolegomena, and oddly, it was not written in stevespell. Thus the title, assigning it to Jefferson as my way to honor him. The poem is part of The Pardaes Dokkumen, from the section Tranzkript ov the Hevvenlee Korten. You can find numerous other pieces from The Pardaes Dokkumen in this blog.

Found Beneath a Floorboard in Monticello

What is done in Ertha
That is true and good and compassionate
Is done also in the High Places
And established there in the Central Code.
But what is done here in Ertha
That is false or cruel or inaccurate
Is erased from Ertha
And barriers are erected in the High Places
That are compounded as those errors are repeated,
So that the good has amplified momentum
And what is not for good is increasingly diverted
And diminished in momentum.

However, even in the most corrupt actions
There are minute details of good.
Thus, as the ungood is thwarted,
Yet the fragments of good are promoted.

In all of our actions
Most is dross, to be cast off or thwarted
By the Divine Will.
But the pintele good,
Which is mostly poorly known to us,
Is amplified, that the Divine Will
Slowly, inexorably, works Its Purposes.

Those that act with most force in the world
Rarely achieve much good.
Those that act with most good in the world
Rarely act with force.

The measure of force required
Is a crude measure of an action's ungood.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Concerning the sacred and profane

Prolegomena to Rebuilding our Moral Foundations

A fundamental distinction that human beings make
     is between the sacred and the profane,
     the moral and the evil,
     that is, between what is holy and “Godlike”
     and what is merely animal.
I believe it is a presumption and a lie
     to claim to know God's will, God's “desires”.
     But by evolving our understanding of the holy
     and pursuing its manifestations in our life
     we can approach, to some degree,
     a certitude of God's being
     and a sense of awareness of God's Presence.
The primary value in being aware of God's Presence
     is that it may help inspire us
     to higher ethical standards
     and it may help support us
     in times of grief and trouble.

The Category of the Profane:
There is nothing holy about hatred.
There is nothing holy about anger.
There is nothing holy about violence.
There is nothing holy about bitterness.
There is nothing holy about cynicism.
There is nothing holy about controlling others.
This core of destructive emotions and behaviors
     all incline us towards the profane.

All of these emotions and behaviors
     are part of our being and part of our life.
We will express them sometimes, or often,
     And we must process them constantly,
     but there is, literally, nothing holy in them.
There will be times when such feelings
     may be an appropriate response
     to the world and its events,
     but because they may be appropriate responses
     does not make them holy,
     and therefore, they can never serve
     to elevate us towards the moral,
     and towards God's Presence.
     They are essentially degenerative.
Indeed, the more we feel and express them
     the further we will move away from God's Presence.
Finally, although there are times and situations
     when these feelings may be appropriate,
     even necessary,
When they become the guiding light
     of a person, a group, a nation, an ideology,
     they not only degenerate us morally,
     but they become a marker of a degenerative ideology
     and they can be called evil, unequivocally.
     As such, they become a dangerous enemy
     to the individual, the group, the species.

The Category Between Sacred and Profane:
This is the general realm of the existential,
     the psychological, and the social,
     and is the topic of many, if not most, books.
Most of what we feel and do
     is not inherently sacred or profane.
     Neither does it inherently move us
     towards evil or the moral.
Nonetheless, most of what we feel and do is driven
     by our sacred and profane feelings and motives,
     even though those motives
     may be hidden from our awareness.
Feelings and experiences such as
     fear, pain, suffering, and despair
     tend to damage the individual
     and stunt one's growth towards the sacred.
     It is uncommon for them to generate
     healing and growth
     although, in an environment of healing,
     later growth may occur.
This category of feeling, doing and experiencing –
     the human sitz-in-leben between sacred and profane –
     however compelling a topic of discussion,
     is not my topic here.

The Category of the Sacred:
Compassion strongly inclines us towards the holy.
Charity strongly inclines us towards the holy.
Love strongly inclines us towards the holy.
Prayer inclines us towards the holy.
Self-control inclines us towards the holy.
Respect inclines us towards the holy.
Gentleness inclines us towards the holy.
Some rituals will incline us towards the holy.
Art and creativity can incline us towards the holy.
Joy and pleasure can incline us towards the holy.

All of these emotions and behaviors
     are part of our being and our life.
We may express them sometimes, or often.
They seek to be constantly processed
     and integrated into our being
     although we may be largely unaware of them
     some or much of the time.
They do not originate from animal needs and drives,
     but animal needs and drives
     can sometimes express or further them.

               As an aside:
               The common scientific blindness
               to that aspect of being
               that is not animal,
               but rather of the holy, of the divine,
               is a fundamental stumbling block
               to scientific accuracy
               in theory and practice.

Yet none of these feelings and behaviors
     are inherently holy.
Neither can these feelings and behaviors
     be purely and exclusively holy
     even if done in the most exemplary manner
     by the most exemplary person.
These feelings and behaviors are always mixed
     with profane feelings and behaviors,
     particularly the profane desire to control others.
For this reason, even these feelings and behaviors
     that incline to the holy
     can become a means to do profane and evil things.
For example:
     to claim that there is only one correct way
     to do sacred behaviors
     is a blatant falsehood,
     and an active means of controlling others,
     and is therefore, profane, and inclines to evil,
     even though the conscious intention
     is to guide to the holy.

Shaping Communities to Incline towards the Sacred:
It is appropriate to punish profane action.
It is inappropriate to punish profane feelings and thoughts.
It is appropriate to critically challenge
     profane feelings and thoughts by exploring their motives
     and their potential consequences.
Proper education will incline
     away from profane thoughts and behaviors
     and towards the sacred,
     but no education, however exemplary,
     is capable of eliminating profane feelings
     and behaviors.

It is inappropriate to punish a failure to do sacred actions.
It is appropriate to critically encourage
     sacred feelings and thoughts
     by exploring their mixed motives,
     and their potential consequences,
     sacred and profane.
It is appropriate to encourage sacred action
     so long as care is taken
     to understand and evaluate
     the non-sacred motives within every sacred action.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Homeostasis, evolution, and paganism

What follows is a non-poetic restatement of the ideas in my poem “XIII” of “Pesez ov an Unrevelen Narrattiv”, which is a poem-series in my longer poem Mith ov the Aternen Jew.

While exploring the psychological roots of anti-Semitism, it has occurred to me that the contents of consciousness can be generated by interior workings of the body itself. Indeed, much of what we call myth (such as the various myths of the Jew, or the idea of Messiah, or ideas and stories about God or The Gods) may be seen as a narrativization of biological forces. This is not so strange as it might, at first, sound. The idea is derived by understanding that homeostasis and evolution are two conflicting forces in nature, and it is further substantiated by the circularity of consciousness. Let me explain.

Homeostasis is, to quote that intellectual cornerstone, Wikipedia,

...the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition. Typically used to refer to a living organism, the concept came from that of milieu interieur that was created by Claude Bernard and published in 1865. Multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustment and regulation mechanisms make homeostasis possible.

Thus, all living creatures rely on homeostasis, the body-mind’s attempt to survive by maintaining balance and stability in an environment that is inherently, and ultimately, destabilizing and destructive.

One of those forces that is pitted against homeostasis is evolution. Evolutionary changes reconfigure both interior and exterior biological “landscapes”, causing organisms to constantly rebalance and reconfigure their systems to optimize survival. Exterior evolutionary and environmental changes threaten an organism’s ability to survive by changing the conditions of the niche in which the organism lives. Interior evolutionary changes, that is evolutionary changes in an organism itself, directly confront the homeostatic systems that manage an organism. The organism’s own systems now must compete for control of resources and management functions. From a homeostatic “point of view”, evolutionary changes are invasive and threatening systems.

I would suggest that these interior stresses, while largely subconscious, yet get converted to narratives, as the mind seeks explanations for its stresses. This narrativization of biological stressors is not surprising. One of the conundrums (or ironies) of human consciousness is that we are bound by the circularity of our senses. We use our senses to observe what our senses are. We are not able to step out of ourselves, to step out of our bodies, and perceive what our senses really are, or what our senses are truly perceiving. The notion that our senses are merely windows on reality, while alluring, is unfortunately just a simplistic attempt to step out of our inherent circularity. Acknowledging this circularity, we are forced to the notion that our minds, as our senses, are interpreters and mythmakers, not raw observers. Our identities are myths, as are our ideologies. Thus, our biology will serve our mythmaking, as part of our general experience.

By the way, I use the term “myth” here both in its lesser sense as “illusion”, and in its more elevated sense as a foundational layer of consciousness. Our myths are full of illusion, and yet they can also be our best attempts to understand the circular reality into which we are bound. Thus, for me, “science” is also myth.

We humans are a species in the midst of evolutionary stresses, both interior and exterior. Our particular interior competitions and stresses generated by evolution amplify the exterior stresses of survival, causing a persistent tendency to build a narrative of ethnic invasion. Thus we have biological as well as social stresses tending to create myths of the “other”. This would help account for the persistence of anti-Semitism and its many underlying narratives, including its most modern incarnation, anti-Zionism – hatred of the idea of a Jewish nation.

One final detail, critical to my semi-narrative poem Mith ov the Aternen Jew. While evolution is generally believed to proceed randomly, evolutionary forces are well known to pursue gradients, that is, to fill niches in nature. In my poem I claim that there are gradients in nature that are working to eliminate paganistic thinking. In this case I define “pagan” not in the traditional religious way - the worship of idols and “false” gods - but in psychological terms. Paganistic thinking claims that law and ethics are relative and human productions, and that therefore, there is no one correct system of law or ethics.

I would argue that history suggests the opposite. It appears that humans are moving towards a singular and unified definition of law and ethics. Tribal borders and ethnicities are rapidly breaking down (the foundational cause of Islamic terrorism, by the way). In this process, languages, too are rapidly disappearing.

It seems the biblical prophets understood this particular gradient working on human consciousness, unabashedly claiming that one law and one moral standard would dominate the world. There now seems to be much evidence to that effect, even as we struggle to know, and to shape, what that law and ethics is. What were once prophetic statements that appeared to be arrogantly ethnocentric and wildly implausible, now seem to be the first harbingers of the obvious and the necessary.

Thus I say, there ARE gradients directing evolution, and it seems some of them became a source of ideological belief, long before there was evidence to substantiate them.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Myth of the Eternal Jew, 7

Here’s a brief excerpt from The Mith ov the Aternen Jew, in which we meet the four brothers united in their hate of Jews. They will come and go in the narrative, commonly bringing some comic relief.

Sheep bleet an the sof klipklop
Az thaer keeper herdz them down the lane,
Thwak ov hiz swich uppon thaer baks.
Behiend him a donkee, hiz prodijjes piss.
Ammung the kobbelz it spatter an run,
Sparen not the brutherz sprawld in the dung.

Still ly thay drunk wile the sky groen pale,
An sleepee Jerusalem beginz tu exhale
The mixxen texcher ov fraegren and fume:
Frying fish an rotten flesh
The siklee sweet an moldee daets,
Goet an its rut, lemmen an tee,
The raenk porterz, thaer grunt and weez.
A flute maeks maree, the lilt an kroek
Ov voisez in aksent, lafter and kers.
The skweel a chieldz and the kaw ov kro.
Hammer on bronz, a kart its groen.

     "Yo Iven; yu Fritz; hay Paydro and Husson.
     "Drag yersellz frum the filth ov the roed.
     "How long in yur drunk will yu snor and spowt?
     "The tavern maetren haz throen yu owt."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

from The Fawl ov Helloweez

While working on Gottverdammerung, my notes indicated I needed a quote from an earlier book in the series, Bouk 5, The Fawl ov Helloweez. As I began to search for it, I read this opening scene and was blown away. Were these my words?? This is not an uncommon experience for me, and thus I have come to understand that I do not write these verses. They write me. I'll let your imagination decide on the source of them. The following excerpt from Bouk 5 will point to my own opinion on that matter.

A bit of context: Bouk 4 is the story of Justinian and Theodora, and Bouk 5 is the story of Abelard and Heloise. In this scene we are in the liminal or transmigrant space between them, elevated to the perspective of Ertha and Elmallah. Thus, Theodora and Heloise are incarnations of Ertha, as Justinian and Abelard are incarnations of Elmallah, the messenger of God, come to lift up Ertha from her lowly place.

A note on the layout of the text: indents indicate the various voices. Elmallah's words are given one indent; Ertha, 2; Theyodorra, 4; comments, 5.

Swooning Allong the Kurvacherz

                    Theyodorra lay on her bed, benummd
                    Frum exxosten ov emoshennel diskor.
                    She lay with her armz krosst on her chest
                    Az she woud in deth, in a kase ov stone.

Ertha opend her eyz. She staerd
For a moment at the ultra-vilet globe
In wich she lay; a bewtafful pattern
Ov liets surrownding. "Starz," she reyaliezd.
Her etherek boddee pulst, florressen.

Beside her Elmallah stoud, louking down,
Werree, kompashen, joy in hiz eyz.

                    Theyodorra opend her eyz. Az if
                    The sunrize had not yet begun; the werld
                    Wuz blurd, shadoez hung like nietmaerz.
                         Az if thay wer smoke
                         Frum a smoldering fiyer... -- Levvel 1:1
                    Her thots drifted in konvolving eddeez.
                    Her miend in superpozing boddeez

                    Justinneyan stoud abuv her skowling.
                    He muevd and disappeered in the tennuwus lite.
                    Theyodorra, grippt with revulzhen and feer,
                    Lay, unnabel tu stir or make a sownd.

Hors, Ertha wisperd, "How kan this be?
          "A moment aggo I had been abbandend
          "Tu a werld, a prizzen, an opake boddee
          "Huze bowndreez, huze wawlz koud not be breecht;
          "A karben web that koud not be torn
          "Withowt destroying the life it restraend."

     "Ertha, Ertha, in mennee boddeez
     "Livz the Sol ov the Lor and its hewman sensez.
     "Az the siv filterz sand; az kurtenz kut lite;
     "Az the boddee akts az a sheeth tu thot,
     "Restrikting superpozing lievz and werldz;
     "Yet eech filter iz permeyabbul.

     "Yu ar still passing thru Theyodorra
     "Tho her werld groez dim and her thots dizzolv
     "In yur hiyer perseptenz, like salt in wotter.
     "She iz not destroyed, but interleeving.
     "And within Theyodorra dwellz Innonna,
     "And within Innonna the dizzolved beingz
     "Kannot be distingwisht frum your awtonommek self."

Haf heering, Ertha gaezd at Elmallah,
Joy and releef washing over her fase
Like waevz in tide run, a slow immersen.
Behind hiz eyz a spirel ov starz
Wer terning, surrownding hiz hed like a krown.

                    Az if she wer lasht tu her bed, arching,
                    Aggenst her roeps, straening, fureyus
                    Tossing her hed from side tu side,
                    Still Theyodorra koud not withstand
                    The tiedz, and sank beneeth the waevz.

The spirel ov starz irrezistablee spinz,
Owtstreching its armz in the dans ov ajez,
Behiend Elmallah, a jyant vortex
Sentering arownd hiz etherek shaedz.
          "Yu hav alwayz been here," Ertha fienlee mermerd,
          "Tho time had passt and yu wer gon.
          "Now kumming tu see yur shape in awl shaeps
          "Yur thot in awl Thot, yur luv that endorz.
          "My yeerz allone have tellaskoept
          "Tu a moment, have dissappeerd and ar gon,
          "Like a grane ov salt dizzolvd in the see."

Tho the moshen ov the mereyad starz seemd randem,
Az Elmallah muevd, so thay tuu muevd,
A dimend korrona tu hiz silluwet;
Or perhaps it wuz he konforming tu the sky.

     "I am alwayz being, I am always reterning,
     "I am alwayz at thresh ov the Moment ov Bliss.
     "Yu ar alwayz krying, yu ar alwayz dying
     "Yu ar alwayz in need and rezisten my help.
     "Wen I hoeld yu, yu fade intu annuther boddee.
     "Wen I tuch yu, iz it assid, iz it ise I will feel?
     "How kan I make yur prezzens harmonek?
     "Wut yur eyz see, wut yur miend knoez,
     "It chaenjez in yur alkemmekkel moodz."

          "Not so! Yu ar kruwel! Yu meerlee make exkuse
          "For yur lak ov luv for me and my werld.
          "Yu hav kum heer, yu say, tu lift me up,
          "Tu leed me owt ov my artiffis ov babbel,
          "Tu press a messij intu my blud.
                         I will put my teaching into their inmost being,
                         and inscribe it upon their hearts.
                         -- Yermeyahu 31:33

          "But du yu lift me, or am I raezd?
          "A moment aggo I lay suspended
          "In an ultra-marrene dome ov lite.
          "Now it unjulaets in a brillyent arrorra,
          "Fraktelling spirelz ov sinnabbar and goeld.
          "Wut wuz wuns a sky, and meerlee a sky
          "Had bekum an intrakket, dazzling mozayek,
          "But now aggen it haz darkend and dulld."

                    In oppressiv sleep Theyodorra moend.
                    Swetting beneeth her velvet kwilts
                    She koud not wake up; she koud not even tern.

Like a distent sittee, seen long aggo,
Like a plase deskriebd in an aenshent powem,
Like a straenj land in a straenj dreem,
Ertha rememberd Theyodorra.
She shudderd and ternd bak tu Elmallah.

          "Am I uther than wut yur Lor kreyated?
          "Dizzolvd intu Naecher and fawlowing its kontorz
          "I kling tu the freedem tu think and tu akt.
          "And with that freedem I hav tryd tu chaenj
          "A werld that iz harsh. Ware I hav faeld,
          "The ellements prevael and I am tranzmuted;
          "I am batterd; I am skarrd; I am klose tu ruwin.
          "But in my struggel at leest I am free.
          "And woud yu withhoeld my freedem tuu?"

     "Wut iz the freedem that I mite withhoeld?
     "Duz a meteyer taring thru the sky hav freedem?
     "Duz the sun in its serkelz or the unrulee wind?
     "Deskribe the freedem ov the timmid deer
     "Hiding frum the woolf. Or the silent hunter
     "Hungree and bending thru the bloing sno.
     "And my oen krooked path inside this darkness...
     "Tell me wut du yu need tu be free?
     "Then tell me how I mite giv it tu yu."

          "Doent tell me nuthing iz free in this werl!
          "If that wer so, wy hav yu kum?
          "I nevver konsidderd wy befor,
          "But yu hav shoed me: Luv, Saekred Luv!
          "Yu hav torn a vale frum akross my eyz,
          "And my Sol haz opend tu a vast reflekten.
          "This yu hav dun! Kreyated my purpos!
          "Then you take it and say it wuz nevver thare!

          "Duz the bee reflekt uppon hiz stashen
          "And deside if he will gather hunnee?
          "But the beeten dog may fienlee revolt
          "And flee tu the forrest, tu be wield aggen.
          "How much mor ar we made free,
          "Hu kan speek with yu; hu kan hoeld yur luv?

          "But now yu lay annutherz thots,
          "Annutherz sinz intu my Sol,
          "And say, This tuu iz yurz. And mor!'
          "But I say, No! I will not karee!'
          "Take this Theyonorra frum me!
          "My steps ar not my oen enneemor.
          "Like a mule yu lode me till I fawl."

     "Ertha, wut yu say iz tru.
     "Yu hav sed it tu me; I'll repeet it tu yu,
     "And it will be like a bouk in yur Sol.
     "In eech ov yur ajez yu will studdee a porshen
     "Ov this treetis that I will kawl Yes and No.
                         (Note: in his incarnation as Abalard
                         this is a book he will write.)

     "In eech ov yur ajez yu will diskuvver
     "That yu ar not free, and yes yu ar.
     "The werl iz like a vizhuwel trik:
     "Yu kan see the staerwell az if frum abuv,
     "Or frum belo wen yu bleenk yur eyz.
     "Freedem iz but a twist ov perspektiv.
     "Ware yu ar iz hard but fixt;
     "Yur destinnaten iz wut iz at risk."

For moments and ajez Ertha ponderd; then:
          "Ware tu Elmallah? And how?"