Have the Courage! To Profess Nothing and Be Nothing

By Alex Blum

Today I was to speaking to someone (and by speaking I mean texting) about Immanuel Kant, a conversation in which I assessed him as a man of reason. The response: “What do you mean by reason?” was at once facetious and deeply telling of a mindset which has become the spirit of an age. Gone, is the Enlightenment ethos, Kant’s giddy expression of humanity’s light, “Have the courage to use your own reason!” We now live in an age in which reason itself is subjective, where Truth with a capital T means nothing and Plato is naught but an old white fascist. A world where the microaggression merits the recession of the intellect into a safe space, where prejudice is now the original sin that we must all cleanse ourselves of. ‘Prejudice’, which is the formation of almost all our opinions, based on aesthetic preferences and not reason or experience. To purge the human being of prejudice is to force us to find another way to decide on matters of life, love and philosophy – but what? Not reason, which is subjective. Not science, which is a sexist social construct, and least of all religion, which is an old boy’s club of superstition and foolishness. All that’s left to us is the sterile nihilism of a relativistic attitude, a world seen through the lens of race and gender where the goal is a ‘conversation’ but everyone already knows the right answer as soon as they’ve entered the room. The ‘dialogue’ is a farce, because there is only one right answer. However, these are the people who also believe that everything is subjective, save for of course the objective evils of racism and sexism through which all of human existence becomes a clear tale of oppression along superficial lines. The answer to that oppression? To promote cultural change within the bubble of an already liberal school. These social justice proposals shall surely sweep the world stage. The echo chamber, indeed, echoes a little louder.

Of course, by defending the concept of prejudice, I’ve already set myself up for being accused of writing some kind of regressive troglodyte manifesto. This is anything but. This form of prejudice has nothing to do with race or gender, but describes a larger condition that is at stake in a politically correct world. The philosopher Edmund Burke professed prejudice as a valuable human faculty, prejudice towards individuals, nations, objects and things. Anything. It is placing a deeper valuation on our intuitions, our impressions, our raw reactions to the unfolding world. It is Emersonian, to follow ourselves and the iron string that tethers all selves to absolute Truth. And if Truth is in fact our individual subjectivity resonating with the whole of humanity, then our prejudices become our deepest internal being. ‘I prefer England.’ ‘I prefer eggs.’ ‘Japan is a horrible country.’ Without our prejudices we lose our selves; when we are afraid to express them we are living in a world of repressed life. All of this is to critique an ideology that seems to view equal judgement, unthinking judgement, sterile neutral inhuman judgement, as the pinnacle of progressive ideals. We must all speak in the same canned academic language, not offend one another, and if we ever disagree, it must be along narrow grounds. This is a worldview that demands relativism: if there is no absolute truth and the goal is to eliminate all prejudices for the sake of equality, the result is a condition of pure conformity of opinion. A world without opinion, only consensus. We must surrender our prejudices, because they are offensive. Someone somewhere will not like them. So what’s the use of having any views at all? They’re all subjective and you’re only going to be wrong, or malicious, in someone else’s eyes. Best to sit back and let the world turn. Be nothing, and profess nothing.

But I’m making an argument with Edmund Burke, the ur-conservative and an old white man. Those labels alone are enough to scoff him off. Nevermind the actual meaning of the word ‘conservative’, which has nothing to do with the right-wing politics of today; the fact that one is an old white man inherently devalues his position. Noam Chomsky is an old white man, so we should listen to someone else. But Chomsky also describes himself as conservative in many ways, as it is conservative in this day and age to demand that the Commander in Chief abide by the rule of law, and that we should hold on to some archaic principles, such as a distaste for financial speculators, who were hanged in the 17th century. Perhaps also due process, which has been thrown out the window by the latest developments in Title IX, if anyone reads its procedures rather than imagining that any form of Title IX is inherently good and means equality for women. A Title IX investigation proceeds without a hearing for the respondent to even know what they’re being accused of, and the result is a finding of guilt that is kept secret. One can be accused and found guilty of a crime that remains completely unknown to them. “What the hell did I do?” The answer: “You won’t know what specifically you were accused of, or what you were found guilty of. All that matters is that the investigation was closed and we know what you did.” What kind of ‘liberal’ supports a process so Kafkaesque? But criticizing Title IX on any level is already perceived as an attack on feminism and thus an attack on women, an indication of how quickly the ideological mind moves. This speed of judgement paradoxically exists in a relativist world, which shows that no one actually believes in relativism, but that we merely profess it out of weakness.

I read an article on Gawker or Jezebel or something asking its readers not to buy any books by white, male cisgendered authors for a year in order to promote ‘diversity’. Identity politics of the worst kind. As if all white men put forth white man thoughts, and all black women put forth black woman thoughts, and the way to intellectual diversity is by packing one’s reading list, literally, with tokens of racial diversity. White men say white man things, thus their views don’t need to be heard as much. What a cage to put people in! And all from those who ultimately assert a bedrock of subjectivity, the ‘it’s all a wash’ metaphysics; everything is a social construct, nothing is set in stone, we’re all twigs in the wind with a will that ultimately turns to dust. It is existentialism with none of the courage, none of the power of being, through the will that transcends matter, the will that looks at its own genetic programming and defies it, the will that uncovers mathematics and uncovers the objective rules of materiality. The day THAT will is swallowed in an abyss of relativism is the day we need a kick in the ass.

Mathematical truth is not ‘invented’. The fact that patterns conjured up in ape brains match the patterns of the external universe requires an explanation, and our transcendence is that explanation. Mathematics is the link of the subjective mind into the hope of objectivity. It is the reason why Plato had all his students study math, and why I’m a hypocrite because I don’t. When we pretend that everything is a social construct, everything is a wash, that there are only opinions and that the world is truly ‘the big nothing’, we should all sit down and do some equations, and realize that we are apes calculating the fundamental patterns that rule the universe. Where does that action make sense in the ‘big shrug’ philosophy? We need a revival of Truth; we need a new philosophy to dig ourselves out of this postmodern hellhole we call the end of history. Will we go down as ‘the last man’, the one who is tired of life, the one who seeks comfort, the wretch who yearns to crawl back into the womb or become a small animal, because being human is too hard? That is the end that relativism allows for us. Relativism, if lived as if it were true, can only be nihilism. Living ‘as if’ is the freedom from a world without Truth, and we must live as if we are transcendent beings, capable of overcoming ourselves and spinning new wonder into existence. I believe that the postmodern condition is a cage, and the blossoming of radical social justice within it seems to indicate that the two inform one another.

Take, for example, the term ‘Person of Color’. When one analyzes this word, it begins to make sense why the postmodern attitude rejects reason. ‘Person of Color’ as a term could easily be argued to be offensive as hell. It implies that being white is neutral, no color, the default state of humanity that all else is ‘colored’ or ‘other’ in opposition to. How problematic. Furthermore, it sounds like ‘colored’, one of the most backward ways of referring to black people. If a social justice advocate wanted to make this argument, would they simply be told that they are wrong? With what reasoning? Is not everyone’s viewpoint valid? I find ‘Person of Color’ offensive, but no one will respect that. Social justice is built on consensus, and consensus shirks individual subjectivity. Subjectivity is no longer for the individual – it is for the collective. It is for the whole world. This, above all, is relativism’s mistake. The role of subjectivity is for the within, not the outside world, where things matter and there is indeed real morality that trumps ‘social constructs’. The language of direct experience makes this argument most powerfully, the language of force crushing the skull of a human being and the obvious moral truths evoked by killing individuals with drones as if they were ants. If we were those individuals, those ants, the truth of the situation becomes apparent. But empathy, too, is relative. Barack Obama, drone executioner who wields the Throne and the sword of Judgement, has a point. But serious critiques of social justice don’t. The current atmosphere in the university, despite its insistence on ‘everyone has a point’, is bizarrely closed off. It is soft and authoritarian. It is weak and it is the bully. It is the world that smacks your head on the sidewalk and asks you to follow sensitive procedure; it is both of these simultaneously and it is mad.

The current existential state among millennials of apathy, of inaction, inability, fear, anxiety and a lack of self-respect, exists for a reason. These things constitute the spirit of our times. God is dead, and those who replace Him with reason have also replaced Him with the functionary society, the human reduced to the animal, the will as profoundly un-transcendent and anthropocentrism as the great eye-roller of the century. Those who reject God and reason have become the nebulous pit of relativism, the nightmare from which we must awaken, especially in the university, if Truth is to mean anything at all. If we yearn to hold onto it at all. If we let it get away from us, we will be stuck with the infinite yearning for an infinite number of things that are infinitely hollow. The history of art and literature is a history of betrayal, as each work slowly becomes less and less powerful and we must replace it with another, as all things fade and all lovers fade and all flesh rots on the bone. And what do we have at the end of it? Faux politeness, a soft ‘dialogue’ that already has its answers and now has the federal government to enforce them. A speaker criticizing 3rd wave feminism is in fact a rape apologist, and is a danger to the student body. The 1 in 5 statistic is upheld as Truth, uttered by Obama, even though it’s not (But that’s heresy, it is a bulletproof statistic). An accidental brush or a vindictive ex could result in an investigation where you will be found guilty of an unknown crime by a court without due process. Title IX can be used as a weapon with no risk to the weapon-starved. Neo-segregationist ideas, such as dating or marrying only within one’s own race, are considered serious alternatives to white supremacy. Black people shouldn’t be friends with white oppressors, and they shouldn’t be treated the same as white friends, lest one be blind to their own privileges and the history of white crimes against People of Color. However, you also shouldn’t be racist by condescending to PoC as victims, even though radical social justice seeks to define PoC as the Oppressed – victims of white oppression. It’s a complete lose-lose where reason truly is malleable, and can mean anything. After all, it’s impossible to be racist against white people. Look up the definition of racism; our political inclinations mean more than the dictionary that was written by old white men anyway. Intellectual history is trash – it’s all biased, it means nothing, and in this bizarrely popular attitude of irreverence we have only the consensus opinions we’ve spun into our own Truth and now seek to push forth through the institution itself.

University students supposedly have the right to accuse Tea Party voters of being ‘privileged’, a voting bloc that largely lives in poverty and hasn’t had a taste of the kind of privilege that comes from a life in academia. The very fact that I’m a half-white man writing about race and gender issues invalidates my perspective – unless I agree with the social justice consensus, that is, in which case I should be applauded for my saintly progressive attitude. It is a soft authoritarianism, and universities are compromised against it. They are beholden to federal money, and like all institutions, the feast comes before the individuals they are supposed to serve. When a consensus forms, it becomes the Truth, and this more than anything else represents our times – God and Truth are whatever hold power, coercive and dishonest power. If one seeks to attain Truth, or know God, we must simply follow our own will to dominate and subjugate – politely – for the sake of resisting domination and subjugation. What does the broadly-defined relativist-postmodern-radical social justice consensus seek to dominate and subjugate? Language and prejudices; the content of one’s mind and the means to express it. I will assert once more that nearly all of our views come from non-rational or irrational aesthetic preferences that we then justify second-hand. And if this sounds like another argument for relativism, then it too must be transcended.

The ideal of the Ubermensch is one that has haunted and battered history. Wherever it is imagined, it fails because it is imagined in the context of superficial boundaries. One race is denoted as the problem. One gender. The solution of force, of absolute materialism, is too tempting for apes driven by power and fear to resist. But there is something above ape-hood, and that is humanity. It is the animal that is discontent with animality and seeks to rule the stars. Our yearning for power is a misplaced yearning for something more, something far stronger – the legacy of transcendence that we have forgotten and lost to the subjective void. Being human is an ideal in a world where the norm is animality, and animals must seek power to save themselves from destruction. But the truth of religion is that this material power is illusory. That in the molten pit of paradox, the Crucified Christ has actually affirmed his own life. The Maya is so thick that we cannot see through it. It is true that each religion is ultimately false, but it is also true that it speaks to a transcendence, a firmness in being human, a faith in the world, that this postmodern age sorely lacks. The problem is that religion itself has become primary, whereas human transcendence has become tertiary. It must be the other way around. Everything that is exceptional and beautiful about human beings should inform religion; religion should have no content in and of itself. Perhaps this solution is empty. Perhaps someday, it won’t be.

Either way, the animal has no ability to write out equations. If mathematical Truth is all we have for now, let it be the tether through which golden light may pour. The light of humanity, that which is an animal but is not happy in the world. We are being called toward something else. It is a calling that must be answered, a God that must be made with our own hands. And if this declaration is forsaken in the name of vague subjectivity, if we turn away from the light and the man-made God that must rise from intellectual despair, we have reaped what we desire and deserve. What we should do, above all, is exist as human beings, as the beings transcendent enough to work out the birth and death of stars on paper and learn the nature of the very DNA that has made us. All things are made of matter, but only one thing cares enough about matter to preside over the amassed knowledge of the sciences. We must take this Knowledge into ourselves, and transmute it into the hope that it entails, that matter can become something as absurd as a thinking ape and in that absurdity, something beyond our own minds was recognized and affirmed. From the atoms of physics come chemical bonds, from that the organic chemistry of the animal, and from the brain of the animal comes consciousness. Within consciousness we attain mathematical formulas, and what does it all rest upon? Beneath the bottom layer of physics? Mathematical formulas.

We are exceptional. Believe it, and allow your faith and your reason to synthesize into a golden core untouched by the malaise of the age and all its malcontents, especially mine and your own.

A Partial Manifesto

By Alex Blum

Last year at this time, my enemy was scientific materialism. In between then and now, I thought it was existentialism. Now, I know it to be relativism – the postmodern nightmare. What comes next must transcend all of these, as well as religion, which is but myth and dust. However, whatever transcends it must be religious. It must hold a place for the transcendence of the human being, a foundation for morality and dignity that shall not be trespassed.

Existentialism is in fact the best friend of all philosophies, most of all Christianity. The ultimate sense of purposeless is a profound power when coupled with the will to act on any thought that is worth acting upon. The freedom is infinite and painful to bear, but beautiful, and that is ultimately what existentialism is – the pain and the beauty of the will, fulfilled and unfulfilled in the waking world. The recession into dream is an easy out, but it can never be taken. The dream takes many forms, and the dreamer is trapped within them, unable to wake from that which is easier than the life imbued with the knowledge of purposelessness. That life, which moves through despair and the ultimate state of the pathetic in which the self yearns for all things and cries out for the stillborn womb, is profoundly beautiful because it recognizes that which no one can escape from. Existentialism is a burden, not unlike that of the cross, to live and to act in the world knowing that action is ultimately all that we have. If we live as if we are relativists, putting nothing forth and content to languish in ambiguity, then that is what is true. If we stand behind what matters to us and strive to bring it into the world, then that is its own truth. The synthesis of all truths becomes Truth, and the world itself is a testament to the combined wills of all humanity. If your truth is not a part of it, then the absolute Truth can never exist, as it requires all perspectives to see things as they truly are.

Existentialism is the savior of the incomplete worldview. It is the humbling, the humility that the myth requires. We can stand on our myths, our truths, our individual lives, only in acknowledging the ultimate abyss of the world without ultimate purpose. In that we find strength, just as in crucifixion the Christ finds true transcendence. It is clear now that existentialist-Christianity is my myth, my truth, that is not True but that I must live as if it were. It is the wager that must be fulfilled, the risk that must be undertaken in the world where all things come to pass and in the end the only thing that sticks is what you choose to make stick.

To the ancient Greeks, an atheist was not someone who disbelieved in God, but rather someone who acted as if there was no God. Someone who demonstrated the inhumanity of humankind, and thus severed our relation to the divine. It is this model of action, not of belief, that we should turn to when thinking of God. Actions that abide by empathetic thought and moral courage affirm the human destiny and the divine, while sociopathic and coercive behavior affirm the Godless world of material interests and desires.

The interests of a civilization, a Leviathan, a false God, like the interests of the mafia, ignore individual human life. To Yahweh, to the United States and to Tony Soprano, interests come before human lives. Someone’s an informant? A threat to the family? You whack them, no matter who they are. If someone’s a threat to this country, you wipe them out and 10,000 of their best friends. The loss of human life does not matter to a false God of power – He only cares that He is worshiped. All due respect to the boss. Disrespect the boss? Threaten the family? You die. These are the principles of the world, either stand opposed to them and die or embrace them and fight. The world of force is created when interests are held above the lives of individuals, when might truly makes right and we have no recourse when we are wronged other than to gain more power.

As long as the world is motivated by such power, the beast feeding itself at the cost of others, then we will not be humans. We will truly be animals, as the politician is, as the institutional church is, as all centers of power are – centers of beasthood that we have allowed to trample over our human souls. The human is profoundly linked to the moral, as we are the animal that can recognize our own yearning for power and stifle it, and give ourselves up to the world and instead accept absolute self-sacrifice for the sake of the other. If an animal does this, then it is human. We are all animals with the spiritual power to use our thought for the sake of becoming human.

The heights of humanity, which are linked to the moral sphere, are our burden and our promise to fulfill. The human is that which seeks these heights, that which yearns for them, and desires that which is above animality. To exude the Above, to embody it through art and through moral action, to understand theological light and divine love as the fulfillment of humanity rather than anything else, is to undertake an existential burden. The animal, the beast, is defined as the creature driven by fear and anxiety and yearning for power. A human can be an animal. We yearn for power because it is the only recourse the beast has in a world run by force and where force shatters skulls. But what lies beyond it? Above power, above ‘interests’ and in the pure empyrean sphere of moral courage and genuine creation, even at the risk of death or destruction of the self? That is the knight of faith, given over completely to God, where God is each individual’s ideal of the Above incarnate in the world. To be a knight of such faith is a cause worthy of risking life itself. After all, action is our only recourse against the assertion of relativism.

We are unfulfilled because we are what we are, and it is simultaneously enough and not nearly enough. Becoming human is a rejection of more than neoliberalism, more than racism, more than sexism, more than colonialism – the seat of seething fear and power that drives the heart of animality and the animal world we live in. This world, when transcended by becoming filled with knights of faith, will stand as the physical proof of humanity’s transcendence over animality. The world that we create will be the evidence that we are indeed the inheritors of God’s light and God’s grace, the beings who are spoken of by Hermes Trismegistus in the Emerald Tablet – the prodigious sons and daughters of a reckoning that we must bring into the world by our own will. We have thought, and no one else will think for us. We can defer this burden no longer.

Lastly, this philosophy of action is deeply rooted in the mystical notion of the Akashic Record. It is the idea that transcendent of space and time, there is a record of all thoughts, all actions, all events, all things that have ever occurred in the material world and all things that will occur. We must live as if there is such a record, in complete honesty and fidelity to our thoughts and the synthesis of thought and action. As one, they are the golden chord that transcends history that stands as proof of human transcendence. The mediation of two worlds into one, the healing of the human disconnect from the world, the reunion of God and humankind.

Monadology

By Alex Blum

NOTE: This one’s from freshman year, not as complicated, but a nice concept

Walking through the city, we find a world that spans outward from our perspective. The shining skyscrapers reflect an endless sky. The park benches reflect the shadows of trees above. But if it happened to be August 6th of 1945, the benches would reflect the ashes of dead children. The sky would reflect the death cloud of the city. These two experiences are necessary to paint a full portrait of the city, and yet we can only have one of them. Those who inherit the legacy of annihilation live in a different world than the Americans who cheered the news of the bomb. Those who have not experienced the ruin of the city cannot understand those who have. We all experience a portrait of the world, and yet we are enslaved within our own portraits. We deny the reality of the other because we are so trapped within our own experience, and our experience of the world is a Monad. Each human being can be seen as a Monad – a perspective, an observer, a cul-de-sac through which soul passes through matter. Can we ever see the city as it truly is? Can we transcend our own Monads and understand the reality of the other? We must create the perspective that is every perspective, the eyes that see the self as other and the other as self. This is the pinnacle of our conscious evolution, the Monad that contains all other Monads, and thus reflects reality most clearly.

We are ensnared in paradox, living as an observer in a world where all others are the observed. We see the world through our own eyes, a literal and metaphysical truth. I am myself and all else is other – and yet this is only true for one single locus in the universe. To anyone else, they are themselves and you are the other. This is a trivial fact, and yet within it we see the relativism that we are forced to accept. In 1945, we could not live as both an American citizen, joyous at the war’s end, and as a Japanese citizen, hunks of flesh hanging from our body as we found the corpses of our parents burned into the sidewalk. Our perspective is so painfully limited that we can never truly see the other as we see ourselves. We must pick a reality and stick with it, and other Monads are merely tertiary to our own. For the American citizen, the pain of the devastated Japanese is their problem. If the Japanese were victorious, then they too would shrug at the pain of the devastated American. But this is pure relativism. This is nothing more than slavery to the times that one lives in, and the space that one happens to inhabit. This kind of limited perspective is so simple and unevolved that we cannot stand for it – we cannot be relativists who entrench ourselves in one perspective and refuse to let go.

One Monad, alone, is a dead end. It is a slave to external stimuli, controlled entirely by its own experience and its own reasoning. The Monad must break free. It must expand over the whole world, and enrich itself through the perspectives of other Monads. And yet, this is the ultimate heresy to the ego. The ego fears other Monads, because the perspectives of others are dangerous. Our values, our ideologies, and our very souls must all face the infinite tide of the other. It is this tide, the sea of other Monads, which truly terrifies us. The suggestion that we may not be who we think we are. The suggestion that we are in fact what we despise in others. These suggestions cannot be entertained, and the perspectives that express them must be ignored. The American cannot empathize with the Japanese, nor the Vietnamese, nor the Yemeni, because it would cause our ego-crafted reality to collapse. If the other is the self and the self is the other, then we have murdered ourselves a million times over. Surely we could never face this, so we hide from it.

But we can hide from it no longer. To ourselves, we are the observer, but to everyone else, we are just one more face in the crowd. If we can justify the slaughter of other people’s children, then we should be willing to justify the slaughter of our own. If we cannot, then we are cowards who cannot face the repercussions of our own actions. Thus the synthesis of all Monads, the synthesis of all experience and all perspectives, leads us to a state of absolute empathy. When the other dies, we do not feel their pain. But if we did? If we saw every family as our own? If we saw every broken life as our own? That would be the end of hypocrisy. When we see the life of a drone strike victim as our own, it is no longer justifiable. As the intellectual distance between ourselves and our experience fades, so too will our excuses.

Perhaps that is wisdom – the attainment of many lifetimes worth of perspectives. The expansion of one narrow Monad into something far grander. We must evolve beyond the limits of our own perspective and attain the transcendental Monad, or we will forever be trapped behind the relativism of one observer and the rest of the world. We are only the observer in one reality, and that reality is no more legitimate than any other. Surely, we must act as if all others are unique observers of the world, a truism so utterly obvious that it hardly needs stating. Perhaps those who justify the suffering of others prefer solipsism. It would ease their conscience quite well.

This Monadology is a way of seeing the world through invigorated eyes. Empathy is our pathway to the Monads of others, and it is through those Monads that we may evolve as individuals. Each Monad is a spectrum, an array of color created through the interplay of light and darkness, with the material world acting as a prism. The surface reveals only a smiling face, a single hue, with all the rest buried deep inside. If we unearth the color within others that we see so clearly within ourselves, then we can transcend our individual limits and find a Monad that reflects more than just one point of view.

We are each experiencing a unique aspect of this world. Tucked away in every life is an aesthetic, a tone, a feeling, an immaterial force that that person came to represent. In stories, this is evident. The mythical framing of the character takes on a life of its own and becomes far more than the sum of its parts. We are all characters, each revolving around the perspective of the main character, who is at once everyone and no one. Can we kill? Can we ever justify the annihilation of the spiritual force that each human being truly, fundamentally is? We must seek to understand and absorb the experience and nuance of each Monad, each piece of the complete soul, and we will arrive at a more complete truth, and a more honest worldview.