A reader asked me to comment on a post by ShrinkWrapped from a couple of days ago, entitled The Despair of Abundance. The reader mentioned “Kurzweil's theories of a coming singularity, and how that might affect man's search for ultimate meaning.... I often wonder if in Kurzweil's future, where all horizontal needs are easily available and we have all that we want, will man's nature provide him with no choice but to set out in earnest to discover the new world of the vertical? Or will he simply continue to wallow in the material world all the more enthusiastically.”
[T]he singularity is already here, and has always been here. It is radically transcendent, beyond space and time. But because it is, it is necessarily immanent as well. It cannot be contained, so it “spills” into manifestation, sending its rays into every corner of reality, including human consciousness. To be “born again from above” is precisely what it means to reorient one’s life in light of this singularity or "attractor" at the end of history.
The idea that there will be some sort of material singularity that will end human suffering is both absurd and undesirable. According to all religious traditions, the cause of most human suffering is not lack of intelligence but man’s own corruption. No material progress will undo this decadence, and would likely even aggravate it. For as Schuon notes, “the lasting elimination of our miseries depends on our conformity to Divine Nature, or on our fixation on the ‘kingdom of God' which is within you.” What Schuon is talking about is conforming ourselves with the singularity discussed above. This is not theoretical, abstract or ethereal. Rather, it is entirely empirical and experiential--it is the experience that is at the heart of any religious transformation.
To the extent that we do not use the world as a plane to rediscover our divine “inwardness,” then we will be strangers in this world, wandering from pleasure to pleasure with “no direction home.” In other words, in our fallen, “exteriorized” state of consciousness, we require suffering to overcome our faults, to “tear ourselves from sin,” and to reascend back to our source. In the spiritual view, it is our illusory, exteriorized state that is the cause of our suffering. Therefore, to provide this illusory state with even less suffering--to try to make it completely comfortable and to eliminate all friction--is simply going to increase confusion and cause more souls to deviate from their proper end.
These are Nietzsche’s pathetic last men, who will live in a “pitiable comfort.” I’m afraid that we are well into that “false” singularity, and we can already see it’s baleful effects. I believe that ministering to the needs of these last men forms the basis of contemporary liberalism, which increasingly cannot tolerate discomfort, disappointment, or inconvenience. I believe it may have been Theodore Dalrymple who wrote that the fallacy at the heart of liberalism is that misery always rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it. Therefore, even if a liberal program “works,” it doesn’t work, because it simply creates an appetite--an expectation, really--that unhappiness or unfairness should not exist. To live one’s life in this way is a recipe for metaphysical disaster.
Leftism attempts to eliminate evil without eliminating the cause of evil, which is in the human heart. In so doing, it causes deeper existential alienation, a more profound attachment to the very impermanent things that can never satisfy us. This doesn’t mean that we do not attempt to improve the world. Of course we do. But only in the context of perennial wisdom and total, integral truth--of horizontal and vertical realities. In other words, total "horizontal perfection" would lead to a kind of hell with no vertical escape.
Friday, May 26, 2006
We Are In Danger Of Rising Up Into Abject Prosperity
Some well-written spiritual ruminations: