Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Philosopher's Nonsense

I've talked before about an experiential approach to philosophy, especially one that leaves the isolation of academe or the isolated mountaintop of Zarathustra and interacts with everyday people in real situations.

There's quite a few people who, given the choice, would prefer not to get involved in such discussions. They feel such things are over their heads, or too abstract, or have no connection to the really real world. Others used to do that kind of thing in college, but they're all grown up now.

Such people are hard to draw into conversation, but sometimes nonsense works, especially the right kind of nonsense. Nonsense, despite its sometimes provocative nature, is safe. No one can laugh at you if you venture an opinion on nonsense, and no one can prove you wrong.

One question that sometimes comes up is, “If you were to make a clone of yourself, and then have intimate relations with that clone, would it be incest and masturbation?” Nonsense, right?


It turns out that this conversation can head into interesting avenues. One that is often unspoken but pertinent is the idea that the labels we use affect the way we think about things. Masturbation has become more or less acceptable, as long as it's done in private and not talked about much; incest is considered squicky in most cultures and a thing not to be done. So if clone sex is masturbation, it's not to be discussed, but probably okay when done in private. If it's incest, then it's a Bad Thing. Two labels, same act, different responses.

As a discussion gets further into it, other interesting aspects and question pop up. Issues of agency, free will, and responsibility. Dominant-submissive relationships and sexual power dynamics. The boundary conditions of personhood and individuality. All of these have real world implications (try having the right-to-choose/right-to-life debate or one on euthanasia without at least touching on issues of personhood, or without considering agency and the lack thereof), and probably ought to be discussed by everyday people.

So my philosophizing friends, fear not nonsense!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Buna seara si la revedere

“Welcome to the world behind [her] eyes.” - Rotersand

This past Saturday, I took part in an experiential art piece. I met someone, fell in love, and lost her. All in the space of five hours. And I never knew her name.

“Typical one night stand?

No, not quite. It wasn't just about physical attraction. Or mindless, no-consequences rutting. Nor was it about 'another notch in my belt.'

Nor was I deluded somehow as to what was going on. I knew from the very beginning that she was leaving, just as she knew. Neither of us was under the misapprehension that we were beginning something that would last longer than the moonlight.

Indeed, it was a celebration of the transitory nature of reality. A penetration of the illusion of permanence. We met, knew one another, and parted ways in a way with no preconceptions of 'forever'.

All too often, we become preoccupied with the future. We assume the choices we make will create some sort of permanent change, and we feel as though we have to accept those consequences. We assume that we will be irrevocably changing state (and, in a way, we are, of course). “I can't have you in my life right now.” “What does this mean?” “Where are we going?” “Will I get hurt?”

“Will I get hurt?” Yes, it was bittersweet to see her leave. Yes, in a way, I will always love her. But pain is not to be afraid of. Losing is not the end of everything. We will both go on. Cats learn to always fall on their feet; as a consequence, they are fearless about walking a precarious path in high places. Sometimes, as Shinto teaches, losing and the passing away of the present is beautiful.

“Welcome to a land that knows goodbye.” - Rotersand

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rules I Learned from My Father

Father's day has come and gone, and to mark the occasion, here are some of the principles for living that I learned from my father:

1. There's no shame in breaking unjust rules.

2. Always put the screwdriver back.  And keep a screw jar handy.

3. 80% of connection issues are cable problems.

4. When troubleshooting, change only one thing at a time.  If the change didn't fix your problem, change it back to where it was and try the next thing.

5. Only one person can drive the computer at a time.

6. Concentrate on what actually needs to be done, not what you think needs to be done.

7. Sometimes the only thing to do is wait until she burns herself out.

8. There isn't anything an intelligent person can't learn to do.

9. Zen isn't thinking about God while chipping ice, Zen is just to chip the ice.

10. Being up at five in the morning holding the world together really is an expression of love.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Liberal Social Experiment

GOP Congressmen object to a commitment ceremony held on a Louisiana army base.

"The liberal social experiment with the military continues."  You mean the one that allowed black soldiers to join Union regiments in 1862?  Or the one that led the U.S. armed forces to desegregate in 1948, well before the civil rights movement of the 1960's?

I think I'm okay with that.

Or perhaps he means the liberal experiment that abandoned the European tradition of an aristocratic officer class in favor of granting comissions for merit or ability?

I'm okay with that, too.

Perhaps he means the social experiment where soldiers, sailors, and marines can profess a multiplicty of faiths: catholic, protestant, jewish, muslim, buddhist, wiccan, pastafarian, agnostic, athiest, and on and on?  Where the bigotry and misunderstanding of ignorant fools at least doesn't have official support from the chaplin corps?

I'm okay with that.

The U.S. armed forces have pretty much always been a mechanism of social change.  There's something about living together, digging trenches together, fighting together, bleeding together, and dying together that tends to vividly demonstrate that we're all pretty much the same on the inside.  And when the fit hits the shan, it becomes clear that some of our social conventions and niceties (along with our prejudices and hatreds) are kind of foolish.

And I'm okay with that.


Although I have to say, I'm not okay with this "commitment ceremony".  Louisiana does not recognize GLBT marriage.  They don't even recogognize civil unions.  And current DoD regulations require that the armed forces aknowledge state laws in this matter.  I believe this is entirely unfair and inappropriate.  No reason not to actually allow full civil rights to everyone.

After all, the comittment ceremony isn't anywhere near legally binding.  There are no survivor's benefits for the spouse.  No assumption of writ of attourney.  Limited hospital visitation rights.  Difficulties in adoption and child custody.  All those legaland financial benefits that come with a marriage contract in our particular society..  And this for people in a dangerous job that could call upon them to go overseas for years at a time, only to become injured or killed in action.  Leaving their spouses with little legal or financial recourse.

That's just wrong.  And easy to fix.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fight. Dammit!

I've recently caught some episodes of a standard issue police procedural.  In it, several people get killed by serial killers.  And while that's awful, some of 'em kind of are asking for it.

One scenario: The ex-wife of an FBI agent has been abducted by a known killer.  He's openly announced his intention of killing her; but is allowing her to talk on the phone with her ex-husband.  He's standing behind her, breathing on her neck.  He's armed, but the weapon isn't out.

Why isn't her elbow almost instantly in his throat?  He's going to kill her eventually, why not go down fighting.  An explosive, aggressive attack can go a long way before he can respond.  Elbow in the throat, turn around, grab the weapon hand to control or destroy it.  Sure, maybe there's only a 10% chance that she'll win, but if she doesn't fight, there's a 99% chance he'll kill her.

To top it off, years earlier, the killer stabbed himself repeatedly as a scheme to avoid detection.  He's weak and doesn't breathe well (no endurance).  And he's not a big guy to begin with.  She's healthy and in-shape.  What's restraining her is emotional rather than physical.

Scenario 2: Woman is being held captive at knife point in her own home by a killer who wants to pretend they have a romantic relationship.  She's playing along with it as a means to survive (reasonable enough).  Then her real boyfriend shows up.  The killer only has a knife, and is a room away.  As soon as the boyfriend comes in the door, he sees what's going on.  She runs towards the door, and he charges the killer creating an opportunity for her to get away (way to go!)  Boyfriend charges killer and shoves him into a wall, girlfriend can't get out the door 'cause boyfriend locked it behind him.  All she needs is a couple of extra seconds, and she's out.

Boyfriend disengages from killer, turns around, and tells girlfriend to run upstairs.  Killer knifes boyfriend in the back and then runs upstairs and kills girlfriend.  What the hell, boyfriend?  You've gained an advantage that ex-wife in scenario #1 didn't, by a sudden unexpected attack.  You've comitted yourself to buying time for your loved one to get away.  Follow through on it!  Chances are the killer is stunned a little by being slammed into the wall; stay in close contact with him and go for the weapon hand.  Control or destroy it.  Maybe you win, maybe you lose, but either way you give the woman you love the couple of extra seconds she needs to get away and survive.  And isn't that what you signed on for?

Doesn't "I love you" mean "I'd take a knife or a bullet for you" anymore?  Fight, dammit!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


“Nothing real existed, except as a symbol for something else.” -James Burke

“It is not I who say, it is the thing itself that says.” -Umberto Eco

A list of connections:

Hellenistic Syncreticism: a philosophical/mystical/religious tradition combining elements of Greco-Egyptian-Near Eastern religion (esp. the Mystery Cults), Zoroastrianism, Jewish Kaballah, and Platonism and Neo-Platonism. Common themes are the inherent corruption/corruptibility of matter, God as a purely spiritual entity apart from the physical universe. Many Hellenistic ideas show up in Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Catharism, and Satanism.

The fall of the library of Cordoba in 1013 introduces Muslim learning and reintroduces Greek and Roman literature to Western Europe. The texts take over a century to fully translate and help kick off the European Renaissance. Following the methods of Aristotle and the Arab natural philosophers, university scholars in France and Italy begin to write manuscripts calling into question the teachings of the church fathers and the Bible itself. The Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) is founded to combat this. They serve a central role in the Inquisition and the reconquest of Spain.

The Investiture Conflict of 1075 touches off several centuries of conflict between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope over temporal power in Italy. The central issue is the role of the Pope as a figure of political, worldly authority and as a landowner. Although this conflict is nominally resolved with the Concordat of Worms in 1122, echoes of it will continue. The conflict over the Franciscans, the Avignon papacy, the Italian conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and ultimately the Lutheran Reformation will all reference the themes regarding the Pope's wealth and temporal power.

In 1119, 12 monks form the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (the Knights Templar). In 1307, the Templars are ordered disbanded by Phillip the Fair, and are brought to trial on charges of heresy. Two of the accusations are that, during initiations, new knights were asked to trod upon a crucifix or image of the Virgin Mary, and that they kissed a brother's ass. Denying the divinity of Mary and the crucifixion are two features of Catharism, as is anal sex (used as a form of birth control). The Cathars are also known as the Albigensians, and take much of their dogma from the earlier Paulicans, Bogomils, and Bougres. ('Bougre' also becomes 'bugger' in English, a reference to anal sex.)

Supposedly, some Templars also survive in Scotland. Knights with red crosses and white cloaks are reported at the battle of Bannockburn (1314) (which may also recall the lost IX Legion Hispania, supposedly gone missing in Scotland, and the later knights of the Round Table). Spencer's “The Faerie Queen” is filled with Templar and Rosicrucian imagery.

Certain of the Grail traditions hold that Joseph of Arimathea, who brought the Grail out of Judea, landed in Southern France, near Marseilles on his way to Brittany. Some brief mentions in Merovingian period texts hint at a Judaic state in Southern France, later occupied and absorbed into France by Charlemagne. Southern France, especially Provins (Provence) and Chartres later become strongholds of the Templars. Finally, the Languedoc becomes the center of a Cathar community that is crushed in 1229 by the Albigensian crusade. Suspicions remain about the orthodoxy of the former Cathars. The Inquisition is founded to combat crypto-Catharism.

In 1209 Francis of Assisi begins preaching the absolute poverty of Christ. He inspires a number of followers, who become the Friars Minor or Minorites. Eventually, they emerge as the Fraternal Order of St. Francis (the Franciscans), charged with teaching orthodoxy to heretics. They are a form of memetic inoculation against unorthodox beliefs and practices. Along with the Dominicans they become intimately involved with the Inquisition.

Following the ideas of the Friars Minor, others preach against the wealth of the pope and the bishops. Some heretical groups, such as as the Dulcinians under Fra Dolcino, put these ideas into practice, forming bands of peasants who kill landowners and priests and plunder their estates. The Dulcinians (or Dolcinites) are finally crushed on Mount Rubello in 1307 (the same year the Templars are arrested).

In 1309 the seat of the Papacy is moved from Rome to Avignon in southern France. Ostensibly, this is done to remove it from the corruption of Rome, but it also places the Pope under the thumb of the King of France, which control Phillip the Fair exerts during the trial of the Templars.

In 1609, the Rosicrucian manifestos are printed and circulated in Germany. They promise the existence of an unknown fraternity: learned men who move through Europe adopting the customs and dress of the communities where they live and working for the reform of mankind and combating the wickedness and avarice of the church. They promise to live in the community, and healing at no charge (much like the original Friars Minor). Unlike them, they wear no distinctive habit and preach no exoteric doctrine (hoping to avoid the persecution?) From the idea of the hidden fraternity of learned men, Boyle refers to the need for an Invisible College in 1640. The dream of unifying the educated of Western Europe will finally materialize in the Royal Society.

After the Revolution, France will found the Conservetoire des Arts et Metiers, collecting all the products of the sciences in one place. They will installit in St. Martin des Champs, built on Bacon's plans for the Temple of Solomon, whose wisdom is praised in the Fama.

1613 Wedding of Princess Elizabeth (daughter of James I of England) marries Frederick, Elector Palatine of the Rhine. Bacon arranges an allegorical play on mystic knighthood. In Heidelberg, the groom is celebrated as Jason of the Golden Fleece on a float that includes the emblem of the Order of the Garter (see Tomar).

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Society will serve as a clearinghouse of science and learning, patronizing chemists, physicists, and naturalists (including Charles Darwin). During the reign of Napoleon, the benefices of the Royal society permit mutual visitations of academics between France, Germany, and England. The Royal society thus may have become a cover for sub rosa doings: conspiracies, spies, and intrigues.

The Royal Society in turn will help guide the formation or codification of the Freemasons (the Freemasons themselves may date back further, to Scotland and the 16th century. Some claim they are inspired by the Knights of Brannockburn). The Invisible College will also play a role in the iconography of various Romantic thinkers and poets including Shelly and Wordsworth. Later, Grant Morrison will write it into The Invisibles.

The Knights Templar of Portugal survive the purge in France and become the Knights of Christ (settled around Tomar). They settle into a number of strongholds on the Atlantic shore. Notably, King Henry the Navigator is a Knight of Christ. His school of navigation sets of a series of explorations south along the coast of Africa. Ultimately, Christopher Columbus sails West under the banner of a red cross on white – the Templar emblem. The castle at Tomar is remodeled under henry the Navigator, who includes the emblems of the Garter and the Golden fleece.

North America: the Avalon of the grail cycles? Tir Na Nog? Ultimate Thule of Germanic myth (remembering that the NSDAP emerged out of the theosophical Thule Society). The oak island money pit. Masons in New England. References to the New World and the art of the sphere in the Rosicrucian manifestos.

Columbus sails West seeking the East: Prester John? Agharttha/Shamballah? Alamut?

Parallels exist between the occult tradition of the Templars and Sufism and mystical Islam. Templars were accused of worshiping a bearded idol/devil named Baphomet, and crying out to Yallah. Connection to Mahomet and Allah?

MartinismMartinism is a form of mystical and esoteric Christianity concerned with the fall of the first man, his state of material privation from his divine source, and the process of his return, called 'Reintegration' or illumination.” Source of 'illumination' in Freemasonry. Martinism becomes the basis for “mystical” Freemasonry, and informs many of the doctrines of the later Golden Dawn.

1776, the year of convergence: Deceleration of Independence signed. The Wealth of Nations published, which underlies the theoretical justifications for free markets (America = capitalism?). Volume one of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire published (America = Rome?). May 1, in Inglestadt, Adam Weishaupt founds the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria. Their agenda: secularism, papicide, and revolution. Beethoven's First Symphony is dedicated to the AISB, commissioned in celebration of King Ludwig's closing parochial schools in Bavaria in favor of state-run secular schools.

The Freemasons forbid all discussion of politics and religion in Temple. They substitute a Theistic conception of God with the Deist “Great Architect” (echoes of this in alcoholics Anonymous 'higher power as we understand it'). Masons adopt the myth of Hiram of Abiff, the Widow's Son. Hiram is killed by three ruffians named Jubelo, Jubela, and Jubelum (the endings mirror the -o, -a, -um gender inflections of many Latin words. Also see Jack the Ripper, “It was the juwes who did it” and the recurrent whiff of Freemasonry in the Ripper case.) Hiram dies of three wounds, one to the head, throat (or mouth), and heart. These allegorically represent the death of free speech, the death of free thinking, and the resultant death of the soul. The Freemasons preserve and spread the ideas of Rationalism, the Enlightenment, and liberty.

These same ideas of liberty and rationalism underlie the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution of 1776, and the French Revolution of 1789. The presence and influence of the Freemasons is well known in the latter two. Upon becoming dictator in France, Napoleon is inducted into various lodges and becomes honorary Grand Master. Although known as a dictator and conqueror, Napoleon does spread the ideals of the French Revolution throughout Europe. Allegedly important moments in Napoleon's career: he attempts to conquer Egypt and brings engineers and scientists with him (uncovering the Rosetta stone in the process), fails to suppress the civil war that leads to Haitian independence, he sells Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson (a known Mason), attempts to conquer England (the nation of the Faerie Queen and the Knights of Brannockburn), instigates the peninsular campaign and the attempted conquest of Portugal, launches the nonsensical invasion of Russia. The ultimate paradox of Napoleon: although a militaristic dictator, Napoleon spreads the ideals of the French Revolution (and to a lesser extent, Freemasonry) throughout Europe.

Cecil Rhodes gets rich from South African diamond mines, buys his own country (Rhodesia), and founds academic round tables (an Invisible College) encouraging co-operation between WASP England and the U.S. These round tables survive today as the Council on Foreign Relations (founded 1921), whose membership rolls permeate the highest levels of the U.S. Government, high finance, and academia. Rhodes also founds the Rhodes scholarships, funding the best and brightest of the U.S. To go to school in England so that they can coordinate and learn world domination (the initial Rhodes scholarships specified only blond, blue-eyed men, of course).

The Deutsches Arbeiterpartei (DAP) emerges from the Thule Society in 1999. Hitler later reorganizes the DAP into the NSDAP. Hitler's military aspirations parallel many of Napoleon's: conquest of France, planned invasion of England, aspirations towards Gibraltar, invasion of Russia, a North African campaign aimed at Egypt and beyond. Where Napoleon makes gestures towards reconciliation of the Jews, Hitler attempts to eliminate them. Interestingly, great lengths are gone to cataloging all of the possessions of the victims: their clothes and shoes are warehoused and meticulously gone over.

Theosophy attempts to find the central, unifying message in world religions. It's principle success is a synthesis of Hinduism, Hermeticism, and Christianity. A central tenet of Helena Blavatsky's is the existence of an unknown number of Secret Masters or Unknown Superiors; immortal and wise, they move invisibly through the populace secretly controlling everything; or else they live in Agharttha, a secret refuge beneath the Nepalese Himalayas, where they contemplate the occult secrets of the universe. Another of Blavatsky's theories is the conflict between anarchy (the present divided, sectarian governments and religions of the world) and 'synarchy' (the harmonious government of the secret masters for the betterment of all). Theosophy will later influence Bormann and Hess, two high figures in Hitler's government.

Propaganda Due or the P2 is founded sometime in the late 1970's within the Italian Grand Orient Lodge of Egyptian Freemasonry. It had ties to the Vatican bank, the Mafia, and the CIA's operation Gladio anti-Communism project. Gladio inaugurated the 'strategy of tension', instigating terrorist incidents and then blaming them on Communists so that the government would have to crack down on them. P2 may have played a part in assassinating Pope John, plotted a fascist coup in Italy, laundered money through the Vatican Bank, and engaged in other corruption and crony ism.

The partner organization to the Templars, the Knights of the Hospital of St. John, survive to the modern era as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (the Knights of Malta). One of the prominent Knights was William Modern Knights of Malta include William Casey, Reinhard Gehlen, Alexander Haig, Licio Gelli, Roberto Calvi, and Michele Sindona.

The Order of the Golden Dawn is a Martinez inspired mystical Freemasonic chapter founded in 1881. They contribute to the revival of Hermeticism in the West in the early 20th Century. Standing behind the Golden Dawn is the Ordo Templi Orientalis, a mystical society that claims it's origins in Templarism: the OTO claims that the highest grade in the Golden Dawn is the lowest grade of the OTO. The Golden Dawn eventually changes itself, stripped of many of its Masonic elements, into the Stella Martuitus (Star of Morning).

In 1912, Aleister Crowley is made one of the five Outer Heads of the OTO by inadvertently publishing the highest esoteric secret of the OTO in his Book of Lies. Sometime afterward, Crowley founds the A A to prepare the world for the Aeon of Horus he has prophesied.

Ignatius Loyola founds the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) to promote the Catholic church's Counter-Reformation and combat the Reformation. The Jesuits serve as the church's theological shock troops: trained in theology, law, philosophy, rhetoric, debate, and strategy. Their aim is to shore up the faith and political reliability of Catholic monarchs and aristocrats and help them combat Lutheranism and employ the new tools of rationalism, science and technology in the service of Catholicism. Outlawed and driven underground at various times and places, the Order survives to this day.

The Rand Corporation is founded as a corporate think tank. The go-to organization for systems analysis, game theory and social engineering. They become pivotal advisers on Cold War strategy and players in cryptography, digital computing, and the space program.


Hermes Trismegistus (?): Divine author of the Hermetic Corpus and the legendary Emerald Tablets. The foundation of Western Hermeticism. Probably a result of Greco/Egyptian synecritism.

Joseph of Arimathea (?) : Member of the council of Saducees and follower of Yeshua of Nazareth. He owned the Garden of Gethsemane where the Last Supper and the Crucifixion occurred, and the tomb where Yeshua was supposedly buried. Legend holds that he caught the blood of the Crucifixion in the Sang Graal and smuggled it out of Palestine to Southern France, and from there to Brittany or to Britain.

Joachim of Floris (1132 – 1202): Christian mystic who divided history into three ages: the Age of the Father, the Age of the Son, and the Age of the Holy Spirit (paralleling the revelations of Moses, Jesus, and Joachim). May have been an inspiration for Crowley's Age of the Mother, Age of the Father, and Age of the crowned and conquering child (Isis, Osiris, and Horus). Also founded an Order of the Illuminati which practiced poverty, which – centuries later – would fall under the influence of Fra Dolcino.

Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226): Preached the absolute poverty Christ in the face of church wealth and power. He and his Minorite followers are in perpetual danger of being declared heretical.

Nicholas Flamel (1330 – 1418): An early alchemist. Claimed to possess a text Book of Abraham the Sage. Exposition of the Hieroglyphical Figures is attributed to Flamel. Supposedly turned iron to silver and lead into gold; secret truths may be inscribed on his tombstone.

Guillaume Postel (1510 – 1581): French polymath and religious philosopher. A close ally of the Jesuits, but parted ways with them. May have been an influence on the Rosicrucians, if not the writer of the manifestos.

John Dee (1527 - 1608): Court Astrologer for Queen Elizabeth I. Summoned angels and one demon, and developed Enochian. Promoted may voyages of discovery, and became interested in maps and ciphers of various sorts later in life.

Giordono Bruno (1548 – 1600): Italian theologian. Early proponent of the Heliocentric view of the solar system and the existence of extra-solar life. His life, writings, and execution may have played a part in the prosecution of Galileo. Also preached the inherent equality of man before God (a heretical notion that denies both the priesthood and the aristocracy), a theme later taken up in the French Revolution.

Johann Valentian Andreae (1554-1601): German theologian. The Rosicrucian documents were frequently ascribed to him. He frequently denied it, but later in life claimed to have authored the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz as a joke or intellectual exercise.

Edward Kelley / Edward Talbot (1555 – 1559): John Dee's medium and crystal gazer. A scholar of alchemy in his own right.

Heinrich Khunrath (1560 – 1605): Alchemist and Christian mystic. Attempted to reconcile alchemy and Christian theology. A major influence in the rise of theosophy.

Francis Bacon (1562 – 1626): English natural philosopher and ploy-intellectual. Developed a plan for inductive reasoning that underlies the Western scientific tradition. Also wrote The New Atlantis, which gives the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon. May have been the author of the Rosicrucian manifestos. The focus of any number of 17th century conspiracy theories (Hite's “Six degrees of Francis Bacon”). The priory of Saint Martin des Champs in Paris (in the old Templar quarter) is said to built to the plan of the Temple of Solomon from The New Atlantis, and now houses the Musee des Arts et Metiers

Jakob Boehme (1575 – 1624): Theologian and contributer to Christian theosophy. Introduced the idea that sin and the Fall of Man is necessary for redemption, an idea picked up by a number of quasi-Satanic groups.

Christopher Marlowe (1596 – 1563): Playwright and poet. Nothing is provable, but there are perpetual whiffs around him: association with the English intelligence community, possible atheism or Catholicism, possible association with various Elizabethan secret societies and conspiracies. Supposedly stabbed over a tavern bill, “When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.” - Shakespeare

Comte St. Germain (1712? - 1784?): French/German/Italian adventurer, alchemist and musician. Claimed to be many centuries old. Claimed to have discovered the Philosopher's stone and to have changed lead into gold.

Martinez de Pasqually (1727 - 1774): Introduced illuminism into Freemasonry and founded many, many, many Mason chapters.

Alessandro Cagliostro / Guiseppe Balsamo (1743 – 1795): Italian adventurer and occultist. Implicated the Affair of the Diamond necklace.

Louis-Claude St. Germain (1743 – 1803): A disciple of Martinez de Pasqually and early contributer to what would become Theosophy. Shares the name of the more notorious St. Germain.

Eliphas Levi (1810 – 1875): French occultist and reviver of Hermeticism. Perhaps best known for his drawing of Baphomet (the idol the Templars were accused of worshiping).

Leon Foucault (1819 – 1868): French physicist. Sanguinphobic. Demonstrated the first Foucault's pendulum, which proves the rotation of the Earth, in the priory of Saint Martin des Champs (see Francis Bacon, above).

Helena Blavatsky (1831 -1891): Founder of the Theosophical Society, and a pioneer of organized pan-religious theosophy. Attempted to unify Christian theology, Hermeticism, and Hinduism. Posited the existence of the Secret Masters of Agharttha, and the conflict between “anarchy and synarchy”.

Aurthur Waite (1857 - 1942): Member of the Golden Dawn and co-author of the Rider-Waite tarot deck.  Friend of Arthur Machen (inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft) and foe/rival of Aleister Crowley.

Margaret Murry (1863 - 1963): Author of The Witch-Cult in Western Europe which posits the survival of pre-Christen religion in Western Europe. Kept secret from the public at large, the cult supposedly practices its rites in secret. This book becomes one of the foundations of Gardnerian Wicca. It is also a strong influence on the pulp-era writings of both R. E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.

Gerald Gardner (1884 – 1964): Developed modern Wicca out of 19th century theosophy and Golden Dawn hermeticism. “So mote it be!” is a Masonic invocation later popularized in Wicca.

Martin Bormann (1900 – 1945): Adolf Hitler's personal secretary. Wrote that Nazism was “wholly incompatible with Christianity”. Bormann may have been in the forefront of Hitler's interest in Teutonic myth and the occult.

Reinhard Gehlen (1902 - 1979): The “Superspy” of Western Europe. Was chief of the Abwehr's Soviet Intelligence section during World War II. Defected to the U.S. At the end of the war, supposedly on the strength of his intelligence regarding the Soviet military establishment. Operated the Gehlen apparat as an entirely independent intelligence organization feeding intelligence to the CIA. [The present author had the interesting experience of meeting his great-granddaughter once...]

Jack Parsons (1914 – 1952): Early American follower of Crowley. One of the founders of CalTech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. May or may not have affected the course of the space race and the cold war through various rituals performed in the desert.

James Jesus Angleton (1917 - 1987): CIA counter-intelligence director from 1954 – 1974. Was obsessed with the idea that the KGB had infiltrated a high-level mole into the U.S. Government. May or may not have been connected to the Kennedy assassination. Also helped form and run Operation Gladio in Italy.

E Howard Hunt (1918 - 2007): A known CIA agent in the later half of the 20th Century. Hunt was a known operative for the Department of Operations, having participated in the overthrow of the Arbenz government of Guatemala and the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. He frequently arises in many of the theories regarding the Kennedy assassination. He later served three years in prison for connection to the Watergate burglary.

Licio Gelli (1919 - ): Knight of Malta, Freemason, and the central figure of the Italian P2 conspiracy. Collected boxes of blackmail material on quite a number of major and minor officials in the Italian government. Evaded arrest several times, was tried once and acquitted, and was never convicted of any crime related to P2 or Gladio.

Roberto Calvi (1920 - 1982) : President of the Banco Ambrosiano and a figure in the P2 conspiracy in Italy. Found dead, hanging from a London bridge. Believed that potere occulto ran the world; the secret to success was to “find the hidden group that held the most power and join it.”

Michele Sindona (1920 - 1986): Mafia lawyer, Knight of Malta, and P2 conspirator. Assisted in the laundering of P2 funds. Died in his cell while awaiting trial for plotting a pro-Fascist coup in Italy.

Raymond Buckland (1934 - ): Author of Buckland's Complete Guide to Witchcraft, considered by some to be the definitive work on modern Wicca (known colloquially to a few as “Uncle Bucky's Big Blue Book of Wicca”).

William Casey (1913 - 1987): Knight of Malta and Director of Central Intelligence under Ronald Reagan, who once said, “Some things are right and some things are wrong. Eternally right and eternally wrong.” As DCI, Casey oversaw Operation Black Eagle, that traded weapons to Iran for money to give to the Nicaraguan Contras (the Iran Contra scandal). According to some theories, he also aided importation of cocaine into the U.S. In order to fund anti-Communist guerrillas in Central America. Casey died of a brain tumor before he could be investigated.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bill Leeb, where have you gone?

Recently, in pursuit of Bruederschaft's "Return", I picked up a compilation of electronic music from 2008. Now, I've been a follower of various forms of industrial and electro (darkwave, coldwave, dark electro, hellectro, powernoise, acid house, trip hop, psychadelic sleaze... seriously, this sub-genre labelling nonsense has to stop) pretty much since these genres were codified. I was shocked all of a sudden to discover that there is a thriving strain of synthpop and electropop. I was even more astonished to discover that this new breed of synthpop and electropop (and the distinction between the two is somehow very important, although I'll be buggered if I can see it) is just as vapid, trivial, and bubblegum as pop music has always been.

Now, I understand that groganards like me should freely pass the torch to a new generation, who can do with the music as they please. But what happened to the meaning? To the focus? To the impact? When Funker Vogt wrote "This world is made of battlefields", one felt the horror of the devestation of total war in way that hippie ballads could never convey (almost as if it were Tom Clancy's conscience speaking in the dead of night). "Suffer the Flesh" stripped away pretensions of love, and even of lust and desire, to reveal, raw, consuming, self-abnegating need.

Sasha's burned out, Jourgensen has lost his way, Reznor has lost his anger. Faderhead has the look and the sound, but hasn't found the vision yet. Andy has been creating almost a caricature of himself. Ronan remembers every now and then that he used to be angry ("Automatic" is a beautiful piece of work that contains the fire of his early work) Mssrs. Leeb, DeMarco, and More, where did you go?

OTOH, Rotersand and Seabound are still doing inspirational work (including Rotersand showing us all how dubstep can be done right.) The bright (dark?) spot here is that Android Lust is working on a new album, one that threatens to go back to her roots and the magnificent "Resolution". Here's to her efforts...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lessons from the Front Lines

- One can tell the truth, or one can have friends.  Never both.

- The more "honest" someone claims they are, the more they are hiding from themselves.

- A good deed has a half-life measured in minutes; a mis-spoken phrase festers and lingers.

- When someone else is pissed off, especially if one can't repair or atone for it, the only thing to do is to vanish.

When you realize that no one would miss you,
and the knife has the most genuine and gentle smile,
when your obituary is more readily greeted
than a 2:00 AM phone call.
Then, you are free to speak your mind.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Someone is Still not Getting It

Yesterday, I caught a radio show extolling one of the same old arguments against secular Darwinism.  Said argument is essentially this: anyone purporting a theory of biological evolution removes God from human life.  Without God, there is no foundation for moral behavior, and thus people will become amoral, ruthless killers.  Further, he purports that accepting theories of biological evolution, especially human biological evolution, leads to eugenics and institutional racism, and all of the atrocious excesses that go with them.  Then, of course, he proceeded to Godwin himself, asserting that atheism perforce leads to Nazism and the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, he makes several fallacies in the process, and his argument doesn't really hold water (as much as it holds another substance useful for the fertilization of crops).  Let's go through it.

As we have covered before[1][2], humans are social animals, much like chimpanzees, crows, or wolves.  We organize into bands, clans, and tribes.  The social organizations we form all have rules: behaviors that are co-operative and pro-group survival are encouraged, those that are unco-operative or anti-group survival are discouraged.  Our morals do not require an outside, abstract entity for their basis and enforcement; we are capable of getting along all by ourselves.  There is no reason at all why a lack of a God-figure[3] would reduce us to antisocial stealing, raping, and killing.  And if the belief in a God is the only restraint on a person, something has gone very wrong for them.

Secondly, eugenics is not specifically tied to theories of biological evolution, Darwinian or otherwise.  One of the fundamental  breakthroughs  popularized by The Origin of Species is natural selection.  This is the observation that organisms that are not well suited by their environments tend to be culled, while organisms that are better suited tend to survive and reproduce.  This concept of natural selection did not develop in a vacuum, it is a direct counterpart to the principle of artificial selection.  Artificial selection is the principle that humans can select for certain traits in domesticated plants and animals.  For instance, by allowing only the fastest racehorses to breed, over multiple generations racehorses tend to become faster.  The fruits of artificial selection are all around us: domesticated sheep are docile, domesticated cattle give more milk, domesticated grasses produce many large seeds and have stiffer stalks (according to Diamond, one of the motivators for the adoption of agriculture in the Near East).

Artificial selection has been with us for 40,000 years, ever since humans learned to tame animals and plants and breed them for desirable traits.  Eugenics is simply artificial selection extended to human beings.  Autocratic regimes and classes believe that they own stocks of human beings, and can breed desirable traits into or out of the species that way.  Darwin isn't needed: this is artificial selection at work.

The most fundamental fallacy at work here is argumentam ad consequentiam.  Even if Darwinism or a theory of biological evolution were a sufficient condition for Nazism, they are not a necessary condition.  At the same time, even if they led somehow inevitably to Nazism, doing so would not invalidate either as scientific theories.  Scientific theories gain that status because they provide a description for processes occuring in the natural universe.  That one does not like the possible consequences of a scientific theory is not proof against it; I dislike the fact that things break when I drop them, but that is not proof against any given theory of gravity or the field of materials science.  Scientific theories do not require belief to be true (for some value of 'true').  That is the nature of science.


The insinuation that secularism is somehow responsible for atrocities is a pretty blatant post hoc ergo propter hoc.   Sure, I'll grant you that many of the atrocities of the 20th century were at the hands of secularists; previous to the twentieth century, they were at the hands of those who profess to be religious.  I'll see your Hitler and raise you a Richelieu, a Torquemada, a Charlemagne, and an Amaury.  Any ideologiy can be used as a justification for atrocity, and no ideology is immune.  Even today, I know of many devout theists that would burn the heretics and stone the sodomites if they could get away with it.  It is not secularims that leads to atrocity, but ambition, tribalism, and human nature.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Language and Social Order in Spartacus

Somewhat unexpectedly, the previous post on Latin conventions in Spartacus has garnered quite a readership.  Vox Populi, I guess.  Poking around the web has uncovered some other criticisms of the show that might be relevant.

There are those that object to some of the vulgarities.  One commenter elsewhere suggested that words like f***, s***, and c*** were inappropriate for characters who, on the other side of the translation convention, should be speaking Latin.  It's true, those particular words have Germanic roots, but it's not like classical spoken Latin would have been entirely without local equivalents.  A long enough immersion in colloquial Italian would uncover a range of colorful invective, metaphorical imagery, interjections and curses.  There's no reason to expect that the language of classical-period Capua would lack such things.  We don't find a lot of evidence for it in the extant Latin literature, but those works were written in a deliberate formal style for an upper-class audience.  The invective of the streets would naturally be filtered out.

There is further criticism of the show, in that some of the characters speak in accents.  This is the result of a long standing trope (known to as The Queen's Latin).  We as viewers are accustomed to upper-class Romans speaking English in RP.  Meanwhile, the lower class slaves speak in a motley assortment of accents, reinforcing the concept that they come from many places within and without the Republic.  That the cast is multinational only helps reinforce this convention.

The characters portrayed in the series are not (with a few exceptions) Roman aristocracy.  All of the gladiators we see are slaves.  They carry infamia.  They are non-persons, and standard Roman dignities would not apply to them.  Further, they live communally in an all-male, testosterone-fueled environment.  Modern concepts of privacy and modesty don't apply to them.  They would, by necessity, become accustomed to bathing, eating, sleeping, and performing other activities in each others presence.  It is almost inconceivable that they would watch their language.  A modern equivelant is to look at modern soldiers, sailors, or marines living with one another in the field.  To 'swear like a sailor' is already a truisim in our culture.

Despite the infamia, these gladiators are also celebrities (this is one of the contradictions of the gladitorial games).  It's sometimes helpful to think of them as some combination of modern professional wrestlers, professional athletes, and rock stars.  Extant graffiti uncovered in Pompeii reveals adulation of  popular gladiators, much of it quite vulgar.  Reinforcing the image was the popular perception of gladiators as "beasts in human form", full of barely suppressed fury and violence.  The Freudian and Jungian associations between violence, gore, and sex should be obvious to most modern viewers.  The blatant sexual displays seen at the gladiatorial games is unlikely to be out of place.  Many modern stadium rock stars experience similar skin exposure, and some revel in 'groupies' attempting to take advantage of their reputations for sexual prowess.

Beyond that, this is a protrayal of pre-Christian Greco-Roman culture.  One could realistically expect more open portrayal of sex and sexual characteristics.  While one would not expect naked sexual behavior to be openly desplayed, there is little cultural repression of sex and sexuality in Roman culture.  Fecundity, fertility, and virility are celebrated traits, to the point where sculpture openly displays such attributes.

The behavior of Batiatus and his wife is a little more unexpected, but not entirely out of place.  Batiatus is portrayed as a middle-class Roman, pater familia of a gladiatorial ludus, but with social ambitions.  His profession is not illegal, but isn't considered quite in keeping with the propriety of an aristocrat.  His position might be roughly equivelant to a modern owner of a football team or gentleman's club.  Further, he's removed from the political and cultural center at Rome.  Thus, it's not entirely unquestionable that he would use his property (villa, slaves, and gladiators) as a mechanism to secure favor and patronage.  Being removed from Rome allows visiting aristocrats to engage in licentious behaviors without the reprobation or negative reputation they might gain from public exposure.  They thus preserve a veneer of respectability, and Batiatus hopes to gain from protecting it.

The language and behavior thus shown in Spartacus is not entirely out of the question, and such criticisms levelled against the show are not entirely merited.  While there is not a concrete historical record in support of the things the creators have chosen to show us, such tropes are not entirely unlikely.

I gotta be me

"You cannot go against nature, because when you do
 go against nature, that's part of nature too."
-Love and Rockets, "No New Tale to Tell"

"I just have to be who I am."  Who else would you be?  The people who we choose to be at any given time are part of who we are.  So is the person we aspire to be.  Many roles, same actor.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Even now, two thousand years later, I'm gripped with the suggestion that underneath all of the dogmatic structure, abstract theology, and socio-political manuevering, there lies within the heart of Catholicism a Hellenistic syncretic mystery religion struggling to get free.

Maybe that's why it fascinates me so.

There is some criticism laid against the christian tradition, criticism that is often vehmently denied:

The dead and resurrected god figure: Dionysus, Osiris, Orpheus, Persephone, Mithras (?), Enki.

The hidden king: Moses, Oedipus, Sargon.

The semi-divine birth: Gilgamesh, Perseus, Theseus, Herakles.

The divine mother: Ashterath, Innana, Mary, Isis.

Why not embrace being part of a Near Eastern tradition that goes back millenia, rather than trying to deny your roots?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Security Officer to English Phrasebook

Post made in honor of GwtTS

What the security officer says => What you should hear

"Can I help you find something?" => "You don't belong here."

"Is there a problem here?" => "You're the problem, aren't you?"

"Excuse me." => "Get out of the way."

"I'm afraid not." => "No."

"Can I help you with that?" => "Stop, before you break something."

"Can I do something for you?" => "State your business in eight words or less."

"I don't know who that is." => "Name dropping will get you nowhere."

"You'll need to leave now." => "Either go out the door, or I'll drag you out."

"Get down on the floor." => "Your choices are now simple: jail or hospital." 

"We consider that our custodial property." => "I can be sued if you hurt yourself on my sidewalk, so I get some say in what happens on it."

"Nice to meet you." => "I've concluded that the only reason you're trying to make friends because you'll be up to no good later."

"My name is David." => "My name is certainly not David."

"I'm sorry, I can't flirt right now." => "Either you're the wrong gender or sex, or I find you unattractive."

"Please be on your way." => "She doesn't like you.  Give up now."

"Thank you for coming." => "Get out now."

"We assisted him to the floor." => "I can write better incident reports than you."


I set out tonight to continue some semantic games related to some of the posts on "Safe from Shame".  But I've run into some trouble.  I'm not sure what "taking responsibility" means.

Is taking responsibility simply doing what we've agreed to do?  I'm sure many parents of children would agree to that.  "Let's get Jimmy a dog, it will teach him to take responsibility."  But that's just 'duty' masquerading under another name.

Is "taking responsibility" accepting that our actions have consequences?  That seems rather trivial.  Of course, or actions have consequences.  Those consequences tend to have their effects no matter whether we are willing to accept them or not.  There's no way to avoid the consequences of our actions.  We are floating in a pond that none of us can escape from; the ripples that stem from all of our movements will come back to us sooner or later, reflected off our surroundings.  There's no way out of the pond, no way to avoid them.  Karma is unmindful, undiscriminating, and relentless.  It will come and find you, no matter where you hide.

So is "taking responsibility" really "taking the blame"?  I suppose.  Everyone wants people to own up to their actions.  But is this really the full picture?  After all, no one person acts in isolation.  We are immersed in a world, acting on the stimuli we recieve and the motivations that well up from the subconscious.  Very rarely is one person entirely to blame, as catastrophes are so often several people acting in concert, either knowing or unwitting to the parts they play.

As well, "taking the blame" suggests that we are all free to act or not act as we would choose.  We are constrained by the situation in which we find ourselves.  Although the player is free to make any legal move, only a few moves are strategically viable, and in the worst case one alone is forced.  And sometimes there is no good move available, and a piece must be sacrificed for the good of the rest.

Then there's the old adage, "fix the problem, not the blame".  Knowing who to blame isn't nearly as useful as correcting or resolving the problem.  So often, the issue becomes passing the buck and trying to avoid getting hided that nothing ever gets fixed.  So is "taking responsibility" taking the blame just so something can get done?  That seems rather petty.

Even then, there is no way to predict the consequences of any action.  We can guess, but we are imperfect creatures with a limited viewpoint.  There is much we don't know.  Life isn't simple Newtonian physics, life is complex socio-dynamics, a game played with limited information, no assumption of rational players, and no clarity on the end goals.  There is simply no way to predict the consequences of any action, either in the short term or in the long term.

So let's look at the roots of 'responsibility'.  In short, it's the ability to respond.  We act.  If bad things happen, and we can do something about them, we should.  We should respond when it is in our ability to do so.  Is that 'responsibility'?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Playing with the semantics of shame, pt. 2

Continuing the discussion started earlier, in reference to the Safe from Shame project.

Having played with 'shame' and 'shameless', let's go ahead and play with 'acceptance'.

But first, there's an unspoken question looming: “What if a society attempots to make an individual feel shame, not for something the individual has done, but for who the individual is?” Is there perhaps a distinction between shame-for-doing vs. shame-for-being?

Perhaps, there's a deeper, unifying connection. Perhaps some societies assume that everything an individual is is a result of something that the individual has done (or has not done, as not engaging in a behavior is engaging in behavior). For example, the underlying assumption of some members of a society might be that an individual who is overweight (by the society's standards) is so because that individual has failed to do what was or is necessary to avoid such a state; in this, we make no assumption that societies or individuals are rational or reasonable in their assumptions. So a person may be doing or have done everything they know in order to attempt to reach some standard, but the society judges that they have failed by not doing the right things, and so attempts to impose shame for that failure. So, in this sense, shame-for-being is an aspect for shame-for-(not)-doing. The fact that to do otherwise is not considered.

So, acceptance might come in several forms:

  1. The individual might accept that they have or are doing everything they know to do to meet the social standards.
  2. The individual may believe that the correct behavior is possible, but that they are unable to engage in such behavior for whatever reason.
  3. The individual may accept that the social standards being imposed are not reasonable or impossible (either for them, or as a whole) and so choose to defy or ignore them.

Each of these forms of acceptance may include

a) defiance of social norms and resultant repression or suppression of shame,

b) willing acceptance of the resultant shame due to the disjunct between expected and actual behaviors

c) or the integration of the difference between personal and social norms and the resultant rejection of any shame.

So, to answer the question, “Is it possible to accept what is while working to change it?” the answer might be “yes, provided that we accept 'acceptance1a', 'acceptance1b' or 'acceptance1c' as meaningful.”

Food for thought: One might seek to change aspects of oneself despite there not being an outside impetus to do so, merely out of an individual desire to improve oneself. But why does the individual think he or she is lacking and needs improvement? Where does that impetus originate?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The War of Descriptivism and Prescriptivism in Lexical Semantics

One of the eternal conflicts in linguistics is descriptivism versus prescriptivism.  The two are different approaches to the study of language.  Prescriptivism asserts that in order to be useful as a mediator of social discourse, language must have rules.  Those rules must be commonly agreed upon, and all parties must abide them or communication is made more difficult and faces a greater probability of failure.  Descriptivism asserts that linguistics is the study of languages as they are used in the real world by humans.  That is, the native speakers of a language are the ultimate arbiters of the "rules" of a language, and that if a given language communication succeeds, then the language must perforce have been used correctly.  The two approaches are somewhat in conflict, and most reputable linguistic schools chart a middle course involving elements of each approach.

Word meaning is as amenable as any other sub-field to both approaches.  Prescriptivism suggests that words mean what they mean, and if a given word is used to mean something else, then that word is used incorrectly.  Meanwhile descriptivism would suggest that if meaning is successfully conveyed, then the word was used correctly.

Following Tarski, a formal approach to lexical semantics sees words as defining sets.  Of the universe of discourse, the word defines a set: all those phenomena that are meant by the word are in that word's set, all phenomena not meant by that word are in that sets complement.  Or, to borrow vocabulary from semiotics, all those denotata referenced by a sign are in that sign's set, while all other denota are in that set's complement.  For example, if the word 'cat' is defined as all filidae with four legs, fuzzy ears, and a desire for ear scritchies, then all phenomena (denotata) that fulfill that definition are in the set of all cats.

Sets, of course, have two different definitions.  The first is the intensional definition, which lists the predicates all members of the sat share.  The second is the extensional definition, listing all members of the set.  Should those two defenitions ever fail to correspond, one or both should be modified (we are ignoring, for the moment, any theories on fuzzy set membership).

Of interest when defining words is identifying edge cases, which may or may not be members of the set.  Whether a native speaker of the language would identify a given edge phenomena as belonging to the set or not shapes the defenition of the word that the set represents.  A difficulty arises when two or more native speakers disagree on set membership for a given phenomenon, this can lead to communicative difficulties and even to controversy (is a human zygote included in the set of all persons?  Why or why not?).  Language communication succeeds most often where edge cases are avoided.

Language changes over time.  One of the processes of that change is the alteration of word meaning.  Word meaning changes as some phenomena that were not previously included in membership in a set are now included, or when some phenomena previously inclded within a set are judged to no longer be included (or whan their fuzzy inclusion values are changed).

Descriptivism then attempts to note when word meaning has changed (by movement of phenomena in or out of the set), and prescriptivism holds that there ought to be some inertia as regards to changes in word meaning.  Both approaches are useful, but both have their limitations.

Cross Posting with "Safe from Shame": Playing Semantic Games

Safe from Shame (a fabulous blog and project, one which Et in Arcadia Ego wholeheartedly supports) took some time to play with lexical semantics, an activity Et in Arcadia Ego engages in frequently. In that sense, let's throw some things in the hopper and see what sausages come out.

The following is based on some pre-conceived notions that, one hopes, will become clear as we proceed. Let's get those out of the way:

When we speak of ethics and ethical behaviors, we recognize a significant division:

There are those behaviors that tend towards the survival, fulfillment, and satisfaction (of the will-to-power) of the individual. Then there are those behaviors that tend towards the survival, propagation, and satisfaction of the group. Importantly, there are some behaviors (for instance, altruism) that are pro-group but not pro-individual (except in an indirect way).

For the individual, possible behavioral choices are judged against the individual's moral code. Those behaviors that are consonant with the individual's moral code are moral (from that individual's moral perspective), those behaviors that are inconsonant are immoral (from the individual's moral perspective).

The origins of a person's individual moral code are somewhat murky. The moral code of an individual is somewhat programmed by the cultural gestalt in which the person was raised and within, modified both by the individual's experience and by the individual's history of moral cognition and ethical thinking. Further, despite having been programmed by the cultural gestalt, a person's moral programming may be at odds with the given subset of society one finds oneself at any given time. That is to say, the individual's perception of pro-group behaviors may be inconsistent with the group's same perception of pro-group behaviors.

Some initial working definitions:

Moral behavior: This we describe as any behavioral choices that carry a deontotic aspect; that is, behaviors for which there is a question of whether they should or should not be done. We ignore for the moment any question of degree: immoral behaviors may be sins, crimes, or simply those which the group, culture, or individual disagrees with, and immoral behavior may or may not be met with any negative re-inforcement from the group and may be meet with a range of negative reinfrocement. We will for the purposes of this discussion ignore that range: for this discussion, belching in public and cannibalism will both be considered immoral behaviors in conventional Western society.

Guilt: This is the emotional sensation experienced by the individual upon engaging in behavior that one feels is at odds with one's personal moral code, particular when engaging in pro-individual behavior that is seen as anti-group behavior.

Shame: This is the emotional sensation experienced by a person who engages in behavior contrary to the moral code observed and enforced by the group. Importantly, shame here implies that the individual's behavior is consonant with the individual's moral code, but is at odds with the local group's standard of behavior. This leads sometimes to a situation where shame does not manifest itself until the individual comes to believe that he or she has somehow violated the local group's behavioral standards (whether or not such a violation has or has not actually occurred.

Under these definitions, it is possible for an individual to feel both guilt and shame as a consequence of the same behavior.

So, if there is an emotional experience labeled 'shame', then it would logically follow that there is an emotional experience ⌐shame, that is a lack of shame (we'll assume for a moment a bi-valued propositional logic, excluding both the middle and non-binary truth values. We'll also assume a non-constructivist classical logic with double negation. Formally, axion 1: ~(P +~P), axiom 2: (P v ~P), axiom 3: ~~P <=> P).

By natural English rules, ⌐shame could be expressed a number of ways:

  1. We could choose the semi-formal *'not shame'. This is problematic, as the noun phrase is a violation of natural English syntactic rules.

  1. We could choose 'shameless'. However, does ⌐shame = shameless given our intuitive understanding of English 'shameless'?

'Shameless' as used by native speakers of Western-American English carries a strong negative connotation. More specifically, it implies that the object of the phrase either ought to be experiencing shame, but is not, or is experiencing shame but is choosing to react against that sensation.

This may merit some further exploration. If the initial pre-conceptions about shame are correct, then it is entirely possible for the group to attempt to impose shame for what the individual feels is moral behavior. A concrete example: a person from a tropical culture where nudity and genital exposure is normal, accepted behavior is brought to a Euro-American city where such behavior is considered immodest and shameful. The transplanted individual not only fails to feel shame, he is unaware that he ought to feel shame. The prevailing Euro-American culture fails to impose its standards of moral behavior or induce shame. Is this ⌐shame? Is it shamelessness? Are there, perhaps, different kinds of ⌐shame?

Of course, the human psyche is complex and many-layered. It is possible for a person to consciously reject or appear to reject the dominant cultural values. Yet consciously or unconsciously, the psyche has not truly or completely repudiated those values. The psyche is thus in conflict with itself, and the person engages in behavior the dominant culture considers shameful, almost in defiance of those cultural values. The resulting sense of shame thus becomes repressed and a source of conscious or unconscious disquiet.

It is also entirely possible for a number of persons to collectively reject the values of the dominant culture in order to form a sub-culture (or tribe, as I sometimes use that word). This may come with or without the conscious and unconscious repudiation of the dominant cultural values. Future behaviors that are consistent with the values of the subculture may be inconsistent with the values of the dominant culture (or vice-versa). An individual engaging in those behaviors may thus experience shame in some sense and ⌐shame in some other sense simultaneously.

Then consider a person raised within the moral values of their culture. This person, perhaps by dint of self-exploration, self-discovery, and cognitive-behavioral modification, comes to reject one or more of the dominant cultural values (about which more later). They then begin to behave in a fashion that the culture would consider shameful, but the individual does not feel shame. Is this ⌐shame? Is it shamelessness?

It may make sense to reserve 'shameless' for situations in which the dominant culture attempts to impose its cultural values and fails. That is, when the dominant culture would require an individual to feel shame, but that individual does not (or refuses consciously to do so), the individual experiences ⌐shame, and the culture labels them 'shameless' with that word's disapproving connotation.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Arcadianism: A manifesto of creation.

A Manifesto of Post-Nietzschean Anti-Nihilism

syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavya, "In some way, it is true, and false, and indescribable."

'Do as thou wilt' shall be the whole of the law. Every man and woman is a star. Love is the law; love under will” the three statements of thelema

God is dead.” Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningful.

God is dead. The universe has no meaning and no purpose. Stars flare and die, planets spin. Random fluctuations of quantum phenomena. Nothing becomes, exists, and dissolves to nothing again. One day, the Death of Universes will claim us all. “The Sun was born and so shall die, so only shadows comfort me”i.

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningful.

By some fluke, some random chemical changes on a rock spinning around an insignificant yellow star, life emerges. An ordering of chemical bits. An organization of a small corner of chaos. Green fuzz on rocks. Animals live their brief lives in light, then return to darkness with a squeak and a bloody smear.

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningful.

In an eddy of evolution, mind emerges. A species that can solve problems has an evolutionary advantage. Observation of its surroundings, inductive reasoning, memory. Life sees, observes and remembers. Derives information from data. Forges perception from observation, cognition from behavior. An ordering of electro-chemical bits.

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningful.

Some especially bright monkeys evolve an ability to solve more complicated problems, evolve more complex modes of thought. Abstraction. Modal operators. Subjectives. Counterfactuals. Symbols, signs and signifiers. Language. A fire is lit. From the evolutionary advantage of our forebears, we inherit the ability to see meaning in meaninglessness. From s*** we extract pure Shinola™. We begin to see meaning everywhere. We ascribe meaning to everything. We decode meaning.

We create meaning.

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningful.

I meet a lady. Mating and the evolutionary imperative: form a pair bond, co-operation as a survival strategy, reproduce the species. But from it, I decode 'love'.

I create love.

In a universe with no love, I decode love. In a universe with no meaning, I decode meaning. I create meaning. I separate “the sparrows from the nightingales”ii, “the warships from the ferry boats”.

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningful.

I decode love. I decide what 'love' means. I decide how best to exemplify it. From a random ordering of biochemical bits, I decode love.

I see some pebbles in the road. I count them. I decide there are 'four', not 'three' or 'five'. I decode 'four'. Later, I find more. I put them also into my hand. I decode 'addition'. I hurl them from me, I decode 'removal'. I decode 'permanence', I decode 'change'. Ultimately, I decode 'something', I decode 'nothing'. I decode 'from nothing comes something'.

I see a fuzzy object. I say, “You're a kitty!”iii I don't decode cats, but in deciding that this is a cat and not a dog, I decode 'cat'. On seeing my old friend Professor Von Meeces, I make friends anew. I decode 'Professor von Meeces' from a fuzzy object.

I decode 'number', I decode 'color', I decode 'form'. I decode 'goodness'. I decode 'justice'. I decode 'truth'. I decode 'greatness'. I decode 'honor'. I decode 'virtue'. I decode 'hate'. When I observe a phenomenon, I decide, “That's justice.” Et in Arcadia ego.

I decide what these things are. I decide how to best exemplify them. I can shoot my own arrow of longing beyond myself and decide how to model what I have decoded. What I have created. What I decode, I create; what I create, I can show; what I show, I can be. What I create, I can be, just as hard as I can. What we create, we can be.

I believe that we'll conceive to make in Hell for us a Heaven [...] Until I see this kingdom's mine, I'll turn the darkness into light, I'll guide the blind, my will be done, until I say our kingdom has been won.”iv

The universe has no purpose. We have no purpose. But we can make our own purpose. The universe has no God. But “we are on our way to being gods”v. Et in Arcadia nos. “Let there be, let there always be, never-ending light.”vi

Nothing means anything. Nothing can mean anything. Nothing is meaningless.
i VNV Nation, “Further
iii XKCD #231
iv VNV Nation, “Kingdom
v C-Tec, “Foetal
vi VNV Nation, “Perpetual

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