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The Cybernetic Trinity

The Trinity is one of the more vexing doctrines in all of the Catholic tradition. God is one, and yet God is three: the father, the son Christ who walked on earth, and the Holy Spirit. To make matters worse, God even has a mother, to whom one prays quite like one prays to God. My understanding of this vexing system is that it encodes the concept of “auto-production” or “bootstrapping,” the paradoxical capacity of systems to generate themselves ex nihilo.

The Trinity provides an impressively intelligent counterpoint to the naïve creationist tendency, in which the Gospels sometimes sound as if some magical kind of person created the universe by himself. There's nothing evil about such a linguistic device, but it is obviously naïve and inadequate technically. Any half-educated atheist can tell you, correctly, that such a model cannot plausibly account for who or what created the conditions for the creator; that such a naive model merely halts an infinite regress by brute force. More realistically, as cybernetics and the study of complex systems have shown, systems can very well bootstrap themselves from random perturbations among a few initial elements or particles. Which particular element or particle moved first is often impossible to determine, for it is their interaction that kicks off the systems’ dynamics. Auto-production is at work in the cosmological model known as the Big Bang, for instance.

The Catholic Trinity, plus the strangely important figure of Mary, is an intuitive approximation of a complex-systems model. God is one, the one name for that which created everything, but the nature of this one is to be a set. It is the circulation and mutual-stimulation of the elements in this one set that is the essential miracle of life.

Virtues of the Desert

Here is Joseph Ratzinger, formerly Pope Benedict, on St. John the Baptist.

He was not ordered to deny Jesus Christ, but was ordered to keep silent about the truth” (cf. Homily 23: CCL 122, 354). And he did not keep silent about the truth and thus died for Christ who is the Truth. Precisely for love of the truth he did not stoop to compromises and did not fear to address strong words to anyone who had strayed from God’s path…

The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions (cf. Lk 1:80). The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself.  

Martyrdom of St John the Baptist by Benedict XVI

Hat tip to Aria.

Hallow be thy name

To say that one believes in God is to be stupid and wrong by the definition of these words in modern secular culture. And yet I believe that I believe, so how? The word “God” does not mean what modern people mean when they deploy it. The word is ambiguous to the extreme, for good reason. In the Our Father, also known as the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray to God: “hallowed be thy name…” Hallow — which means to sanctify — is in the passive voice and future tense. The word or name God is supposed to recede from profane access. To say one believes in God is not to advance any mundane empirical claim whatsoever, it is to hallow the name — to push it further and further “off limits” from exactly the mundane political jostling in which modern people intend to ensnare you by asking about it. There is no need for Catholics to affirm the empirical reality of a discrete creator-agent — a guy in the clouds — or any particular image or empirical conception that someone might wish to pin on the name God, so long as one believes in God. Neither am I endorsing pantheism, which also says too much, but in the opposite direction. What the word “God” means is not for me to explain, let alone argue about — to believe is only to believe that it makes sense, somehow, despite one’s admitted incomprehension. Anyone who requires additional affirmations regarding the existence of God, affirmations that are positively inconsistent with scientific rationality, is a heretic who calls for lying.

Religion, guilt, and creativity

One feature of religion a lot of secular people do not understand is that, although religion can make one feel guilty at times, it also prevents one from feeling guilty about trivial matters. Secular people think that by avoiding religion they avoid feeling guilt, but often they end up overwhelmed by guilt, because they attribute to all their mundane earthly projects an inflated moral significance.

One of the best examples is creative or intellectual work. Or career advancement. If I publish a blog post that everyone hates, or if I fail to get a promotion, or one of my silly hypotheses turns out to be wildly wrong, I really don't care because none of these things matter too much for better or worse. I believe they constitute a meaningful and honorable calling, and my dedication to this calling I believe to be Good in the long-run, in a way that matters. But failure on any particular project causes me no shame, because it reflects no sin. Shortcomings on such earthly diversions simply never take a moral tone for me, because they are orthogonal to morality as I know it with the help of my religious tradition. For a good Christian, creative and intellectual work is beyond Good and Evil. But for people who don't believe in sin, for people who think they can simply free themselves from guilt by ignoring it, then a failed writing project or a career setback can feel like a moral failure. It can, and often does, produce feelings of shame, for instance.

If one of my personal intellectual efforts fails, I would never think to bring this to the confessional! Which means I would never experience compunction or shame about it. For the arrogant, modern, secular type who thinks himself too good for the confessional, some little practical shortcoming that hurts nobody can affect their body like a real sin would affect mine. Not only does secular guilt accumulate more heavily (given the frequency of practical shortcomings), but the secular person suffers from guilt far longer than the Catholic, for the secular person admits no mechanism of absolution. This is one of the least understood reasons why modern secular minds are sometimes unable to create, despite deep yearnings to create. And why — when they do create — it is often superficial, instrumental, and ephemeral. They conflate their earthly, mental creations with an eternal, ethical plane they neurotically deny and desire. Finding their finite abilities not up to the task, they decide never to begin, or sell themselves short.

On Those Who Worship the Big Other

Nina Power just lost her gig at The Wire because of her appearance on my measly haphazard experimental one-man Youtube channel with no particular identity and a whopping ~2k followers. (Feel free to give our talk a listen, alternatively). The Wire is a small British music magazine you've probably never heard of, so the prospect of someone not being allowed to write for them makes me personally feel close to nothing — but Nina liked that gig and she's upset to lose it and I adore Nina so now I find myself fuming. I don't really get upset very often, but I'm really feeling hatred toward these people. It will pass, probably in about 15 minutes, but I experience this feeling so rarely that I figured I should crank some observations out of it. Warning: Editing: zero.

Personal psychological aside: When I got the boot from Plan C around March 2017, I was very sad for a few days, but I was never angry at anyone. I don't care enough about myself to feel angry at anyone for wronging me; I just reclassify my estimate of their character and carry on. But when someone I know and like is wronged, especially when they've gone out of their way to extend friendship to me — my reciprocal altruism gives energy and provides pro-social cover for feeling true anger and expressing some true hatred.

I just want to pinpoint one observation, to file under my ongoing theory of the social justice warrior. Nina posted on FB a quote from one of the people (a friend, she says) who explained to her the bad news. It was extremely similar to the message I received from the more influential members of Plan C when I got the boot in 2017. And it's a crucial point for understanding what's really happening in the Great Paranoia of 2014-?

All of these people are taking orders from the Big Other. People think Lacan is a charlatan who just made shit up, but boy is this concept useful for understanding paranoiac witch-hunting phenomena. The Big Other is — to simplify horribly — not what other people believe, but what you believe other people believe. All the little leaders of the leftist groupuscles, all the editors of these magazines with circulations probably smaller than this blog (controlling for contributors), all of these little petty rulers… These people who are mostly responsible when some organization disowns or fires someone for some perceived transgression — these people do not themselves believe the transgressions are deserving of such punishment. They all know — and admit to each other privately — that such and such transgression is no big deal; that they would rather not disown or fire Johnny Violator, but, they say, they have to do it because "that's the world we live in," or "it would send the wrong message to partner organizations," etc.

This is so important to understand because it's the only way you can explain so many people calling offensive things which, quite obviously, never offended or otherwise hurt anyone anywhere. Nobody is offended by any of it, except the Big Other.

I first learned this with extraordinary, crystal clarity when I got the boot from Plan C. I won't name names, not out of politeness, but because nobody cares about these tiny groups. And I won't dig up old emails to supply salacious quotes or whatever, but basically all the more influential members said to me, "Look Justin, we know you're not a fascist, but by talking with [unapproved individual] about [unapproved idea], it could appear to comrades outside of our organization that we tolerate fascism." This perception could so devastate their "organizing efforts" [i.e., the progressive slang for "profit," i.e, cultural capital], that they could not be associated with me. That's what they told me in no uncertain terms. Interestingly, they did not actually kick me out at any point — they were even content for me to continue paying dues, they only requested that I not publicly associate with the Plan C name henceforth. As a self-respecting adult person, of course I said that if they considered my name toxic then I would consider membership in their organization undesirable — so that was that. It says so very much about the average member of radical-left groupuscles that I suppose they thought they were being nice — that I would gratefully treasure my continued nominal membership in an organization that declared itself ashamed to be associated with my name. All this taught me was the true degree to which self-respecting adult individuals had been so rigorously evacuated from these circles, I suppose some time ago.

Anyway, this was a very powerful discovery, the type of thing that only came to light because of this rare and dramatic personal experience. I never forgot it (it's in my book draft) but then I set it aside.

I was therefore quite struck reading the quote that Nina posted from one of the people who gave her the bad news:

"It would seem that for the foreseeable future you have indeed been dropped as a writer by The Wire as a consequence of your appearance in that YouTube video. Again I understand that that decision was arrived at collectively by all the editorial staff … following a long discussion in the office concerning the video and its contents … in the end everyone involved in the discussion, which was basically the entire editorial staff as I understand it, were apparently of the same opinion: to have your byline continue to appear in the magazine would be inappropriate and detrimental to The Wire…Yes, it is brutal, but that’s the world we live in now." [Emphasis mine.]

They are saying, quite explicitly: The problem is how things appear in the minds of others — nothing you said or did was itself wrong or bad, but it does not fit the image of what others expect from your type of person for this type of magazine ("inappropriate"), and it would be bad for business ("detrimental to The Wire").

Any person who pretends to be either an intellectual or a political radical, who also assents to a consensus such as this one, is a liar. They simply cannot be anything of an intellectual or a political radical. Rather, they exemplify the bourgeois bureaucrat. And this would be fine, if they just went to work everyday in their office jobs and acted like bourgeois bureaucrats: all they want is their little desk, with a little nameplate on their desk, and their little paycheck, to win a decent spouse, and to enjoy a little admiration from their mother for having a respectable job at some generic corporation with some modicum of name recognition. That would be fine, innocent enough! It is what most people want and what most people end up doing in one way or another. But these people don't just do that.

For their corporation is the corporation that presents itself as leaders of ethical progress in opposition to capitalism, in opposition to corporations. They are the corporation that swears it is not a corporation. If you find corporations unethical because they exploit and mislead people for profit, your blood should curdle when you look at the progressive culture industry, because these little organizations altogether are essentially corporations on psychological steroids. No thinking person inside of them exercises any independent judgment, and whatever is perceived to be profitable for the corporation does not simply become obligatory (as in any business), it also becomes the definition of good: ethical, progressive, radical, antifascist, etc. All while extraordinary effort is dedicated to upholding and publicizing as widely as possible a massive, soul-shaped sign that says "100% AGAINST EXPLOITATIVE CORPORATIONS."

If you are one of these people who assent to such corporate determinations — and I know a few of you read this blog, whether it be for "antifascist reconnaissance" or as a guilty pleasure or because you yourself are reconsidering your own iniquity — let me assure you, there is a special place in Hell for people like you, who do not recant and confess after becoming aware of what you are doing. And Hell is not a metaphor, you will find yourself there, if you are not there already. Of course, a dirty little secret is that many of the shining figures of left-wing activism are indeed on their way there, as we speak, and they feel it everyday; the symptoms now popularly labeled "depression" certainly do not arise only because of willful dishonesty and resentment, but willful dishonesty and resentment necessarily bring these symptoms. If not now, then later, eventually.

It is worth clarifying here that the concept of the afterlife is widely misunderstood. If you think you are smart because you don't believe that naughty humans go to some place with flames after dying, then you are an idiot for imagining that anyone ever believed this. Hell does not wait for you to die; the point of the "afterlife" is simply to encode that dying is not enough to stop what the sinner sets into motion. It carries on. The reason why Hell is encoded as coming after life is that humans really do have many ingenuous devices for postponing its arrival. You really can spin your web of lies until the day you die, if you have the wherewithal, but nothing changes the fact that every lie digs you one inch deeper — truly, materially — into Hell. One of the real scandals of radical left sociology is that many of the rank and file do not really have this requisite wherewithal, to perpetually postpone the arrival of Hell. Only a few of the leaders really do have that spirit, to play this game for life without falling victim to chronic depressiveness and other extremely painful maladies. Many of the rank and file did not realize that that's what they signed up for, but they are already sufficiently deep — perhaps they disowned so many normal people for being insufficiently righteous that they've burned all their bridges — that the only thing that could possibly start to rebuild their healthy vitality (expressing and acting on their own honest personal judgment), they do not have the strength to do. And thus so many of the rank and file subsist in variable degrees of depressiveness (a bona fide Hell on Earth, even if there are, to be clear, factors other than sin that can land you there). Simply because they are unable to take the risk of saying, firmly, "Uh, that person said nothing bad so if you disown them I'm quitting, too."

Most of them know not what they do, and for them I harbor no hatred. But if you're educated and intelligent and self-aware enough to be on the editorial board of some magazine — there's a decent chance you know exactly what you're really doing when you assent to sacrifice one of your own to the social justice gods. You're consciously worshipping a false idol, for as Lacan taught: The thing about the Big Other is that it doesn't exist.

The reason this is ultimately funny rather than grave is that these people are verbally outing themselves as losers, so they are pretty much doomed to lose even on the superficial, instrumental, social plane they are prioritizing. These little bits of candid self-explanation I've heard from the horse's mouth, that Nina has heard from the horse's mouth, and that everyone will eventually hear from some horse's mouth eventually — inform us that, behind the curtain of these little cultural fiefdoms (less and less influential every month, anyway), are pretty much only self-confessed disingenuous cowards of a shamelessly low intellectual calibre. Good luck with that!

Getting High on Easter Sunday

I got high in the morning, for the first time since I can remember. There exists a defensible Christian opposition to drugs, no doubt, but it's poorly calibrated to the Information Age.

This is not to say it is incorrect for the Information Age, as a popular relativist interpretation would have it. Poorly calibrated means that its terms are no longer associated with the objects and experiences they were originally deployed to model. The intense correctness that Christian teachings once achieved in the minds of people was probably purchased by what we might call an overfit model: Perhaps it was so forcefully orchestrated to nail all the right phrasings within its founding vocabulary, that these phrasings became especially out of sync with reality in the face of modernity's technological acceleration. Any too-perfect model must suffer the disadvantage of capturing poorly new data from beyond the sample on which it was trained. This might be why the original nominal coordinates of the Christian message seem to make less and less sense to people, even though people are becoming favorably disposed to far more dubious superstitions and spiritualities.

Consider drugs. Today, if you want to raise a healthy family even moderately secured from contemporary threats — economic, technological, social, etc. (a quintessentially Christian life mission, if there ever was one) — you have to hustle like crazy, at the very least for certain protracted periods of time. This work will often be on various digital screens, in environments that are severely corrupting, and so on. Modern work is drugged work — fluorescent lightbulbs are drugs, blue-lit computer screens are drugs, the oxytocin triggered in you strategically by your project manager is a drug, the dopamine triggered by real-time automated positive feedbacks is delivered through an infinite intravenous. The bourgeois professions in particular require ritual consumption of substances, the final result of which is nothing short of demonic possession. Yet nothing about contemporary work gets counted by today's mind with the word "drug," so the important Christian teachings against drugs exert zero traction where they are most prescient.

It follows that, to properly calibrate a particular Christian teaching for post-modernity, one might even need to flagrantly disobey its nominal suggestions.

Thus, I contend that certain regimens of recreational drug use are consistent with the teachings of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. Under certain conditions, some recreational drugs can be pious antidotes to the ritualized drug abuse that has become normalized in contemporary society.

You can say that one should refuse the sin of overworking, but then one's family may perish. Or one does not reproduce, and all the Christian discoveries exit the meme pool. Perhaps this process is already underway.

Getting high on cannabis for family functions and holy days seems to me an eminently Christian practice. One feels the devil leaving the body… Was this not also one of the major reasons for prohibiting work on Sundays?

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