Friday, August 31, 2012

Progressive or Conservative?

     I see the terms progressive and conservative as neutral, each having a light and shadow element. I see conservatives as those holding to the Hellenistic Apollonian wisdom tradition, embracing really smart archetypal ideas and ideals that work over time. In the Helios/Apollo myth, the Greeks realized there is a wise conservative path for the sun to travel each day--to change it is to invite disaster, as seen in Phaeton's mistake. The Founders of America enshrined many of these Apollonian truths in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The conservative weakness is in getting stuck in areas that require development. That is why I had to leave the dogmatic wing of the evangelical residence years ago.

     I see progressives as being delightfully Dionysian, not afraid to look at new ideas and new ideals, to make changes where they are clearly better. They see the developmental nature of the psyche and society, and are bold enough to oppose old worn out views and laws. However, their weakness is in mistaking "change" to be a virtue--not all new ideas and ideals are clearly better just because they are novel. As C.S. Lewis has written, "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

     That is why I am an independent, attempting to choose the best of both parties and avoid the worst of each. I do think that both are far too black and white in their thinking--the republicans in morality issues like homosexuality and and sex in general, and the democrats with their tendency to divide the country by class, gender, race, and religion. I understand that much of this either/or thinking by both parties is due to the need of their respective politicians to acquire votes, and for the media news networks to attain commercial ratings and make money. Conflict has always been effective for power brokering and economic success. However, psychologically it is also important to see that such divisions serve a useful purpose. The natural and necessary condition of the human psyche is innately binary and oppositional, which is a requirement for individuation or soul-making. Humans must have choices and conflicts to evolve psycho-spiritually. This began in Eden with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Humans need conflict to develop into the image and likeness of God, or if you prefer a secular view, Freud wrote: "Psychoanalysis early became aware that all mental occurrences must be regarded as built on the basis of an interplay of the forces of the elementary instincts." Read more:

     These days I can see both the buffoonery and wisdom of both parties. Neither is sacrosanct and both are, in my opinion, necessarily in bed with corruption. The choice for me is of the lesser of two evils, choosing to align with the ideas and candidates which best support the freedom for personal soul-making--recognizing that this world will never become heaven or hell, but the playing field for each soul to be formed into unique selves.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Confessions: Toward a Personal Political Position

A couple of people have asked me for my political views. I have hesitated because I fear that few will actually read what I say with an open mind and read all of the way through. I know this because I am like them, typically forming my opinions on partial arguments. I am working on reforming that bad habit. I ask you to read the whole blog. I will try to keep it short at the risk of over simplifying.

First off, I have been a kool-aid drinking conservative and kool-aid drinking progressive, ensconced within each group for about 15 years each. Currently, for lack of a better term, I am an independent / libertarian (independertarian?). I find value and non-value within both the progressive and conservative traditions. I confess that I am more sympathetic with the new batch of conservatives because of their return to constitutional govt. and fiscal responsibility--containing what I consider to be a more exceptional political philosophy and psychology of human nature and nations. The bold print underscores where some will now draw their stereotyped conclusions about my politics. Please read on. My evolution through conservative and progressive systems is nicely summarized by Greg Gutfeld's comment: "I became a conservative by being around liberals and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives. You realize that there’s something distinctly in common between the two groups, the left and the right; the worst part of each of them is the moralizing." I concur. Both liberal and conservative groups tend toward "puritanical" moralizing and ideological triumphalism. I know. I have been both, and can still be a moralizing puritan and triumphalist know it all. I am working on reforming these bad habits as well--not very hard, but I am aware of them.

However, the issue of values is up in the air for me. I find both Democrats and Republicans holding to both useful as well as dangerously useless values. By that I mean that as a nation we cannot return to the old conservative absolutist Christian value systems, yet the liberal Secular value systems are even worse, a la Marx, Mao, Stalin, Castro and most other forms of socialism. Both basic liberal and conservative value systems require individuals to conform to the collective dogma of the ideological mechanism --one a religious machine and the other a secular machine--both machines ultimately neglecting the individual human being in his/her unique psycho-spiritual development. Carl Jung addressed this by writing: "Both [religious and socialist institutions] demand unqualified submission to faith and thus curtail man's freedom, the one his freedom before God and the other his freedom before the State" (Undiscovered Self, p. 38). Both the religious and socialist moralizing-Enforcers quash the human soul while claiming, ironically, to set it free. Equally ironic is the fact that the religious collective sets humans free from State dogma, while the State collective sets humans free from religious dogma. As the founders of our American republic knew all too well, we must find that "narrow gate" that passes between these two extremes. That is the number one challenge for America and the world at this juncture in history--how to reconcile the above and the below, the human and the divine, the material and the spiritual, the scientific and the soulful.

All of that being said, as a political citizen I will support an antiquated and very fallible "basic Christian" value system if forced to choose between that and a secular anthropocentric system elevating human saviors with their narcissistic dogmas derived from the "sciences". At least the former acknowledges that human beings are not the center of the universe, and that our scientific technological advances must be balanced by ideas and values that derive from something other than human instincts, emotions and logic. Let me emphasize--I choose the "basic Christian" value system in its most broad definition without the theological accretions that have gathered over the centuries. By Christian I mean a philosophy that recognizes a rational Higher Power, a blending of the visible and invisible as equal and necessary elements for existence, and the humanization of the divine along with a divinization of the human. The Christian philosophy makes central the notion of a reasonable and purposeful God, Being, Transcendent Agents and Agencies underlying existence in some mysterious fashion. The paradigmatic strength of reasonableness found in the Christian philosophy was addressed by the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, shocking the academic community in his Lowell lectures at Harvard in 1925, when he said that Western scientific methodology arose "from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God as conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher" (Science and the Modern World, p. 12). On this point I am more in line with Thomas Jefferson than modern evangelical Christians. I should also add here that I find the Christian-invented tradition of theological dialogue to be both fascinating, fruitful and worthwhile. This tradition at its best generates ideas and creative thought, sometimes called orthodoxy which, when separated from those who use the term pejoratively simply means straight ideas or teachings. This is important since the other world religions tend toward orthopraxy, or right actions and rituals. This theological tradition, at its best, has given rise to the ideas of Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, John Milton, Newton, Copernicus, Martin Luther, Dorothy Sayers,  Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and many others.

That being said, I would rather not have to settle for any antiquated religious system. Ideally we as a nation and international community must build upon what has gone before and forge a new and larger psycho-spiritual narrative and value structure based on some sort of trans-sectarian version of Natural Law, Analytical Psychology, Archetypalism and spiritual neuroscience (See also the N.P.R. program, This is Your Brain on Religion).

I think all four of the forementioned areas ought to be studied in tandem. I will not explain what I mean by this, except to say that the religio-politcal question as it relates to the entire human community, cross- and trans-culturally, will occupy center stage over the next few decades if not centuries, likely yielding results that we cannot now even begin to imagine. Sadly, it also seems to me that liberals and conservatives both are incredibly ignorant and regressive on the role and significance of this religious issue with regard to politics--both groups largely still stuck in their myopic mytho-ethical dogmas of days gone by. The liberals may have a slight lead here, but I have met few progressives or conservatives who even know what Natural Law, Analytical Psychology, Archetypalism and spiritual neuroscience mean. 

In my opinion, I and an increasing number of independents and libertarians represent a kind of hybrid: neo-progressive conservative, or neo-conservative progressive, yet being neither, but an amalgam of both and then some beyond both groups. This position is really beyond stereotyping, but most liberals and conservatives in these days of stark political warfare cannot or will not comprehend such a slippery fish, and will feel that they have no choice but to lump independents in with the group that most resembles their vile "enemy". It seems increasingly that both republicans and democrats require vitriol in their emotional engines in order to fuel their drive to ideological conquest of the "Other". Each must vilify their archnemesis Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi, G.W. Bush or B. H. Obama.Both groups live in their tiny ideological ghetto of fundamentalist security.

It has become a cultural cliché--but as with most good cliches, apparently unheeded--that what we need is genuine dialogue between political parties--not some new age broadmindedness without substantive content, nor a polite veneer that keeps us from really knowing what the "other" is saying--but an authentic, honest  conversation which explicates deeply held convictions and the reasons for those positions. I want to know what you REALLY believe and why. That is more important to me than you sparing my feelings or injuring my self esteem. I may indeed go away wounded, offended or upset--but past experience has taught me that those experiences that disintegrate my old world in order to construct the new one are most beneficial in the long haul. I am not advocating cheap shots, ad hominem arguments or mean spirited debate--but honest, passionate exchanges salted with respect and interest toward the "other". From such interactions will come understanding and the sacred third position that neither person in the debate is capable of discovering without the "other".