On Exclusion and The Other

…the power of evil imposes itself so irresistibly through the operations of a transpersonal “system” that is both “institutional” and “spiritual.” Caught in the system of exclusion as if in some invisible snare, people behave according to its perverted logic.

How does the system work? Consider first what might be considered the “background cacophony of evil.” It permeates institutions, communities, nations, whole epochs… This is the low-intensity evil of the way “things work” or the way “things simply are,” the exclusionary vapors of institutional or communal cultures under which many suffer but for which no one is responsible and about which all complain but no one can target. This all-pervasive low-intensity evil rejuvenates itself by engendering belief in its own immortality and imposes itself bu generating a sense of its own ineluctability.

In extraordinary situations and under extraordinary directors certain themes from the “background cacophony” are picked up, orchestrated into a bellicose musical, and played up. “Historians”—national, communal, or personal interpreters of the past—trumpet the double theme of the former glory and past victimization; “economists: join in with the accounts of present exploitation and great economic potentials; ”political scientists“ add the theme of the growing imbalance of power, of steadily giving ground, of losing control over what is rightfully ours; ”cultural anthropologists“ bring in the dangers of the loss of identity and extol the singular value of our personal or cultural gifts, capable of genuinely enriching the outside world; ”politicians“ pick up all four themes and weave them into a high-pitched aria about the threats to vital interests posed by the other who is therefore the very incarnation of evil; finally the ”priests” enter into a solemn procession and accompany all this with a soothing background chant that offers to any whose consciences may have been bothered the assurance that God is on our side and that our enemy is the enemy of God and therefore an adversary of everything that is true, good, and beautiful.

As this bellicose musical with reinforcing themes is broadcast through the media, resonances are created with the background cacophony of evil that permeates the culture of a community, and the community finds itself singing the music and marching to its tune. To refuse to sing and march, to protest the madness of the spectacle, appears irrational and irresponsible, naive and cowardly, treacherous toward one’s own and dangerously sentimental toward the evil enemy. The stage for “ethnic cleansing” and similar “eruptions” of evil—personal as well as communal—is set. The first shot only needs to be fired and the chain reaction will start.

–Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, pg 87-88

“First- illegal entry into the United States is a crime—as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
–Jeff Sessions, defending forcibly taking children from immigrants

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
–Donald Trump

“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are… These aren’t people. These are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a rate that’s never happened before.”
–Donald Trump

It is a fact that cannot be denied: the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts.
–C.G. Jung, “After the Catastrophe”

The Second Coming 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


William Butler Yeats, 1919

Russell on The Problem

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Even those of the intelligent who believe that they have a nostrum are too individualistic to combine with other intelligent men from whom they differ on minor points.

–Bertrand Russell, “The Triumph of Stupidity”

A Love Song

I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—

you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!

–William Carlos Williams

The Subjective Meaning of Objective Science

Science has its meaning as the objective pursuit of a purpose which has been subjectively chosen by a person or persons. This purpose or value can never be investigated by the particular scientific experiment or investigation to which it has given birth and meaning. Consequently, any discussion of the control of human beings by the behavioral sciences must first and most deeply concern itself with the subjectively chosen purposes which such an application of science is intended to implement.

–Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, Ch 21: The Place of the Individual in the New World of the Behavioral Sciences, pg 395

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

If history is a succession of immortality ideologies, then the problems of men can be read directly against those ideologies–how embracing they are, how convincing, how easy the make it for men to be confident and secure in their personal heroism. What characterizes modern life is the failure of all traditional immortality ideologies to absorb and quicken man’s hunger for self-perpetuation and heroism. Neurosis is today a widespread problem because of the disappearance of convincing drams of heroic apotheosis of man. The subject is summed up succinctly in Pinel’s famous observation on how the Salpêtrière mental hospital got cleared out at the time of the French Revolution. All the neurotics found a ready-made drama of self-transcending action and heroic identity. It was as simple as that.

Continue reading “The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker”

Passages from the Tao Te Ching

What cannot be seen is called evanescent;
What cannot be heard is called rarefied;
What cannot be touched is called minute.
These cannot be fathomed
And so they are confused and looked upon as one.
Its* upper part is not dazzling;
Its lower part is not obscure.
Dimly visible, it cannot be named
And returns to that which is without substance.
This is called the shape that has no shape.
The image that is without substance.
This is called indistinct and shadowy.
Go up to it and you will not see its head;
Follow behind it and you will not see its rear.
Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the realm of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.

* I.e. the Tao or the Way

Continue reading “Passages from the Tao Te Ching”