Philosophy

A Brief Excursion Into Panentheism

From time to time I delve into the nonsense of religious speculation.

I have been thinking lately about a particular occult philosophy that belief is a tool to be used to effect change in oneself and in the world. In particular, I have been thinking about this in connection with John 8, the woman caught in adultery. I believe that the evangelicals and catholics, and to a lesser extent all mainline christians, have fundamentally misunderstood the meaning of this myth.

Throughout his preaching, The Nazarene repeatedly returns to the notion of hypocrisy, and generally speaking I think that this has carried over into the improper, in my view, exegesis of John 8 as yet another condemnation of hypocrites. And I think that there is an element of that. But I also think it's important to note that John 8 is without parallels in the other gospels. The story is not sourced from anywhere but the Johannine community and their traditions. As such, I think it is a bit more revealing than yet another condemnation of hypocrisy.

Of all the gospels, John is the most in keeping with the Gnostic Christians like Marcion. It is also the most in line with the philosophy of stoicism, and the mysticism of gnostics from whom the notion that Jesus was always a part of the godhead and had come to redeem a world that was imperfect, is blended in John with the notions of the stoics that the ultimate truth is the knowledge of logos, The Word, through a disciplined quest for personal improvement in controlling ones passions and transforming them into a state of inner calm. The Word for the stoics was the reasonableness inherent in all things, and it was through this pursuit of reason that stoics believed the good was instituted in the soul. John identifies The Word, the logos, the reason of all things, with The Nazarene.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 12-18: Enter Mary Sue Rosenbaum

In 1973 Paula Smith, the editor of a Star Trek Fanzine, wrote a story called "A Trekkie's Tale" as a satire of the kind of strange wish fulfilling fan fiction that she received from people writing themselves in to the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The story featured a character named "Mary Sue" who was a fifteen and a half year old wunderkind who in the course of a few brief paragraphs earns Captain Kirk's love, Mr. Spock's respect, is revealed to be half vulcan, and then runs the whole ship while the main characters from the TV show are languishing with a sickness. In the end she dies of the sickness herself, mourned by the entire crew, and is given her own "national holiday" aboard the enterprise. The story spawned the term "Mary Sue" as a pejorative term for an authorial surrogate whose primary purpose is to live out the fantasies of the author in a fictional world. This criticism has worked its way into the sort of collective unconscious of amateur writing, and admonitions to avoid writing Mary Sue characters is well known in the fan fiction world.

The Open Sentence: A Statement Masquerading as a Manifesto

I say this now because as I'm continuing to write my extended, in depth criticism of Atlas Shrugged, there are going to be times when the close reading will require the engagement of aesthetic rather than political or philosophical concerns. As I'm trying to show that it is the worst book ever written, it is necessary to take on not only the bad ideas in the book and the quality of the storytelling, but also the quality of the craftsmanship at the level of the language. In order that people know where I'm coming from, I figured it would be better to lay it all out here in a brief abstract rather than have to constantly re-state things about what I think makes for good and bad writing within each individual piece.

In writing, where the content is not primarily concerned with the communications of facts or criticism of some form whether it be literal or cultural—that is to say, where it is not political/philosophical treatise, some sort of non-fiction, or the interpretation of other work—I take to be primitive several statements by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Among them:

"Philosophy ought to be written only as a form of poetry."

"What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."

"What can be shewn cannot be said."

"There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical."

"We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense conditions are ideal, but also, because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk, therefore we need friction. Back to the rough ground."

"If a lion could speak, we could not understand him."

"In a large number of cases, though not for all, the meaning of a word is it's use in a language-game."

In defense of Electricity

What's at issue is Gilcrest's celebration of Paper, the idea that poetry being printed on Paper is a glorious ethical Good that reminds us of the connection between Language and Nature. Note the sarcastic capitalization.