The Sly Way




Crazy Russians

The Russian mathematician, journalist and ‘Fourth Way’ philosopher Peter D. Ouspensky (1878–1947) is largely ignored and seldom taken seriously today by intellectuals. One might say that Ouspensky’s contributions to the ‘Crazy Russian’ stereotype were not appreciated by his peers. His reputation was virtually ruined during his lifetime, not only because of his enthusiasm for the fashionable fourth-dimension discourse of his day and esoteric subjects as well, nor for preaching his rationalizations of the self-remembering method of his iconoclastic master, yet another black sheep, the self-remembered mystic and lover of distilled spirits, G.I. Gurdjieff (1872-1949), but also because of his eccentric, drug-enhanced lifestyle.

Following in the relatively fresh footsteps of the Russian seer, tobacco fiend and professional charlatan, Madame Blavatsky, first Gurdjieff and then Ouspensky embarked on a nomadic, Oriental search for golden nuggets and priceless jewels of ancient wisdom, for miraculous notions and alchemical potions, a quest that contributed to their popularity among disaffected radicals of all sorts, bohemians, beatniks, and hippies. The eclectic product of their adventures was rendered absurd by its often self-contradictory assortment of ancient lore posing as modern revelation. Ouspensky’s attempt to gloss the Absurd over with rationalizations was taken to heart by persons who found some security in its mechanical or systematic aspect, hence we occasionally encounter an apparently objective or heartless system that provides for emotion in name only, an awful burnished machine that does not, however, raise consciousness to the classically harmonious realm purposed by the ‘Work’ of his fascinating master, Gurdjieff, whom Time magazine referred to as “a remarkable blend of P.T. Barnum, Rasputin, Freud, Groucho Marx, and everybody’s grandfather.”

In sum, Gurdjieff’s hard ‘Work’ was based on ancient premises and techniques that are by no means proprietary or unique to his school, but are necessarily platitudinous premises still held. And the related techniques and rituals are still practiced by modern psychologists. His therapeutic work employed music, dance, rituals, and a sort of psychological shock therapy to prepare the novice for initiation into the version of reality Gurdjieff had became acquainted with on his peregrinations.

Gurdjieff stated that his semi-biographical work, Meetings With Remarkable Men, was intended to be “prepatory instructive material for setting of the consciousness of creatures similar to myself a new world”; that is, a real world instead of an illusory world. He wrote another work, Beezlebub’s Tub, “to destroy mercilessly the beliefs and views rooted for centuries in the mind and feelings of men”, by arousing unfamiliar thoughts in their minds. Of course he employed more than words to shock his students out of their wits.

Most importantly, Gurdjieff emphasized an artificial, triadic structure of human beingness: In the name of the mind, the body, and the feeling, as One. He supposed that, IF the three centers were brought into triunal harmony, THEN a higher level or state of being-consciousness would naturally follow. Gurdjieff the mystic, by the way, was a composer and hypnotist. Although Ouspensky’s intellectual analysis of Gurdjieff’s Work tends to divorce the mind from body and feelings and exalt the rational function, Gurdjieff’s version of classical Harmony, his harmonious level of being, is an emotional state of being, at least from the perspective of modern psychology.

Modern Emotions

When a bow is pulled across a string of a musical instrument in just the right way, strife is music to the ears. When strings conflict in such a way that they insult ears sensitive to an accustomed musical system, the result is deemed inharmonious. Life itself is a sort of lover’s complaint in its war against nature, and all against all after bliss is left behind and self-consciousness gained.

What is love? Love is simply your life, said Swedenborg. So we say each life is a lover’s complaint because the individual would persist without resistance forever if only s/he could, but s/he can not. An individual with power unlimited would not be divided within nor without, and would in effect be as powerful as the projected Holy Power or Almighty so many persons worship with all their might. Hence, albeit a form of complaint, self-love is essentially life, and therein is the unity of all lives.

While militant philosophers believed strife to be the general Good from which all goods flow, and held that blood must and should be plentifully and frequently shed to improve the moral fibre of the race, others, who hankered after peace among men, abhorred strife, and they opposed to strife an altruistic love, an overarching metaphysical Love that would transcend strife and purportedly bring harmony. That is to say, harmony within, to the basic anxiety of existential complaints, which would, in turn, be orchestrated, and harmony without, in forms of loving cooperation to mutual ends. Or perhaps we would better say, in mutual admiration or mutual self-love, inasmuch as all are to love their neighbors as themselves, as absurd and repugnant as that might seem.

Wherefore we hear of “Harmony” in several languages from many philosophers who profess to hold usually three-pronged keys to an emotional state of being we might all enjoy; in a word we might call it bliss, the best emotion of emotions.

Now emotion is widely regarded as the thinking-feeling basis of morality. Modern psychology’s frequently stated tripartite analysis of emotion disintegrates the notion of integral emotion into body (feeling), mind (thinking), and behavior (acting) components. In brief, an emotion is a conscious feeling of pleasantness or unpleasantness, accompanied by a biological activation and expressive behavior. Again, emotion has cognitive, physiological, and behavioral components, which have been referred to in popular terms as “centers”, namely the thinking, feeling, and acting centers. A person’s behavior communicates her emotional state, which is not always clear without corresponding context, which may include verbal communication. For instance, the facial expression of grief, crying, may be misinterpreted out of context as laughter or “crying with joy” until the context is made clear.

The modern “scientific” analysis of the mind-body organic functioning into components or parts is made for the sake of convenience, usually with an interest in understanding human behavior in order to manipulate it to profitable (“good”) ends. The emotional “centers” are not “facts.” Furthermore, the interpretation of the facts or behavioral events is necessarily value-laden; that is, the artificial divisions are to a certain extent arbitrary and based on the prejudicial social mores and personal biases of the analyst. Wherefore the serious student of psychology should always keep not only the unique identities but also the emotional integrity of analyzed subjects in mind. For instance, the limbic system, sometimes mislabeled the “emotional center”, has pathways to and from the cerebral cortex, particularly the frontal lobes involved in the interpretation and control of emotions.

The modern theory of emotion is generally optimistic and coincides in some respects to the optimism of Gurdjieff and other students of psychology. To wit: behavior, including  thinking or symbolic acting, can be so managed as to increase the happiness of humankind. Otherwise, why bother with psychology, or, for that matter, any other human art and science?

Modern psychology’s Opponent-Process theory of emotions has practical implications because the theory asserts that an opposing emotion will gradually render a strong emotion weaker. Conflicting emotions can be resolved in favor of an induced powerful or “empowering” congruency, or a “negative” emotion can be deliberately replaced by eliciting in its stead a “positive” emotion, via physical (e.g. smiling) or symbolic (e.g. visualization or positive thinking) action.

The Shacter-Singer Two-Factor theory, which is a cognitive theory, posits that emotions depend on the interpretation of arousal, which we variously label. For instance: a man yells at you; you are aroused; you label his behavior “anger,” and perhaps respond angrily. But he may not be mad at all; he may be a “loudmouth” with something else in mind. Nor should you reflect his anger if anger were in fact the case. In any case, different labels may be applied with different effects (your responses) to the same event.

The Cognitive-Appraisal theory asserts that different people may have different emotional responses to the same situation. Emotional experience depends on cognitive interpretations; therefore reinterpreting the situations can change emotions.

The James-Lange theory posits an order of functions. The standard example: we see a vicious-looking growling dog; we feel nervous; we run; and then we realize we are afraid. Therefore we suppose that, if the behavior (running) can be changed, then the emotion can be changed. Laugh, as Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her famous poem, and the whole world will laugh with you. We should observe that the James-Lange interpretation of the order of function mistakenly denies the fact of cognition at the very outset: the dog looks vicious and is growling viciously – perhaps the dog is not vicious at all.


Moral Psychology

Now we can see that Gurdjieff’s so called quasi-religious approach to psychology and therapy is by no means unique. The contrary claims of his postmodern followers who assert that modern psychology has ignored his contributions, are spurious and serve to bolster their egos with the belief that they possess something special that sets them and their practice apart from and superior to mainstream theory and practice.

Modern psychology’s primary directive is not to applaud certain persons and psychological cults but to recognize the general nature and operating laws, such as they might be, of the human “psyche”, however that might be defined, and, presumably, to offer some sort of therapy for human improvement, however that might be defined. Since man’s  fundamental nature has changed very little since his emergence as homo sapiens, we are not surprised to find ancient moral platitudes at the bottom of many of the theories of modern psychology and psychiatry. Only recently has the term ‘moral’ been disassociated with ‘mental’. Moral behavior implies mental choices. The moral or socially acceptable behavior of the person is tantamount. Once the drugs are dispensed with, moral or mental therapy remains applicable to “mental illness.”

Garth Wood, for one, is a modern psychologist who believes that far too many mental/moral problems are defined as diseases and treated with drugs and self-defeating psychoanalysis – e.g., dwelling too long on personal histories. A moral approach directed to present and future behavior, particularly in cases of neurosis, would be more effective, he insists, in The Myth of Neurosis.

“In reality, of course, to behave in a ‘neurotic’ way is not a disease but a misguided decision and such behavior is a function of our basic freedom to choose, of our self-determination, of our responsibility for our own lives. Perhaps in some perfect world of the psychodynamists, in which all were exposed to their teachings and methods, such freedoms would be superfluous and there would remain only well-adjusted people, their psyches working smoothly in accordance with the blueprint for some mental machine dreamed up by metaphysical conceptualists who were longer on theory than they were on common sense.”

The Happy Machine

The modern mechanical elaboration and rationalization of man’s irrational incongruities in hopes of engineering a happy machine have rendered Gurdjieff’s relatively modern psychological system heartless. Gurdjieff and Ouspensky were no doubt duly impressed by the scientific, positive, and empirical schools of the West,  and the related modes of thought elaborated during the  Enlightenment; particularly in its later phase, represented in France, for example, by the academic Ideologues, whom Thomas Jefferson in America admired and emulated so much that he eliminated the subject of Theology from his university curriculum in favor of Ideology, a subject eventually taken up in its vulgar form throughout the country as the study of political religions rather than the “logic of ideas” recently abstracted by logical positivism (philosophical assertion of the primacy of observation in assessing the truth of statements of fact, while insisting that metaphysical and subjective arguments not based on observable data are meaningless). In any case, the Occident already has the Orient, in the persons of brilliant Arabs, Persians, and Jews, to thank for recovering classical metaphysics and for developing  inductive reasoning and the rudiments of modern science.

Of course Newton’s cosmic machine and the notion that man and his society are machines as well, to which mechanical principles or laws apply that heaven on Earth might be engineered, was all the rage back then, an optimistic fashion soon to be interrupted by the Romantically inclined – often to Gothic depression. And then a mysterious, fourth dimension was brought to light, and the human mind speculated on the nature of time and space, and curiously, timespace, waveparticles, and other subjects so occultly contradictory that even the most absurd doctrines of the ancient Brahmins were seemingly  upheld by quantum physics.

But the modern mechanical man was not to be thrown out with the bathwater. No, he was to be deprogrammed of his traditional, presumably bad habits, and reprogrammed to suit the times, that he might become a well-oiled machine. The well-oiled machine is not habitually engaged by negative emotions; the well-oiled machine doesn’t squeak. Yet the truth of the matter is that a machine depends for its motion on inherent contradictions whether it squeaks or not; moreover, life is largely a form of complaint we tire of hearing.

But never mind, if we are to be happy machines, we must, first of all, know that we are machines. After Jeremy Bentham applied the Inspection Principle to prison architecture, establishing an unseen monitor in the center of the Panopticon, he thought the concept might be suitable for the conditioning of students as well – his brother had already applied it to industry in Crimea. Someone asked Bentham, “Would not men, under the rational Utilitarian regime of  the greatest happiness of the greatest number, conditioned in panopticons, become machines?” No matter, replied Bentham, they would be HAPPY machines. Now the Panopticon has been liberally introjected into everyone, in part thanks to Bentham’s disciple, J.S. Mill, and his dad. Each thoroughly socialized individual – he thinks he is free – is his own indoctrinated and inoculated warden; yet, ironically, the number of external prisons and prisoners is accelerating, as if machines cannot be very happy even when they stop squeaking – perhaps because of the necessary mechanical contradictions that make the machine work. The brick and mortar prisons,  observes an upside-down postmodern sociologist, are necessary: the visible presence or prisons causes virtually imprisoned people outside the walls, who are in virtual chains to believe they are free.

Likewise Ouspensky, reflecting further than Gurdjieff on man’s propensity for automatic or habitual behavior, discovered that we are machines subject to certain behavioral drives or centers. Yes, he imagined, we are asleep, and our waking consciousness is really  a sort of dream state; we are mired in the psychological mud, so to speak, of our  habitual modes of life. Our salvation, at least as self-conscious beings, is to wake up from our stupor and remember our selves, whatever the self may be, if it exists at all.

Many of today’s Fourth Wayers have, instead of remembering themselves, lost the selves sought for in Ouspensky’s over-rationalizations of Gurdjieff’s work. They tend to tinker with the machine for the sake of tinkering, becoming so preoccupied with the parts, with telling the difference between a screw and a bolt, that the objective of the Work, the United Emotional State of Harmony, is forgotten, as if the tinkerer or gypsy had fallen asleep at the reins, unconsciously demonstrating, as it were, the cultish tendency of psychological pseudo-scientism to get lost in classification for its own sake. The Ouspenskian machine does, by virtue of its absurdities, work to disenchant and to destroy, at least in those who love nonsense, the hated habits and traditions that provoked Gurdjieff and like creatures to search for ancient oriental lore and habitude. We are left today, in my lay opinion, with a virtual rubbish heap; but a few precious things can be found therein, providing that the vanities are submitted to the bonfire.

Mind you that Ouspensky is not entirely to blame for the tinkering. Since Gurdjieff identified the Fourth Way as the “Sly Way”,  we might suggest that Ouspensky used slight-of-hand to fulfill an ulterior motive. Once the presumably sleeping or stupefied subjects are stripped of the old habits and traditions which block the recognition of revolutionary new masters,  said masters can distract them and virtually enslave them with yet another complicated  bureaucracy. We might tax lazy people to get them to work for us so they can pay their taxes; otherwise dissident intellectuals can be preoccupied figuring out the absurd tax code. There are many ways for a sly creature to fleece the sheep.

Personal Breakdowns

It might be best not to interfere with our machinery once we know we are machines. Gurdjieff was much impressed by the wisdom of a certain dervish who noticed him methodically masticating his food in an effort to get its maximum nutritional value. Well, so much for the traditional parental command, “Chew your food!” Too much chewing will over exercise the jaw and under excercise the stomach.

“It is not necessary to masticate carefully,” said the dervish to the delighted Gurdjieff, whose main childhood game was to avoid doing things the ordinary way. “At your age it is better not to chew at all, but to swallow whole pieces, even bones if possible, to give work to your stomach.”

Likewise, for the Hatha yoga that Gurdjieff was practicing at the time. No, we are not to take a deep breath, as old wives and others say, to improve our health, for breathing is automatic, an autonomous function. Artificial breathing will damage the machine! So forget the folk wisdom, still practiced to this day with “scientific” justification, that breathing exercises will drive the lymphatic system and thus eliminate toxins, improving tissue and organs and prolonging the person’s life.

“Without the knowledge of the fundamental laws of breathing in all particulars,” said the dervish, “the practice of artificial breathing must inevitably lead, very slowly but none the less surely, to self-destruction.”

From these instances the following induction is drawn:

“If you know every small screw, every little pin of your machine, only then can you know what you must do. But if you just know a little and experiment, you risk a great deal, because the machine is very complicated. There are many tiny screws which might easily be broken by a strong shock and which cannot afterwards be bought in any shop.”

So favorably impressed was young Gurdjieff by this revelation of mechanical laws that he reverently solicited the dervish’s instructions on “how to live in order to put an end to this tormenting struggle.”

We might spin large with the dervish’s assumption, project it onto the entire population, and assume that a radical disturbance of the social machine, namely, a revolutionary overthrowing of the traditions and mores much despised by the youth, say, when Gurdjieff and Ouspensky were young, might result in the utter destruction of civilization; that is, unless the population’s consciousness is simultaneously raised through class-conscious propaganda, and a new state machine installed, totally organized and regularly oiled by party technocrats led by an intellectual dictator.

Revolutionary  Breakdowns

Several social psychologists have noted that the revolutionary breakdown of social systems has perverse results: instead of elevating people to harmonious intercourse, they become primitive and brutish.

“Revolutionary society… loses its memory… it forgets traditions, beliefs, ideas…” wrote Pitirim Sorokin in THE SOCIOLOGY OF REVOLUTION, discussing the “perversions” or abnormal behavior that ensued after revolutionary intellectuals woke up and enlightened the masses and proceeded to rid the people Russia of their bad habits.

Pitirim Sorokin was certainly aware of the effects of “waking” people up in the middle of the night and making them acutely conscious of their bad habits and mechanical behavior – he was secretary to Alexander Kerensky in 1917. The complete breakdown of the state machine that resulted from the advance in revolutionary personal consciousness had many perverse effects besides famine. For instance, you might be a beloved comrade one day and executed on the next day simply because your spectacles and belly made you look bourgeois. Or maybe it was something you said again, but it was taken in another way. Sorokin was eventually arrested by the Communists, sentenced to death, released at the last moment due to the influence of friends, and, later on, banished. He became Professor of Sociology at Harvard in 1930.

“The gray cortex grows similar to a complex telegraph and telephoning station…. Often various contradictory messages are ‘sorted’ there…. ‘Sorting and appraisement’ demands time and energy…. The more intense and serious the process of reflection and thought, the more time will it require to come to a conscious definite decision…. The influence of inhibiting factors… makes us careful….”  The extinction of habitual processes results, according to Sorokin’s mechanical model, in “primitiveness” and “simplification.” “This degradation of spiritual activity is the fundamental feature of the psychical perversion of revolutionary society and render it akin to the psychology of the savage and the animal…. When a great quantity of reflexes… grows extinct in man, his nervous apparatus begins to resemble a complicated machine in which the screws have gone slack…. Because of this, the machine begins to work all wrong….  

“The perversion of conduct provoked by the first stage of revolution renders society more primitive and brings men nearer the conduct of animals…. Every extinction of conditioned reflexes means both the rupture, the annihilation of the former communication between the world and the organism; and a simplification, a returning to primitive motives; a decentralization of activity of the cerebral matter and the whole nervous system …. The mechanism of associating and of combining perceptions and ideas in revolutionary society shows a resemblance to that of primitive society….  It is primitively chaotic, inconsistent and unstable…. Today the Girondins are termed ‘Saviors’; tomorrow – ‘Executioners of the People.’ Today certain groups fight against each other; tomorrow they embrace.”

Eventually people become exhausted: “During the second period of revolution… ‘restraining factors’ and the exhaustion of energy sets in. Society loses all will-power…. You can do what you please with it…. Dictators strike…. It is like ‘new-mown flax’ ….”  The mob becomes like children and savages, more imitative, and it is then that the masses sleep: “They have grown to be somnambulists,” Professor Sorokin concluded.

Those of us who have not experienced, because of our time and circumstances, extreme social shocks, might, out of sheer boredom, secretly long for them, just as we might unwittingly long for death, as if we were subject to some sort of death instinct that would vacate the mind and resolve the body into dust. Indeed, not only do the young often long for revolutionary change, the old, as they approach the end, believe a general apocalypse is nigh. And then there are those who would just plod on and on in the same old ruts, even against their own interest – at least as defined by others – perhaps a cloud of LSD sprayed over cities or a voluntary course of shock therapy would wake them up so they could be reengineered.

The People of Byt

Beware, however, before taking a radical course of action, for there is some merit after all in repetitious or mechanical behavior. Moderation may be the key to success. Maybe orderly reform instead of violent revolution is the way to progress. A certain social platform is needed, a place where we can safely stand on habit, and then innovate if we happen to be disposed to innovate; but we must not be pulled under into the slough of despond by that platform. Russian was backwards; its traditional society was stagnant; something had to be done to wake up the masses, the majority of whom were peasants. Ouspensky noted that a certain, “unsuccessful”  type of people, the “people of byt”, are seemingly subject to eternal repetitive behavior. The Russian word ‘byt’  is difficult to translate. It can mean a habitual lifestyle, say peasant-life, merchant-life, rut-life and so on; or, in theatrical life, the typical voice or tone, the typical bit part, and so on.

“There are, first of all, people of byt, of deeply rooted, petrified, routine life. Their lives succeed one another with the monotony of the hand of the clock moving on the dial. There can be in their lives nothing unexpected, nothing accidental, no adventures. They are born and die in the same house where their fathers and grandfathers were born and died and where their children will be born and will die. National calamities, wars, earthquakes, plagues, sometimes wipe thousands and hundreds of thousands of them from the face of the earth at one stroke. But apart from such events their whole life is strictly ordered and organized on a plan…. It is just this absoluteness of repetition that creates in them some vague consciousness of the inevitability of everything that happens, a belief in fate, fatalism and, at times, as strange sort of wisdom and calmness, in some cases passing into an ironical contempt for people who are restless, seeking for something, striving for something.”

Ironically, like other Russians of literary note, Ouspensky seems to have a certain occult admiration for this repetitious type of person, the “unsuccessful” person whose, consciousness of repetition does not lead to reform but seems to ironically save him from fate by resigning him to it. But Ouspensky is divided against himself. He seems to push the doctrine of eternal recurrence to rid himself of it, but it rolls right back on him. He was a Russian fatalist who dreamed of the New World. East looks West, West looks right back.

In effect, the People of Byt were the Russian peasants whom the nihilists and other revolutionaries idolized and whom they even ventured to live with out in the sticks in order to wake them up and overthrow the Tsar’s state machine. The peasants were certainly creatures of habit, sticks in the mud, set in their ways. The regularity familiar to farmers was reflected in their religious rituals – a regularity that is disastrously interrupted, presumably by the deity, from time to time; a deity whose arbitrary behavior is rationalized by secular authority, whose own tyranny is therefore excused. The population of peasants was very large, and the urban intellectuals’ mission to wake them up was politically motivated. But the people of Byt, like today’s proud “Rednecks”, are not easily converted from their habits. The revolutionaries were disillusioned; millions of peasants were eventually murdered or starved to death. This is the context in which Ouspensky and Gurdjieff and the like should be discussed in order to be understood.  

Stupidity and Self-Remembering

Ouspensky reiterated the fact that Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way is the Sly Way; The First Way is the way of the Stupid Fakir. The Second Way is that of the Silly Saint. The Third Way is the way of the Weak Yogi. The Fourth Way apparently consists of cunning and deceptive tactics devised to manipulate people, hopefully for their own good; for instance, towards the usual, harmonious unity desired by alienated people. During our own stage of the Age of Dissolution, we strive to perfect a Fifth Way, the competitive cult of individualism, which we might call My Way, an anarchic way that further aggravates the isolation or alienation from  unity  associated with Original Sin, the diremption or violent divorce, if you will, from the Supreme Being.

Just as one dimension after another is being discovered or invented by modern science, no doubt more ways to salvation shall be forthcoming. Indeed, until the Final Hour of the Last Day, there shall be no end to the number of ways proposed for salvation. After all, alienation is the condition of self-conscious beings, creatures who are aware of their seemingly independent existence. Human beings are exiled for life. The estranged individual would seemingly persist forever as such if he could, even against his longing for a return to unity, an urge some thinkers have identified with a death wish. Yet he has no choice in the matter, for gravity is a tyrant unto him. No matter how far he strays from his origin, the exile must return home for dissolution and reprocessing. Again, it seems that the individual wanted to perish all along the way, for, despite the cultivation of individuality necessary for survival of the species, he seeks to lose himself by identifying with broader forms of alienation. Even the rebel who tears down all the fences has nothing to declare of himself in the end, except, “I am just another cattle.”

Perhaps most stupefied of all are those discomfited messiahs who are unaware of the Absurd and the Ubiquitous Ambiguities rooted in the underlying crisis or hypo-krisis of humankind. It is all too easy to go around with a lamp in broad daylight looking for an good man, or to climb up on a pulpit and accuse everyone of sin, or to set oneself up as a prophet and cry AWAKE! in the public arena; and not recognize that the accuser, in his witless arrogance and hypocrisy, is dishonest and asleep, even more so than the rest, and that the prophetic alarms are really unenlightening, perhaps even based on self-contempt extended to hatred for the race – the race of course is not so admirable in the light of higher ideals, hence it is easy to condemn. Of course the appearance of impropriety is concealed today by the modern scientific messiah with an objective, detached, facade of concern for the race being anal-ized or mentally butchered into machined parts. Indeed, the essential ambiguity, ambivalence, and hypocrisy of human nature should be the first recognized quality recognized by the self-remembered!

By the way, what is the self to be remembered besides some happy integer in the nebulae? We can safely assume that the entity remembered should be the true self, as opposed, to the false or conditioned, mechanical self. It is an ideal self by virtue of its current non-existence, a self to be perpetually strived for. Only nothing is permanent and perfect in itself. We doubt that the self is a reconditioned paving machine. We observe that Socrates’ Know Thyself results in skepticism, and not in an assertion that man is a machine, or should be machined after he is put in charge of machines instead of subjected to them.

Self-remembering, Gurdjieff remarked in Meetings With Remarkable Men, “is to take cognizance of one’s own individuality.” He rightly complained that journalism and advertising were putting people to sleep, causing them to forget their selves. Indeed, any mention of a person besides the third person casts doubt today on the truth of the speaker – therefore the ‘I’ here is usually ‘we’  – the plurality has more authority in a democracy. But in this paper ‘we’ are presumably the elite we of meritocracy, if not aristocracy.

Four Mechanical Manifestations

Ouspensky’s notion of self-remembering depends on the objective observation of certain psychological facts, four manifestations of mechanical life that prevent us from remembering what we are. Self-remembering is an awakening, as from a dream. Since we personally identify with the four manifestations, which are presumably bad habits, self-remembering or waking up is no easy task.

Habitual Lying is the first dysfunctional manifestation identified. Liars include persons who presume they know what they do not know, or who presume they are in possession of characteristics they do not possess. Imagination is the second mechanical fault, our tendency to imagine things then believe they are true to please ourselves. Negative Emotions and Unnecessary Talking are the third and fourth malfunctions.

Most misleading of all, claimed Ouspensky, is the notion of the possession of consciousness. Only a man can know if he is conscious or not. Others cannot tell, from direct observation, whether someone else is conscious: he may be a robot for all they know. Consciousness is a matter of degree: duration, frequency, extent of penetration of the objects of consciousness – Ouspensky was convinced that most people are dozing off or sleeping. A man cannot long sustain attention to himself. He is usually unconscious of himself. Hence “self-remembering” awakens him to himself. We cannot control consciousness itself, said Ouspensky claimed, but we can control our thoughts in such a way that we remember ourselves; that is, once we become aware of the fact that we have forgotten ourselves, or are, to wit, asleep. Hence the Work proceeds with the confession, “I do not know myself, I have forgotten myself.” This self-remembering process, he says, has immediate alchemical results on the body.

Well, the honest man will probably admit that human beings are habitual liars. Of course Native Americans observed that the invading European barbarian, the Western White Man, was a liar; one tribe went so far as to name him ‘Liar’ after getting to know him. Some peoples lie more than others. We might imagine that lying would not be the practice in small groups when the everyday existence of members depends on the communication of truth. Of course a people might lie to one’s neighbors as a matter of practice if they are perceived as enemies. But to make friends for mutual safety the truth is better told on essential matters.

The Vice of Lying

We note that the famous Ten Commandments enjoins adherents from bearing false witness against neighbors and from swearing falsely; rather narrow injunctions indeed, leaving a great deal of room for the propagation of all sorts of falsehoods. When populations are civilized through conquest, the competition continues by more civil means, and much of it is deceptive, as if man and his business were corrupt at the core and in need of legal restraint lest all hell break loose again.

As for the individual, we should remember that the child discovers the freedom of his individuality, at least that of his inner life, by lying and getting away with it from time to time. Hopefully he will learn to restrain himself and do no harm, and perhaps even do a great deal of good by virtue of a sort of white lie. He may discover that lying to himself, when restrained by the reality of his circumstances, is a very good thing for him and for his civilization; that is, if there is any such thing as positive progress to be had. In a certain sense, civilization itself is based on systematic lying, of presuming that we are better than we presently are. Religion, Freud said, is an illusion. But for all its faults, we might claim, it has served humankind well over the long run, and now we have other forms or religion besides religion, so to speak; for instance our political and scientific religions.

If man is a natural born liar and it is in his natural interest to lie and to imagine that he is something that he is presently not, then Ouspensky’s lie, that man will improve himself by ridding himself of lying to himself, is not the way to go. Perhaps Ouspensky’s Sly Way would simply replace one set of lies with another.

First of all, claims Ouspensky, a man must not lie. He must know what he has. He must know that he does not possess a thing in order to make an effort to attain it. A man is not going to pay dearly for something he already has. What he does not have yet ascribes to himself, is unity, permanent ego, individuality, will, consciousness, will-power.

“The change will begin with those powers and capacities which man ascribes to himself, but which, in reality, he does not possess. This means that before man can acquire any new powers and capacities, he must actually develop in himself those qualities he thinks he possesses, and about which he has the greatest possible illusions.”

The Virtue of Lying

Well, we suffer from the underlying crisis or hypo-krisis of our fundamental nature as hypocrites: we are not yet what we want to be, what we say we are. The Greek word for actor was hypocrite; Hebrew scholars, and then Christian thinkers with a vengeance, took up the word to provoke feelings of guilt for not realizing the ideals, for not treading the ideal ways.

Ideals are, fortunately for continued progress, moving targets. To become what we would be, something better than we presently are, we act as if we are just that. Thus, in a certain sense, we lie. We stand up on our hind legs, put our head in the heavens and imagine that we are more than animals; yes, undoubtedly we are much more than that: we are gods too, obviously because of a higher or divine will, a will that we seek unity with, and perhaps we may have it at the last moment.

Thus speaks cock-eyed optimists. People subject to negative emotions may beg to disagree, and point out that history is nothing but the continued history of man’s inhumanity to man, crimes of perpetual war waged in the name of perpetual peace and the one-god, crimes against humanity made large by high technology – low morality is still the rule. Furthermore, there is nothing we can do about it: we are determined to evil, to eventually run down like a machine or self-destruct. But let us not forget what Dr. Pangloss said: men are bound to corrupt themselves for their own good; for instance, to create war machines and slay one another.

“All that was indispensable,” said the Master, “and individual misfortunes create general welfare, so the more individual misfortunes there are, the more all is well.” As for free will in the best of all possible worlds, “Freedom can subsist with absolute necessity, for it was necessary that we be free…..” In fine, said Pangloss, “The fall of man, and his curse, were necessary components of the best of all possible worlds.”

The failure to recognize the truth behind the lies of Dr. Pangloss and other optimists has subjected the race to the misery necessary for its improvement. The few who realize what is really going on will prosper. Take, for example, a contemporary optimist, Jerome Robbins, who went from rags to riches and from fat to thin, pocketing a great deal of our hard-earned money by writing such books as UNLIMITED POWER. Many of us lack unlimited power and would like to have some of it at least: Unlimited Power is the subject of much religious worship. Mr. Robbin’s has entitled one of his chapters ‘The Seven Lies of Success.’ Mr. Robbins believes in lies and knows his Pangloss well:

“Belief #1: Everything happens for a reason and a purpose, and it serves us. Belief #2: There is no such thing as failure….”

If we would succeed, we should retrace our steps, learn painful lessons, examine the possibilities, mend our ways, and so on, says Robbins. Represent your experience in a positive way, imagining that it is just another step to success – don’t dwell on your lessons as mistakes unless you want to be a loser. Everything makes good sense if positively construed according to the drift of one’s wants and wishes. We’ve heard it all before. We find nothing new here for the price of a self-help book but copyrighted twists of the old hat, including the ‘novel’ NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) approach to imagination advocated, which Gurdjieff, a masterful hypnotist, and Ouspensky, a sly fellow in his own right, would find familiar although they have never seen the trademark.

Ouspensky’s derogation of the power of imagination is absurd.  Mr. Robbins owns technique-trademarks. His redundant tautologies of ancient wisdom have done many people a lot of good; white lies are a good thing; that is precisely the point.

Robbin’s fictitious or As If approach is not to be disparaged as mere pop-psychology. It is based on the common experience of the race and has been examined and deemed useful by professional philosophers and psychologists.

“The practitioner of Moral Therapy is not so interested in ‘objective truth’ …. In the absence of hard, permanent, unalterable purposes we should encourage the individual to settle for ‘useful fictions’… basically in tune with his moral heritage. He must behave as if he has a firm goal whether it is a realistic one or not. Garth Wood THE MYTH OF NEUROSIS.

But that makes a liar of Ouspensky, who would professedly rid people of their habitual lying and illusory imagination, as well as the negative emotions without which we would have no morality whatsoever. Remember that a negative emotion is often a response to a positive ideal disappointed. S/he who completely ignores evil is good for nothing. Of course that is not to say, for example, that love will not conquer hate in the long run. Popular psychology needs a better definition of “positive”, that the so-called “negative” emotions can be recognized and worked out and turned to more productive and harmonious endeavors.

There are limits to the power of belief or the credulity of the believers. The power of blind faith has no limit because it dishonors all refutation. But belief is not faith: belief is the gradual perfection of knowledge. One may, like Hitler, come to have faith in the truth of one’s own lies, but when  lying  has destructive effects, people cease to believe in the positive value of the lies and turn on the liar. Hence Mr. Robbins deliberately and rightfully provides in advance for certain painful adjustments.  

The Wrong Word For Good Intentions

And perhaps “lying” is the wrong word for our good intentions given the ingrained negative connotations of the term. It is not that we must lie but that we are entitled to our creative illusions. Gurus are right about maya and illusion. Things appear other than they are, as illusions. At least they are real illusions, and we accordingly refrain from jumping through plate glass windows. We are not deluded or hallucinating when we have certain illusions in common, just as we all see water glistening on a dry highway on a hot day due to an unusual refraction of light. Such is the law of phenomenal life, so why not accept that fact and turn it to good account?

Since we are always something other than we might think we are, why not take the illusion in hand and intentionally conceive of and imagine ourselves as otherwise? In our search for unattainable “Reality” or “Truth”, we may create our own illusory realities, conceived ourselves as other than we are, and, by virtue of this continual division of subject from object, live in accord with the law of motion which is the law of life. Such illusionism takes  therapeutic advantage of the restless urge for progress in general, or, conversely, nothing in particular – the will to freedom – and applies certain common sense guidelines for its exercise so that the individual will have a more satisfactory or healthy life.

The Ways

G.I. Gurdjieff and Peter D. Ouspensky were remarkable characters to say the least, and their eccentric ways of life and apparently unorthodox manners of thinking captured the imaginations of inspired many thousands of people, creative and progressive people, particularly creative and progressive persons drawn from the dissident or non-traditionalist ranks of the avant-garde -several variations on the Fourth or Sly Way persist today. Indeed, it is surprising that we find scant or no mention of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky  philosophical in dictionaries and encyclopedias. Their approach was hardly novel, and some of the theorizing is rather absurd, but the same may be said of much of contemporary philosophy and psychology today once the complicated elaborations of the platitudes are dispensed with.

Moreover, professional philosophers have remarked that eclecticism is inherently mediocre and necessarily logically absurd because of its contradictory borrowings; but we think they are too proud of their systems, rendered virtually incomprehensible by self-defensive rationalizations. I think it was Hume who noted that philosophy is an elaboration of common sense; we might turn a paraphrase and say that philosophy is usually a lot of nonsense about common sense

G.I. Gurdjieff, it is said, was quite a rake, and, in my opinion, somewhat of a fool; but he was a far more fascinating character than the professor of his Fourth Way, Peter D. Ouspensky. Ouspensky was no mean thinker. Some of his observations are perspicacious. His opus makes me think but leaves me emotionally cold, as if he were himself a thinking machine over-identified with his own intellectual center.

Ouspensky, like our contemporary superstitious PMA (positive mental attitude) pop-psyche preachers, is afraid of “bad” feelings, which he equates with “negative” emotions and thoughts. He preaches control as a way of avoiding negative information, and he seems to believe the repression of negativity, whatever that might actually be, constitutes the “objectivity” he preaches. His denial of imagination is destructive.

One might say that Ouspensky was a natural born ‘liar’, in a certain sense of that term, who gave the lie to his prohibition against lying. But his Sly Way was Gurdjieff’s – if Ouspensky was entirely sincere, then Gurdjieff gave the lie to him and made a fool of him. Credulous adherents are following suit to this very day. We hope it does them a lot of good. Such are the wiles of Lady Folly, that we are amused by all this, and can positively say so without negative emotions.

The High Way

Humankind has naturally developed many different folkways over the ages. Mutual animosity, or negative emotions, if you will, reduced the number of ways and cleared broad paths to several great civilizations. Wherefore people have had good cause from time to time to yearn for the security of one peaceful way rather than the many warring ways that depend on hate-based love or hate-others self-love.

Yet people soon tire of an single or universal way and long for personal identity with certain groups and ways of thought. Of course democracy or individual freedom promised a plurality of ways, even a unique way for everyone who wanted a singular, but individualism in fact constitutes, by way of dissolution and reduction, the utter socialization of existential units, achieving an massive unity in anxious singularity – the basic anxiety is masked by optimism – the smiling face and corresponding philosophy of life denies death.  

As for the unique aspect, we can only say, in optimistic self-contradiction ala Leibniz, that we are monadically unique because we differ in the quality of our perceptions. More abstractly, we might hold that each individual, as an absurd (unity of universal and relevant particularities) concrete universal, is a unique coincidence of universal qualities. We might find objective proof of our personal variety in the consumption of a wide array of mass-produced products, whereby each one of us might represent himself as visibly unique in the quantity and quality of his personal possessions, despite his identification with his caste, status, class and so on.  For a sense of particular identity in contrast to mass society, we might all represent ourselves as hyphenated-people; for instance, as African-American or Nigerian-French, and so on; and citizens of the cosmos may be cosmopolitan and thus retain their respective nations, and so on. Indeed, the possibilities for identification with different things and thoughts and people are infinite – for instance, a new kind of anarchism has recently been identified: Anarcho-Neanderthalism.

Yet during our metaphysical ascension of the pyramid to the presiding apex or non-dimensional  vanishing point, we tend to look down our long noses on everything below, and to have faith in Nothing if not the High Way. Nothing is better than the Fourth Way or any numbered way howsoever defined – the definitions are problematic hence stand in the way. The end of everything teaches us to expect Nothing, and, in the end, to have faith in Nothing, as if Nothing is best. Nothing is better than an infinite number of ways.

That being said by way of monologue, I beg your leave to sign off here and resume my visualization and breathing exercises.


The General Lie




The dystopia 1984 was premature: the title should have been 2084. The year 1984 has past but the spirit of 1984 is still at work in capitalism despite the failure of the national socialist and communist campaigns. But not to worry. The number of dissident intellectuals who worry about the evils of The System diminishes because their minds are being submerged, nay, are being assimilated and absorbed by the homogeneous, gelatinous gray matter, the Borgian Blob beneath the gargantuan mechanical carapace.

Who needs a liberal education or a self-education? The human race has already been systematically liberated by science and technology. We near the end of human history whose objective is freedom. WE are almost free enough to totally obey now: The System is freedom in obedience. The once adamantly independent intellectual has joined the amorphous population of irresponsible credentialed narcissists staring into the corporate pool of Echo’s tears. Credentials, indeed. The sausage-factory graduate is handed a pigskin at the commencement exercise: “Here is your brain.” With this football he or she can proceed to beg in hyphenated broken English at corporate back doors:

“Extremely well organized, detail-oriented, highly self-motivated, ambitious, career-minded team-player with a can-do attitude and excellent communication skills seeks key place on winning team. Highly energetic self-starter. Eager to hit the ground running to meet deadlines long before they arrive for cutting-edge, rapidly expanding, fast-paced company. Works best under pressure. Dynamic, multi-tasking, customer-driven, high-expectations environment preferred. Loves constant change and long hours without overtime pay. Willing to make sacrifices: integrity, conscience, family, and three chickens a week.”

What communication skills? and to what end? Never mind, just push the right sequences of buttons and everyone will get it and obey it and produce it and consume it. The hackneyed phrases of form letters no matter how inapplicable to particulars will more than suffice when ‘integration’ and not ‘integrity’ is the key word. We are racially, politically and economically integrated now. We do not worry so much about our liberty for we find virtual liberty in our freedom to choose from an amazing variety of optional dressings on goods and services mass produced by virtue of scientific management. Fascists and communists and capitalists alike loved America’s scientific management scheme. Yet the intellectual roots of modern business administration are not in America but in Europe, in the Jesuit’s educational ‘conspiracy’ hatched in monasteries and cultivated in universities and military schools.

Today’s neo-liberal masters of business administration are jesuitical monotheists devoted to the disciplined rational pursuit and compound accumulation of an overarching abstract value: money. Money is god because it gives any person no matter how honorable or dishonorable power over things and persons. It is not so much the thing as the power that is wanted. Money is worth dying for and profit is salvation. Profit is frantically sought no matter how many heart attacks one survives: we look at the fast-paced businessman and say, “He is a walking heart attack,” but he does not know his condition; if he does, he just keeps on going anyway, like that battery in the commercial. Money comes not in peace but with a sword to destroy not only the family but traditional morality with its plural values. Morality becomes a pretense as exchange value replaces it. Profitable individualism is perfected in the universal hypocrisy of This Lying World of Ours. In any event, the army of workers must be organized and managed undemocratically in order to reduce costs and increase sales so that the kept class may be kept up with unearned income – the executive officers who aspire to join the kept class are entitled to obscene salaries and perquisites whether they lose or win the battles.

No doubt with the advance of technology many benefits trickle down to obedient employees as a consequence. As a matter of fact, there exists an open dirty secret: if the furnace were allowed to go full blast and the products were broadly distributed, poverty would be eliminated forthwith. But we must not allow that to happen, because people are basically lazy and prefer to lay around all day, smoke pot, drink booze, shoot up drugs, gamble, and fornicate. In fact, they would stop working without the fear of poverty to motivate them. Civilization would soon be destroyed. Therefore a system must be maintained, a system based on the scarcity principle – if there is no real scarcity, a false scarcity must be created.

The System is painful at times, but as long as the masses are systematically preoccupied with bread and circus, with standard trash, junk, and garbage, the elite are secure in their luxurious compounds furnished with custom-made things. We are an option-rich people, therefore we are free to choose between things. The choice is between buy and buy, or consume and consume; and to have that liberating choice one must sell and sell, or produce and produce, or be born rich or otherwise come into some unearned money. The surgeon general of the United States defined mental health as leading a productive life, and recommended mind-bending prescription drugs for those who cannot stand it. As long as one goes along, one is free in his or her obedience. There is always freedom of thought and conscience, and in the creative imagination, even in prison where great libertarian tracts have been written. If one can find enough leisure in voluntary poverty or wealth, religion or art-for-art’s sake might set one virtually free.

Do we like The System? Not really. If people were allowed to pitch tents or to build lean-tos, huts and cabins wherever they liked, without paying rent or mortgage payments, the residential real estate bubble would burst – there would be no affordable housing shortage. But that cannot be. That is why the military junta of Myanmar, for example, wants everyone to live in regular Western houses instead of bamboo houses that can be built in a day if they happen to burn down because a woman is not careful smoking her cheroot – she was once the freest woman in the world, the envy of British women who visited Burma.

However, something is wrong with the dark view of our race, especially with the allegation that humankind is a kind of sloth – that is a lie. We are not all lazy prostitutes: we do not work for the money alone or the thing that it can buy. We are not natural born bums and wicked welfare recipients. We know wealthy and poor people who love to work. We love action. We are natural born creators and builders. We cannot stop building when we should stop and be as lazy as a sloth sometimes appears to be. Moreover, men and women have built up fabulous fortunes not merely for love of money or power but because they love to be building something for people and they just cannot stop themselves; and those projects have enormously benefited our kind. So there.

On the other hand, the restlessness has gotten out of hand, and we are right to criticize it, to give ourselves a break, to take more and longer breaks from the compulsive make-work that consumes so much time in the ‘advanced’ economies of the world. Making work just to work is presently working the ruin of the physical, mental and spiritual resources of the the world, and does so in the false name of inevitable progress to a nebulous, indefinite utopia or X, but we know better, for we residents of This Lying World of Ours are hypocrites.

The utopia of our modern forefathers is here; we know it is rapidly becoming a dystopia. Yet we praise it. We put up a pretense that it is a good thing, for instance, to welcome change; to be welcome mats for somebody else’s perpetual innovation; to change for the sake of change; to upgrade everything just to keep our jobs; to spin our wheels producing superfluities just to have private crappers; – to do all this falsely, on command from the top down, in the name of individual liberty. It is the liberty of an army ant. We are just going through the motions. We have no idea where the the military-industrial complex will strike on its next pre-emptive, self-defensive campaign to save the world for its own good whether the world likes it or not. We know the generals are lying through their whitened teeth; one lies to the whole world because he has high office; the other to the American people because he wants high office. The generals know they lie, but here we go again, we prefer the lies. The general’s colleagues warn us: they say he an untrustworthy, ambitious, self-infatuated liar, but otherwise he a good general. The “otherwise” is good enough for us. Hypocrisy has become the norm, hence ‘hypocrite’ has ceased to be the epithet the Alexandrine Jews and Christians made of it.

We are uneasy. Our wealthy friends feel the malaise or malease precedent to the outbreak of mortal disease; they continue to gain weight. The much less well off know what they are afraid of and are accordingly terrified and stunted in their growth. The dogs are behaving in a peculiar fashion; Californians are beginning to freak out; a quake impends. The world is working hard on the verge of another major heart attack. We must take a break and reflect on the meaning of hypocrisy. We must drop the false pretenses and admit that we are at an either/or crisis in human history. Either life and truth; or death and lies. No, everything is not black and white – there are gray areas. But in this case we have Truth and Lie separated by a void. The lying and spinning must stop. We must pause, rest, reflect, withdraw from the deceptive course. We are lying to ourselves and to each other. The lies we tell to protect ourselves, to give ourselves separate and important identities as individuals and as groups, have been repeated so often that they are almost believed; we know better because of the spark of light in the emptiness, yet we continue apace. Thus has lying and pretense made devils and hypocrites of us all in This Lying World of Ours. It will not be easy, but that much can be changed, and at the grass-roots level.


Hegel’s Hypocrisy per Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin




Hypocrisy connoisseurs will certainly enjoy Eric Voegelin’s work, On Hegel. Voegelin charges Hegel with hypocrisy, in the sense that hypocrisy is the sin of pride in contradistinction to the humble role played by virtuous Christians, including himself, the arrogant author of a book condemning another man for his arrogance. According to Voegelin, Hegel fabricated a philosophical system that was bound to be false because it was founded on his own weakness, which, of course, Hegel was well aware of because he wrote it to overcome his own sickness. In other words, Hegel tried to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He acted like god while knowing he was not god.

“Thou hypocrite!” was once a favorite expression of Christians who derived its pejorative connotation from Alexandrine Jews who used it as a synonym for hanef – a godless person. Reverend James Marsh wrote a famous discourse on the subject, published in Boston by Crocker and Brewster in 1843 as part of Marsh’s literary Remains. Marsh quoted Luke XIII: ‘For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed on the housetops.’ Reverend Marsh wrote, “These words of our Savior were uttered in connexion with a warning, addressed to his disciples, against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In their immediate application, they were intended as a dissuasion from that conscious purpose of concealing selfish and corrupt principles under the show of respect for the law of God, by which the Pharisees were distinguished.” Thus does Reverend Marsh’s love for Jesus Christ – to whom he believes we must flee to since we cannot hide from him – based on hatred of another religious group.

In fact the Christian cult evolved from the liberal Pharisees sect whose rabbis taught, besides survival of the soul, not only the strict observation of religious law which the Christians were wont to reject in part, but also the gradual, humane reformation of that law. There would be no Christians without the Pharisees. Early Christians then turned on the Pharisees and called them hypocrites for pretending to be good, and even for actually doing good works while presumably having bad or selfish intentions; that is, for having bad faith: not believing in Jesus Christ as the one and only savior of humankind. Hence the great scapegoating injustice perpetrated against the Pharisees, rendering their name synonymous with ‘hypocrite’ as if they were all godless persons. On the other hand, Christians presumed that they were the only ones in possession of the real god, incarnated in a single man; but this was a supreme arrogance that Jews simply cannot stand for and still be Jews.

A man may think he is a god unto himself, but the sane man knows he is not god of the world or universe; every man who knows himself knows that he is limited and is not omnipotent. He who acts like a god while knowing he is not god is a hypocrite. Of course pessimistic Christians live not for this necessarily evil world but for the good world beyond, hence any attempt to bring the good order of heaven to Earth is hypocrisy. Wherefore Voegelin believes that Hegel is the typical system-building philosopher who would set himself up as a savior of the corrupt world, yet who is a hypocrite because he knows his salvation plan is built on his own sickness in the sick world, the rotten ground of the original sin of pride. Such spiritual rebellion is the product of an existentially deficient man; it aggravates the troubles of this world, making itself yet another source of the disease plaguing

Voegelin argues that, while prophets are not bound by history, philosophers are so bound. Philosophers wrongly assumed a religious role and declared that philosophy had emerged from religion to finally reveal the pristine primordial deity, ridding the world of the old evil god. In effect, such a philosopher implies that “History is an immanence of god leading up to Me, the One who will inaugurate the New Life.” He discards mysterious symbols, replacing them with “scientific” explanations of the good old mysteries; those intellectual fabrications are disguises for hypocrisy and are mistaken for knowledge by gullible and credulous people who would struggle for personal freedom from tyranny. Witness, for instance, the 1789 French Revolution, an historical example of such salvation-activism and its horrible result in anarchic freedom instead of the totalitarian outcome outlined in Rousseau’s little book that the rioting revolutionaries waved above their heads as their guide although many were illiterate and did not know a word of it.

No, says Voegelin, man is no god, he is merely a sorcerer – he can only see the directions of history, and, with the help of language, evoke its shapes, ghosts, fictions. Hegel tried to use his imagination to eclipse God’s Creation – unable to redeem himself, he created a holy book of philosophy and recommended the diabolical system therein to the world as its salvation. Therefore Hegel’s conceptual spiritualism should be replaced by unquestioning humility, voluntary suffering, repentance – by a pessimistic religious system of virtual suicide – that the individual person might be saved by his unconditional surrender to his own god and in effect to the status quo on this Earth, in order live the life of Riley in the hereafter.

The hypocrisy of all this is unavoidable, for, if hypocrisy is arrogance concealed to deceive, everyone is a hypocrite. Hence it takes a hypocrite to know one and to say – like perverse Christians who love to cast stones first yet cannot see the beam in their own eyes – “Thou Hypocrite!” Not that they all do; not that we should agree with the proposition that Christianity on the whole is the epitome of bigotry, of hate-based group love, of the most awful sin of pride, of the very apotheosis of hypocrisy.

Christianity has no monopoly on hypocrisy. Nor do the Pharisees, or the Alexandrine Jews who gave the Greek term for ‘actor’ its pejorative connotation. Judaism and Christianity are inseparable – Christianity does not have its own religion for it is unwilling to reject its Old Testament tradition with its barbaric patriarchal god, and admit that a genuine god of Love would have to be a complete Stranger to this world. Judeo-Christianity has often been debited or credited with the creation of the Western world, curse or blessing that it might be. But we might want to consider that religion did not make the man, it discovered him in his hypocrisy or underlying crisis between the real and ideal, between Earth and heaven. We find profound truths about men and women in Judaism and Christianity. We note well its revolutionary nature in the Jewish revolts against political empire; but the fiercely independent Jews would have had a virtual tribal theocracy under their messianic king; whereas we note the tendency to individualism and the multiplication of sects among Christians – this author’s favorite Christian, by the way, lives in a cave in the watershed, and calls Christian churches in the area “dens of iniquity” and “pits of vipers.”

In fact, for many Christians of all kinds, god is synonymous with freedom. Now the individual in its will to exist forever without impedance is an anarch. It would brook no resistance to its will, it would be omnipotent, it would be free from everything – absolutely free, as if it were the one and only god almighty, the supreme arbiter who has no reason to think before acting. God is the social projection of such individual freedom, a positive abstraction without any content at all, for any content would limit such a god. Above all, ‘god’ stands for the abstract unity of a group, just as the imaginary ‘I’ stands for the abstract unity of the individual divided from and confronted by the multiplicity of the world about him.

So much for omnipotent, absolutely free gods. The rest of us are free FROM something or the other. For instance, a certain strain of Christians, taking their cue from revolutionary Jews, would be free from the state. They might admit that a police force and a few public works are necessary given the original evil of humankind whose salvation by universal love will not be accomplished until the return of the god’s solitary son – the Greeks called the solitary son, who appeared as the brilliant and pure (Phoebus) Sun of Zeus, ‘Apollo’, for far-flung ‘unity.’ Throughout history Christians like everyone else have had a love/hate or ambivalent relationship with absolute states. The absolute god is an indefinite abstraction or Power whose forms cannot be maintained without the political distribution of that power; hence Christianity owes its present existence not only to its god but to absolute tyrants whose ‘might makes right methods’ were often similar to those employed by the unpredictable Terrorist Almighty of the Sky who did not let even innocent infants stand in his brutal path; the Hebrew thunder-god El, for instance, and the volcanic YHWH down south. On the other hand, with the advance of civilization, for which Christianity and Judaism does get ample credit, tyranny was curbed by the legal distribution of its own power.

With that in mind, we are not surprised by Voegelin’s attack on Hegel. Indeed, many good Christians hated Hegel with a passion, and called him a madman because his philosophy spelled absolute political tyranny, to be provided on Earth according to the systematic providence of the World Spirit. Hegel was initially a ‘liberal’ or an advocate of democratic liberty; his sympathies were with the French Revolution until its excesses caused him to violently back-pedal to the absolute state, which he conceived as the concrete embodiment of the god of the universal ethic, the nebulous Good (of course there is no etymological relationship between ‘god’ and ‘good’). For Hegel, individuals were so much dust to be ground up by the universal world mill operated by the world spirit. And whatever is here and now, is here because it ought to be as it is. Of course a few heroes or representative men are of greater moment as they help the wheel roll from China to its future in parts West; as certain Chinese Buddhists know, the Pure Land is in the West, the future into which the Sun descends – it appears that China may rule the world after California falls into the ocean.

It takes a hypocrite to know a hypocrite. As his critic Voegelin knew, Hegel himself wrote about hypocrisy from a similar perspective, that hypocrisy is the pretense of godliness, which is in itself an arrogance. Hence it would suit this occasion to provide a brief description of Hegel’s definition on hypocrisy for the hypocrisy connoisseur to savor.

In hypocrisy there is a difference between the good appearance presented by the subject and the subjective reality of his evil or selfish intent. Insofar as the subject is wholly self-interested or selfish, and conceives that he alone is a law unto himself, as if he were god almighty or the universe, he represents evil; for the particular subject in itself without any object other than itself is an empty or false universal. “On its formal side, evil is most peculiarly the individual’s own, since it is precisely his subjectivity establishing itself purely and simply for itself….” On the other hand, the moral man has the universal social good in mind and intends to conduct himself accordingly.

A hypocrite has a bad conscience when he is aware that his will conflicts with the “true”, or social, universal; yet, despite hits bad conscience, he sets himself up as pious and righteous in order to deceive others; or, he may use one good act performed as justification in his own eyes for his bad deeds; he may also justify some evil deed by finding a single good reason for it – say the recommendation of a single minister.

Hegel addresses the “empty formalism” of preaching duty alone. “Because every action explicitly calls for a particular content and a specific end, while duty as an abstraction entails nothing of the kind, the question arises: what is my duty? As an answer, nothing is available except to… strive after… one’s own welfare, and welfare in universal terms, the welfare of others…. Specific duties, however, are not contained in the definition of duty itself…. Duty itself in… self-consciousness… is inwardly related to itself alone… is abstract universality… it has identify without content, or the abstractly positive, the indeterminate…. In every end of a self-consciousness subject, there is [this empty or abstract] positive aspect necessarily present because [this general] end is what is purposed in an actual concrete action. This aspect he knows how to elicit and emphasize, and he may proceed to regard it as a duty or a fine intention. By so interpreting it, he is able to pass his action off as good in the eyes of both himself and others, despite the fact that, owing to his reflective character and his knowledge of the universal aspect of the will, he is aware of the contrast between this aspect and the essentially negative content of his action. To impose this way on others is hypocrisy; while to impose on oneself is a stage beyond hypocrisy, a stage at which subjectivity claims to be absolute.” (The Philosophy of Right)

The hypocrite’s deeds give the lie to his fine words. Even if they do not, we can accuse him of having bad intentions. Hegel, in Phenomenology of Mind, describes the psychological strategy of the hypocrite who knows his moral duty is socially determined yet takes his own individuality as the whole to which he alone has a duty. “(The particular self’s) pure self, as it is empty knowledge, is without content and without definiteness.” Yet it becomes “conscious of the opposition between what it is for itself and what it is for others, of the opposition of universality or duty and its state of being reflected into self away from the universal…. Over against this internal determination there thus stands… the universal consciousness; for this latter is is rather universality, duty, that is the essential fact, while individuality, which exists for itself and is opposed to the universal… is held to be Evil by the consciousness which thus stands by the fact of duty, because of the lack of correspondence of its internal subjective life with the universal; and since at the same time the first [empty individual or evil] consciousness declares its act to be congruency with itself, to be duty and conscientiousness, it is held by that universal consciousness to be Hypocrisy.

I think we get the picture. We see evil and good in their extremities at opposite ends of the continuum. Individual and society, particular will and universal will. With the horrors of the French Revolution in mind, Hegel favored the right-wing authoritarian end. It is no wonder that men and women pretend to be good as publicly defined. Are we all hypocrites? It seems that both Hegel and Voegelin, the critic who called Hegel a hypocrite, might agree that humans, as anti-social individuals, are originally evil. Is the man who admits he is evil and acts accordingly a hypocrite? Or is the sociopath a hypocrite?

Hegel presents the concrete state as the solution for dissolution of evil – the state is somehow provided by the World Spirit – we fear that it is a dystopian Totalitaria, a virtual prison. Voegelin would apparently have an indefinite, abstract god preside, but this personal god is the projection of the individual anarch in its original evil which both philosophers rightfully fear. In any event, may god forbid theocratic tyranny under fictitious gods. Further, we have good reason to fear the man-made calamities of the personification and deification of nations and states even more than the irregular natural wrath of the Terrorist Almighty.

We hope for a happy medium or golden mean rather than an “either good or evil” for our conversation or dialectic, that our conversant life may never end. Yet progressives may not be rid of the either/or, even if they say progress is from a lesser good to a greater good instead of from evil to good. Divided as individuals from unity by self-consciousness, we are given an underlying crisis or hypokrisis that requires decisions. We suspect that hypocrisy is the human predicament. But we do not want to water the pejorative term down and render it meaningless in its application to certain individuals who are much bigger hypocrites than others. Hypocrisy connoisseurs will appreciate the sophisticated philosophical hypocrites only in comparison to the vulgar ones in their collection.


Voegelin, Eric, HISTORY OF POLITICAL IDEAS, V.12 ON HEGEL, Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri 1997

Hegel, G.W.G., THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, transl. J.B. Baillie, London: George Allen 1949

Hegel, G.W.G, HEGEL’S PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHT, transl. T.M. Knox, Oxford: Clarendon: 1942

Robinson, Jonathan, DUTY AND HYPOCRISY IN HEGEL’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, An essay in the real and idea, Toronto: University of Toronto

The Gray Area Where Zarathustra’s Twins Meet





We were glad for our freedom when we first heard the tidings about the difference between good and evil and about our power to choose between them.

“Hear ye all who come to inquire about the truth. We praise the wise one and we thank him for providing us a with a good mind in accord with the divine law firmly written in the heavens. Now listen to this truth and meditate upon it, that each man must decide for himself what he believes and choose accordingly. In the beginning two spirits, the best and the worst in thought, words, and deeds, proclaimed themselves. From these two, those of good knowledge chose aright, and those of evil knowledge did not. The two spirits created life and death and being and nothingness when they first came together. Certainly those who cloth themselves in the divine light of truth shall have the best life, and those who do not shall have the worst.”

Of course we knew which one we would choose – certainly not the evil one. At the very least we would avoid the appearance of impropriety and observe the first rule of rhetoric, that a speaker should never speak against himself. As Pufendorf one said, “Nay, there is no man who does not speak better than he either thinks or does.” Furthermore, Quintilian stated in his Institutes of Oratory, “Nor is there anyone so wicked that he would like to appear wicked.” But someone warned us about hypocrisy lest we deceive others or ourselves into believing we are better than we really are and lead people astray. We were adjured to tell the truth, for truth is the highest good of all; to wit: X. Then everything would fall into its right place and we would live happily ever after in harmony and peace. So far so good. But alas, although we abjured evil and avoided hypocrisy we somehow got our goods mixed up and found ourselves in a gloomy place, wandering about like dazed junkies in the gray field of asphodels. Where did we go wrong? Where are the blessed isles? Everything seemed so clear when we began, but somehow our progress was impeded and now we stand as confused as a hedged-in billy goat who cannot retreat or advance. Wherefore this confounded gray area?

It all seemed so simple at first. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel and we wanted it badly, but after we set out doubt was raised and certain questions were posed, such as “That which I ask thee tell me soon, lord, Which things are best? What, according to divine law, may enhance my district? … How can those to whom thy revelation is declared lose perfect devotion? … Who is holy or wicked among those of whom I inquire?”

Apparently the wise lord empowered us to answer these questions ourselves in order to save the world and perhaps the cosmos, so we gathered to discuss the issues and we were soon engaged in heated arguments. Perhaps we fell in with the wrong crowd, the liars and hypocrites. We would say demons, but nowadays daemons are all bad, and we do not like to demonize our colleagues. Nor do we have to. We understand that supernatural demons are to blame for our angry sessions.

“The assembled demons could not rightly choose between the two spirits, for as they were debating the Liar approached them and the demons rushed into wrath, polluting the spiritual life of mortal men.”

If the heretical truth were told about the two spirits, we might hold ourselves personally responsible for our plight and say that the two are fraternal twins fathered by mankind, and, that wherever one may be found, the other is bound to be. May heaven forbid it, for a lot of good that would do us with so many shady characters to contend with.

Forsooth we have found ourselves where heaven and hell meet, in the gray area. We feel that something is wrong as our indecisive friends (or are they foes?) pull down the shade on truth and justify their moral turpitude with turbid talk about the principles of chiaroscuro. To make matters murkier, the moment any one of us objects, he is called a hypocrite (we would say ‘she’, but we keep her pure, hoping she will save us from this depressing intercourse). Ironically, even those who insist that there is no such thing as either/or and who claim that anyone with an intolerance for ambiguity is a neurotic and a potential fanatic – they too feel there is something gravely wrong with our gray matter. If it were not for the asphodels, the absinthe, the music, the poetry, the prime numbers, and the injunction against beans, the tension would be unbearable.

Author’s Note:

I have paraphrased excerpts from Zarathustra’s Gathas.

Get Your Death Song Ready Now





David Arthur Walters

History is a mistake as far as many people are concerned. I think Albert Camus said something to the effect that losses are best known through the longing for what did not occur. That is true for many people who wish they had done more with their lives. They long for what they wanted to occur but did not occur; therefore, for them, history is a record of mistakes. Needless to say, those who were educated to believe in free will feel responsible for those mistakes, thus when they long for what did not occur, they suffer from bad conscience or guilt.

I have heard that many older people get bitter. I am not bitter, yet, I think I might drink the bitter tea lest I become bitter. As I age, I feel increasingly disappointed with every memory of the past. I wonder, is my disappointment due to an idealization of my self that I held in the past and failed to realize it in fact? Do I suffer from past illusions about myself now that their realization has become clearly impossible because my time is running out?

Alas, my past desire to be something other than I was at the time might have been realized if only I had pursued my dream long enough. I thought I had plenty of the time to waste then. Now, I believe I would have been a huge success in every endeavor I picked up if only I had not wasted so much time; if only I had kept the ideal or end in mind; if only I had put my nose to the grindstone and had persevered; if only I had forced myself to love people and to be kind to them all the time; if only I had been the ideal man I could have been.

Indeed, in retrospect, it certainly seems that I could have realized the dreams I had back then; therefore my ideals were not mere illusions; therefore I must suffer now until I am a bitter, lonely old man, not necessarily lonely for other people, but lonely for the success I should have been, that I might, like Bob Hope, die a happy death at age 100, with all the good I did coming back to me at the crucial moment. But I didn’t care for Bob Hope – Jack Benny was my favorite. Never mind!

Am I fooling myself retroactively with a present illusion? Do I suffer from a misinterpretation of the past possibilities? If I calculate the probabilities, will I discover that my chances were very slim; that there were overwhelming odds against me; that I was just unlucky; that my failure to realize the impossible dream is really not my fault; that I should give my self a break now for not getting a lucky break; that I should forgive myself for not seizing the opportunities I did have because I was conditioned to avoid them; that I am lucky to just be alive?

An illusion is something objective that almost everyone can see, like the optical illusion of water on the hot pavement due to the refraction of light by the atmosphere. A delusion is something else again, for it is individual and has no basis in what we call reality. A discerning man or woman can see through our illusions, but at least our illusions while had are real illusions, are realities we are all agree on.

Now almost everyone has always agreed that I am an extraordinarily talented man, and that all individuals, especially Americans, can achieve almost anything; therefore, if only I had persevered, if only I had doggedly pursued happiness as generally defined, I would be extraordinarily successful. If only! Everybody agrees! Is the agreement an illusion? No problem, for at least maya is real maya. On the other hand, it could be one of those rare mass delusions. Then I would have no cause to let every memory kick me in the head, I would have no right to take the blame for mistaken history.

Could I really have been otherwise than I was? Could I now be something other than I am? Well, let’s see, I hope so. Alas, here I go again.

These sort of ruminations always bring to my mind Tecumseh’s advice to young braves: get your death song together now and don’t be moaning on your deathbed about what could have been! There does seem to be something pathological about our “modern” predicament of trying to be somebody other that who we are, not even knowing who we are to begin with, then regretting the past. Here we go again.

Meaningful Meaninglessness




Absurdism is easily criticized because it is really not a philosophy. Perhaps Sisyphus the sophist trickster outwitted Albert Camus the sophisticated author. It appears that for the sake of argument the good author argues unwittingly against his absurd argument, finding therein faith in faithlessness, and meaning in meaninglessness. Thus, while denying that the Absurd can be transcended, he obscurely transcended it while revolting futilely against it. Authors may devote their entire lives to refuting the Absurd, or to dress it up instead in pleasing garb. But is not that precisely the point? To build a kite and fly it?

Sisyphus – Play in Progress



My name is Sisyphus.
If it were not for me,
Mortals would have nothing
To talk about at all.
I am responsible
For the apparent rise
Of the Sun –
They give me no credit
For its fall!

I am not deaf to the gossip
About me,
And my shameless stone.
An author said of late
That I lead
An entirely futile life,
A life of one absurd revolution
After another,
Instead of doing
What any man
In his right mind
Would surely do,
If only he knew
What was rolling
Down the mountain –
Free himself,
Forthwith and forever,
From Fate!

Not that he would
If he could.


To what do we
Owe your appearance?


People barely know themselves –
I periodically enlighten them.




Because people
Must be stoned –
They have rocks for heads.
And I am duty bound
By obedience to myself,
As president of myself,
To trick the inmates
Of this perverse,
Rolling round house,
Into shattering their stones,
To free themselves
From the concatenations
Of their foolhardiness.

Wherefore I am named Sisyphus,
Or Se-sophos,
Meaning, Very Wise,


Tell us Sisyphus,
Where did you get
Your shining stone?


Dragonessa Medusa,
Supreme female wisdom,
Made my marvelous mirror.


We see the light,
But are not enlightened.
Pray tell, then,
What have you done
For us lately?


I so loved the world
That I created the gods.



Will Sisyphus,
Who surpasses
All mortals
In intelligence,
Who is shrewdest
In contrivances,
Like a god,
Never learn
From the gods,
That he is merely
A mortal man?

He uses god’s power to destroy god.
He names god to flatter himself.
He exalts ungodly over godly.
He lies against his own law.
What could be more absurd?


Will you stand by silently, Sisyphus,
Confronted here as you are
By these capital charges?


I have already said quite enough
To sufficiently incriminate myself.


And I, Critias,
Am duty bound
To rid the community
Of deception,
Whether the community
Likes lucidity or not.


Then you have
Multitudes to condemn.
So many heads must roll.
Streets must run red
With blood gushing forth
From necks gaping
On every corner.
Few are left standing
In the end,
When people thirst
For higher power.


Be gone, Critias!
We need no bloody tyrant
To slake our thirst
For aristocratic blood.
We are equal under our law,
By, for, and of the people.


What greater tyranny can there be
Than democracy over noble virtue?
A noble character is more credible
Than any law commonly considered,
For no mere talker may overcome it.
Many severed heads of big talkers
Are duly attached to our rostrum.


Aristocratic heads,
For the most part,
Hang from your rostrum!
We each are cattle
Humbled by our numbers.
Noble virtue shall not overcome
The dignity of our laws,
Or the grace of our god,
Nor shall big talkers!

Now this sophisticate, Sisyphus.
Claims to have so loved the world
That he created even the One God,
Thus he vainly puts his cause
Before the First Cause.
Would you plead his case?


If Sisyphus speaks truly,
That he created the gods,
He created tyrants over fools –
I prefer several to one –
And you should thank him
For exposing the truth
About your divine idiocy.

All tyrants,
Yet you call me tyrant!

I fear not democracy,
For if gods, states, and laws
Are human creations,
They are no match
For the learned man.


A tyrant and a sophist!
What more could we ask for
In a big talker
Who claims nobility
Instead of divinity?

If only he were a demagogue,
We might call ourselves free!


Your political order is your true religion,
And your demagogue its talking idol.


I created the gods
Then the one and only god –
And that was a restoration.


Thus you speak
To further incriminate yourself,
The self-created god,
To whom I put this question,
If you dare to answer:
Why were the gods created?


There was a time when the life of all men
Was unordered, bestial, the slave of force:
There was no reward for the virtuous;
There was no punishment for the wicked.
So men devised laws of retribution,
That Justice might be their great dictator,
Having arrogance as its servile slave,
And if anyone sinned, he was punished.

Since the laws now forbade them to commit
Their usual crimes out in the open,
They began to commit them secretly.
A very wise and clever man appeared,
And for love of man he invented fear
Of the gods, that mortals might have on hand
Useful means of frightening the wicked
If in secret they did or thought of some
Evil deed. And therefore he introduced
The Divine, saying that there is a god
Flourishing with immortal life, hearing,
And seeing with his mind, and thinking of
Everything and caring about these things,
And having divine nature, who will hear
Everything said among mortals, and will
Be able to see well all that is done.
If one secretly plans something evil,
He will never escape the gods in this,
For they have surpassing intelligence.

Together with these words he introduced
The most pleasant of teachings heard by men,
Covering up the truth with false theory,
He said the gods dwelt in remote places,
Out of reach of the understanding of
Mere earthly mortals, where he could therefore
Use gods to frighten men out of their wits,
And convince them hard life has its rewards
And its punishments in a hereafter,
As dictated from those upper regions,
Where they saw lightning and heard dread thunder,
Beheld the star-faced body of heaven,
The beautiful embroidery of Time –
The skilled craftsman who brought forth the bright mass
Of Sun, and wet shower upon the Earth.

With many fears did he surround mankind,
Through which he established the deity
In a fitting place with his argument,
And thus he quenched lawlessness among men.
For the first time mortals were persuaded,
To believe in a high race of deities.


May I presume that this man
Is none other than you, Sisyphus,
Who have laid claim to creating the gods?


You may so presume.


I cannot say that I blame you,
At least not for the tyranny,
But I question your devices,
For gods created by men are deceptions
Which can be destroyed by wise men.


But I am the wisest of all men,
Surpassing all mortals in intelligence,
Shrewdest in contrivances,
Like a god, as it were.


It is best that a real tyrant rule directly,
By virtue of truth,
Than for people to be deceived
By false representation.


Death to Critias! Death to Critias! Death to Critias!

As for you Sisyphus,
Your sophistry rolls over our heads,
Day by day,
Just to sink into night,
Again and again.
Why raise our hopes so highly?
To cruelly let us down?
What have we done
To deserve this stoning
Unto death?
Have you no shame?

Death to Sisyphus! Death to Sisyphus! Death to Sisyphus!


Your death sentence is most condign,
For without the light of Day,
You would have no Apollo
Attending your far-flung future.


But what of Night?
And all that Darkness implies?


A living thing that needs the light
Must rest at night,
Lest its yearning
give it cause for burning.


But we are afraid of the dark.


Wherefore I gave you gods
To mask Chaos with Cosmos,
That you might understand
One another and be secure
In your numbers, as One.
Have you forgotten so soon?


Threefold Goddess
Rose from Chaos,
Dressed in Earth,
Sea, and Night.

Black-winged Night,
Mother of Mystery,
Courted by Wind,
Laid a Silver Egg
In the Womb of Darkness,
Hence Love was hatched.
To move the Cosmos.

Now Darkness lives
Under Earth,
And Night resides
In the West.

When Day retires,
Night appears
In her chariot,
Drawn by steeds
Good and Evil,
With Starry Court in train.

She leads the Twins,
Death and Sleep –
Night saved Sleep from Death,
And Mighty Zeus,
In awe of Night,
Dared not intervene.

Ambivalent Night,
Frightening friend,
Hides guilt and innocence,
Conceals stolen valuables,
Covers lover’s charms,
Fosters fear and hope,
Turns sticks into snakes,
Logs into monsters,
Monsters into gods.

Mother’s introspection,
Provokes vigilance,
And prepares us for
The surprises of
The Enlightening Dawn.


Hence my cue,
The Crowing Cock.
What of the Fateful Sisters
Dwelling well in the cave
Nearby the Moon?


Clotho who spins,
Lachesis who draws,
Atropos who cuts,
By the light
Of the Silvery Moon,
Tell us please,
Whose face among us all
Is the most beautiful?


Alice Packer’s Shadow



Sharon Stone (1983) would be perfect for the double roles






S&M Art Studios, Ltd.


Alice Packer: Art Director
Walter Davidson: Senior Vice President
Harry Heckler: Computer Graphics Designer
Sheri Sands: Head Photographer
Susan Sockwith: Fashion Director
Angela Songerson: Human Resources Director

[It was time for lunch. Walter Davidson is about to adjourn the regular Monday staff meeting. Alice Packer had seemed distracted throughout the meeting. She suddenly proceeds to laugh hysterically]

ANGELA SONGERSON: Good heavens! Alice, get a grip. What’s so funny? What are you laughing about?

ALICE PACKER: I’m laughing because I saw my shadow this morning at Raven’s Nest. [She bursts into tears. Angela, stupefied, blinking characteristically, leans over and hugs Alice.

ANGELA SONGERSON: Holy Moses, Alice, I’m sorry. What are you talking about? [ She continues to bat her eyelashes.

ALICE PACKER: My shadow is dying to be me and she’s been shadowing me for weeks now. So I go into Raven’s Nest Cafe this morning for coffee and a bagel, and there she is, standing in line right in front of me, chit chatting with people, pretending to be me…”

ANGELA SONGERSON: Pretending to be you?” 

ALICE PACKER [angrily brushing away her tears]: Yes, trying to look like a professional art director without even giving me credit. Professional liar, that’s what that hussy really is. 

HARRY HECKLER [snickering]: Now, now, sweetheart, you’re just imagining… 

ANGELA SONGERSON: Lay off, Harry, and if you say sweetheart one more time I’ll file a harassment complaint. Go on, Alice.

WALTER DAVIDSON: This staff meeting is adjourned. [to Alice, jokingly.] When you said you saw your shadow, I thought you meant you needed a shave. I saw my beard this morning…[Nobody pays attention to him – everyone is gathered around Alice Packer]

ALICE PACKER: I was livid. I tapped her on the back and asked her for her name. “Moana,” she said. I looked the lying hussy up and down, and said, “I don’t know how long you’ve been lurking around the art business, Moana, but you should get a real life. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. You don’t even know what an art director is. Quit being such a wannabe.” Well, she doesn’t say a word, reaches into her fake leather briefcase, takes out and hands me a copy of her portfolio, picks up her coffee and struts out as if her tail doesn’t stink just because men stare at it. So I look at the trash she gave me – it’s a cheap knock-off of my own portfolio, she copied all my ideas!

ANGELA SONGERSON: Even your bio’s are alike?

ALICE PACKER:  Absolutely. And my logo too!

ANGELA SONGERSON [blinking furiously]: I feel for you, Angela, that’s really scary. There’s gotta be something you can do? That is outrageous. Oh, let me give you another hug… [Alice backs away.]

SUSAN SOCKWITH [nodding her head sagely]: I know her. She used to shadow me when I was shopping on Fifth Avenue. I’d see her reflected in the window, wearing the same dress as me. Moana is the worst nightmare a woman can have. She will copy your every gesture for years. Just keep in mind that everything this person says is a lie. Would you believe she started taking Qi Gong classes when I did? – there she was, trying to mirror my every move.  

SHERI SANDS: I’ve seen her too. She is a pretty but pathetic young woman.  

WALTER DAVIDSON:  I think I know your shadow too. Some forger was using my name and style at several studios. I filed suit and got an injunction.  

SHERI SANDS: Well done! That’ll teach them!

HARRY HECKLER: C’mon, Walter, we know what was up with that. You signed your name to blank sheets, gave them to your students and forgot about it, for crying out loud!

ANGELA SONGERSON:[grasping Alice’s hand.] She’s not worth thinking about any more, Alice. Frankly, she’s a human leech. The best thing one can do with her is ignore her and smack her down when she comes around. There’s nothing she can do, really. She’s just your shadow and can never be an true art director like you. Come now, let’s have a long lunch together – Walter won’t mind – it’s on me. [all file out of the meeting room except Walter, who stays behind to write up the Minutes.]





Repetition Compulsion of a Successful Loser

OM in person moi




When I am on the verge of material success I am compelled to ruin my chances. I learned to control this virtually suicidal urge somewhat over the years. I succeeded in not ruining my opportunity until it was enormous and certain. And then unbearable anxiety would set in, and I would blow my top, blow everybody off.

Realizing that I had just done what I had sworn to never do again as long as I lived, I lived regretfully for some time thereafter.

And then I did it again: I made the worst career mistake in my life. Three months later an even greater opportunity arose because of that mistake, and then I blew that one. I was in a state of shock that I can only describe as utter panic. I had chosen penury over being somebody for millions of dollars.

The only thing I could salvage was my greed for knowledge in hopes of being wise one day, a foolish endeavor according to the Oriental sages. I retreated into the stacks of the library to be what I always wanted to be, and that was not an enormously powerful and wealthy person.

In fact, my phobia was the fear of owning property, of being burdened down with things, so I gave my last few things away and spent my life savings on my abstract pursuits. Of course my one and only goal was rather grandiose: Saving the world with me in it. My version of World Salvation included saving stuff people need and also stuff they want if that makes them happy and does not harm others.

My behavior was not unique. I have heard of the “fear of success” and the psychology thereof. I have tried some of the therapies to relieve myself of the condition. Sigmund Freud referred to the syndrome as repetition compulsion. He associated the habit with a so-called death instinct, and surmised that habit itself is a sort of petrifaction or deadness. I must add that habit is the biggest help we have.

Maybe my repetition compulsion was not suicidal after all. Could it be that I somehow did not want the material success at hand because I wanted some other kind of success, a success that seemed like failure to others?

Perhaps my two major failures, the biggest mistakes in my life, the ones that apparently ruined my chances of fame and fortune or at least considerable financial security in my maturity, were actually the best mistakes I had ever made in terms of being the so-called Nobody of the classics, the freelancer who lances the eye of the single-minded Cyclops so that he and his comrades can get away with the sheep.

Perhaps so-called failure was my success. I had stranded myself in an ark of civilization, a great library in the middle of nowhere. I was a complete failure, but I believed I was the richest man on Earth. I had no personal hope for success except to be one of the greatest authors the world would ever or never know, and I cared not which.

Well, now, having been taught by the works of the greatest authors I found in the stacks, I know I am not that great, but I stay on track, and I am happy with my small progress.

Ludwig Gumplowicz made me mad along the way because he said by the time one finds out what is really going on it is too late.

This all might seem to be “sour grapes” to those in want of other things, but the fruit is sweet to me. It is an escape from the pathetic little man that I was, into intercourse with the greatest minds, and for brief moments, the Mind.

My career is writing. I ask nothing for my work and expect nothing useful from it. I do appreciate everything I get, which over the last sixteen years is a few compliments, 16 Likes, and $50 from a Catholic magazine.

That’s just how I am. I can’t help it because I don’t want to help it. I know people can understand how I feel, for we have some things in common.

Lately I have experienced some regret, almost enough to make a grumpy old man out of a happy-go-lucky fool. I need to get out and around, meet some people. Liz took me to Wal-Mart on the I-95. I got some badly needed shoes and two pairs of trousers. That adventure convinced me that I need to expand my horizons materially, find the means somehow to travel to those places in Europe I dreamed of visiting on a train. Maybe I can save the world with me in it after all.



Call For Extirpation of Senate from Body Politic






The United States Senate should be abolished in favor of unicameral system of government or emasculated and a cabinet form of government established because its present structure is conducive to corruption and fatally flawed by the upper house of the legislature as is evident in the chaotic degeneration of government now figuratively headed by an utterly confused president who would himself agree with this proposition.

The United States Senate was fashioned after the House of Lords that evolved from the ancient English royal court, the king as font of law in council with his peers. The great council separated into an assembly of nobles and clergy, on the one hand, and an assembly of local representatives about 1341. A long struggle for power between lords and representatives ensued, with the lords dominating except for a brief period after a military coup resulted in the beheading of Charles I and the abolition of the upper house, which was restored after the civil war, albeit the influence of the crown was diminished by the turmoil, and even the more so during the Glorious Revolution when James II was deposed and the Bill of Rights enacted.

The progress of humankind, if by ‘progress’ one means historical advancement instead of decline, is in the freedom of all people from the unwanted domination of minorities known in Roman times as the few nobles or “known” ones, as was argued eloquently in France by Victor Cousin, a great friend of liberals in the fledgling United States. According to this view, the end of history is in a liberal democracy where people consent to government by their elected representatives.

Wherefore this progress of freedom from the arbitrary rule of an established minority favors a single assembly, a unicameral legislature, of a rational people free from irrational tyranny, and the constitutional right of the people to directly initiate legislation and to approve by referendum legislation proffered by their representatives when direct democracy is tenable given the size of the electorate—now the electronic age can accommodate the direct participation of large populations.

In fact direct democracy in unicameral council is an ancient device and an even prehistoric one where chiefs presided with the consent of their tribes without which they were conveniently assassinated if not deposed by a person who had that duty, most often a matriarch in civilized North American tribes.

So the notion of a unicameral legislature is nothing new, and is only revolutionary in the sense that a people are returning to the radical root of government by the people in overthrowing tyrants and reestablishing the priority of the majority over the minority whose policies they find most objectionable.

We are familiar with unicameral government in many cities of the United States as well as in the State of Nebraska, which is not only unicameral but happens to also be nonpartisan, not to mention the many unicameral legislatures throughout the world.

Unicameral governments are ideally suitable for conducting the people’s affairs in a businesslike fashion to everyone’s profit, while bicameral governments are vestiges of the struggle for domination of the war of all against all, conquest for self-enrichment, a contest of the rich for more riches at everyone’s expense, where true democracy is limited to and owned by the few power elite and vested interests.

Unicameral government suffered a major setback in Europe with the Revolutionary Terror in France. The outrages were in fact relatively few compared to the population, but they were horrible enough upon publication to frighten the wits out of nobility in neighboring countries, and even converted Hegel to a more conservative dialectic.

The Bourbon Restoration was moderated by political philosophers and activists known as Doctrinaires, who advocated “nationalizing” the monarchy by tempering its powers according to the general will of the people. Benjamin Constant, a French-Swiss Doctrinaire, took up in Principles of Politics (1815) the nebulous notion of the general will for which Rousseau is famous and deemed a totalitarian by archconservatives.

Arguably, there is really no such thing as the General Will, but the phrase is still meaningful to nominalists.

“The world knows only two kinds of power,” claims romantic Constant. “There is force, the illegitimate kind; and there is the legitimate kind, the general will.”

What we mean by “general will” is not a willful spirit in common but rather a general consent to be governed. The vast majority of people would rather be governed by experts so they may themselves engage in private pursuits. A revolution that returns us to our radical roots or primitive platform may be advocated by anarchists, who propose utopia without government, but the real anarchists among the soapbox teapots would use murderous means to replace the despots and become tyrants themselves.

“There are only two forms of government, if we may even give them that title at all, which are essentially and eternally illegitimate, because no society could want them: anarchy and despotism…. Despotism and anarchy are more alike than people think. In our era, people gave the name “anarchy,” meaning the absence of government, to a government which was the most despotic that has ever existed on earth: a committee of a few men, who endowed their functionaries with boundless power, with courts tolerating no appeal, with laws based on mere suspicions, with judgments without due process, with numberless incarcerations and a hundred judicial murders a day…. The Revolutionary government was most certainly not an absence of government….Government is the use of public force against individuals. When it is used to stop them hurting each other, it is a good government. When it is used to oppress them, it is a frightful government, but in no sense is it anarchic. The Committee of Public Safety was government; so was the Revolutionary Tribunal. The law of suspects embodied government too. This was detestable, but certainly not anarchic. It was not for lack of government that the French people were butchered by executioners. On the contrary, it happened only because executioners were doing the governing.”

Nobility everywhere, at least those who did not side with the people and assist the progress to freedom, considered majority rule by consent of the supermajority if not all people to be an anarchic rule by the rabble, which by all means should be constitutionally thwarted or at least tempered by a “first” or noble house of parliament. The fallacy, however, is in the association of the commons with anarchy and nobility with wisdom and order, for there is even more wisdom in the crowd than in the few; and the crowd is, sometimes to its misfortune, far more conservative than revolutionary.

Indeed, if what was in actually a changing of the guard in North America may be called a revolution, less than ten percent of the population that enjoyed the traditional English liberties initially wanted revolutionary independence from the mother country, and the rest were careful to demand that the Constitution be amended to include those English liberties in writing lest they be derived of them despite the assurances of leaders that the statement of those liberties would be redundant. Most of the revolutionary leaders were wealthy in comparison to the “rabble,” and were in want of more property free of British legal restraints. Taxes were not really onerous, so the cry of taxation without representation was raised. They wanted to be a law unto themselves.

Furthermore, since the representatives in a congress should be representing the people of one nation, the notion that the congress should be divided in two to protect the nation from an impetuous mob is absurd and constitutes the alienation of the governing power from the people to a foreign institution. And if one house is there merely to check the other, why not have three or four houses or houses ad infinitum until each citizen is a house to himself? The U.S. Senate no more protects the nation from itself as a mob, if that the poeple may be called, than the Electoral College protects the nation from the popular election of a madman as its head, which was its original intention.

As for France, no less than Jeremy Bentham warned his French “fellow-citizens” (‘On Houses of Peers and Senates’) of the liberal cosmos against having an upper house in their legislature. Bentham is a difficult read yet entertaining and enlightening if one is patient enough to delve into his voluminous work for his influences and to find that everything boils down to pain and pleasure and the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, a utilitarian notion that may render people in sparsely populated areas quite unhappy in comparison to city dwellers.

That does not mean, however, that we need a Senate with two senators from each state. The popular representation in the House of Representatives is proportional to the populations of the states, and the states are protected from federal legislative intrusion by the Thirteenth Amendment. Our senators are few in number compared to representatives in the “lower” house, hence are better known (noble) and factitiously dignified by that recognition, and enjoy the power to kill or obstruct legislation proposed by the people’s assembly in order to bend the general will to the minority will. The tabling and delays and negotiations of modifications and amendments creates an illusion of rational deliberation as the real business is done in back rooms and in campaign calls for contributions from vested and moneyed special interests, thus do senators grow long in tooth in the senate, and wealthy to boot, with the cost of a seat in this modern day house of lords running into the millions of dollars.

Bentham identified the “influence” of notables with “corruption” and warned France not to be deluded by the trappings of the crown, the vestiges of which were established in the United States Senate but which are now being rightfully dragged in the mud with the unadulterated exposure of political prostitution.

The “influence” of the Senate in Benthamite terms would be a corrupt influence, and would be better spoken of as the “corruption” of the Senate.

To come home to your Chamber of Peers. — Part and parcel of the matter of corruption would be, every atom of honour, every atom of dignity, meaning always, factitious honour and factitious dignity, manufactured as above, – every spark of lustre, and every spark of splendour, possessed by the chamber of peers, or by any member of it, as such. Let it be called influence — influence simply, or legitimate influence—would it— now, at any rate, – be the less clearly seen to be the corruption that it is? Would not the speaking of it, as necessary, or even contributory, to the support of good government, be, by all lovers of good government, regarded as an endeavour to produce illusion?— maleficent illusion?

He speaks of “dignity” as a “sort of ignus fatuus,” a foolish fire or ghostly will-of-the-wisp light seen over marshes at night in the form of luminous balls that retreat when approached. These are unlike the gas street lamps that illuminate reality. Dignity “requires lustre and splendour for the support of it. Itself it is a necessary support to the throne: but then, this same self requires supports; and these are splendour and lustre, or lustre and splendour: one or both, which you please. ‘This that you are writing (I thinkI hear you, my children, saying) is stark nonsense.’ Yes: so it is, indeed: but nonsense cannot be appropriately represented without nonsense.”

The last sentence reminds us of the rabbi who replied to his students when they asked him to teach them the cabala that he could not teach nonsense, but he could teach them the history of nonsense.

We are disillusioned of the factitious exaltation of the U.S. Senate. Its virtue is exposed as vice. The U.S. Constitution needs amendment. We should witness the evolving wisdom of the mother country. Commons rules: the House of Lords has been emasculated. It is no longer the highest court in the land, and it can only temporarily delay legislation.

The people of the United States suffered long enough special interests who have amassed wealth and with it the ability to purchase legislation and corrupt the government, especially efficiently in the Senate, whose members are few in number.

The United States Senate should be abolished in favor of a unicameral legislature or at least emasculated. This nation of great common people needs to adopt the cabinet sort of government. We no longer have kings and should not worship temporarily elected kings as presidents. The president would not be elected but would be a chief executive chosen by the majority in Congress, where minorities would be protected as they are in the British Parliament.

The chaos today, if at all possible under that system, and any irresolvable dissonance tomorrow, would be resolved by a vote of no confidence, and elections would then be held for a new government, and not at an enormous waste of campaign funds that amount to legal bribery with big money at an enormous advantage.


August 4, 2017

Video Nebraska Unicameral Legislature