Appeal for Reform of The Supreme Court of The United States of America


John Marshall, John Marshall Park, Washington, D.C.


By David Arthur Walters

July 31, 2018

“The question is in truth between the people and the Supreme Court. We contend that the great constructive principle of our system is in the people of the states, and our opponents that it is in the Supreme Court. This is the sum total of the whole difference; and I hold him a shallow statesman ,who, after proper examination does not see, which is most in conformity to the genius of our system and the most effective and safe in its operation.” (1)

The ideologically stacked United States Supreme Court has made an elephant’s ass of itself at the behest of the Senate and the President by deciding cases on the basis of political ideology conveniently disguised as “conservative” to conserve and advance the interests of the power elite rather than on the substantive merits.

Vacancies on the court have as a matter of fact been openly filled by judges with opinions coinciding with the prejudices of Senators fearful for their own fortunes hence more interested in conserving and augmenting the fortunes of their wealthy patrons than in conserving the liberties of the people at large.

Indeed, the Republican majority in the Senate is proud to declare this berobed embodiment of its temporal prejudice in the highest court the font of the supreme law of the land for decades to come.

Thus are people in common embarrassed by the Senate, the hallowed vestige of the king’s noble court, now subservient to a fortunately temporary king widely believed to be a self-indulgent, impulsive fool, the very laughing stock of the free press he would fain silence for being the best friend of the people.

The Court, on the other hand, has also been crudely disgraced, having taken on the appearance of a long-term donkey court because of its stubborn tendency to self-preservation no matter how asinine its opinions, and a kangaroo court as well because it jumps to ideological conclusions before cases are tried.

This preposterous situation is largely the historical outcome of Alexander Hamilton’s federalist rhetoric; clauses in the Constitution providing for the tenure of justices on good behavior, and the supremacy of the Court; the 25th Section of the 1789 Judiciary Act; and the evolved “judicial review” opinions of a Court that elevated itself over the executive and legislative branches of the national government as well as over the people of the several states, which were sovereign only in rebellion after the Articles of Confederation were replaced with a national Constitution, an inviolable contract in contrast to the former league.

Wherefore a judicial aristocracy, now numbering nine unelected justices, presides over the “living constitution” of the United States. Five justices, to the horror of the other four, are presently committed to politically and culturally regressive policies instead of traditional constructive progress, not to mention the common sense of justice that ancient sages thought every sane adult should have or else be banished from civilization.

No amendment of the Constitution is necessary to remedy the usurpation of power attributed to “judicial review,” for the good reason that judicial review is not one of the powers enumerated in the Constitution in the first place. The Constitution definitely provides for limitations or exclusions from the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction:

“The Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

All that is required to remedy the unconstitutional construction is a judiciary act of Congress, the legitimate legislative body representing the sovereign people, amending or replacing the 1789 Judiciary Act.

The wheel does not need to be reinvented inasmuch as this one has taken us a long way and we have learned a great deal along the journey although we are now at an absurd impasse where we have good reason to ridicule the Supreme Court for making a complete ass of itself under the influence of cracked pots in Congress. Those pots need to be mended and the judiciary reformed. Congress is in fact the sovereign lawmaking institution, and it should form a Constitutional Committee to review the judiciary, compare it with the systems of other advanced nations, and recommend reforms.

For example, the Constitutional Committee might recommend the appointment of a permanent independent Constitutional Council of rotating scholars and laypersons to review all bills for their constitutionality before they are passed into law.

The concept of the judicial review of constitutionality of bills after they are passed into law is rather peculiar to the United States of America, an institution without which, given the milieu of those formative days, we might have no Union.

Lawyers naturally reverence the court of final resort, which should not be mocked as it is now for its usurpation of power. Nevertheless, definite restraints should be put on the appellate power of their hallowed Court. That does not mean it should be completely emasculated. There would remain some cases for the reformed Supreme Court to review, chosen according to the common sense principle laid down by Sir Edward Coke in Dr. Bonham’s case in England, a principle sometimes cited by scholars as a precedent for the development of judicial review in the United States.

“[I]t appears in our books, that in many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such Act to be void.”

Justice Coke did not have to be one of the most profound doctors of jurisprudence or have infinite wisdom to see how ridiculous was the Act of 14 H.S. requiring physicians practicing in London to be examined and obtain a license from the College of London even though Dr. Bonham happened to have gotten his doctorate degree from Justice Coke’s own alma mater, the University of Cambridge.

Since then other judges opined that judges existed to decide cases of law, and to do that they must interpret the law, thus adding common law to statutory law. That is to say that judges must say what the law is in order to apply it. Judges in the American colonies and in the fledging United States had the same opinion from time to time although they were reluctant at first to expound on it for fear of losing their jobs.

Still, it was not the practice for English courts to declare acts unconstitutional for that would constitute an absurdity. The constitution was unwritten, or rather was the whole body of law itself, with English civil rights preserved in various historical charters and bills.   The courts fought long and hard for independence from the sovereign. Parliament itself won the crown in fact although it was worn by the royal figure. The Law Lords of the House of Lords served as the highest appellate court of appeal until 2009. They now constitute the Supreme Court, and may not sit in the House of Lords at the same time, hence in theory making them independent of the legislative body. Only very important or complicated cases came before the Law Lords, and they did not have the express power to declare a law unconstitutional.

Our proposed Constitutional Committee may want to consider whether or not the best place for an appeal on significant constitutional questions is the legislative branch that forged the statute in question for one might think that institution would know best. In any case, pending the reform of the Court, it might suit the chief justice to send a memo to the clerks instructing them to not forward constitutional appeals to him unless the statute or opinion of the lower court challenged appears to be unreasonable, nonsensical, repugnant, impossible or disastrous to effect, or, in another word, absolutely ridiculous, all others to be returned with the advice to pursue the matter with the appropriate legislature.

The power of judicial review in the United States was advanced by John Marshall and successfully employed as a political instrument to regulate the various states, which were in fact called “sovereign” in the practically useless Articles of Confederation. Certain Amendments as to the civil rights were made to the Constitution in order to obtain its approval although some Founders figured everyone should know what their English rights were. It was the Tenth Amendment reserving powers to the states that became more than problematic when the Southern states felt the dominant Northern states were encroaching on their federal constitutional guarantees with tariff and slave bills.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Almost every fifth grader selected for a TV quiz show knows that Virginia and Kentucky and then South Carolina resolved to nullify what their state legislators felt were unconstitutional federal statutes violating the civil rights of their citizens and thus were destructive of their society or economy. The most offensive of the Alien and Sedition Acts would be repealed, and a compromise was had with South Carolina on the abominable tariff, yet the rebellious spirit persevered, especially over slavery, winding up in secession, the defeat of the Confederate States, and reunification.

The notions of all kinds of reserved states’ rights wound up being determined and winnowed down by the supreme federal institution, the unelected Supreme Court, until there is hardly anything left of a plurality.   Today we hear the President and his colleagues say that certain things they do not like such as health care, abortion, and gay marriage, and union contributions law “should be up to the states.” Naturally laws they like should not be up to the states. Wherefore they would stack the court accordingly.

So perhaps a woman could get a divorce and an abortion and marry a woman on the same day in a particular state, or none of the above in another. And one can image the constitutional objections that would naturally be brought to the disparities between the states, especially by the poor woman who could not afford to get to Nevada let alone pay for the services.

It is feared that the president’s selection of a candidate, seen smiling smugly beside his pious, better-than-thou vice president, would roll back liberal advances in judge-made law, to conserve, for example, the primitive principle that men should own women’s bodies. The debate itself may move the candidate, if he is confirmed, to let the precedent stand. If he does not, the voters may revolt against his benefactors in the Senate and White House.

Abortion is always a hot button issue. Unions have lost their allure. Their bargains with government do not seem to help the worker that much, and tend more or less to put labor under tyranny of two governments, which seem to have collaborated to his or her disadvantage in the case of public unions. Recently the organized teachers of several states rebelled against pathetic wages, and they received a pittance for their trouble.

Union dues are a financial burden. Some right-to-work states required non-union members to pay their fair share of the purported benefits of collective bargaining. That was perfectly constitutional for decades according to a Supreme Court precedent recently upheld by 4:4 split due to an unfilled vacancy on the court. Everyone expected the precedent to be overturned with the appointment of an ideologue to that seat, and it was indeed duly overturned as expected by virtue of an informal political quid pro quo furthering the corruption of the court.

Mark Janus had been found willing to buck the system in Illinois and to say he did not like to contribute the cost of his share of the benefits of collective bargaining, so the lawyers had a field day with the constitutional right of free speech. “Under Illinois law,” pronounced Justice Alito on June, 27, 2018, in Mark Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees et al, “public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of non-members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

“Matters of substantial public concern” are what the power elite including its press determines them to be, otherwise the cases will not see the light of day. For example, when I asked for an important Florida case to be put online so persons interested do not have to travel to the courthouse to review it, the chief justice of that circuit informed me that the mainstream press determines what is significant enough to publish online. The judiciary obviously does not want the public to be concerned with the everyday behavior of courts that potentially affects it because it might be shocked by what goes regularly transpires. Rights such as free speech are not absolute when free speech is against the public interest. Speech may be restrained when selling three-dimensional programs to print unregistered guns will result in chaos or the anarchy desired by the seller.

Mark Janus could have had recourse to the Illinois legislature, but no, he must have been so outraged at a few hundred dollars of deductions every year from his salary that his lawyers needed to make it a judicial issue and appeal it to the highest court, politically prepared to rehear hear it, an appellate process that might cost more than a million dollars in legal fees for reputedly excellent lawyers if the plaintiff cares enough to pay out of pocket.

Several proposals have been made to get around the loss of funds unions are expected to suffer because non-members like Janus do not want to pay for the benefits whatever they are. I propose that the states offer no benefits negotiated by the unions to non-members, leaving persons like Janus free to speak for himself or through an agent when applying for a job. That process would eventually create a free market price for the functions so fervently desired by economic libertarians.

The Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, for example, are not going to proclaim the Janus decision null and void within the boundaries of the state. No, Nullification and Secession do not work well. The oppositional Nullification theory advanced the wheel of Sisyphus from horizon to horizon. The consensus medieval theories are inapplicable today. (3)

But our Constitutional Committee should examine nullification ideology along with the “concurrent majority” reasoning of such Nullifiers of John Calhoun, former Secretary of War, Vice President and Senator, and other Nullifiers such as Robert James Turnbull (‘Brutus’).

Calhoun was raised by a slaveholding dad, and he saw firsthand how decently slaves were treated. He, like the descendants of Hawaii’s plantation owners, claimed that life was much better for plantation slaves than for free workers. (2)

We are well aware of the pathetic condition of workers during the industrial revolution. Unions would be crucial in gaining relief from that virtual slavery. Conservatives blinded by their obsolete tradition and fear for their fortunes would like to roll back some of those gains, and the oligarchic Supreme Court would allow them to bypass the elected legislatures.

Notwithstanding a few employee-owned and democratically managed firms, the place where Americans spend the most of their time is not democratic by any means. We see no whips and chains. There is enough time off for leisure to buy sufficient consumable goods to keep the ball rolling and clog the world with mountains of trash, junk and garbage in the process. Yes, the material life is better, much to the disadvantage of the spiritual life distracted as it is by entertaining commercials, but untold millions of people are wage slaves. I was appalled by what a black union leader who hated Jack Welch with a passion said to me in New York. I identify him as black because blacks have a right to use the denigrating term: he claimed that technological workers are “technological niggers.”

Calhoun’s concurrent majority theory may remind one of the complex geocentric planetary theory replaced by the simple heliocentric theory. Nevertheless, our Constitutional Committee may find some useful ideas therein. Sectionalism will always be as great a problem as individualism. A certain degree of latitude or liberty is required for unity.

The best argument against the Nullifiers was given by President Andrew Jackson, so his famous 1832 Proclamation penned by Edward Livingston should be considered too. He was not altogether fond of the judiciary, and remarked once that, now that the Court had pronounced the law, let it try to enforce it. The foremost Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, advocated judicial review although it was not adopted in the Constitution. He discounted the danger of tyranny that might present, saying a Supreme Court, lacking a sword, would be the weakest institution.

Not so, not now that blind obedience is the custom, and any challenge to judicial review is rebutted with, “Stare Decisis! Res Judicata!”

Wake up! What was once a useful habit is converted into a bad habit and is a disgrace to the nation.

Perhaps the embarrassment that our still great nation presently suffers will expose the ideological religions as inherently idiotic so that the representatives of the people can see, in this instance, that judicial review as we know it is obsolete, and then proceed to draft and pass a judiciary act that will put it in its rightful place.

Until then, the usual means will be employed by the population to get around the opinions of a disgraceful Court. Nullification theory will not do, for it is patently absurd inasmuch as it uses constitutional arguments to destroy the constitution. Simple disobedience to law was more successful than open efforts at nullification.  It is impossible to enforce all the laws on the books. A law unenforced is no law.


(1) John Calhoun, unpublished letter dated Sept. 1, 1831:

(2)  “Slavery is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good… I may say with truth that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse… I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other” (John C. Calhoun, Feb 6, 1837)

(3) Unions are most powerful in the State of Hawaii. One might expect street protests over the Janus decision given Hawaii’s history and the belief of Native Hawaiians that their islands were stolen and the Kingdom forcefully overthrown by agents of the United States imperialism. Many natives were not very keen on working the invasive sugar plantations that supplanted the strips of land allotted to them under the kingdom. The demand for sugar resulted in the importation of virtual slaves, indentured servants, most of them from the East. Many of them stayed and struggled for many years to obtain civil rights, succeeding in large part because of their organization into unions.

Japanese Americans withstood insults and assaults, deprivation of rights, and even deportation during World War II, and they with their Asian colleagues and like-minded Caucasian notables were instrumental in the creation of the democratic organization for the state, one that the arch-conservative Malcolm Forbes denounced as “socialist.” Republicans are therefore a small minority. There are a few Republican true to republicanism and the democratic aspirations of the Party. Native Hawaiians with at least a rather small quota of native blood left wanted to create a tribe so they could enjoy the benefits of tribes on the Mainland. The majority of natives, however, believed that General Welfare under the Constitution is better than that provided by the Kings and Queens of Hawaii. The legislature was sympathetic to the tribal ideal. The issue was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, and that was the end of that.

Hawaii’s government and the public unions and the Democratic Party are one ball of wax in Hawaii. Yet Hawaii suffers like the Mainland. Average wages are not rising. Labor is being bled as usual much to the profit of the big corporations and other heirs to the remnants of the halcyon plantation days. The state like the rest of the nation is becoming more and more top heavy as the days pass.

Conservatives have good reason fear for their fortunes. Conservatism may be defined in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality, with lip service given to free trade and competition, rather than an effort to uphold traditional institutions. Conservatism is an attempt then to maintain and augment power of the ruling elite by all means available including the resort to war in which the conservative leaders would rather not risk their lives in personal combat.

The underlying thesis of the Federalist or nationalist conservatives is obsolete today. It upholds and expands the contradictory vestiges of medieval tradition. It was authoritarian, centralized, a constitutional monarchy, the executive being limited by court of princes and republican estate. It placed emphasis on human imperfection, on Hobbes more than on Locke. It celebrated the organic society hierarchically organized with one head, the Supreme Court, supported by the propertied class.

The future of Hawaii as a cultural and financial treasure depends on the maintenance of the Hawaiian culture. We see sporadic demonstrations and memorials to the old kingdom from time to time, but no demonstration. The truth of the matter is that the natives are thoroughly assimilated.  Not only they but the haoles (white invaders) may have to move to the Mainland to support themselves and their families.

And with Janus there is no vehement protest in Hawaii. A libertarian nativist relocated from the Heart of America says there may not be much of an impact because unions will be forced to become more productive to survive. That might as well be said of many small business entities facing mammoth competition from the big corporations.

A member of the old haole elite who is intimate with some of the evils of the public unions rejoices on his gentleman’s estate that the Constitutional right to free speech has been upheld by the Supreme Court. He thinks it is sad that good teachers leave the state because of the low pay, but he suggests no solution whatsoever. The Supreme Court legislated the supreme law of the land, and that is that.

(4) President Jackson’s Proclamation




The Fake News on Supreme Court Appointments

Moi Downsize


13 July 2018

By David Arthur Walters

There is indeed something “fake” about mainstream media “news” although not anywhere near as fake as the packs of lies drummed up by its detractors. Take, for example, reports of the confirmation drama looming in the United States Senate over President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

The nomination is destined to be confirmed by a partisan majority intent on stacking the Court with judges partial to so-called conservatism. Thus it is expected to be an ideologically prejudiced appointment. Champions of democratic progress believe it will doom the nation to the loss of civil liberties previously concocted by judicial interpretations of Constitutional vagaries.

On 11 July 2018 the reputedly liberal New York Times devoted two front-page columns to the event, pronouncing it a “novel historical moment” because Judge Kavanaugh, coincidentally, is famed for his learned opinion that presidents cannot be subpoenaed to testify in criminal investigations although they may be impeached and removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

A study of past impeachments indicates that a president may thus far be subpoenaed in criminal proceedings against him although he may not be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned while in office. If he is convicted by the Senate on the impeachment charge brought by the House of Representatives, then he might be, for example, prosecuted for conspiring with the Russians to corrupt the nation’s electoral integrity. It might be argued that that would constitute unconstitutional double jeopardy, an argument that would probably fail.

So the “novelty” here is the unspoken insinuation of a quid pro quo. The unwitting are led to infer that Judge Kavanaugh, in return for life tenure in a prestigious post, will collaborate with his like-minded colleagues on the bench, and declare that President Trump does not have to testify in criminal proceedings.

That is a piece of nonsense, for all he would have to do is show up and plead the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, an act that certainly would not sully his already tarnished reputation. As he has correctly noted with some amusement, he could murder someone on the street and his populist base would support him.

So this “historically novel moment” is a trivial coincidence, a barely newsworthy footnote, an understatement to the effect that this conservative judge would bolster the conservative prejudices of his conservative colleagues, who would supposedly constitute a judicial majority favoring executive privilege or imperial presidency, one of the things that the Supreme Court was supposed to offset.

One might think that “news” should be genuinely novel to be called “novel” and momentous, otherwise it would be “fake news.” If the New York Times, which conservatives love to hate, wanted to devote half the print on its first page to the real issue, the paper would, in covering the attempt to render the Court a conservative tool, emphasize that the Court does not have the Constitutional power to declare legislation unconstitutional. In other words, although its decisions, on what is and what is not constitutional, have almost always been implemented by the executive and legislative branches, those “judicial reviews” are not provided for in the Constitution hence are unconstitutional.

Let that instance of judicial activism fly in the face of fake conservatives who profess Originalism if not Strict Construction yet would stack the Court with their own ilk so the Court’s unconstitutional decisions accord with their prejudicial ideology instead of impartial justice.

Ironically, one argument for allowing the Court to continue with judicial review is that it is a “weak” branch of government inasmuch as it does not have the means to enforce its opinions. That is left to the executive branch, which is supposed to obey Congress. In reality we have a variety of functions that evolved within a ball of wax.

Recall the evolution of the limbs of the tree, that what we call the Senate was once the King’s Court composed of nobles whose advice he might ignore if the feudal balance of power was in his favor, and that was tempered by commoners whose cooperation was needed to fund the royal campaigns. The monarch would eventually be reduced to a virtual figurehead in England. Parliament is supreme, and government is led by an elected cabinet that chooses a prime minister perfunctorily recognized by the monarch. New elections may be called if the government cannot get along. The judicial courts evolved and gradually won their independence. The court of impeachment and court of last resort was a judicial function of the House of Lords until 2009, when the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act creating a Supreme Court took effect. There is no written constitution but for the laws on the books. If there is a constitutional issue it must be resolved by Parliament in the form or repeal, revision, or new legislation. Its Members and the courts know well what the rights of all English citizens are.  They certainly recall the rights lords won against the tyranny of monarchs, and the various rights billed thereafter. Those rights may be found in several documents in case someone forgets, but hardly any Brit does.

So much for the mother country: sometimes mother knows best. By the way, the liberal anti-Federalists suspected the Federalists would deprive them of unwritten rights, so they demanded a written declaration of rights in the new Constitution, which were duly added as by-the-ways or amendments at the very bottom of the document.

We now have universal suffrage and a popularly elected president. That person may be a moron as long as he is a natural born moron, and he may stack his cabinet with highly credentialed bigots and other idiotic ideologues with the consent of a Senate majority sympathetic to their own need to maintain status as members of the power elite beholden to the vested interests that virtually own the country. A Senator might be a constitutional scholar, a professional politician, a lawyer, and so on, or merely a vulgar tool of the average mentality, a sort of people’s bully. Whosoever he is, he may be swayed by public opinion unless he is a sociopath at the head of a mob of gangsters whose crimes may or may not have been legalized by their peers.

A change of a very few words in our Constitution would protect the people from outrageous government by reverting the constitutional structure to a cabinet government led by an experienced politician of its choosing, a government that would be removed if it confidence in it is lost.

The United States “supreme Court” was conceived as a relatively independent branch of government that would balance the branches and protect the people from the executive and legislative functionaries. To say it is “supreme” is not meant to say that its power is ultimate or superior to the legislative and the executive powers. Rather, it is to say it is the last court of resort, and in some cases an original court, that determines whether or not government is abiding by legislation. That is not to say that it may legislate itself or declare legislation null and void although every court necessarily legislates because it must interpret whether or not general statutes apply in particular cases. The Constitution explicitly provides that it is merely an appellate court, and that its appellate power may be regulated and exceptions taken to its exercise. That exercise might take the form of judiciary acts.

So how did the Court become what Thomas Jefferson, who had praised it early on, a tyrannical oligarchy, after its decision in Marbury v. Madison?

We remember that the outgoing Federalist president, John Adams, with help from the Senate, stacked the courts with Federalist commissioners on his way out. The sealed appointment of Judge William Marbury, a wealthy Federalist supporter of President Adams, was not delivered on time by John Marshall, the outgoing Secretary of State, so when incoming President Jefferson refused to recognize Marbury’s appointment to Justice of the Peace of the District of Columbia because his own Secretary State, anti-Federalist John Madison, refused to deliver the appointment, Marbury appealed to the Court for its mandate confirming his appointment, claiming that the Judiciary Act of 1789 sanctified the sealed appointment even though it was not delivered.

John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice by that time. He was a Federalist himself, so one would not be surprised if his judgment would be biased against Marbury, but it was not, at least not entirely, for he feared for the independence of the Court at the time. That overriding concern led him to straddle the issue, leaving scholars to debate his reasoning ever since, some even declaring his argument patently absurd.

The Court determined that delivery of the appointment was not required by the Judiciary Act of 1789 that created the Supreme Court. The seal on it sufficed. Alas, however, for Marbury, because the provision of the Act allowing Marbury to assert his claim directly in the Supreme Court was purportedly unconstitutional. Marshall wrote that it was the duty of the Court to say what the law is, and, that there was inherent in the Constitution a bestowal of special power on the Court to review legislation and declare it unconstitutional. End of discussion.

But no intrinsic right of judicial review of constitutional law exists in the Constitution. The Constitution is a fulcrum of controversy based on experience. Crucial disagreement over the meaning of its fundamental language should be referred back to the people’s legislature or directly to the people. Nevertheless, the Court is unlikely to contradict itself to overturn its decision in Marbury v. Madison. That may be done by Congress. If that deed be declared unconstitutional by the Court, then the justices may be impeached or their opinion ignored.

We should not, however, treat judicial review so callously now that it is traditional, meaning it has evolved from historical needs according to the circumstances of time and place. Judicial review was unheard of until it was invented by American judges even prior to Marbury v. Madison. Some of those judges had their doubts if it was constitutional.

As every fifth grander is supposed to know, the Confederation of states was not working out well. A strong federal government was needed to unify the nation, so the Constitution was forged from the debate between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The extent of sovereignty of the several states was not settled and may never be. Federal judges were naturally interested in conserving the federal nation, so we find a number of cases where they determined that state legislation was unconstitutional. John Marshall simply crowned the practice. Of course the tables would be turned to suit the occasion, and the Anti-Federalists in another situation backed judicial review while Federalists abhorred it.

States may in theory but not in practice secede from the Union. That much seems to have been proven by the Civil War. Yet the old struggle for state’s rights has not ended. President Trump would like to see Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court legislation voiding state laws overturned. Let the states be sovereign in those matters. For example, a woman might get an abortion and divorce in Nevada and marry a woman within the week given the appropriate state legislation, yet that might be prohibited in her home state, where she might even be arrested for abortion and homosexuality.

So now the President would have the Supreme Court liberate states from infringement on their sovereignty. Is he a liberal or a conservative?

Why not have Congress simply withdraw the power of the Supreme Court to actively legislate from its bench, and depend on Congress to repeal, amend, and pass new legislation to remedy civil rights issues?

Or it would not be such a bad idea to have a Constitutional Council to review legislation and determine its constitutionally before it becomes effective, as in France, which has a written constitution?

Or we might have a constitutional committee of the U.S. Congress review legislation when unanticipated situations arise, although one might then wonder why the Supreme Court is not allowed to continue to perform that function since it might be more independent.

The ideological partisanship evident today makes it all too obvious that elected Senators do not desire a nonpartisan, impartial, independent Supreme Court. The President and faux conservative partisans want partial justice under the law. They want laws interpreted by dependent justices who swear to uphold the Constitution so they may interpret it according to their theological and ideological prejudices.

This curse on the public welfare may not be absolutely solved by judicial selection methods because justice involves the distribution of power hence is political, and every political animal is prejudiced to a certain extent in its own favor. We curse the judges and the politicians without realizing that they are the scapegoats for our own faults.

Whatever the form of government, public opinion rules in the end. It appears from the current divisiveness and the absence of good character and ethical leadership that not only the goats but millions of their kids might be run into the desert and sacrificed in short order.

We are indeed at a “historically novel moment.” The tension of this crisis may result in revolution wherein the principles of the French Revolution will be pressed forward. One sort of tyranny may soon be replaced by another, as is usual, or there may be progress from the current regression.

No, this is not a trivial moment. Novels are already being written about it. This is not fake news. Sad to say, it is a reality show.


The Satanic Principle in the Oval Office

Satanic Principle in White House Header


By David Arthur Walters PRESS INDEPENDENT

22 June 2018

Regina von Halstadt, an old friend of mine, said she knew exactly what the words on the back of Melania Trump’s jacket meant on her visit to the immigrant children’s shelter.

“It meant what it said, that she does really not care if kids are separated from their parents who enter our country illegally, and I don’t care either.”

“But you’re a mother,” I pleaded. “You must sympathize with the kids and their parents. They are being treated badly in their home countries. It is cruel to pull kids as young as a few months old out of the arms of their mothers and put them in cages.”

“They are illegal, and that is that! If they do not like their own countries they should change them. We need to build the wall. Anyone entering this country illegal should be shot at the border or put in concentration camps and the kids and their parents should be sent to the showers!”

“Regina, please stop acting like a Nazi. Surely you don’t mean that.”

“Yes I do, and I do not want to talk about it anymore.”

“But Regina….”


“I just want to say….”


Needless to say, Regina is an ardent Trump supporter, and a black-and-white thinker to boot. With her, it is them or us, so let it be them.

“They” are anyone who does not look like “us.” So “we” must be a whiter shade of pale, preferably with blonde or red hair and blue eyes.

I have blue eyes, and Regina likes me to shave my head of its brown hair. She once remarked with some surprise, as she watched Fox News, the only news she said she can tolerate, that Afghan kids look a lot like us. In any event, Regina loves power and wealth without prejudice against race, color, creed and sexual orientation.

Of course I have changed her name, with apologies to anyone with that name who finds her views disagreeable. Yes, she is of German extract. Her rich, powerful and unfaithful husbands were of European extract. They beat the hell out of her from time to time, and they paid dearly for it in the end, making it worth her while in retrospect. She became a fundraiser for an organization that protects high-end women and children from abuse, then resigned and took up painting when the lesbian running the organization assaulted her in the restroom.

The liberal reader may wonder why I maintain a friendship with Regina. The truth of the matter is that Regina is really not evil. She is a fake racist, a walking self-contradiction, and she does not know it. She is actually horrified by the abuse of animals including human animals, and her self-defensive, icy attitude melts into sympathetic tears at the sight of a creature in pain.

My own moral fault is that I tend to like all sorts of people high and low. Yet I certainly would not like them if they were committing crimes against humanity such as sending unwanted people to the ovens, or if they were ripping kids from the arms of their parents and putting them into cages, as the president has sadistically done on behalf of his basest base simply to acquire more narcissistic supplies for his unreality show.

What troubles me most about President Trump, who is Regina’s champion merely because he is a Republican president, and that despite having traits that she despises in other men, is that he fathers the lies told by his sycophants, who regularly show the fig to the public.

Americans have become so practical that they think they can separate personal morals from public politics. As long as they get what they want, they do not care about the personal immorality of the politician. Let him lie and cheat at will, and never mind how mean he may be, as long as he serves their interest. But he who lies and cheats will lie to them and cheat them in one way or another.

I myself have a few conservative friends who support Donald Trump because they believe he serves their interest in conserving their status at the apex of the social pyramid, which they believe is their natural and divine right. They profess that Logos or Reason should preside over disagreements, yet they do not want to reason with friends who disagree with the character of their man in the White House in order to persuade them that immoral and unethical means have good ends.

Their excuse is that this man is just like everyone else. Therefore he is a representative man, as good and evil as any other. They end disagreeable friendships instead of persuading their friends that they are right. Why? Because they know they are wrong.

The satanic principle presides in the Oval Office at present. No one’s interest is secure when the father of lies is at the head of government.


 Graphic by Darwin Leon


Votre president est un faux imbécile!


Votre president est un faux imbécile!

By David Arthur Walters


April 30, 2018

I believe that against ignorance, we have education. Against inequalities, development. Against cynicism, trust and good faith. Against fanaticism, culture. Against disease and epidemics, medicine. Against the threats on the planet, science. Emmanuel Macron

It may not seem of any great moment now, but historians will consider French President Jean-Michel Frédéric Emmanuel Macron’s April 2018 visit with U.S. President Donald J. Trump in Washington and his speech to Congress for centuries to come.

One theory posits that Macron “played” Trump like a squeezebox, making a blooming romantic fool of him.

“Beware of French bearing gifts,” it is said. The presidents accompanied by their first ladies used golden shovels to plant on the White House lawn an oak tree sapling from where the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood took place in 1918. Two U.S. Army divisions along with British and French elements were victorious there against four German divisions; therefore Macron intended the gifted tree to symbolize the ties that bind France and the United States. The U.S. Marines celebrate the battle as a symbol of their superior courage. The commander of the fleeing French forces had advised the Americans to cut and run, and these memorable words were uttered in response: “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

Some jokes have been made about the sapling. One casts President Trump as a hypocrite because would not be so kind on the environment as the tree-huggers who love to hate him. Another joke casts the two presidents as lovers, and claims that love was lost after Macron went on to Congress to glibly denounce Trump’s nationalism, wherefore Trump, jilted, instead of tweeting his ire, emerged from his Hamletian lucubrations in the White House cellar to personally rip the tree out of the yard and order his bodyguards to cremate it, put it in an urn, and return it to Macron.

The planting itself was allegedly as symbolic as the tree. The roots were covered with plastic, and the sapling was immediately removed to comply with quarantine law to protect the other trees around the White House from a dangerous French moth.

That being said, another theory is that Trump was faking foolishness and feigning madness ever since he infiltrated the Republican Party to sleep with the enemy, plotting to arise one night to betray the Republicans by wreaking havoc for the Democrats.

“Votre president est un faux imbécile!” a rumor monger declared in social media after the U.S. president appeared somewhat stupefied by the overly affectionate ‘La bise” bestowed on him by Macron, a kiss deemed “beaucoup trop romantique” by homophobes.

But no, the President of the United States is not stupid. General  Charles de Gaul’s Memoirs may be found on his bed stand. Trump was undoubtedly calculating the political-economic benefits to be enjoyed by adopting the sapling president of France. For all his talk about making America great again by economically isolating it to wage tariff wars, there is nothing he enjoys more than trade deficits with political allies against terrorism, especially allies whose terrorism is legitimately organized into formidable military forces.

After all, what is not to like about a huge trade deficit? We get more stuff from them than they get from us, and they use our dollars as a world currency backed by the biggest guns, investing a great deal of it in America! Why, make a few threats, recite the Free Trade mantra, get the means to get a little more stuff to make America even greater! No, Trump is no fool, or so goes the rumor.

Macron’s speech to Congress was romantic indeed. It was presumably drafted by his wife and high school literature teacher, Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron née Trogneux. Her exemplary appearance proved that France has the most attractive females in the European Union, as is well known by gentlemen who surf the Web for nudes by country of origin. Beware of the feminist cougars, however: they can be hell on high heels after a martini or two.

Melania Trump, née Melanija Knavs, a world-class beauty in her own, Slavic right, looked rather grim herself under her broad-rimmed white hat, which rebuffed her husband’s attempt at La bise after he failed to get her a birthday present. Brigitte reportedly felt sorry for Melania because she is cooped up in a White House that The Donald has characterized as a “dump.” She had more freedom in Slovenia under Tito. Her dad registered as a communist as Slovenians were wont to do to advance their careers and obtain favorable housing.

France has denied Brigitte the official title of First Lady, but it is safe to say that it would behoove the First Ladies to hold a champagne, macaroon, chocolate and cheese soirée at Carlton Hotel in Lille sometime soon to discuss such matters as the relationship between feminism, communism and atheism, the role of bread and cake in revolutions, whether poudre de perlimpinpin should be legalized, whether the capitol of France should be removed to Lille and the railway system revised accordingly, and so on. Canard-Duchéne Brut champagne would mate well on that occasion with Trogneux macaroons, Léonidas Belgian chocolates, along with mimolette, morbier, maroilles, and roquefort cheeses. Moskovskaya Osobaya and Tito’s vodka would also be available for emergencies.

Naturally Macron, a history buff who was at one time a registered socialist, waxed romantically in Congress on the liberal side of the French-American relationship, refraining from mentioning certain antagonisms between French and English culture hailing back to the invasion of William the Conqueror. Witness thereafter the evolution of virulent nationalism and several wars between France and England, drunken brawls over Chaucer’s theft of French words, not to mention plagiarism of whole tales, and France’s attempt to purge English borrowings from its dictionaries.

As we know so well, the wars between European powers had to be fought over North America as well. Ten-percent of the inhabitants of the English colonies, advised well on property rights defined as the “Ground of Happiness” by the landed gentry, desired independence from the Mother country. Wherefore the convenient alliance with France, never mind the differences.

It is said that there exists a French democratic revolution within the American republican revolution, rendering the United States a democratic republic, a political hybrid that troubles ideologues to this very day.

Mind you, political philosophers are free to deny that the so-called American Revolution was a revolution at all, and to insist that it was just a changing of the guard with a few constitutional revisions in a constitution finally written down. Someday, hopefully, a few minor changes will be made in that constitution to restore cabinet government. As it is, a perversely elected president and his appointees may bring the nation to ruin. In any event, the rebels were so sure of their ancient English rights that they believed a bill declaring them would be redundant.

The French revolutionaries, on the other hand, wanted to overthrow an ancient regime of hierarchical privileges and establish a flatter or more democratic socialist government. That is why their declaration of rights was a real declaration while the Anglo-Saxon one was a mere reiteration of faits accomplis. French ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ had a distinct French flavor relished by American visitors to Paris such as Thomas Jefferson, who claimed the Revolution was caused by Marie Antoinette, took a liking to French ideologie, or the French science of political reasoning fathered by Antoine Destutt de Tracy, and replaced Theology with Ideology at his beloved university in Virginia.

After all, the goal of political progress to a perfect civilization is liberty for everyone, at least according to the great French eclectic, Victor Cousin, who, thanks to the Prussians, had a significant effect on the philosophy of education in the United States. Of course he noted that progress requires the leadership of Great Men or dictators who embody the French revolutionary spirit, which is somewhat universal since Cousin ventured to Germany and stole a bowl of Hegel’s confounded soup.

Hegel was more than enthusiastic or “god-possessed” about the French Revolution before the Terror appalled him. The “Theos” he irrationally intuited was named Reason; to wit: the inscrutable god aka Logos that enlightened the globe from Paris. Indeed, the difference between the French revolutions and other revolutions so-called was that its rights were borne out of the head of Zeus by Athena instead of purchased or inherited as privileges.

Mind you that the faults of great men should be forgiven if not ignored, said Cousin, for the sake of progress to Liberty, especially after they are dead when statues are erected to remember them well. We may beg to disagree, and learn much by the faults lest history makes fools of us yet again.

Now people in France and the United States may wish for an exchange of presidents to suit their ideological prejudices, so some Americans would have Macron as President of the United States, and some French would have Trump as President of France. Yet there is little fundamental difference between the two presidents as one might suppose, nor between their people, and John Adams had a good point when he called ideology “idiotology.”

Socrates proved the wise were fools. We are all mongrels. The people of the United States and France admittedly have a fraternal relationship, so let Macron be the son of Trump, as foolish as that may sound.


Oak of Flagey by Courbet

Black Swan for Black and White Thinkers

Swan Header

Scene from Alexander Ekman’s ‘A Swan Lake’





For Virginie

Money and not morals is what counts most of all in the United States. If you do not have it you are nobody of note, no matter what you do, and if you have enough of it you may become President of the United States, whatever you happen to do. Yet, no matter who you are, your days on this earth are numbered, and your number may come up as quite a surprise to you although the statisticians have taken your demise into account when devising their mortality and accidental death tables for the insurance industry. And there is a chance you might win the $500 million lottery.

Enjoy the day the best you can because, as a matter of fact, you may be gone tomorrow as a result of some random, unexpected event, say, a bridge collapsing on your head, a plane crash, or perchance a terrorist attack. And on a larger scale, there are natural disasters, and do not rule out a pre-emptive nuclear attack. The planet itself is not perfectly secure since it might be encountered by a comet. I think it was Voltaire who remarked that this planet of ours might be a speck of dust in the road to be unexpectedly flattened by the hoof of a passing horse. So a lot of good your money will do you then.

Yes, there are some events even statisticians may not predict no matter their theories and how much historical data they may have. Every schoolboy knows that the mathematician and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce thought that nothing was determined for certain despite the habitual behavior we observe as laws. Chance events beyond the scope of those natural laws might irregularly occur. That is, there is such a thing a chance operating in the universe, the theory for which is dubbed ‘Tychism,’ after Tyche, the Greek goddess of luck, who was known to the Romans as Fortuna. Peirce, needless to say, was not a conventional man, though he was a great logician. His advanced scientific perspective aroused the jealousy of colleagues. He made some unfortunate choices including an unrewarding investment. Although he was helped out by relatives and his great friend William James, the successful philosopher who marketed his Pragmatism brand of philosophy, he fell upon hard times before he died destitute.

More recently, a nerdish Lebanese immigrant and Wharton School grad by the name of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who said he made enough “f*** you” money as a quant and securities trader to say “f*** you” to people, enlarged his small fortune by writing his best-selling book, The Black Swan. A so-called black swan or unexpected event, because almost all swans are white, had come out of nowhere to embroil Lebanon in war.

The same sort of swan might be to blame for financial crashes, the budding probability theorist proposed as he developed his Black Swan or reverse-probability theory into a nice day job for himself because he discovered that everyone including himself was incompetent when it came to predicting future market prices. An investor might as well hire a monkey to throw darts at a list of securities than trust his money to experts, but without those experts there would not be a secondary securities market.

I like Taleb. He preferred to study instead of pursuing an infinite number of dollars. Indeed, he said he was ashamed when he engaged in the pursuit of wealth. The “inelegant, dull, pompous, greedy, unintellectual, selfish, and boring” business world literally disgusted him. Journalists “cluster” around the same subjects. Everyone consumes the same “news,” the last thing one should do to know what is really going on; the more news consumed the less the cookie-cutter society knows about things except for things of “dubious value.” The “achievers” in suits who do not read books and who become more sycophantic the higher their income are even more ignorant than cab drivers because cab drivers know they are ignorant.

He was so ashamed of his business that he did not want to tell people what he did for a living:

“When people at cocktail parties asked me what I did for a living, I was tempted to answer, ‘I am a skeptical empiricist and a flâneur reader, someone committed to getting very deep into an idea,’ but I made things simple by saying I was a limousine driver.”

A flâneur was an 18th century artistic character or literary type who wandered Paris incognito without purpose, a random walker absorbed by the crowd although detached and somewhat cynical while experiencing the urban environment. He becomes blasé and disappears as the city is transformed into a modern capitalist hub and he into an insatiable shopper hypnotized by window displays. The whole of France may be said to heading in that direction as it is losing its distinct character to the European Union, much to the horror of Virginie in Nord France and millions of other French people.

I was an anachronistic flâneur some years ago, randomly walking the streets of New York City as its distinct neighborhoods were gradually being absorbed by big stores. In fact, my life has been a random walk. I knew people were supposed to have goals in order to succeed, and success was determined by wealth, by the things and people one owned, but even as a young boy I rebelled against “being somebody” in that bodily sense.

No way was I going to have goals and plans. When I was a little boy I was angered when people asked me “what” I was going to be when I grew up. Why should be other than “who” I am? I ran away from home for good two weeks after I turned thirteen years of age, and proceeded to wander the streets of Chicago. I was lucky that I was a tall boy who loved to read and seemed intelligent to others as I eventually lied my way off the mean streets into steady employment, falling, by chance, into office jobs, and, ultimately, into accounting, where I, ironically, used some common sense I had picked up as a kid in Kansas and my Chicago street smarts to help my employers devise plans to achieve goals.

I might have done very well if I had taken my own advice, but I was not interested in success, except perhaps to be the greatest author the world would ever or never know. As it is, I am what one might call a successful loser, an idler who loves to think about what others do and to write about it in my own way. I guess I am, like Taleb, a flâneur. I was on a random walk. I ventured to New York City from Chicago and took a liking to it because the drinking age was 18 back then. Turned down for a job on Wall Street because they found out I lied about my formal education, I randomly walked around, and chanced by the construction site for the World Trade Center. I was angry that my application was rejected, so I cursed the pit upon which the twin towers would be set. I knew I would have performed as well as the college grads if I had been given a chance to analyze businesses and pick the best securities to invest in. I did not know at the time that the market was on a random walk, and that a monkey with darts could do as well as the average expert.

If I had been hired that day, I would have enough “f*** you” money to write a Black Swan book! As it were, I crunched numbers, was luckily paid well for that, and otherwise applied myself to reading and the theatre arts, i.e. dancing, singing, and acting, dance being my favorite because it allowed the animal to express itself, without a goal in mind. My studies were as always at random. It appeared to me that everything was connected, that one could start with any detail within the book of life and tell quite a tale no matter how pointless it might be to sharpened pencil heads. Theoretically, dancers who actually dance instead of just doing technique make good writers because they are exhibitionists, and writing is thinking out loud.

Now the problem with the exercise of my aimless avocation in the city was that it was difficult to explain and seemingly absurd to everyone with plans and goals. Even after I ventured to Hawaii to marry and lead a straight life, my wife had difficulty explaining what I did for a living although I did well enough financially thanks to a German wheeler-dealer whom I helped make millions in real estate.

“What do you do for a living?” had required a short answer in Manhattan, especially when asked by beautiful Jewish American Princesses on the West Side, and I, like Taleb, preferred not to identify myself with money grubbing! I was, after all, a flâneur, if you please.

“Once, on a transatlantic flight,” wrote Taleb, “I found myself upgraded to first class next to an expensively dressed, high-powered lady dripping with gold and jewelry who continuously ate nuts (low-carb diet, perhaps), insisted on drinking only Evian, all the while reading the European edition of The Wall Street Journal. She kept trying to start a conversation in broken French, since she saw me reading a book (in French) by the sociologist-philosopher Pierre Bourdieu—which naturally, dealt with the marks of social distinction. I informed her (in English) that I was a limousine driver, proudly insisting that I drove ‘very upper-ended’ cars. An icy silence followed, and, although I could feel the tension, it allowed me to read in peace.”

That particular paragraph convinced me that Taleb is a kindred spirit. I would rather study than work, and study on my own at that. I do not write for money, I write to live, to avoid the end. I do not begrudge people their wealth, their escapes into matter no matter how professional. Whether I like it or not, man is a goal-seeking animal, and the goal of life is to avoid the goal fated for all things, with the possible exception of fundamentalist Christians.

I am too engaged in writing to market my work, and that does not matter. People ask me what I do for a living, and I just say I am retired, because if I say I am an author, they want to know right away if I have been published by major publishers. If not, I am immediately demoted, albeit politely, and find myself treated disrespectfully. Whatever happened to the importance of Being over Doing?

The woman on the plane who wanted to know what Taleb did for a living may have just been curious, or perhaps she just wanted to pass the time in conversation, which is most likely. He did not say how many rings she had on her fingers. According to my favorite songstress, Alicia Keys, a Real Man will know A Woman’s Worth and lay some diamonds on her.

Look, I took courses on the street in the school of hard knocks. I am not one to go around calling women prostitutes for renting their bodies when men are engaged in renting out their souls as well. People naturally want power, status has power, and wealth today buys the highest status in the minds of many competitors.

I lived on the Upper West Side, where I habituated a popular restaurant and bar on West 79th Street called Wilsons, and I cannot remember how many times a women asked me “What do you do?” and did not get around to asking my name after I answered. Clubs like Wilsons were called “meat markets” by guys who cruised meat markets to meet women.

The ladies were on the hunt as well, and usually for something more permanent than a handsome hunk of meat. A qualified man should have a substantial income, therefore, “What do you do?” No matter how smart or helpful a man might be, his “character” is determined by his wealth and how “generous” he is with it. I actually saw many women take the tips their dates had left on the bar as they departed, the gentleman leading the way, of course.

I did not like to be pegged down. I experimentally lied to assess the reactions, and discovered that if I loudly said, “I am a surgeon,” almost every girl at the bar took inordinate interest. If I wanted to be left alone, perhaps because I did not like the girl I encountered, I would just say, “I am a file clerk,” and she would turn her back on me to talk to someone else.

Now there was a jazz lounge on Upper Broadway, in the Nineties, called J’s or Judy’s, I think, where some great musicians appeared. It was not a meat market, far from it, so I was surprised when a woman I was chatting with asked:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a file clerk.”

“Did you say a file clerk?”



“Not only do I file things, I retrieve them as well.”

“You are just what I have been looking for, in my business,” she said, handing me her business card. Would you mind coming to my office on Fifth Avenue tomorrow?”

SWAN Petersburg

I may relate what happened afterwards in a novel, where personal truths are always better told as fiction. Yet another version of Swan Lake might do.

Taleb is probably right about the Black Swan. Dark matter is invisible so its effects seem to come out of nowhere. He relates that people were walking about shocked and dazed by the unexpected “Black Monday” stock market crash on 19 October 1987 when the average of the index decreased 29.2%, a virtually impossible event according to the Efficient Market Hypothesis; the odds against that happenening at the time were 1 in 10 followed by 45 zeros. I noticed something strange about the mood on the sidewalk when I came out of the Fisk Building near Columbus Circle. I stopped by a bar and asked what was going on. The stock market had crashed! Thirty-three years after I observed the foundations being laid for the World Trade Center, the twin towers had tumbled down! Who would have imagined such a disaster was forthcoming?

Swan Natalie Portman Black Swan

Natalie Portman as White Swan in Black Swan movie

We can never make ourselves completely secure from the untoward events fostered by the Black Swan. She is supernatural. We find no instrument between her as cause and her effects. Note that the Black Swan can be a male even though males like to characterize the opposite sex as hysterical.

The Black Swan is within so may not be walled out. Taleb arrived with the virtue of an immigrant after he became an ascetic rebel in a luxurious Lebanese setting “with a vastly sophisticated lifestyle, a prosperous economy, and temperate weather just like California, with snow-covered mountains jutting above the Mediterranean. It attracted a collection of spies (both Soviet and Western), prostitutes (blondes), writers, pimps, drug dealers, adventurers, compulsive gamblers, tennis players, après-skiers, and merchants—all professions that complement each other….”

And then…. “The Lebanese ‘paradise’ suddenly evaporated…. A Black Swan, coming out of nowhere, transformed the place from heaven to hell.”

The only exception I might take at length to Taleb’s classical thesis is the association of catastrophes with color and gender. Some lucky people think success is entirely their own doing, while others confess that luck played a large part. Lady Fortuna has been called a bitch because she is faithful to no man or woman regardless of race, color, or creed. She can bring incredible luck as well as misfortune. Besides, the Goddess of Night conceals not only criminals but lovers.

Is the Black Swan, the “dark side” or alter ego of the American ego, its death instinct, soon to be its suicidal undoing? Will the “Platonic” boxes people think in come tumbling down? Is the American ‘paradise’ about to suddenly evaporate?

SWAN black stallion poster 1979

Black Stallion 1979

The subtitle of The Black Swan is ‘The Impact of the Highly Improbable.” The highly improbable is still probable. The problem is too complex for the computers to figure out. We might enjoy the day before meeting our maker. We might remove the motive for hate with love and stop looking on people as numbers to be manipulated. The Black Swan might then become our Black Stallion.


SWAN Black Stallion 1979

My Volt Died but Life is Good





Oh, woe is me, my Life is Good LG Volt phone went into a vicious restart cycle and I was unable to manually factory reset it after reading a thousand and one solutions to the issue including putting it in an icebox, scraping the battery leads, dismantling it to fiddle with the start button mechanism, slapping it repeatedly against the palm of the hand, and depressing the down volume button and start button at the same time to reset it and so on, so I emailed Steven, a longtime executive with Sprint: PLEASE HELP!

Steven had changed my life when he sent me the Volt to replace a Samsung phone much lower on the totem pole. The Samsung phone became obsolete less than a year after I bought it. I was fond of it because of the full mechanical keyboard that slid out for the convenience of those of us who are amazed at how nimbly nimble-fingered kids can type on touch screens while we curse with almost every word mistyped or wrongly corrected. On the other hand it had a primitive little screen with no apps.

Steven forwarded my email to Donnetha, an Executive Service Analyst with Sprint’s Executive and Regulatory Services Department. Lo and Behold, the next day Fed Ex was at my door with a Certified Pre-Owned LG Tribute 5 device. Life is still good for the time being.

The fact that it is a “Certified Pre-Owned” replacement reminds me of the line of automobiles I received on the Big Island of Hawaii from Hawaii Auto Center, “Home of Pre-owned Cars.” The engine of the red Ford burst into flames as I drove up a mountain, so Sammy, the owner of the used car lot, replaced it with another Ford, and its transmission failed, except for reverse, three blocks away, so I drove it backwards to the lot, and got another Ford that lasted awhile after some maintenance, and then I traded that in for a Mark IV Lincoln Continental, which cost me a bundle in maintenance before the transmission dropped, which meant another transmission had to be obtained from a Mainland junkyard, so it seemed true back then that “Ford” meant “Fix Or Repair Daily.” Sammy, a former Ford sales director, threw in the towel and gave me a Chevy that lasted until I left the island. Sammy was good. He stood by his deals, and it helped that I was his accountant and lobbyist. Sometime later, by the way, the bartender at Don Drysdale’s Club 53 in Kona was bragging about the great car he had been driving for two years—it was my refurbished Mark IV!

Now since I have mentioned two low-end phones it is obvious that I am either poor or frugal, probably one of those prepaid phone people, someone that may someday own a refurbished high-end phone if he is extremely lucky. Anyhow, just because a person does not have a thousand dollars or more for the best of all possible phones at the moment does not mean s/he is not influential enough to get first class executive service, and that is what I received from Sprint via Steven and Donnetha.

As for the Tribute 5, it has its virtues and faults like everything else in the world including people like me who generally like to harp on the negatives to perpetuate innovation that will land us on a higher plane of existence, that is, a planet with better people and products including communication devices.

All friends have faults yet we keep them because they are friends even when they do not like each other, and the Tribute 5 is user friendly enough right now, its main faults being, as far as I am concerned, several in number.

Sometimes the music takes forever to play, if at all, even with Wi-Fi, and that is most disconcerting.

It does not have a call block function on the Calls Log. Several steps must be taken to block nuisances: go to the Calls Log: copy the number; go to Apps; go to Setup; go to Call; go to Reject Calls; paste the number.

I could not get rid of the Android upgrade notice after I upgraded it twice. After I left it to upgrade automatically at night for two nights in a row, the annoying notice disappeared.

The slender, wide body felt uncomfortable in my hand. It felt better, however, after I put it in a heavy duty EVOCEL carrying case, and it looked more substantial too. So much for going around naked with all the risks that entails.

The images taken by the camera are inferior to the ones I enjoyed with the Volt because there are not as many pixels nor does the aperture let in enough light, much to my chagrin for I am a frustrated photographer.

I could not find a microphone input on the keyboard that loaded with my new used phone. The SWYPE application with the microphone input is no longer available no matter what kind of phone you have; SWYPE went coincidentally kaput just before my Volt went on the blink. I got ahold of the LG Company and I was instructed how to change the board to Gboard, and I must say it is functionally superior to the moribund SWYPE board.

I must say that the web pages look better on the larger Tribute 5 screen. I hope the glass is the same kind as on my old one because it did not scratch.

The buttons are on the back of the Tribute 5, and I like that because side buttons can be accidentally depressed with undesirable results.

I heard on the Internet grapevine that the Tribute 5 is inferior to the Volt, so it seems I have been downgraded. What can one expect for nothing when a warranty runs out just before something dies? Almost everyone was badmouthing the Volt, but I liked my old friend. I had no problems with it until it did the vicious restart cycle, and I miss it. I am, however, growing fonder of the Tribute 5. If you live with an ape long enough you may learn to love him or her.

The fact of the matter is that I do not like change no matter how often I am told to accept someone else’s change. I feel like my body died and I was given another one. Well, at least I can remember who I am. Anyway, I shall not complain if I get an even better phone before I meet our maker.

Bad things happen in bunches, as I first learned as young hospital orderly when a certain wing of a floor would have a slew of deaths on the same night and I would have to wheel the bodies to the basement.

It just so happened that at the time my Volt died a friend of mine had been abusing me to no end as if my brand had grown psychologically obsolete for her. I felt I was invited for dinner only to be beaten like a dog, and to that end I was not allowed to share in its cost.

I think it was Buddha who asked a beggar, “To whom would food left out belonged to if a mendicant did not take it because of abuse?” “To the proprietor of course, and, likewise, the abuse would belong to proprietor as well, and, to make matters worse, a friend would be lost.”

The last straw came after I emailed her the news that steering wheels are coming off the latest Ford Fusions. She had already had a serious battery draining issue with her Fusion, which she loves dearly. Are we back in the USSR? The battery issue was resolved, and I thought she would want to know about this new problem. She said that she listens to the news all day and did not want any news from me, then ordered me not to communicate with her. Done, albeit sadly, mostly because she is an unhappy bird. I had a dream this morning that I was telling her “I am your prayer,” but she responded cruelly, and said I had no license to help people, so get lost.

My sorrow naturally moved me to consult the I Ching for advice. I tossed the coins instead of sorting yarrow stalks. I came up with Hexagram 63, After Completion, which advised me to be patient and not to look back. After Completion changed into Hexagram 10, Treading, as it were, on the tail of a tiger, I was advised to be pleasant while discriminating between the high and low roads.

The advice not to look back is well put because if I dwell on the past I may turn into a pillar of salty tears, not a good thing to do given the fact that big boys are not supposed to cry. And being courteous and pleasant during troubled times is wise though not easy to do. Sometimes the sheer traffic of the city makes me so anxious I wonder what sort of drug might take the edge off, and I think of having a pint of Fosters Ale while watching Leaving Las Vegas.

Now what about the high and low roads? Does that mean I should find better friends and phones and let go of the rest? But if I abandon the friends and phones that I have, I would be left alone, incommunicado, even more unlikely to get on the high road where I might have one of those thousand dollar phones with a little pen. I might as well be dead and gone, for a man is good for nothing without friends. He might imagine he is not lonely, that he is merely all-one in the One, but then he would be an incomparable nobody if not nothing.

Sometimes Customer Service is the only shoulder available to cry upon at any length. It is usually a rather cold, “professional” or robotic shoulder. Customer Service, please remember that we were born helpless and secretly yearn to go home again to be picked up and coddled for awhile.

Coincidentally or not, at the time my phone died, I was virtually retracing the steps of a linguist and trekker named Csoma de Koros from Hungary to Tibet. He was obsessed with going home again to what he thought was the origin of his kind of Hungarian people, somewhere in Siberia or Mongolia. He was dirt poor, a virtual monk, an almost barefoot scholar headed for the ancient Silk Road. He met an East India official by the name of William Moorcroft along the way. Moorcroft got him a contract to compile a Tibetan dictionary to facilitate the economic goals of the British Empire. Csoma proceeded with the project in Tibet, with the help of a lama, in bitter cold quarters in Zanskar, a province once within the ancient Guge Kingdom in Western Tibet, now in Ladak, North India. That led to his employment as a librarian in Calcutta for a few years, and then he ventured up to Darjeeling with the intention of finally going to Lhasa to resume research on the fabled origin of his ancestral race. Alas, he came down with a fever and died, going to the final resting place of all things material, the Better Place that might be Utopia or no place at all. So it was the means to his goal and not the goal itself that benefited the human race.

Of course my research into the physical and mental trekking of Csoma included studies of his translations and discussions of Tibetan Buddhism. Scholars are sort of monks naturally influenced by their studies. It occurred to me that Csoma had become a Buddhist monk.

I myself was called a Buddhist some years ago by photographers involved in a proposed revival of Life Magazine. I had abandoned my professional career and the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii to take up the study of dancing, the foundation of all the arts, in Manhattan. Of course I was soon reduced to impoverished circumstances and had to take a day job to pay for classes and a tiny room on the Upper West Side. The photographers encountered me at a studio in Carnegie Hall, and that resulted in extensive photo shoots in Central Park and in my small but cute room. “You are a Buddhist,” I was told.

So here I was in South Beach studying Buddhism, how the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path evolved, pondering the essential concept of dependent origination and its identity with karma. I arrived at the tentative conclusion that the goal, Nirvana, was death, that Buddhism is a form of virtual suicide, a nihilistic process of going home again forever after making an infinitesimal mark in infinity. The saving grace of Buddha, I thought, was his compassion and moderation. Come to think of it, Buddha and Jesus have much in common, and I dared to say that to the Watchtower ladies selling Jesus in my apartment building, undulling angering one of them.

And then, in the midst of a morose contemplation, my Volt died! I had a sinking sensation, like I had the time my father, who often spoke of voltage because he was an electrician, died up north as I was reading Kafka on the beach. Without my Volt in my left pocket I felt the Void that I am without communication. Excuse me while I put on Holtz’ Ode to Death because I cannot stand to think about Nothing without the choir.

Yes, it is true that everyone is suffering, even when they are laughing at loud. Even beauty makes people cry. The expression on the face is the same. Try dropping some acid with Dr. Timothy Leary if you do not believe me. On second thought, just say no. You do not want to know. Do not read Aldous Huxley or Carlos Castaneda.

In any event, existence and not being is the problem, and the solution is inevitable.

Suffice it to say that I was profoundly depressed with the loss of my Volt and my best friend, with the growing imminence of the living end without a phone to die for, the dark enlightenment shed by the existential core of Buddhism, and Socrates’ statement that philosophy or the love of wisdom is a preparation for death, and so on.I had been crushed by the All Mighty. Thankfully, the All Mighty is merciful as well as cruel. Sprint’s executive service reached out with a new phone for me to cling to. I began to gradually recover from my profound depression, like one of those amazing little flat frogs that rises and jumps when water is poured on it.

I have never been a goal-oriented person myself although I have advised others on how to have and achieve goals. I tend to lose my miserable self in processes: in play, in thinking, in dancing, in writing, in acting. Ironically, I am a financial conservative as a result of being penniless on several occasions, hence the low-end phones. So I beg your pardon for being a fool in art, that is, someone without a goal, for not being rich and famous.

My dead LG Volt and my LG Tribute got me to thinking about Existentialism again, and how Albert Camus found meaning in meaninglessness after realizing the vanity of goals. Just feeling the Sun on one’s face and the sight of kids playing with a ball is delightful no matter that everything comes to an end. I went for a walk and happened to notice the plants the kids had grown in the yard at the charter school, and, behold, there it was, that red sunflower! Life is good enough for now.

I had gotten the impression from Buddha that death is better because the suffering comes to an end; that is, until I read that the key to good and evil is how one thinks because like follow like. I am beginning to like the Tribute 5 better than the Volt, that’s for sure. Still I wish I had one of those phones with the little pen.


The Metaphysics of Personal Existence







“Personal life is the fine flower of life.” Emanuel Mounier

I. The Gist of Existentialism

Personalism might be a popular ideology or at least a household word today if existentialism had not better suited the aversive reaction to the cult of supreme personality that had fostered two massive world wars. Whereas personalism emphasizes the social human being, existentialism places the onus on the individual alienated from society, and affords bare existence priority over clothed being. Existentialism is an anxiety-bound mélange of rationalizations spawned by homelessness, alienation, the meaningless of life and absurdity of death made apparent in the horrors of two world wars systematically fought pursuant to the institution and breakdown of political and economic systems deemed “objective’, “rational”, “reasonable.” Not only irrational faith in a personal god but faith in impersonal reason and universal, abstract systems-of-being was also lost when confronted with the disastrous effects of being fanatically rational and reasonable. Considering humankind as a whole, it does seem suicidal and therefore unreasonable to murder others; yet it also seems quite rational to align individuals or divide the population into fractions that murder perceived enemies for the sake of individual and group survival – there is safety in numbers.

The term “existentialism” was picked up by the press in a smoky Paris jazz cellar from a casual remark made by a jazz singer to a reporter about the “scene” observed by the American tourists flocking to Paris in the aftermath of the war. Jean Paul Sartre and other “existentialists” dismissed the term at first – they were just philosophizing – but when the label came into vogue, they adopted and employed the appellation much to their advantage. Existentialism as they described it includes especially the notion that the particular individual must be solely responsible individual for his own thinking instead of relying on habitual culture or rationalized systems of being; but existentialists seek the impossible, for language itself is a social tool dependent on and responsive to the will of others. Existentialism is not a system at all, but is more or less an anxious and absurd reflection of the human predicament, particularly the predicament of a man’s individuality made obvious by the disturbing fact of death. Indeed, any sort of systematic existentialist thought put forward by a so-called existentialist would contradict the very premise of existentialism – thus did Sartre, for example, strive never to repeat himself.

The subject of Existentialism abstracted from human personality, the subject that is individual human existence as distinct from and prior to human being, is the broadest of subjects, the subject of all subjects subjected to particular existence. Kierkegaard appropriately called abstracted individuality the “category of one.” Being and existence somehow converge in the category of one. The category of one is presumably a general term for particulate being or qualitative individual existence, as if objects stripped of their predicates still had a quality in common – “existence” – but still remain unique in themselves. We might revert to Leibniz and speculate on independent existences as windowless monads that are identical but for number, yet, although identically constituted, somehow have slightly different perceptions.

Suffice it to say that the category of one is incomprehensible hence is compatible with irrationality; the non-categorical category of absolute individual freedom has no relation to hence no dependence for its category on others; thus is existentialism is non-systematic, indefinite, and irrational despite the volumes of rationalizations that justify it. A perceived individual or particular is a unique coincidence of universal qualities had in common by many particulars, qualities that “survive” the individuals involved, so to speak; the qualities are sorts of general beings that have no perceivable existence absent their coincidence in particular objects. The uniqueness of individuals, needless to say, does not preclude their being typecast according to their similarities, thus they are accorded with a higher, more conceptual being. But denuded existence, or the conception of existents stripped of the qualitative predicates necessary for being, is virtually nothing and unknowable to boot.

Christian existentialism, for instance, is a contradiction in terms; Christians in need of an seemingly objective standard or external authority in order to prolong isolated or “freed” subjective individuality beyond the inevitable fate of all individuals, death, project the vague qualitative impressions of the fleeting willful self within onto a screen: the eternal Subject external, the Immortal Subject of subjects, the unknown self-god painted large, the Divine Individualist crucified by existence in the world. But then the Christian existentialist has placed Being before denuded existence, and in the form of a social creature, a human being, thus slips from Existentialism to Personalism. Yet here the human being is still alienated from the Supreme Being although reflecting it.

As Boethius said, “Nothing is said to be because it has matter, but because it has distinctive form. But the divine substance is form without matter, and therefore one, and is its own essence. But other things are not simply their own essences. For each thing has its being from the things of which it is composed. The Pure Form “is truly One in which is no number, in which nothing is present except its own essence,” of “God that differs from God in no respect,” and “where there is no difference there is no sort of plurality and accordingly no number; here therefore is unity alone…..” Precisely how this Being differs from Nothing is unclear, but like the category of one that is said to be individual existence before being, the being before existence strips or alienates the godly person from material existence, and it remains to be seen how this person really exists at all.

However that might be, long before the term ‘existentialism’ was coined, the abstract yet irrational subject of individual subjective existence was considered to be unlimited by or even antithetical to grandiose systems-of-being such as those cranked out by theologians and the likes of Hegel and Marx. Indeed, we have a history of centuries of alienation, freedom, irresponsibility, guilt, despair, and dire circumstances of persecution unto death, not to mention other factors of enormous interest to today’s existentialists.

II. The Gist of Personalism Personalism shares existentialism’s concern with the plight of the existent individual; the rhetoric is similar is several respects. Yet we may draw a convenient distinction to posit that personalism is the hopeful affirmation of the absolute value of the socially organized human personality, in contradistinction to existentialism’s pessimistic denial of the virtue of socially organized being. Personalism’s social optimism is not the positive mental attitude of the bourgeois towards the rational organization of economic mass man for production and consumption. Shortly before the Great War, optimistic leaders at international peace conferences declared that free trade between countries had rendered war obsolete; for, they argued, unprofitable war would certainly be self-destructive hence insane. But self-destruction is the unconscious motive for war. Of what avail is it to tell angry competitive men, for whom economic trade is an unsatisfactory surrogate for war, that the murder of particular enemies is on the whole a form of mass suicide no matter who wins or loses? The enemy, sayeth the prophets, are the rods of god, thus does the death instinct serve the god of death and relieve the swarm of its crowded stress that the remainder can begin anew with more elbow room. Once the ground is leveled, the survivors clutch their bibles, glorify their god, and the say ‘never again’ during the reconstruction period; but once prosperity sets in, bibles are laid aside and the golden calves are reestablished on altars for a repeat performance.

Emmanuel Mounier, a pioneering Personalist of Catholic disposition who took refuge in Vichy France, where he was involved in the moral indoctrination of youth, had this to say of the vicious cycle wherein the cheap, hypocritical optimism of having a positive mental attitude no matter what transpires plays an important role when business is done as usual before the next apocalypse:

“But our countries, devastated by weariness, now need the builders of hopes and duties. I have developed the theme of triumphant history, because it is the Christian view of history, not in order to make the plethoric Christians feel more at ease than the cavaliers of anathema and scorn. Perhaps tomorrow we shall be invaded by worse than barbarians, by Babbitts, with crucifixes of gold, teeth of gold, and hearts of gold, coming to preach their new theologals in a big way: optimism, good temper and philanthropy, which can be achieved much more easily, we know, through using the right toothpaste, well-adjusted foundations and a Parker pen, than through the Word of God. Then once more we shall need those great sombre voices.”

Personalism is essentially conservative and at odds with modernism and the unrestrained advancement of objectivist science. “Material” science, with its emphasis on analytical thought, its obsession with breaking everything down into bytes and bits, disintegrates the various social masks upon which dynamic human intercourse depends, reducing the human being to the status of a bare unit, a programmed, windowless monad whose program gives him cause to perceive that his existence is independent, while, at the same time, responsible. Ironically, he has been thoroughly socialized in the totalitarian sense. Nothing stands between him and the political-economic dictatorship. So devoted is he to rational production and consumption that he has little or no time left for clan or club or community; as for the nuclear family, it is an empty vestige of the productive institution it once was.

Not only has science dispelled belief in spirits, gods and other mythical entities, but its mechanical way of thinking if taken to its logical conclusion would transform nature and man into machines. Thus God, Nature, and Man are dead. Yet if a man were acting like a machine, we would deem him insane; providing, however, that we were not machines ourselves – in which case his behavior would seem normal. Wherefore we must revitalized and restore the human person – the social human being. This person is at least metaphysical or spiritual if not “divine.” Biological evolution and scientific progress are irrelevant in the personal context: in that context, only the person is real; the rest is mere phenomena. Our thoughts about the phenomenal world may or may not be valid, but reasoning will never disclose the ultimate foundation of reality or nature; for thought itself is phenomenal, and Being is prior to thought. A being, say, a human being, then, is always more than and prior to a thought.

Personality has an individuality or existent aspect, but it is one shaped by society: the individual human being is naturally a social, thinking, rational and reasoning creature. Theological personalism – in contrast to anarcho-Christian protestations of anarchic individuality represented by an arbitrary, divine Anarchist, avers that the ultimate reality of the world is a Divine Person who sustains the universe by a continuous act of creative will. For Emmanuel Mounier, that incarnate god or Christ calls human beings to be Christian gods:

“Christianity gives man his full stature and more than his full stature. It summons him to be a god, and it summons him in freedom. This, for the Christian, is the final and supreme significance of progress in history.”

Mounier pointed out that the bourgeois conception of individualism emerged from the revolt of the individual against traditional society during the Renaissance; it was a revolt against an inflexible church and domineering economic system; the revolt lead to the Reformation and Industrial Revolution. But the conception of freedom that inspired the revolt doomed society to another sort of decadence, a corruption presided over by commercial speculators who profit from doing little or nothing.

“This speculation, in which profit is gained without the rendering of service, was the ideal towards which all capitalist endeavor tended. Thus the motive passion of adventure gradually gave way to the soft enjoyment of comfort, the passion of conquest to the ideal of the impersonal mechanism, of the automatic distributor of pleasures devoid of risk or of excess, regular and constant, derived from the machine and from fixed income…. The substitution of speculative profit for industrial profit, and the values of comfort for the values of creation, has gradually dethroned the individualistic ideal and opened the way to the spirit which we call bourgeois because of its origin and which seems to us to be the exact antithesis of spirituality.”

The new Christian “is a man without love, a Christian without conscience, an unbeliever without passion. He has deflected the universe of virtues from its supposedly senseless course towards the infinite and made it centre about a petty system of social and psychological tranquility…” Therefore contemporary man “needs the tragic, the Cross, as a goad to prick him along the right course.” God did not create man perfect because he wants him to work for a living, to perfect his self.

No doubt the socio-psychological disposition dubbed ‘personalism’ has ruled the sentiments of sages since prehistoric times. Even people who fervently believe in abstract existents denuded of personal qualities tend to imitate personal models and behave according to their socially derived personal biases and prejudices – Camus depicted the typical atheist of his day, who fell down on his knees and prayed to God in secret when he felt his life was at stake. Despite the many professions to the contrary, personality is the ultimate reality for personalists.

Mundane personalism strives for the full awareness and understanding of the human condition so that an happy accord may be realized between the universal WE and the particular I, or the person as the synthesis of individual existence with the socialized individuals or persons it introjects from its environment during the course of its development towards being an ideal human being in existence; that is to say, in a philosophical phrase, the human concrete universal, or, in theological terms, god incarnate. Personalism therefore is not contemporary individualism:

“Individualism is a system of … mutual isolation and defense,” Mounier explained. “Man in the abstract … the sovereign lord of a liberty unlimited and undirected, turning towards others with a primary mistrust, calculation and self-vindication; institutions restricted to the assurance that these egoisms should not encroach upon one another, or to their betterment as a purely profit making association…. (Personalism) is opposed to contemporary individualism. Personal man is not desolate, he is man surrounded, on the move, under summons…. It is the primal sin of the West to have departed dangerously from the original truth.”

Nor is personalism other-worldly: “It is not affirmed outside the world or separately from the other, but against the impersonal world of the ‘one’, the world of irresponsibility and flight, of lethal slumber, amusements, ideologies and chatter, it asserts the world of responsibility, presence, of effort, of ‘abundance.'”

Personalism, according to Mounier, is a form of communion: “There is one affirmation that is common to all Personalist philosophies… that the basic impulse in a world of persons is not the isolated perception of self (cogito) nor the egocentric concern for self… but the communication of consciousness…. We should prefer to call it the communication of existence, existence with the other, perhaps we should say co-existence.”

III. Religious Implications of Personal Existence

We find nothing fundamentally novel in the modern personalism that places being before existence and thus emphasizes social being over the individual existence or existential aspect of the personal unity we call a person. The late Polish pope was certainly conservative of the ancient personal tradition; his admirers may be unfamiliar with the term, personalism, yet the pope, whom they consider qualified for personal sainthood at his death, was committed to formal personalism early on in his intellectual career. And the ancient Eastern Orthodox Church has as a matter of course taken religion personally; that is, as a religious commune of individuals who have their personal identify in the Divine Person of Jesus the Christ.

Hindus have enjoyed a lively dialectic on the personal or impersonal nature of the divine Subject of subjects for many centuries. Religious personalists insist that persons can only have genuine and effective faith in personal deities or in Supreme Personal Being. They claim that impersonalists, who roundly deny the reality of personal deities, are in fact atheists. The Invocation of the Sri Isopanisad, purportedly the essential verse of the variegated Hindu religion, of ultimate importance since it seems to indicate that people would presumably overlook their differences and be at peace if only everyone would realize that everyone and everything is part and parcel of the infinite, has become the main bone of contention on that point:

Om purnam adah purnam idam
purnaat purnam udacyate.
purnasya purnam aadaaya,
purnam eva vashishyate

The Gita Society ( publishes this translation:

That is infinite, this is infinite;
From That infinite this infinite comes.
From That infinite, this infinite removed or added:
Infinite remains infinite.

This Purport follows:


Brahman is limitless, infinite number
of universes come out 
and go into the infinite Brahman,
Brahman remains unchanged.


If we assume that numbers do not exist in themselves but are merely invented counting terms of a contrived mathematical language, then the insertion of the numerical concept in the Purport to demonstrate the being of an ideal infinite super-reality abstracted from material existence is problematic, for there would be nothing in that infinite sphere to count. At first glance we find nothing particularly religious in the original verse, unless religion is the exaltation of the abstract idea of the infinite or unlimited, which can indeed be expressed metaphorically as the mathematical concept of the infinite series; it is not difficult to conceive that there is an infinite number of odd numbers within the infinite series of numbers. Infinity is certainly not a conception beyond the reach of mere mortals, for something is always beyond our grasp; we always want something more than what can be had: so when we think of an object, even the universe, we think there must be something beyond it, perhaps more universes, ad infinitum.

If the Infinite is the unlimited deity, then we might hold that the adoration of any particular form besides the metaphysical form named by an arbitrary term (e.g., the Infinite) is sacrilegious idolatry. There may be an infinite or countless number of finite things to dispose of, but Infinity itself, which transcends every particular thing, is not finite. One might say that Infinity is the feeling of something more to be had, something besides what is grasped and apprehended, the unsatisfied want or desire for complete satisfaction that constitutes the essential dissatisfaction of existential life; for each instantiated life would persevere forever without impedance if only it could, and thus be unlimited power. Each thing would want for nothing and no thing would stand in another’s way; in time, every other installation would be consumed by an existent’s absolute power, and likewise for each other instance – in fact all things do perish, but they perish variously in differing instants of time.

Individual identity depends on relationship. Mr. & Mrs. Jones say they want to be one with one another in marriage, yet once in holy wedlock both complain that they cannot be their true selves because they have lost their identities to each other. If they were in fact identical, they would not have their separate identities, and in fact they need each other and others to be themselves. By virtue of their individual existence they are moved to fly apart. Yet the two may, instead, because they abhor the isolation within which they would each, standing alone, as social creatures be worthless or unwholesome (not sane), work to make inherent strife harmonious, that their differences be concerted in the composition of a mutual personal relationship transcending occasional discordance and cacophony. And that ideal marriage would be naturally motivated – although its ultimate success would require personal education of the existential motive – for each existent would not perish, and to that end it seeks temporal refuge in relationships with others.

Although intimacy is lost in the crowd, safety is found in numbers greater than one, and the more the better. Hence the whole is called good. Absolute safety in an infinite number compounded is thought best. That ideal security might be called Infinity or Supreme Being; as a relationship between socialized individual existents, namely, persons, the whole that is greater than its parts might be projected as Supreme Personality. But compound things are bound to disintegrate, for each particulate as such is, in the final analysis, fated to strive for independence or absolute power over the others and the whole to the best of its ability, and to perish in the process. Even harmonious strife will eventually bring the particulates as they exist to an end, as if they must die for one another that each may live. But if each arrived at the same conclusion at once in the One, nothing finite would remain; call it not-finite or infinite nothingness, if you please. That is to say, the apocalypse would uncover Nothing. Everyone might set aside multiplicity at once to end the war over differences; they might then “enjoy” absolute peace, but the death of the struggle for life would be beyond celebration, wherefore we are naturally moved to struggle against total assimilation and to take pains to enjoy some independence. Wherefore the wave prays to the ocean to protect it from the other waves. Understanding the very process that seemingly makes fools out of us might move us to make sport of war and to take to the arenas instead of the killing fields.

Variety is indeed the spice of life. A little girl in a pink blouse with the word SWEET embroidered across its front appeared with her mother at the Starbucks on South Pointe – the south end of Miami Beach. She had her mom’s facial features and her dour expression as well. Her mother got her a glazed donut, a bottle of orange juice, and a plastic cup of ice. As the tot chewed on her donut, without much interest despite her serious countenance, her mom offered her orange juice from the plastic bottle; but she reached for the ice instead, picked up and popped a cube in her mouth. Instead of pouring the juice into the container with the ice, her mother starting dropping cubes into the bottle, as if to show her child what should be done with ice cubes if picked up one by one. But the girl did not have that objective: she insisted on pressing the plastic lid on the bottle; then she took another ice cube from the glass and popped it into her mouth, whereupon her face lit up with delight. She did not want the liquid; she wanted the ice: she appreciated the sensational difference of form, and no doubt she appreciated the fact that she had obtained it for herself.

Again, nothing in particular would exist without differences; nothing exists within the simple unity and absolute self-identity of the perfect wholeness sometime called the final cause or the end for which all things were created and in which they are presumably perfected and therefore have their truth and beauty; to wit: Good. All existents in unity have hypothetically canceled each other out; nothing but Infinity remains once the vanities are consumed by the bonfire; but That would be Nothing in Itself, which is to say nothing in particular.

On the verge of the abyss, then, we might say “From Nothing to Nothing” instead of “From dust to dust.” We find variations of such nonsensical nihilism or idiotic iconoclasm at the esoteric or occluded core of several religions. Religious ascetics whose sacrificial religion constitutes the good death or virtual suicide, and who identify absolute being with nothingness, might deny the charge of negativity by stating that the affirmation of what is tantamount to Nothing is in fact an affirmation of the All; for example: empty space is the positive permanent fact; the forms of space are ephemeral negations.

In any event one might want eternal life, but in the end each must submit, so perhaps it is best to accept the fact of existential death forthwith and be glad and thankful for one’s small quota of life instead of grasping selfishly and vainly beyond the grave for more than one’s allotment. Of course the end of a finite existence in the infinitude does not erase the fact of its existence in time, wherefore the finite has its infinity within the Infinite. Yet even this scant thought is too much for those freedom fighters who would be finally done with determined existence at its end, and who loath even the idea of being remembered and thus further defined after their bodies are cremated and the ashes scattered in the river. The idea of reincarnation or survival in any form or a marker somewhere is a horror to them. They love Infinitude.

Brahman was not originally identical with the Infinite. We would have no problem with the interpolation of the term in the Gita Society’s Purport if it were yet another term for the Infinite, an arbitrary label completely unladed of its historical predicates. In fact, the accidental qualities attributed Brahman over time unduly limit the substance they are attributed to. The honest etymologist and lexicographer will warn us that the origin and meaning of ‘Brahman’ is rendered uncertain by various, often conflicting attributions. We may for instance boil the word down to the root, brh, which ancient Indian exegetes said meant “being strong,” hence we might conclude that Brahman, a neuter noun, names the absolute or unconditioned power that endures forever and ever, hence is permanent and eternal. Of course our denotation falls apart with the conception of “eternity”, for that which is eternal is timeless hence does not, strictly speaking, “endure” over time; so we dispose of time, the commonsense notion rooted in the experience of succession, and claim that time is an illusion.

Absolute power might be personified as an almighty god and named Brahma. But that would be a waste of breath according to other scholars, for the Brahman found in the Vedas is not eternal or immutable but is said to be “carpented” or made. According to Hindu lore, the personification of Brahman, Brahma, was the first created living being. Accordingly, Brahma does not get the attention or reverence due to an almighty god, not even from his wife, who considers him as her subordinate in one context. Indeed, Brh might have been made by Ma, she who draws out or gives birth to “breathing” things – Maya is at once the maker, the making, and the made. Now brh might also mean “swelling”, as in the swelling of “breath” or speech, or “formation” and “formulation”; wherefore our strongest power might be the creative power that formed the one verse or universe in one breath, perforce in a big bang from a non-dimensional point.

Such an incredible inflation presents a paradox or riddle to this very day – the term barh, incidentally, means “riddle.” Such enigmas are best presented by poets in poetic form. We might imagine Brahma as the poet who utters the universe as a poem; Vishnu maintains the verse by chanting it; Siva finishes it when he decapitates Brahma. Of course there is quite a debate as to this illusory process of creation, maintenance, and destruction. The riddling contest is called Brahmodya; it is a life or death ritual because the maintenance of life above and below depends on it. The loser must submit to becoming the disciple of the Brahmin who wins the contest, or else lose his head. The winners inhabit Brahman, “the highest heaven of speech.”

Now the intellectuals are at leisure to ponder at length and to weave finer and finer abstractions out of nothing and mount the metaphysical ladder or Chain of Being to the Vacuum of Being-in-itself, where they have their faith in Supreme Being, which is indistinguishable from Nothing, The vulgar lot below, who are given to working for their living or who do not want to wither away chained to their computers at the tops of towers, have cause to believe that the highly educated brahmins, no matter how pure they might be, are in fact atheists. What is sorely needed is an exoteric and practical religion; a material religion with representative objects to adore; a personal model, if you please, for the vulgar masses. A totemic idol, say a black bull or golden calf or redheaded jackass will not suffice: only a perfect person will serve the purpose of realizing completion of the whole as god-headed Good. Yes, a perfected human person, a supreme being, an absolute power incarnate might do very well. But how could That be That if the essence of That or the being of Being has no delimiting form or positive definition? We are confronted with an absurd riddle if not the Vanity of human vanities, the sort of contradiction that Luther liked to confidently refer to as “one of God’s mysteries.” For example, in Hinduism we are confronted with Krishna.

The mystery is further compounded by those who claim that the cosmos is really the body Brahman created out of itself, which is nothing in particular; and if we subtract that finite creation, we are somehow left with the universal infinite form, that of the famed person, Krishna, who would seem to be, at least to an ignoramus, a formless form or nothing at all that can somehow, nevertheless, take fantastic personal form on our planet. The Gita Society puts it this way:

”After taking away the infinite creation from the infinite Brahman during the creative cycle or adding infinite universes to the infinite Brahman during the great dissolution, the infinite Brahman remains in His infinite Universal form. This can be mathematically expressed as infinity, plus or minus infinity, equals infinity. This infinite Universal form of Krishna, the Brahman, was revealed to Arjuna and is described in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita in great detail.”

How the infinite Brahman wound up as an He, instead of a She or S/he or It, to begin with, we do not know as of yet. How a form might remain after the forms of the universe are subtracted remains a mystery – we might suppose the possibility of a formless form, whose gender is merely metaphorically male, a He who may be described in detail when He appears on earth to tell warriors it is their duty to make war even against their own relatives because that is what warriors are ordained to do – we are mindful of the fact that the cause is ethical, for the society our enemies fight for is decadent and dissolute, as the Brahmins who sanction war know very well. Suffice it to say that Brahman may be considered as a fictional persona, a mask over reality, as it were, analogous to a man’s personality, a mask worn by, say, Brahma, the primordial living being, who is analogous to the super man who composes the constituent castings of humankind – His feet are the lowest caste of people, the Sudras, his head the highest class, the Brahmins. How Brahman can be a presumably subordinated form of Krishna, allegedly the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is a question only bona fide spiritual masters can answer appropriately. And answer they must, for the most of us are left clutching at thin air despite the mention of the being of a divine personality.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society For Krishna Consciousness, examined the Invocation to Sri Isopanisad and declared that om literally means, “the Complete Whole, and purnam means, “perfectly complete.” He is not satisfied to leave it at that, and goes on to discuss the traditional implications. He rejects the obvious meaning, that, since no persons were mentioned, the deity must be impersonal. He says the Sanskrit words ‘Sri Isopanisad’ means “the knowledge that brings one nearer to the Supreme Person, Krishna. “ He identifies “Brahman” as eternal existence. In that impersonal sense, Brahman alone is insufficient for the Hari Krishna swami and his followers; although they do celebrate Arjuna on the warpath, Bhakti yoga, the path of love, is their path to the union with the godhead; they would be conscious of their dance and blissfully blessed in it. So the ‘Prab’ the acarya rendered this interpretative translation of the verse:

“The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.”

“Realization of impersonal Brahman or Paramatma, the Supersoul,” Prabhupada explains in his ‘Purport’, “is incomplete realization of the Absolutely Complete. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Realization of impersonal Brahman is realization of His sat feature, or His aspect of eternity, and Paramatma realization is the realization of His sat [existence] and cit [consciousness] features, His aspects of eternity and knowledge. But realization of the Personality of Godhead is the realization of all the transcendental features – sat, cit, and ananda, bliss. When one realizes the Supreme Person, he realizes these aspects of the Absolute Truth in their completeness. Vigraha means “form.” Thus the Complete Whole is not formless.”

The impersonalists speak of an infinite number of finite things, and hold that human beings can rest peacefully as replicated common denominators of the common denomination called infinity; they are somehow comforted by knowing there is no fundamental difference between the waves in the ocean, or between the material forms of energy; fundamentally speaking, a cow, a man, a rock and a tree are the same. In fine, Thou art That, so stop fighting it, just accept it.

But contemporary Western culture would rather demolish the traditional forms or render them into commercialized relics in order to accept each other as equals in mutual animosity and make a profit to boot. Once the war of democracy on the world is won and the booty distributed according to merit rather than privileged rank, everyone shall presumably live most complaisantly. The disintegration of traditional cultural modes is graphically represented by the iconoclastic assault on the old art forms that paid ample respect to common human beings if not allegorical or divine persons. Art became increasingly abstract, and eventually the order or structures abstracted fell under the iconoclasts’ hammers, until the art world was converted to a post-modern anti-art world, a veritable junkyard or trash heap where ‘Thou art That’ means the individual is a junkyard dog. The only value remaining was the subjective appreciation of junk, perchance expressed idiotically as an absurd concept that nobody understands, particularly the anti-artist, whose popularity is determined randomly as each rebel contends to be more original or idiosyncratic than the next rebel, not understanding that the their rebellion is stultifying conformity with the status quo of the junkyard. No particular production is really worthy of praise or blame, not according to the dictum, “Art is not right or wrong.” Everything has equal moral value or is amoral, and this is all very democratic and seemingly peaceful and tolerable until the bombs start exploding at home – democracies thrive on wars abroad to tame anarchism at home, and are inherently imperialistic in their pre-emption of competition. Underneath the appearance of peaceful existence in substantial equality lurks an alienated crowd of potential suicide-bombers who would be glad to finally settle any remaining differences between people.

All this would be perfectly acceptable to someone who recognized the Supreme Impersonal Being in it all, for such is life and one might as well enjoy it.

Swami Prabhupada also believed that peace could be found in the Complete Whole, but only if it were a Supreme Person. A human personality, in contrast to the ‘personalities” of animals, is a cooperative fabrication learned and in part fashioned by individuals – hence we use the term “person” in the sense that a person is a synthesis of individual existence and social being. For Swami Prabhupada, the Person of persons, or Supreme Person, seen by Arjuna as Krishna, was the ultimate or transcendent reality of personal life. People who believe civilization causes their discontent may want to revert to wild-animal life, figuratively speaking, they would fain don an animal mask and dance around their totemic fetish. At least there would be no sin, then, in fighting over the kill and its scraps.

“Men face one another in enmity and snarl just like cats and dogs,” observed Swami Prabhupada in his Purport to Mantra One of the Sri Isopanisad, which advises individuals to want no more than their quota. “If they do not recognize the proprietorship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all the property they claim is stolen…. Animals, birds, reptiles and other lower life forms strictly adhere to the laws of nature; therefore there is no question of sin for them, nor are the Vedic instructions meant for them. Human life alone is a life of responsibility.”

Human dignity is obviously at stake in this controversy between the impersonalists, for whom existence is sufficient reason to live, and the personalists, who desire an ideal personal example for their improvement. Krishna takes some delightfully human and superhuman forms in the literature, a literature far more entertaining than the published episodes of the life of Jesus the Christ, whose dignity was sacrificed to the mundane human order; he was all too human when crucified by existence. Jesus put a kind face or personal mask on the impersonal god – although ineffable Yahweh was, as the Lord, a “He” and a “Father”, he was no respecter of persons, particularly idolaters, and even murdered innocent children to have his way with the folk. Whereas Hinduism was an umbrella over diverse cults and was tolerant of diverse beliefs and behavior providing everyone kept to their kind, Judeo-Christians demanded a choice of either this or that: one choose this saving form of behavior or be doomed to that hell. Fundamentalists may have believed in the fundamental equality of individuals, who are “born equal in the eyes of God,” but not in the equality of developed personal qualities. Their religious form or social system of being takes precedence over naked existence.

Modern existentialist thought, the mainstream of which tends to impersonality in its rejection of social systems of being, professes individual responsibility: the responsible individual is faced with Either/Or and makes a choice: the existentialist does not choose, first of all, a system of being social, a system of relatively defined good and evil, but chooses his or her existence or self, or at least all subsidiary choices are meant to obtain that “selfish” end, an end compatible with certain protesting forms of Christianity, where the eternal salvation of the individual self and the will to endure forever of the existent meet and embrace.

IV. Existentialist Godfather

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is the godfather of the anti-systematic movement of thought we call existentialism. His corpus elevates the arrogant individual to divinity and therefore gives us due cause to pause and distinguish between existentialism and personalism, a less well-known response to the horrors of the two world wars.

The subject of existentialism, the individual existent, when socialized, is a person. The person, the socialized individual, is a synthetic system. While existentialism focuses on the individual, personalism emphasizes the socialized individual. Indeed, its adherents may go so far as to claim that the person is a blessed spiritual substance.

For example, Karol Wojtyla (the late John Paul II), confronted with the despairing and anxious mental processes of war-shocked intellectuals whose main concern was their dreadful existence as alienated individuals, worked to rejuvenate the conception of the substantial person in his early work, The Acting Person. As a devout Catholic, he undoubtedly had a universal model in mind; that is to say, a supreme personal model people could systematically imitate and identify with rather than losing themselves speculating on an incomprehensible unknown god or impersonal force. A number of existentialists, all too familiar with the crimes against humanity fomented by charismatic personalities, abhorred the cult of personality in any shape or form, and they decried the “rational” systems of thinking and corresponding ways of acting that had apparently led to widespread havoc and panic instead of a new world order.

Many but not all existentialists were atheists. Some Christians among them were “protesting” Christians if not philosophical anarchists. After all, Soren Kierkegaard, existentialist godfather, studied for the Lutheran ministry and was in effect an independent Danish theologian. Most of all, existentialists are supposed to hate systems – Kierkegaard believed intricate systems of thought were big lies leading the world to ruin. The greatest existentialists systematically decried systems at length. Their literature often interchanged the term “person” with “individual,” but make no mistake about it, inasmuch as the person is a social system, anti-systematic thinkers would rid the world of that fictional entity along with the lies of the Establishment. But the reduction of the person to a supposedly “responsible” individual would unwittingly leave him, in his discontent, vulnerable to the charismatic likes of Mussolini and Hitler. Thus do we notice that some of the philosophical notions of the existentialists who survived World War II resembled in some instances the ideology of the enemy – not that the existentialists knowingly or willingly collaborated with the occupiers. Of course, the same might be said of personalists – after the war was over, the ranks of the Resistance swelled dramatically.

In any case, one cannot get rid of the vulgar person and still communicate effectively. Although Kierkegaard’s contempt for society led him to prefer the abstract individual or “category of one” behind imperfect personal masks, he preferred to project his inner conflicts and conceal his self-contradictions and hypocrisy by speaking indirectly through several personifications: his thought-provoking Either/Or , for instance, is presented as a conversational work of fiction involving fictional persons, and not as a direct philosophical tome in the form of a coherent system of thought. Prominent existentialists deliberately tried to popularize their abstract philosophy by presenting it in fictional form, in plays and novels, behind which their fundamental incoherence would be hidden by the obvious absurdity of characteristic life. Albert Camus, for instance, who admired Kierkegaard, is best known as the philosopher of The Absurd; he noted in his diary that a good novelist must be a philosopher. Jean Paul Sartre and others followed suit.

Philosophers have traditionally identified the highest good if not god with social goodness; however, as far as Kierkegaard was concerned, an ethical man had no choice but to choose himself, the penultimate good; the religious man worshiped the unknown god, his ultimate good; while the aesthete was a sort of pantheist, finding his good in anything he pleased. We concoct three equations for Kierkegaard’s three types. For the Aesthete, the relative: I am that multiplicity. For the Ethical, the duality: I am not that world. For the Religious, the absolute: I am I. We shall see that Kierkegaard’s distinction between the Ethical and Religious realms was in vain. Despite his assertion that the ethical man chooses his true self instead of creating it from scratch, his fondness for the individual reveals the individual, as an abstract “category of one”, as the indefinite or infinite wherefore unknown I-god, the YHWH or I-AM of yore.

“Only when I absolutely choose myself,” wrote Kierkegaard, “do I infinitize myself absolutely, for I myself am the absolute for only myself can I choose absolutely, and the absolute choice of myself is my freedom, and only when I have absolutely chosen myself have I posited an absolute difference, the difference, that is to say, between good and evil…. The good… being in and of itself, and this is freedom…. It is… not so much a question of choosing between willing the good or the evil, as of choosing to will, but by this in turn the good and evil are posited….”

Hence it appears that the Absolute One chosen by Kierkegaard is a private and absolutely free godhead, an Anarch, in a word, that disposes of and therefore transcends relative good and evil. Of course the essence of this “category of one”, the universal individual and god presumably chosen by all self-chosen, self-integrated, hence ethical individuals, differs from the nature admired by unethical persons, the dissolute aesthetics who are preoccupied with the highest sort of feelings called beauty. Beauty is normally identified with pleasurable feelings ascetics abhor because the painful contrary, the want of pleasure or pain, is implied by pleasure felt – in either case, of pain or pleasure, the dignity of the self-caused person, an arrogance found in his freedom, is threatened to be demolished by an external cause. To rid themselves of pain, ethical ascetics would dispose of pleasure as well; they throw out the baby with the bath water and lay claim to transcendental indifference to the felt qualities of life, the relative value of which philosophers tend to dispute.

The aesthete’s preference for felt qualities instead of abstract ideation seems mistaken because the feelings vary one from the other, hence provide no absolute escape from the disturbing dialectic rooted in the basic social conflict between the existent individual and its society. The basic conflict is internalized and gives the person over to normal anxiety. The person’s joint role as an “I” and a “We” – the “I” as part and parcel of “We” – are both “introjected” as social conditions, yet the mystical unification and at-one-ment of subject and object wanted by the anxious ethical individual in flight from his existence cannot be obtained in fact short of death; and then the objective world ironically survives the particular subject, which was in fact the temporary, unique coincidence of universal conditions, but who when alive might find take pleasure in his existential crucifixion, on the crossbars of time and space, in the notion of eternal life free of the impediments that gives him cause to suffer life in hopes of salvation from it. This supreme arbiter loves himself only, in his finality, and cannot part with himself to merge with the nymphs calling to him from the social forest. Life then, for Kierkegaard’s ethical person, burdened by the necessity of dreadful choices, which in effect constitute a negation of possibilities, is a bitter thing. But the lemon can be made sweet by a faithful leap to the religious sphere, a transcendental planet far removed from both the aesthetic and ethical planets.

That ideal religious sphere, fortunately for Kierkegaard’s temperament, would not be inhabited by the established church of socially compromising and therefore hypocritical Christians he knew on Earth. As a devout Christian-of-one, Kierkegaard, instead of loving his neighbors wholeheartedly despite their sins, was moved to hatefully denounce professed Christians for falling far short of his fundamentalist notions. He chose to elevate himself to the rooftop and to cry out to his neighbors, “Hypocrites!” When he collapsed on the street in the midst of his violent attack on the Danish National Church, he told a friend that someone must die for the cause, and he died shortly thereafter.

It is no wonder that the seemingly absurd commandment, to love thy neighbor as thyself, had to be written down long ago for lip services, since it is so easily forgotten by the human heart. Thus does the anarcho-Christian become the reflection of his fellow enemy – a bigoted, irrational, unethical hypocrite – instead of the reflection of the only Christian who has walked upon this Earth thus far, the very Criterion of Christianity, Jesus the Christ. Although Kierkegaard may not have been the Strange God of Love’s prophet, he was certainly a seer, and in his prescience he was himself, in his representative anxiety and egoism, a prefiguration of our own time. The godfather of Existentialism is highly regarded as a theologian. Indeed, he was a good Christian as far as many of our contemporaries are concerned, a Christian who died for a good cause: calling organized Christians hypocrites for the usually reasons: for selling their souls to the devil and their consciences to the state.

Kierkegaard advocated individual integrity and responsibility. But to what end? What does he integrate his self with? The ethical individual abandons his reasonable reflections, which are the very means to ethical conduct, and leaps blindly to faith in What, which, when described, turns out to be some quiddity or the other. He evidently no longer has faith in his ability to choose, so he chooses nothing, really, but non-sense, and he does whatever might come to mind in the form of an authoritarian command from the charismatic leader of a totalitarian state of being – Kierkegaard admired the biblical willingness of a father to kill his own son (Isaac) upon command of the unknown god. Thus do intelligent men whose criticism eventually leads them to suspend judgment even in the value of criticism fall prey to the preaching of that ignorance in which they find their bliss, and may go forth to wreak havoc throughout the world for its sake. Wherefore, until freedom is realized in death, let individuals rebel. “Down with the Establishment! Down with the System! Give me Liberty or give me Death!” are the slogans of misfits; that is, until their own system is firmly established on uncompromising, fanatical principles. Freedom from compromise is found only in the omnipotent god, and those who believe they are gods have the noun spelled backwards.

Kierkegaard, to pursue what he believed was the ethical life of either/or, ultimately choose himself alone. Some of us may choose things to get rid of them, so that we may feel miserable for doing what we thought was the self-righteous thing to do. Only a mate can adequately sum up humanity. Kierkegaard dismissed the flawed queen of his mundane affections, his girlfriend, Regine, upon whom he thereafter literally reflected at length, in lieu of the consummation he had forsworn. She was not good enough or god enough for him: only the unknown god was worthy of his debasement. The true lover must always be wrong; the beloved must always be right. He thought he had ditched her to save her from the mistake of loving the likes of him, a man with cold feet. He eventually made the ultimate choice, a suicidal leap to faith in perfection. Only god can do no wrong despite appearances to the contrary. But nothing is perfect. Kierkegaard’s faith was really in his own reflection in the pool slowly swirling around the drain, the very mirror of his perturbations, as it were, from which only a chimpanzee with distorted figure could foolishly grin back, for the apostle gazing therein had renounced his reason with an open proclamation of his foolhardiness. Only faith in something absurd can escape the torment of doubting reason; absolute certitude can only be had in ignorance. Nothing, no thing in particular, is really worthy of unadulterated love.

“(The Ethical) is not a question of the choice of something…. The alternative is the aesthetical, the indifferent ….” The aesthetically inclined person would find his escape from the ultimate cause of anxiety – mortality – in the enjoyment of ephemeral feelings and the appreciation of beauty found in nature and art, including the art of personal living, But Kierkegaard’s ethical individual finds his solace in absolute solitude, in premature or living death, in virtual suicide. He mistakenly charges the aesthete with his own melancholic indifference to the world at large: he claims that the ethical realm is an infinite movement along hierarchically arranged values whereby one realizes (not creates) what he is by making important choices, but the choices available in the aesthetic realm are relative hence of equal value, constituting a flight from the ultimate Either/Or, that of good or evil. Of course Kierkegaard’s ethical doctrine does not require a preoccupation with choosing good things: his point is that an individual must make willful decisions, and it is in those decisions and not the particular things or acts chosen that he eventually finds his real self.

Kierkegaard was an idealist in the Platonic sense: the ideal is the real; reality is in heavens unknown as of yet – if only horses had wings. “The poetic ideal is always a false ideal, for the true ideal is always the real. So when the spirit is not allowed to soar up into the eternal world of spirit it remains midway and rejoices in the pictures reflected in the clouds and weeps that they are so transitory. A poet’s existence is therefore, as such, an unhappy existence, it is higher than finiteness yet no infiniteness.” Infiniteness is, to wit, the ineffable X – we might aptly call it Nothing, or, if you wish, the Origin. The path to X is heady stuff; as Kierkegaard himself remarks: “There is hardly an anaesthetic so powerful as abstract thinking.”

[Indeed, we who are given to infinite reflections recommend that aesthetes withdraw from their addictive substances and take up philosophy instead. Still, we would not have them forsake the fine arts. In truth, the highest aesthetic expression of intelligent love of life found in fine art varies largely in technique but little in principle. Works of fine art would be worthless without social agreement, and that accord or harmony is common to human nature. The so-called anti-art movement of the modern cult of individualism that rejected the traditional and only principle of art, the feeling of beauty, amounts to a lazy reduction to an absurd claim that art is merely subjective, hence one individual work is as good as another, and any criticism of an individual work is an unwarranted intrusion into the right of “contemporary” artists to individual equality. Since the anti-artist is unable to think coherently, that is, along social lines, his concepts are as incoherent as his constructions – he is unable to give us a beautiful drawing of a person; may heaven forbid if he does turn to fine art, and that his gift of personal beauty is the ideal beauty of a clothed Madonna or nude Venus. The anti-artist’s success of course is a matter of whimsical chance – some piece of nonsense or an accident widely publicized may turn him into a celebrity].

Kierkegaard’s self craves its very self, apparently the highest good or Good, or even God. The dualist refrain is familiar: Self is Good, wherefore World is Evil. Kierkegaard wants it all for himself: unity, freedom, omnipotence. He chooses nothing in particular: he chooses will in general, the will to the Good, or goodwill. But that constant choice is really of the self, for Self is Good. Such a choice would make a subjective god of a man, a man whose will is free no matter what the objective circumstances might be.

Kierkegaard’s iconoclastic self, in its constant flight from objective determination by sensation, would be perpetually becoming and not a choice of a permanent being; only Nothing or God is permanent. His subjectively omnipotent self-god would apparently be, in opposition to its circumstances, more reliable than a projected hence ambivalent objective god, particularly if that unreliable objective god represents Good, in the social sense that the good of society is Good, or in the sense that society itself is god. In that case, Power would have to be gradually rationalized, no doubt by political intervention – religion worships Power, politics distributes it. No, the individual must be absolutely free.

Man (humankind) is naturally social. But thou shalt not have any god before god; wherefore thou shalt not idolize Man, for man exists by virtue of original sin – he is aesthetically inclined. Thus it seems to follow that, at least for Kierkegaard, the individual soul is, ironically and actually, the sole good, and not the Absolute God or Supreme Being. He does not mention the possibility that the real original sin is the sin of individuality, of being born individuals, and that his choice of self as the category of one adds insult to injury. Of course one might imagine that the microcosmic god reflects the macrocosmic god, or is part and parcel of god, or is in fact god in mystical unity with himself. Ah, but that would be utterly selfish and solipsistic. Kierkegaard avoids that conclusion with ambiguity or doublespeak:

“The mystic chooses himself abstractly … out of the world … The truly concrete choice is that wherewith at the very same instant some instant I choose myself out of the world I am choosing myself back into the world. For when I choose myself repentantly I gather myself back into the world … in all my finite concretion, and in the fact that I have thus chosen myself out of the finite I am in the most absolute continuity with it.”

Furthermore, “I do not create myself. I choose myself. Therefore while nature is created out of nothing, while I as an immediate personality am created out of nothing, as a free spirit I am born of the principle of contradiction.”

Is not that the principle of original sin? Is not that the hypocrisy or underlying crisis of man? Is not that the principle of original slavery that dooms us to choose or to die? Free will disobeys to god’s law, hence Kierkegaard’s formerly lauded ethical choices were in fact sinful acts. He says he repents even of his father’s sins. Why does he not repent of original sin? In effect he has repudiated his creative choice and his freedom. Afraid to love another, he had no choice but to choose himself, but that self must die. In the end, once he finds his true nature, he must resign his freedom and accept god’s law, that all individuals are born in sin and must therefore must die.

Repenting of it all, the existentialist theologian gets it all back: “He repents himself back into himself, back into the family, back into the race, until he finds himself in God.” Repentance, he says, is the only word that expresses love for God. He chooses to surrender to X. His choice destroys all options. He sets the self up as god and chooses god, thus destroying self and god for he has not chosen something but has rejected everything. From nothing he came and to nothing he returns – god or nothing is permanent. It appears that he identifies his instinct to survival with his particular self or the apotheosis thereof.

“I do not create myself. I choose myself. Therefore while nature is created out of nothing, while as an immediate personality I am created out of nothing, as a free spirit I am born of the principle of contradiction, or born by the fact that I choose myself.”

Kierkegaard would forsake the evil world for himself, for the category of one; but once he is at one with the category of one, he shall love the world: “If the despairing man makes a mistake, if he believes that his misfortune lies in his multifarious surroundings, then his despair is not genuine and it will lead him to hate the world…. When in despair you have found yourself you will love the world because it is what it is.”

And what is despair? “Despair is doubt of personality,” he says. Again, the assumption is that this self, whatever it is, is good if not the highest good or Good or God. It seems that if only one would love the self for what it is, first of all, then love for the world would follow, just as night follows day. If one loved himself rightly, he would love the world so much that he would gladly stretch out his neck for his executioner if need be.

It is a matter of attitude, really, and one’s attitude in choosing oneself must be sincere, for as one believes, so one is. What counts, says Kierkegaard, is the energetic sincerity of choosing the real either/or over the mere either/or, such as choosing to visit the bank or barber. The real choice is ultimately between good/evil, good being the real self. Kierkegaard admits that many other worthwhile decisions may be made along the way to finding/receiving one’s self.

We hear the familiar song hand down from ancient times: the treasure is within, in the inner unity where man is reconciled with himself if not his collective self projected as god. Kierkegaard criticizes critics for not taking up the inner life, for losing themselves in illusions, professions, callings and other forms of escape. Yet his own approach is also an escape. Indeed, life is an escapade! Are we to deride the philosopher who said, “As a matter of fact, I am not slightly interested in self-spelunking, given all the objects the universe has to offer.”

“You are capable of spending a whole month reading nothing but fairy tales – Kierkegaard writes in his either/or novel – you make a profound study of them, you compare and analyze, and your study is not barren of result – but what do you use it for? To divert your mind; you let the whole thing fire off in a brilliant display of fireworks.”

Kierkegaard opines that philosophy mediates the past but cannot mediate what has not occurred yet: it cannot choose the future. And philosophers would have no past to mediate unless there were an absolute Either/Or. One obviously has to do something besides philosophize to get something done. Life would come to a dead stop with philosophy alone.

“We have the disgusting sight of young men who are able to mediate Christianity and paganism, are able to play with the titanic forces of history, and are unable to tell a plain man what he has to do in life ….”

That is true. We must not entirely abandon self-spelunking – and we study others to discover our own nature. Nevertheless we find in Kierkegaard’s philosophy the usual Christian activism without specification of particular deeds. Kierkegaard’s philosophical protagonist offers nothing in particular except marriage and family to the hypothetical young man addressed in the book-long letter constituting the novel Either/Or.

“In my capacity as a married man it is my custom on every occasion to maintain against you, both orally and in writing, the reality of love….” In real life Kierkegaard did not marry his sweetheart Regine Olson. He broke of the engagement in 1840; supported by his inheritance, he took up philosophy while she embraced another in holy matrimony.

It is evident that Kierkegaard’s novel is a self-divided letter, a dialectical epistle to himself from himself, expressing a conflict or dialogue between his artificially divided emotional and moral nature. In a fugue of bourgeois self-contempt, he poses a conflict between art for its own sake and the realistic business of the mind, that he might continually choose something valuable upon which profit can be realized and infinitely accrued rather than something for fleeting gratification to be eliminated as waste. Why not pile up treasure in heaven instead of counting on earthly things that are bound to be relatively disappointing because they fall short of the ideal? He chooses for the sake of choosing, thinking he is making the ultimate choice, of his absolutely good self, as distinguished from creating art for its own sake – today students of contemporary art are taught that there is no such thing as good or bad art.

The primary ethical action we find in Kierkegaard’s is symbolic action – thinking – and that to criticize others for not acting ethically, for not taking the one-god versus the satanic multiplicity seriously. It is no wonder that confident persons of the enthusiastic confession conclude that almost anything goes as long as one has faith and hopes for self-salvation. Kierkegaard means to say that a man thinks before he acts if he would act of his own accord. He thinks self-importantly: his choice is very important because he believes he is choosing himself, whatever that might be. We think that in his feeling of self-importance he has self-consciousness, or his unity of consciousness as a subject posed before virtually infinite objects. He is an I or individual, a Category of One at Dodge City, facing down the multiplicitous world, a world rendered as multiple by the psychological interpretation of diverse inchoate sensations that the mind is delighted to organize and represent as a reflection of its microcosmic god, the individual.

V. The Russian Philosopher of Freedom

Nicolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev, the “Russian philosopher of freedom”, is mistakenly labeled an existentialist because he emphasized anthropocentric subjectivity in his theory of “objectification”. His nods to Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Jaspers, and other non-systematic philosophers also served to place him in the existentialist camp. Berdyaev, nonetheless, was more of a personalist than an existentialist.

According to Berdyaev, personalism idealizes the human person. There is no such thing as a national person. That is a self-conceited lie, stupid and ludicrous. The nation is the projection of everything evil as a collective ideal. Evil is called good. Hate, violence, egoism, pride, will to power are all converted into virtues. Do not idolize Nation or Volk. Do not be a slave to “the People.” Real personality has an existential center – of conscience. Real personalities are individual, and therefore Volk will crucify them.

Egocentricity and personalism are contrary concepts.

“Egocentricity is the original sin of man … an illusory, distorted universalism … a false perspective … under the power of objectivization, which it seeks to turn into an instrument of self-affirmation … Man is the salve of the surrounding external world, because he is the slave of him ….”

Of course, “The genius lives near to primary reality and to real existence whereas the culture elite is subject to the laws of objectivization and socialization.”

“All possession, whether it is possession by base passion or by lofty ideas denotes the loss of the spiritual center in man.”

The very notion of the soul as a unity derived from physical processes is false. The unity of the soul-process is the dynamic spiritual principle itself and not arbitrarily conceived points or ‘souls.’ The notion that the individual of individualism constitutes resistance to its environment and is thus constituted by isolated exercises of its own will is an illusion.

Such an individual would have to be exterior to the world in order to rebel against it, hence the individual would have to be alienated, impersonal, and self-determined or self-caused, as if it were a god facing a violent enemy. The enmity projected onto a seemingly violent world would define the supposedly self-determining individual who blames the objective world for everything perceived to be in opposition; thus is he in fact determined by objectivity rather than his presumed subjectivity. As ‘subject’ in distinction from ‘object’, he thinks he is a free individual, but the emperor has his foot on his neck. Since humankind is natural and human beings are a social species, the individual of individualism has dissociated himself from nature and society. For him, nature is dead; god is dead; society is dead. Since society comprises individuals, the person is dead as well, for the person is a social individual who enjoys not only individuality but the commune as well.

Ironically, the individualist believes he is free when in fact he is enslaved. Today he is in reality the over socialized, bourgeois individual of the militant protestant-capitalist system. He is fully engaged in the war of all against all where each individual crushes other and is crushed in the material arena of economic forces and interests. He has internalized the anti-social rules of engagement that subjugate him. Like a prisoner in Bentham’s panopticon-prison, he is constantly under observation and control by unseen wardens. But he is a virtual slave; a slave not to his circumstances, but to himself. He is, as it were, self-imprisoned, and is like the animal that stays put when the fence is torn down.

“The individualist is the slave to himself, he is under the spell of slavery to his own ego, and, therefore, he cannot resist the slavery which comes from the non-ego …. Man is always a slave of the non-ego through the ego…. The object world can make a person a martyr but it cannot make him a conformist.”

On the other hand, whereas individualists are “wolfish” and vicious, Berdyaev’s person of personalism is virtuously communal and fraternal. For personality is emancipation from slavery to the ego, and, at the same time, to the non-ego

“The fundamental nature of the person is not originality nor self-knowledge nor individual affirmation. It lies not in separation but in communication.”


Slavery and Freedom by Nicolas Berdyaev, New York: Scribner’s 1944

Be Not Afraid, a Denunciation of Despair by Emmanuel Mounier, transl. Cynthia Rowland, New York: Sheed and Ward ’62

EITHER/OR by Kierkegaard