Or: The Uninspired Mundanity of Materialism
Blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty. —Jesus of Nazareth, the very first words of the Sermon on the Mount
This may be considered, if you please, a kind of appendix or coda to the longish series (five parts!) I posted on the topic of atheism. This one is aimed more specifically at materialism though, or scientism, considering that some atheists do appear to have some depth and sensitivity to them, even inspiration. They may not believe in God, but they still have some openness to something divine, or at least transcendent, like maybe true love. This would appear to include Carl Benjamin, alias Sargon of Akkad, who helped red-pill me back in early 2016, and who thus is one of my benefactors in life; I’m pretty sure that he considers himself to be an atheist, although he evidently harbors some deep love for his family, and appears to be a relatively sensitive, intuitive person and not a mere automaton made of meat, as so many materialists prefer to believe of themselves. So I leave atheists alone here, pretty much, and specifically pick on materialists, especially scientific materialists, who sincerely believe, for example, that genuine love or the human spirit is, at its highest, most “real” level, essentially nothing more than an epiphenomenon of brain biochemistry, conditioned by cultural conditioning, animal instincts, and glandular secretions.
So, as I did with “atheism” at the beginning of the atheism series, I suppose I should define the term “materialism” here. Materialism as I will discuss it is not merely the pursuit of money and objects bought with money; rather it is the belief that a pluralistic physical universe not only exists, but that it is the truest representation of reality. In other words it is scientific materialism, which implies that a mechanistic explanation of the world, as provided by scientists, is the most valid one. Even so, this kind of materialism is usually a foundation for the other kind, the pursuit of money and what it can buy. Thus materialism of both sorts are indicative of spiritual poverty, even of spiritual bankruptcy.
Opposed to this, with lots of agnosticism and indifference in between, is a belief in a higher reality than particles, waves, and energy fields interacting in a mechanistic universe. This may not involve a belief in a personal God, much less an angry old man in the sky with a white beard and angels for helpers, but it does involve a belief that the world as we (and scientists) experience it is not the highest reality, and that there is some transcendent perfection or divinity or Absolute that perhaps cannot be seen by most, but nevertheless is everywhere. A person who believes in this higher transcendent Ultimate or Absolute need not be religious. He or she can be artistic, or philosophical, or just a born mystic along the lines of Walt Whitman or any number of small children. Some atheists are atheists mainly just because the only accounts of “God” they have been exposed to have been absurd, and so they simply reject the manifest absurdity.
There have been thinkers over the past few hundred years who have seen the grave danger of scientific materialism robbing our civilization of any notion of transcendence or divinity. The anti-modern traditionalist philosopher René Guénon was of this sort; and in his strange book The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times he shares a rather disturbing vision of the people of modern, materialistic western societies developing a kind of invisible shell around themselves which closes them off from invisible forces the existence of which they deny, including this very infinity and perfection just mentioned. People’s belief that miracles don’t and can’t happen, their belief that materialism is the highest truth, essentially closes them off from the miraculous and the Divine, and from the source of infinite possibilities. Furthermore Guénon states that this situation is unnatural and unsustainable, but when the shell begins to crack (and he would probably believe it is cracking now if he were still alive), it is the underside of it which will crack first, allowing lower, cruder, and more malevolent invisible forces into our world while still keeping out the higher. But maybe I digress.
Similar ideas have existed since ancient times; in fact they are found in the Christian Bible as a central theme, and were expressed by Jesus of Nazareth himself, assuming that the synoptic gospels give a more or less reliable account of his message. It seems to me that one of the big discoveries of Jesus, which caused him to “speak with authority, and not as the scribes,” was that faith can cause miracles—the faith of a grain of mustard seed moving mountains, and all that. But faith goes both ways: faith in the possibility of miracles (or psychic phenomena, using more Buddhistic language) may increase the odds of them happening, but by the same token faith in their impossibility makes them even less likely to occur. I am reminded of the story in the New Testament of Jesus returning to his home town of Nazareth, and the people there having an attitude of, “Hey, isn’t that Jesus the carpenter? Don’t his brothers and sisters live here in town? Who does he think he is?” Because of their lack of faith, plus even some “faith” that Jesus was just a guy putting on airs, he was unable to perform the sort of feats he was doing elsewhere, so he just cast out a demon or two and went on his way.
Of course a skeptic, or rather a positive nonbeliever, could say that the citizens of Nazareth knew Jesus better and thus were not fooled into thinking he was some kind of miracle worker, let alone the Jewish Messiah or the Son of God. David Hume had a similar idea against miracles when he pointed out that stories of the miraculous tend to originate in unsophisticated rural areas, and thus arise and are promulgated among gullible hicks before being accepted by the more urbane city dwellers who otherwise might know better. But it may be that these hicks have more faith in manifestations of divinity than do more worldly people, which then causes those manifestations to be more likely away from the sophisticated centers of Mammon worship.
The miraculous power of lack of faith, or rather anti-faith—faith in the nonexistence of miracles—may actually be supported by scientific data. Though the science in question is Parapsychology, it is true that the two fields of scientific research that characteristically have the most carefully designed, fraud- and stupidity-proof experiments, are particle physics and parapsychology: the former because renting a particle accelerator in Switzerland can be extremely expensive, so great efforts must be taken to ensure that the grant money isn’t wasted, and the latter because parapsychology research is very likely to be the target of attacks by devout materialists who insist that it’s all fraud and bullshit. So anyway, it has been found by researchers in parapsychology that people who are insistent that psychic phenomena like ESP are nonsense often score below random chance to a statistically significant degree. In other words, it is likely that latent, subconscious psychic talent is employed to cause the subject to guess wrong when guessing cards, for example, in order to justify the materialist beliefs of their conscious ego. The point is that positive disbelief in non-materialistic phenomena may have a suppressing effect on their very possibility, in individuals as well as entire cultures, which serves to justify the disbelief and also serves as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of spiritual bankruptcy.
But the thing is, divinity, perfection, ultimate reality, infinity, and infinite possibilities are everywhere, saturating everything, even if a materialistic person or civilization can’t see them. And even a militant atheistic materialist is going to have some inkling of it at a subconscious level, deep in his heart, unless he has somehow managed to be a total sociopath cut off completely from his own inner spirit, or maybe a soulless vampire or android incapable of genuine love or profound inspiration. That highest reality is bound to have its effects, even if it has to seep through the cracks in a person’s godless disbelief. So Guénon’s invisible shell can never be total for the overwhelming majority of people, and possibly can’t be absolutely total for any human being at all.
Still, this Absolute that dwells within us, this ultimate reality that pervades us and everything, is the source of so much that is great in our species, arguably the source of what is best in us, and in every civilization. Great inspirations have flowed from this fountain of all possibilities that some people are pleased to call the spirit of God, or Brahman, or Tao, or the One Mind, or at least the seed of divinity that lies in the human spirit. It is no coincidence that the greatest art, architecture, and music have been inspired by religion, and by spirit. Mechanistic materialism, and the idea that the human spirit is no better than a side effect of electrochemical reactions in the wetware of the brain, inspires very little.
A person who accepts an Absolute, who accepts, if not “God,” at least a higher truth, a capital-R Reality which is pervaded by divinity or perfection and which represents a truer description of the world than particles and waves and energy fields, is more likely to have access to this source of infinity in his or her heart. Such a person will be more inspired, and more genuinely creative, and also more able to realize what are vulgarly known as miracles; a mind open to the source of all possibilities is naturally more likely to realize possibilities that are extraordinary. In fact a deep down acceptance of the idea that anything is possible helps anything to be possible, at least in one’s own life.
Also this infinity inside us is the source of genuine love, in the biblical sense of Love is God, not mere animal mating instincts conditioned by hormones and so forth—though this kind of animal love may definitely contain a spark of the divine love also. Even a mother hen’s love for her chicks contains a speck of infinity, a tiny glimpse of divinity and perfection.
And now, if you will forgive me, I add some politics as a sting in the tail. This principle of divine miraculousness, and its rejection by hardcore materialists, is one of the many reasons why Marxism doesn’t work: it’s a brand of spiritually comatose and uninspired materialism. A scientist can still be moved to creation by a sense of childlike wonder, or even of spiritual devotion; whereas Marxism, including the new Social Justice variety of neo-Marxism, is a cult of spiritual death. It is uninspired, or inspired primarily by knee-jerk resentment and hysteria.
So be a leftist if you must, but committing spiritual suicide out of respect for fools like Karl Marx, Chairman Mao, or Bernie Sanders is rather pushing it past the limits of all that is good and holy.
FLOWER in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
P.S. And no, I'm not a Christian, and I do not "believe in God," and certainly not in Jehovah, the mad god of the Jews. I am a citizen of western civilization, however, which has been saturated by Christian ideas and archetypes, so I discuss religion to westerners in a way that may penetrate down into the archetypes of the collective subconscious mind of their race.