Winsome Words 3/27/2018

Keep clear of concealment–keep clear of the need of concealment. It is an awful hour when the first necessity of hiding something comes. The whole life is different thenceforth. When there are questions to be feared and eyes to be avoided and subjects which must not be touched, the bloom of life is gone.  Phillips Brooks

Jordan Peterson’s Project Is Necessary, But It Is Not Without A Dark Side

Jordan Peterson is all the rage as of late, propelled to fame on the front lines of cultural conflict by his stand against Bill C-16 in Toronto, which put fangs in gender pronoun wars. The university world came down on Peterson like a hammer on an anvil but soon found out that he was a match for PC culture. He came to the fight armed with something they had not expected – scholarship, research, a deep familiarity with both literature and culture, and an ability to maintain his cool while reloading his cannons of philosophical and psychological knowledge. He can take it. And then he can not only dish it out but leave no one standing on the field of battle.

He has been a sight to behold. His book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” has rocketed to #1 at Amazon, which I have not read. A bit less accessible is his work “Maps of Meaning,” which I have read as a resource for my philosophy classes. Many consider Peterson at this point in time the #1 intellectual in Western civilization. Males are flocking to his lectures, for he makes a large place for the historical role of the male as hero. Peterson’s disgust for the feminization of men is energetic and epic. He has become so prominent that the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker feels compelled to respond to him and assure his audience that he is no Jordan Peterson fan.

Peterson is even making his way into the church, though Peterson makes no religious commitments. Indeed, his heavy reliance on evolution, Jungian psychology, and mythic archetypes with a sprinkling of Freud is not the usual fare of conservative Christians. And yet they see in him a support for what they see in the Bible.

I am in general appreciative of Peterson’s pushback against the totatalitarianism of progressives and PC culture. Yet I know that what he asserts is rooted in models of thinking that have some darkness at their edges, and maybe in their center, as well. Pankaj Mishra’s article in the New York Review of Books, “Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism,” shines some light on it. If you are a Peterson fan, it is worth a read.

He writes, “Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations.” There is some truth here. The 1800s on the European continent saw the burgeoning of what is often called “national romanticism.” It was a move away from the Enlightenment project in which all was mind, reason, logic, intellect. What was being destroyed and disrupted was tradition, culture, belonging, replaced by the ever constant and increasing demands of better, more, and sharper. The old ways would not do anymore. We were men made new. And, of course, the Enlightenment project meant there had to be winners and losers, those who got it right and prospered and those who got it wrong and straggled behind, the opposite of the medieval feudal village with its stability and belonging.

The mind of artists and the intellectual class turned from the idolatry of reason to the world of romanticism, of myth, fairy tale, mystical place and nation. It was the world of Hans Christian Anderson. Out of this milieu came a fascination with tribe and place as centers of meaning, not science, commerce, trade, university. It wasn’t long before this developed a darker edge – a national romanticism that demanded loyalty, soul, and manhood in its defense, the hero, as it were.

The work of Freud and Jung fit into this time and historical meaning. Pankaj Mishra again. “In 1910, Romain Rolland summed up the widespread mood in which progress under liberal auspices appeared a sham, and many people appeared eager to replace the Enlightenment ideal of individual reason by such transcendental coordinates as ‘archetypes.’ ‘The gate of dreams had reopened,’ Rolland wrote, and ‘in the train of religion came little puffs of theosophy, mysticism, esoteric faith, occultism to visit the chambers of the Western mind.'”

Soon we were to see appear on the European stage heroes that embodied the mythic, the strong, the earthy, the tribe. This is the darker edge of Peterson’s world, the one which he must know but gives little time exploring. I think Peterson is right to see that there are truths about us that come out of our past, out of Eden, as it were, that reason alone cannot explain nor support. These truths are so real that to defy them is to be crushed by them. We are not self-constructed. To put it directly “We Are.”

Where do we find the definitions of who this “we” is? This is Peterson’s project. For him to complete it, he would be more helpful to make clear that this project can go into some very bad places.

We Are The 80%

WE ARE THE 80% – If you are a conservative Evangelical Protestant and politically active, the Evangelical gatekeepers want you to know you are embarrassing them.

Christianity Today feels compelled to post pieces meant to check you and remind you that you are ignorant and easy prey. You are the bitter clingers Obama spoke about and the deplorables HRC deplores. You are a sellout and a dupe, easy pickings for populism. How dare you be you. Jesus doesn’t like you.

But you are not alone. We are the 80% of Evangelicals.

Let the elite chase the fads of the times to keep their supposed cultural influence, even while they condescendingly chide you for your political influence, whereas they have none. They say they do not seek it. They do and have tried. But their brand has no buyers in the marketplace of ideas.

The best they can now do is turn against you.

The Day Whittaker Chambers Began His Turn From Communism

These are his own words from his stellar autobiography, “Witness.”

Avalanches gather force and crash, unheard, in men as in the mountains. But I date my break from a very casual happening. I was sitting in our apartment on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. It was shortly before we moved to Alger Hiss’s apartment in Washington. My daughter was in her high chair. I was watching her eat. She was the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life. I liked to watch her even when she smeared porridge on her face or dropped it meditatively on the floor. My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear—those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: “No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.

It is hard to overstate the influence Whittaker Chambers had on the burgeoning conservative movement in America. His accusation before the House Un-American Activities Committee that the former State Department official Alger Hiss was a communist spy  It ultimately brought several strands of conservatism together, which William Buckley, Jr. then formed into a self-conscious anti-Communist conservative movement. Chamber’s book, Witness, gave the movement much of its punching power. For a few brief months he worked for the new National Review before his failing health made it impossible to do so.

“Witness” is on any list of the top ten books on conservative reading. It takes its place not only due to its content but as well due to its literary value. It is not a political book. It is a book of philosophy, theology, and the meaning of a life well lived. Some consider it the best work of the 20th century, at least in autobiography. I am reading it now. The writing is delicious, forcing me to slow down and taste and digest morsel after morsel of truths that feed the soul.

The Hiss-Chambers duel before Congress and in courts is entertainingly described in the series on YouTube, A Pumpkin Patch, a Typewriter, and Richard Nixon. It is very well done.