An Autistic Theodicy: Original Sin(s) and an Alternative
June 21, 2019
“He who does not fear death is outside the tyranny of the devil.” – St. John Chrysostom
Most of the great conflicts of modernity have been waged in neurotic struggles between competing views of the ‘natural order’ of things, each claiming the authority of God, iron laws of historical development, or the ethics of the animal world, red in tooth and claw. Resulting notions of ‘human nature’ have been useful for cutting the legs off of stolid forms of authority, but the moment this task is accomplished, the paradigm asserts for itself a new ‘human nature’ that assumes the mandate to power. This requires a stable notion of Man, whose behaviors must then be predictable (what else is the use of a paradigm?). This is determined by Man’s relationship to the means of production, his relationship to Adam, his relationship to the state, or his relationship to his genetic material. When Predictable Man errs, i.e. becomes Man with Will, he errs ‘naturally,’ so to speak, in relation to whichever inborn behaviors suit a particular paradigm. When man errs against history, he is a class traitor. When Man errs against civil institutions, he is mentally ill. When Man errs against biology, he is dysgenic. When Man errs against the Volk, he is a Jew. When Man errs against God, he is a sinner. And so forth.
The contemporary view of human nature is difficult to pin down because there are many competing views that are easily heard and quite visible. Some journalists would have you believe that institutional skepticism is a manifestation of an inborn and latent white supremacy. Generally, though, it is commonly understood that humanity’s (Grant me to speak for everyone just this brief moment) ‘nature’ is heavily obfuscated by ideology. This point seems all the more veracious now that human history no longer covers only the scope of the Abrahamic histories. Now it is hundreds of thousands of years, millions of years if one includes the history of the genus Homo! Ponder a moment this leap. Man has made himself a footnote in the history of the earth, which is itself a footnote in the history of the universe, all to ultimately divorce himself from civilization, and reorient himself toward his biological, ‘natural’ state.
The impulse to understand our natural, temporal Other, aka pre-civilized man, comes from the desire to know a more ‘replicable’ ethics of the Universal World Man, who is unsullied by ideology and more predictable than Particular Man. UWM is reduced to his DNA and prehistoric cultural infrastructure (sometimes egalitarian, sometimes ruthlessly violent, always patriarchal), which are somehow ascertained from bones that have laid in the dirt for millennia. Other glimpses of the elusive UWM can be gathered from existing ‘hunter-gatherer’ societies who only live in the regions of the Earth where Mammon has not yet penetrated e.g. noxious jungles and vast deserts. As E.A. Gutkind writes, most sociologists would do well to study themselves rather than Amazon tribes. Even still, there is hope in this paradigm that we will find humans all come from the same place, right? Turns out even that is wrong. According to Yuval Harari’s Obama-cosigned Sapiens, there exist significant traces of Neanderthal DNA in Middle Eastern and European populations, whereas many south Asian populations seem to have been closer relatives to Denisovans. Harari mentions that this nugget is ‘dangerous’ for science; eventually an ontology becomes too complex to support the weight of its adherents.
The Augustinian doctrine of original sin is likely an origin of this paradigm, dealing as it does with man’s “nature,” fallen. Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil gave Adam and Eve a sinful nature, which, through reproduction, induced in Man a ‘nature’ that cleaves him from God’s divinity. Adam became a sinner. Man is one. Compare this to the Orthodox doctrine of ancestral sin. In this view, Man inherited from Adam a psychological tendency toward sin, a result of learning Knowledge of Good and Evil. Big difference. In one, you are a dirty creature, whose only hope of redemption can come from exorcising the sinful elements from within you else perish from the Kingdom of God. In the other, you are born, and Adam’s knowledge of Good and Evil is epigenetically (culturally) transmitted to you, which induces you as a Man, a creature of Will, to sin. One you fight against your person, the other you fight against a tendency of your person, which is itself a spiritual response to knowledge and understanding of inevitable death and sin. Without life in Christ, Man is driven mad by this struggle. He adopts any means he can to delay his mortality, usually either becoming subordinated to worldly powers or developing his own.
Long ago, this was a less complicated undertaking, as administration was technologically limited to smaller territories, and communication took much longer. Today, areas of administration are so large that administrators cannot hope to control everyone with force, and instead funnel them toward ends productive to the institution or State with ideotechnologies, like civil law, education, and cultural artifacts. Marx called these phenomena the Superstructure of Capital, and Paul referred to them as “principalities and powers.” The more people that need to be controlled, the more you need sophisticated ideotechnologies to keep them controlled without use of force – the Panopticon comes to mind. Of course, institutions don’t hesitate to deal punishment, but much more effective is the implication that an errant citizen or participant has deviated from the ‘natural’, simply because they have no place in the order, or because they actively threaten it with their effects as participants.
A good example in the clinical realm is autism. According to Kantbot’s trenchant essay ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, School Psychologists Do’, 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with this disability. In this case, an errant participant in society is one whose behaviors do not line up with those deemed ‘healthy’ by a growing cohort of school psychologists whose chief role is to ensure public education runs without interruption. Much has also been said about depression as well, which seems to affect everyone these days. These are psychological conditions produced by the same society that wishes to get rid of them. What do you do give a sad dog in a kennel? Antidepressants and food.
In the same way that Man despairs and sins because of his mortality, so too a society, developed expressly to delay mortality (is this not Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?) induces despair in its citizens, especially when it becomes large. The ideotechnologies for such a society (democratic and liberal) need to be utile and self-evident for all its citizens, and thus become enormously complex to incorporate people from all possible walks of life. Eventually the whole artifice requires too great a degree of faith from its members to keep it afloat.
No matter how ostensibly useful the ‘truths’ produced by this society may be (they usually aren’t), a more sagacious understanding of truth can be found in the Book of John, Chapter 14, verse 17.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
The Holy Spirit, described as the Spirit of Truth in this verse, is that which is bestowed to the individual after Christ’s resurrection, but also that which the World can never know. The individual has a direct conduit through the spirit to Truth, but the world, as a Gestalt, cannot have this.
This is the opposite goal of the liberal state and technoscience. Both justify themselves from the universal perspective of the material, that which is plainly observable, and critically, replicable by all. This is to say that the chief combined achievement of the sciences and liberal statecraft has been to recognize that all humans can basically agree on ‘truths’ they can grasp at an arm’s reach with their God-given five senses and logos. When an individual experiences instances of the particular that do not fit these universals, or becomes discouraged at the contradiction and complexity of Man’s governance upon their basis, there are two options. Society tells Man the problems are within him, and he is institutionalized (medical institutions and universities are doppelganger principalities) or guided socially to exorcise these problems and turn him into a more cogently firing network-node. Notice it doesn’t exclude him, it incorporates him as a problematic element within an otherwise functioning machine, which has developed organs to make Man operant at least as an object to be studied, manipulated, and taxonomized.
On the other hand, Man may renounce his mortality and look outward, recognizing that he is being pushed by fellow men who too have a common tendency toward death and sin, and that the love of Life is not found in a social circumstance in which all material effort is given to insure one is insulated from death. All other definitions of freedom falter when compared with this one:
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matt 6:25)
A more radical proposition on Earth there has not been one given.
‘Isn’t this just an alternative ‘nature’, charlatan?’ cries the Cynic. ‘You have merely replaced the static, inborn impurity of Original Sin with an inborn psychological tendency.’ Yes, it is ‘merely’ an alternative, though I think it is a more fruitful one. Renouncing civilization as a whole is passé, and ultimately some sense of who Man is at his core is necessary for sociality. But from this perspective, all Men (presidents, pontifices, landlords, bureaucrats, soldiers, farmers, doctors, bankers, drug addicts, harlots, journalists, merchants) are subordinated to a common struggle for spiritual existence in the asymmetrical battle between Good and Evil. Within this nature, the fight is not against errant “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12)
Man does not inhabit this world as an individual, so it is useless to shrink the unit of Man’s struggle for spiritual existence to him. He inhabits the world as member of principalities and powers, adherent of ideologies, and other such earthly things. Much of Man’s history lies in conflict between these abstractions, and the means by which they have consolidated power. To academics, I say this: you already understand that worldy wisdom can only be relative, and to believe it is more is to have faith in an ontology that subordinates you to a secular Whole, whose sole gifts to you are a carrot and a stick.
When I was young, I felt that the world and the universe were a complete system, within which I lived, a member of a nation among nations. Spirituality seemed to play a subordinate and rather ancient part within Man. Now I feel it frankly more accurate (and beautiful) to say that the universe, the world, and all the nations in it rest within God, a Whole more vast than can be comprehended. Understanding this kind of Truth is a matter of faith alone. It is a Truth (Love) that is not sentimental and half-hearted. It is literally selfless, unlimited, beyond Man’s comprehension and capability, and uniquely knowable by you. It is an ideal that annihilates relativism and the infernal power of lifeless institutions that claim to know Man’s ‘nature’ so they may control him. I’ll end with a quote from Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You :
“The ideal that has power over men is not an ideal invented by someone, but the ideal that every man carries in his soul. Only this ideal of complete infinite perfection has power over men and stimulates them to action.”
The Kingdom of God is within the Autist, too.