Posted by: Harold Knight | 05/08/2011

“Anti-, Neo-, Post-, and Proto-: Conservative” class warfare: my experience of the numinous

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(Another of my too-personal postings)
Reading paragraphs like this

Hood and Morris (1981:82) note that the frequency of mystical experience and the commonality of the description are consistent themes running through more popular treatments of mysticism. The foregoing has caught both social scientists and religious leaders by surprise, albeit for different reasons. For their part, religious leaders generally circumscribe the mystical experience within a relatively narrow range of religious experiences, with Christian leaders historically, having expressed some reticence concerning claims of mystical experience (1).

is one of my favorite pastimes.

Today I should not be taking the time to write. I still have the final papers for 45 students left to read, and I’m required to post the grades by Thursday. I’m also substituting for an organist friend of mine this morning and I haven’t practiced enough. Fortunately it’s an organ I know and service I can almost play without the music.

Reading academic journal articles on topics that seem anything but “academic” is great fun right at the moment because one section of my students’ work is an annotated bibliography that must be absolutely perfect in MLA format to be acceptable (see the footnotes below). I tell my students this is one time in their academic lives when perfection is required regardless whether or not it improves their fragile self-images or gets them ready to pass Governor Perry’s standardized tests designed to dumb-down the entire nation. I also tell them they can do it because I could teach a chimpanzee with the right language skills to do it (2).

The fact is, I’d guess based on the flimsiest personal observation and not science, 50% of my students could not decipher the paragraph above. Remember these are first-year students at a prestigious university. For starters, most of them would have difficulty understanding what is meant by “mystical experience.” They would not know the definitions of: mysticism, albeit, circumscribe, reticence. They would not be able to explain—well, explain any of it.

This woeful state of ignorance is not their fault, of course. It is the fault of the “conservative” elitist project of the years since the “Regan Revolution” to make Americans dumber and dumber by destroying public education. This is done primarily by blaming teachers for all the ills of the nation and making them “accountable” to some mystical set of “outcomes” of education that attempts to quantify “knowledge” rather than helping students discover how to think.

All of this is a basic tenet of the Regan Revolution which was the ultimate in class warfare in the history of the west (more powerful and effective than Russian Bolshevism) : use the power of government to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and in the process make the rich an elite class of educated oligarchs ruling and ripping off the labor and good graces of the poor. This was engineered even at the expense of the ability to think of most of the rich (it costs something over $50,000 per year to attend my university—unless your daddy went there and you get in on some sort of legacy scholarship—an amount that I, for one, have never earned in a year). If too many people could understand a sentence like, “For their part, religious leaders generally circumscribe the mystical experience within a relatively narrow range of religious experiences,” too many people would understand just what the neo-cons, or, as Nancy Love calls them, “The Anti-, Neo-, Post-, and Proto-: Conservative Hybrids” (3), are up to, and the jig would be up.

Of course, this writing is an example of what will happen if a moderately (I am not being self-effacing: my intelligence is moderate at best; I know some really brilliant people, and I ain’t one of them)  intelligent person of the lower middle class gets himself educated well enough to think about a few things moderately well.

I began this thinking I was going to write about the great conundrum of my own mystical experience. I have it. That’s about all I can say for sure about it. The riddle is that I keep having these intimations of the “immanent,” the “holy,” the “sacred,” the “expanding universe,” and I have lost whatever belief I had in “god” earlier in my life.

So here I am today, getting ready to go to play the organ at a church, the denomination of which I have left for another (my real allegiance), where I know that somewhere in the middle of the service—whether or not it will happen while I’m playing the organ is up for grabs—I will be overwhelmed by a sense there’s something going on that neither I nor anyone else is in control of. The building is perfectly ugly, the people are really strangers, the symbolic structure of the event (“the body of Christ given for you”) is bizarre. The organ is thrilling. One can feel a great conflict of power and humility playing it, and it is the only thing in the experience that I can say I love.

Yet, it will happen. Is it Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, family indoctrination I cannot shake, desperation to find some “meaning” in my life besides my certain death, the hyped up activity of my brain (read Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sacks: I don’t have time to footnote it), or some kind of transcendent reality (God) that still keeps popping up just about wherever I look.

I think Christian leaders are correct when they “historically, [express] some reticence concerning claims of mystical experience” (in fact I know they are). But still, this thing keeps happening to me. Probably to lots of other people who just ignore it or don’t even notice it.

And I’ll tell you a secret. The “Anti-, Neo-, Post-, and Proto-: Conservative Hybrids” (who use the religious-or-whatever-it-is confusion of the masses to opiate the people as surely as Marx, Lenin, or anyone else ever did) would be mightily pissed off (and scared) if enough people got well enough educated to really think about such things—or about anything important.

There. Gotta run. Hypergraphia somewhat mollified for the day, and miles to go before I sleep.
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(1) Drazenovich, George, and Celis Kourie, “Mysticism and mental health: A critical dialogue.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 66.2 (01 Sept. 2010): 845. Referencing: Hood, Ralph and R.J. Morris.  “Knowledge and experience criteria in the reporting of mystical experience.” Review of Religious Research 12.1 (1982): 76−84.
(2) PBS. “PRIME-TIME PRIMATES: Chimps Count.” In the Classroom. PBS.org. 2000. Web. 8 May 2011.
(3) Love, Nancy S. “Anti-, Neo-, Post-, and Proto-: Conservative Hybrids, Ironic Reversals, and Global Terror(ism).”  New Political Science.  31.4 (December 2009).

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Responses

  1. If you haven’t read “Sacred Contracts” by Carolyn Myss, I highly recommend it.

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  2. Well, if I negotiated this confusing mess, I must have been even less intelligent then than I am now. For starters, who is his right mind would make contract to gay in this world? ;>)

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