"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, March 12, 2007

Vertical Memes and Horizontal Genes

One of the blogs I most enjoy reading is One Cosmos by the psychologist, mystic, and emphatically unPC Robert Godwin, author of One Cosmos Under God. I never comment there because, not knowing how to be tomfoolishly serious, I don't quite fit in; rather, in the words of a woman who reads both that blog and this one, I am "echt-serious." Nor would self-denominated "Gagdad Bob" ever be mistaken for an orthodox theologian. Instead, he's the kind of guy I loved hanging around in college: polymathic, passionate, metaphysical, playful, and utterly unable to tolerate what the late philosopher Harry Frankfurt defined as "bullshit." That's why I was delighted to read his post of last Saturday about the meaning and crisis of paternity.

Meditating on Jesus' healing of the royal official's son (John 4: 45-50), Bob writes (emphasis added) that the miracle

...speaks to the restoration of the divine-human hereditary archetype that was forged on the Friday of creation, prior to the Fall, which doesn't happen until the following Sunday evening at the earliest. The distortion introduced by the Fall is restored "by the father bringing his son into a direct relationship to the divine archetype -- through his [the father's] faith in Jesus Christ, the new Adam."

In other words, we mistakenly, if understandably, focus on the healing of the son, when the real action takes place in the father, who quite clearly "believed the word that Jesus had spoke to him" prior to the healing. So the real transformation -- and restoration -- occurs first in the father, but has a "vertical" trickle down effect on the son. After all, Jesus made a pretty brusque statement, "Go your way -- your son lives," but the father didn't doubt it. If he had, the entire meaning of the parable would be different.

This brings out a very important -- and perhaps dangerously politically incorrect -- psychological point, that there is something central to fathers and to fatherhood in arresting the intergenerational transmission of mind parasites. Frankly, this is common sense, but it is certainly confirmed if we examine the anthropological and sociological evidence.

Put it this way: in the absence of a strong, vertically oriented father figure, a boy is very likely to remain a more or less horizontal animal. He will be male -- a biological entity under the influence of his horizontal genetic and cultural programming -- but not a man -- which is the first vertical category introduced into human culture. Indeed, it is the foundation of human culture.

This is not difficult to understand. As I explained in the Coonifesto, the mother-infant dyad is a biologically natural phenomenon. Not until men entered that closed system could humans escape biology by becoming the psychologically trimorphic family: mother-father-baby. Thus, "father" is the pillar, so to speak, of society, a non-biological category that then alters the other two: mother simultaneously becomes wife, and baby simultaneously has a way to escape engulfment in the Great Mother archetype, but not without difficulty.

However, it is almost impossible to bridge this gap and escape the orbit of the primordial mother without a vertical father to model the way. Almost all of the really serious problems in society can be traced to the absence of fathers and of men, either literally or figuratively.

Read it all. The man is brilliant even when he's wrong. This time he's spot on.

His son is a fortunate kid.
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