Welcome to the Pons Asinorum

There is no easy fix

Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon

Facing the Reality of a Lack of Moral Courage

Joyous Insurgency & the Long Game?

A Strategy for People Celebrating Life

Projects: Gramscian Damage: Competing Agendas

All that follows is not meant to be definitive but only an exploration of possibilities. It suggests an approach to understanding much of what is going on in the world in the context of an historical consciousness that is aware of underlying cultural influences revolving out the rationalization and/or justification of power on the part of individuals and groups over the span of human history. Such intellectual support has opportunity costs, some of which are outlined below.

Entering the reality of such a group is carried out in four steps:
1. Placing the statement within Lonergan’s scheme of conditioning and sublating levels of consciousness, four different “selves” of passive acceptance of reality, of being a detective in search of truth, of being a dispassionate judge of what is or is not real, and of being the creator of meaning in a search for a sound terminal value with which to guide individuals and societies.

2, Working out the primary elements as the position conditions higher level cognitive operations while sublating lower levels of being.

3. Giving examples of how all this is working out in society, with particular references to current events in the US.

4. Examining the foundation position justifying the position.

 Is/Is Not
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The statement “There is no truth, only competing agendas” is a judgment.

  • It represents a fundamental criteria at the level of judgment:
    • As such, it biases any form of understanding or experiencing.
    • Such a bias constrains any discourse or dialogue by negating any quest for what is true, replacing it with a hermeneutics of suspicion: what is that person really up to?
    • The pursuit of Truth hides the true power-seeking dominance over reality.
    • Anyone who stands for a moral life cannot be in fact moral.
  • It sublates understanding:
    • Whatever a person says, it is not what he or she says that is important, only the overt or covert agenda behind their words.
    • Socio/political discourse is reduced to conflict over who gets to determine what is or is not real.
    • The good of order disintegrates in an atmosphere of conflict and suspicion between individual and/or groups that leaves much of the populate vulnerable to the mechanizations of powerful people.
    • Racism is removed from any common theoretical understanding and becomes implicit in political discourse as a fundamental expressing of conflicting agenda in what is essential a contest over power, over who dominates whom.
    • Science as a separate realm of meaning becomes subordinate to political agendas, for there cannot be a scientific truth independent of the conscious or unconscious desire to control.
  • It sublates experiencing:
    • One experiences a highly politicized world in which everything is reduced to the exercise of power.
    • It negates any legitimate use of authority, for any authority only hides a hidden power agenda.
    • The world is experienced as raw nature, a “tooth and claw” mentality where survival belongs to the powerful and resistance to power is the only legitimate form of action.
    • Any transcendental reality is reduced to personal/collective will, the “superman” who is unconstrained by any outside or higher power and exercises his or her own will to dominate, to control.
  • It truncates or conditions the reflective level of deciding:
    • There can be no moral standards for any morality hides a hidden power/dominance agenda.
    • It automates the dialectic between good and evil, for the Divine Mystery has to be reduced to impotency (after all, people who assert that the Divine Mystery is real are only deceiving themselves, hiding their true agenda of maintaining power over others).
    • The only open avenue is to follow is the anti-live generative principle in the dialectic between good and evil, the “satanic” path of lies, deceit, gas lighting, and subversion of all that is good.
    • This truncation ends with the creation of a hell on earth, best represented in history by the National Socialist Party’s concentration/death camps but also evidenced by the killing fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia, the purges of Mao, or the gulags of Stalin.
    • The only possible terminal value is the power to dominate, an end point that reduces any and all institutions to one and one only reality—political conflict, value positioning, and exercising a “Critical Theory” that exposes the naked drive for enslaving others.
    • Co-operation between free people at the level of reflective understanding is no longer possible.
    • The lack of a free people eliminates the possible of challenges to the existing power structure because the decision to follow higher and better terminal values can never reach into the public sphere.
    • A secular attitude must be maintained at all costs, including the elimination or isolation of Jews and Christians from the public sphere.
    • Action becomes arbitrary, without any reason other than the need to exercise control and subordinate others. 

There exist opportunity costs. Certain possibilities for development are curtailed, and an emergent Cosmopolis is one of them. The destruction of the good of order diminishes the steady stream of goods upon which any society depends, thus eliminating the middle class and spreading poverty. At this point, those seeking or holding power can exercise their “calling” by providing benefits or entitlements that in effort constrain the poor to their own poverty while providing job opportunities for their own in government, education, or administration as “overseers” of the “deplorables”, the “plebs.” Playing one group off another becomes the primary method of control, a “divide and conquer” strategy for gaining and holding power typical of a death-orientated generative principle.


  • The imposition of multi-gender designations including transgender invasion of what have been traditional safe places such as female bathrooms—a form of gas lighting that negates the users own moral beliefs as well as the evidence of their own eyes.
  • Racism defined solely as white oppression, where there cannot exist any form of black racism for the simple reason that blacks do not hold positions of power.
  • The judicial injunctions against President Trump’s suspension of immigration from a number of countries based not on law but on Trumps “anti-Muslim” statements while campaigning for president—an example of how an Trump must have a hidden agenda based on discrimination of a powerless and oppressed group who by definition must be innocent of any charges.
  • The prevalence of “critical theory” rather that critical thinking in academic institutions, redefining critical thinking only as criticism of an elite power structure of white privileged oppressors.
  • Closed borders can only be understood as the repression of the poor and not as for example as safe space for the emergence of a culture devoted to true values or the protection of a more humane way of living.
  • Multiculturalism is the norm, with the “underclass” as protected species so although all cultures are equal to each other some cultures are more equal than others.
  • What used to be thought of as catastrophic climate warming and is now categorized as climate change, itself an oxymoron since by definition the climate is always changing, becomes not a scientific endeavor to understand the world in which we live but a means to acquire power by subverting science to political struggles involving the creation of a global government of technocrats and a political/social elite.

It is clear that the judgment “There is no truth, only competing agendas” cannot be upheld for the simple reason that it negates itself. The paradox that the statement is true when the statement itself holds there cannot be any truth, and yet the statement is still held as being true, means that there must be other ways of support. Since the only possible realm of meaning that could contain such a position is that of the realm of common sense understanding, all others being negated because they involve seeking what is true.

Lonergan’s patterns of common sense may provide a guide to considering a number of factors.

  • Biological: human beings start their lives as a species of animals, hence a number of biological needs underlie many common sense practices involving reproduction, survival (food, etc.), and the maintenance of a community. By adopting this particular position, it becomes possible for individuals and groups who would not normally occupy positions of power, authority, or influences to gain access to a wide range of resources including females. The social realities of a declining good of order are offset for them by destroying any merit system that might otherwise deny them access to biological resources.
  • Aesthetic: awe and mystery that once belonged to the Divine Mystery are now allocated to purely human endeavors as humans become the ultimate arbitrator of what is or is not good. The problem is that under such conditions human interests inject a purely arbitrary non-rational element in human affairs as it is the pure exercise of power rather than any attempt to govern that preoccupies their minds. So not only are moral stances to be opposed and contradicted at any opportunity, but status within this community of believes is based on adherence to a number of communal beliefs concerning the good. So value positioning becomes the accepted means of communal self-identification and signaling regardless of any truth to the matter. Any attempt to negate what is a key status indicator runs into gut-level reactions for the simple reason that the person’s very self-identify is put at risk.
  • Dramatic: By redefining all statements of truth as masks for a hidden agenda, all elements of society are brought into a common high drama of salvation and redemption—a saving the world mentality of rejecting oppression and supporting the oppressed. Good against evil is there underlying drama of the world, and what better where in enhance one’s position and elevate one’s emotional engagement than to reduce everything to a fight between good and evil where by one’s value positioning one is always or the side of the good. Other people may not agree, in which case subversion may be necessary to protect people from themselves. The drama itself provides a justification for seeking power, which because of its underlying transcendental level brings with it a personal challenge to go beyond one’s limited life and assume a position of importance.
  • Intellectual: While there is a degree of intelligence involved in the realm of common sense, it is relatively confined to the common sense of a particular time and space. This means that such a position can be supported by a group consensus regardless of any scientific, philosophical, or theological counter-arguments. It becomes true not because there is any underlying affirmable reality to the position, but because it is a commonly held belief that binds a community or a culture together. In this sense, the position itself is a counter-position that defends itself not by engaging in other realms of meaning where approximate truth (the empirical sciences) or absolute truth (theology) are asserted, but by negating these very forms of inquiry.


There is no truth, only competing agendas.

COSMOPOLIS April 5, 2017 Notes

These Gramscian memes were designed to destroy classical structures of meaning. This might not have work if it were not for the increasing secularization of the public space in Western societies undercut Judeo-Christian patterns of living, a consequence of both the Romantic period as well as the Enlightenment.

Lonergan deals with the loss of classical cultural norms by appealing to the contemporary emphasis on method, on procedures, rather than absolute truths as the primary means of controlling meaning. To do this, he draws upon the empirical sciences reliance on the principles of the scientific method not as a strict model to pursue but as an example of one way in which such control can be obtained. The remainder of Method lays out the appropriate procedures for the humanities in general and theology in particular, basing his transcendental method on the fundamental operations of the conscious mind and the unrestricted desire to know.

As part of this, a Cosmopolis organization is heavily involved in the formation of those who seek freedom, who seek to be liberated from the chains we ourselves have forged. After all, while we may know the “proper” way for human to live, this means nothing if we cannot follow the path that has been laid out for us by the Divine Mystery. Indeed, even being able to discern the “right” path is a function of the chains that bind us. It is like a patient whose doctor knows exactly what needs to be done to restore him or her to health and yet is blocked by the patient who refuses to accept the doctor’s recommendations. The recent measles outbreak is due to a great extent to the rejection of inoculations because a fear among the population that the injections themselves are harmful.

 There are local problems and there are large scale institutional problems. While local issues may grab one’s attention and efforts, it is large scale fundamental institutional changes that really make the difference. For example, a pan-fire in a kitchen means nothing if the entire neighborhood is burning down. The moral? Pay attention to fundamental institutional changes, for they will be the primary variable affecting your well-being. [What then is the highest level “institutional” change? I would maintain that it lies in the dialectic between a life-affirming Divine Mystery and a life-denying “Satanic” generative principle that creates a hell on earth.]


Why should we do this Cosmopolis work? Is not the situation hopeless, well beyond our own efforts? Perhaps it is, but even so this does not mean the effort must not be made [if we are to respect ourselves as reasonable and responsible human beings]. There are a number of other considerations. For example, not only do we as human beings tend to focus on the negative but our knowledge of what is going on is limited by our own limited existence in time and space; there may be others out there now who are waiting for what we have to offer. Then again, to acknowledge the Divine Mystery is to accept that only this mystery’s universal perspective truly applies to human affairs; our own knowledge is always proportional to who we are as a species. And if one accepts the existence of a “mystical body of Christ”, then it is quite possible that our own faith and hope builds the faith and hope of others in similar situations spread across all of time and space.

The one that intrigues me is that each advance allows others coming after us to go that much further, so by refusing to do this work we are in effect forcing later generations to it rather than expend their efforts on building upon what has already been done.

­­We live in a period where knowledge of history is no longer desirable, where the focus is on creating a better world, a “utopian” world through social justice where the lessons of the past are irrelevant. Such an ideal world requires a distain of all that has come before, since why undertake a radical change in human affairs unless the situation were desperate? Living in an a-historical world removes us from that great Jewish innovation: a linear perspective on time rather than the “eternal hills” of a pagan cyclic time. Within this linear perspective, humankind is on a long journey of gradual improvements punctuated by moments of radical alterations that jump-start the human trek toward the Divine Mystery.

So what are a few of these developments that are part and parcel of an historical consciousness?

  • The notion of a single unknowable God that reveals an ethical standard for all human beings, quite a change from a universe of pagan gods whose often arbitrary involvement in human affairs require appeasement. The Greek and Roman pantheons of all-to-human gods are a case in point.
  • ­The shift from cyclic time to that of a linear perspective with a beginning and end point, a radical innovation that exposed the possibility of progress as well as decline over long periods of time. The future could be radically different from the present.
  • A reframing of the way we interpret contemporary events, where for example the national socialist’s concentration camps can be understood as the concrete expression of the natural end point of following a “satanic” generative principle in human affairs or the radical shift in understanding that now holds governments accountable to their citizens [the latter is truly a radical shift in expectations; up until recently in human history, the norm has been that the powerful can do whatever they want to do without any constraint on the part of those they rule].
  • Western society is a reflective one, where being critical of one’s own behavior is normative. This in itself is a radical change in human existence, one that made slavery outlawed in the Western world. That slavery is still common in non-Western societies only demonstrates what an improvement such a reflective conscious is in human affairs.
  • Pure science is also a major development in human consciousness. Most civilizations have an applied form of empirical knowledge, be it medical or technological. But the unrestricted pursuit of scientific knowledge for its own sake is a radical shift that we take for granted. Yet even its possibility came about only because of a belief in the possibility of regular laws of nature. For pagan societies, such laws cannot be affirmed for the simple reason that the human world is experienced as conditional—if only because of the internal fights and individual pursuits of the gods. In the ancient world, the only regularity was to be found in the stars—so it was a major threat when the retrograde motion of Mars was observed. And comets were harbingers of evil, for they disturbed the eternal movement of the stars.
  • The wealth-creating system created by the Victorians and the Industrial Revolution. Up to this point, all wealth was based on a solar energy economy that supported a small elite. This made politics a battlefield, for the possession of political power gave access to the means of distributing what wealth there was. Wealth creation defanged politics for the simple reason that there could be thousands of millionaires while there could be only one prime minister, kind, or tyrant. The downside to wealth creation is its destructive effect on societies who depended on traditions to exist. However, it is no longer possible to return to traditional ways of living, for to do so would remove much of the industrial capabilities that support current population levels. The result would be mass famine on a scale not previously encountered.

We live in a psychological present that incorporates past, present, and future into a single moment of experience. As such, created self-affirming images of the past as well as the future, combined with images of what it means to be human and of human society, are the predominant elements. From multiple individual experiences comes the creation of a second level horizon that provides a common perspective of both time and space that is part and parcel of common sense understanding. But there is a third level horizon that constructs an invariant structure of time and space that provides a high level perspective on all of human history. We don’t have a truly accurate theory of history, although Lonergan maintained that Arnold Toynbee’s theory of history came close. Lonergan’s own work sheds light on the fundamental dynamics of progress, decline, reversal, or collapse.

The various charts that we have produced over the years are an expression of this higher level of human historical consciousness. “What is going on?” from a higher perspective. Note that higher perspective consist of different things and different operations upon things in a higher viewpoint that puts all lower ones in context. So in mathematics, the things and operations in algebra are different from those at the level of arithmetic (variables, negative numbers, imaginary numbers, and the full extension of operations for example).

Divine love & human love, and the problem of understanding the Divine based on human proportionality. There are a variety of human expressions of love, from mother-child and family-community, to an “eros” of the spirit. The problem is that trying to understand the divine’s approach based solely on human experiences is bound to distort and mislead what it means to be human. The problem is that human experiences are essentially bound to pagan love of family and clan and not to an invisible omnipotent divinity whose presence is announce by the very lack of presence [not really a paradox, as the actual presence of such a being would negate any possibility of human freedom; the presence of the divine is expressed through individuals].

You cannot talk about something as personal as love and freedom when you haven’t experienced the reality of such states of being. To talk about liberty and freedom to one who hasn’t had the experienced is to talk about possibilities without knowledge. How can one talk about self-constructed chains when no chains are recognized?

Humility is important. How often has it been said that doctors make the worse patients? Or teachers the hardest to teach (driving training)? There’s a degree of personal protection of status for the simple reason that to lose status is to lose access to resources. Willingness is perhaps the essential feature. “Man hear what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest” [Simon & Garfunkel,The Boxer].

Possible to do: reframing Gramscian memes and Alinsky ethics in an historical context.

The OODA Cycle. Observe, orientate, decide, act: whoever has the tightest cycle has the edge over those whose response time is far slower. A high level perspective provides a far faster way of observing and orienting oneself to fundamental institutional charges. Lonergan’s transcendental method combined with the collective methodology for being and doing forms a powerful tool for reducing the time to not only complete one such cycle but lay the foundations for a series of such cycles. [The problem with incomplete or inaccurate methods is that the world becomes filled with “unexpected events” whose occurrence could have been anticipated with a better scheme of understanding, and this includes the possibility of “black swans” and shifts to higher perspectives.

Dream Time. Australian Aborigines live in two realities: a “dream time” of the spirit and the immediate time of the body. Of the two, the real reality is that of the spirit, the “dream time” that reveals and expresses the deeper currents of human living that lie beyond human comprehension. For us, a combination of a belief in the reality of the Divine Mystery in human affairs combined with a depth of historical understanding capable of expression such a mystery provides the reality of an emergent Cosmopolis. [The details may differ, but the underlying motif remains the same.]

Learning how to Learn. Mathematics swims in a sea of functions that express the relationships between different variables. It is possible, when one first starts to swim in this sea, to memorize the functions that one needs to know. But with a shift to higher mathematics, there are simply too many functions to possibly commit to memory. What one needs to master is the ability to derive the necessary function within the conditions of the situation, a matter of learning how to learn. This higher level of learning how to learn supersedes any reliance on accepted beliefs or in other words on a classical system of belief.

The importance of this can be observed in one cause of fundamental institutional changes of our times: the proliferation of atomic weapons. Up to recent times, such weapons have been in the hands of two major powers—a situation that eventually led to the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). But this historical situation is rapidly changing with the spread of such weapons to other states such as Britain, France, China, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. And that is only the start. Also in the race is Iran, and if Iran becomes a fully nuclear power the Saudis will not be far behind (apparently they have jump-start arrangements with Pakistan). Already Japan and South Korea are considering going fully nuclear in response to as escalating North Korean threat.

The problem is given such a proliferation no one knows what are the appropriate strategies. Talk about a steep learning curve, a desperate need for answers that will dominate international affairs for many years to come.

There are only a few million human beings that really know how things work. If 80-90% of the population ceased to exist, yet these few remained, civilization could potentially rebuild itself. After all, it was the presence of skilled personal that enabled Germany to rebuild so quickly after the Second World War. Yet, if these few were to disappear, we would quickly fall into a dark age where even the knowledge of how to grow food would be reduced to little more than back-yard gardening.


We hope to muddle through. But the very advance of knowledge brings a power over nature and over men too vast and terrifying to be entrusted to the good intentions of unconsciously biased minds.                                        — Lonergan