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If there is one thing humanity needs to hear right now, it is this: "Grow up!" However, this is not the form of maturity of which is commonly spoken, by which they mean a certain docility and resignation that allows one to call a job and servitude to social prestige a meaningful life. The usage here refers to the ultimate maturity, which is an ability to accept reality in all of its positive and negative dimensions, and resolve to act upon it as is necessary.
We could call this ultimate maturity "realism," because when all the semantic arguments are brushed aside, and all the ontological concerns shown to be aspects of the same question, we realize that most of human discourse centers on objects of perception without stopping, first, to form a comprehensive system. Since there is no explanation for our world as a whole, what replaces logic is an ability to analyze details intently, without ever discovering the interconnection between data.
This basic failing is akin to us as humans selecting to believe only that which originates in a human mind, and to relegate reality - the interaction of beings, natural forces, and objects in our physical real-time world - to second-class status. Whether we pick materialism or dualism, both extremes serve us badly by taking our attention away from an observation of life and pointing it toward arbitrary linguistic problems that do not necessarily related to reality.
As such, realism is the king of all scientific outlooks, and herein is its paradox: although we all live in the same world, not all have the fineness of perceptual analysis to understand realism. Most people not only "would prefer to" cling to stolid absolutes that require no interpretation or context to be applied, but also cannot conceive of any other form of belief system. It is only in our recent (400 years) mania for new customers to not offend that we have made the presumption that all people, if "given the same advantages," can understand the same complex thoughts.
Thus we have a troubling situation, onto which another is rapidly piled: a nearly indefinable belief based upon a reality in which we all live, but which we perceive to different degrees. Luckily, nature makes this easy for us, and the best-bred among us are the ones who - owing to greater intelligence, health and moral character - are able to perceive not only what is, in an immediate sense, but its function, even over time. These are realists who often move to the next level, which is idealism.
Idealism in the vernacular means something different from philosophical idealism; in philosophical idealism, one suggests that the world is (a) composed of thought or (b) operates in a similar method to thought; the two are roughly conflatable, in that if the world operates as thoughts, on the high level of abstraction at which philosophy works, it might as well be thought. Still, even the most spacy of the idealists affirm realism as the basis for their idealism. How does this work?
What we call science is the process of deducing structural functions to our world, and then using those to in turn predict responses to certain events or actions. When we understand how our world works (realism), we can then turn toward the question of its manipulation (idealism), which is subdivided into questions of how, which relate directly to our degree of realistic perception, and why, which are more akin to the goal-setting tendencies of idealism. Realism is perception; idealism is a study of design both in perception and moral action.
Of course, balancing these two ideas is quite a challenge for almost anyone, and only the smarter ones among us can do it - but among Indo-Europeans, this is not as small of a population as one might think. Although the dumbest among us make themselves known as the loudest, there is usually a silent group who function at a high level of efficiency and care deeply about doing the right thing; these however lack the impetus to draw attention to themselves, as they already understand a spiritual principle by which self is secondary to whole. These people understand the secret of nihilism.
Unlike most philosophical systems, which are based on achieving an ideal or asserting a value as higher than others, nihilism is a discipline. It's a way of training your mind to look at the world, and from it, as in any fully-developed philosophical system, comes an explanation of the entirety of philosophy as opened for us by the initial realizations of nihilism. Once again, it's not for everyone; if you don't get it, you might not be ready, and many among us will never be ready, as they literally lack the circuitry to understand it. Much as you cannot educate a kitchen blender into a supercomputer, you cannot make a philosophical genius out of the average mind.
Nihilism seems a paradox. It denies all value, thus obliterating the objective/subjective and mind/body divisions favored by dualists, yet it upholds the idea of abstract structure ("design") behind our cosmos, as when one denies value one turns to function, specifically function of the physical world. It is not, however, materialism, as materialism champions a faith that material comfort and individual survival are the highest goals that exist; most likely, those who are materialists lack the circuitry to go further. Nihilism is a form of idealism, in that it posits an order to the universe that can be understood through logic, but rejects value-judgments as a method of doing this; don't categorize and classify, suggests nihilism, but describe. Describe structure, not physicality or emotionality.
In this we achieve the beginnings of a fully mature philosophy, something akin to the "pragmatic idealism" Nietzsche described or the pessimistic Hindu-inspired idealism of Schopenhauer; it is reminiscent of the beliefs of early Greco-Roman civilizations, where the gods personified natural forces and were beyond any form of "moral judgment," or classification into good and evil. When the ashes settle over the last thousand years of Western civilization, it will quickly become clear that moral classification led us to a kind of linear thought that detached us from a study of systemics, and thus allowed us to do ludicrously destructive things in the name of details - the individual, an absolute moral principle, or the need to make some cold hard cash.
One of the best aspects of nihilism and cosmic idealism alike is their rejection of absolute moral judgments, meaning any type of rule that applies without context and to all people alike. The simplest example is the hypocrisy over murder in the West; we say murder is wrong, and then murder people for committing murder. A nihilist avoids the initial error by never saying "murder is wrong," but instead, electing to murder those who threaten whatever values are held dear. A rapid stratification appears among human beings at this point, because depending on where we are on the intelligence-moral character scale, we value different things. Those who are at the higher end of such a scale have valuable opinions, and the rest... should probably be oppressed.
All philosophical concepts are interrelated, and every philosophical system uses a core concept as an introduction to all other parts of philosophy; if your system is idealism, for example, you translate all other philosophical questions into idealist vocabulary, and then analyze them and synthesize responses from that point. A nihilist system is no different. Nihilism is both radically different from Christianity, but agrees with it on many points, much as it does with Hinduism and other cosmic idealist systems. If it has an enemy, it would be the lower-level systems, like materialism and superstition, which rules out Judaism and Voodoo.
However, any good nihilist does apprehend quickly why in ancient societies the principle of karma/caste was rapidly attached to a postmoral system: if there is no prohibition against killing, one had better limit that function to those who know enough to handle it. In the same way we do not give firearms to three-year-olds, certain privileges must be earned by those who show aptitude and character for them. As most of the questions of philosophy are complicated enough to take a lifetime, ancient societies tended to breed people for these roles, thus producing the original definition of aristocracy: the philosopher-kings and warrior-kings who knew how to wield the power they had.
A modern comparison to this is any form of martial art. The students are taught slowly to take on the powers of a fully capable fighter, so that alongside raw technique they may absorb years of wisdom - and be sent away by their teachers if they are psychopaths or otherwise defective. Just as one does not teach post-911 Arab students to take off in planes but not land them, one does not teach nutcases to kill with a punch. The caste system is part of this karmic order in that it is recognized that, with each advance in breeding, the design of the next generation changes; those designs are most likely to function as their ancestors did. As a result, one creates groups like aristocracies which are bred for the finest traits and pass them along to their offspring.
This system works surprisingly well. Outside of a few defectives, most people have the abilities of their parents, if developed by education. Even more importantly, they have the moral inclination and traits of their parents, and therefore make similar types of decisions. The power of nihilism and postmorality in ancient societies was kept among those who had for generations proven themselves able to wield it; this is a more effective system than our modern one, which supposes that "anyone" could be effective with this kind of power, so we give it to them and hope they don't screw up. Remember that during election year.
What we refer to as postmoralism was designed for elites by breeding, as it is a complex system. Essentially, traditional "Western" (Judeo-Christian) morality is designed around simple rulesets: evil is bad, murder is evil, therefore if you murder, you are evil and we should murder you. Postmoral tradition, as mentioned above, does not waste time banning murder. It asks, simply, was the murder fortunate? which means: did the murder increase the elegance and graceful function of a natural order? If one has murdered a child molestor, order is increased and made better; if you murder a child who otherwise would likely done great things, you are probably a psychopath and should be murdered.
In warfare, for example, murder was viewed as glorious in the idealistic tradition, as those who lost lives had done so in fulfilment of their place in a natural order, and in doing so, had risen a level in the karmic cycle by not shirking from what must be done. Even more, victims were sacrifices to the gods of the nature, and had fulfilled their own role; material fortunes came second to spiritual ones (a complete reversal of the modern logic). One did not weep for a conquered enemy, but sang for the whole of nature, as in the growth of better people a more logical order was instituted.
Other examples come to mind. Idealists tended to treat their women better than any other group; they gave them privileges, had laws against their mistreatment, and tended to murder and mutilate those who committed rape, incest, and assault in peacetime. In war, it was different; rape of a conquered enemy was viewed as a chance to increase the breeding potential of that tribe, and was thus a joyful occurrence. If a warrior with IQ of 140 raped a woman with IQ of 85, the logic went, she received an upgrade (payable in next generation) of some IQ points, thus all was cool. It's important to note, of course, that idealists did not engage in world wars for economic and political commodities, thus it's impossible to compare their actions to those of a modern time.
Another example is money. For those who deserved money as a means of achieving their function, it was viewed as a natural right and something not to be questioned; for those who did not have such a use, it was seen as suspect to care too much about it. If you have enough to live and retire, what is the need for desiring more? - they viewed it in the same way our current society views people who spend their entire income on pornography and lubricant: obsessive. Money was something granted by the gods for a purpose, not a purpose in itself, as it is in modernity.
Unfortunately, this system was replaced with a one-size-fits-all system, in which postmoral rules cannot apply, because they must apply to everyone, equally, in order to be "fair." As one might guess, such a system was not created by the few highly intelligent ones, but by the masses of unstable and unspecialized people who inherently fear those who might be more capable than they. The masses won by numbers, and overwhelmed their leaders and aristocracy, and that brought us the downfall of Greece, of Rome, and the future downfall of America. It also brought us absolute moral judgment and "good"/"evil."
Now that America has run its course, and it has become clear to even liberals that the system is collapsing under its own weight and paradox, the idea of a postmoral society is again considered. And, as all concepts are linked, people are again considering the concept of an aristocracy of our most capable to wield the kind of unfettered power that such a civilization allows. Creating rigid moral rules, and then having checks and balances on leaders, hasn't worked; not only has corruption flourished, but we've been unable to make necessary long-term decisions.
While our system is reassuring to those who fear they are inadequate, it has traded sanity for the accomodation of those who are defective or underperforming, and not surprisingly, the results have been terrible. This is why humanity needs to "Grow up!" and realize that we're not all equal, and we need some qualified leaders fast, before we make ourselves miserable and then in short order, exterminate ourselves and all that we care about. To take that step, we need to go down the winding path from realism to idealism through nihilism, and in doing so, to cultivate in ourselves a new maturity.
July 18, 2005