Romanian writer, philosopher, and member of the Von Mises Institute, Ninel Ganea interviewed me concerning my own thoughts surrounding a variety of issues. Ninel runs Karamazov.ro and is posting the interview in 3 installments. Below is part 2.
Part 1 here
Part 3 here
You mentioned somewhere you were in between Orthodox Judaism and Eastern Christianity. Can you tell us what some of the strong and the weak points in these traditions?
These are complicated issues, but being raised with an interest in church and having a long interest in biblical theology, the Torah, prophets and wisdom literature had a profound effect on me. In my long religious trek, I basically got the point where I felt that there could be a divide with the Law and the New Testament. I’m the kind of person that is willing to question my own assumptions constantly, so I was willing to take a look at Judaism, especially since there is a close connect between the Kabbalistic view of the sephiroth and the Eastern Orthodox view of the divine energies. They are essentially describing the same things.
I branched out into reading Maimonides and modern Jewish writers, as well as looking at comparative liturgies. I also and found a lot of challenging material in Dr. Philip Sherrard, Maximos Confessor and Fr. John Romanides that led me to again look at the issue of Neo-platonism and the Trinity. The question that arose for me was, is this all derived from Hellenism? I’m not saying I have the answer to all that, I’m just saying what arose in my mind. At what point is the New Testament a radical departure from the Torah? How much continuity is there, really? I basically took these matters on for myself.
More recently, I’ve reexamined a lot of St. Maximos Confessor’s works, which have a lot of parallels with the kabbalists in regard to the macrocosm-mircocosm view he takes of the Incarnation. There is a strong argument to be made here for his view of the necessity of the logoi being unified in the Logos. This would actually solve a lot of philosophical and theological issues. There is a really good scholarly article by Stephen Clark on this titled “Maximus Confessor: Logos and Logoi,” that gets into this issue. I certainly think the Eastern view makes more sense than the Latin view, especially in terms of eschatology.
How do you explain the still living presence of the philosophy of empiricism although it has been discredited many times?
My university advisor used to comment on that frequently. I had several courses that dealt with phenomenology and Husserl is said to have lamented that naïve empiricism can never be killed. It seems to be immortal like a vampire, no matter how many times you kill it. The sophists existed in Plato’s time, and they exist still, and will continue. The reason for this in my analysis is simply the fall of man. Relativism is the end result of empiricism, which is ultimately what Adam and Even opted for in Genesis.
They decided they did not need revelation and truth to flourish, but opted for chaos by deciding they could determine their own meaning and become gods autonomously from their finite minds. They were the first empiricists, if I may cast the fall in a philosophical light. This was the lie of the serpent, it is what gnosticism deceptively promises, and it is the lie of the transhumanists still. Simply put, relativism continues because men love lies. And because men love lies, they are all the more susceptible to psychological warfare through media. You see then that all these things are connected.
Many people think nowadays that different traditions means cultural relativism. What is, in your opinion, the criteria to distinguish the better ones?
Clearly God created different peoples and tribes, so I don’t think difference is inherently relativistic. However, the modern assumption of the left is that because there is difference, everything is relative. This is a non sequitur: difference itself does not result in chaos and meaninglessness. Cultural relativism is simply the end result of the long chain of western errors mentioned above, being based on the philosophical error of epistemic relativism. The simplest way to show this is false is through looking at the claim itself: “There are no universal truths, axioms or morals.” The claim is self-refuting and a contradiction, since for the claim to be the case, it requires it be universally true, yet the claim denies universal truth.
Distinguishing cultures in a discriminatory sense is not politically correct, but everyone does it. Every society sees itself as superior in some way, so the criteria for most people is something generally trivial, such as patriotism. However, I think this can only be done in the context of a wider worldview. Just as the idea of “freedom” does not operate in a vacuum or without other ideas in our worldview that are part of what we might call a web of beliefs, so likewise a view of cultural critique cannot really operate without some kind of grand narrative. The relativists, pragmatists and post modernists have sought to destroy any notion of a grand narrative, but that is exactly what is needed to do cultural critique and I think that the biblical narrative provides the best framework for cultural analysis.
You have a lot of space on your website dedicated for analyzing movies. Is there anything as “predictive programming” in pop culture (Hollywood and MTV) and what is its role? Is there an initiation by this constant look on pop culture?
Pop culture dominates modernity and is a fascinating phenomenon. In some ways, it’s no different than the scandalous activities that would have taken place at a Renaissance masked ball, and other ways it’s far less sophisticated. Most people are not aware that pop culture arose from mass advertising and military propaganda, with the help of insight from corporations, social engineers and psychological warfare experts, so it most definitely has a predictive programming element to it. In fact, I think that is its central use, though without a doubt there are many talented and brilliant individuals involved in those arts. So, oddly, it can be both amazingly genius and utterly garbage.
Quite often, however, the top films and productions are geared towards a certain agenda, and that agenda is synonymous with the agenda of the new world order. I knew this years ago, but this fact was made even more evident to me when I began work on a master’s thesis. I chose to write on Ian Fleming’s Bond and the semiotic usage of fiction as propaganda. There is no better topic for this than Bond, since Fleming himself was a Naval Intelligence officer who specialized in psy ops. There is therefore an abiding circular relationship between the actual Bond stories and films being based on actual special operations which are then turned into fiction stories and films, which in turn affect the masses which view the fictionalized psy op. There is a fascinating lecture by Umberto Eco, himself a Bondologist, titled “The Ontology of Fictional Characters” on the power fictional entities have to alter reality in this circular sense I recommend.
Fleming’s Bond really pioneered this use of predictive programming, as well as pioneering product placement which had been created by Edward Bernays. Incidentally, Bernays worked for the Department of Defense, so the parallels between fiction and reality in espionage are long-established. Graham Greene worked for British intelligence, as did Roald Dahl. More recently, there are plenty of examples of the collaboration of military and intelligence agencies and Hollywood productions, from films like SALT with Angelina Jolie, The Good Shepherd with Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon, to even something like the ridiculous bin Laden raid film, Zero Dark Thirty. Look at Syriana, based on Robert Baer’s See No Evil.
The connections to films that involve espionage should not be that surprising, but my research leads me to the conclusion that the interpenetration of intelligence and Hollywood is far deeper, encompassing even films that would seem odd or unrelated. This is why I analyze so many films that may, on the surface, seem absurd to pick apart. There are patterns that emerge that go deeper than mere espionage or attempts at brainwashing the public. The arts are a manifestation of the “spirit” of a culture: they are tangible images of our dreams and nightmares, and thus the archetypes we fear subconsciously become the archetypes we see and fear in the real world through that medium. Dr. Steve Pieczenik has some insightful insider interviews and videos that demonstrate this to be true. Sun Tzu said almost the entirety of warfare was mental, so capturing the minds and hearts through Hollywood stories is the most powerful means of swaying the herd. That being said, it’s not all bad—many in Hollywood are awake to these issues. One last note: writing on popular films is also a great way to gain a lot of readers.