My grandfather was born in 1896 and died in 1976. As a 9 yr old he drove a covered wagon, following his parents in another wagon, from Arkansas to Texas. As a young man in the early 1900's, he rode the range and lived in the wilds of west Texas and New Mexico. In 1967 my father bought a new Chevrolet. When my grandfather looked under the hood, he was shocked by the complexity. He asked my dad, "Do you know how to work on this car?". My dad laughed and said, "of course not". My grandfather replied, "I wouldn't own a car I can't work on myself." He had lived his entire life developing a kind of embodied competence and fitness for the world as it is. He perceived that owning possessions one could not personally attend to was a pathway to increased dependence on strangers and, ultimately, a loss of personal freedom.

The gnostic idea that our embodied existence is some kind of impediment, rather than something to submit to, is a pathway to madness, as you and Dr. Crawford allude to in this piece. It's a little uncanny that you published this right now because I've been reading Crawford's "The World Beyond Your Head" for a few days after listening to his speech at the First Things conference. I think the question of conforming ourselves to reality and how an unwillingness to do that leads ultimately to madness is a theme also found in the biblical text. I recently wrote a blog post on this question which can be found here: https://www.keithlowery.com/the-religion-of-self-absorption/ Crawford draws similar conclusions to my own (more efficiently and with far fewer words) when he concludes: "There is a created order, which we are not the authors of. Crucially, this order is good. That it because its author is good, and he made it out of love. If you are fortunate enough to be hit with this experience (it comes as a surprise gift), it is like dropping acid. Under its influence, you feel like you have gained perceptual access to the most fundamental layer, which was always there waiting to be noticed."

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Apr 11, 2023Liked by N.S. Lyons

Do you know why that was so good?

Two reasons, firstly because it wasn’t a conversation; Conversation is massively inaccurate. The guest noted that he was typing responses to NS Lyon’s questions. It was a written exchange.

The second reason this was great, these are two brilliant thinkers. (I however still argue that if it was a transcribed telephone conversation it wouldn’t have been half as good, again, conversation is sloppy.)

My that was fun!

And the guest - this modern man - agrees with CS Lewis, that in nature, he sees inherent good. That is me. I can’t get with the extra terrestrial God thing. It strikes me as wishful thinking. But, the lessons of religion are still far superior to the liberal enlightenment elevation of the self and the arrogant conceit that we can bend nature to human notions. Colloquially: arrogant fucking assholes!

They are doubling down. The prescriptions and programs of the social sciences are everywhere failing and they are doubling down. God help us, spoken as an atheist.

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"Nature will kick your ass." I want to add, Human nature will kick your ass. Jesus of Nazareth walked willingly into an inevitable death sentence. He had worked too many miracles. The Jewish elite couldn't agree on anything else, but they could agree on one thing: Jesus had to die. Give credit to that singularly Good Man - he knew he had to die too. Jesus understood sacrifice and death are the essential portions given to sinners.

Having a baby is sexy. It is. It is also biological sacrifice. The woman's body becomes an incubator of new life. The body of the woman is in control, and it violates her will. Nature will kick your ass, human nature will kick your ass, and being pregnant will kick your ass. And your pregnant wife might kick your ass if her hormones go rogue on the wrong evening. There is a reason abortion is the sacrament of the new anti-father religion. There is a reason why the liberal, sterile, imagination recoils from sacrifice. Autonomous Individual Sovereignty isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit if you are pregnant.

Abraham and Isaac. Need I say more? Obedience is sacrifice and can only be entered into through faith in the unseen.

Augustine wrote: The image of God in man is spiritual and triune. The image of God the Father is remembering. The image of God the Son is understanding. The image of God the Spirit is the will to act. The whole modern project is a willful forgetfulness. We exercise our will and refuse to remember that God has chosen Israel. In the age to come, God will study Torah with Israel forever. You two guys are both right about where we are. Might as well tell the truth and tell your readers how we got here: Worshipping mammon and believing lies. We hate the Good Sovreign and despise our sacrificial portion.

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Apr 11, 2023Liked by N.S. Lyons

Amazing exchange. I think I know a 30-something who is in this particular hell: “It seeks to achieve its “fullest self” by being freed from any restraints on the choices that flash forth from its pure will.” Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work well as a strategy and he’s currently in jail. What I noticed that his stubborn infantilism was that he had been almost perfectly manipulated to believe the current thing. He could not manage his own life, yet he was sure that he knew reality. That reality didn’t cooperate didn’t seem to provide the information that he’d got something wrong, only made him hate himself. Perhaps at that point you only have two choices: become a tyrant and make reality bend to your will (or join others on this project) or submit to some acceptable authority. I submit that the medical industrial complex sees the play here. This individual wanted medical care to fix him. He believed that he only needed the right kind and quality of medication. Since he was looking for something else to make him do what he was unwilling to, it was never going to help. Did I mention he’s in jail? All this is a rather long winded way of underlining one of the points made here. The need to acknowledge authority outside the self (if only nature) doesn’t just go away. It goes underground and turns into the need to be validated by, say, the authority of medical science. The trans revolt fits here. To reject the authority of nature you must submit to the authority of pharmaceuticals and surgery. There’s no way out. Even suicide is a perverse acknowledgment of nature’s hold on you.

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Apr 11, 2023·edited Apr 11, 2023Liked by N.S. Lyons

A really brilliant dialogue--a modern edition of Plato's originals.

I have lots of thoughts in response but will probably integrate them into my own work rather than posting them here as a stand-alone comment.

I am, however, going to cross-post this on my own Substack and have subscribed to Matthew Crawford's Archedelia Substack.

Thanks for a great post!

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Damn that was excellent!

One of the things the zeitgeist has taught me recently is that we all operate with a certain level of blindness (duh), but most especially to the things that are like the water we swim in. For the radical thinkers/dreamers raised in the Old World of say pre-WWII, a world without God/Religion/Nation etc seemed a wonderland of pure liberation, mankind will at last shed its self-imposed chains and evolve into some Platonic ubermenschen (they imagined), and we'd look back on pre-paradisical humans like we look back on apes and Neanderthals. But like someone sawing through a house without checking for support beams, they had no idea of how much rational order aka civilization (in everything from education to politics to family to culture) these moldy old posts were upholding.

And this idea of the unseen costs/consequences of radical liberation I think are most extreme in the case of the Freudo-Marxists. No fathers, no families, no teachers, no rules, NOTHING IS REAL AND ALL IS PERMITTED, or as Marcuse said in "Eros and Civilization": "Man is free only where he is free from constraint, external and internal, physical and moral—when he is constrained neither by law nor by need. But such constraint is the reality. Freedom is thus, in a strict sense, freedom from the established reality." (This is the freedom of the scavenger in a city reduced to rubble, or of a man alone on a desert island.)

But of course they didn't live long enough to see the end result of their work, and could have never imagined the professed beliefs of their spoiled narcissistic grandchildren: math is racist, men can get pregnant, showing up on time is White supremacy, etc.

I find the best writer on the purposeful dismantling of Western Civ to be Philip Rieff, esp in his "Triumph of the Therapeutic": "The systematic hunting down of all settled convictions represents the anti-cultural predicate upon which modern personality is being reorganized...

The question is no longer as Dostoevski put it: "Can civilized men believe?" Rather: Can unbelieving men be civilized?

The therapeutic cannot conceive of an action that is not self-serving, however it may be disguised or transformed.

What culture has ever attempted to see to it that no ego is hurt?"

Thanks again to Lyons and Crawford.

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Just reread it: even better!

How many University professors are down with this analysis, this type of thinking? NS, please you are our authority, am I reading, perceiving and learning concepts that are not known to our professorate? Me, liquor besotted, drug addled me?

Thomas Hobbs, 1597- 1688: “The university is to the nation, as the wooden horse was to the Trojans.”

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In Theory There Is No Difference Between Theory and Practice…… While In Practice There Is

Really enjoyed reading this conversation, it really helped to clarify some ideas.

Humans create visions of how the world works. In modern times we have created numerous visions or dogmas that attempt to explain how a modern society functions. Politicians use these visions to attract followers and rely on the visions to explain why things occur even when there is no evidence to support such contentions. Autocrats use visions to strengthen their grip on power and punish or kill heretics and blasphemers who doubt their vision. The populists substitute these visions in place of facts or truth and even go as far as denying facts or truth when they do not fit within the scope of their vision.

As David Bohm says, Imagination, that miracle of inner image-making, lifts humanity to new heights and possibilities. At the same time, seduces with endless opportunities for self-deception. Most fail to understand the fundamental nature of this rare capacity, fewer still distil its use in ways that negate reification, believing, and treating concepts or mental images as independent things or reality. I am a human being, embedded in nature, not a Democrat, Muslim, American, or a machine. Imagined mental images are theatre, pure play. To mistake play, the mental image, for one’s identity is the beginning of self-deception and conflict.

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Wonderful! I love that the conclusion is, as many authors seem to be discovering these days, that humankind has no choice but to pursue a spiritual practice that leads to perception of a transcendent reality.

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Great conversation, and some excellent insights in the threads here. I think there is a sense in which ‘liberal’ as a concept needs to be recaptured. How do you use your time well? Wasn’t that the aim of ‘liberal arts’ education? I know that I’m somewhat conflating things here. But how difficult is it, for young men particularly, to use their time well when they can open their laptop and just watch people having sex for free. I don’t really think we have fully come to terms with how things like free online porn have been utterly morally corrosive. No generation has had to operate, I don’t think, under this pressure of stimulation/addiction. It feels like you need saint-like powers just to be well-balanced these days. The fact that the porn industry, whilst making $gazillions, somehow has escaped cancellation thus far tells you all you need to know about where we are as a species.

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Thank You, as always, Sir!

I learned an aspect of the Enlightenment principles that I wasn't aware of. And that the end of authority and the patriarchy started in the 50s. TY both.

Still.. I'm of the opinion that the biggest part of the inflection point falls on (per usual) us Boomers. It was us that rejected the standards and mores of The Greatest Generation. While admiring The Greatest Generation to extreme lengths, I believe they decided they didn't want their kids to go through anything any where near to what they did. And they just let the Boomers get away with a lot, partially because-a that.

Didn't spell that out very good, and ICBW (I Could Be Wrong), of course. Another Way to put it is that every generation acts like Mark Twain said. (approx.) "Teenage kid thought his parents were the most stupid people on the planet. He went away and came back home a few years later and was amazed how much smarter his parents had gotten."

Kids used-ta grow outta their stupid attitude that they knew everything. I dunno the Boomers ever did grow up sufficiently. Now they let 20-something JUNIOR editors decide what books are allowed to be punished, for one example. Like You both pointed out, growing up isn't even on the radar any more.

IMO. TY again.

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But put your body in the ocean – in winter, on a day of gusty wind and chop and high swells – and reality comes flooding back. Nature is magnificent. It will also kick your ass, just as a matter of course. So true. And then to bring it back to Lewis's thought that the created order outside ourselves is "good" is magnificent. How can God not exist?

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I’ve been saving this interview.

it just broke mah brain...but in a good way.

really good stuff here guys.

keep it up...

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Great conversation the distinction between freud and those that came after as more liberationist is very interesting. This infusion of the therapeutic approach is something I find facinating(p rieff triumph of the therapeutic for more) On the one hand psychotherapy is ostensibly about the reduction of suffering. M Scott Peck speaks of it as a sort of modern exorcism through confession...but there seems to be a loss of the tragic fallen nature of man smuggled in to alot of it. Alot of liberationist assumptions pervade from what I can tell. There is very little acceptance of man's telos, his ends but more of a self centered journey ego journey with affirmation as the lubricant to make the thing palatable. Decisions are affirmed, sin defined out of existence and, for men at least a kind of emotionalism pushed. All this goes toward the feminization being talked about by Crawford. That said some access to an emotional realm is probably needed to assess motivation and adjust path through discernment...this is what trips me up. Anyway great piece

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This is probably the best thing I have read in the past six months. Both parties beautifully articulated something I think anyone living in the modern world has found ineffable at one point or another.

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I am a devoted reader of Tolkien and Lewis and I have also recently read Trueman’s The Rise & Triumph of the Modern Self along with Smith’s Fictions, Lies, and the Authority of Law. With these and other readings I find myself well prepared to understand the discussion presented here. And, I find myself also rather doubtful that we will find our way out of the philosophical whole in which our world has sunk...

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