Monday, November 29, 2021

The Metaverse: A Place Where We Will Be “Either Greater than Kings or Less than Men”

“Ultimately software-based humans will be vastly extended  beyond the severe limitations of humans as we know them today. They will live out on the Web, projecting bodies whenever they need or want them, including virtual bodies, foglet projected bodies, and physical bodies comprising nanobot swarms and other forms of nanotechnology.” — Ray Kurzweil

Something has not been created yet, and I'm already lambasting the idea of it. So be it, as I always happy to proved wrong (but let's leave my superego out of this). I may not be able to predict human progress, but I can sort of predict human nature. It was Toqueville who noted that Democratic citizens may someday see themselves “either greater than kings or less than men.” It does look like we have gotten nearly there, with the metaverse probably be the straw that breaks the camel's back. 

Today, we rarely look upward to God, but instead have supplanted any transcendent with manmade ideologies and the political state. We then buffer our world further still by looking inward through our constant barrage of technological distraction that disconnects us from substantive intimacy. And this has led to more isolation without any need for us to look outward towards our fellow citizens—many seen in contempt because they're boxed in to a subcategory of “other” without a shared universal identity. I can't see an easy way out, but moving our worlds further into virtual/augmented realities will probably just heighten our proclivity to dismantle our humanity.

After all, it was Stanley Kubrick who believed as we come to rely on technology to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens out. So in other words, artificial intelligence won't come to us, but we will come to it. But what is it about such entrenched artificial medium that lessens our potential for being fully human?

Without any deeper meaning and right praise to the transcendent, it is too easy to fall into despair and to allow ourselves get distracted by entertainment and technology. The burden to cultivate meaning is too much when faith has been lost by the existing institutions. We may dabble in new age modalities, but this will never cultivate the time-tested institutions that have scaled shared practices, community, coherent doctrines, sacrifice, and faith for millennia. And I don't care how much futurists sell us the utopian visions as to how the metaverse will transform our world; it will always fall short of expectations of transforming the person (keep in mind they always toot their horns by their own evaluation criteria, such as material wealth, comfort, convenience, and a trivial enjoyment). 

The truth is the metaverse can never equate real life and existence. Existence is immeasurable and prior to anything created—instead of being an emergent property of manmade creativity. Living out one's life in some abstracted manmade environment can never compensate for real lived experience. Of course there are those who prefer the abstract to the real, such as our leftist managerial class. Allen says the left “do very little with their hands, and so tend to privilege form -- intellectual ideas and theories, design, structural adjustments and so on -- over function, over actually engaging with the real world.” Sounds like the metaverse will be primarily voting one way to its favor, while creating a deeper addiction to the simulation at the cost of real. 

Real life is also embodied, and as much as the metaverse can simulate sensate experience it will always be disconnected. The fully human embodied experience goes beyond superficial sensations on our skin and through our visual and auditory functions, but is a more deeply reciprocal relationship that involves our heart, intuition, intelligibility and the deep subtle sensations that lie beyond our skin. We engage reality with our whole person! Moreover, real life is also an open system allowing one to go beyond oneself while any simulated world is a closed system. There is no God in the metaverse, beyond another simulated limited object.

Offering people the ability the script-write their world leaves one cold towards humanity's significance. We will play god with our simulated life, instead of seeing our place in a cosmological journey where we are fated with limited choices and possibilities. The forthcoming metaverse will get closer to simulating a superficial sensate experience of the real, but in the end it will ultimately dim the person to meet a lesser baseline vitality of one's humanity while he/she is allowed to control a world that offers no meaning.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Unself or Unreal

I've been on blogging break due to the laziness that comes from the summer heat and my cultivation of unselfing a self of self-importance. In other words, I'm getting sick of myself trying to make a point or pontificating here. My inquiry and practice to Truth does not subside, but turns here and there while never straying too far from its unifying principle. But do I have to always write about it? Sometimes, I'd rather let it simmer or even shimmer. 

I have read some recent things that turns my attention to why smart people can be very stupid. While I can never be knowledgeable about everything, I weed out the chaff of books that probably don't need to be read. While I may be drawn to philosophy, I don't think I need to read most philosophers. Here's a good reason...

“...many students who take philosophy degrees have the distinct feeling that they’ve got on the wrong train. They expect to be dealing with the towering mysteries of human existence, they expect to be studying the accounts of the immortals who went before us, who attempted to scale the same heights, they expect to be guided on this odyssey by interesting people who have made the same journey and returned with pristine insights into the path ahead. What they find instead is a cross between a librarian and an accountant piling up items of knowledge like coloured beads then handing them out to confused and bored young people who are expected to categorise them in, at best, a slightly different way to those who preceded them” (Darren Allen).

That's why reading too much without a coherent center can fragment and frustrate the reader. And does it even change you for the better? Collecting all that information inflates the ego, and rarely opens one to being teachable. We know “People don’t first reason their way into their beliefs; they seek beliefs and attitudes which correspond to their felt inner reality, their way of living and their life-in-the-world, then find reasons to accept and defend those beliefs and attitudes; which is why reason cannot change them.” We can only be awakened from our deeper assumptions of reality. But that hurts too much for most.

And then there's the folks who claim street smarts, and like to point to their experience. But what do people really mean they know from experience? 

“Similarly, experience is ordinarily — and philosophically —understood piecemeal, as a series of knowable things that are learnt, remembered or possessed, rather than a totality which is lived. Ego can hardly be said to experience at all, instantly transporting whatever happens into the modal warehouse of the self, where it is stored, evaluated and used to get a better job, lord it over newcomers, or gas on about what it knows or what has happened to it. When people say ‘I have experience’ they nearly always mean that they possess something which is not experience, but the corpse of it.”

So we are always in the way of reality which can truly suck the life out of it. So to self-correct, we chase bigger vistas and thrills without bringing the whole self for the ride. 

“The isolating mind of the sleeping ego is like a blazing torch in the forest, over-illuminating a minute area of the dark, sharply dividing the user from everything else, which thereby seems both darker than the light and more uncannily different. To counter the threat of this obscure otherness, I turn up the torch, brighter and brighter, expanding my view further and further, but the light is so bright it now kills what it is directed at, petrifying the trees, shrivelling up the plants. I can see more and more, but fear of the darkness doesn’t decrease — in being suppressed, quite the opposite — so I turn up the beam higher and higher, looking for life in more and more distant realms, wiping out more and more life with the killing exposure, until, finally, I am left in a super-bright desert, blindingly overlit in every direction, and dead. All along, all I had to do was switch the torch off and grow accustomed to the darkness.”

So once again, we escape, overcompensate, indulge, but we never own our shite? That's because “Ego has two basic modi operandi; that of the physicalist, viewing reality as a matrix of cause and effect relationships, or that of the solipsist, for whom no laws, literal or otherwise, have any validity.” Which is like saying the non-physical aspect of ourselves doesn't have a part in existence or our non-physical selves are the center of existence. Either view fails. But then there are those who make a conscious effort to ‘transcend’ the ego. In this effort, they assume the ego is just a collection of thoughts, when there is so much more unconsciously stirring behind the scenes. So they spend...

“a great deal of time meditating, being mindful, jingo-jangling to DMT or swimming through esoteric oceans, often ends up being an extended psyche-wank which severs one’s participation to the represented world as it is — the shared canvas upon which the social self paints — which slowly becomes less interesting and less real, leaving ‘mystic’, meditating man, hovering round his magic, Romantic mind-realm, feeling tremendously wise and enlightened, while, in reality — the reality we share — he is well and truly up himself.”

This is what Allen terms as “orthophilia” or “compulsive avoidance of consciousness and context by over-focus on one’s emotional life, health or ‘spirituality’.”

Sounds dreadful, but been there and done that. 

In the end, we just need to unself through engaging God and disengaging our vices with an unwavering fanatical-like single mindedness. In seems our ancestors were right, albeit less sophisticated than us clever moderns. They did bear and struggle with it, but in our comforts of endless distraction we seem less willing to do so.

“Love God, with all your heart, and with all your will, and with all your mind, and with all your body, and renounce the devil, and all his works. Now and forever. So be it.”

* All quotes are from Darren Allen's excellent book Self and Unself.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Pickers & Mixers

Experience is the worst teacher. It gives the test before giving the lesson.” — unknown

I came across the above study that shows the vast majority of Americans hold a syncretic worldview. I do have issues with this study, specifically as to how people were categorized and the bias of the source, but regardless let's go on the assumption (which I see very much anecdotally) that most people create their own worldview by pulling from various sources as well as being indoctrinated by the culture at large. Most of us who are spiritually and intellectually plugged-in are going to have syncretic tendencies anyways since we have been exposed to so much. We can't undo that. But perhaps we can decide to lean in to where Truth best reveals itself.

Maybe that's why Valentin Tomberg's Meditations of the Tarot was such an influential book for me. Tomberg was exposed to a lot of New Thought ideas, being a student of Rudolf Steiner, and having exposure to the Eastern religions and various esoteric and gnostic systems. But in the end, he chose the Catholic Church. 

How anachronistic of him! 

He could have kept his connection to the sacred without the institutional doctrine and demands of the Church. But I think in the end, he saw that New Thought ideas had its own cosmological dogma, high priests, and gatekeepers. Moreover, all his experiences confirmed for him that “the Roman Catholic Church is, in fact, a depository of Christian spiritual truth, and the more one advances on the way of free research for this truth, the more one approaches the Church. Sooner or later one inevitably experiences that spiritual reality corresponds—with an astonishing exactitude—to what the Church teaches” (Tomberg). Whether this was the cart leading the horse, he probably saw that Steiner's as well as other attempts to update the “spiritual science” was a futile in the arc of eternity. It became too abstract where the Church centered itself around a Person. 

It is easy when you reduce God to a spiritual science, people can begin to believe they are the source of their own divinity or if they believe in “God”, He has been reduced to a silent partner or a deist/pantheist God either removed from the natural world or just equal to it.

Most people aren't free thinking or intuitive enough to be syncretists. Today's culture at large often seems rudderless, selfish, and emotionally-centered, prioritizing a life of comfort and convenience. Thinking for oneself requires a lot of hard work and time. It can be decentering and uncomfortable. And it is unlikely most will be able to push themselves to create the proper conditions for spiritual growth on their own. (This is true for the religious as well as the just spiritual.)

Tracey Rowland makes an astute point in her book on theology, that when even adherents to Catholicism try to pick and mix different aspects of doctrine, it creates a “disintegrative pluralism” that can lead to disunity within oneself  and eventually the institution itself.

“Disintegrative pluralism occurs when people get so hooked on one part of the Christian kerygma that they begin to lose a panoramic vision. What should be a symphonic harmony is reduced to something quite discordant because one note or melody is drowning everything else. Typically some principle or doctrine is taken out of its rightful position and exaggerated or some fashionable concept becomes a hermeneutic through which every other part of Christian teaching must pass or else be sidelined. To put this principle another way, Catholic theology is renowned for its capacity to cope with mystery and with paradox and for its similarity to Gothic architecture. Just as every small piece of a Gothic cathedral has a role to play in maintaining the balance of the opposing structural tensions, so too, in Catholic theology, there is always a delicate balance between apparently antithetical ‘truths’ held in tension. When this tension is lost, when one single buttress is made to bear all the weight, because this particular buttress has become a fashionable subject of reflection, then all possibility of transcendence is lost and one is left with something quite defective, destined to collapse.”

Simone Weil said, “Each religion is alone true, that is to say, that at the moment we are thinking of it we must bring as much attention to bear on it as if there were nothing else ... A 'synthesis' of religion implies a lower quality of attention.” We are better off to go deep than wide. And as syncretists, it is too tempting to not purify the elements that need to be repudiated, especially when bucking against the culture at large. It is too easy to want to integrate everything in the milieu. But even then, we need to be able to see our loves rightly ordered. For even the Catholic Church tries to live up to its name (catholic meaning all embracing) by not excluding anything, even Hell, but remaining consistent by putting things in their proper order. All in all, this does not deny the immediate presence of God in all things.

If most of us are bound to be religious syncretists going forward, then God help us. Because there is probably no way we are going to be able to this rightly on our own.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Niceness or God?

I've seen this period of pandemic cloistering challenge many relationships. I've witnessed break-ups and strains and those attempting to mend some old wounds, but it appears we are being prodded to operate on another plane than mundane existence. In my case (albeit a natural introvert), I've seen my outer world get a tad smaller while my inner world gets tossed around and stretched. Is this a good thing? Sure, why not. We are all discombobulating our comfort zones for a greater harmony. And in this harmony, we can occupy a higher moral space.

C. S. Lewis said,

“Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play. You may have noticed that modern people are nearly always thinking about the first thing and forgetting the other two.”

Perhaps during this time we are being nudged to sort ourselves out with “the other two.” I once had a date where the person said there is no need for religion, we just have to be nice to each other. If we settle for a therapeutic harmony of be nice-happy-content with others, then we will limit our gifts and moral aspirations to this world only. 

In truth, most of us are just being Dick's...

“As long as Dick does not turn to God, he thinks his niceness is his own, and just as long as he thinks that, it is not his own. It is when Dick realises that his niceness is not his own but a gift from God, and when he offers it back to God—it is just then that it begins to be really his own. For now Dick is beginning to take a share in his own creation. The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God. What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose” (Lewis).

Without the transcendent, people become self-satisfied with their character. They want the heights of good experiences without the length of moral demands. But how will our experiences add up if they ultimately come to an end? They want the beauty of diverse tolerance without the rigor of unified principles. But who is more tolerant than the devil himself? 

We can't just be nicely swimming in the currents, without having any rocks to stand on. So our challenge is to find our rock. Some may believe all that is solid melts into air anyway so what is the point. But you can't even have air without an atmosphere that holds it all together!

As William Stoddard says: “People find themselves drowning in a sea of accidents; they do not know how to reach the one substance which alone is truth.” But there is a way to reach Truth. In one's life, solid ground can be found in the inner silence of sacredness, and the outer Tradition of cultural and religious wisdom. In the wisdom traditions, “these two components are always present: theodicy and soteriology; doctrine and method; theory and practice; dogma and sacrament; unity and union.”

We need to understand our relationship to God, and how to liberate ourselves to be closer to Him and His creation. Being nice just won't cut it. In fact, we may need to cut through it to see the Truth. 

“A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save” (Lewis).

Monday, March 1, 2021

Between Melting and Freezing / The Soul’s Sap Quivers

Today's blog title is credited to T.S. Eliot, who happens to be a favorite poet of Shinzen Young, author of The Science of Enlightenment. Shinzen is also one of my favorite meditation teachers as of late. I find him to be extremely clear and gentle on the trials and tribulations of deep meditation practice, as well as appreciate his pragmatic and scientific approach with minimal Buddhist jargon. I still have an immense appreciation for Siddhartha Gautama's refined formulation of the original dharma (which Shinzen often pulls from), and continue to see these methods as part of my practice within the cosmology of a Catholic theocentric worldview. I look at Buddhist practice as bottom-up; and Christianity as top-down-all-around. It works for me.

Meditation is not always easy, and yet the only bad meditation is often the one we don't do. Even if the experience is challenging, there may be something good happening that we aren't aware of. Perhaps our soul is getting ready for what our mind isn't seeing yet. Meditation is even better if we don't resist the what and persist with the why. Meister Eckart says, “You should not attach such importance to what you feel; rather, consider important what you love and what you intend.”

In essence, we meditate to liberate ourselves to be present to Reality, to what is, to God. But even Shinzen acknowledges we can not directly experience God: “you only experience the afterglow of God.” God is too Real for our finite nervous systems to inhabit. 

But we must (as Thomas Merton once said about improving prayer life) take the time. We must take the time for practice for the sake of the practice itself. What comes of it will come in the right time, and yet there is always a vector to all of this. As Shinzen points out, we are made for practice as even our busy, aging minds point us toward the Real. 

“The ordinary mind is constantly scattered in many directions and cannot hold a center. We think this monkey-mind experience is awful. People feel tormented by this ceaseless turning of the mind. But when you look beneath surface appearances, the scattering can be interpreted as space effortlessly spreading, and the inability to hold a center could be looked upon as contraction gobbling up the solid ground beneath you.”

The solidity we hold on to is never relaxing. Even in our happiest conditioned moments (e.g. being in love, enjoying a favorite piece of music), there is still an underlying sense of more—or even that this experience will not satisfy due to it being unenduring. We approach an wide open canyon right at the point of a cliff that holds us back from leaping; or giving up our control or safety.

“When things solidify, when there’s pressure in body, mind, sight, or sound, people have a tendency to blame themselves: “I’m resisting.” “I can’t let go.” Expansion and contraction give us a different way to think about pressure and solidity. It doesn’t have to be about you at all; it’s about two impersonal forces eventually learning how to mutually interpenetrate without mutually interfering. Relating to unrelaxable solidity in this way can help you to develop equanimity.”

We first must recognize equanimously this subtle discomfort as a complete experience—for that is what is solidifying and standing in the way of our relationship to the Real. In practice, we go over and over this as we slowly and effectively uncover the True face that God wants to see. He doesn't want us to be safe and defensive; He wants us as we are fully alive!

Shinzen is quite a fan of The Cloud of Unknowing also. The author there says, “It is not who you are or what you've been that God sees with his merciful eyes, but what you want to be.”

Our anonymous friend adds, 

“Even meditating on God’s love must be put down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. Show your determination next. Let that joyful stirring of love make you resolute, and in its enthusiasm bravely step over meditation and reach up to penetrate the darkness above you. Then beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp arrow of longing and never stop loving, no matter what comes your way.”

This strong determination is an approach Shinzen acknowledges can get us all the way. The techniques suffice, but our intent is necessary.  

Between Melting and Freezing / The Soul’s Sap Quivers / Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer? — T.S. Eliot

Friday, February 19, 2021

Sorry, You're Not Cool Anymore (A Rant to Leftist Boomers)

I recall a time when I felt sorry for being born too late and not living through the sixties as a young adult. I would fantasize in my reverie about the coolness of that decade, and the countercultural forces at play during that time. Not to mention all the libertine hedonic arrangements that would appeal to young man's zeal.  

But what in particular made the left cool in the sixties was an idealism that meant to break up the sclerosis in culture through rebellion and non-conformity. The revolutionaries at the time were aiming for truth, transparency, and integration.

Victor Davis Hanson says,

“The First Amendment was said by them to be sacred, even as the “free speech movement” transitioned to the “filthy speech movement.” Leftists sued to mainstream nudity in film. They wanted easy access to pornography. They mainstreamed crude profanity. The supposed right-wingers were repressed. They were the “control freaks” who sought to stop the further “liberation” of the common culture. 

In those days, the ACLU still defined the right of free expression as protecting the odious, whether the unhinged Nazis, the pathetic old-Left Communists, or nihilistic Weather Underground terrorists. 

“Censorship” was a dirty word. It purportedly involved the religious bigots and medieval minds that in vain had tried to cancel ideological and cultural mavericks and geniuses from Lenny Bruce to Dalton Trumbo. “Banned in Boston” was a sign of cretinism. Only drunken “paranoids” like Joe McCarthy resorted to “blacklists.” We were reminded that the inferior nuts tried to cancel the brilliant careers of their betters whom they disliked, or feared.”

Hanson continues,

“Civil and women’s rights were the twin pillars of the 1960s radicals. From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Malcolm X, the themes were for “white America” to live up to the ideals of their Constitution, to finally realize the “promises of the Declaration of Independence” and to treat people on the basis of the “content of their character” and not on “the color of their skin.” The problem was never 1776 or 1787, but those who had not yet fully met the Founders’ exceptional ideals.
A “color-blind society” was a ’60s sobriquet. Women strove to ensure girls had the same rights as boys, from leadership roles to sports. 
The point of the 1960s, again we were taught, was to tear down the rules, the traditions, and customs, the hierarchies of the old guys. The targets were supposedly the uptight, short-hair, square-tie, adult generation who grew up in the Depression, won World War II, and were fighting to defeat Cold War Soviet Union. 
The good guys, the students, and the activists, if they only had power, were going to break up corporations, shame (or “eat”) the rich, and bring in young, hip politicians.” 

In just a half-century, the boomers have become their parents (in the worst possible way) and have assimilated the generations below them—who in turn have decided to turn things up a notch by applying their insipid theories. While postmodern theory (now applied critical theory) may have seemed cool in the sixties as a form of mental masturbation, it has now wrought a heavy load on the academy, human resource departments, governmental institutions and media/entertainment. While there was a time when Derrida and Lacan may have seemed out of grasp for the average intellect, it now appears they never really any intellectual grounding to begin with.

Today, truth, transparency, and integration have taken a back seat. The intellectual dishonesty of the left has overtaken many of the cultural institutions in order to protect their status. The media and high tech oligarchs have begun to shut down opposing views that don't fit the neo-liberal woke narrative, and integration has been limited to race, gender, and sex at the expense of ideas. 

In their wake, the leftist boomers of the sixties have given us: censorship of conservative ideas, electronic surveillance, high-tech oligarchs, cancel-culture, identity politics, book banning, white supremacy, micro-aggressions, safe-spaces, climate-change hysteria, breakdown of Tradition and religion, delegitimization of the working class, revisionist history, transhumanism, fears of domestic “terrorism”, and anti-patriotic globalism. 

Is this cool? Let's consider more deeply what it means to be “cool.”

James Kalb notes, 

“Coolness started with jazz musicians and still has something of the spirit of the night, of escape from everyday reality, of unconditioned freedom, of improvisation without a goal. It is the liberal equivalent of the divine grace that bloweth where it listeth and none can define. It has something in common with sanctity, inasmuch as the cool are in the world but not of it. They possess a certain disengagement, so that they are independent of their surroundings and not easily flustered or excited. They are not conventional and have a sort of perfect pitch in matters of perception, expression, and practical decision. Of course, coolness is also very different from sanctity. Sanctity is about eternity, coolness about now. It has religious aspirations, but its hedonism and individualism mean they go nowhere. The lives of the saints have enduring interest, because they point to something beyond themselves. The lives of the hipsters do not. This lack of substantive content allows coolness a place in the spiritual world of liberalism, but is otherwise a radical defect. Coolness makes things a matter of style, which is why a clumsy attempt to be a saint is admirable, while a clumsy attempt to be cool is ridiculous. This also means that coolness cannot maintain standards. Miles Davis is dead, hipsters have gone mass-market, and grade-school children now have as much right to be cool as anyone. At bottom, coolness is as silly as people think. It is notoriously unsustaining. Those who live by it either crash and burn, fall into gross hypocrisy (“sell out”), or grow out of it. Within the liberal order, though, growing out of it means growing out of the only thing, other than sex, drugs, celebrity, or lots and lots of money, that redeems life from quotidian dullness. It means turning into a boring, conventional, older person, just like Mom and Dad.”

Yup. Except Mom and Dad probably did believe in the eternal. Without institutional faith, and now being the sclerotic monolith of culture, the leftist boomers are no longer cool and have nothing enduring that will be redeemed by their fruits. Since the left often don't feel they need to belong to something, then there's really nothing to defend, and that makes it easier to feel superior. 

As Hanson quips: “They won. They are now one with—but also far, far worse than—what they rebelled against.”

Monday, February 8, 2021

Best Case Scenario: Agree with Decency to Disagree in Principle

Unity in the secular sense is futile and foolish. The ability to unify the diverse can only be grounded in the transcendent: “In God We Trust,” “E Pluribus Unum,” and “One Nation Under God.” Otherwise, it is not unity but only a uniformity that ultimately suppresses views.

You can try to unify a country under an ethnicity or a religion (not always such a good idea as history has shown) or you can unify a country around a great idea that allows for the free expression of ideas from people who are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights, and consent to be governed. But this form of unity needs to be grounded above, so it can be mirrored below. 

When it comes to political divisions, we are principally divided around narratives, human nature, reason, freedom, democracy, equality, and morality. You can't unify these divisions. The tensions must be inhabited under the One.

William Gairdner sums this up as follows, 

“While it may be true that many liberals are religious and many conservatives are not, the secular liberal narrative that all transcendent reality, morality, and law is to be dismissed as myth and banished from the public square remains dominant. Accordingly, the subtext is that secular humanist worship will continue to mean the worship of human progress and will. The conservative view has always been that human beings do better, and do less damage to others, by worshipping a transcendent God and living under a higher moral law they cannot change, than by worshipping themselves and living under a changeable human law that is vulnerable to the will of those who would manipulate them.”

In Gairdner's terrific book The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree, he distills these principle divisions better than anything I've come across. The following tables are from his book: