Spiritualism and idealism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Jan 1 20:58:25 MST 2001

>  we could also call material existence spiritual if you like, but what would
> be gained. in a very real sense language is a "prisonhouse" as what's his
> name once put it. I got in trouble for mentioning Nietzsche in an earlier
> post. soon I'll be quoting Foucault and Heidigger. just kidding.

These two terms have become woefully conflated in this discussion. Marxism,
based on materialism, is required to struggle mercilessly against
idealism. Bourgeois philosophy is idealist. Nearly all of the major deviations
arising within Marxism in the 20th century involve some kind of idealism or
another, from Bogdanov's "empiriocriticism" to James Burnham's pragmatism.

But there really is no such thing as a "spiritualist" challenge to or within
Marxism. For that matter, I am not even sure whether it makes sense to
speak of
such a phenomenon in terms of an "ism". Spiritual feelings, which are
really at
the root of all religions, tend to be very private or what some thinker (can't
remember who) describes as what a man or a woman does when they are alone in a
room. It is utterly pointless to "expose" such feelings. One might as well go
on the warpath against romantic feelings, as some list members clearly
would be
the first enlistees.

Even when spiritualist type currents seep into something like the
movement, it seems rather pointless to wage ideological warfare against belief
in Mother Earth, etc. In fact, this is something that John Bellamy Foster does
not quite get, in my opinion. Most of his valuable research, along with Paul
Burkett's, seems to revolve around the search for a method. Digging through
body of Marx's work, they are looking for quotes they can use in debates with
Frankfurt-influenced Marxists. You see, you revisionist dog, Marx wrote a PhD
thesis on Democritus. Now get out of town.

I have told Foster, but he is too full of himself to probably understand, that
what is needed is APPLICATION of the historical materialist method to
ecological topics, ranging from global warming to genetically modified
foods. A
Marxist collective of ecologically oriented scientists and researchers who put
out a yearly collection of articles like the Worldwatch Institute does
would do
more to change minds in a materialist direction than all the references to
Marx's interest in pre-Socratic materialist thinkers.

Finally, I don't have a fucking clue what "spiritual" means. I have never felt
anything like this in my entire life, even after taking LSD and watching water
in a seascape painting on my neighbor's wall start to ripple. I felt more
seasick than transcendent. But I know lots of very good people who are or were
spiritually endowed, from Rigoberta Menchu to Malcolm X. I first heard Malcolm
X speak at a Militant Labor Forum in 1964--the "bullet or the ballot" speech.

When I read his autobiography shortly after joining the SWP, I felt
tremendously inspired by his example. At no point did I ever feel the need to
psychologically or politically repudiate those sections that read like this:

>>We parked near the Great Mosque. We performed our ablutions and entered.
Pilgrims seemed to be on top of each other, there were so many, lying,
sleeping, praying, walking.

My vocabulary cannot describe the new mosque that was being built around the
Ka’ba. I was thrilled to realize that it was only one of the tremendous
rebuilding tasks under the direction of young Dr. Azzam, who had just been my
host. The Great Mosque of Mecca, when it is finished, will surpass the
architectural beauty of India’s Taj Mahal.

Carrying my sandals, I followed the Mutawaf. Then I saw the Ka’ba, a huge
stone house in the middle of the Great Mosque. It was being circumambulated by
thousands upon thousands of praying pilgrims, both sexes, and every size,
shape, color, and race in the world. I knew the prayer to be uttered when the
pilgrim’s eyes first perceive the Ka’ba. Translated, it is "O God, You are
peace, and peace derives from You. So greet us, 0 Lord, with peace." Upon
entering the Mosque, the pilgrim should try to kiss the Ka’ba if possible, but
if the crowds prevent him getting that close, he touches it, and if the crowds
prevent that, he raises his hand and cries out "Takbir!" ("God is great!") I
could not get within yards. "Takbir!"

My feeling there in the House of God was a numbness. My Mutawaf led me in the
crowd of praying, chanting pilgrims, moving seven times around the Ka’ba. Some
were bent and wizened with age; it was a sight that stamped itself on the

I saw incapacitated pilgrims being carried by others. Faces were enraptured in
their faith. The seventh time around, I prayed two RaIc’a, prostrating myself,
my head on the floor. The first prostration, I prayed the Quran verse "Say He
is God, the one and only" the second prostration: "Say O you who are
unbelievers, I worship not that which you worship..."<<

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/

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