The Consciousness of a Conservative

I've known a number of liberals who are highly intelligent – many of them professors at major universities who have published important books, won lucrative research grants, and participated in international conferences.  Their I.Q.s measure off the charts.  The problem is, they don't have any sense.

Conservatives have always known that the mind as such plays a secondary role in human affairs.  It is less important to human happiness than such qualities of character as loyalty, persistence, and faith – qualities that are the product not of thought, but of an innate sense of value and purpose.  These qualities are separate from rational thinking, and they are critical to our health and well-being.

The poet William Wordsworth was more sensitive to this deep consciousness, or "true self," as it is often called, than any writer of his generation.  During his time spent in nature, he developed a profound connection with his inner being, and he returned from his meditations with a clearer sense of reality, including the threat posed by radical ideology.  His autobiographical poem "The Prelude" records his disillusionment with the radical politics that was sweeping France and that strongly appealed to Paine and Jefferson in the U.S.

Following the emotional trauma of his experiences in France, including the heartbreak of his liaison with "Annette" (Marie Anne Vallon), Wordsworth moved to the British Lake District in search of peace and healing.  There he became a political conservative who eventually spoke out against the bloody revolution taking place in France.

There is little doubt that what Wordsworth experienced at Lake Wyndemere was the existence of his role within the greater structure of creation.  Wordsworth wrote of a calm, joyful state of existence that made it possible for him to "see into the life of things."  And he spoke not just of deep consciousness ("Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher"), but also of true liberty.  Along with Burke, Coleridge, and others of his generation, Wordsworth saw that the radical ideology of his times was a dangerous illusion based on the dominance of Mind over Nature ("What is pride?  A rocket that emulates the stars").

True liberty is the product of calm acceptance of the nature of things.  Much of Wordsworth's so-called "nature poetry" is actually the record of his growing understanding of liberty.  "Delight and liberty," he discovered, were "the simple creed of childhood," and he sought to return to this condition of simplicity.  In his 1798 poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth spoke of how images of the landscape passed "into my purer mind" and of his entering into a "serene and blessed mood" in which he finally became "a living soul" and achieved liberty and happiness.

A fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives have always recognized the primacy of this level of consciousness.  They have addressed it under the name of spirit, higher power, faith, purpose, moral sense, God, and any number of other designations.  Liberals for the most part have dismissed deep consciousness altogether and placed their faith in the mind and its creations, especially the state.

A corollary of this fundamental difference is that liberals are incapable of fully appreciating the most powerful and decisive aspect of the structure of the universe.  It is as if, for whatever reasons, half of humanity had decided to attempt to survive without oxygen – except that deep consciousness is more important than oxygen.  One cannot really thrive, even for a moment, in the absence of the true self.

Conservatives bring their awareness of deep consciousness to their understanding of human affairs.  Politics, if directed by the mind alone, would be conducted in a manner that is scheming, clever, ruthless, and unprincipled.  The rational mind would calculate that without power, none of its ends could be accomplished, and it would proceed to make power an end in itself.  That seems an exact description of the modern-day Democratic Party.

The coordinated attacks against President Trump now taking place are evidence of this lust for power on the part of progressives.  Donald Trump is, in fact, the legitimate president of the United States.  This, in and of itself, should entitle him to a measure of respect even from those who profoundly disagree with him.  But for those who operate strictly from the intellect, without regard for the lasting value of our nation's institutions and traditions, ideological ends prevail over respect for the office of the president.  That's why they stoop to addressing the president with profanity, hostility, and ghastly attempts at humor.

Liberals have long rejected the idea that politics is a civil discourse in which opposing ideas are vetted and compromise is reached so government can operate for the good of all.  Their purely "rational" approach has led them to believe, as Minority Leader Schumer now appears to, that all-out political warfare works to their benefit.  They have become, as U.S. News and World Report suggests, the "party of outrage," so focused on bringing down Trump that they appear to have no message themselves.  That is true: above all, they want to rule, and they have lost touch with the deep consciousness that has always warned mankind against the lust for power.

If conservatives wished to express the true basis for their politics, they might do so by stating these truths: the universe is pervaded by deep consciousness.  A politics that taps into this consciousness acquires overwhelming power; depth; and, most of all, purpose.  The human mind is a highly fallible and amoral instrument, of which we must be skeptical.  And government must act in accord with the fundamental structure of "natural law" based on an existing order greater than that of the human mind.

When conservatives operate in accord with deep consciousness, they are successful.  By living within the true self, the individual gains powerful and transformative clarity.  The greatest conservative thinkers and writers, from Edmund Burke to T.S. Eliot to Milton Friedman, have always worked from within this true self.  They recognize that while they play merely a small role with the within the larger universe, they have been granted presence, understanding, and mental power of a sort unknown to their liberal opponents.  

This is what distinguishes conservatives from liberals.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

I've known a number of liberals who are highly intelligent – many of them professors at major universities who have published important books, won lucrative research grants, and participated in international conferences.  Their I.Q.s measure off the charts.  The problem is, they don't have any sense.

Conservatives have always known that the mind as such plays a secondary role in human affairs.  It is less important to human happiness than such qualities of character as loyalty, persistence, and faith – qualities that are the product not of thought, but of an innate sense of value and purpose.  These qualities are separate from rational thinking, and they are critical to our health and well-being.

The poet William Wordsworth was more sensitive to this deep consciousness, or "true self," as it is often called, than any writer of his generation.  During his time spent in nature, he developed a profound connection with his inner being, and he returned from his meditations with a clearer sense of reality, including the threat posed by radical ideology.  His autobiographical poem "The Prelude" records his disillusionment with the radical politics that was sweeping France and that strongly appealed to Paine and Jefferson in the U.S.

Following the emotional trauma of his experiences in France, including the heartbreak of his liaison with "Annette" (Marie Anne Vallon), Wordsworth moved to the British Lake District in search of peace and healing.  There he became a political conservative who eventually spoke out against the bloody revolution taking place in France.

There is little doubt that what Wordsworth experienced at Lake Wyndemere was the existence of his role within the greater structure of creation.  Wordsworth wrote of a calm, joyful state of existence that made it possible for him to "see into the life of things."  And he spoke not just of deep consciousness ("Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher"), but also of true liberty.  Along with Burke, Coleridge, and others of his generation, Wordsworth saw that the radical ideology of his times was a dangerous illusion based on the dominance of Mind over Nature ("What is pride?  A rocket that emulates the stars").

True liberty is the product of calm acceptance of the nature of things.  Much of Wordsworth's so-called "nature poetry" is actually the record of his growing understanding of liberty.  "Delight and liberty," he discovered, were "the simple creed of childhood," and he sought to return to this condition of simplicity.  In his 1798 poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth spoke of how images of the landscape passed "into my purer mind" and of his entering into a "serene and blessed mood" in which he finally became "a living soul" and achieved liberty and happiness.

A fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives have always recognized the primacy of this level of consciousness.  They have addressed it under the name of spirit, higher power, faith, purpose, moral sense, God, and any number of other designations.  Liberals for the most part have dismissed deep consciousness altogether and placed their faith in the mind and its creations, especially the state.

A corollary of this fundamental difference is that liberals are incapable of fully appreciating the most powerful and decisive aspect of the structure of the universe.  It is as if, for whatever reasons, half of humanity had decided to attempt to survive without oxygen – except that deep consciousness is more important than oxygen.  One cannot really thrive, even for a moment, in the absence of the true self.

Conservatives bring their awareness of deep consciousness to their understanding of human affairs.  Politics, if directed by the mind alone, would be conducted in a manner that is scheming, clever, ruthless, and unprincipled.  The rational mind would calculate that without power, none of its ends could be accomplished, and it would proceed to make power an end in itself.  That seems an exact description of the modern-day Democratic Party.

The coordinated attacks against President Trump now taking place are evidence of this lust for power on the part of progressives.  Donald Trump is, in fact, the legitimate president of the United States.  This, in and of itself, should entitle him to a measure of respect even from those who profoundly disagree with him.  But for those who operate strictly from the intellect, without regard for the lasting value of our nation's institutions and traditions, ideological ends prevail over respect for the office of the president.  That's why they stoop to addressing the president with profanity, hostility, and ghastly attempts at humor.

Liberals have long rejected the idea that politics is a civil discourse in which opposing ideas are vetted and compromise is reached so government can operate for the good of all.  Their purely "rational" approach has led them to believe, as Minority Leader Schumer now appears to, that all-out political warfare works to their benefit.  They have become, as U.S. News and World Report suggests, the "party of outrage," so focused on bringing down Trump that they appear to have no message themselves.  That is true: above all, they want to rule, and they have lost touch with the deep consciousness that has always warned mankind against the lust for power.

If conservatives wished to express the true basis for their politics, they might do so by stating these truths: the universe is pervaded by deep consciousness.  A politics that taps into this consciousness acquires overwhelming power; depth; and, most of all, purpose.  The human mind is a highly fallible and amoral instrument, of which we must be skeptical.  And government must act in accord with the fundamental structure of "natural law" based on an existing order greater than that of the human mind.

When conservatives operate in accord with deep consciousness, they are successful.  By living within the true self, the individual gains powerful and transformative clarity.  The greatest conservative thinkers and writers, from Edmund Burke to T.S. Eliot to Milton Friedman, have always worked from within this true self.  They recognize that while they play merely a small role with the within the larger universe, they have been granted presence, understanding, and mental power of a sort unknown to their liberal opponents.  

This is what distinguishes conservatives from liberals.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).