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LOGOS I BENEDICTINE DECONSTRUCTION
BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
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When Man is gone and only gods remain To stride the world, their mighty bodies hung With golden shields, and golden curls outflung Above their childish foreheads; when the plain Round skull of Man is lifted and again Abandoned by the ebbing wave, among The sand and pebbles of the beach, - what tongue Will tell the marvel of the human brain? Heavy with music once this windy shell, Heavy with knowledge of the clustered stars: The one-time tenant of the draughty hall Himself, in learned pamphlet, did foretell, After some aeons of study jarred by wars, This toothy gourd, this head emptied of all. (Edna St. Vincent Millay)
“The Christian Enlightenment would dismantle false dogmatism and shed the unfettered light of Reason on everything, that the secular and divine order of existence and being, from atom to supreme being, might be revealed, but bedeviled anti-humanists, such as the atheistic Jacques Derrida and his relativistic crew of literary terrorists, along with various and sundry theologians armed with a pluralistic rationale of liberation that smacks of anarcho-communism, not to mention the monotheistic Islamist terrorists with their anarchic orthopraxis, do not appreciate the rational chains of hierarchical being no matter how loosely linked our logical associations might be for their sake. They have found weak links or contradictory sticking points in our careful rationalizations, which they use to make an obscene joke out of all that is wholesome and decent if not sacred, in order to disorder and dismantle our high Western civilization. They have made a mockery of the rational humanism of our republican democracy and its imperial faith and monarchical religion. In fine, they have dampened the Light of our Enlightenment and would gladly extinguish it. Wherefore our youth, our very future, has been corrupted by their wanton perversity. Reason led by Faith must be invoked to save humanity from eventually being gassed and thrown into the bottomless pit prepared by skeptical
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deconstructionists and other deranged postmodernists of this so-called New Age that has perverted our Western logic and inverted our sacred values.” (Professor Barnard Katzenbammer)
THE LIGHT OF REASON & THE FRACTIOUS FAULT
The Light of Reason is naturally identified with the one-god by persons who cast the special nature of humankind, its reasoning power, onto an idol named God. No less an illuminated personage than Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, in his September 12, 2006 speech at the University of Regensberg, that the Greek-modified God is Logos, in contrast to the perverse notion of radical Protestants, Muslims, dissident Catholics and iconoclastic Jews, not to mention mystics of all persuasions, that an omnipotent deity cannot be restrained by what amounts to our fallible reasoning power projected as an ideal or idol that is, after the final analysis of acidic reason, a mere name or word for our logolatry. The Pope alluded to the classical clash of religions West and East, particularly Judeo-Christian Europe and Islamic Near East, corresponding to the so-called clash between civilizations. Predominantly Christian Europe is purportedly winning that clash; Islam, with its truly monotheistic hence monolithic theocratic tendency, is reputedly a failed civilization in want of the reformation that the West thinks it needs to join the enlightened Western pursuit of life, liberty and more and more property. Taking Pope Benedict‟s Logos as our cue, let us take advantage of our leisure and draw an imaginary line or margin between East and West that we might distinguish and confuse them as the Light of Reason passes overhead. The fundamental religious difference or fault can be traced in logical terms. On the right hand we have the analytical and dualistic Greek logic of Aristotle with its rational law of identity (A is A), law of contradiction (A is not not-A), and law of excluded middle (A cannot be A and non-A, neither A nor non-A). Aristotelian logic presumes that X is either this or that. On the left hand we have the synthetic and paradoxical hence presumably irrational logic that allows us to assume that A and non-A do not exclude each other as predicates of X: “It is and it is not,” posits positive paradoxical logic; or, in the negative, “It is neither this nor that.” Paradoxically inclined sages claim that we can only perceive reality in contradictions, and shall never location the ultimate unity of reality, the One, in thought.
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I may infer from the law of contradiction that I think therefore I exist independently of my thoughts: I am not what I think about; to wit, the world, and that includes my own body. In any event there is nothing as certain to me, upon narcissistic reflection, as my existence in relation to the world, the feminine aspect that I would keep out of sight, perhaps hidden in a niche on the side of the vault. Without that relationship, I cannot be defined as an existence; nevertheless, unqualified and indefinite egos, identical in their naked indefiniteness, are projected as a public god, a Category of One, the loneliest indefinitude of all for there is nothing like god. We might imagine that this vacuous loneliness motivated the creation of the world out of the rib or arc of spacetime; yet the law of contradiction makes it clear that the creator is not his creation, hence he remains forever absolutely independent. God might be clothed by the world, which is God‟s textile or text or Logos at work, but clothes do not make the man and are not the man. On the other hand, where what is is not, the identity of the „I‟ or ego is not so clear cut and may even be denied as a unitary existent, as might the existence of a sole god be denied as well. On this hand, mind and body, and god and world, are confused. God is not merely clothed by the world: God‟s body is the world. Folks who are prone to this sort of logic, even if they profess belief in god, are pantheists, and they are called atheists by monotheists in dire need of an absolute god independent of the world – in that contradiction they are dualists to boot. Although the so-called Western mind appreciates works, its right-handed reasoning tends to intolerance due to its Cartesian separation of mind from body, emphasizing the right way of thinking or orthodoxy over right action or orthopraxis. Indeed, the notion that absolute truths and even Truth as God is located in Western thought tends to dogmatic By-Goddery bigotry, the burning of opinionated heretics, and, ironically, to science, where only correct thinking, obtaining to perceivable results, counts. In psychoanalytical terms, a thought is the same as a deed to the idealistic superego, the moral or judicial factor of personality. The superego does not distinguish between subjective and objective: the conscientious and idealistic superego will punish the realistic ego for bad thinking even if the thoughts are not translated into action: if you think of committing adultery, you have done the dastardly deed. The left-handed religions do not believe that unitary truth can be found in contradictory thought: If salvation is not to be had in self-righteous thinking that leads to selfish personal survival, there is no reason to fight over contradictory ideas. Instead of dogmatic thought, the emphasis is placed on self-transformative lifestyle.
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Sexually speaking, Western thinking is dominated by Father Reason, the discriminating patriarch who presides over irrational Mother Faith – she loves her children equally – so he may be certain of his private property in his brood. Father is of course a private capitalist, and Mother is a communist or state capitalist. Of course the ideal family is a mixed government: Father is monarch when at home – mother presides in his absence; father and mother together are an aristocracy; their children constitute a democracy. When we trace the fractious fault between East and West, we notice that human beings have two hands – at least it takes two Western hands to clap; the sound of one Eastern hand clapping is absurd – and that the marginal line between East and West is arbitrarily drawn and unheeded by the Sun that shines on every head. The Greek style of thinking Pope Benedict dogmatically claimed for Europe in his Regensberg speech is not as certain as he would have it be, as is evidenced by Socrates, whose wisdom was in being the only one who knew he did not know. As the Taoists say, “To know and yet think we do not know is the highest attainment. To not know and to think we do is a disease.” Heraclitus of Ephesus, whom the West claims as one of the early fathers of Western philosophy, made a number of observations on the contradictions that we perceive because perception depends on contradiction:
“People do not understand that that which is at variance with itself agrees with itself,” asserted Heraclitus of Ephesus. “There is a harmony in the bending back, as in the case of the bow and the lyre.” And, “The bones connected by joints are at once a unitary whole and not a unitary whole. To be in agreement is to differ; the concordant is the discordant. From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness comes all the many particulars.” He spoke of the misunderstanding of the Logos: “Although this Logos is eternally valid, yet men are unable to understand it, not only before hearing it, but even after they have heard it for the first time. That is to say, although all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos, men seem to be quite without any experience of it, at least if they are judged in the light of such words and deeds as I am here setting forth.” Heraclitus was an early proponent of the way of thinking modern academics have dubbed structuralism, a philosophical discipline that examines the relationships between fundamental elements upon which higher mental or cultural functions are
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presumably based. Since human beings are part of a nature that appears from its changes to be lawful or systematic, it follows that human behavior, including thought or symbolic action, would somehow correspond to the natural laws or ratios change – thus is human nature in accord with general nature rational, at least until the regular order is punctuated unexpectedly by elemental calamities, attributed by the superstitious mind to unruly beings or the wrath of gods. Structural analysis and synthesis proceed in every person at an early age. Perception depends on change. Child psychologist Jean Piaget observed that a child‟s attention is naturally centered on change: “The explanation of movement is the central point to which all the child‟s ideas about the world converge.” Things move due to external forces and are also, like the child, self-moved. With guidance from his teachers, the child may develop the notion of a first-mover or causeless-cause to rely upon as an explanation for unexplained events at an early age. Otherwise one element or the other will do: A child under the influence of adult authority might dogmatically uphold the notion that all things are made of dust, having heard that from dust we come and to dust shall we return. That man is made of mud and water is a myth common to many cultures. But an authoritative identification of human beings with dirty dust might have quite a demoralizing effect on the impressionable child given his experience with the concrete substance and his misunderstanding of fine figures of speech. In Ethics of the Dust, Ten Lectures to Little Housewives on the Elements of Crystallization, John Ruskin, LL.D., Honorary Student of Christ Church and Slade Professor of Fine Art, imagined that during the course of a lecture given at a girls school he had worked to correct the dusty old atomic notion, implanted in childhood, that identifies the human being in general with its particulate material: “No, children, I won‟t call you that; and mind, as you grow up, that you do not get into an idle and wicked habit of calling yourselves that. You are something better than dust, and have other duties to do than ever dust can do; and the bonds of affection you will enter into are better than merely „getting into order.‟ But see to it, on the other hand, that you behave at least as well as „dust‟; remember, it is only on compulsion, and while it has no free permission to do as it likes, that it ever gets out of order; but sometimes, with some of us, the compulsion has to be the other way – hasn‟t it? (Remonstratory whispers, expressive of opinion that the lecturer is becoming to personal) I‟m not looking at anybody in particular – indeed I am not. Nay, if you blush so, Kathleen, how can one help looking? We‟ll go back to the atoms.” According to our contemporary child psychologists, even the young child has an autonomous hand in the logos of the first stage of logical development:
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“The root of these beliefs,” explains Monsieur Piaget in The Child’s Conception of Physical Causality, “namely the spontaneous element and that which alone is independent of adult influence and of the question which as been asked, is anthropocentric finalism: the wind is „made for‟ the rain, the trees, the boats, etc. Under the influence of the question of the origin of the wind the relation expressed by the words „made for‟ gives rise in the child‟s mind to the idea that the wind is „made by‟ people or by God.” It is as if the world were made in the child‟s image, each thing intentionally put in its place and in definite relation. A child of eight named Re seems to believe that clouds, dust, air, and water participate with one another. As for the lighter things, the clouds might move the wind and the wind might move the clouds, but then again the Sun or God might move them both. God‟s Logos, we might imagine, is God‟s breath: He weighs up his Scheme within, and then exhales the glorious universe. If he doesn‟t mind us saying so, we say he is a bit of a blowhard when linguistically expressed Thanks to Dragon Breath, this Worm or ours keeps swelling. “It is not because breath eventually plays a part in the child‟s conception of birth that it has become the principle underlying „spirit‟, „thought‟, or „soul‟ in this history of ideas. It is rather because air plays a preponderant part in the child‟s ideas about the world, and about movement in particular.” And of course it is inextricably linked with speech. We might ask our child psychologist, “Does not the child forever „remember‟ its first gasp of air?” Mankind in its childhood has a religion natural to its youth. John Ruskin, famed art critic and Gothic-art enthusiast, social theorist and Christian socialist of the Victorian Age, wrote another curious book, entitled Queen of the Air, Being a Study of the Greek Myths of Cloud and Storm, wherein he waxed enthusiastically on the “science of mythology” in regards to the “interpretation of myths relating to natural phenomenon.” John Ruskin‟s aesthetic sentiment was averse to the morally degrading mechanisms of the Industrial Revolution and its tendency to standardize life, a tendency that he attributed to classical structuralism. For him, Gothic architecture wrote large the harmony of the affections of the heart and the inspirations of the mind reunited in stone. He thought its picaresque and grotesque aspects expressed the striving of thought for freedom, bore witness to the very liberty of the stonemason and the manual worker‟s manumission, providing withal manure for the lofty mind, that its manacles be loosened and all manipulative hands, buttressed by what he called the Law of Help, be together inspired to manage the overarching task, that is to make hidden principles manifest and manifold in expression, for that is the maneuver proper to poetic Homo Fabricus, the articulate handyman whose hands teach him to think well on things and to make do the best he can.
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All that, we might add in a footnote or appendix, is in accord with the advice of the imaginative wise wo-man, a witch if you please, the fe-male logos called Maya, wife or feminine power of the god, in some parts of the world – Maya in triunal parlance is maker-making-made: her fashions are illusory to confounded men but are nevertheless effective. Mayadevi is the mother of the messiah; she is known as Mary to Christians. In any event, at least according to John Ruskin, who did not appreciate the merely aesthetic man nor the merely economic man, the true artist should ignore social conventions and look to nature first of all, rejecting nothing, selecting nothing. The artist should communicate truth above all, for high art is moral art, essential to the felicitous development of humankind in all its endeavors. Impressionism was not John Ruskin‟s cup of tea, particularly in the the form of one of its famous efforts to paint Night: he published a review stating that the American Impressionist in Europe, James McNeill Whistler, had, with his „Nocturne in Black and Gold‟, thrown a pot of paint in the public‟s face. The artist sued him for libel and won a farthing and much publicity, much to the critic‟s consternation over the damage to his reputation. Furthermore, John Ruskin had an inordinate affection for young girls, an affection that sparked the debate over the probability of his pedophilia. His proposal to the very religious lady Rose la Touche after she came of age – he met her when she was nine - was rejected, and she died shortly thereafter. He became mentally unstable, even subject to delusional visions, and soon turned from art to invest his fortune in socialist projects and religion. He held that the Greek religion was naturally structured according to the four elements: “Now, at the culminating period of the Greek religion, we find, under one governing Lord of all things, four subordinate elemental forces, and four spiritual powers living in them and commanding them. The elements are of course the wellknown four of the ancient world – the earth, the waters, the fire, and the air; and the living powers of them are Demeter, the Latin Ceres; Poseidon, the Latin Neptune; Apollo, who has retained always his Greek name; and Athena, the Latin Minerva. Each of these are descended from, more ancient, and therefore more mystic, deities of the earth and heaven, and of a finer element of aether supposed to be beyond the heavens.” We recall that Athena‟s most common epithet is glaukopis, meaning “greyblue-eyed,” which is usually translated “gleaming-eyed” or “bright-eyed.” Related to the same root word is glaux, or the “owl” that sees in the night hence is wise, wherefore Athena, bird-goddess and Queen of the Air, appears as an owl or with an owl. She also carries the deep blue shield or aegis lent to her by her father Zeus. John Ruskin was profoundly impressed by a lecture on modern science, now outdated, delivered by one Professor Tyndall, a lecture that Mr. Ruskin thought proved, “in two
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important particulars, the evidence of an instinctive truth in ancient symbolism: showing, first, that the Greek conception of an aetherial element pervading space is justified by the closest reason of modern physicists; and secondly, that the blue of the sky, hitherto thought to be caused by watery vapour, is, indeed, reflected from the divided air itself; so that the bright blue of the eyes of Athena, and the deep blue of her aegis, prove to be accurate mythic expressions of natural phenomena which it is an uttermost triumph of recent science to have revealed.” We shall return to the Queen of the Air, if flighty Psyche sees fit. It is a fine thing to observe nature and to divine its architecture, but the structure conceived is rarely fitting. Now French philosopher Jacques Derrida has criticized the purportedly postmodern philosophical fad called Structuralism; to his classically trained mind, Structuralism was not dynamic at all: Structuralism smacked of the metaphysical rigidity of the nebulous permanencies of ontology. Structure (structura <strue re, „to build‟) was just another old name for a designer or final cause of fixed outcomes or buildings, of a presiding being or architect in itself unmoved but at once the motivating principle from which all systems are supposedly derived. Take for example, the principle of the line, which is in truth a non-dimensional point, which does not really exist yet is somehow present throughout the extent of the line. The history of an idea or object of thought is a series of such points or imagined beings under cover of different terms; in one word: Being – which implies Nothing. What then is our point? Everybody wants us to get to the point nowadays. “Get to the point. Just give me the time and don‟t build me a clock.” We prefer the clock because it tells all times yet never gets to the Point because the Point is infinite and infinitesimal. The most successful business persons build clocks that will outlast them; one famous banker said that it takes nearly two hours to make a good point; we say it takes forever to make a perfect point, for there is nothing to it, and we would not be pinned down. Now yet another scientist has written a book scientifically proving that God does not exist; he does not understand that his book, although it might make him a small worldly fortune, is entirely beside the Point, hence irrelevant from our mutual perspective at the center everywhere. In any event, if the a priori, top-down Supreme Being does not presently exist as a fact positively and negatively defined, that shall not deter humankind from continuing with the grass roots God Project; and that bottomup project shall no doubt coincide with the Final Cause; that is, if there be a designing Creator in the first place; and if not, so what? For it is the meaning or being or point at the centre of it all, and not the mundane facts of existence, upon which the merrygo-round turns.
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“The entire history of the concept of structure,” posited Derrida in Writing and Difference, “must be thought of as a series of substitutions of centre for centre, as a linked chain of determinations of the centre. Successively, and in a regulated fashion, the centre received different forms or names. The history of metaphysics, like the history of the West, is the history of metaphors and metonymies. Its matrix … is the determination of Being as presence in all senses of this word. It could be shown that all the names related to fundamentals, to principles, of to the centre have always designated an invariable presence – eidos, archê, telos, energia, ousia, essence, existence, substance, subject, alêtheia, transcendentality, consciousness, God, man, and so forth.” Heraclitus outlined the structure of change that he intuited from observation of the transformation of physical elements: “Fire lives in the death of earth, air in the death of fire, water in the death of air, and earth in the death of water.” Hence we have our campfire or circle of fire, a virtuous circle about which we might ritually dance both ways, keeping in mind that the universe or one and only verse or “turning” begins and ends and has its being in everlasting Fire; to wit: Fire-Air-WaterEarth-Fire. The ends of a line when infinitely extended are bound to meet, despite our conception of the line‟s progress: “In the circumference of the circle the beginning and the end are common.” Thus did Heraclitus, anticipating the particle-wave or matter-energy transformation theory, relate his Logos or scheme to elemental Fire, the energetic principle running throughout the elements: “There is exchange of all things for fire and fire for all things, as there is of wares for gold and gold for wares.” As far as he was concerned, the universe is uncreated: “This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an everliving fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.” Now the unity of the opposition or strife by means of which all things move is in Fire, to which man is related by his soul, which is naturally airy. Now we beg Heraclitus‟ indulgence for a moment recall, for mythical effect, that Athena, the Queen of the Air, also known a Tritogenia or thrice-born, sprang fully grown and armed from the head of Zeus, and was etymologically identified by Plato A-theo-noa, “the mind of God.” Athena‟s mother was crafty Metis, daughter to the Thetys who gave birth to a daughterly race including her and Europa among others. Metis was the first love and wife of Zeus, his great counselor in time of war against the Titans. In one most famous incident, she, at the behest of Zeus, she drugged Cronus and gave him the vomitive that caused him to regurgitate the children he had devoured. Metis was the mother of thinking, the goddess whom Hesiod called the “worker of right actions, beyond all the gods and beyond all mortal people in knowledge.” who, or so
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it was prophesied (mantis, mania), would bear children, one of whom who would overpower the king of gods, and for that reason and upon the advice of Gaia and Ouranos, Zeus turned Metis into a fly and swallowed her whole: “For so they counseled,” wrote Hesiod of Gaia and Ouranos, “in order that no other everlasting god, besides Zeus, should ever be given kingly position, for it had been arranged that, from her, children surpassing in wisdom should be born, first the grey-eyed girl, the Tritogeneia Athene… but then a son to be king over gods and mortals was to be born of her and his heart would be overmastering.” But Zeus swallowed Metis too late: she had already conceived Athene, and she proceeded to prepare an helmet and robe for Athena. Zeus suffered a terrible headache from the hammering out of the helmet, wherefore Hermes, the messenger or messiah of the gods, perforce with the ambiguous axe of Hephaestus, split open Zeus‟ head to release Athena, the ma-ma of man-the-thinker or human, much to his great relief but not so much to those men or minds (mens) who inherited his headache and were wont therefore to pursue civilization for temporary relief. In Bharat, or the ancient cradle of India, „ma‟ means „drawn out‟ or „extended‟, and Manu is prototypical man, or he who is drawn from his ma‟s womb, „he who draws out thought‟; he who has, „manas‟, or mind. “Samsayatmika manah (the mind always doubts).” But there is a dogmatic formula or mantra or manifesto to relieve doubt: “Mana trayati iti mantra (the mind that makes you free from the world, that is, mantra).”Athena, then, is the goddess civilization with all its devices and crafts including the fundamental craft of war spawned by a split-mind in search of monotheistic monopoly. Athena, mind you, is Logos manifested in its female form; she is Sophia, that is to say, Wisdom. She is the Holy Ghost known to her counterpart, the Son of God. But let us leave the narrative and return to the metaphysics of ancient science: “Soul is the vaporization of which everything else is composed” claimed Heraclitus; “moreover, it is the least corporeal of things and is in ceaseless flux, for the moving world can only be known by what is in motion.” We might agree with that notion providing that the moving standard is a unique inertial frame of reference. In any case, the motion should be coherent, and to that end the more arid or closer to Fire the person is, the better, for there is nothing more perverse, if humankind is supposed to be reasonable or in accord with the Logos, than besotted drunks staggering around the campfire. “Souls take pleasure is becoming moist,” but “it is death to souls to become water,” for “a drunken man has to be led by a boy, whom he follows stumbling and not knowing whither he goes, for his soul is moist.” It is better to go on the wagon and dry out, for the arid soul is closer to the Fire: “A dry soul is wisest and best, or the best and wisest soul is a dry beam of light.” But no
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matter how dry he may be, on the whole, “Man is not rational; there is intelligence only in what encompasses him.” Although the Logos is the principle that rations out the fluctuating forms, it appears that the material universe encompassed by the Whole is not admirable for its ratios: “The fairest universe is but a heap of rubbish piled up at random.” The dead frame is worthless: “Corpses are more fit to be thrown out than dung. In any case, a sane or presumably rational life is preferable to insanity. We might ask: Would humankind survive without God symbolizing the Whole or Sanity? Do not men and women need metaphysical as well as physical ground to stand upright on? We believe we need things to survive, and an underlying explanation of those things serves us well as reasonable beings. But do we need a mysterious thing-in-itself, a Thingie? Would not the death of God, whether real or imaginary, render the race unholy or insane? Yea, the death of God is not an insurmountable problem for members of the Death-of-God Christian cult: you see, God died and humankind became Jesus Christ when he died on the Cross, wherefore we await not the advent of Christ but the resurrection of God. Pope Benedict, given his affection for God‟s Scheme or dogmatic structure, would probably agree with Heraclitus‟ pronouncement that “Men should speak with rational mind and thereby hold strongly to that which is shared in common, as a city holds on to the law, and even more strongly. For all human laws are nourished by the one divine law, which prevails as far as it wishes, suffices for all things, and yet is something more than they are.” And what do humans have in common? Apparently Logos: “Thinking is common to all.” That is not to say that their thinking is correct, for men, although “intimately connected with the Logos,” are wont to “set themselves against Logos,” hence “what is divine escapes men‟s notice because of their incredulity.” But all shall be put in their place: “Fire in its advance will catch all things by surprise and judge them.” Yes, justice is to each his own, yet “Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses.” And in the end each and every one of us shall be redeemed for a new beginning; that is, we shall all be redoomed or replaced: “After birth men have the wish to live and to accept their dooms; then they leave behind them children to become dooms in their turn.” Heraclitus did not harp on peace like our popes are wont to do; quite to the contrary: “The people should fight for their law as for their city wall.” And, “It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife. Homer was wrong in wishing that strife might perish from amongst gods and men, for if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist.”
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DOOMED AND REDOOMED
Ironically, most of what we know about Heraclitus is derived from Christian sources intolerant of his manner of thinking, which, as far as we know from the remains of his teaching, admits to divine spirituality but not to a substantial and singular absolute person called God, who, by virtue of his Logos, created or breathed or inspired or spun the universe from Nothing, instantiating his unbegotten Son therein to redoom humankind. Genesis does provide a chaos of elemental materials for the Creator to realize his scheme, that his original Word, weighed up by him before the creation, instantaneously becomes Deed – the Greeks, on the other hand, from whom we borrow the term hypocrita (actor), perceived a gap between talking (logos) and doing (ergon) in the Hellenes. The personification of the Logos in the process of the realization of the ideal was enhanced by the Targums in the post-biblical period: the Aramic term „Memra‟ (Hebrew dabar – „word‟) was their synonym for YHWH, thus did they say that Adam and Eve heard “Memra” stomping around in the Garden of Eden as they hid in the trees. Memra was obviously not omniscient in those days, as he could not see them in their hiding place. Memra had no objection to their sexual intercourse, for he expected them to go forth and multiply; he objected to them having their own reasons for doing what they did. Adam and Eve in their ignorance had ignored Memra: they neglected to give credit where credit was presumably due, to the arbitrary Reason of reasoning, the adjudicating Cause of causes, the dominus who sets his foot down (dom) in his domain, under his dome, over which he has absolute dominium. The same might be said of Marcion‟s challenge to the Roman Church, a challenge we would be unaware of but for the Church‟s testimony to its intolerance for Marcion‟s Christian perspective, deemed un-Christian in writing. The Catholics had difficulty rooting out the Marcionite church because its liturgy differed little from its own; therefore spies had difficulty detecting the heretics. Marcion, whose congregation was considerably larger than the Catholic flock at the time, had compiled the first Christian canon, consisting only of Luke, and Paul‟s letters with everything therein perceived as too Jewish excised. Not that Marcion the arch-heretic was anti-Jewish: he loved Paul, for example, and deemed the rest of the Christian leaders frauds; but he was convinced that it was high time for the Terrorist Almighty of the Old Testament, the Old World Doom, to be replaced by the alien god, the
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Stranger, the god of Love whom Jesus represented, who first appeared on the Earth as a phantasm at the scene of his baptism by John the Baptist. Since the Marcionites had set themselves against the Old Testament‟s Mosaic Law, they are known as antinomians, a tendency that reappeared full force at the beginning of the Reformation and was quashed for fear of revolution; thus was it said that Christ came to fulfill the archaic law, not to abrogate it. The memory of Saul of Tarsus, known as Paul the Christ to some heretics, author of the Christian Magna or epistle to the Galatians among other letters, helped inspire the Protestant revolution against Church government; further redaction and reinterpretation of his seminal works might inspire another protest to disestablish the archaic tribal laws of the Hebrews and replace them with guidelines of love. Paul purportedly mentioned the hostility engendered by the Law in a letter to the Ephesians: “But now in Jesus Christ, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility causes by the rules and the decrees of the Law.”
THE GODDESS OF MARGINS
“Wisdom is one and unique; it is unwilling and yet willing to be called by the name of Zeus,” quoth Heraclitus. Furthermore, “Bigotry is a sacred disease.” Furthermore, “They pray to images, much as they were to talk to houses; for they do not know what gods and heroes are.” Heraclitus knew what he was talking about. He lived in Ephesus, home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, indeed one of the greatest religious and cultural centers of the ancient world. Bigger than a football field, the temple had 127 Ionic columns, gilded in silver and gold, each one 60-foot tall, and was home to the finest works of art from throughout the world – the temple was burnt down about B.C.E. 356 by a man named Herostratus, allegedly an insane man who wanted nothing more than to make a name for himself. Eight pillars from the temple would eventually be used to build the dome of the Church of Saint Sophia in Istanbul – the church was later converted to a mosque and then a museum. The goddess Artemis, twin sister to far-flung Apollo, was oriented to the Orient. She was Goddess of Margins and Borders and Crises – to this very day she presides over the unruly metaphysical margin between East and West alluded to by
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Pope Benedict. Artemis is the virginal protector of women and young children and animals of both sexes. She was sometimes called Mistress of Animals and Lady of Wild Things by the ancients. Artemis Ephesia was most popular with rural folk on the margins of civilization; she was indeed an Earth goddess inclined to wildness and was closely associated with the high-hatted Persian goddess of wild mountains and forests, Cybele of Many Breasts – her globular adornments might have been eggs or bull testicles instead of breasts. Ephesus was originally named „Aphasa‟, meaning „city of the stream‟ or „city of the mother goddess.‟ The city was reportedly founded by the Amazons („Antianeira‟ or „those who fight like men‟) long before the Ionian Greek arrived from Athens – the city sided with Persia in the Persian Wars with the Greeks. The Egyptian cult of Isis became popular in the city after the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great. Ptolemy I took political advantage of the cult, using it to unite his Greek and Egyptian and Hellenic subjects; he contrived a consort for Isis, Serapis, a conglomeration of Osiris, Apis, Dionysus, Zeus and other gods, but the synthetic counterpart of Isis was unacceptable in Asia Minor. The thriving city of gleaming white marble, replete with temples, statutes, fountains, covered pavements, colonnaded walkways, lights, sewerage and plumbing, had a population of about 300,000 at its zenith around the time of Christ. Despite its fame, or rather because of it, Ephesus was the sort of seed-mixing harlot noble millenarian desert prophets worth their camels were wont to defame to all eternity. It was located in what is now western Turkey, the cultural crossroads that witnessed the ancient political and economic strife between people from East and West.
THE VIRGIN SACRIFICE ON THE MARGIN
Homer made strategically located Troy the most famous example of the fight for foreign markets and the cruelty of the Greeks in the pursuit of free trade. Enter for romantic interests the flaming femme fatale of Greece, redheaded Helen, the most beautiful possession to be had in the world; and she was pledged with pursuant to a wager among her suitors – the gamblers agreed that all would guarantee the marriage of the one who won her as wife – Menelaus was the unfortunate winner. We recall that Zeus becalmed the sea when the united Greeks tried to sail to Troy from Aulis in pursuit of free trade and Helen, who had run off to Troy with
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Paris; the gods had given the pair a fair wind, blowing them to Troy before stalling their pursuers: “If only Zeus had not breathed against the wind in Euripus that would have otherwise carried them away,” wrote Euripides. “He chooses which sails to fill with strong gusts and what ships to stay unmoved.” They had apparently failed to sacrifice a goat to Artemis at the margin between life and death, peace and war. The prophet Calchas told Agamemnon that the fleet would be allowed to sail if only young Iphigenia were sacrificed to Artemis, the goddess of maidens. The king capitulated at once and claimed that Iphigenia would not really die, or so charged his enraged, cuckolded and jealous brother, calling his sibling a liar to gods and men, and charged him with being a self-deluded, high-and-mighty misleader who believed the people were merely shadows of his will, a man incompetent to rule himself let alone the Greek host – the Chorus remarked on the animosity of the brothers, saying they were like two mirror images emerged from the same womb yet venting Strife after seeing the light of day. Aeschylus, in his play Agamemnon, explains Agamemnon‟s motive to sacrifice his girl: Agamemnon is damned if he does the deed and damned if he does not do it, but in the end god‟s law must prevail. “Calchas cried, „My captains, Artemis must have blood!‟ So harsh the sons of Atreus dashed their scepters on the rocks, could not hold back their tears, and I still can hear the older warlord saying, „Obey, obey, or a heave doom with crush me! Oh, but doom will crush me once I rend my child, the glory of my home – a father‟s hands are stained, blood of a young girl streaks the altar. Pain both ways and what is worse? Desert the fleets. Fail the alliance? No, but stop the winds with a virgin‟s blood, feed their lust, their fury? – Feed their fury! – Law is law! – Let all go well!‟ And once he slipped his neck in the strap of Fate, his spirit veering black, impure, unholy, once he turned he stopped at nothing, seized with the frenzy blinding driving to outrage – wretched frenzy, cause of all our grief! Yes, he had the heart to sacrifice his daughter, to bless the war that avenged a woman‟s loss, a bridal rite that sped the men-of-war. „My father, father!‟ – she might pray to the winds; no innocence moves her judges mad for war. Her father called the henchmen on, on with a prayer, „Hoist her over the altar with all your strength! She‟s fainting – lift her, sweep robes around her, but slip this strap in her gentle curving lips… here, gag her hard, a sound will curse the house‟ – and the bridle chokes her voice… her saffron robes pouring over the sand, her glance like arrows showering, wounding every murder through with pity….” The king‟s daughter was lured to Aulis on the pretext of marriage to heroic Achilles; of course she was appalled to discover the true purpose, asking, “Why me?” But then, according to Euripides‟ recounting of the event, she willingly committed herself to the sacrifice for the honor of Greece: She had wondered what she had done to deserve such a fate, but then the truth came to her as a fiery lighting bolt, that she
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must die because by doing so she would will the wind to fill the sails and thus save the Greeks from infamy. Who was she, a mere mortal, to defy Artemis? So to Greece she commemorated her body, concluding her pledge with: “Barbarians are ruled by Greeks, who are born to be free, while barbarians are born slaves.” Artemis miraculously saved her at the altar, switching her with a goat and whisking her off elsewhere to attend to her rites: Everyone had heard the fatal blow fall, but when they looked the girl had disappeared, and upon the bloody altar was beautiful deer instead. Imaginative authors also tried to save Helen from infamy as an adulterer, claiming that the Helen who appeared at Troy was a phantasm, and that the real Helen had been whisked away somewhere where she was really faithful to her husband; but few believed that tall tale.
PAUL AT EPHESUS
Now Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Amazonian city to the south of Troy, could be claimed by the East as well as the West, for his philosophy rests on the margin protected by Artemis. And so might mystically inclined Saint Paul, whose growth was influenced by oriental Jews and occidental Greeks; that is, if it were not for his Jewish antipathy towards idolatry. For Saint Paul, who was born in Tarsus, a Hellenized city south of Ephesus, was chosen by the Creator before the world was created to deliver Christ‟s message to Asia, there was only one Logos or mediator between Man and God: Jesus Christ: “Before the world was made,” it was forever inscribed in Ephesians, “he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ….” We remember well the riotous behavior in Ephesus that might have led to Paul‟s death. The silversmith Demetrius, troubled by Paul‟s perceived threat to the idol business, called his fellow workmen together at Ephesus to warn them that Paul was going all over Asia, saying that their idols were not gods because they were handmade. Not only was that a threat to their craft, but might cause people to despise the Temple of Artemis along with the great goddess “whom all Asia and the world worships.” Of course that would surely ruin the tourist trade. The craftsmen were enraged by Demetrius‟ speech, and demonstrated for two hours, shouting the slogan, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Fortunately for the future of Christianity – some heretics believe Paul is the real Christ – Paul was saved from stoning, perhaps at the behest of Artemis Soteira (“savior”), for the town clerk intervened and persuaded the
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assembly of workmen to disband, warning them that they could be charged with rioting, and assuring them that, “These men you have brought here are not guilty of any sacrilege or blasphemy against our goddess. If Demetrius and the craftsmen he has with him want to complain about anyone, there are the assizes and the proconsuls; let him take the case to court.”
THE SCIENCE OF MYSTERIES
In any case, Paul, who called himself “the prisoner for Christ,” made himself scarce before eventually basing his mission in Ephesus for some time; the city also served as headquarters for John the Evangelist and Timothy. And it was at councils in Ephesus that the singular divinity of Jesus the Christ was pronounced, and the primacy of the apostle Peter and his successors were affirmed, amongst other holy holdings. The triunal deity presented perplexing logically impediments for the early Christologists, who were ordained to make three into one. God was the father of thought, verily his son, and the son was wise by virtue of his father‟s consort in whom the seed was planted, the mysterious holy ghost, best cloaked in a purdah and thus kept untainted by lusty stares. The organic familial concept of the ancient Egyptian nuclear family came in handy: The father and mother and son, although apparently three persons are one and the same flesh and blood; they are of one vine, so to speak, and are essentially one substantial person. We note that incest was for royalty or the first family only in Egypt, where, as in India, some high priests believed that the wise mother of the universe was prior to the father, whom she immaculately conceived out the space of her womb; and this first-born father-son impregnated her for the sake of a spatially extended family. In any event a three-in-one deity can naturally be synthesized in the name of God (YHWH) the Father, Wisdom (Sophia) the Mother, and Christ (Logos) the Son, as One. Logos, or the Son, would of course be conceived as partly Grecian Sophia and part Jewish Lord. Before ridiculing the ecclesiastical councils for their fierce caviling over the structure of the hopefully one Supreme Being, we should keep in mind that the quibbling over quiddities or what-nesses had cultural and political ramifications for the religious parties concerned. The oft asserted fundamental difference between Eastern and Western human beings eludes careful scientific research into the depths of ambiguous human nature for its obscured origin. As for modern science, as in quantum physics and the like: the
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working principles of its metaphysics, so to speak, are patently absurd, virtually incomprehensible to the old „Western‟ way of thinking so much admired by Pope Benedict. One cannot go beyond that way of thinking and really know what one knows unless that way of thinking is methodically examined in its historical aspects in their times and places, a method Ernst Mach and other scientists referred to as the “historical-critical” method of philosophical analysis; incidentally, Pope Benedict would not have the so-called historical method applied to his theosophy for fear that an isolated examination of Jesus in his particular epoch would cost him his eternal nature as the Christ, in which case Christians might throw out the old textile and don outlandish garb; but the Pope is tolerant of its application elsewhere. Albert Einstein, in his December 7, 1944 letter to Robert Thornton, an African-American philosopher of science who was just beginning to teach physics at the University of Puerto Rico, wrote: “So many people today – and even professional scientists – seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is – in my opinion – the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.” Moreover, in a 1916 memorial note for Ernst Mach, Einstein stressed the importance of the science of knowing what we can know, the subject known as epistemology: “How does it happen that a properly endowed natural scientist comes to concern himself with epistemology? Is there no more valuable work in his specialty? …When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching, that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not merely their quick wittedness, I can affirm they had a vigorous interest in epistemology…. Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens…. For that reason, it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analyzing the long commonplace concepts and exhibiting those circumstances upon which their justification and usefulness depend, how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. By this means, their all-too-great authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, replaced by others if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.” The proper arena for the application of the historical-critical method to the philosophy of any science would be metaphysics, of which Aristotle‟s afterwords to
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his physics – dubbed “metaphysics” by later academics because these lectures to students followed his physics class – is an early Western example. “It became clear to me that metaphysics,” wrote philosopher R.G. Collingwood in his An Autobiography, “is no futile attempt at knowing what lies beyond the limits experience, but is primarily at any given time an attempt to discover what the people of that time believe about the world‟s general nature; such beliefs being the presuppositions of all their „physics‟, that is, their inquiries into its detail…. The question what presuppositions underlie the „physics‟ or natural science of a certain people at a certain time is as purely historical a question as what kind of clothes they wear. And this is the question that metaphysicians have to answer.” The history of everything was Professor Collingwood‟s favorite subject. His father, W.G. Collingwood – secretary and biographer of John Ruskin, and a painter, historian, and archeologist – took him to an excavation of the Roman fort at Hardknott Castle when he was three weeks old. He was home-educated until he was thirteen years of age: young Collingwood developed his interest in archeology, philosophy, and natural sciences; he read ancient and modern languages, learned to write, played the piano, painted, sailed, and bound books. By the age of eleven he had already written, illustrated and bound several books. As a consequence, he came to believe before he died at the young age of 44 that parents ought to be the primary educators of children, and that the sustained experience of history and philosophy should not be restricted to professionals at the university but should be enjoyed by everyone everywhere; indeed, in his opinion, everyone has a duty to study history and philosophy, and to ask themselves, as he did, “How good an historian shall I be?” The good historian knows himself. “ All history is the history of thought,” thought he. “There is nothing else except thought that can be the object of historical knowledge.” To know what was thought, the historian must think the thoughts, reenact the thoughts for himself. He realized from his own practice that “historical problems arise out of practical problems. We study history in order to see more clearly into the situation in which we are called to act.” The historian discovers what he is able to do in his ability to think the thoughts of others. “And finding out what he is able to do is finding out what kind of man he is. If he is able to understand, by rethinking them, the thoughts of a great many different kinds of people, it follows that he must be a great many kinds of man. He must be, in fact, a microcosm of all the history he can know. Thus his self-knowledge is at the same time his knowledge of the world of human affairs.” As far he was concerned, “The science of human affairs was history.” Of course the study of the history that is thought leads us to know what we know and to wonder if more can be known and understood. To that philosophical
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end Professor Collingwood‟s trade secret comes in handy: Ask questions. Ask of the history: What would I have done in this person‟s place given these conditions? Ask the key question of the philosophers when reading their statements: “To what question did So-and-So intend this proposition as an answer?” A proposition to be fully understood should be traced back through the layers of questions and answers that led to it, and at bottom will be found a fundamental presupposition. “According to my own „logic of question and answer,‟ a philosopher‟s doctrines are his answers to certain questions he has asked himself, and no one who does not understand what the questions are can hope to understand the doctrines. The same logic committed me to the view that any one can understand any philosopher‟s doctrines if he can grasp the questions which they are intended to answer.” We should be mindful of the fact that metaphysics, our notions about the why of things, goes hand in hand with our pragmatic studies of how things work, lest our philosophy become a straightjacket. Professor Collingwood found fault with analysts who did not know the history of the questions they proposed to answer for themselves, and therefore did not realize their own answers were relative to their own time and circumstances. Relativism no doubt is perceived as a great threat to insecure people who cannot stand doubt – Pope Benedict has lately identified relativism as the curse of our time. People have assumed that Einstein‟s theory of relativity, despite the fact that it is a theory and notwithstanding its universal standard, the speed of light, proved that anything goes in the moral realm. In respect to Einstein‟s theories of relativity, Professor Collingwood, in whose philosophy we find the historicism that smacks of the relativism abhorred by absolutists, made this most amusing philosophical wisecrack: “I could not but see, for example, when Einstein set philosophers talking about relativity, that philosopher‟s convictions about the eternity of problems or conceptions were as baseless as a young girl‟s conviction that this year‟s hats are the only ones that cold ever have been worn by a sane woman.” In The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra, like Pope Benedict, maintains the difference between East and West, yet he roots modern physics in the Eastern mode of thought – Pope Benedict, by the way, noticed a curious linking of Christianity with the religion of the Indian subcontinent. Mr. Capra, commenting on Werner Heisenberg‟s observation that our common concepts cannot be applied to the structure of atoms, writes: “From a philosophical point of view, this has certainly been the most interesting development in modern physics, and here lies one of the roots of its relation to Eastern philosophy. In the schools of Western philosophy, logic and reasoning have always been the main tools used to formulate philosophical ideas and this is true , according to Bertrand Russell, even of religious philosophies. In Eastern mysticism, on the other hand, it has always been realized that reality transcends
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ordinary language, and the sages of the East were not afraid to go beyond logic and common concepts.” Neither were notable sages of the West afraid of pointless mysticism or its infinitesimal points: If they were learned in quantum physics they still would fain transcend not only common sense, but the nonsensical reality of modern physics as well, in order to freely embrace the unstained or virginal One for oneself, despite the danger of emasculation. Of course attempts shall always be made to rationalize unseemly intercourse after the fact. In this context we do not mean to ridicule Pope Benedict, who is simply doing what a conservative pope must do, and who at his advanced age would rather be retired to write books in Bavaria, but are not his pontifications on reason rather absurd in retrospect? Is not his Herculean reasoning the rationalization of a lot of hocus-pocus? Is he not himself a rational relativist, who cannot see his own intolerance in his formula for tolerance, that everyone in Christ alone is equal, or has an equal portion, therefore let us incorporate him? The Head Chef, may God bless him, doth wear the pre-historical garb of Hercules; the sacrificial rite ceremonially sanctifies or sublimates the unholy inclinations of the beast: “Nightwalkers, magicians, bacchantes, revelers, and participants in the mysteries,” listed Heraclitus, “What are regarded as mysteries among men are unholy rituals.” Paul, as we know from the Epistle to the Ephesians, a letter that must have been written by someone familiar with Paul‟s mission and composed as if it had been personally drafted by Paul to the church in Ephesus, was “appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.” “I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery…. This mystery was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that the pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.” It was revealed to God‟s elect that, even before the world was created, “He chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ…, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins…. He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ…. And it is in him that we were claimed as God‟s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things, as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.” Thus did the god of the chosen people, for his greater glorification, provide for the establishment of a mysterious monopoly over things mysterious and magical through persons of his nomination. “So remarkable were the miracles worked by God
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at Paul‟s hands that handkerchiefs or aprons which had touched him were taken to the sick, and they were cured of their illnesses, and the evil spirits came out of them. But some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried pronouncing the name of the Lord of Jesus over people who were possessed by evil spirits; they used to say, „I command you by Jesus whose spokesman is Paul‟…. The evil spirit replied, „Jesus I recognize, and I know who Paul is, but who are you?‟ and the man with the evil spirit hurled himself at them and overpowered first one and then another, and handled them so violently that they f led from the house naked a badly mauled. Everybody in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, heard about this episode; they were greatly impressed, and the name of the Lord Jesus came to be held in great honor.” Such was the power of names thus invoked over the spell-casting Ephesians that they staged a public book-burning – books valued at fifty thousand pieces of silver were lost to the bonfire of the old vanities. What good were such books against the Logos or Word of God? It seems that Paul was a man of few words, and persuasive ones at that. “Life to me is not a thing to waste words on,” he said, “provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God‟s grace.” The author enjoins wives to regard their husbands as the Lord, and husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church “and sacrificed her in water with a form of words, so that when he took her to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless.” Thus do we have the immaculate conception of the concept of the virginal Christian church, the bride formally whitewashed with a form of words or wedding dress, designed no doubt by the Logos. Although Jesus the Christ was unique in history, the notion of a personal savior who magically or miraculously healed afflicted people was by no means peculiar. The Sun-god who saved people with his rays or hands was popular throughout the primitive world – Akhenaton may have received the notion of his many-handed sundisc from the Oriental women who attended to him during childhood. Such primal mysteries were nothing new nor were they unholy. They were especially awesome at the very outset: the holiness of the sacrificial rite around the Fire or Sun on Earth dates from the use of fire as a human tool – the Fire is the Logos of Heraclitus, a notion taken to heart by the Stoics and then the Christians, who identified Logos with law of God‟s creation.
DIVIDING THE SPOILS
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The sacrificial spoils of were divided as was customary even among the higher apes, according to their power and social status, from the chief and his warriors, who got the lion‟s share of leaner meat, to the weaker sort on the fringes, who got charity in the form of scraps. The cooks or priests would accept, on god‟s behalf, certain choice cuts, perhaps fat, liver, and kidneys, as their incantations arose with holy smoke incensed with spices. Utensils were sacred for their utility. A bowl dug in the ground and lined with skins, into which heated stones were cast, sufficed until the stable tripod was invented, and it served as a seat in turn, and as a bowl into which dies were cast to determine the will of the fire-god. The sacred tripod was also a trophy for Greek athletes over whom poets waxed eloquent. The altar or sacred table was a considerable improvement over the dirt. The hunters hunted and the warriors occupied themselves similarly, with the noble occupation of killing and stealing. Competitors who did not participate in the so-called Aryan ritual around the campfires in India were deemed demons – they deserved death for that reason alone. The sacred cooks or priests partook of spoiled stew one day, and were duly intoxicated; eventually the priests would swear off drinking holy water to keep their heads together, but the warriors took to powerdrinking because its disinhibiting effect suited their aggression, blunting their fear and pain. Agriculture suits brewers well. More sedentary divisions of labor evolved to manage the plundering and plunder. The pursuits were sacred to begin with, but novelty wears off, especially with backbreaking labor and monotonous repetitions of tasks, some of which have fallen into disuse with technological development are nevertheless habitually performed. In fact, when the operations and causes and effects of everything are understood, hardly anything seems absolutely sacred anymore, except for the unclean and prohibited things such partying late into the night, drinking and fornicating, or to take up some exotic New Age religion to restore the sixth sense to its mysterious state. The holiness of the original tasks was ritually conserved, but even the priests and monks grew bored, especially when their expectations were not fulfilled on this Earth. The debased culture seemed doomed, in need of some sort of spiritual revival, and some people return to the “pagan” things long ago abandoned. Anything goes, whatever works for me is good enough, and justice in particular is for each his own to have, so everything should be tolerated equally by all as they live and let live, although my way is obviously the best way for me – this abandonment of the absolute or universal is of course the very relativism the Pope deplores in his effort to save Christianity and therefore the world.
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Indeed, people do tire of mandatory repetitive work within their respective divisions of labor, whether or not the product for consumption is tangible or intangible. “It is weariness to keep toiling at the same things so that one becomes ruled by them,” Heraclitus opined. To produce and consume unto death does seem meaningless, and to deliberately do just that with relish might suffice to avoid facing the meaning of life. But even in this cynical secular age of ethical relativism, one may bring The Work to works of even the menial sort and realize that meaning in them. Yul Brynner did not tire of performing The King and I. An aged pope may seem to fall asleep at his staff and might even die in the sacred kitchen before dinner is served, but he never tires of the mass. Why? Because he has faith in God, wherefore God‟s masses shall be fed. “It is by grace that you have been saved,” reads „The Letter of Paul to the Church at Ephesus,‟ “through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so nobody can claim the credit.”
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