It may some day happen that a traveler from the Greeklands will again lodge in this palace and read the book. Then he will talk of it among the Greeks, where there is great freedom of speech even about the gods themselves. Perhaps their wise men will know whether my complaint is right or whether the god could have defended himself if he had made an answer. ~ C S Lewis, Till We Have Faces
The Flat Earth
Whenever someone wants to dispute a hoary truth, he often mentions that the ancients believed that the earth was flat. Never mind that he can’t identify who used to claim that or when they stopped, that accusation serves, in his mind, to discredit any other viewpoint they may have had.
An intelligent man would take another approach. He should be more concerned about all the ridiculous things he believes and work to purge them. This is the method of elenchus.
The Sky God
A common claim, often made on social media sites, is that Mr X can no longer believe in a “sky god” or an old man in the sky. Presumably Mr X assumes that is some brilliant insight. Of course, the true Traditional teaching is nothing of the sort and usually goes by the name “classical theism” in the West or “panentheism” in the East. Actually, if anyone believes that today, including but not limited to the Mormons, it is actually a relic from paganism, with its belief in Zeus.
Another not uncommon claim in some circles is the alleged superiority of polytheism. On Rene Guenon’s principle that religious concepts can be re-expressed as metaphysical concepts, “polytheism” means “metaphysical pluralism”, a complete absurdity.
The other problem is that no pagan of intellectual merit was a polytheist in that sense. Celsus, for example, defended pagans against the accusation of polytheism by pointing to the Platonic understanding of God (i.e., a form of classical theism). Hermann Wirth’s research on the ancient Nordics also confirms it.
Another often made claim is that the ancients used to believe that the Earth was the center of the universe. Thus, it is said, the heliocentric theory disoriented man, making him somehow anxious and insignificant. On the contrary, God, or Heaven, was regarded as the center of the universe (metaphysically understood) and the Earth was quite distant from that center. In its sublunar position, the Earth was in a bad place, subject to malevolent influences. Furthermore, Earth was closest to Hell, located deep at her center. This is quite a different picture.
The Future of Intelligence
One use of intelligence, or rational thought, is to determine how best to achieve a goal. This is instrumental intelligence. True intelligence, however, is to know what goals to aim for.
Traditional anthropology says that man has a rational, animal, and vegetative soul. To be properly human is for the rational soul to dominate the other two. In other words, the rational part of man should be determining goals. The function of intelligence is not simply to find the means to satisfy emotional and sensual needs. If science is the touchstone of rationality, can anyone truly live based solely on science? Who should you marry, what career should you follow, even which is the right side of the bed—these are all questions that no science experiment can answer.
Therefore, every behavior needs to be justified. If the only answer is “to satisfy a desire”, then intelligence is not truly involved in the decision.
Another Traditional principle is that science and metaphysics do not conflict. Any apparent conflict is because one or the other discipline has overstepped a line. The origin of man, as the rational animal, is one of those issues that seems to straddle that line. Biologically, man is an animal, metaphysically, man is rational, at least virtually. A viewpoint that is becoming more mainstream is that there existed hominids, i.e., animals that look human, but were not. Specifically, they have an animal and vegetative soul, but lack the rational soul that would make them fully human. At some point, somehow, some of them, or exactly two of them, were endowed with a rational soul.
The existence of these pre-Adamic hominids was also proposed by the Jewish physicist Gerald Schroeder in The Science of God. Even C S Lewis held a similar view, as he wrote in The Problem of Pain:
If by saying that man rose from brutality you mean simply that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objections…. For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumbs could be applied to each of its fingers, and jaws and teeth and the throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man…. We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state.
Boris Mouravieff has revealed that the existence of pre-Adamic hominids is part of Orthodox esoteric teaching. Moreover, he claims that they still exist on the Earth, although they cannot be recognized by appearance alone.
My son and I saw a commercial for the film Lucy in which the claim that we use only 10% of the brain was repeated. We pondered that and my son finally came up with the figure 98%, since there is not really much room for improvement in most people. Thinking about it again, I think he was much too generous.
Don’t Tell Me What to Do
A woman recently told me that the medieval Church was totalitarian, always telling people what to think and do. In the next breath, she told me she was confused about the current world and did not know what to think or do. Does anyone see the irony?
In point of fact, the medievals simply tried to determine rationally how best to live a human life based on its nature. As such, there can be intelligent discussion about it. The alternative is to live like an animal.
Dog on Bus
There has been a story circulating in the news about a dog that allegedly gets on a bus alone in order to get to a dog park. People find it fascinating because it would seem to indicate some measure of the dog’s human-like intelligence. On the contrary, the real lesson is how little intelligence it takes humans to get through their day. So if you are getting on the bus at the same stop and getting off at another, day after day, you have demonstrated the intelligence of a dog.
There is no denying that animals, and even plants, have intelligence. But that intelligence does not determine ends but merely achieves them. Matter itself is intelligent, since it follows certain laws, although science cannot say why that must be so.
Jesus as comic hero
On a radio show recently, I heard someone (he may have been a priest) claim that Jesus allowed himself to be captured by the chief priest’s soldiers when he could have rained down fire from Heaven to prevent it. I think he may be confusing Jesus with a Marvel comic superhero.
Speaking and Civilization
I watched some of the Sunday talk shows this morning. They are continuing the sham claim that Charlie Hebdo is defending freedom of speech, following a week in which there were 54 arrests in France on hate speech charges.
Another sham, which no one cares to mention, that a cartoon is not “speech” in any meaningful sense. In the epigram, Orual defends free speech by writing a book, based on rational thought. That way a reader can evaluate her case reasonably. There is no rationality in a cartoon: it appeals to emotion not to intelligence.
No, the purpose of the cartoon is to silence the opposition, not to promote reasonable dialog. The new editor of Charlie Hebdo announced that their purpose was really to promote secularization or laicity, which is the absence of any religious interference in political affairs. Such views must simply be banned, not rationally, but by mockery.
Do not for a moment believe that laicity is merely a concept for bookish intellectuals or ribald cartoonists. It came at a steep price. France invented Terror as a political tactic. Vendee was brutally destroyed, much more brutally than the attack on Charlie Hebdo, to promote the same goals as those of the cartoonists. If history repeats itself, those who oppose the cartoonists may face a similar backlash.
Killing for Civilization
It is also said that Charlie Hebdo represents the pinnacle of Western civilization. Of course not, Western civilization predated the Revolution for millennia; to not include all that is simply ignorant. The Revolution is anti-civilization. The talking heads are quite sure that vulgarity, secularism, sheer meanness, and irrationality represent the best of Western civilization. Can anyone seriously spend a day at the Louvre and then claim that the cartoon art is at the same level?
Now, I’m sure that many are willing to die for such values, actually anti-values. That is not the real issue. The fact that many are willing to kill for such anti-values is an evil impulse.
Race and Decadence
When Mahatma Gandhi was asked, “What do you think of European civilization?” he famously replied: “I think it would be a good idea and they should try it.”
Rene Guenon had a slightly different, but not necessarily incompatible, idea of race from Evola’s. He claimed that every race at its origin had a Tradition. So what we call today the undeveloped races are, in his opinion, actually the decadent remains of once superior races. For example, the Ramayana describes a battle between the North and the darker races of the south which had a great civilization.
By this standard, the various white races of Europe, by rejecting Tradition, are in a process of slow decline and decadence. Hence, the response to Gandhi should be: “They did try it, but gave it up.”