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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Sunday, November 04, 2007

John Gray's apocalyptic vision of ironic animals

John Gray is a professor with the London School of Economics. He has 19 books under his belt, including STRAW DOGS (2002) and BLACK MASS (2007). My notes from those two:

Primitive versions of religion are replacing the secular faith that has been lost. Gray identifies the ways secularism promotes this crude religious way of looking at the world.

Like Christianity in the past, the modern cult of science lives on the hope of miracles.

What would politics be like if science was taken seriously? No one would appeal to mastery of our destinies, no one would speak of "the progress of mankind", an abstraction cast-off from Christian hopes.

"Good politics is shabby and makeshift, but at the start of the twenty-first century the world is strewn with the grandiose ruins of failed utopias. With the Left moribund, the Right has become the home to the utopian imagination. Global communism has been followed by global capitalism. The two visions of the future have much in common. Both are hideous and fortunately chimerical."

Perhaps government can manage the tragic contingencies of life.

When a liberal society wages wars to promote its values, it corrupts those values. This corruption is the Bush Administration using torture--which had been prohibited since the 18th century--to promote democracy. The Bush Administration stands almost alone in American History side by side with the enemies of liberty, both foreign and domestic: The Saudis of Arabia (a clan which took over Arabia) are funding the terrorist camps and schools and are close personal friends of the Bush coterie. The arms-dealing war-profiteers and "privatizing" pirates pillaging the public coffers from the domestic front are also Bush appointees. This is all in corruption, in war, against the liberal values of the Founders.

Religion is a symbolic phenomenon, like culture or language. People use it to make sense of their lives.

The Greek etymology for the word "Apocalypse" shows that the End of the world was not referred to. Rather, it means "lifting of the veil", in keeping with the secret writing (Leo Strauss) of the ancients in their priesthoods, conveying secret knowledge, an excluding claim to Truth. Reference JOHN "the beloved", as the author of the gospel which begins "In the beginning was the Word", and Revelation, which is filled with inscrutable meanings inside signs. Baffling to outsiders.

Gray thinks that resource stresses (climate change, scarcities) will inspire new devotion to apocalyptic and violent religions. His vision of the future is bleak.

Yet, wonderfully, on the last page of BLACK MASS he sees the ironic fact that Judeo-Christian-Islamic Religion, with its overstatements, and its utterly false hopes, "can help humanity see more clearly". The Myth, the "story", is a vision tool:

"In the Genesis story humans were banished from paradise after eating from the Tree of Knowledge and had to survive by their labours ever after. There is no promise here of any return to a state of primordial innocence. Once the fruit has been eaten there is no going back."