It has been a thesis of this blog for some time now that the world was rapidly approaching a time of escalated social chaos. I could not predict the actual shape of things (Shapes in the Fire
) as would arise when they became concrete, but the general aspects were obvious if one troubled to really study human social history, especially that aspect of this that might be called: the evolution of consciousness. See in this regard my essays: The Future
; and, The Coming Collapse - civilization on the brink
During this time it would also be obvious that many sensitive souls would find themselves pushed past their ability to understand the chaos that has entered their lives. When this happens they will fall into despair, and commit suicide or other-directed violence (or both). Their culture offers them no appreciation of what is happening to them or to the world, and left to their own devices, the weaknesses in the soul become too much and they seek an extreme way out.
I wrote in detail about this aspect of matters several years ago in the essay: Beyond Columbine: appreciating the patterns of social meaning hidden in the Columbine tragedy.
The odd, yet strangely poignant aspect of this, is that most of these people are not so much evil as ignored. They live in a world where everyone wears masks, and behind their own mask they feel deeply unseen. It is as if they didn't exist. They live life, but nothing about that life recognizes their existence. Frustrated beyond endurance they are moved to act, by sub-conscious forces deep inside their souls. In a sense we could say that the soul implodes (suicide) and/or explodes (other-directed violence). They are the canaries in the coal mines of the metamorphosis of Western Civilization, which is dying into a new becoming.
Their numbers will grow as the social chaos increases. They need to be a warning to us all to place some of our energies not just in surviving this time in a material sense, but also in a spiritual (inner health) sense. The main thing we need for our souls is simple: company. We need to be able to speak, to share, to listen, and to recognize each other. They can't find this, for seeing themselves as ignored, and living in a culture of masks, what choices do they believe themselves to have?
The social chaos, experienced in acute aloneness, eats away at and crushes their essential being. Their susceptibility to this reveals their subtle inner beauty, for the sensitive souls among us have many gifts to give were we able to draw them out and into a social environment that genuinely wants to know them. They are not just a sign of social collapse, but of the basic social poverty of Western Civilization. It should pass away.
Instead, we see their differences as a wrongness. Their social environment judges them instead of appreciates them. We call them crazy or criminal, and leave them to the jails, the mental institutions, the streets and homelessness. We fire them from their jobs. We divorce them from the family hearth. Wanting to ignore our own pain at wearing a mask and not being recognized, we burrow into our own safe places. We think we too can survive by being alone, when the truth is that we really won't. We are social beings, and more than food and shelter we need each other. There is no greater nourishment for the soul than to be recognized and valued just for existing. Hopefully the next civilization will find a way to be better at this than we are today.
Number One: The Economy:
To really appreciate, for example, the situation with the economy today, one needs to go back to the time of the Colonies, before the Revolution. At that time many clearly understood the importance of whether or not a Bank issued (printed) the money, or whether the Government issued (printed) the money. If a Bank issued it, debt was attached (the Bank liked to be able to issue the money because it made the Bank richer). If the Government (say a Colony) issued the money there was no debt attached. From a certain point of view, the Revolution was fought over the insistence of the English aristocracy (and the bankers) that the only money in circulation come from the Bank of England. This actually harmed the Colony economies, while benefiting the elites of power and wealth.
This may seem a bit crazy, but if you Google "debt money" you'll find a number of videos explaining this, although I like better the written material created by Richard Kotlarz, as it is a lot deeper and far more balanced: A New View on Money.
The Bankers have succeeded in this war that began even before the Founding, and continued through the Civil War; and, it was lost by the People of America when the Federal Reserve was created in 1919. Its the fundamental terrible secret at the heart of the present banking crisis and why the banks and Wall Street so very much need to keep the present banking system alive.
Now some economists argue (and this bunch can't be trusted whatever side of these questions they come down on, given that none of them talk about this secret), that we have to save the banking system because world wide commerce will then fully tank (a bad bad depression). The thing is people will survive these trials - we have the grit. If we don't fix this, then we will continue to live under a tyranny of financial elites. Obama and his people side with the Banks and Wall Street, not with the People.
Number Two: Science and Religion:
The Creationists (people of Faith) argue against Scientists (people of Reason). Of course religious people can be rational, and scientists have a great deal of faith in their method of seeking knowledge. The present day arguments are superficial (evolution against intelligent design), and ignore the history of this question which is long and can be very enlightening. So on the surface we seem to have Religion and Science at odds with each other. Is there another approach to this?
Now Artists (people of Imagination) bring a different sensibility to these questions. Many, in fact, of our best scientists are religious and artistic (Einstein, Faraday, etc.), and many of our religious are scientific and artistic (De Chardin etc), as well as many of our Artists, who are scientific and religious (Goethe etc.). Truth (reason), Beauty (imagination) and Goodness (devotion), can combine in the human being into a harmonious whole.
The artist (novelist) Neal Stephenson has graced us with some remarkable considerations of the underlying questions dividing science and religion. He first explored this briefly in his fascinating and enjoyable six novels in three volumes (2700 pages) called: the Baroque Cycle. In that last one, The System of the World, as a kind of climax to the question which has lurked throughout the novels, Stephenson invents an imaginary dialog between fictionalized historical characters (Leibniz, Newton and Hanover Princess Caroline) and fully fictional character Daniel Waterhouse. that takes place about the year 1730 in a drawing room in London.
Princess Caroline, aware of a fundamental dispute between Newton and Leibniz over whether or not matter has consciousness, brings these three gentleman into conversation, hoping to settle their disagreement, given that she can see that the future course of human understanding will be quite different according to which point of view prevails. Newton considers that the atom (the smallest part of matter) to be without life or consciousness, and Leibniz considers his monad (his atom) to have both characteristics. All four characters recognize the common (in that day) understanding that the human being is animate matter, and see in each self-animating source some element of free spirit, which chooses the courses of action this collection of matter makes. The conversation runs for about a dozen delightful pages and is very illuminating, although there is no resolution.
This was actually a debated matter among the natural philosophers of that time, expressed in letters and papers. As we know, that set of ideas which Newton represented won the day, and that is where we are now. The point is to recognize that the debate today, between evolution and intelligent design, doesn't get deep enough - doesn't get to the fundamental questions never really resolved by Newton and Leibniz, for the rejection of Leibniz (and others) was never really resolved in a scientific fashion, but was more a question of social dominance. What was important to many in those days was to reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church over human affairs, including deep scientific questions. If spirit was to be seen as an element of human existence, that left open a great big door through which the Church could continue to dominate reasonable thought, and that fear drove the answer away from any kind of recognition of a Divine element in the Creation.
Darwin was just the triumph of this yearning to escape from the dogmatic religious intolerance of certain conclusions of scientific thinking. Its success was more due to the fact that it offered an alternative to God in the creation of the world, than that it was scientifically viable. For an examination of this problem from a modern specialist in the subtleties of the questions, read: Dogma and Doubt, by Ronald Brady.
Not content with his exposition on these problems in the book, The System of the World, Stephenson has gone on the create a wonderful (albeit somewhat complicated) novel: Anathem, which comes at these many questions in a deep and marvelously entertaining way. Not only does Stephenson deal in this book with the question of matter and spirit, but with many of the surrounding questions as well (what is thought?; what is logic?; etc.).
Number Three: Our Political Future:
Again, we have the problem that present day debates are extremely superficial, and therefore miss the point entirely. We need to go back in time to pick up the crucial questions. Lets do that closer in time first.
A wonderful examination of the utility of leaving behind present day thinking can be found in the book Statecraft as Soulcraft, by conservative writer George Will (written 30, years ago when his mind was more flexible). The sub-title is: "what government does". The first chapter is titled: "The Care of Our Time". A fundamental problem posed almost immediately is: "To those who are liberals and to those who call themselves conservatives, I say: Politics is more difficult than you think.".
Most apt is this: "..., there is only one "first question" of government, and it is "How should we live?" or (this is the same question) "What kind of people do we want our citizens to be?"". The book is still in print.
It is also worth reviewing The Conscience of a Conservative, by Barry Goldwater (written over 50 years ago). He begins by declaring that the human spirit is divine, and that the whole of our politics is based on maintaining for that spirit as much freedom from government as was possible. For this reason he finds the growth of power in a central (federal) government abhorrent, which led him to trying again and again to remind us that the Founders considered the States to be a more significant power that the United States government (as an issue this is called states rights), with the real ultimate power residing in the People (see the Ninth and Tenth amendments).
This book is flawed, because it is ultimately too ideological (it places theory over social facts). There exists a tension between our ideas of government, and our behavior as citizens. Sometimes the needs of our social conscience as citizens ends up requiring government to act, as it is the only means to solve a problem. Examples include the civil rights movement and the actions of the Warren Supreme Court. The book is out of print, but can be viewed as an html document through Google.
The more we step back in our history, the more we can find a more realistic and more sophisticated discussion of the underlying problems of what it means for a free people to have a government. That is the level at which the modern debate should reside. See in this regard my two books: Uncommon Sense; and, On the Nature of Public Life.