Peter King and Radical Islam in America

Representative Peter King, is talking about the radicalization of American Muslims. Apparently he plans hearings in the Homeland Security Committee. I would argue that the radicalization of ordinary Muslims, or Arabs of any persuasion, shouldn’t be so easily assumed; the affinity between Arab culture and al Qaeda is not a natural one.

The barbarian invasion of the Roman Empire and its influence on the Christian tradition didn’t culminate with the Emperor Constantine. Islam was brought to the Arab people in a later period, but by the same means. However, it’s missionaries held beliefs condemned as heretical by the Catholic Church. The end result for the Arab people was the imposition of a culture that differed in fundamental ways from Arab culture. It seems that originally, slavery was part of the culture of the Islamic ruling class. Slavery has always been part of Anglo-Saxon culture. In America, the Union was established with slavery in mind, and Thomas Jefferson was not the only influential American who owned slaves. Muslim slave-traders provided many of America’s slaves.  It seems likely that the leaders of radical Islam have more in common with America’s ruling class than with the Arab culture.  Their hostility is simply a result of rivalry for the sympathies of the people. 

The failure to understand these relationships may be responsible for a comment made on a network news program, illustrating that racism against blacks thrives on a similar misunderstanding. In a discussion between a conservative woman and a black man, the conservative said she would never understand a culture who sells its own people as slaves, obviously assuming that every black person represents the same culture. In other words, he has no one to blame but his own people. In this way, she dismissed whatever point he was trying to make. This has to be the most viciously racist thing I have ever observed. It was probably all the more damaging because it was so insidious.

When American Muslims condemn the violence of radical Islam, there are good reasons to believe them.  They should be taken at their word.

Libya’s non-effect on U.S. Oil Prices

Libya, Gas Prices, and the Big Payday at Your Expense
Submitted by Michael Collins, for “The Economic Populist” on Mon, 03/07/2011 – 00:23

Another Triumph for The Money Party

The average price for a gallon of gas rose 30% from $2.69 in July 2010 to $3.49 as of March 6. Most of that 30% has come in just the last few days.

We’re about to embark on another period of let the markets take care of it. The Money Party manipulators are again jerking citizens around in the old bottom-up wealth redistribution program. Their imagineers are writing the storyline right now.

The conflict in Libya is causing the spike in oil prices over the past ten days or so according to the media script. Take a look at the chart to the right. Can you find Libya among the top fifteen nations supplying the United States with crude oil?

Why the Current Panic Over Gas Prices?

The general explanation points to the crisis in Libya as the proximate cause. The anti Gaddafi regime revolution began in earnest on February 17. But if the Libyan revolution were the cause, we’d have to attribute a 50% drop in a 2% share of the world’s oil supply as the cause of the panic. We would also have to attribute the increase in US gas prices to a nation that doesn’t impact the US crude oil supply and, as a result, should not impact the price of gas here.

The speculators have an answer. The Libyan situation entails fears of broader unrest in oil and non-oil producing nations in North Africa and the Middle East. There is unrest, without any doubt. Citizens are insisting that their kleptocratic rulers cease and desist from looting their nation’s treasuries and resources. The demonstrations across the region, revolution in Egypt, and war in Libya are all being fought under the banner of broader participation in government, greater access to essentials like food, jobs, and hope for future improvements. Notably lacking is anti-US rhetoric or religious fanaticism. (Image)

Somehow, the opportunity for secular, democratic regimes equals a crisis for US energy prices. The embedded assumption is that the conflicts leading to new regimes will cause a disruption in the flow of oil. With the exception of Libya, none of these countries have reduced their oil production, including oil producing Egypt. In fact, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates increased oil production to compensate for the short fall due to the military conflict in Libya.

If we don’t believe that Libya is the cause, then we get the excuse of emerging democracies. If emerging democracies fail to catch on as the scapegoat, there will be other excuses.

The Money Party bottom line is apparent. It’s time to take some more money from citizens. Any plausible reason will do. When you own the media, you have no worries. Who’s going to bust you?

The Big Payday at Your Expense

The gas price shock and awe is not evenly distributed. The Western states, New York, Illinois, and Nebraska are taking the biggest hits. There’s some explanation for this but not a very good one. All that matters is taking as much in extra profits as possible while the extraordinary events in Libya and the rest of the region allow a plausible storyline. This time, democracy is the villain.

These gas prices will have a direct impact on those least able to afford it. It will cost more to go to work or look for jobs. Commodities will go up even more than they are now. Transportation for the distribution of all products will have an impact on prices. Tourism will fall off. The feeble increases in hiring may be at risk and there will be more gloomy news about how this all impacts the prospects for any sort of economic recovery.

What’s Really Driving Gas Prices?

In a recent Business Insider column, David Moenning noted:

“At least part of the reason behind crude’s rude rise is the price action itself. Hedge funds and other fast-money types have begun to pile into what appears to be a burgeoning uptrend in the oil charts (take a peek at a weekly chart of USO and you’ll see what we mean). Then when you couple the price action with the news backdrop, this appears to be the new place to be for the ‘hot money.’” David Moenning, Business Insider Mar 6

We have the usual suspects looking for hot money. The fast-money types, as Moenning calls them, smell another victory in the air. Their market activity is driving prices in a self-reinforcing cycle of increases that are highly profitable when you get in and out at the right time (and if you pull the strings for the market, that’s easy). (Image: Fuel Gauge Report)

Who is looking out for our interests?

No one. Have you heard of any congressional investigation? The oversight committees for the Departments of Energy and Commerce are two likely starting points. Nothing. President Obama is threatening to tap the US strategic oil reserve to use market forces to push crude oil and gas prices down. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke sees commodity price increases, including crude oil, as a temporary phenomenon. They may create a problem, however.

“Rises in the prices of oil or other commodities would represent a threat both to economic growth and to overall price stability, particularly if they were to cause inflation expectations to become less well anchored,” Bernanke said before Congress last week. Ben Bernanke, March 1

Doing nothing, like Congress, and trying to manipulate market forces, as the president says he might, are not the heavy-hitters needed to stop this latest rip off. They both buy into the belief that there is some sort of occult mystery to why prices are going up. Everyone who benefits will raise prices because they can. They have no concept of enough and there is nobody standing in their way.

What would JFK do?

There was a time when the president of the United States stood up to big business. President John F. Kennedy put his prestige and word on the line when he helped the steel industry and labor unions negotiate a contract that the president thought was fair to all, a deal he hailed as “non inflationary.” Just days after the settlement, US Steel turned around and issued a major price increase. This would have hurt the economy due to the central role of steel at the time.

Kennedy felt betrayed by US Steel and the others that raised prices. He wasted no time in his response. The Department of defense said it would buy steel from the lowest bidder. This would have excluded US Steel and their fellow price gougers. The Justice Department began investigations and issued antitrust indictments by the big steel producers. Kennedy also went to the public to gain support for his efforts.

Big steel backed down. The broader business community complained. The Kennedy administration and others reminded everyone that the government acts in the public interest when business threatens the interests of the people. What a novel concept.

Collins, Michael. “Libya, gas prices and the Big Payday at Your Expense.” The Economic Populist. Available: 

http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/libya-gas-prices-and-big-payday-your-expense

American Empire and Political Insanity

The fear that America’s founders were really only interested in empire is not new. What is not clear is whether Americans believe the rise of empire is merely something that might happen in the future. I think this must be the case. There are a lot of Americans who still believe their vote counts, or they did before the last couple of elections. There are countless people on television and the Internet acting as though political candidates matter, elections matter, betrayals of the people’s trust matter.

But then issues of trust would be important in an empire as well. There have been benevolent emperors with prosperous, peaceful reigns. The Emperor Franz Josef of Austria was that kind of emperor. There is nothing in the definition of Empire that dictates injustice, economic collapse, and cynical profiteering. The question of whether we have a viable democracy is only important in this context.  Once an empire sinks so low, who can keep it from pillaging the countryside?

Again it seems important to mention the confusion in analyses of the problem. Sociologist Wayne Baker observed that Americans hold traditional views similar to third world countries, although America is considered a developed nation similar to western European nations. But then he adds that these views are to be expected in third world countries because of their economic and political turmoil—the traditional, conservative outlook is a natural outcome of the overriding importance of survival in such conditions.

Sadly, this comparison makes sense on the surface. I suppose it brings to mind dictators who have been in the news, wars and revolutions in South America, etc. Of course America is nothing like that, is it? But America has had economic turmoil and war, even though lately the wars have been overseas. In American history, industrial interests have been guilty of third world tactics, shamelessly oppressing workers. In addition, big business interests have always had close associations with government. Americans have endured cycles where the loss of family farms was rampant. Recently, wealthy farmers who benefited from the loss of these family farms have dictated the country’s estate tax policy. Today, the current cycle of crisis is merely continuing the destruction of the economic prospects of American families and is accompanied by political disappointment and disillusionment. Yet Baker associates Americans with Europeans rather than with the people of any of the third world countries, saying that our social and political values make us an “outlier” in his analysis.

Another example of confusion is Mike Stathis’ analysis in his book “America’s Healthcare Solution.” Stathis mentions the waste, fraud and bribery in the nation’s healthcare system, and then offers solutions. But one wonders how the same people who could create such problems, and even perpetuate them, would be willing or able to fix them. Profit has eroded even issues of life and death, finally corrupting the caregivers who have sworn an oath to protect life.

If political power is to be measured by the degree of injustice rulers can inflict with impunity, then we are talking about something else entirely than the difference between democracy and empire. We are talking about criminal behavior. But I’ve just stated the obvious again. Everyone knows people should have gone to jail as a result of this recession, and that they never will.

Stefan Zweig called the fascists of early twentieth century Europe politically insane. Today it seems that even Americans who try to address the problems may be politically schizophrenic, not knowing to whom they are speaking or which issues are priorities. Political schizophrenia seems to be as hereditary as the other kind—apparently we got it from our Judeo-Christian forefathers, who deliberately associated Astraea, pagan goddess of the Roman Empire, with the Virgin Mary.

Continued from America and the Constellation Virgo

This brings to mind the fact that many British officers in the Revolutionary War were Freemasons who actually failed to carry out their orders during decisive battles. I’m also reminded that only a third of the Colonists were in favor of the War. A third were undecided, and the final third were loyalists. You could say it was the war of, by and for the new ruling class. Judging from their secret dreams of empire, they certainly had the most to gain.

I wanted to talk about a new model for the future, but the time isn’t right for that yet. It seems it is important to first examine the old models and try to put American history in clearer perspective. The idea that America was the first new nation founded from scratch with ideas about liberty, etc. seems to have disguised the identifying characteristics of the new elite and the government they made. The elite weren’t born under Plymouth Rock. They have a history.

I suppose there are a lot of Tea Partiers who would be up in arms about this—if they ever read it. I’m pretty sure there are liberals who would be just as peeved. The Tea Partiers need rescue. There they are on the conservative bandwagon and they don’t know who’s pulling it. A bunch of old groups who have been hovering around for decades saw their opportunity and swooped in. The aim is to keep everything the same, to protect the status quo and their own place in it.

The liberals should know better than to cling to their dogma, but they don’t. Many of them disagree with union busting but defend the healthcare bill, for example. This makes no sense. The healthcare bill threatens the same people who are protected by unions.

America and the Constellation Virgo

I deleted the last post about cultural differences. I sometimes think I’ve written something readable, only to realize later, it isn’t. Part of the problem is that this story has so many side plots. The antagonists would have to include politicians discussing the healthcare debate, for example. Has anyone noticed that when they get to the part where they say “America has the best healthcare system in the world,” they slow down and lower their voice an octave? They all do it exactly the same way! It is as though they think words can create reality. (Hmmm…didn’t Plato say thoughts create reality, or something like that?) Unfortunately, there is just no sensible way to discuss healthcare when the debate starts with nonsense, although one tries to put arguments in order, group related events, and phrase everything as clearly as possible, to put nonsense in a neat package.

The real problems arise when the nonsense is not out in the open. A clarification of America’s founding ideas, as opposed to popular myths, should probably be the starting point but the attempt to search the distant past seems too complicated, not to mention boring, and the story line goes astray with every plot twist. Even if you could get it straight more eloquent essays abound and they are not really getting the attention they deserve. Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, in his narrative about events surrounding the two World Wars, remembered a time when the written word was quite valuable and people eagerly read everything that was published. That changed during his lifetime to the point where nothing had much of an effect. Through improved communication, societies transitioned suddenly from living isolated, peaceful lives to a state of constant awareness of war and atrocity taking place around the world. What would he have said about the Internet?

I’ll try again to find the beginning. The constellation Virgo was important to America’s founders. The cornerstone ceremonies of the Freemasons were apparently timed with this in mind. There is a paraphrase of Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue’s new age, “novus ordo saeclorum,” inscribed in the Great Seal of the United States. This refers to “Astraea, the virgin goddess of justice, (who) was the last of the immortals to quit the earth at the end of the constellation Virgo. Throughout the Renaissance…she was associated, on the one hand, with the revival of the Roman Empire and…through Virgil, (she) came to be linked with both letters and empire.” Virgil “identified the new age with the Augustan peace, (but) Christian readers, beginning…with the emperor Constantine himself, saw in the Fourth Eclogue a prophecy of Christ’s birth, made the more convincing by the Virgo easily (related) to the Virgin Mary. In the Renaissance, these Christian meanings buttressed a renewed emphasis on Astraea’s imperial associations, as the French and English monarchies annexed her as a symbol of their claims to inherit the mantle of Rome.” (To be continued…)

Sources:

1.  Ovason, David. The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: the Masons and the building of Washington D.C. Century Books, Ltd. London. 1999

2.  Zweig, Stefan. The World of Yesterday. Cassell and Co. Ltd. London, Toronto, Melbourne and Sydney. 1947

3.  Wine, Kathleen. Forgotten Virgo: humanism and absolutism in Honore’ d’Urfe’s ‘L’Astre’e’. Librairie Droz S.A. Geneve. 2000

Another look at Enlightenment Criticism

The views in the previous post represent an attempt to show the connection of Enlightenment ideas to civil religion.  Enlightenment criticism and analyses of the Reformation usually convey a sense of loss. This is understandable because the Reformation ended the universal influence of the Catholic Church and its institutions, which had been completely integrated into society. These were traumatic events and represent a painful, confusing period of history. Subsequent analyses tend to be extreme, alternating between fearful regret and maniacal positivism. Bellah’s theory of American Civil Religion seems to represent a complete acceptance of Enlightenment principles. These posts have been an attempt to put his theory in a larger context.

American Civil Religion and the Enlightenment

In his theory of American Civil Religion, Robert Bellah attempted to attribute America’s sense of community to a common religious factor independent of the church. He said that a specifically American ideology has worked to form a homogenous and unified culture from unrelated immigrants. Because of the United States’ unique beginning, Civil Religion is uniquely crucial to Americans’ sense of unity (Bellah, Robert Neelly, The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial. University of Chicago Press. 1992). However, it was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who first argued that every society needs a purely civil profession of faith to integrate all members. For this reason, the idea of civil religion should be examined in the context of the Enlightenment.

Surveys have shown the concept of Civil Religion is a useful model in analyses of American attitudes (Baker, Wayne. America’s Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception. Princeton University Press. 2006). However, after the attack on the Twin Towers some were shocked when they observed that the concept has no brakes. Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, went willingly to war in Iraq based on questionable evidence for the presence of al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. Apparently Civil Religion provides no moral compass. The same has been said of the Enlightenment.

One goal of the Enlightenment was the end of Europe’s Absolutist political organization.  Although Absolutism had been a response to the religious wars of the Reformation, it was seen by the ‘Philosophes’ as an unnecessary annoyance.  Two additional Enlightenment concerns were the equality of man and the place of morality in politics.

The Enlightenment was an historical period beginning with the eighteenth century and ending with the French Revolution in 1789. The term Enlightenment also refers to a method of thought developed during this period, which remains influential in political theory. The movement has always inspired a certain degree of mistrust. In the eighteenth century, the term ‘philosophe’ was meant to distinguish Enlightenment writers from other philosophers. The Philosophes were considered ‘popularizers’ of a doctrine, working to influence public opinion in their favor. In the most violent years of the French Revolution, the ideas of the Enlightenment were further discredited because of their perceived role that revolution.

The theory of political Absolutism, which the Philosophes worked to discredit, is attributed to Thomas Hobbes, who observed during the turmoil following the Reformation that humans fear each other. Hobbes argued that an external sovereign was necessary to maintain order in society. But Enlightenment thinkers had a very different view of human nature, arguing that reason creates a virtuous public individual. In the Absolutist pursuit of peace, Hobbes had declared that personal beliefs must remain private. Publicly, people were expected to agree with the religion of the monarch. The Philosophes had no memory of the religious conflicts that Absolutism had tried to address. This ‘forgetfulness’ has been an enduring characteristic of modern political rhetoric, one result being that Enlightenment assumptions were in conflict with the experience of the past (Koselleck, Reinhart. Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society. Oxford, New York. 1988).

The Enlightenment’s religion was deism, which holds that although God created the world, he is no longer directly concerned with the trials and tribulations of humanity (Deism. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.] 3rd ed. CD-ROM. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1992). According to critic Reinhart Koselleck, Enlightenment thinkers put reason and the will of society in the place of God. In retrospect, it seems clear that one of the unforeseen functions of the Absolutist state was to transition from the Christian focus on the heart of man to the Enlightenment’s obsession with society as a whole. Along the way, the foundation of western thought became a philosophy of materialism.  Now all causes are economic or social.  In this view, Capitalist ideology and Marxist ideology can be seen as two sides of the same materialist coin. Critics have argued that if the Enlightenment was not successful it is because the system had no transcendent values. Such a system degenerates to physical, biological, and economic considerations, and causes more problems than it solves.

Strangely, although Enlightenment thought has become inseparable from Christianity their former differences are no longer discussed. In an older critique from the Catholic point of view, Hilaire Belloc argued that both Absolutism and Enlightenment were solutions for society in lieu of former religious solutions and interpretations. More specifically, he argued that unrestricted capitalism was not a Christian concept. True to his religious point of view, he also argued that it was only made possible by changing social circumstances and by Calvin, who divorced good works from the possibility of human salvation. The only motivation that was left for industry was personal economic gain (Belloc, Hilaire. The Crisis of Civilization. Fordham University Press. New York. 1937).

Of course, the guilds and city-states of the middle Ages were another restraining influence on unbridled capitalism. For the guilds, capitalism differed from the economy of the free cities only in its requirement for large amounts of capital. Guild rules guarded against this type of competition making it possible for the common man to become a master of his craft and establish his own shop. The cities of the middle Ages had become free by petitioning the king for a charter. In this way they had cut out the middlemen in the collection of rents and taxes, including Catholic bishops who were an integral part of the feudal system and who collected rents in their own behalf.

The theory of civil religion assumes that other countries differ from America because they share a cultural and religious background that Americans never had. However, Europe and America were involved in many of the same philosophical and political debates. And both countries have struggled to find a basis for community in lieu of the church’s influence.

See Also:

Nomads and City Dwellers: Institutions, Worldview

The Current Political Discourse: America’s future

From Thomas Hobbes to John Locke: Putting Ayn Rand Through Her Paces

 

Civil Religion: social model or spiritual detour?

The concept of civil religion has been defined, studied, critiqued. Civil religion is a theory that posits a specific set of political ideas shared by all Americans. The ideas have nothing to do with God, but they are sacred because they work to forge a nation out of people who have nothing else in common. Surveys have shown it to be a valid concept. However, after 9/11 some people were shocked to learn that the concept has no brakes. Americans, both Republican and Democrat, went willingly to war in Iraq based on questionable evidence for al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. This was a revelation for many observers who thought that civil religion provided people with a moral compass.

I read Robert Bellah’s “Broken Covenant” and I thought he made a lot of valuable observations, but I missed the part about how civil religion makes people wise. Was that really what he was saying? At most, I thought he was presenting a sort of sociological model. I guess I didn’t see how seriously it was being taken. It would follow that civil religion is a replacement for…religion. In a way, it lets American religion off the hook, although it seems if anything can be blamed for what happened with the Iraq war it would be actual religion, the most vocal one being Christianity.

But I also remember that Wayne Baker compared American Civil Religion to the civil religion of Communist Russia, meaning the Soviet Union’s national identity and sense of community were based on ideology—in their case Marxist ideology. So, apparently all the other religions are not even in the running—civil religion replaced American religion just like Marxist doctrine replaced the church in the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, I really don’t get why a simple article about virgin births and comparative mythology in Wikipedia seemed so offensive to a certain Christian editor that he wouldn’t rest until he’d run me out of town. I really have no idea who I’m talking to any more. I am through trying to preface my posts based on what some ‘religious’ people might think. All the evidence seems to suggest we are on ground zero in the realm of ideas. It’s time to start building.

American Cosmology and Arlington National Cemetery

Religious conservatives in America have argued that America was founded as a Christian nation, implying that Christianity ought to be honored in political discourse and policy. Others call this ‘Christian revisionism’ and argue that the founding fathers had no such intention. It is difficult to find the ‘truth’ of the matter in American history. Regarding the place of religion in early American society there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer. The same can be said about many of the other issues important to people of that time. In the early eighteenth century, the belief was prevalent that the world’s first religion was that of the Hebrew patriarchs, and high culture radiated from Solomon’s temple.  Within the same century this was challenged by historical scholarship and archaeology. Likewise, the current historical analyses of that time are not in complete agreement. William Blake accused Isaac Newton, John Locke and Francis Bacon of using reason without spiritual understanding. But other accounts argue Newton relied on Biblical revelation, as well as the mystical necromancy still in favor during his time. Newton’s theories were then used to promote mechanistic science. Similarly, the history of Freemasonry in America includes both positive contributions and worrisome tendencies. Many characters of Masonry’s medieval mythology were discredited in the eighteenth century, but were simply replaced without reworking the related political and cultural assumptions. For example, Noah replaced Hermes Trismegistus in freemasonic thought. Plato was called in to represent a system of magical correspondences after medieval practical magic had been discredited.

The pursuit of good principles would require awareness of these old ideas in order to bring them in line with current wisdom, but America’s predominant ideologies haven’t been open to analyses of their doctrines. This can be illustrated by the stance of the church concerning ‘pagan’ influences in America. Discussion would have to begin with the church’s acceptance of pagan philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, as well as the ongoing influences of Hermeticism. This has been a source of confusion in religious discourse and many of its effects are actually visible in American culture, for example, in the poor condition of the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. It has been acknowledged that the cemetery is a problem. There is a principle that might shed light on this problem, but it is derived from sun worship. This would be controversial, to say the least.

Because Freemasonry was instrumental in the layout of the Capital and because this institution shared many ideas with the learned world, it might seem inevitable that Arlington Nation Cemetery would end up in its current location, west of the Capital. Freemasons honored the great achievments of ancient cultures–especially the Jewish culture, but also the culture and learning of Egypt. In ancient Egypt, the city of the dead was always built to the west of the city of the living. However, the Cemetery at Arlington was not planned as a cemetery.  Before the Civil War the land west of Washington D.C. was the residence of Robert E. Lee. It only became a cemetery during the War as a way to punish Lee who chose to fight for the Confederacy. Bodies were buried as close to the house as possible in order to make it impossible for the Lees to return.

In ancient cultures, the city of the dead always contained the Omphalos or navel, representing the geodetic center. In Egypt this was called the “navel of the world” and was a point of orientation with the cosmos, connecting the earth to the heavens. Priestesses presided over the cemeteries of the ancient world.  However, America’s founders may have intended the Capitol dome to be the geodetic point and center of the world, and they laid its cornerstone accordingly. In a concrete way, this might provide the philosophical basis for the combined role of priest and king.

It has been said that sun worship is the most scientific form of pagan worship. However, a system of worship is only rational if it is complete. Many customs implied by sun worship have never been present in American culture, having been abolished long before the first Pilgrims arrived on American soil. This is a result of ideological attacks on cosmological principles. One early instance of this took place in Persian Mazdaism. The first reform of Mazdaism was in about 1200 BC, and represents the changes common to Aryan politics. Evidence has revealed that invaders who considered themselves ‘noble’ determined to conquer and rule the populations they encountered. However, the customs of the conquered cultures hindered these ambitions. The customs had to do with the real estate laws of the conquered lands. To be a king, one had to marry an heiress. Further, in the event of divorce or the death of the heiress, the king had no further claim to his kingdom. Property remained with the heiress or her daughter, or reverted to her clan, disappointing dynastic ambitions. In time, the invaders prevailed by using bigamy, trickery and lies—and they reformed the cosmology until it could no longer limit their power. The Aryan rejection of the female principle and its related customs would have led to the loss of clan property and sovereignty.

By contrast, although America lacks the complete cosmological structure, American leaders have argued for equality. Washington thought education would end the monopoly of power. Thomas Jefferson, although not a Freemason, used Masonic metaphor when he said that wealth and birth represent “pseudo-aristocracy”. True aristocracy involves republican social arrangements. Freemason DeWitt Clinton rejected John Locke because his ideas were for the children of gentlemen. There had been a time when Freemasons claimed an esoteric or hidden knowledge denied to lesser people, but in 1793 Clinton celebrated education and the ideas of natural equality. However, the struggle for political supremacy never ends.  Too big to fail banks and Big Oil are two of America’s home-grown dynasties.

J. J. Rousseau argued that the phrase, “Christian republic,” is made up of mutually exclusive terms. He referred to the fact that the Christian church is not amenable to democratic institutions. In Christian history, limited roles for women have coincided with the alliance of priesthood and dynasty. Yet the first Christians lived with all things in common. Paul the Apostle wrote to the Galatians,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s words could illustrate principle, while the church’s monarchical tendencies represent a misuse of dogma and ideology.

After the Revolutionary War, the ‘ancient’ sect of Freemasons began to call themselves high priests and claim equality with the church in the realm of the sacred. This was the beginning of their dispute with secular Christian leaders and eventually led to their downfall.

See also: Hermes in India

Adam, Noah and the Snake-king

Sources:

1.  Bullock, Steven C. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the transformation of the American social order. University of North Carolina Press. 1998

2.  Ovason, David. The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: the Masons and the building of Washington D.C. Century Books, Ltd. London. 1999

Enduring Principles in Religious Sacrifice

Back to Frederick Turner’s essay, “The Mall as a Place of Pilgrimage” (The National Mall: rethinking Washington’s monumental core.” Ed. Nathan Glazer and Cynthia R. Field. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2008).  In this post, I want to focus on Turner’s mention of abortion and sacrifice. Both are important to people of faith, and, of course, sacrifice is a central principle of religion. I appreciate Turner’s courage in opening this topic for discussion, although his implied criticism of American culture is unfair, in my view. That said, any approach to these controversial ideas would probably have invited criticism.

In searching for connections to transcendence in American culture, Turner said that the killing of animals for science might represent a sacrifice to America’s secular definition of nature; and clinical abortion, a sacrifice to the legal definition of a human being, or to America’s secular religion of humanism. He continues that as the home of the Supreme Court, which is the arbiter of these things, Washington lives up to its ritual role as a pilgrimage altar.

I suppose these choices make sense because of the transcendent nature of death. Again, my position is that while Americans may need to examine these policies more closely, the suggestion that they might serve the people in a spiritual sense is too extreme, even cruel. Since clarity of principle is crucial to a discussion of America’s future, this post will attempt to focus on the search for principles.

Sacrifice was the essential act of external worship, but an external act should express the true inward feelings of man if it is to be a religious act. In addition, God’s acceptance of the sacrifice must be demonstrated through ritual. Of course, all people did not practice sacrifice in the same way, or for the same reasons.

To search for the meaning of Israel’s system of sacrifice it is necessary to go to the Old Testament.  According to Roland DeVaux, who in his book, “Ancient Israel,” listed chapter and verse, every sacrifice is a gift; something needed by the giver to support life; part of one’s self. Because  everything belongs to God, the thing sacrificed could also be seen as a sort of tribute.  This can be seen in the offering of the first-fruits of the harvest and the offering of the first born.  The acceptance of this gift involves God in an obligation.

Before the reform of Josias in 621 BC, the two types of sacrifice most common in Israel were the Holocaust sacrifice and the Communion sacrifice. In a Holocaust offering, the offering is a gift and sacrifice is the acting out of the covenant.  The gift is completely destroyed by fire.  However, immolation is not the essence of sacrifice. The essence of sacrifice is the fact that the offering becomes useless to the giver, and irrevocable. Everything consecrated to God must be withdrawn from profane use.

Originally, the Communion sacrifice was the most complete and the most frequent type of sacrifice, and it involved the sharing of a meal. The motives for Communion sacrifices stem from a principled nomadic existence, which the Hebrews shared with many of their neighbors, including the Arab people. The nomadic life is considered by scholars to be the highest, truest form of community, and the sharing of a meal illustrates the importance of hospitality to this way of life. To Israel, this nomadic history represents the purity of religious life in the time of the covenant.

Expiatory sacrfice was developed from the other types of sacrifice, and in a time of national calamity, such as the Exile, it became more important.  The purpose of an Expiatory sacrifice is to re-establish the covenant when it has been broken by the sin of man.  There were two types of Expiatory sacrifice, the sacrifice for Sin and the sacrifice for Reparation, although it is difficult to say how they are different from each other.  They both differed in many respects from the Holocaust and Communion sacrifice.  For one thing, the blood played a more important part.  Also, in a Sin offering, the type of animal sacrificed depended on the rank of the person who had sinned–and on whether it was an individual or the community as a whole.   Because the person, or the people offering the sacrifice admitted their guilt, they received no part of the victim.

The sacrifice of Reparation was offered in behalf of private individuals and the only victim referred to is a ram.    This type of sacrifice was sometimes accompanied by the payment of a fine.  If the offense could be remedied by monetary payment, the guilty person had to offer a ram for reparation, and restore to the priest (as representatives of Yahweh) or to the person he had wronged the monetary equivalent of the damage, plus one fifth.  This was not considered part of the sacrifice, however (DeVaux, Roland and John McHugh. Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997).

It is known that human sacrifice was never lawful in Israel, but even among other cultures the physical evidence for human sacrifice is weak.  Historical documents and reports insist that it took place, but DeVaux and others suggest it was not common. There are several reasons to question its prevalence. For example, Franz Cumont mentions a ritual enactment of human sacrifice in Mithraism, but the belief that this sacrifice actually took place in the distant past is speculation. Freemasonic ritual includes the dramatized murder of Hiram Abiff, which according to Masonic doctrine actually took place during the building of the Temple of Solomon. Again, this isn’t known. Jacob Rabinowitz wrote that human sacrifice was connected with agriculture, which was seen as a yearlong pre-meditated murder of the earth. However, circumcision was always a substitute for human sacrifice, as was the shaving of part of the head, for males.

On the other hand, the belief in Daemons suggests another aspect of the story. Homer wrote about ‘God’ and Divinities (‘Daimon’) interchangeably. It was Plato who later distinguished between good and evil Daemons. The Septuagint, written by Jews in Alexandria, also spoke of Daemons as potentially evil. In the early Roman Empire people were warned not to confuse God with Daemons, or the rulers of nature. They thought God was not in direct contact with the world. And since human sacrifice was not welcome to the gods it must be the Daemons who demanded it. They argued that kings and generals would not have been willing to sacrifice their children unless they were appeasing the anger of ugly, ill tempered, vengeful spirits who bring pestilence and war. Rapes, wanderings, and hiding were not done by gods but by Daemons. Some made sacrifices to these malevolent spirits, in the hope they would depart peaceably. As Grover wrote in “The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire,” superstition, and not atheism, was the biggest threat to religion during this era. These were the conditions encountered by Jesus of Nazareth during his ministry.

Superstition has always been a threat to high religious thought. Many political factors contributed to the confusion of that time, although the people continually attempted to revive or recreate ancient religious practices. For example, it was not only the Jews who performed ablutions and purification rituals. These were probably derived from Mazdaism, which had been an influence in the religion of Israel since the Babylonian Exile, and which influenced the other people of the region as well (Glover, T.R. The conflict of religions in the early Roman empire. Nabu Press. 2010).

It seems clear that symbols borrowed from antiquity may not have the desired effect in modern America, but I maintain that there are certain principles that endure. I hesitate to mention the tonsure of Roman Catholic priests as an example of an enduring principle. The modern religions reject pagan associations; and yet modern pagans criticize Christianity for rejecting paganism while its symbols and customs remain part of the church.

I believe certain principles endure because they have a rational foundation. This is not the rationality of Locke, Newton and Bacon…but that is a subject for another article.

The Current Political Discourse: America’s future

One sign of our times is the large number of books dealing with America’s political rhetoric. Perhaps the most surprising convergence of opinion concerns the nation’s spiritual life. Sociologist Wayne Baker presents evidence from the World Values Surveys to examine the culture war thesis, currently part of this rhetoric. But in his concluding chapter, he deals with mythology, and favorably mentions the New Age Movement. He suggests the 60’s were the beginning of a Cycle of Awakening and that such cycles normally result in cultural revitalization. Poet Frederick Turner, in an essay for “The National Mall: rethinking Washington’s monumental core,” welcomes the symbols found in the pilgrimage sites of classical antiquity, such as sacred groves and oracles. He doesn’t seem to be calling for a new state religion, only for a symbolic–and slightly more female–balance to the Capital’s current bluster and hubris.

Christianity doesn’t seem to be seriously discussed by any of these writers as a guide to the future, although Christianity has been influential in American history. To begin this discussion, I want to be clear that the Christian question will demand clear answers; its demise is not inevitable. Also, the fear of pagan symbols in American culture is genuine, although it can be argued that such fears are based on a misunderstanding of antiquity, and of Christianity itself. Of course, Christianity does have a mythological core.  But it has been quite some time since American theologians exhibited an awareness of this fact. Writer Robert Bellah wrote in the 70s that “the last Protestant theologian before the twentieth century to have in his control the entire imaginative resources of the Christian tradition,” was Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was three years older than Benjamin Franklin. Since that time, Christianity has been used to justify the pursuit of wealth, militarism and consumerism. Many worry that in its present state, it lacks the ability to contribute succinct thought, or express transcendent potential.

On the other hand, the new openness to pagan or nature symbolism in American culture also needs careful thought. It seems clear that Frederick Turner focuses on Classical symbolism. (I base my comments about Turner only on his essay. For a list of his books, please see his website.) But many writers, even ancient writers, do not distinguish between types of Paganism. References to church father, Tertullian, mention that he was a pagan before his conversion to Christianity, but apparently it is not considered important to specify his religion. Isn’t it likely that hailing from Carthage in North Africa in the second century AD, he would have worshipped Mithra? Mazdaism, according to Franz Cumont, was a Persian religion, which was spread by soldiers and officers of the Roman Army. Originally, women were not allowed to participate, even as members. Mazdaism was probably the most vibrant form of paganism before the conversion of Constantine to Christianity, and in the pursuit of universality it eventually formed an alliance with the cult of Ma, the Great Mother. Thomas Boslooper assumes in his book “The Virgin Birth,” that Tertullian’s approach to Christian theology was simply a too-literal interpretation of Christian doctrine, but this religious background would explain a lot. Tertullian furthered Christianity’s literal condemnation of women, holding them equally responsible with Eve for the death of Jesus Christ.

Also relevant to a discussion of American spirituality, is a statement in Baker’s conclusion, where he depends on Joseph Campbell.  Apparently Campbell said the old myths are known to be lies.  This is in contrast to Bellah, who clearly called for the development of a new American mythology tied to American geography and history, rather than to the ancient world.  I will argue in future posts that the underlying principles of antiquity, which can be found in its myths, can also befound in Christian thought at its best.  These principles must be part of America’s future.   If Campbell really said the myths were lies, and if we believe him, we are truly lost.

Sources:

1. “The National Mall: rethinking Washington’s monumental core.” Ed. Nathan Glazer and Cynthia R. Field. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2008.  See also: Turner, Frederick. “Frederick Turner’s Blog.” 10 Feb. 2011. Available: http://frederickturnerpoet.com/.

2. Bellah, Robert Neelly. “The Broken Covenant: American civil religion in a time of trial”. Seabury Press. 1975

3.  Baker, Wayne E. “Americas Crisis of Values: reality and perception. Princeton University Press. 2006

4.  Cumont, Franz. “The Mysteries of Mithra.” Dover Publications, New York. 1956

Economic Collapse, Poverty, Revolution: Where does America go from here?

America’s response to the situation in Egypt demonstrates some of the contradictions in American society. America was born in revolution, but since that time its leaders have discouraged revolution of any kind. Since the Revolutionary War Americans have mistrusted anyone claiming superior social standing; on the other hand many people used the Revolution to redefine their own social roles and status. The newly created elite coveted political supremacy; even Thomas Jefferson found it difficult to define the limits of power.

Americans have struggled to balance these social, economic and political realities with the highest ideals of democratic liberty, but in the last decade the political realities seem to have taken the upper hand. ‘We the people’ cheered for Egypt’s struggle for democracy, while our own democracy faced serious threats. American financial experts and regulators have betrayed the people, causing the loss of jobs and homes. Foreclosures happen with little oversight or concern for the victims. The men responsible for the financial collapse are installed in the President’s cabinet, Bloomberg News and CNN flaunt the fact that the wealthy are spending again, and Congress extends their tax breaks.

I read somewhere that these times of extremity are short-lived, whereas the periods when the laws are equitably enforced and the people live in relative harmony tend to be long lasting and self-perpetuating. At the present time however, America’s turmoil may be part of a “cycle of awakening” which began in the 60s. Awakenings are periods of cultural revitalization that begin in a general crisis of beliefs and values. This particular cycle has been unusually long and hasn’t yet found its equilibrium. I guess that is what we are waiting for—equilibrium.

In the meantime economic insecurity and injustice are probably far more costly than we know. Historians agree that the world’s “golden ages” have coincided with the occurrence of crucial factors: peace, sufficient financial resources, and enough leisure to make use of them. The presence of these conditions has often been accompanied by innovation and creativity. By this standard, the shock experienced by families and communities as a result of this recession must have been an immeasurable cultural setback. And this recession is not an isolated incident. If the combined effects of two world wars, several smaller wars, the Great Depression and several smaller recessions occurring within a single century are considered, the costs to society must have been tremendous.  Under these conditions, the official calls for innovation are simply rubbing salt in the wound.

Any nation that dreams of building a high culture would have to create laws and customs aimed at ensuring a positive cultural environment. Hopefully it is clear I am not talking about a positive corporate environment. This process would require time and patience, as well as a school of thought capable of continuing its traditions through time, and building on them. None of the world’s great cultures were achieved in a generation, but if America were to work toward such a goal each improvement would be a cause for celebration. Each decade that passes in peace and prosperity would bring cultural depth and beauty, strength and wisdom. The journey would be the thing.

Sources:

1.  Bullock, Steven C. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the transformation of the American social order. University of North Carolina Press. 1998

2.  Bacevich, Andrew. The Limits of Power: the end of American exceptionalism. Metropolitan Books. 2008

3.  Baker, Wayne E. America’s Crisis of Values: reality and perception. Princeton University Press. 2006