Thursday, June 27, 2013

The War of Prophet, Priest and King: The War Within Men (part 1 of 3)

The War Within Men

New Hungers

Out of a whirlwind of birth and death, tooth and claw, blood and sweat, a man woke up as a man. It was a thing that had never happened before. The creatures who were before him were all unique in their own way, a kaleidoscope of colors and claws. And even though he did look funny himself, he was different because he was awake. He found himself in possession of an enormously expensive adaptation: consciousness. And like a more complex animal requiring more complex foods, this new adaptation needed caused in him a hunger for two things: Mystery and Truth. It seems that the capacity for Mystery and Truth had been building for some time; the symphony of species had prepared the way. The apparatus for Mystery seemed partly developed in dogs who dream, and the apparatus for moral Truth seems to be foreshadowed in the complex and sometimes altruistic social instincts of Prairie Dogs.

It must have been a wonderful day (probably a Friday; Friday’s are good days) when that which was foreshadowed finally appeared. On that day, the swirling chaos of instinct and id finally had an opponent; it had to convince the ego against its strange newborn enemy, the superego. On that day, the War of the Psyche was declared in the mind of man.


“…man seeks not so much God as the miraculous. And as man cannot bear to be without the miraculous, he will create new miracles of his own for himself, and will worship deeds of sorcery and witchcraft, though he might be a hundred times over a rebel, heretic and infidel.” – Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

But the War was a unique one for the man was a unique creature. The Id, long a chaos of instinct, had a new element to it. Swirling in with the senseless instincts appeared a sensible story. The dreams, expressions of inner hopes and fears, began to produce stories that were strangely consistent. The men lost the ability to forget their dreams. In fact, they became convinced that the bizarre hallucinations contained profound meaning. They began to share them with one another, and even to tell of their daydreams. They told of men who were greater than men, men who were not content simply to wrestle against terrestrial threats. Otherworldly demons and monsters were remembered from the night who would fight against the super men in a thousand, thousand stories. The heroes were celebrated in feasts no less than if they were real men of great honor, and the villains were appeased and warded against no less than if they were real monsters. Such telling of stories, honoring of heroes, and warding of evils became an obsession for the men. As the race increased, and as they spread across the face of the earth, the hunger for Mystery was so intense that every group of them found it necessary to set aside some men who would focus entirely on celebrating the heroes and appeasing the villains. These men became the mythmakers, the poets, and the priests.


“For the secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance.” – Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

On the other front of the War of the Psyche was the newborn superego. Social organization had long since existed, but a new element was present. The prairie dog was content to allow the instincts to war with one another. If and only if the herd instinct was stronger than the survival instinct, the animal would act ‘altruistically.’ The Man now had the two competing instincts brought before the Ego as before a jury tried before the judge of the Superego. The instincts would have to appeal to the Ego by presenting evidence admissible to court, namely that of Truth. The jury was by no means perfect, and justice was not always done. But for the first time in the history of life on the planet, a trial was occurring. Then something even stranger occurred. The men began to assert that the judgment in the court of their own mind applied to foreign courts. The men began to appeal to one another on the assumption that they all possessed the same court rules. “It’s not fair” and “You wouldn’t like it if…” became valid accusations, like grievances of a plaintiff against a defendant before a higher judge.

The Truth-Seeking part of Man, when it wasn’t serving as a judge between the Ego and Id, was far from idle. Without ceasing, it looked for patterns, to see the “reality” behind the appearance. It regarded the eyes, the only windows of truth for every other creature under the sun, as deceptive. The eyes, it knew, were only able to see shadows on the wall of a cave, when the light of reality was blazing bright outside. With a pair of feet utterly unique to the biosphere, it sought to stand on something more solid than matter. Matter, it thought, was as unstable as a flowing river. Forms, Numbers, Justice, Truth, God, the Cosmos; many concepts were proposed as the ultimate foundation, discovered by reason, meditation, or revelation.

In every group of men, there were some in whom the Hunger for Truth was ferocious. If a group found themselves lacking in Truth, they would hunt for it like a deer and would not stop until it was caught. They were not content to hold popular ideas; their Truth was as cold as stone, and as firm. Unlike the poets, these men did not suggest that their ideas were simply a good story enjoyable to some men in some places, but that they were True for all men in all places. And maybe because the societies were anemic and really did hunger they were tolerated and sometimes even believed. But usually their food was divided long after they were dead. These men were the prophets and philosophers.


“Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread...In bread there was offered Thee an invincible banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more certain than bread.” – Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

These new hungers for Truth and Mystery were present alongside the older hunger for food. Men yearned to be freed from the tyranny of chance in hunting and gathering, and so came together through agriculture and civilization. Men arose who promised security to the people. They led others to build granaries where food could be secured. They defended themselves with walls and gates. They raised armies to increase the practical power of their group, and in war, could reap where they had not sown. The practical necessities which each organism fought for on its own or with a small band of close relatives had now were provided by the super-organisms of the city and kingdom. The men who were the heads of these new entities included the concerns of the Prophet and Priest to support practical politics. But the ultimate concern was power, and their power depended on their ability to provide practical necessities to the people; they were pragmatists. These men were the kings.

>>>>>>> Next: The War Among Men

No comments:

Post a Comment