Friday, June 28, 2013

The War of Prophet, Priest and King: The War Among Men (part 2 of 3)

The War Among Men

The War in the soul among these three needs led to the rise of these three powers: the Kings, the Philosophers, and the Priests. These three rulers each saw their own domain as the dominant one, and so fought with the other two for the allegiance of the men. So, not long after the dawn of Man and the rise of the powers, the War of the Powers began. Priests would denounce the Truth of philosophers, and philosophers would mock the Mystery of the priests. The kings, fearing the power of them both, would have them censored or punished or killed. In exchange, the Philosophers would tell the people of the Righteousness of rebellion, and the Priests would excite their passions to fight.

For most of history, this War was a Cold War, with the Kings content to rule in their palaces, the Philosophers to ponder in their huts, and the Priests to celebrate in their temples. As their domains were often non-overlapping, each had dominion over some part of most men. The same man would pay his taxes, feast in the temple, and often unconsciously, believe the philosopher. Each power would rarely risk this to make a grab at more power.

The War smoldered for long forgotten centuries, occasionally flaring up in rebellions or conquests, with no hope of peace. Finally, a man came who saw a way of reconciliation. His name was Plato, and he suggested Philosopher-Kings, men who would be both pragmatic and govern by Truth. Plato never got a chance to try it out himself as nobody trusted him to run a kingdom. But Akhenaten, King of Egypt, did try it when he attempted to usurp the priesthood with his philosophy of a singular God, Aten. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, was a Stoic philosopher, and studied Plato himself. Confucius, perhaps as close as the world has ever come to a philosopher-king, built a rational and incredibly pragmatic system. Siddhartha, perhaps noblest of all, renounced his own kingdom and lived the model life of the philosopher. But Akhenaten’s sterile monotheism did not satisfy the hunger for Mystery, and the priesthood was thrust back into power after his death. Marcus Aurelius’ philosophy, true as it may have been, was impotent; in the end, he wrote his thoughts in private and in public, surrendered to popular enthusiasms. Confucius’ codes could not speak with authority as from Heaven, and the hunger for Mystery had to be satisfied with other systems. Buddhism came very close, but either sacrificed Mystery for Truth (Theravada) or Truth for Mystery (Mahayana), with the full benefits of either system reaped only by those few who could endure monasticism. In the end, none of these were able to achieve a broad alliance in these domains.

And so the War raged on in the two theaters: in the soul of man, and in public. It was a war of perfect and terrible balance, one without hope for end or peace. The hungers were fixed from the birth of man; the powers grew out of these. If one was killed and the flag dropped, the human hunger would pick it up immediately. And so the king in his palace, the priest in his temple, and the prophet in his hut battled one another for the affections and attention of mankind.

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