Monday, November 7, 2011
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
I have never been able to fathom the world ending in fire and carnage. Perhaps that is because my Goddess is not in the world or of the world, She is the world. She is every spring leaf on every branch of every tree; every mother robin feeding her young; every snow-dressed mountain stream chasing itself through lacey whitewater; every sunset and sunrise. She is the moon and the oceans; the wind and the Earth itself. She is all seasons, all times and all of us. It is incomprehensible that my Goddess would commit suicide.
That is not to say that I don’t believe worlds end. Eras slip gradually into Jung’s collective unconscious never to be seen in the material world again. In great leaps of consciousness new worlds take their place. The Feudalism, church authority and despotism, religious persecution, Crusades and enforced ignorance of the common people that defined the Middle Ages commenced to wear away in the birth of the Renaissance – one driving force of which was the concept of Humanism.
An intellectual, secular and cultural movement based upon the values, behavior and characteristics believed to be the best part of the nature of human beings, independent of supernatural authority, Humanism was to form the bedrock of nearly two centuries worth of leaping achievements in art, science, politics and philosophy. If genius can be said to be fire, than this period burned with the heat of a thousand volcanoes.
By the time that the Renaissance slipped into Jung’s collective unconscious to be replaced by the Enlightenment, the Italian Masters – Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael to name but a few – had taught the world the beauty of chiaroscuro and form in dimension. The printing press had been invented by Gutenberg. Henry VIII, of lascivious and murderous memory, hard on the heels of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, had kicked the first giant hole in the Papacy’s iron wall of control over monarchs with his Act of Supremacy separating the Church of England from Rome. Galileo, father of modern astronomy, had discovered new worlds among the stars and was condemned by a nervous Catholic Church for his trouble. Dr. William Harvey had described the circulation of the blood. Shakespeare had written his “Hamlet” and Cervantes his “Don Quixote.”
Politically in 1558 a girl came to the throne of England, signaling the beginning of the Golden Age of the Renaissance. A heretical girl, the Pope called her, even as his successors would grudgingly call her the greatest monarch in Christendom. Elizabeth I would teach the world something about religious tolerance. She had both Catholics and Protestants among her subjects. A Protestant Queen, she did not object to the Catholics practicing in her England, saying that she had no desire to make windows into men’s souls. However, any attempt to come after her throne would bring swift and merciless retribution – as the Catholic Queen of Scotland learned. Further, if the fanatics on either side brought Holy War to her people she would destroy them all. Her thinking was that there was one God in England, the method of worship was trivial. Such is the wisdom of a great queen.
It is easy to imagine that a poor, oppressed serf from the Middle Ages dropped into the milieu of the Renaissance would have thought that their world had been destroyed as if by fire. However, the power of the monarchy, of Elizabeth, would have been familiar to them. For all her tolerance, distaste for war, love of peace and refusal to marry because she considered herself married to England and mother to her people, Elizabeth I was an absolute ruler. She had a parliament which she could have disbanded and beheaded at any time. She didn’t. Nonetheless, her word was unquestioned law for the 40 odd years that she reigned.
As the Renaissance in its turn gave birth to the Enlightenment the Catholic Church’s authoritarian power over the crowned heads was withering. Yet, religion still played an inordinate and deleterious role in the affairs of state. The absolutist reign of monarchy in England – then the richest, most powerful nation in the world – would end with James I, Elizabeth’s successor. However, the institution itself would limp along in Europe until the Czars fell in 1917.
The crumbling of the old guard – religious intrusion, absolute power vested in the hands of a very few – was a function, in many ways, of the deepening appreciation and understanding of Humanist ideals. If people were moral, reasonable, cogent and intelligent, independent of any higher power, then why were they not capable of self governance?
By the end of the Enlightenment, Adam Smith had published “The Wealth of Nations.” Voltaire had published “Candide,” and Kant his “Critique of Pure Reason.” Thanks to the printing press anyone with the price of a book, the ability and/or desire to read could open their mind. Mozart had composed Don Giovanni and the Requiem. The first volume of the Encyclopedia had been produced, and the American Revolution had been fought and won.
Politically, Jefferson and his contemporaries had given the world the Declaration of Independency – from England and monarchy. The Constitution, wonder of wonders, had synthesized a way to rid ourselves of meddlesome clergy. Freedom of religion was to prevent religious wars, many of which still raged during the Enlightenment. Separation of church and state was to mean no more sticky fingered clerics torturing nations and draining national treasuries, in the name of God of course. One must imagine that Elizabeth’s courtiers transported to Philadelphia in 1776 would have thought that their world had ended as if by fire.
It seems to me that we have, over the last three decades or so, walked back in time through the Enlightenment and past the Renaissance to a time when science is ignored if not hated; to a time when religion is not a matter of personal solace so much as an instrument of general aggravation, subjugation and torment; to a time when education of the people is regarded as an extravagant luxury, and the working person is valued lower than the work they render.
Corporations are our new found and supreme sovereigns. Their word is unquestioned law and written for them by their serfs and courtiers in our government. The ultra rich, rich and greedy politicos, who have long since forgotten who elected them, are the ruling aristocracy. It is the purpose of the working person to honor and support their divine right to rule. To paraphrase Elizabeth there is only one God in America, money, everything else is trivial. We don’t want to cut windows into people’s souls, we want to strip them bare and hold them for ransom.
I believe that we are racing toward the end of one world and the beginning of another. There are others who must believe it too, for their desperation to stop it grows daily. The people gathered out on the street under the Occupy banners seem to be prophets of that new world. With no violence and no chain of command they embody mission without malice, expression without ego, determination without destruction. They have reached back in time to grab the principles of Humanism by the hair and drag them into the second millennium. Perhaps their cooperation and cohesion is a prognostication of a way of living that takes those ideals to the next step in the evolutionary process.
I hear the criticism that the people of Occupy have no leaders and no clearly defined demands. What they have is a new way of thinking. No hierarchy means no monarchy of any kind. No prescribed agenda means the freedom to think, believe and create. Just as Michelangelo, Galileo, Shakespeare, Kant, Mozart and Jefferson thought, believed and created in their eras. This innovation in thought should not be held against them. We must not allow that. Particularly, considering the mess the old way of thinking has made of the only world we have to stand in.