Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Talismans, Spells and Idols, Oh My!

Twenty years ago if you had asked me if I believed the human race is smarter than it was ten thousand or even five thousand years ago, I would have answered, "Of course we are."

These days, I no longer believe it. We have more scientific and technical knowledge, but in many ways we still believe in the same concepts that "primitive" people believe in. We just use different labels.

Take talismans, for example. A talisman is a magical object that has an inscription on it. It's supposed to be protection against evil.

Even in the 20th century German soldiers marched into battle with "Gott mit uns" inscribed on their belt buckles. That's a talisman. When American soldiers placed a Bible in their shirt pockets over their hearts, that, too, was a talisman. I've heard stories – and I don't know if they're Urban Legends or not – in which soldiers lived because their Bibles deflected a bullet. Which reminds me of Woody Allen's joke in which he claimed a bullet in his shirt pocket saved his life when someone threw a Bible at him. What's the real joke, though – Allen's, or soldiers using the Bible as a amulet?

Those two examples above don't sound all that much different than when witch-doctors told African warriors that if they rubbed special ointments on their bodies the bullets of the British would bounce off of them. Hilaire Belloc had a well-known rhyme about such foolishness: "Whatever happens/We have got/The Maxim machine-gun/And they have not."

Probably the most well-known talisman that Americans believe in is the Constitution. It's nothing more than a piece of paper with words on it. And some people believe that it protects them against the depredations of the State, ignoring the fact the State is the one that interprets what the Constitution means.

There are people who actually believe that inscribed piece of paper, that magical talisman, will protect them against evil. We're not all that much more advanced when it comes to spells, either. These days, it's called "propaganda."

The word "spell" means "a saying." It took me years to realize the double meaning of "spell": to cast one, and to make a word, which shows how closely related both are. Spells are cast by the use of words, in order to persuade people do what you want. And isn't that exactly what propaganda is supposed to do?

Incidentally, the word "enchant" means "to sing." Just more use of words. I consider Hitler to be the best 20th-century caster of spells. He used to have a photographer take pictures of him practicing speaking, so he could improve his delivery. He got really good at it. I've seen motion-pictures of his speeches. I couldn't understand a word he said, but I could see – and feel – his charisma.

The above is why I consider charisma irrelevant. Clinton had charisma, and he appears to be a psychopathic serial rapist. Charisma is nothing more than trying to cast a spell on people. It's charm, as in a magical charm.

Modern propaganda techniques are quite sophisticated, but most of it can be distilled into what Hermann Goering said as he stood in the dock at Nuremburg: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and then denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

For all our vaunted sophistication, we also believe in idols. I think the worst one is government. I believe I understand why: people want security, and they think the government can give it to them. But it can't. All idols are false gods; they are monsters that require sacrifice, as the State requires sacrifice. In the 20th century that sacrifice to the State has been estimated to be 177 million people.

For that matter, we still believe in human sacrifice, which has always been a fertility rite. If we kill a bunch of those people, and sacrifice them to our modern-day Molochs, we will be renewed and safe. Sure.

Someday, hundreds or maybe thousands of years in the future, people are going to look back at us and shake their heads and laugh. "Those foolish people," they are going to say, "they thought they were so smart, yet they didn't realize how backward they were with their foolish superstitions and their beliefs in talismans, spells and idols."

5 comments:

Earl Thomas said...

'Someday, hundreds or maybe thousands of years in the future, people are going to look back at us and shake their heads and laugh. "Those foolish people," they are going to say, "they thought they were so smart, yet they didn't realize how backward they were with their foolish superstitions and their beliefs in talismans, spells and idols."

St. Paul eludes to something like that in 1 Corinthians 10: 1-10...there's nothing new under the sun.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

Earl Thomas said...

I looked up this talisman...it points out the difference between that and an amulet.

'A talisman is an object which is believed to contain certain magical or sacramental properties which would provide good luck for the possessor or possibly offer protection from evil or harm.

Amulets and talismans are often considered interchangeable despite their differences. For example, the amulet is an object with natural magical properties, as opposed to a talisman which must be charged with magical powers by a creator. It is this act of consecration or "charging" that gives the talisman its alleged magical powers. The talisman is always made for a definite reason whereas an amulet can be used for generic purposes such as averting evil or attracting good luck.'

So with the Bible example the power itself would come from God (the creator).

August said...

Google IQ and Victorian, and you will find articles (and eventually papers). They've been looking at the U.K. population and they have a pretty good case that IQ has been declining since the Victorian age. It makes a lot of sense. The old order was good for genetics, while the ensuing revolutionary movements removed the old order and set up a very dysgenic system of selection.

sth_txs said...

The Constitution sucks in a number of ways, but we would vastly better off it were followed. Everything the anti-federalist said has come true.

As one wag said, in less than 3 year after the hologram known as the Constitution was passed, the founders followed up on that with the Alien and Sedition Acts and the father of the country led an assembled national army to put down a tax rebellion in Western Pennsylvania. It was directly downhill from there.

http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-constitutions-fatal-flaw.html

Bob Wallace said...

, "the founders followed up on that with the Alien and Sedition Acts"

John Adams did that and Jefferson repealed it.