Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Sacred and the Human”

The 20th Century was the century of resentment, of envy, of attempts to replace feelings of shame with feelings of pride (resentment, envy and feelings of humiliation are what leftism is based on). And how many people died in the 20th Century because of leftist idealogies such Commumism and Nazism - perhaps up to 200 million, human sacrificed to these insane beliefs?

Explanations for these things are right at the beginning of the Bible. Cain murders Abel, the first recorded murder, because of resentment because his sacrifice was rejected. He felt humiliated and blamed his predicament on Abel.

James Gilligan, who spent 35 years investigating the causes of murder, realized it was explained by the story of Cain and Abel. He said every murderer told him, in one form or another, they murdered because the murdered “dissed me.” Tried to humiliate the murdered, to shame him, so he killed to replace those feelings of shame with pride. (Hence the old saying, "What goes around, comes around.") It's also why the ancient Greeks formulated the concept of Hubris followed by Nemesis.

When the author writes of "strong, self-affirming, healthy egoists" I am reminded of the mentally-ill, left-wing, Christianity-hating Jewish atheist "Ayn Rand" (Alice Rosenbaum), who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche (since her "philosophy," Objectivism, is based on envy and resentment, that is one of the reasons, among others, why it is leftist). She was, by the way, eaten alive with envy when in the presence of a beautiful woman, because of her unattractiveness.

Since feminism is leftist, it is not based on "equality" but resentment, envy and hatred of men, and therefore attempts to "bring them down," which envy and resentment always try to do.

This article was written by Roger Scruton, edited by Andy Ross, and is from Prospect Magazine.

The article starts here.

It is not surprising that decent, skeptical people, observing the revival in our time of superstitious cults, the conflict between secular freedoms and religious edicts, and the murderousness of radical Islamism, should be receptive to the anti-religious polemics of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others. What is a little more surprising is the extent to which religion is caricatured by its current opponents, who seem to see in it nothing more than a system of unfounded beliefs about the cosmos.

For post-Enlightenment thinkers, the monotheistic belief systems were not related to ancient myths and rituals as science to superstition, or logic to magic. Rather, they were crystallizations of the emotional need which found expression both in the myths and rituals of antiquity and in the Vedas and Upanishads of the Hindus.

For Hegel, myths and rituals are forms of self-discovery, through which we understand the place of the subject in a world of objects, and the inner freedom that conditions all that we do. The emergence of monotheism from the polytheistic religions of antiquity is not so much a discovery as a form of self-creation, as the spirit learns to recognize itself in the whole of things, and to overcome its finitude.

Two thinkers stand out as the founders of a new intellectual enterprise—an enterprise which seems not to have been noticed by Hitchens, Dawkins or Daniel Dennett. The thinkers are Nietzsche and Wagner, and the intellectual enterprise is that of showing the place of the sacred in human life. Nietzsche and Wagner painted a picture that placed the concept of the sacred at the centre of the anthropology of religion.

The attempt by Nietzsche and Wagner to understand the concept of the sacred was taken forward not by anthropologists but by theologians and critics and, most explicitly and shockingly, René Girard in La violence et le sacré (1972).

Girard begins from an observation no impartial reader of the Hebrew Bible or the Koran can fail to make, which is that religion may offer peace, but has its roots in violence. Thinkers like Dawkins and Hitchens conclude that religion is the cause of this violence and sexual obsession. Not so, argues Girard. Religion is not the cause of violence but the solution to it. The violence comes from another source. The same can be said of the religious obsession with sexuality.

Girard's theory is best understood as a kind of inversion of an idea of Nietzsche's. On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) envisages a primeval human society, reduced to near universal slavery by the "beasts of prey"—the strong, self-affirming, healthy egoists who impose their desires on others by the force of their nature. The master race maintains its position by punishing all deviation on the part of the slaves. Because he cannot exact revenge, the slave expends his resentment on himself, coming to think of his condition as in some way deserved. The resentment of the slave explains, for Nietzsche, the entire theological and moral vision of Christianity.

There is surely an important truth concealed within Nietzsche's wild generalizations. Resentment remains a fundamental component in our social emotions, and it is widely prevalent in modern societies. The 20th century was the century of resentment. How else do you explain the mass murders of the communists and the Nazis, the seething animosities of Lenin and Hitler, the genocides of Mao and Pol Pot? Religion plays no real part in the ensuing destruction, and indeed is usually included among the targets.

Girard's theory, like Nietzsche's, is expressed as a genealogy. Girard sees the primeval condition of society as one of conflict. It is in the effort to resolve this conflict that the experience of the sacred is born. Primitive societies are invaded by "mimetic desire," as rivals struggle to match each other's social and material acquisitions, so heightening antagonism and precipitating the cycle of revenge. The solution is to identify a victim who can be the target of the accumulated bloodlust. By uniting against the scapegoat, people are released from their rivalries and reconciled.

According to Girard, the need for sacrificial scapegoating is implanted in the human psyche, arising from the attempt to form a durable community in which the moral life can be successfully pursued. One purpose of the theatre is to provide fictional substitutes for the original crime, and so to obtain the benefit of moral renewal without the horrific cost.

It is in just this way, Girard argues, that we should see the achievement of Christianity. In his study of the scapegoat, Le Bouc émissaire (1982), Girard identifies Christ as a new kind of victim—one who offers himself for sacrifice, and who, in doing so, shows that he understands what is going on. The climax is not the death of the scapegoat but the experience of sacred awe, as the victim, at the moment of death, forgives his tormentors. Christ's submission purified society and religion of the need for sacrificial murder: his conscious self-sacrifice is therefore, Girard suggests, rightly thought of as redemption.

Girard's account of the Passion is amplified by a conviction that religion and tragedy are, as Nietzsche argued, adjacent in the human psyche, comparable receptacles for the experience of sacred awe. The experience of the sacred is not an irrational residue of primitive fears, nor is it a form of superstition that will one day be chased away by science. It is a solution to the accumulated aggression which lies in the heart of human communities.

Girard's genealogy is not just an anthropological theory. Girard himself treats it as a piece of theology. For him, it is a kind of proof of the Christian religion and of the divinity of Jesus. And he suggests that the path that has led him from the inner meaning of the Eucharist to the truth of Christianity was one followed by Wagner in Parsifal, and one along which even Nietzsche reluctantly strayed, under the influence of Wagner's masterpiece.

Of course, you don't have to follow Girard into those obscure and controversial regions in order to endorse his view of the sacred as a human universal. Birth, copulation and death are the moments when time stands still, when we look on the world from a point at its edge, when we experience our dependence and contingency, and when we are apt to be filled with an entirely reasonable awe. It is from such moments, replete with emotional knowledge, that religion begins.

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