Friday, January 29, 2021

The Sacrifice of the Sacred King

"In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Wood. ..  In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier."

From "The Golden Bough" - by James G. Frazer

Post by "Mon Seul Desir"

Hello Ugo 

You once asked, what was the meaning of Trump, it crossed my mind that without anybody’s planning or intentions, Trump became an immense collective scapegoating ritual where all the sins and impurities of the tribe are placed upon the king, who is then ceremonially driven out to purify the tribe. Since the 1960s this seems to have increasingly become the function of the American Presidency superseding its previous role which it has held since the days of George Washington, that of a near omnipotent God-Emperor who incarnates American collective power. It’s certainly corresponds to the sacred geometry of Washington DC, enclosed by its pomerium, the sacred regalias on display, the Temples to the Divine Emperors, the Axis Mundi rising through the centre of the Capitol’s rotunda. I personally visited the place a decade ago and was absolutely struck by the mystical religious layout of the place. It was effectively the centre of a secular City of God, destined to extend to, and redeem the entire world. I would say that Americanism is in fact the world’s dominant religious system, erecting its theocracy over the ruins of the British World Empire just as the theocracy of Diocletian Jovius was erected over the ruins of the Roman-Hellenistic Mediterranean Empire. 

Now I must point to the Ancients warnings against hubris and the prophecies of Christian mystics that the reign of God can only come with the return of Christ. When one pushes too hard against the Cosmos, it pushes back. Alexander declared himself greater than Hercules, he was assassinated, his family exterminated and Ptolemy Soter was one of the few of his Companions who lived to found a dynasty and die in his bed. 

 I think that when the history of the USA over the past century is written several generations from now, it will describe not the March of Progress towards the future, the description will be of an ever increasing surrender to hubris culminating in overreach and collapse. 

This is the consequence of giving the powers of an advanced culture to an archaic one, they see what they can do with the new powers, not what they shouldn’t do. The social structure is overwhelmed by the new powers, the effect is that of Dr Erskine’s Supersoldier Serum, what is good becomes better, what is bad, worse. 

Homeric society started out as heroic warrior communities ruled by chiefs and freemen’s councils, their cosmology was of Primordial Chaos forged into Order by the Will of the Gods, the earthly rulers were shades of the Gods, ordering the human community as the Gods ordered the Cosmos. As their knowledge advanced, they studied the Order imposed by the Gods, the regularities they shaped, the ordered structures, from this they developed basic mechanics, observations of nature and the skills to create ordered organizations of their own, the concepts of objective law and disciplined organizations led to basic state bureaucracy and when merged with the fury of the Iron Age warrior led to the Greek Phalanx and the Roman Legion. The Homeric kings who in the past had commanded a few thousands warriors who were the freemen of his kingdom became massively powerful monarchs who had armies of tens to hundreds of thousands supported by workshops and officials who could undertake campaigns for years and where bound to absolute obedience. They became the Incredible Hulk’s of the Ancient World capable of smashing through everything in their paths, the humanistic ethic of the original Homeric world was overwhelmed by a power system stronger than it, the exercise of power became increasingly arbitrary, society turned into a regime of slavery and terror, the lacks of ancient culture became evident, the lack of a deep sense of ethics, no real work ethic, the absence of culturally integrated large scale structures, even the rulers enjoyed no security, any courtier could be a possible assassin, simply eating lunch was a terrifying adventure, their own relatives couldn’t be trusted, the guards who protected them one day could butcher them the next... 

One sees this in Seneca who discussed the ethics of committing suicide under a despotism, of Boudicca who revolted and was massacred after she and her daughters were tortured by petty officials who had the power of life and death over even provincial aristocrats, the Gospels can be read as the testimony of common people living under the arbitrary will of the powerful. Boudicca could torture and kill any commoner under her power, imperial officials could do the same to her, the officials could be ordered by the Emperor to kill themselves on a whim and the Emperor themselves had to watch everyone... The Homeric values of personal freedom and dignity had lost any meaning and increasingly it became impossible to do science under the constraints of Hesiod’s metaphysics, the whole concept of a civilization ordered under its own collective will was dying. 

Ultimately this became unsustainable, the reaction came, the Christians stated power comes only from God, the Cosmos is not ordered by the Emperor or any God he represents, it was created by God as an intrinsically ordered structure, there no law of Man, only the law of God which Man can only discover and interpret, all this apparatus of temporal power is just the product of ambition and greed, there is no divine purpose here, a counterfeit of the true City of God. The theology of the Glory of Rome died, abandoned by a people that could not bear its weight anymore and just wanted to breathe freely. Deprived of the faith that sustained it, Rome collapsed under its weight its ruins to become spolia to its heirs who had turned to the City of God. 

Now Medieval Man stepped into the world with the certainty that it was God’s and that he had to live by His rules. Everything moved by His eternal laws, that could be understood and applied to both the human and natural realms. Rulers were as completely under God’s law as the beggar, a new institution was born, Medieval Kingship and Feudalism organized with the support of God’s Church, a massive body of law and customs was created to modulate, contain and control power, lord and vassal relationships, knighthood, the Estates, the Guilds, the Communes, ultimately reaching its fullest development in the great Medieval Courts like Versailles, war was codified into the sport of Kings instead of the genocidal total wars of the late Classical world. The much ridiculed Versailles functioned as a containment structure for power, the King could reign without ruling, he didn’t need to constantly torture and kill people to show he was in charge, he simply distributed perks and honours, he had great fringe benefits compared to a Classical ruler, greater personal comforts, minimal risks of assassination, eating his meals in peace, no worries about his guards, outside the palace a massive array of autonomous institutions ran the whole society without royal intervention, the king’s subjects lived in security and prosperity, the much maligned costs of Versailles were insignificant compared to the costs of despotism. The so-called Enlightenment pseudo philosophers could never have survived in Ancient Rome, they would have been lion food, in a 20th century tyranny it would have been concentration camps and bullets in the back of the head, they were in fact free because the containment structures of the Versailles system protected them, they thought France could be made into a better country if it was ruled by a Caesar, they got Napoleon who used up the wealth and manpower of France the way Alexander used up Macedon, people don’t realize what they have until they lose it... 

Now armed with the concept of God’s law, the development of philosophy took new directions first under the scholastics and then under the natural philosophers taking the development of science well beyond that of ancient world, a new Christian work ethic fostered the Guilds of free craftsman who took technology beyond that the classical era with the clock, navigation skills, new architecture and art and eventually an Italian named Volta but together the first electric battery, opening a new unsuspected realm to science, knowledge that would overturn the Medieval metaphysics and lead to the Quantum Realm and the world of Relativity. 

 By the 19th century the world saw the emergence of a new form of organization, Technocracy, to manage the new railways and telegraph system, the first components that would grow into the Technosphere and a schizophrenic type of Man, Medieval Man in family and public life and Technospheric Man at the railway station, telegraph office and engineering and science lab. 

The concept of regularity and intrinsic order in Homeric society lead to technologies and forms of organization that overwhelmed its ethics and social structure, the Roman Empire was a supersized Homeric chiefdom with the bureaucracy and military of King Philippe the Second but without the customs and institutions that restrained and stabilized his regime, before the power system Homeric society was completely helpless, only the replacement of its values by Medieval ones, accompanied by the collapse of the Roman system allowed the people to become free. 

Today Technospheric Man has carried out a similar revolution, Technocracy, Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, it’s technology, it’s conception of Man as taught by Freud and Jung, its achievements that have obliterated the old sense of limits, the Atomic bombs that can level mountains in minutes, the contraceptives that have removed immemorial fundamentals of the relations between the sexes, the medical advances, the communication systems and so much more. Today’s Western system is simply a collection of decayed Medieval courts surrounded by the modern equivalent of the Fuggers and Medecis in the corporate lobbyists attempting to use structures taken from Black Panther’s Wakanda and Doom’s Latveria to create some sort of City of God on Earth, they’re as completely overwhelmed as the Classical rulers were, they wanted absolute power, they have it and everything that goes with it, they’re afraid of each other and of the people they rule, they’re quickly finding that absolute power burns the hands that attempt to wield it. But do they even truly understand what they’re attempting to wield? Does their Medieval mentalities even contains the concepts and cognitive patterns that would allow them to understand? 

That the problems the world is facing are problems in managing the Technosphere, they’re not political and the accepted techniques of financial and legal manipulation don’t work, traditional assumptions are obsolete, essentially what is required is Apollo Mission Control style technocratic management. Do these skills even exist in the current elites? Or they will simply persist in enforcing superstitious rituals of purity and redemption? 

Today I point out the Internet, consider what the printing press did to the power of the Medieval Church, the first printed books came in 1455, 62 years later in 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 theses and the rest is history. The Internet is the printing press on gamma rays, it’s Big, Mean and Green, consider that the properties of any substance is dependent on the nature of its bonding patterns whether its chemical or social bonds, the current system is dependent on vertical bonds converging on small groups of people, the Internet allows the creation of very large numbers of horizontal bonds across this structure, eventually sufficient to overwhelm the vertical structure and cause it to collapse. I don’t think their pathetic attempts at censorship will work anymore than burning printed tracts and heretics worked for the Church. Can the current governments even survive into the age of the Internet? 

Now this was a long one Ugo, when I start writing I’m never sure how it’s going to come out!


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)