The Secrets of Unlimited Power!
There is an old joke -- it might actually have been left by a commenter here -- about a fellow who says he wants to become a pagan. His friend asks him something to the effect of, "if you want to become a real pagan, why don't you just join the Catholic church?"
Now, the "spirit" of this joke is not insulting, but merely an ironic way of pointing out that Catholicism is a "full service" religion that addresses every level of man's being. Let's not kid ourselves. If we consider the full trajectory of the arc of salvation, of course Christianity appealed to pagans in a way that, for example, Judaism never could. How are you going to get the pagans "on board" the arc of salvation if you don't specifically appeal to their pagan sensibilities? It doesn't mean you remain a pagan. Indeed, that's the whole point -- a sort of bait and switch operation in which the paganism of the pagan is transformed and sublimated within Christianity.
Regarding the miracles, I suppose I didn't exactly understand how a violation of everything we know to be reliably true of the world is supposed to constitute the more reliable truth. Plus, it felt rather manipulative, as if metaphysical truth were too weak to stand on its own, so they had to throw in a few miracles to rig the outcome and impress the dim. What if, during the State of the Union, President Bush put on Sigfried & Roy style magic show, and made a few Democrat congressmen in the front row disappear? Would this add to or detract from the appeal of his speech? Okay, bad example.... But in the long run, would it in any way enhance the power of his message on grounds of truth alone?
Here again, isn't this what the pagans do -- for example, the nazis during their rallies, in which they would use special effects to drive home the message of the Führer? If we think of nazism as an underworld shadow of Christianity, it clearly turned the messiah principle on its head by imbuing Hitler with a numinous, hypnotic power. But this cannot be the true power. It reminds me of the miracles ascribed to Lil' Kim Jung -- probably not even leftist university professors are all that that impressed by his Marxist mojo:
"The Korean people are performing amazing miracles and exploits in socialist construction despite all sorts of tempests of history and all this has its source in the trust placed by the respected leader Kim Jong Il in them.... Kim Jong Il is the supreme incarnation of trust and love. Ever since he began steering the revolution he has pursued the policy of trust under the uplifted slogan 'Let's build a new society by virtue of trust and love.' The Korean people have thus grown to be a heroic people who can do anything. Kim Jong Il's trust serves as an ideological and moral source of strength whereby the Korean people can achieve signal successes despite any trial and fully display all their wisdom and energies in working history-making miracles. The leader absolutely trusts the people and they work astonishing miracles, inspired by this trust."
Obviously I am not alone in my ambivalence about miracles, for during the course of his initiatory ordeal in the bewilderness, Jesus himself rejects the temptation to magical worldly powers. Valentin Tomberg asks, "Why do the Gospels narrate the miracles?":
"If the purpose is to show evidence of the divinity of the one who performed them, it contradicts the spirit of Christianity; such an assertion would use the very means that the tempter offered Jesus Christ in the wilderness and that he rejected -- that is, using a miracle to convince the world of the power of truth. Moreover, the miracle argument is incompatible with the fact that Jesus himself cautioned against speaking of his miraculous acts (Luke 8:56)."
Furthermore, even during the course of the biggest miracle of them all, Jesus says to the "doubting Thomas" that "because you have seen me, you have believed." But "blessed are those who have not seen and have yet believed." In other words, there is something superior about seeing with the eyes of faith as opposed to the mere eyes of the flesh. Obviously, if I may say so.
What distinguishes good religion from bad religion is this issue of "power." All bad religions (that shall go unnamed, but you figure it out), and all bad religiosity -- including, for example, virtually all of the "new age" movement -- worship power, not God. The following book titles by the Mother of All Charlatans, Tony Robbins, say it all: "Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement." "Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!" There is nothing whatsoever in these books that Lil' Kim would object to in the least. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they are on his night stand, perhaps next to Jimmy Carter's latest anti-Semitic rant.
Let's just take one of the book descriptions and insert "Dear Leader" and "Korean" for "Tony" and "you," and it sounds just like a North Korean press release: "Dear leader has already unlocked the personal power inside millions of happy Koreans. He has proven to millions with his books, tapes, and speeches that by harnassing the power of the mind, the Korean people can do, have, achieve, and create anything they want for their lives. He has shown heads of state, royalty, Olympic and professional athletes, movie stars and children [I don't get the distinction--ed.] how to achieve. With Unlimited Power, Dear Leader passionately and eloquently reveals to the Korean people the science of personal achievement..."
Think for a moment how much more real magic there is in a mere sentence by Hayek or Friedman than in the eight-volume "Complete Quackery of Tony Robbins." For one thing, Robbins could only have become a wealthy fraud in a country guided by the real secrets of wealth -- secrets that are still unknown to the secular left, which I suppose is the core audience for this pseudo-religious nihilism. No proper religious person could fall for this kind of sting.
It's become such a cliche, but let's all repeat Coon emeritus Chesterton's famous formula together: When one abandons the truth, the problem is not that one will believe nothing, but rather that one will believe anything. Robbins has become a wealthy and "powerful" man by believing implicitly in this airtight adage and turning it to his advantage. If you see the world as he does, "pigeons" are everywhere, just waiting to be shaken down. Now that's power!
We see the same spiritual psychopathy in another new age titan, Deepak Chopra, whose book promises nothing less than "the secret of perfect love," the "secret of healing," the secret of "how to find a soul mate," the secret of having the most fulfilling career, and the secret of gaining a "personal breakthrough, a turning point, and a revelation." (Obviously Mr. Deepak can't keep a secret.) His "crystalline distillation of insights and wisdom" will transport you "to a sacred place where you can savor the nectar of enlightenment!," while he savors those sacred but playfully raucous money fights with his children inside the compound.
Again, when you step on such sacred cowpies, you are either impressed or are you nauseated. A Coon reaches for the Pepto and scrapes off his sensible footwear. Only an end-times, fully horizontalized infrahuman devoid of true religion could fall for this kind of extravagantly sinister piffle.
Now, back to the miracles. I see that I'm going to have to continue with this line of thought later, for I have merely laid the foundation while Dupree has enjoyed taking potshots at a couple of low-hanging anti-Coons. But let me say at the outset that I have no objection to biblical literalism per se. Rather, what I object to is only literalism, which once was a truism among Christians, but has somehow become an aberration due to the aberrant, er, falsism of fundamentalism. And this modern aberration can only ill-serve Christianity, as it promotes a narrow -- or shall we say "shallow" -- form of spiritual materialism that is simply not suited for Phase III man. Furthermore, it serves as an easy straw man for the contempt and mockery of secular tin men.
For, just as the "sacrifice" of Jesus is intended to be the last sacrifice, there is something about the biblical miracles that ironically intends them to be, if not the last miracles, then the last word on miracles -- a very different thing. In other words, if one comes away from the Gospels with the notion that it's a good idea to crucify innocent people because that's how you resurrect them, you have probably gotten the wrong message.
Just so, if you come away from the gospels with various ideas about how to turn water into wine, how to walk on water, or how to stretch a meal, it's possible that you are missing the point. But there is something critical about the nature and structure of the biblical miracles that we need to understand. Let Tony Robbins teach you how to walk on water -- or hot coals, anyway. We want to know how to walk on water, which is another matter entirely.
The vast majority of Mankind remains in ignorance; most humans spend their lives in spiritual darkness, at the crazy mercy of chance and accident. SubGeniuses, basking in the 5,000-watt Light of Dobbs, are also at the mercy of chance and accident -- yet given a boost by The Pipe Bringer, the seeker can "climb aboard" chance and accident and ride them like a cosmic surfboard on the oceans of the Luck Plane, "hanging ten" on the very same waves of randomness that cause humans such envious HATE.
For even if there's actually no "reason" for anything, even if nothing can be known for sure in an unbelievable world where psychotics run the Department of the Interior and mutilate cattle, we can still retain one concrete ball of fact that the most shattered instincts cannot deny: Something is going on, and we deserve better. --"The Secrets of Slack," The Book of the SubGenius