On Why the Secret Had to Protect Itself
For example, "In 1572, seventy thousand French Huguenots were slaughtered in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre," after which Pope Gregory XIII was "delighted to receive the head of the slain Huguenot leader Coligny in a box..." (Gillespie).
But "lest anyone imagine that the barbarity was one-sided," when Cromwell invaded an Irish town in 1649, his army killed virtually every last person. "They burned alive all those who had taken refuge in the St. Mary's Cathedral, butchered the women hiding in the vaults beneath it, used Irish children as human shields, hunted down and killed every priest, and sold thirty surviving defenders into slavery" (ibid.).
And that's just a very small sampling of the savagery. Of course, it's all too easy to simply blame religion for the atrocities, since no one at the time was irreligious, and religion was thoroughly entangled with culture, language, ethnicity, customs, power and politics. Furthermore, whenever someone engages in genocide, I think it's fair to say that it is never for the stated reason. Rather, there are unconscious motivations of which the actor knows nothing.
To put it another way, nothing as deeply irrational as genocide could occur as a result of purely rational motivations that one can take at face value. For example, the Nazis didn't merely wish to kill Jews, but wanted to degrade, humiliate, and thoroughly dehumanize them, so that the whole bloody project was imbued with an obvious component of sadism. But no Nazis, to my knowledge, publicly announced that "we're doing this because we secretly get a thrill out of degrading people and watching them suffer." Nor did those who engaged in the religious wars.
Nor do leftists, for that matter, imagine that their conscious desire to "help" people is covertly motivated by a contemptuous desire for power over them. Very few people wake up in the morning with the conscious idea of doing bad and harming people. Which is one of the reasons it is naive in the extreme for leftists to constantly announce their belief that conservatives actually do wish to consciously harm people.
You will have noticed that they never take us at our word that we really do think that high taxes are bad for the economy, that collectivism and statism are inconsistent with American values, or that racial quotas are bad for blacks. I would actually have more respect for leftists if they first said, "look, I know you're a good person, that racism is repugnant to you, and that you don't mean to harm blacks. But your opposition to racial quotas is so irrational, that it must be concealing some unconscious conflict about race." Because consciously, I am a passionate negrophile of the first rank -- and not just the light skinned ones with a Harry Reid dialect.
Anyway, back to those Raccoons who were forced underground during the religious wars, just when it was starting to look like there might be a little opening for them to come out of the closet and be accepted by society.
A Raccoon is a big believer in free will, without which truth, virtue and beauty cannot exist. If we are not free to discover truth, then we are like machines. Again, as we have mentioned in the past, it is really quite simple: truth is what man must know; virtue is what he must do; and beauty is what he must love and create. Of course, it doesn't end there. For just as truth is the virtue of the intellect, virtue is beauty of soul. And beauty is the splendor of truth. Etc.
But again, for Luther, all of this ancient retro-futuristic Raccoon wisdom goes out the window, since the nominalistic God "was responsible for everything. Thus, neither he nor anyone else could either gain or lose salvation, because faith alone saved and faith came only through grace. Luther's soteriology or doctrine of salvation thus rested on the omnipotence of divine will and the powerlessness of human will." Luther maintained that there was no such thing as contingency, which for him was a kind of maya, or illusion. In reality, God is in control of everything, again, just as in Islam.
Now, I don't think this is an "illegitimate" spiritual approach, at least for a certain type of aspirant. It's just that there are very different types of people, and one approach is not going to be attractive or effective for another. One cannot deny that this more totalitarian approach is compatible with some temperaments, and that it gives them comfort to believe that they have no control over reality and that God is fully responsible for everything that happens.
But I cannot emphasize enough that this is not a universal teaching, but a peripheral one. It is a upaya, or "skillful means," and if it works for you, far be it from me to talk you out of it (which is why I compared it to Zen). It's just that I have no idea why you are interested in this blog, because I certainly haven't the slightest interest in your metaphysic (no offense -- I just don't).
And just why you would argue with me is a bit of a mystery anyway, since if God controls everything, I don't have the free will to accept or reject your argument anyway, nor you mine (and I'm not arguing anyway, just sharing a vision).
Again, we firmly believe in man's dignity and therefore his free will; and we reject the belief that God is directly responsible for what we see as the evil in the world. Evil is not just an illusion, or "a part of God's plan." We are here to fight evil.
More to the point, I could never respect a God who is less moral than I. Again, no offense. It's just the way Raccoons are built. Look, I realize that Raccoon theology will never be popular. If I thought otherwise, I'd write more books instead of just speaking to the scattered brotherhood of the invisible lodge.
Let's get back to those 14th and 15th century Raccoons, such as Petrarch, who tried to forge a middle way to resolve what eventually became the religious wars. According to Gillespie, "he offered a a new vision of how to live to a Christian world caught in the tremendous spiritual crisis brought about by the nominalist revolution and the cataclysmic events of the fourteenth century...."
One thing that makes Petrarch a Raccoon is his concern for the indivdual and the world, which makes his a primarily descending path. For we do not wish to escape the world into God, but to divinize the world through God's energies refracted through his pneumacosmic junior partner, man. No, we do not believe in worldly perfection, but we do believe that things can be improved, and that much of the outcome is in our hands. We matter. Indeed, matter matters.
Remember, the idea of the true "individual" only emerged in the late middle ages. As such, it was a new existential/ontological "problem." And with the emergence of the individual also came the "discovery" of the world as something more than just a divine symbol that could be understood through analogy.
In short, the individual and modern science co-arise, and with them, democracy, human rights, free markets, and other blessings of modernity. But of course, to the strict traditionalist (e.g., Schuon or Guenon), these are not blessings but curses. (To be perfectly accurate, in my view they are both, depending on the vertical station of the soul involved with them.)
Petrarch's ontology begins with a new appreciation of the unique individual. And he "was able to make this vision concrete and attractive by displaying to the public his own inner life as well as those of an astonishing array of ancient personalities...."
This has two main effects. First, "this inward journey led to the unexplored territory of a self filled with passions and desires that were no longer something mundane and unspiritual that had to be extirpated or constrained but that were instead a reflection of each person's individuality and that consequently deserved to be expressed, cultivated, and enjoyed."
The Raccoon would say that man now had an interest in exploring and colonizing his own psychic space, instead of simply repressing it, blindly acting it out, or living one's life as a collective "type." Now, can this go too far into narcissism, eccentricity, and glorification of the self, cut off from its spiritual archetype? Of course! But we'll get to that later. Remember, at this point in history, the whole project was still tied to Christianity, not divorced from it.
Secondly, Petrarch disclosed a "relevant past filled with courageous and high-minded individuals" who were worthy of emulation. And these two strands were connected, for by learning from these great personages of the past, "one could begin to understand how to give shape to one's own individuality," but not for its own sake. Rather, it was a way of combining piety, nobility, and individuality. And at the very least, you should be grateful that this was precisely the attitude of America's founders, even if you believe they were theologically misguided.
This is certainly how it has worked for me. Man is built for reverence, but of course, it all depends upon who and what one reveres, for the reverence creates a kind of sympathetic bond through which there is a real and genuinely transformative psychic contact, for both good or ill. But we're running out of time, so we'll continue tomorrow, slack willing.
(All quoted material from The Theological Origins of Modernity )