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Democracy is a Myth

Democracy is a myth

“Who will rule, God or Man? This is the great constitutional question of human existence”
Excerpt from Demokratin är en myt (Democracy is a Myth); or The Myth of Democracy

Swedish historian, thinker and leading representative for the Perennial school of thought, Tage Lindbom (1909-2001) wrote his critique on Western democracy in 1990. Formerly a dedicated member of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, he grew disillusioned with the economic progress, yet spiritually and culturally empty void of Swedish society. He denounced Social Democracy in favor of a Traditionalist worldview, embraced Sufism and became a disciple of the Swiss Sufi metaphysician Frithjof Schuon. He spent the remainder of his life with writing critiques of Modernity. In his work “Democracy is a Myth“, he puts democracy under the microscope and lay forth that once Democracy raised to the status of Myth, Mythos, became the Order of Western Civilization or as he terms it: the Kingdom of Man; “Människoriket”.

The first thing is to give some context. What is Traditionalism and Modernism? First, Traditionalism is being aware of a higher, divine reality that determine the worldly, sensual reality. The other is the idea that rejects the Traditional in favor of evermore change, progress and the abolishment of hierarchies and authorities in order to create new fields of human exploitation. Simply put, Traditionalism is the idea of a cosmic equilibrium in which man lives in connection with both a vertical and horisontal existence, whereas Modernity is the idea of unrestrained human freedom and a purely horisontal worldview.

In spite of this long lasting enmity, Lindbom finds a common thread that unites both the Traditionalist and Modern worldview. While ideological, cultural and spiritual enemies, they share a common heritage of a common memory of a primordial state of Order. Both Traditionalism and Modernity acknowledges a primordial order, yet differ on the basis of whether Man or God will rule supreme. It is from this search for the primordial source that the French thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau constructs his ideas of the General will, the Social Contract and Nature being the primordial source, i.e. the Garden of Eden or Paradise Lost.

With the Fall of man, we have the rise of Liberty and Equality, the two cornerstones in human existence and the ideological frameworks for the French and Russian Revolution or Devolution. By using the Myth instead of the Ideology, Democracy is raised above time and space, beyond human wills and strivings, becoming absolute, total and ahistorically primordial. Man is made the Sovereign, indivisible and the center of everything.
The prevailing order can be summarized as the holy trinity of Modernism.
In the name of Man, Modernity and the mythical Democracy.

 

 

 

Johannes Bureus: The Master of the Runes

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Johannes Thomae Agrivillensis Bureus, enclosed by the Eagle on the upper left and the Man at the lower left, and the Lion on the upper right and the Ox on the lower right.

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A Dozen Great Books

To celebrate world book day, I have decided to share a few of my favourites in various categories. Feel free to leave me any suggestions as I’m always looking for a good read.

Novels (Classics) -The Brother Karamazov

Dostoyevsky is a genius and deserves mention on any list. All his works have value, but the Brothers Karamazov is his magnum opus. A true masterpiece.

Novels (Modern) -Blood Meridian

 Cormac McCarthy is in my opinion the greatest living author. His understated and minimalist style hides layers of meaning and reading his best work can be an almost spiritual experience. He has written much great work, but none better than the bloody western Blood Meridian. The novel is essentially a gnostic text, and contains far more meaning than it seems at first glance. A book that rewards analysis.

Drama – Macbeth

I don’t need to discuss Shakespeare’s merit, it was simply a case of picking one of his works. Macbeth deeply affected me the first time I read it and nothing has matched it since. It’s quite incredible that one man was able to transmit such genius to paper in one life time.

Science –  Wholeness and the Implicate Order

At times difficult but always rewarding, this is Bohm’s argument for his conceptionof a holographic universe, a theory which attempts to unite discoveries in quantum physics with general relativity.

Philosophy – Parerga and Paralipomena

It was extremely difficult to narrow it down to one book in this category, but no one packs so much wisdom into such a small space as does Schopenhauer. His larger works of metaphysics, the World as Will and Idea is also well worth reading, and the Penguin condensed version of his essays is a good alternative, but his first collection of essays is a fantastic read from the first to last page. You cannot read Schopenhauer without leaving the wiser.

Honourable mentions: Pascal’s Pensees. Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Berdyaev’s The Divine and the Human. Spinoza’s Ethics.

Classics – The Odyssey

I love Homer, and choosing between the Iliad and The Odyssey was extremely difficult, but the latter was a more enjoyable read. The Penguin Classics version of it is a great translation and has become something of a classic itself.

Poetry – The Collected Poems

This one is simple, W.B.Yeats is and will always be my favourite poet, and any collection of his work is worth reading. Honourable mention to T.S. Eliots Four Quartets.

Religion – The Upanishads

I considered the Tao Te Ching, The Bhagavad Ghita and a number of writing’s by mystics, but the essence of all is best contained in these founding texts of Hinduism. I simply could not do the wisdom and beauty contained in the Upanishads justice, so I won’t try.

Economics – Progress and Poverty

Henry George’s argument for a single land value tax is still a convincing work. Rarely is a work of economic’s enjoyable but somehow George pulled it off. It is said Tolstoy spent his final moments preaching the value of Georgism to those present at his death bed, so it’s power to persuade is evident.

Politics – Men Among The Ruins

While Revolt Against the Modern World is considered Julius Evola’s magnum opus, I prefer this work. This is Evola’s meditation on the future of Europe in the wake of the second world war, and it presents a good summation of Evola’s thought.

History – Inside the Third Reich

I’m not sure what made this work so enjoyable, but Speer is always honest and eloquent, no one else paints so vivid a picture of the nature of the Third Reich or of Hitler as a man.

Other – The Perennial Philosophy

I wasn’t sure where to fit this one in but I feel it deserves a mention. Aldous Huxley condenses the essential teachings of the world religions through the medium of the wisdom of their greatest adherents.

Insights Into The Murder Machine

This year Ireland celebrates the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, in which a small group of Irish rebels stormed the General Post Office and other buildings in Dublin to attempt to launch a countrywide rebellion against British rule. The unofficial leader of this rising was a man named Patrick Pearse. Pearse, the teacher, poet and barrister knew the rebellion was doomed to failure but was willing to offer up a “blood sacrifice” in the hope of inspiring a new generation of Irish men and women to fight off the yoke of British oppression. Pearse is in many ways the antithesis of a typical rebel. A poet, a deeply religious man, conservative, dedicated to higher ideals.

One such ideal is the ideal of higher education. 100 years on, I have been re examining some of the writings of the Eastern 1916 leaders. One work which has stood out to me in it’s prescience and insight is a short work by Pearse on education, written in 1909, titled “The Murder Machine.” Pearse’s work deals with the nature of education in Ireland in the early 20th century and expounds his concern with the trend he saw developing – namely, away from the higher ideals of education and towards turning the schooling system into a machine designed to churn out obedient slaves.

What was being “murdered”, Pearse claimed in 1913, was the spirituality, as he saw it, of the Irish nation. The “murder machine” was at once an instrument of British policy and, even more pernicious, an instrument of progress. A section of the essay was headed “Against Modernism”. Never averse to hyperbole, Pearse claimed that the old Irish, “two thousand years ago”, had the best and noblest education system ever known among men. Here he meant the schools described in the legends of Cuchulainn. In his lectures and essays he was, as his friend Joseph Holloway put it, “indiscriminately eulogistic to absurdity” about the literary merits of the Gaelic sagas that he came to treat as history.

So impressed am I with the work I have decided to cut it down to it’s finest and most relevant points and share the abridged version with whoever it may concern.

 

The Murder Machine – An Abridged Version

In our adoption of the standpoint here indicated there is involved a primary blunder as to the nature and functions of education. For education has not to do with the manufacture of things, but with fostering the growth of things. And the conditions we should strive to bring about in our education system are not the conditions favourable to the rapid and cheap manufacture of ready-mades, but the conditions favourable to the growth of living organisms—the liberty and the light and the gladness of a ploughed field under the spring sunshine.

In particular I would urge that the Irish school system of the future should give freedom—freedom to the individual school, freedom to the individual teacher, freedom as far as may be to the individual pupil. Without freedom there can be no right growth; and education is properly the fostering of the right growth of a personality. Our school system must bring, too, some gallant inspiration. And with the inspiration it must bring a certain hardening. One scarcely knows whether modern sentimentalism or modern utilitarianism is the more sure sign of modern decadence. I would boldly preach the antique faith that fighting is the only noble thing, and that he only is at peace with God who is at war with the powers of evil.

In a true education system, religion, patriotism, literature, art and science would be brought in such a way into the daily lives of boys and girls as to affect their character and conduct. We may assume that religion is a vital thing in Irish schools, but I know that the other things, speaking broadly, do not exist. There are no ideas there, no love of beauty, no love of books, no love of knowledge, no heroic inspiration. And there is no room for such things either on the earth or in the heavens, for the earth is cumbered and the heavens are darkened by the monstrous bulk of the programme. Most of the educators detest the programme. They are like the adherents of a dead creed who continue to mumble formulas and to make obeisance before an idol which they have found out to be a spurious divinity.

The English thing that is called education in Ireland is founded on a denial of the Irish nation. No education can start with a Nego, any more than a religion can. Everything that even pretends to be true begins with its Credo. It is obvious that the savage who says ‘I believe in Mumbo Jumbo’ is nearer to true religion than the philosopher who says ‘I deny God and the spiritual in man.’ Now, to teach a child to deny is the greatest crime a man or a State can commit. Certain schools in Ireland teach children to deny their religion; nearly all the schools in Ireland teach children to deny their nation. ‘I deny the spirituality of my nation; I deny the lineage of my blood; I deny my rights and responsibilities.’ This Nego is their Credo, this evil their good.

Against Modernism

I expressed the hope that even Home Rule would not commit Ireland to an ideal so low as the ideal underlying the phrase ‘a sound modern education.’

It is a vile phrase, one of the vilest I know. Yet we find it in nearly every school prospectus, and it comes pat to the lips of nearly everyone that writes or talks about schools

Now, there can be no such thing as ‘a sound modern education’—as well talk about a ‘lively modern faith’ or a ‘serviceable modern religion.’ It should be obvious that the more ‘modern’ an education is the less ‘sound’, for in education ‘modernism’ is as much a heresy as in religion. In both mediaevalism were a truer standard. We are too fond of clapping ourselves upon the back because we live in modern times, and we preen ourselves quite ridiculously (and unnecessarily) on our modern progress. There is, of course, such a thing as modern progress, but it has been won at how great a cost! How many precious things have we flung from us to lighten ourselves for that race!

And in some directions we have progressed not at all, or we have progressed in a circle; perhaps, indeed, all progress on this planet, and on every planet, is a circle, just as every line you draw on a globe is a circle or part of one. Modern speculation is often a mere groping where ancient men saw clearly. All the problems with which we strive (I mean all the really important problems) were long ago solved by our ancestors, only their solutions have been forgotten. There have been States in which the rich did not grind the poor, although there are no such States now; there have been free self-governing democracies, although there are few such democracies now; there have been rich and beautiful social organisations, with an art and a culture and a religion in every man’s house, though for such a thing to-day we have to search out some sequestered people living by a desolate sea-shore or in a high forgotten valley among lonely hills—a hamlet of Iar-Connacht or a village in the Austrian Alps. Mankind, I repeat, or some section of mankind, has solved all its main problems somewhere and at some time. I suppose no universal and permanent solution is possible as long as the old Adam remains in us, the Adam that makes each one of us, and each tribe of us, something of the rebel, of the freethinker, of the adventurer, of the egoist. But the solutions are there, and it is because we fail in clearness of vision or in boldness of heart or in singleness of purpose that we cannot find them.

An Ideal in Education

Is it not the precise aim of education to ‘foster’? Not to inform, to indoctrinate, to conduct through a course of studies (though these be the dictionary meanings of the word), but first and last to ‘foster’ the elements of character native to a soul, to help to bring these to their full perfection rather than to implant exotic excellences.

Fosterage implies a foster-father or foster-mother—a person— as its centre and inspiration rather than a code of rules. Modern education systems are elaborate pieces of machinery devised by highly-salaried officials for the purpose of turning out citizens according to certain approved patterns. The modern school is a State-controlled institution designed to produce workers for the State, and is in the same category with a dockyard or any other State-controlled institution which produces articles necessary to the progress, well-being, and defence of the State. We speak of the ‘efficiency’, the ‘cheapness’, and the ‘up-to-dateness’ of an education system just as we speak of the ‘efficiency’, the ‘cheapness’, and the ‘up-to-dateness’ of a system of manufacturing coal-gas. We shall soon reach a stage when we shall speak of the ‘efficiency’, the ‘cheapness’, and the ‘up-to-dateness’ of our systems of soul-saving. We shall hear it said ‘Salvation is very cheap in England’, or ‘The Germans are wonderfully efficient in prayer’, or ‘Gee, it takes a New York parson to hustle ginks into heaven.’

Now, education is as much concerned with souls as religion is. Religion is a Way of Life, and education is a preparation of the soul to live its life here and hereafter; to live it nobly and fully. And as we cannot think of religion without a Person as its centre, as we cannot think of a church without its Teacher, so we cannot think of a school without its Master. A school in fact, according to the conception of our wise ancestors, was less a place than a little group of persons, a teacher and his pupils. Its place might be poor, nay, it might have no local habitation at all, it might be peripatetic: where the master went the disciples followed. One may think of Our Lord and His friends as a sort of school: was He not the Master, and were not they His disciples? That gracious conception was not only the conception of the old Gael, pagan and Christian, but it was the conception of Europe all through the Middle Ages. Philosophy was not crammed out of text-books, but was learned at the knee of some great philosopher: art was learned in the studio of some master- artist, a craft in the workshop of some master-craftsman. Always it was the personality of the master that made the school, never the State that built it of brick and mortar, drew up a code of rules to govern it, and sent hirelings into it to carry out its decrees.

I do not know how far it is possible to revive the old ideal of fosterer and foster-child. I know it were very desirable. One sees too clearly that the modern system, under which the teacher tends more and more to become a mere civil servant, is making for the degradation of education, and will end in irreligion and anarchy. The modern child is coming to regard his teacher as an official paid by the State to render him certain services; services which it is in his interest to avail of, since by doing so he will increase his earning capacity later on; but services the rendering and acceptance of which no more imply a sacred relationship than do the rendering and acceptance of the services of a dentist or a chiropodist. There is thus coming about a complete reversal of the relative positions of master and disciple, a tendency which is increased by every statute that is placed on the statute book, by every rule that is added to the education code of modern countries.

Of Freedom in Education

I have claimed elsewhere that the native Irish education system possessed pre-eminently two characteristics: first, freedom for the individual, and, secondly, an adequate inspiration. Without these two things you cannot have education, no matter how you may elaborate educational machinery, no matter how you may multiply educational programmes. And because those two things are pre-eminently lacking in what passes for education in Ireland, we have in Ireland strictly no education system at all; nothing that by any extension of the meaning of words can be called an education system. We have an elaborate machinery for teaching persons certain subjects, and the teaching is done more or less efficiently; more efficiently, I imagine, than such teaching is done in England or in America. We have three universities and four boards of education. We have some thousands of buildings, large and small. We have an army of inspectors, mostly overpaid. We have a host of teachers, mostly underpaid. We have a Compulsory Education Act. We have the grave and bulky code of the Commissioners of National Education, and the slim impertinent pamphlet which enshrines the wisdom of the Commissioners of Intermediate Education. We have a vast deal more in the shape of educational machinery and stage properties. But we have, I repeat, no education system; and only in isolated places have we any education. The essentials are lacking.

I knew (of a) boy of whom his father said to me: ‘He is no good at books, he is no good at work; he is good at nothing but playing a tin whistle. What am I to do with him ’? I shocked the worthy man by replying (though really it was the obvious thing to reply): ‘Buy a tin whistle for him’. Once a colleague of mine summed up the whole philosophy of education in a maxim which startled a sober group of visitors: ‘If a boy shows an aptitude for doing anything better than most people, he should be encouraged to do it as well as possible; I don’t care what it is—scotch-hop, if you like.

Back to the Sagas

A heroic tale is more essentially a factor in education than a proposition in Euclid. The story of Joan of Arc or the story of the young Napoleon means more for boys and girls than all the algebra in all the books. What the modern world wants more than anything else, what Ireland wants beyond all other modern countries, is a new birth of the heroic spirit. If our schools would set themselves that task, the task of fostering once again knightly courage and strength and truth— that type of efficiency rather than the peculiar type of efficiency demanded by the English Civil Service— we should have at least the beginning of an educational system. And what an appeal an Irish school system might have! What a rallying cry an Irish Minister of Education might give to young Ireland! When we were starting St. Enda’s I said to my boys: ‘We must re-create and perpetuate in Ireland the knightly tradition of Cuchulainn, ‘better is short life with honour than long life with dishonour’; ‘I care not though I were to live but one day and one night, if only my fame and my deeds live after me’.

…..we need the divine breath that moves through free peoples, the breath that no man of Ireland has felt in his nostrils for so many centuries, the breath that once blew through the streets of Athens and that kindled, as wine kindles, the hearts of those who taught and learned in Clonmacnois.

 

The 5 Greatest Minds of Philosophy

Philosophy has gifted the human race with the wisdom of some of the greatest minds we have seen. From the time of Thales, humanities best and brightest have been attracted by the lure of philosophy, and an insight into their unique way of thinking has helped illuminate the shades of ignorance we would otherwise have been left wallowing in. Now, we rank the 5 greatest minds in philosophy.

 

#5 – Arthur Schopenhauer

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Though often underrated, Schopenhauer was the great genius of the 19th century. Schopenhauer published his doctoral thesis, “On The Fourfold Root Of The Principle Of Sufficient Reason” when he was 25, by the age of 29 he had published his magnum opus, the world as will and idea. By then he was fluent in 7 languages, and had produced a work of philosophy that built on the work of Kant to create a holistic explanation of reality which unified Eastern and Western thought. Tolstoy said Schopenhauer took philosophy “as far as it could go”. Schopenhauer himself would not be surprised that to this day his genius is underrated, as he said himself, “Talent hits a target no one can reach, genius hits a target no one can see.”

 

#4 – Plato

plaWhitehead said all of Western philosophy was a series of footnotes to Plato. His impact can’t be understated. Plato’s genius lay in his ability to combine theories from his predecessors and contemporaries and add his own unique insights, insights which to this day seem as relevant as ever. Another aspect of Plato’s genius was the way he could implant deep wisdom into simple dialogues, and, while never pointing to exactly what he believed to be true, the power of his work comes from his constant suggestion. He doesn’t hold up a correct answer, he leaves suggestions to point future generations in the right direction. His work tackles everything from cosmology to politics, love and ethics. His theory of the forms remains relevant today, especially in the field of mathematics and quantum theory, reminding us yet again just how insightful his philosophy was.

 

#3 – Aristotle

aristotlePlato’s greatest student, Aristotle may well be the first great polymath, writing authoritatively on ethics, metaphysics, physics, logic, art, poetry, drama, politics and zoology. A great systematiser, Aristotle’s form of logic would dominate for over two thousand years. His greatest contribution in the area of metaphysics was postulating the necessity of an “unmoved mover”. Aquinas would later revive his thought in Europe and present it as a way to rationally ground faith. He laid the groundwork for the scientific method by looking to the world for evidence for his theories, while his virtue ethics has seen a revival of interest in recent years as an alternative to deontology and utilitarianism.

 

 

#2 – Alfred North Whitehead

anwWhitehead may be remembered as the genius we missed. Though geniuses such as Plato and Aristotle are still widely read and influential, Whitehead’s philosophical work went mostly under the radar, seen as too difficult and obscure, and as a defender of speculative metaphysics in the era of positivism and the language turn, he was perhaps the right man at the wrong time. The genius of Whitehad is truly incredible. In 1910 he published the Principia Mathematica with his colleague Bertrand Russell, the volume made impotant contributions to math, logic and science. Whitehead would then shift his focus onto the area of science, and was the only one apart from Einstein to publish a working theory of relativity. He turned his focus to philosophy late in his career, when, in his 60’s he was invited to teach it at Harvard. Eight years later he published his Magnum Opus, Process and Reality. Considered one of the most difficult philosophical texts ever, Whitehead created a highly unique and original system which offered a comprehensive system of metaphysics, and gave birth to thWhitee school known as Process Philosophy. Whitehead also wrote on the history of ideas, symbolism, language and aesthetics.

 

#1 – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

gwl Whitehead himself said there was a book to be written titled “The Mind Of Leibniz”, and, while his philosophy is not generally considered as great as others, no one doubts his immense genius. Another great polymath, Leibniz made important contributions to metaphysics, logic, epistemology, philosophy of religion, mathematics, jurisprudence, history and even geology. He is perhaps best known for discovering calculus independently of, and at the same time as, Isaac Newton as well as the binary system. Though Newton is considered one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived, and his contributions were more influential, most who know Leibniz consider him to have had a greater mind. One of the last “men who knew everything”, Leibniz’ unmatched ability to excel in diverse and complex topics, while still making creative contributions of his own is an incredible testament to the capabilities of the human mind .

Has Aristotle’s Tomb Been Found?

In huge news in the world of philosophy, it appears an archaeologist may have unearthed the 2400 year old tomb of the great Aristotle. A team of archaeologists claim they have found the tomb at Ancient Stagira, Central Macedonia.

Aristotle was born in Stagira in 384 BC and died in Chalcis, Evia, at 322 BC. The great philosopher was originally believed to have been buried at Chalcis, however, archaeologists are now certain that the tomb they have found belongs to Aristotle.

 

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