I've been reading a lot lately. I mean a LOT. Well, so what else is new? Anyway, the range of topics I've been covering are varied; I tend to follow my nose. I often will read one book that suggests another book, and off I go, but lately, it's been very eclectic and seemingly unconnected. Let me give you a sample going back just a couple of weeks: I picked up You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney because I read a snip of it on my husband's kindle reader. I don't do kindle because I underline and make notes, so I bought my own copy. That led to Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson which then led to another of his books: Strangers To Ourselves. That then led to Making Sense of People: Decoding the Mysteries of Personality by Samuel Barondes. Some books I had ordered some time ago then arrived: Amarna Sunset by Aidan Dodson; Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet by Nicholas Reeves; Akhenaten & Tutankhamun: Revolution & Restoration by Silverman, Wegner and Wegner; Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt by Dominic Montserrat. Then came The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization by Bryan Ward-Perkins. Next: Dark Ages: The Case For a Science of Human Behavior by Lee McIntyre, followed by The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness by B. Alan Wallace. Here and there I've been reading snatches of Bertrand Russell. (I also read three mysteries by Gladys Mitchell, but that was just fun reading.) And now I'm reading War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage by Lawrence H. Keeley alternating with Does the New Testament Imitate Homer? By Dennis R. MacDonald.
As I said, this all may seem unconnected, even to me, but the strange thing is that all of the above books circle around a particular theme: Science/academia - has really lost the plot, and the thing that was proclaimed to be the answer to all of humanity's problems has turned into the probable means of our destruction. This is no small matter, I can assure you, and deserves some consideration. In the book Dark Ages: The Case For a Science of Human Behavior, we read:
What would it feel like to live in a Dark Age? Would you realize it? Or would you just see the achievements of the day - perhaps even feeling lucky to live in such "modern times" and fail to see all that had not been achieved. Of course, no one living in a Dark Age would call it that; rather this label is placed on a backward era only by a later one, in which the state of human civilization is more advanced. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easier to see what has been missed. But isn't there nonetheless some way to judge one's own era?Of course, I really wanted to tell Professor McIntyre that he ought to read Political Ponerology to get a few clues about what is wrong with our world, but I was too busy digging into cognitive science after that. What one learns from the most modern, rigorously researched cognitive science (see Wilson and Barondes above) is that G. I. Gurdjieff was pretty much right in his assessment of human psychology: man really is a 'machine' driven by a reactive unconscious and hindered by a false external personality that is patched together as a coping mechanism to try to ameliorate stresses between the unconscious and the external world. What we also learn is that Freud was very bad for psychology as a science, not to mention some of the other scientists who went before him and laid a very bad foundation. This quote is a bit long, but worth the reading and makes the point crystal clear:
Look around you. We live in a time of enormous technological achievement, when we are able to bend nature to our will, and yet we suffer from the same social problems that have plagued the human race for millennia. Despite the enormous progress that we have made in our understanding of nature, who can honestly say that the bulk of the problems that are the cause of human misery today are not of our own creation? And yet what have we done about them?
The comparison between our success in understanding nature and our failure to understand ourselves is vast. We have satellites and fax machines that transmit stories of barbarous cruelty that could have been told by our ancestors. We have ever more sophisticated weaponry of war and yet no true understanding of what causes war in the first place. ...We are as ignorant of the cause-and-effect relations behind our own behavior as those who lived in the eighth or ninth centuries ... [we're ignorant of the causes] behind disease, famine, eclipses, and natural disasters. We live today in what will someday come to be thought of as the Dark Ages of human thought about social problems. (McIntyre, MIT, 2006)
In the nineteenth century, the long shadow of Descartes influenced thinking about the nature of the unconscious. Descartes is best known for his sharp division of the mind and the body. So-called Cartesian dualism, or the "mind-body" problem, has occupied philosophers and psychologists ever since. Many have rightly objected to the idea that the mind and the body are separate entities that obey different laws, and few philosophers or psychologists today would identify themselves as dualists; in fact Antonio Damasio has dubbed the "abyssal separation between body and mind" as "Descartes's error."In The Psychoanalytic Movement, Ernest Gellner referred to Freud's system of psychoanalysis and his followers as a cult and he was right. I go even further and suggest that Freud was a very sick man - if not a true psychopath - projecting his own inner landscape onto the whole of humanity and the results for science, for humanity, for understanding the sufferings of humanity, have been very, very bad.
Descartes made a related error that is less well known but no less egregious. Not only did he endow the mind with a special status that was unrelated to physical laws; he also restricted the mind to consciousness. The mind consists of all that people consciously think, he argued, and nothing else. This equation of thinking and consciousness eliminates, with one swift stroke, any possibility of nonconscious thought - a move that was called the "Cartesian catastrophe" by Arthur Koestler and "one of fundamental blunders made by the human mind" by Lancelot Whyte. Koestler rightly notes that this idea led to an impoverishment of psychology which it took three centuries to remedy.
Despite Descartes's blunder, a number of nineteenth-century European theorists, such as Pascal, Leibniz, Schelling, and Herbart, began to postulate the presence of nonconscious perception and thought. Especially noteworthy were a group of British physicians and philosophers who developed ideas about nonconscious processing that were openly anti-Cartesian and remarkably similar to current thinking about the adaptive unconscious. ... Their description of nonconscious processes is remarkably similar to modern views; indeed, quotations from some of their writings could easily be mistaken for entries in modern psychological journals.
Why has Hamilton, Laycock, and Carpenter's work largely been forgotten? The answer, in no small part, is that the very different kind of unconscious proposed by Freud prevented these views from ever making it to the center stage. To my knowledge Freud never quoted or referred to these theorists. If he was aware of their writings, he probably viewed their ideas as irrelevant to the dynamic, repressive Unconscious with a capital U.
But what if Freud had never proposed his theory of psychoanalysis? ...
Imagine that experimental psychology began as a discipline uninfluenced by psychoanalytic thinking in two key respects. First, researchers felt no need to distance themselves from difficult-to-test ideas about a dynamic unconscious. They were free to theorize about nonconscious thinking in the same way that Laycock, Carpenter, and Hamilton had, namely as a collection of efficient and sophisticated information processing systems. Second, they were free to investigate the mind, even the parts that were unconscious, with experimental techniques. An important part of the Freudian legacy was a rejection of the scientific method as a means of studying the mind. ...
[Without Freud and his wrong ideas] cognitive and social psychologists [would have] applied their well-honed experimental techniques to the study of the sophisticated, adaptive unconscious sooner than they actually did. Undeterred by the theoretical and methodological obstacles psychoanalysis created for experimental psychology, research and theorizing on the adaptive unconscious flourished. ...
The Freudian unconscious is ingenious, clever, and sexy and has been the topic of great literature at least since Sophocles. There are few great plays or novels on the automatic pilot of the mind, and focusing exclusively on the adaptive unconscious may seem like talking about romantic love without passion and sex.
This view is misleading, however, because it underestimates the role that the adaptive unconscious plays in all the important and interesting things in life, including Freud's arbeiten und lieben (work and love). As we will see, the adaptive unconscious is not involved in just the small stuff, but plays a major role in all facets of life. The failure to find great literature on the adaptive unconscious may say more about the pervasiveness of psychoanalytic thinking than about anything else. ...
[There exists] a vast nonconscious system quite different from what Freud imagined. [...] Furthermore, Freud and his followers often disagreed about key points, and over his long career Freud himself changed his mind about key concepts such as the nature of repression. The question thus arises of how we know which of these many ideas are true. A tremendous advantage of the modern psychological approach is a reliance on the experimental method to investigate mental phenomena. There has been an explosion of research on the adaptive unconscious because of the development of some quite clever experimental techniques to study it...
But here's the problem: research on the adaptive unconscious suggests that much of what we want to see is unseeable. The mind is a wonderfully sophisticated and efficient tool, more so than the most powerful computer ever built. An important source of its tremendous power is its ability to perform quick, nonconscious analyses of a great deal of incoming information and react to that information in effective ways. Even while our conscious mind is otherwise occupied, we can interpret, evaluate, and select information that suits our purposes.
That's the good news. The bad news is that it is difficult to know ourselves because there is no direct access to the adaptive unconscious, no matter how hard we try. Because our minds have evolved to operate largely outside of consciousness, and nonconscious processing is part of the architecture of the brain, it may be not be possible to gain direct access to nonconscious processes. "Making the unconscious conscious" may be no easier than viewing and understanding the assembly language controlling our word-processing computer program. (Wilson)
At this point, the Akhenaten books entered the picture and I took a detour into the history of the history of Egypt. That was certainly instructive, especially Montserrat's book, mentioned above. If ever there was an example of how science is twisted and perverted by unconscious psychological processes, the history of Egypt (not to mention so-called "Biblical Archaeology" which is closely related) is a prime example. Forget about trying to psychoanalyze Akhenaten (as the Freudians have done), just try to consider why the man was so hated by all of Egypt that they wanted to erase his memory forever! May I suggest that he was one of those who decided that there was only one Truth and he had it and, as a result, nearly destroyed Egypt? We aren't going into that now since I have a bigger fish to fry but if you are at all interested in the topic, the above mentioned books are among the best I've read out of hundreds.
Next came The Fall of Rome and The End of Civilization. Let me reproduce here the review I wrote for amazon.com:
Welcome Antidote to Post-Modernist RevisionismMeanwhile, as I'm doing all this reading, my husband is working on a book. He has a contract and a due date for the manuscript, so I've been digging up resources for him as needed in between my own readings. The topic of his book happens to coincide with what is driving me at the moment as well: the corruption of science and what is really at the root of it. How did something that was proclaimed as the answer to all of humanity's problems end up being the path to our destruction? Because, make no mistake about it: we have gone way past the point of no return; if you aren't aware of that, you aren't paying attention.
I never realized that I could become so engrossed in a study of the fall of Rome that I would actually stay awake long into the night to finish it; but that's how good this book is!
I was particularly fascinated by the descriptions of the archaeological evidence that is brought forward to back up Ward-Perkins' arguments. The graphs and other images were very helpful as well. He could not have made it any simpler or clearer.
There is only one thing I would criticize: the author does not seem to have looked carefully enough into the matter of possible planetary cataclysms and resultant climatic changes, pandemics, etc. He does, indeed, mention a possible "asteroid" strike sometime around 536-7 on page 134, but dismisses this as not likely to have had very much effect. I think this is a tad short-sighted. First of all, there are more possibilities than an asteroid strike to be considered, namely overhead cometary fragment explosions that ablate the land without leaving anything in the way of craters or other evidence of the event. But they destroy buildings and kill human beings on a massive scale. What's more, there is unlikely to be much in the way of recording these events because if you are close enough to really see what is happening, you are probably dead in the next instant. Also, if one does see at a great enough distance to survive, the likelihood of the time would be to write about it as a "strike" from god. The Tunguska event is a case in point. A shower of such explosions could easily explain many of the anomalies of those times. Such events can also, as recent research has indicated, introduce comet-borne disease pathogens which may have been the cause of the Black Death, as dendrochronologist, Prof. Mike Baillie (QUB, Belfast) discusses in his book New Light on the Black Death.
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes: How a Stone-Age Comet Changed the Course of World Culture is also useful background for the kinds of things that can happen if one keeps in mind that these events CAN be more or less localized. They can also affect the weather for years, destroying harvests and causing widespread, long-term famine.
Then there is the work of astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier (and others) who discuss the Fall of Rome quite specifically. I would urge Professor Ward-Perkins to look into this angle in more depth. The Cosmic Serpent, The Cosmic Winter, Rain Of Iron And Ice: The Very Real Threat Of Comet And Asteroid Bombardment (Helix Books) [are all good sources].
It's an often thankless task to really search for the truth - that is, what really happened - but in the end, it is worth it, I think. As the author said at the conclusion of this book, we ought not to be revising the past according to our own ideology because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
You see, in the seventeenth century, monotheism gave birth to science. Just how this can happen, psychologically speaking, is analyzed by the brilliant (and funny) Bob Altemeyer, now retired professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba (Canada), in his book Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn to Faith and Others Abandon Religion (1997). Very briefly, the idea is that Monotheism, by promoting the idea that there is 'One True God' led to the concept that there is One Truth, and this concept took firm hold in the minds (and dare I say hearts?) of many individuals who would have scored very high in conscientiousness on modern psychological trait tests (See Barondes, above.). Altemeyer makes it clear that conscientiousness of character combined with high intelligence, can focus an individual on finding answers and when the question is 'what is Truth', such an individual notices very quickly that belief does not always correlate to Truth, and in fact, can be a stumbling block.
At the time the scientific method was being born, it was very difficult for these questioners of reality to live in a time when questioning the view of the Cosmos promoted by the Church could get you killed. What concerns us at the moment is how did Western Civilization come to be predicated on this view in the particular way it has done (total materialism)? Especially interesting is the fact that those founders of science turned to the literature of the ancients - Greece and Rome - to support and explicate their work. Oh, indeed, the suggestion has been made that many of the ancient texts that we have today were actually created during the Renaissance as a means of giving support to the growing scientific impulse (See Fomenko) because it can be seen that none of them contain anything other than what the thinkers of the Renaissance era were actually concerned with. This isn't too difficult to understand and, considering the fact that what we know of as the Bible was probably created rather late as well, the two sides seem to have been drawing on the same tradition of creating "ancient texts" - myth making - on which to predicate their particular view of the world. It's even done today, if you will notice, as in "Climate Gate" - the falsification of temperature records to support a political carbon tax agenda based on global warming.
The basic premise of the Scientific Method is 1) Everything is subject to questioning; 2) there are no privileged sources that should be believed without question. I see nothing wrong with that. What I don't see is: how does that definition of the scientific cognitive style exclude the study of consciousness apart from matter? Obviously, many crimes are never actually witnessed, yet legal systems have a way of collecting evidence to show that the crime did happen and who very likely committed it. When dealing with non-material matters, why can't a similar method be utilized? In no way does the study of consciousness contradict the two main premises of the scientific method. And, it should be pointed out that assuming that there is nothing but matter, and that consciousness cannot exist outside of matter, is a belief itself - it is giving an assumption the place of fact and privileging the individuals who make this claim without proof.
Regarding the idea that ancient manuscripts were created out of whole cloth to support the questions of the thinkers of the Renaissance, as Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, I agree that this is certainly possible - even probable. The question is: was there some sort of memory of that ancient time that infused these ideas with life? Lee McIntyre writes:
The Dark Ages are one of the most intriguing periods of human history. They mark a nearly 600-year blank spot in the progress of human civilization in which the knowledge of antiquity almost completely disappeared from the West. It was a time when few people received any sort of education whatsoever, and life was governed by the superstitions and fears fueled by ignorance. (McIntyre, 2006)Do any of us really 'remember' anything from 500 years ago other than what we are taught in history classes? Is there some kind of 'folk memory' of the Renaissance itself, for example? No, probably not. Can we rely on the story we are told about this, that some ancient manuscripts survived here and there? Possibly. But scientific analyses of these documents makes their provenance very questionable. Form criticism and other techniques also raise troubling questions about them. It's probably safer to just think that the thinkers of the Renaissance came to these ideas themselves - brute force cogitation - and the alleged ancient sources that 'thought the same things, asked the same questions' were just cooked up to give traditional validity to ideas that were in contradiction to the views of reality promoted by the Roman Church. As Altemeyer points out, those individuals who are born in strong religious families and then abandon their religion, are individuals of great conscientiousness who are also very bright and highly motivated to solve problems, including, quite often, questions about 'why are we here? what is the meaning of life?' and so forth.
It was during these Dark Ages that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, came to be the dominant religions of the West, with Christianity leading the charge. That these ideas emerged in a Dark Age should give one pause. As stated, this then led to the idea of 'One Truth' which led to the Renaissance and the birth of Science. Somehow, this idea that there was only one 'right' way of thinking that infected the thinking of the religious type took hold, things were either black, or white, and this re-emerged within science itself at a certain point, as we will see. It's a way of thinking that seems to be at the root of our problems today; 'you are either with us or against us'. How we got from the Dark Ages to Science, is where the Devil is in the details.
At this point, we need to talk a bit about what was happening around the time of the Western world's emergence from the Dark Ages. As Bryan Ward-Perkins notes in his book, The Fall of Rome, the disaster was greatest in Britain and the Western part of the Empire. While a lot of things came to a screeching end in many places, there were pockets where things carried on, namely the Eastern Empire. There is also strong evidence, given in Yuri Stoyanov's book The Other God, that there were powerful social and cultural links between Southern France and the Eastern Empire. I mean, specifically, the Occitanian civilization that nurtured the Cathars. In the following discussion, I will also be drawing some connections between what was happening then, and how it compares to the present in both France and the United States. But this comparison can be applied in many other places as you will notice. What I want you to notice particularly is that the dynamic is always and ever the same regardless of the ideology.
"Kill them all, God will know his own."
A chronicler reported that Arnold Amaury, the monk who led the Albigensian Crusade, uttered the above catchphrase outside the city of Beziers on July 22, 1209. His crusaders had asked him how to tell the Catholic believers from the Cathar Heretics. Arnold's instructions were followed, and the entire population of Beziers - some 20,000 men, women and children - were indiscriminately butchered.
No one really knows if Arnold really said what was reported, but what is known is that such an ideology was the essence of the crusade against the Cathars, and such ideology has arisen among human beings again and again throughout history, even to the present day in the halls of government of the United States and France. In the U.S. it is cast as the "War on (of) Terror" and in France it is the Crusade of MIVILUDES to eliminate any competition to the Catholic Church and Big Corporations. It pretty much amounts to the same thing except we notice that in the U.S., "the church" is Protestant. It is interesting to imagine where that "Protestant vs Catholic" opposition between Europe (led by France) and the U.S. could ultimately lead! In any event, the consequences are always and ever the same - something that the U.S. and French governments do not seem to realize - proving the saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
On the 10th of March 1208, Pope Innocent III issued a summons to all Christian nations to take up arms against fellow Christians. He declared that the destruction of these heretics was not only justified, but that it was a dire necessity because the heretics who inhabited an ostensibly Christian land were "worse than the very Saracens." This appeal came four years after a Crusader army had captured and pillaged Constantinople, still another Christian land, though one which claimed to be the true seat of original Christianity. The Eastern church considered the church at Rome to be an upstart, a Frankish invention of Northern Germanic invaders that had nothing at all to do with the Christianity of the historical Jesus. Modern day religious studies indicate that they were probably right, but we don't want the Truth to get in the way here!
The declared aim of the crusade was to overthrow a prince of unquestioned legitimacy, who was more inclined to support his people than the church. The church in Rome saw that its continued existence in the Midi of France depended upon putting the country under the control of an alien, external government that would crush rebellion and would not rebel against the church itself. (I'm not going to keep pointing out how this reflects the attitudes of MIVILUDES in France and the CIA in the U.S. since I think the reader will make the connections!)
In short, the Church's aims were Imperialistic. Imperialism is always a bad sign. The chief characteristic of pathological deviants, psychopaths in particular, is that they always want to pull the "big con," to take what belongs to others, has been rightfully earned or worked for by others, and do it without working themselves, by psychologically and emotionally manipulating others to get it for them, or taking it by force. In large arenas such as politics, this is known as "Imperialism."
The Cathars were pacifists who embraced tolerance in a period when tolerance was not what the church needed in its overweening ambition to rule the Western World. The heresy grew during a period of change and experimentation and expansion of horizons - the natural restoration of civilization after the Dark Ages. Crusaders to the Holy Land had returned bringing new ideas, understandings that life could be organized differently and that those who lived or worshiped differently were human beings too - and interesting and valuable to an eclectic society at that! The spread of such ideas led to extreme dissatisfaction with the Medieval Catholic Church which was erected on a foundation of large corporate monasteries and churches lording it over huddled masses of cold and hungry peasants and even aristocrats desirous of making it to heaven. The Catholic Church was basically a large corporation selling salvation and everybody else was supposed to be cogs in the wheel of this great mechanical "control of salvation" organization.
In the north, according to the Frankish Salic Law, women were excluded from inheritance, and everything went to the eldest son. Younger sons and daughters who were unable to marry heiresses or heirs, were grist for the Catholic monastic factories, a system designed to incrementally increase the power of the Church. In the Languedoc, women had rights, could inherit and manage their own properties, and fiefs were divided among children. This naturally led to a more democratic spread of property, and prevented enormous power from being gathered into the hands of any one person or group of persons. It also, in a way, weakened the Languedoc because no one person or small group of persons could mobilize all the men of a region to go to war for personal ambition or greed. (This is always and ever the weakness of a real democracy in a world where education about psychopathology is not widespread.)
It was in the Occitan language that troubadour poetry flowered. In the fertile lands of Languedoc, love of a spiritual kind was revealed. Troubadours sang of courtly love, exalted sublimation of physical desires to spiritual goals. The ethos of amorous longing, of exalted spiritual women revealed the different mold of the Languedoc mind.
At the same time, beyond the Loire and the Rhine, the northern nobles were singing about swords dripping with blood, and viscera being scattered and exulted over, all the while masking this barbarity in a strange mix of rapacious piety rather like the present day Christians who back Right Wingers of all nationalities.
The towns of the Languedoc were governed by consuls and Roman law formed the basis of all local legislation. The consuls were elected from among the city nobility and bourgeoisie, and the burgher was the knight's equal. The Count of Toulouse lacked any legal authority in his own city, and was only obeyed so long as he respected and upheld the local common law. Every burgher had the right to buy, sell, or engage in barter without paying any duties or taxes on such transactions. There were no restrictions placed upon marriages and resident aliens enjoyed full citizens' rights regardless of their nationality or creed. Such free towns were the centers of the country's social life and the election of a consul was a great public event with processions, pomp and circumstance.
Being predominantly commercial cities, the towns of the Languedoc were quite opulent and modern compared with the cities of the North such as Paris, Troyes or Rouen. The cities of the south had universities that taught medicine, philosophy, mathematics, astrology, and more. The works of the Arab philosophers were censored in Paris, but available in Toulouse. Arab doctors and merchants came to Languedoc, and the 'infidel' was not regarded as a 'natural enemy'. Jews were fully integrated into public life and were held in high regard by the general populace. In some towns, Jews were consuls or magistrates.
One thing is certain, life in the Languedoc was more secular than anywhere else, and as a result, life in general flourished to a higher degree than in those places under the jackboot of religious intolerance. The cities of the Languedoc were centers of culture and great industry and prestige.
Poetry, literature, and music also flourished and became a part of daily life as much for the bourgeoisie and the common man as for the nobility. The Poetry of the Languedoc is not only the most ancient in European history, but also the most sublime in terms of inspiration. It seems that the Occitan language was the tongue par excellence of literature. Even today, no one can think of the South of France without recalling the troubadours. The phenomenon of an aristocracy passionately devoted to spiritually inspirational poetry, that dedicated their lives to living out the ideals of that age and milieu, is unmatched by any other group or period of history. The prosaic northerners might have thought the Southerners had gone off their rockers, but then the northern nobility's highest ambition was to help their king put on his underwear.
The nobility of the Languedoc had a different idea of honor than sacrificing his life for his king, or tying his shoes. In spite of the opulence of their surroundings, the southern aristocrat had a certain disdain for the material things of life, combined with a high regard and even exaltation of personal virtues that was possessed of a great and noble WILL. The adoration of the Lady was a declaration of free will; a proof that, even though one is giving, and giving all, it is being given to a private deity of one's own free choice.
It is very likely that the Lady of the Languedoc was merely a symbol of something much deeper and was directly related to the knowledge that was held by the Cathar perfecti. One thing for certain is this: the nobility of the Languedoc were not only permitting heresy, but were its most famous and dedicated participants, supporters and defenders.
Although mystery surrounds the origin of Catharism, recent research indicates that it was connected to the Gnosticism of the Bogomils of the Byzantine Empire. This tradition may relate directly to the Esoteric Christian tradition revealed by Georges Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, and Boris Mouravieff, and may actually be a conduit of legitimate transmission of the original teachings of the man around whom the Jesus myth was formed. It is suggested that he was only another in a long line of followers of this ancient tradition that was also present in the Megalithic societies. (See Stoyanov's The Other God for an excellent study of dualism.)
The fact is, the so-called Cathar Heresy was really a rival religion that was rapidly gaining ground in Europe, and it claimed to be the original Christianity. These believers were not dissidents; they were fully conscious of belonging to a faith that was more ancient than the Church at Rome itself. What's more, what they claimed was probably the Truth.
Some modern historians have theorized that Catharism was not a heresy due to the simple fact that it was a completely different religion that had nothing at all in common with Christianity as we know it. The so-called Cathar heresy was predicated upon the question of Good and Evil. The irreducible bone of contention between the Cathars and the Catholic Church was the role and power of Evil in the life of human beings. For the Cathars, the god of Judaism, was an evil Archon of Darkness. They rejected entirely the Old Testament as being the work of this evil god. The Cathars considered worldly authority, based on so-called Divine Sanction such as the Church claimed, to be a fraud.
The Cathar God was a god of light who ruled invisible consciousness and did not meddle in human affairs. The God of the Cathars simply didn't care if you got into bed before getting married, associated with or intermarried with Jews or Arabs, black or white, and whether or not you were a woman or a man. For the Cathars, it was material life, pursuit of material things, money, power and possessions, that was the hallmark of Idolatry.
The Cathars believed that it was a free choice for every person as to whether or not they wanted to renounce the materialistic life for a life of self-denial so as to purify oneself of material desires and thus "ascend" to a different world - an Edenic like state of purity. The only "hell" the Cathars admitted was that if a person did not choose to purify themselves, they would reincarnate over and over again until their material desires and passions were burned away in the sufferings of material life. In short, to be damned was to live again and again in this vale of tears we call Earthly life.
Good grief! What kind of religion doesn't try to control people with fears of hellfire and damnation?
Such Gnostic Dualism isn't new; it is a notion that has been shared by other creeds throughout history. For the Cathars, however, the unique crossroads of choice lay within each and every human being. It was in the human consciousness that the divine spark was found - the "Kingdom of Heaven within" - and this spark was a remnant of an earlier, angelic state of existence that had the potential to be redeemed. It was there, in everyone, waiting to be set free from the cycle of reincarnation.
Now, what was so evil about this?
It should be obvious. If such ideas were true, the sacraments of the Catholic Church were null and void, and the Church itself was a fraud, a cruel hoax played by those who were only seeking power (what a concept!). If such ideas were true, the status of human beings could never be looked at the same way again. If everybody believed, as the Cathars did, that a king in one life could be a serving wench in the next, a Jew in one life could be an Arab in the next, and that women could be highly evolved spiritual beings - even leaders - it put a whole different spin on how humans ought to behave toward one another.
One of the more serious charges against the Cathars was their repugnance against swearing oaths. It's hard to understand this now, but it can be compared to the idea that a modern earthly contract has no binding power when issues of morality and ethics come into the picture. The swearing of oaths, especially oaths of fealty, was the contractual underpinning of a feudal society. It gave a 'sacred weight' to the controllers of the hierarchy, the Catholic Church. If an individual broke an oath, he could be condemned by the authority of the Church to Hell. Kingdoms, estates, bonds of service, all were created, transferred, and maintained by the mediation of the Church. You could say that "swearing oaths" was medieval Corporatism underwritten and enforced by the Catholic Church.
Catharism taught that man and woman were one. A human being was reincarnated over and over again - as peasant, king, boy, girl, master, servant - but what really mattered was one's divine, immaterial, androgynous - or rather, sexless - spiritual self. That did irreparable damage to the Catholic church's teachings about the sinful state of women, the exclusion of women from inheritance, the 'fall of man' via the temptation of Eve, and so on.
In short, Catharism was one of the greatest threats to the Powers That Be that has ever existed - then and since. (We notice that the 2010 MIVILUDES report specifically targets dualist beliefs as 'dangerous'.) The church, and kings and rulers who relied on the Church to control people and to give weight to their contracts, could not allow such a heresy to spread. Spurred on by the Catholic Church in its unholy alliance with power-seeking aristocrats, the might of Feudal Europe fell upon Languedoc in a righteous fury. In a certain sense, you could say that it was a war between spiritual freedom and spiritual corporatism.
Western Civilization had reached a crossroad similar to the crossroad that the Cathars taught existed within the hearts of individual humans: a return to consciousness of Angelic realms, or a new cycle of repeating again and again the pain and suffering of existence in this vale of tears we call Earth.
Historian R. I. Moore has noted that the years around 1200 were a turning point that led to the "formation of a persecuting society". Choices were made then that are still reverberating in human society.
And it is clear what choice was made then.
We are facing similar choices today.
When the Corporatist Church and Nobility went after the Democratic Cathars, the people of the Languedoc did not go down without a fight. But, as it is in all times, those who fight for the rights of free will for all are hindered by their very humanity; they are unable to achieve the single-minded rapacity that denies humanity to others so as to be able to mercilessly destroy them. (This, of course, is where accurate psychological knowledge would come in very handy. One cannot treat a genetic psychological deviant as a human with a soul, but one should, of course, treat them with the consideration that one gives to a rare - but dangerous - species of animal.)
Pope Innocent III needed an explosive incident that would fire the public imagination and justify a declaration of war. The Pope had no army, and crusades were, essentially, volunteer operations. The Pope couldn't force anyone to fight, and so the idea was to persuade the landed nobles with their retinues of soldiers to agree to join in. This incident was provided by the murder of Peter of Castelnau which was blamed on Count Raymond. It was the 9-11 or Reichstag Fire, or Gulf of Tonkin event of the day. There are very good grounds, according to the historical experts, to think that Raymond had nothing to do with the murder of the Papal Legate, that it was a set-up just like the alleged 'Muslim terrorist' attack on the World Trade Center in our own times has been used to launch a global Imperialist war that is really only about grabbing resources and enforcing 'full-spectrum dominance'.
A propaganda campaign was launched. Papal emissaries, carrying Peter's bloodstained habit from place to place, expiated on the tragedy of a country abandoned to the ravages of heresy. This was the equivalent of showing the falling of the Twin Towers on television over and over again accompanied by inflammatory rhetoric against Islam. Just as we see in the present day - and so it has been throughout history - fantastic slanders were created and spread about the Cathars as they were about the Jews and later the Templars and now the Muslims (just to mention a few). They were said to consume the ashes of dead babies and to indulge in incestuous orgies. The Cathars were accused of homosexuality and sodomy. The heretics were said to desecrate communion chalices and to declaim blasphemies against the saints, declaring they were all damned. You might call it Medieval Psy-ops and COINTELPRO.
The propaganda efforts were so successful that volunteers to "kill 'em all" streamed in from all quarters. Not only knights with no lands and hopes of acquiring a fief of their own, but also peasants and burghers. Pathological types, all of them, no doubt, including pure psychopaths.
Crusades in general had long formed a part of the social structure of the Western European aristocracy. It was a way to grab land and plunder. The thing that made Crusades so popular was the approval of the Church. Those who went to war 'for the Church', were convinced that, by practicing a profession (that of warrior and murderer) that under different circumstances would contribute nothing to their salvation, they were not only serving God, but were saving their own souls. Crusaders enjoyed indulgences, privileges, and could win forgiveness for the most heinous sins while committing even more heinous sins such as brutal murder for the sake of grabbing property, plunder, fame and fortune. A very nice set-up for psychopaths and their Authoritarian followers, eh? Not much different today, either.
Another lure to the Crusades was that it was a handy way of getting out of debt. A Crusader's goods and property were sacrosanct for the whole period of his absence, and his creditors could touch nothing no matter how much he might owe them. Unfortunately, that's not a perk offered to soldiers nowadays - they are used, abused and abandoned with staggering lack of concern by governments the world over. You'd think they would band together and demand some consideration. Oh, wait, right. They have, again and again... but nothing ever changes and people don't seem to wise up to this state of affairs. They keep sacrificing their sons to War after being suitably mind-programmed with 'noble patriotism' and being terrorized by fears of evil terrorists under their beds.
The faith of the Crusaders who could exterminate fellow human beings for the Glory of God may seem contemptible to us now, but is what America did in Iraq any different? Afghanistan? Libya? Is Iran next? And France's hands aren't clean either! Likewise the British. It seems that, to such minds, ordinary human morality cannot be considered when god's interests are at stake. Never mind that 'god's interests' are surprisingly blood-thirsty and similar to the interests of whoever happens to be in power. Thus it is when a religion is based on a construct of human imagination.
Catholic Faith among the masses in the Middle Ages was deep, sincere, and violent in its attachment to external manifestations. It was a period of 'mundane religions', since the urge to perceive God as more or less human and concrete with a special interest in his chosen human beings was a vigorous movement (hints of materialist science can be seen here). When the Church had outlawed the sublime mysticism of the ancient Celts (which was surprisingly similar to the beliefs of the Cathars, by the way), they also took over the related myths and legends, transforming them into Saints and fictional stories of martyrdom for Christianity.
The world of the Medieval Christian was filled with the lives of Saints and readings from sacred books which took the place of theatre, cinema, magazines, and what we would call best sellers. Literature that was NOT religious in character, was almost unknown, and generally reserved for the pleasure of a small elite. The creative energy of the entire society was wholly focused on religious life. The frantic urge to incarnate the Divine, to make it concrete, suggests a very deep materialism; a high regard for the values of the physical world mixed with contempt for human life - and probably a LOT of fear! Those who were listeners to the words of the envoys of the popes undoubtedly thought that a mutilated crucifix was more distressing than a mutilated human body.
And so, a heresy that was opposed to the massive Corporate constructions of faith - cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and royal power granted by that faith - was opposed most strenuously by those who clung most frantically to their religious customs as though they were a national heritage. And just as it is now, there was undoubtedly a large segment of the population that would be described as Authoritarian Followers in the terms of Bob Altemeyer - an ignorant, mechanical population looking for someone to tell them what to do, and the psychopaths gladly obliged. In short, the papal emissaries had little trouble working up the anger and indignation of large audiences, and the Cathars became 'God's Enemies'.
The war against the Cathars, then, was a war that symbolized a particular view of God and the Universe that was held by those whose motives of sentiment and passion were peculiarly brutal and Corporatist. The destruction of Catharism was only achieved by the obliteration of everything that made up the living traditions of the Languedoc.
The story of the crusade against the Cathars is a terrible story of the triumph of the Evil Archon of Darkness over the Light of the Spirit and Freedom. We have lived, ever since, in that persecuting society that was formed by Western Christendom at that time.
The Creation of the Inquisition
Many people think of the Inquisition as something that was started to eliminate witches and Devil worship, and the word conjures images of the rack and iron maidens and all kinds of bizarre and twisted torture equipment. Sure, torture was a big part of the Inquisition, but not as much as some people might think. You have to remember that the Inquisition began during a period of history when human life was treated so casually by some that cutting off noses or ears or hands, or gouging out eyes was not unheard of as a legal punishment.
First, he created special papal legates who were granted wide powers of prosecution similar to what we have today in the Homeland Security nonsense in the U.S., and MIVILUDES in France, and sent them out all over Europe. The men chosen for this task were clearly psychopaths, and their mission was to spread terror all over Europe.
Gregory staffed the episcopal palaces of the South of France with psychopathic bishops who offered a cash bounty to anyone who betrayed a heretic. The inducements to betray one's neighbor were surely tempting in the best of times. But in a time when starvation and destruction was everywhere after more than 20 years of the rampaging of the Crusading armies, it was well-nigh impossible to resist. The terms were that the property confiscated from the heretic was divided between the informer, the church and the crown. Naturally, in a land that was financially devastated, where people were displaced and starving after years of being battered by this same church and crown, there were a lot of individuals offering up their neighbors for blood money. Maybe that is why the PTB have engineered the current economic crises: to soften people up to be more willing to turn against each other for a crumb? It's certainly easier to enforce full-spectrum dominance when the population cooperates!
Robert le Bourgre, which means 'the bugger', (suggesting the contempt in which he was held by the people), terrorized formerly peaceful northern France. Another legate, Conrad of Marburg found unsuspected heretics everywhere in the Rhineland. Thousands were sent to the stake, often on the same day that they were accused. MIVILUDES, anyone? How about 'Extraordinary Rendition' and the new 'Indefinite Detention' provision in the 'National Defense Authorization Act' just recently signed into law in the U.S. by Obama?
Conrad rode about on his mule with two assistants, bringing terror to every village and town they approached. Apparently, even the regular clergy saw through this nonsense and finally decided to do something about it. On July 30, 1233, a Franciscan friar, driven to act in the name of justice, intercepted Conrad and murdered him. That was the living end for the Pope. He was NOT amused and he was not going to be denied his Imperialist ambitions. He turned to the Dominicans.
In the spring of 1233, papal inquisitors were appointed in Toulouse, Albi, and Carcassonne. These inquisitors were succeeded in an unbroken line for 600 years. (I would suggest that they have now been replaced by MIVILUDES.) Thousands of people were summoned to testify before inquisitors. The questions were repetitive, designed to plant doubt in the mind of the person being interrogated as to what, exactly, the inquisitor knew, and who had told him.
(Geeze, having been interrogated by French police TWICE, I have a pretty good idea of how this sort of thing goes!)
A person suspected of Cathar sympathies was not always informed of the charges hanging over his head; if apprised of the danger, he had no right to know who his accusers were; and if he dared to seek legal help, his lawyer could be charged with abetting heresy.
Sounding more and more like MIVILUDES in France and the War on Terrorism and Gitmo and all the new laws passed by the U.S. Right Wingers since 9-11: the New Inquisition!
Whatever the verdict of the inquisitor - who was prosecutor, judge and jury - no appeal was allowed. Anyone could be held indefinitely in prison for further questioning without cause of explanation. Ummm... isn't that what's going on today??!
The inquisition destroyed the bonds of trust that hold societies together. Informing on one's neighbor became not only a duty, but a necessary survival strategy.
And so it is becoming in France and America today as a result of the terror tactics of a gang of psychological deviants.
In theory, of course, no one could be punished if no one talked because the inquisitor could not act without a writ of denunciation, but in practice, no community possessed the cohesion needed to combat the power of a secret tribunal. And that is the problem that the masses of humanity face today. Because pathological deviants exist among us, and we do not have the accurate psychological knowledge to identify them and weed them out, we are constantly at risk of being betrayed by the Right Wing Authoritarians that lurk in our society just waiting to turn US in because they have a grudge against us or want our stuff.
They don't even have to be genetic deviants to be dangerous. In America today, the masses have been thoroughly conditioned by watching Reality TV and Survivor, and they know the rules of the psychopath and live by them: Do unto others before they do unto you. The same is true in France due to their psychologically traumatic education/indoctrination system. And so it was in the Languedoc, the historical model for what is happening in France and the United States today, and for what happened in Germany under Hitler, and many other examples from history, was created, tested and refined.
Upon his arrival in a town, the inquisitor consulted with the local clergy. All males over the age of 14, and females over the age of 12, were required to make a profession of faith in the Catholic church. Those who didn't were the first to be questioned.
Then, the inquisitor would give a speech in which he invited the people to spend some days thinking very, very hard about their activities past, present and future, and to come forward in the following week to give confidential depositions. After a seven day grace period, those who had not denounced themselves would be issued a summons. The punishments ranged from loss of property to loss of life. As you might guess, everyone was outdoing themselves in an effort to denounce themselves and each other.
Aside from the capital crime of being a Cathar, punishable offenses included sheltering a Cathar, or even failing to report any instance of heresy.
The real proof of genuine piety toward the Catholic Church was defined as the number of people the sinner was willing to betray!
It only took ten years for the Inquisition, the work of a few psychopathic fanatics, to become a proficient bureaucracy that lasted for the already mentioned 600 years. It employed hundreds of individuals who interrogated thousands of people with such monotonous regularity that a regular 'glossary' was established for the 'workers'. Armed with a list of proposed offenses to be considered 'heretical' or 'supporting heretics', which included just knowing that a heretic had crossed one's property and failing to report it, the Inquisition proceeded to intimidate the population of Europe on a scale that was impossible to imagine. The sheer numbers of people called to testify, and re-called to testify again and again, was staggering. Now think about the kinds of questions the TSA ask travellers in airports.
In a strange twist of historical irony, the Cathars - who believed that the material world was evil and irrelevant - inspired the codification of the Police State - the Ultimate Material Theology.
A cross-referenced compendium of the confessions extracted from tens of thousands of people was compiled, creating a map of the mental landscape of the Languedoc. The more than 5 thousand transcripts of interrogations that survive represent only a small fraction of the work of the Inquisition. Inquisitors manuals were created to serve as guides for the growing number of Papal courts in Europe. These manuals reminded the inquisitors that they were in the business of saving souls, but I think that the distinction was lost on those whose lives were lost or ruined by the judgments of the Inquisition.
Languedoc was, essentially, the laboratory for repression.
The reputation of the Inquisition was enhanced by the talented Inquisitor of Toulouse, Bernard Gui, who was the villain in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. The Inquisitors persuaded a handful of captured Cathars to convert and sell their testimony. Sicard de Lunel of Albi gave the friars an exhaustive list of Cathar sympathizers, even fingering his own parents. Anyone who had ever helped him in his life as a Cathar, whether they had just given him a bed for the night, a bit of food, or even a jar of honey, were hauled in to be punished - just on his word. He and several others like him were lodged thereafter in a castle outside of Toulouse in the medieval version of the 'witness protection program'. Sicard was well paid for his perfidy and lived to a ripe old age.
The use of torture was delicately referred to as 'putting the question'. In the Languedoc, successive waves of highly trained inquisitors, aided by informers and torturers, fired by the totalitarian creed of the Catholic church, with detailed manuals and expanding registers of 'intelligence', slowly but surely ground Catharism - and a marvelous, productive society - into oblivion. Thousands of dramas of conscience ended in the dungeons or in fires quenched with blood. By the end of the century, only the truly heroic dared to say that this world was evil...
Now, how does this relate to the Renaissance and the birth of Science?
The Crusades against the Cathars and the Inquisition were followed very closely by the Black Death. As I've pointed out in my article "New Light on the Black Death", citing dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie, the Black Death, one of the most deadly pandemics in human history, said to have killed possibly two thirds of the entire population of Europe, not to mention millions all over the planet, probably wasn't Bubonic Plague but was rather Death By Comet(s)! (Including Comet-borne pathogens.) Astronomer, Victor Clube writes:
One chronicler at least reports of the most immediate cause of the plague in 1345 that "between Cathay and Persia there rained a vast rain of fire; falling in flakes like snow and burning up mountains and plains and other lands, with men and women; and then arose vast masses of smoke; and whosoever beheld this died within the space of half a day..." There seems little doubt also that a worldwide cooling of the Earth played a fundamental part in the process. The Arctic polar cap extended, changing the cyclonic pattern and leading to a series of disastrous harvests. These in turn led to widespread famine, death and social disruption.As Clube notes, the Protestant reformation was partly due to the fact that the Powers of the Time, the Catholic Church, had built their control system based on the Aristotelian system of 'God is in his heaven and all will be right with the world if you are a good Catholic Christian.' Obviously, they didn't want to talk about a cosmos run amok over which their vaunted god had no control. And the fact that things were running amok and the church couldn't do anything about it (not to mention the corruption of the church that was evident to the masses) gave ammunition to the Reformers who then were able to attract many followers just as Christianity attracted Constantine at a time when the pagan gods didn't seem to be able to help in the face of cometary bombardment.
In England and Scotland there is a pattern of abandoned villages and farms, soaring wheat prices and falling populations.
In Eastern Europe there was a series of winters of unparalleled severity and depth of snow. The chronicles of monasteries in Poland and Russia tell of cannibalism, common graves overfilled with corpses, and migrations to the west.
Even before the Black Death came, then, a human catastrophe of great proportions was under way in late medieval times. Indeed the cold snap lasted well beyond the period of the ... plague. A number of such fluctuations are to be found in the historical record, and there is good evidence that these climatic stresses are connected not only with famine but also with times of great social unrest, wars, revolution and mass migrations. (Clube, The Cosmic Winter)
The Protestants thus were able to use the situation to advantage, suggesting that it was 'The End of Times' and that this was all part of the plan and people would be saved if they would only come over to the Protestant side!
Of course, once the Protestants had 'won their place', so to say, they, too, had to establish authority and adopt the Aristotelian view! 'NOW, God is in his heaven and all will be right and there won't be any more catastrophic disruptions as long as everybody goes to church, tithes, and obeys the appointed authorities!'
In 1450, 100 years after the Black Death had destroyed about half of Europe's population, the Hundred Years War was coming to an end, the so-called Renaissance kicked off as a result of all the questions those who wanted the Truth and had been raised in the idea that there WAS One Truth were asking and working on.
The persecution of witches began at about this point. Protestants and Catholics accused each other and the early decades of the 1600s were infected by a veritable epidemic of demons! This lasted until the end of the Thirty Years War. It is said that if the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum was the beginning of the terror, the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was the end. In recent times, the Malleus has been examined critically, though not by individuals with any awareness of the cosmic events of the time. Nevertheless, what they have observed has a bearing on our subject here: Sexy Devils
The question that led to the persecution of witches on one side, and the Renaissance on the other, was: How could a world created by a watchful, benevolent, and engaged God be such a mess? Answering this question led to the birth of Science.
"It was 11 at night," Stephens recalls. "My wife had gone to bed, and on the first page [of the Malleus] was this weird sentence about people who don't believe in witches and don't believe in demons: 'Therefore those err who say that there is no such thing as witchcraft, but that it is purely imaginary, even although they do not believe that devils exist except in the imagination of the ignorant and vulgar, and the natural accidents which happen to man he wrongly attributes to some supposed devil.'"
That convoluted sentence dovetailed with a curious line Stephens knew from Il messaggiero, a work from 1582 by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso: "If magicians and witches and the possessed exist, demons exist; but it cannot be doubted that in every age specimens of the former three have been found: thus it is unreasonable to doubt that demons are found in nature."
Stephens, the Charles S. Singleton Professor of Italian Studies in the Hopkins department of romance languages, is a literary critic, and he sensed that something intriguing was going on beneath the text on the page. Tasso, and especially the Malleus' author, a Dominican theologian and inquisitor named Heinrich Kramer, had in their works invested a striking amount of energy in refuting doubt about the existence of demons. What was that about?
For the next eight years Stephens read every treatise he could find on witchcraft, as well as accounts of interrogations, theological tracts, and other works (his bibliography lists 154 primary and more than 200 secondary sources). Most of the 86 witchcraft treatises he cites had been written in western Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, and one after another (including the Malleus) contain accounts of sexual intercourse with satanic spirits. Why? Were the authors remorseless misogynists hellbent on portraying women in the worst possible light? Were they lurid, repressed celibates who got off by writing accounts of demon sex? Stephens didn't think so; the texts, in his view, didn't support that reading. Elsewhere in the Malleus he had found a key reference to accused witches under torture as being "expert witnesses to the reality of carnal interaction between humans and demons." These guys are trying to construct proofs that demons exist, he thought. They're trying to convince skeptics. And then he thought, They're trying to convince themselves.
Stephens' thesis profoundly revises the conventional wisdom about centuries of cruelty and injustice. The great European witch hunts, he says, were the outgrowth of a severe crisis of faith. The men who wrote books like the Malleus, men who endorsed the torture and burning of tens of thousands of innocent people, desperately needed to believe in witches, because if witches were real, then demons were real, and if demons were real, then God was real. Not just real but present and attentive. Carefully read the works composed by the witchcraft authors, Stephens says, and you will see how profoundly disturbed these educated, literate men were by their accumulating suspicions that if God existed at all, He wasn't paying much attention to the descendants of Adam.
The sanctioned, organized pursuit and persecution of witches, which peaked from 1560 to 1630 and was almost entirely a western European phenomenon, began during a time of grave concern in the Roman Catholic church. The European world in the early 1400s was a wreck. The preceding century has been labeled by historian Barbara Tuchman as "calamitous," and she does not overstate. Starting around 1315, a great famine ravaged much of western Europe. From 1347 to 1352, the Black Death killed more than a third of the continent's population. Other diseases and additional outbreaks of the plague scourged the weakened survivors. As if natural catastrophe weren't enough, England and France chose to fight the Hundred Years' War from 1337 to 1453, the longest war in history. The Church itself fractured, riven by massive organized heresies, and by a schism that led to as many as three men simultaneously laying claim to be the true pope. How could a world created by a watchful, benevolent, and engaged God be such a mess? (Sexy Devils)
In short, in the end, the Catholic Church overplayed its hand and its actions during the Inquisition then and later, led to many questions which led to the Renaissance which led to the Protestant Reformation, which led to the birth of Science which was then taken over by pathological types as always happens in every time and place unless people are aware of the existence of pathological types in their midst.
The Religion of Science
Here, let me note that, in the eighteenth century, there was no such thing as a 'professional scientist'. Those who investigated scientific matters were the well-educated members of the upper classes who had a great deal of leisure and plenty of money to support their researches. This was the Golden Age of Science. Later, in the nineteenth century, certain discoveries led to economic and political considerations, and that is when Science took the wrong turn because those folks who tend to black and white thinking also have other character traits that include a need to dominate others, as well as a strong tendency to greed. The pursuit of science became a career rather than a hobby, and an army of scientific workers was sought to serve the agendas of what was to become known as the Military-Industrial Complex.
In the late 1860s, Wallace invited a number of respected scientists - including the noted physicist, John Tyndall - to assist in his investigations into psychic phenomena. His idea was to create a new branch of Anthropology. He also invited convinced Darwinist, T.H. Huxley. Huxley refused the invitation writing: "It may all be true, for anything I know to the contrary, but really I cannot get up any interest in the subject." Wallace pressed him and Huxley stated that he'd "heard enough of spirit communications to know that they were so much nonsense." (Keep in mind that Huxley was a self-taught biologist in the days when biology was rather primitive, and became one of the finest comparative anatomists of his day. However, he does seem to have had some political motivations. It is said of Huxley that "Before him, science was mostly a gentleman's occupation, after him, science was a profession.")
Wallace eventually gave up trying to get his scientific colleagues interested in the paranormal. Instead, he published a paper laying out his ideas that natural selection might have limits and that an "overruling intelligence" might be responsible for the development of mental and moral behavior. He noted that a scientist seeking to explore the so-called 'supernatural' found himself instantly defamed, "set down as credulous and superstitious, if not openly accused of falsehood and imposture, and his careful and oft-repeated experiments ignored as not worth a moment's consideration."
But Wallace was certain that there was something more to life than just matter. He was convinced that studying the supernatural could help to elucidate the very nature of life itself. He declared (probably rightly) that all branches of science would suffer until the world's many inexplicable happenings were seriously investigated and "dealt with as constituting an essential portion of the phenomena of human nature."
Wallace finally convinced one of Britain's most acclaimed scientists, chemist and inventor, William Crookes, to investigate the phenomena. Crookes was the discoverer of thallium, a soft metal that is also a strong neurotoxin. Later scientists have claimed that Crookes got involved in researching the paranormal only because his brain was damaged by his chemical research!
On his side, Crookes said that he hadn't found Wallace's ideas particularly convincing, and his initial involvement in experiments was simply to try to set Wallace straight. He was going to scrutinize a few mediums, debunk them thoroughly, and move on to more scientific pursuits.
The only problem was: Crookes became convinced that there was definitely something of intense scientific interest going on. In 1871, he published his conclusions in the Quarterly Journal of Science. A few months later, he published another report on tests he had conducted on the famous psychic, Daniel Dunglas Home.
What was - and is - remarkable about this battle was the way it was fought: not in the science laboratory, or in fair assessment of evidence, but rather by anonymous slander and defamation. Crookes was a brilliant scientist and his reputation was so solid that his experiments were difficult to dismiss even by the confirmed skeptics. Charles Darwin, after reading Crookes' reports admitted that he was "a much perplexed man. I cannot disbelieve Mr. Crookes' statement, nor can I believe his result."
After Crookes published his reports, in the next issue of London's Quarterly Review, a journal known for its dedication to the political status quo, appeared an anonymous article by an individual who claimed to know Crookes very well. This anonymous defamer described Crookes as a scientist with excellent technical ability, but a sad lack of intelligence. The writer then stated: "We speak advisedly when we say that the Fellowship of the Royal Society was conferred upon him with considerable hesitation." This was vicious innuendo. The facts are that Crookes had been elected to the Society by unanimous vote and, as it had been noted at the time, without any debate!
Crookes had certainly expected his scientific colleagues to demand replication of his experiments, and perhaps, to make their own. He had expected criticism of his equipment, and maybe better testing protocol proposals. What he did not expect was to be slandered anonymously, and his friends along with him.
In response to the increasing rigidity of science, Henry Sidgwick, a classicist at Trinity College, Cambridge, along with Frederic Myers, Edmund Gurney, and William James, formed the British Society for Psychical Research. These men, and other eminent scientists of the time, thought that objective and intelligent investigations could provide answers to metaphysical questions. This is where things get just a bit strange. The BSPR met in the home of Arthur Balfour, the future British Prime Minister.
Arthur's sister, Nora (Eleanor), was a gifted mathematician who enjoyed working with her brother-in-law, noted physicist, John Strutt, Lord Rayleigh. During a holiday in Egypt, Nora helped Rayleigh improve the accuracy of experimental measurement of electrical resistance. Upon her marriage to Henry Sidgwick, she turned her gifted mind to the issues of testing the veracity of psychical phenomena. But even though an extremely talented - even brilliant - group of researchers persisted in their explorations, with remarkable results recorded in their books and proceedings, traditional science and religion were only interested in jockeying for position, for proving themselves, and not in the least interested in resolving the confusion nor solving the pressing problems of the origins of life and the Cosmos, itself, by default.
The question was - and is: if there is an existence beyond the obvious, material world, the realm of moral thought and inventiveness, shouldn't somebody be thinking about it, investigating it, answering it? And shouldn't those somebodies be trained scientists who could apply the scientific method to the issues even if it was necessary to re-formulate the method to deal with non-material problems?
Nora Balfour Sidgwick noted that Science has proved its power and worth every day. But for many educated people, it had replaced religion as the most believable way to explain the world. And that's the problem: it became a belief system and had lost its roots as a truly exploratory cognitive style. She wrote: "Danger only arises when the scheme becomes a system of dogma which is master instead of slave."
That is the danger we face today.
The past 100 years have witnessed an explosion in knowledge of hundreds - if not thousands - of new subjects, leading to such complexity that it requires an army of specialized scientists and research budgets equal to the national budgets of some countries. Ordinary people, no matter how well-educated, have been left behind, unable to engage the impenetrable cloud of complicated ideas that are intelligible only in parts, and only to the 'right experts'. If we lived in a world where things were going well, where hunger and resource disparity were not so great, perhaps this wouldn't matter. But we live in a world where the technology developed by so-called scientific progress impacts us every day in our ordinary lives. There are concerns about the toxicity of our food sources, manipulated by genetic engineering. There are concerns about the genetic manipulation of human reproduction. There are concerns about the increasing dominance of the pharmaceutical industry on health. There are concerns about the sociological implications of behavior control via a global dominating mass media. There are concerns that science is in bed with power and is being used to the detriment of humanity at large. And the obvious consequence of these perceptions among the masses of ordinary people is an anti-Science backlash. This reaction is directed not just at governments and multi-national companies that employ the scientists, but against the scientists and Science, itself.
Scientists are generally reluctant to come forward and talk about this; it's as bad for the career as investigating a non-material Cosmos. So, when scientists don't band together and really police their profession and interface with the people they are supposed to be serving, the public is left to the mercies of tabloid hysteria. The level of confusion inflicted on the public by the media is horrific. This is exemplified by the media's continuing inability to distinguish between a scientific fact and a theory.
This brings us to The Taboo of Subjectivity by B. Alan Wallace. He writes:
As a young man aspiring to a career in environmental studies, I found this exclusivist position of scientists just as unsatisfactory as similar claims of religious believers. Global pollution, rapid depletion of natural resources, the population explosion, the extinction of more and more species of plant and animal life, and the proliferation of nuclear, conventional, chemical, and biological weapons were just a few of the enormous problems for which purely scientific and technological solutions were obviously inadequate. These problems were created not simply by lack of scientific knowledge - indeed many of them would not have occurred without scientific knowledge - but by such human vices as greed, aggression, and shortsightedness. ...Again, I would just like to suggest to Wallace that he read Political Ponerology in order to understand what has happened to science. The same dynamic plays out over and over again. And in the end, what is it about?
While scientific knowledge alone seemed to me as a young man to be insufficient for dealing with global problems, I was also struck by its inadequacy for addressing my own personal aspirations and conflicts. It was obvious to me that one could be well educated, affluent, and living in good health in a comfortable environment and still be tense, anxious, and dissatisfied. Many people who find themselves in that situation simply fall into depression, for which modern medicine prescribes powerful drugs to alleviate their symptoms. But the scientific discipline of psychiatry has no formula or prescription for finding an inner sense of meaning, contentment, of fulfillment. ...
I became so disenchanted with all the options presented to me by both my religious and scientific education that I turned my back on my native society to seek out the wisdom of a civilization radically dissimilar to, and disengaged from the modern West. This quest brought me to Dharamsala, India, the home of the Dalai Lama and a nucleus of Tibetan civilization in exile. ...
In 1949, the Chinese communists had invaded Tibet, and in the ensuing decades, especially during the Cultural Revolution, they were responsible for the deaths of up to a million Tibetans and the genocidal destruction of Tibetan civilization. The heart of this culture is Tibetan Buddhism, and to this day it has been the special target of Chinese aggression. This indicates that at present the main ideological thrust of the Chinese mission in Tibet is not the imposition of a socialist economic system - which the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetans are happy to embrace - but a belief system that is profoundly at odds with the worldview of Tibetan Buddhism. That ideology is still being forcefully propagated in Tibet, long after the socialist ideals of Mao have been displaced by the capitalist ideals of unbridled industrial development and consumerism.
What then is this ideology? According to the current Chinese propaganda in Tibet, it is the doctrine that science presents the one true view of reality and the solutions to humanity's problems are all to be found in technology. Religion, this doctrine declares, is superstition, and it must be rooted out by whatever means necessary, including forcible indoctrination and violence. While it would be wonderful for the Tibetans to learn about science and technology - and the Dalai Lama himself is keenly interested in such knowledge and is strongly backing science education for the Tibetans in exile - the Chinese are intent on promoting a materialistic ideology more than on promoting science itself. Thus, I have found that when backed by political and military power without restraint by the ideals of democracy, the ideology of science can be just as intolerant and vicious in its suppression of competing worldviews as any traditional religion. Moreover, while Tibetans had for centuries maintained a sustainable economy and population in balance with their natural environment, since the Chinese invasion, Tibet has been largely denuded of its forests, its wildlife has been ravaged, and its cities have been polluted; its northern plateau is now used as a dumping site for nuclear waste. Instead of having the opportunity of a liberal education in modern science, the Tibetans have been hammered by the iron fist of a science-based ideology that has suppressed freedom of thought...
The Scientific revolution that marked the beginning of the modern era introduced fresh skepticism regarding deeply cherished, unquestioned assumptions, and it introduced new methods for exploring the natural world. ... I argue for the importance of a plurality of methods and theories to break the domination of any one dogma that insists that the world must be conceived and explored only according to its dictates. ...I argue that the fundamental principles of scientific materialism, while true for the world of scientific materialism, are not necessarily true for reality as a whole. These principles have helped us understand a certain range of objective natural phenomena... but they have simultaneously obscured a wide range of subjective phenomena, including consciousness itself, and in this way dogmatic adherence to these assumptions has limited scientific research and impoverished our understanding of nature as a whole. ... scientific materialism has taken the role of a religion, with all its taboos and heresies. (Wallace, 2004)
It's about consciousness. This issue is critically central to the very definition of being human.
Most religions claim that consciousness exists apart from matter, that matter came into being as a result of some form of consciousness willing it to happen. By the same token, they aver that the consciousness that animated human beings continues after death. Mainstream science insists that individual consciousness vanishes upon the death of the body. However, there is a problem with this view. You see, at present, there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness. That is, there is no direct evidence for the existence or non-existence of consciousness. Modern science doesn't even have a theoretical framework within which to conduct experiments. So, given its ignorance of the presence or absence of consciousness, science is unable to back up this assertion.
It is actually mind-boggling that, with all the many branches of science, and all the technology that has been developed (most of it for eradicating consciousness!) that explores every aspect of our universe, our reality, we still have no science of consciousness. In short, there is a huge gap in our knowledge about the one phenomenon that is the substrate of our questions and knowledge about everything else! Wallace tells us:
...the International Dictionary of Psychology asserts: "[c]onsciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written about it." (Wallace, 2004)Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-founder of the theory of evolution, eventually came to the conclusion that natural selection could not account for man himself. He wrote that "nature never over-endows a species beyond the demands of everyday existence." This means that there is a major problem in accounting for many aspects of human beings - at least for some human beings. Stephen Jay Gould writes:
"The only honest alternative is to admit the strict continuity in kind between ourselves and chimpanzees. And what do we lose thereby? Only an antiquated concept of soul..."Here Gould is expressing the core of evolutionary materialism, "the postulate that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products." This is the pivot of the debate.
The late Weston La Barre, professor of anthropology at Duke University, was consumed with ideological fervor against the 'enemy' and wrote that all religions other than evolution are maladaptive retreats from reality. When considering the Platonic philosophy which holds that ideas, forms, patterns, types and archetypes have an existence and reality of their own and would, therefore, seem to have an obvious relevance to evolutions and the origins of species, he regularly compared Plato to Adolf Hitler. He neglected to mention - as such true believers do on both sides of the argument - that Hitler was a confirmed - even extreme - Darwinist, believing that man evolved from monkeys, a proposition that Plato would have considered absurd.
The writings of many great researchers, including Carl Jung and physicists and mathematicians, suggest that Plato was correct and that there are immaterial realities such as souls, archetypes, consciousness independent of physical brains, and more. The evidence for this is actually more considerable than the rags and tatters of evidence that are glued together to attempt to validate macroevolution. And, of course, this means that the advocates of materialistic Darwinism are the ones who are laboring under one of history's greatest delusions.
Quantum physics indicates that not only does 'matter' seem to dissolve into patterned vibrations at the most fundamental levels, it has become apparent that there is a structuring role played by consciousness. There is now much accumulated evidence that mind does exist separate from the physical brain and that the phenomena such as telepathy are not only demonstrable, but they conform to models of the Universe with non-local causes.
In other words, the world has changed under the materialist evolutionist's feet and there is much more to our reality than the naive realism upon which neo-Darwinism is based. The fact that most contemporary evolutionists still cling to the old-fashioned, crude and mechanical theories in spite of the well-known developments in other scientific fields is more proof of the religious character of their beliefs.
And here we come to an interesting idea: the difficulty for both believers in purely mechanistic evolution and the creationists is that any cosmology that is sufficiently explanatory of the phenomena we observe in our universe, has deeper dynamics and implications. The evolutionists and creationists both do not seem to be capable of the truly abstract, subtle thinking required to parse these implications. It is as though both types are confined within a set of cognitive restrictions that drive their perceptions, experiences and priorities. When we collect the data on these types of individuals - and they are found in all classes and professions - we find a certain common factor that has been identified as the 'authoritarian personality type'. This type of individual is characterized by three attitudinal and behavioral clusters which are interrelated as reported by Bob Altemeyer.
- Authoritarian submission - a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives or the peer group with whom one is involved or works. Naturally, if many of one's peers are personality disordered - and there is a high probability of that being the case in any field where authority over others is to be had - then one is inculcated into submissiveness to psychopathological ideation.
- Authoritarian aggression - a general aggressiveness directed against other people that are perceived to be targets according to the established authorities as defined in number 1.
- Conventionalism - a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society - or one's peer group - and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one's society should also be required to adhere to these norms. Once again, if the traditions and social norms are established by authorities with control agendas, everything is corrupted from the top down.
"authoritarians tend to exhibit cognitive errors and symptoms of faulty reasoning. Specifically, they are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold contradictory ideas that result from compartmentalized thinking. They are also more likely to uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs, and they are less likely to acknowledge their own limitations." (Robert Altemeyer, Right-Wing Authoritarianism, University of Manitoba Press, 1981.)As we can see, this description applies equally to both sides of the 'debate', each rigidly submitting to their own chosen 'authorities', over-identifying with their own peer groups, rejecting conflicting evidence and attacking those who bring such evidence forward! Remember that it is not necessarily identified by what is believed, but by how it is believed and promoted.
Social anthropologists point out the astonishing diversity of modern human societies as evidence for the plasticity of the human psychology. Different societies have different standards, mores, religious beliefs, customs, rituals, and so much more. They then wonder how is this diversity even possible at all? The fact that human beings, who are said to be all members of the same species, can come up with so many different ways to order their lives, is extraordinary. No other species has this variability. One of the things this implies is that a species capable of this diversity across spatial boundaries can also be capable of great diversity over temporal boundaries. That is, they can change and that can mean growth or regression.
Another major point here is this: obviously, in general, human beings are not genetically programmed to be members of one or another specific social group, though there may be some genetic implications here as twin studies of recent years have shown. What has been noted is that a child born into one social order can be raised from infancy in another social order and learn to function perfectly in that adopted order.
Each social group creates its own constraints and imposes them on its members. This means that there is a lot of diversity to be noted between different social groups, but within any one group, diversity is not tolerated very well! (Remember the authoritarian personality traits listed earlier?) If you move from being a member of one group to another group, you must change all your thinking, adapt to a different set of constraints that are imposed on you by the group you live among.
Of course, there is the question of who comes up with the rules for a given social group to begin with? Some people can move from the social group they are born in to another quite easily because they are born with the mindset that is normal for that group. (Anthropologists don't generally stay up to date on cognitive science findings.)
What this means is that there is a genetic potential for diversification regarding thought and conduct born into every single human being, a potential that permits growth, but within particular parameters as revealed by cognitive science. Within those parameters, the individual can be inhibited and/or shaped by society to some greater or lesser extent depending on the individual. The question is, how? Ernest Gellner outlines the basic theory of anthropology regarding how societies are formed. He writes:
"The way in which you restrain people from doing a wide variety of things, not compatible with the social order of which they are members, is that you subject them to ritual. The process is simple: you make them dance round a totem pole until they are wild with excitement and become jellies in the hysteria of collective frenzy; you enhance their emotional state by any device, by all the locally available audio-visual aids, drugs, dance, music and so on; and once they are really high, you stamp upon their minds the type of concept or notion to which they subsequently become enslaved. Next morning, the savage wakes up with a bad hangover and a deeply internalized concept. The idea is that the central feature of religion is ritual, and the central role of ritual is the endowment of individuals with compulsive concepts which simultaneously define their social and natural world and restrain and control their perceptions and comportment, in mutually reinforcing ways. These deeply internalized notions henceforth oblige them to act within the range of prescribed limits. Each concept has a normative binding content, as well as a kind of organizational descriptive content. The conceptual system maps out social order and required conduct, and inhibits inclinations to thought or conduct which would transgress its limits.While I have great admiration for Gellner, I have to point out that this theory of how to control human beings was understood in pretty much this way many thousands of years ago. In the course of my reading, I once came across a passage translated from an archaeological dig - a Hittite tablet - where the king wrote that the priesthood needed the king to establish their religious authority and the king needed the priests to establish his right to rule. This control comes sharply into view in the falsification of history. History, itself, becomes part of the control. After all, control of daily information is just history in the making. As to how this process works on the individual level, a passage in Barbara Oakley's Evil Genes describes what 'dancing around the totem pole with ones social group' does to the human brain - including scientists and creationists, both of whom have very strong attachments to their belief systems:
I can see no other explanation concerning how social and conceptual order and homogeneity are maintained within societies which, at the same time, are so astonishingly diverse when compared with each other. One species has somehow escaped the authority of nature, and is no longer genetically programmed to remain within a relatively narrow range of conduct, so it needs new constraints. The fantastic range of genetically possible conduct is constrained in any one particular herd, and obliged to respect socially marked bounds. This can only be achieved by means of conceptual constraint, and that in turn must somehow be instilled. Somehow, semantic, culturally transmitted limits are imposed on men..." (Ernest Gellner, Anthropology and Politics, Blackwell, 1995.)
A recent imaging study by psychologist Drew Westen and his colleagues at Emory University provides firm support for the existence of emotional reasoning. Just prior to the 2004 Bush-Kerry presidential elections, two groups of subjects were recruited - fifteen ardent Democrats and fifteen ardent Republicans. Each was presented with conflicting and seemingly damaging statements about their candidate, as well as about more neutral targets such as actor Tom Hanks (who, it appears, is a likable guy for people of all political persuasions). Unsurprisingly, when the participants were asked to draw a logical conclusion about a candidate from the other - 'wrong' - political party, the participants found a way to arrive at a conclusion that made the candidate look bad, even though logic should have mitigated the particular circumstances and allowed them to reach a different conclusion. Here's where it gets interesting.This is, essentially, a look inside the brain of the authoritarian personality.
When this 'emote control' began to occur, parts of the brain normally involved in reasoning were not activated. Instead, a constellation of activations occurred in the same areas of the brain where punishment, pain, and negative emotions are experienced (that is, in the left insula, lateral frontal cortex, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Once a way was found to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted, the neural punishment areas turned off, and the participant received a blast of activation in the circuits involving rewards - akin to the high an addict receives when getting his fix.
In essence, the participants were not about to let facts get in the way of their hot-button decision making and quick buzz of reward. 'None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged,' says Westen. 'Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones'...
Ultimately, Westen and his colleagues believe that 'emotionally biased reasoning leads to the "stamping in" or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associating the participant's "revisionist" account of the data with positive emotion or relief and elimination of distress. The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data,' Westen says. Westen's remarkable study showed that neural information processing related to what he terms 'motivated reasoning' ... appears to be qualitatively different from reasoning when a person has no strong emotional stake in the conclusions to be reached.
The study is thus the first to describe the neural processes that underlie political judgment and decision making, as well as to describe processes involving emote control, psychological defense, confirmatory bias, and some forms of cognitive dissonance. The significance of these findings ranges beyond the study of politics: 'Everyone from executives and judges to scientists and politicians may reason to emotionally biased judgments when they have a vested interest in how to interpret "the facts,"' according to Westen." (Barbara Oakley, Evil Genes, Prometheus Books, 2008.)
Given the above, it's not difficult to see how the corruption of science plays itself out, and what it means for humanity. Psychopaths, once in positions of power and influence, forbid areas of science that they know are dangerous to their position. It's a natural progression to apply this to the study of consciousness. They promote their own inner landscape (materialism) via science and project it onto humanity at large, effectively blocking the means by which they can be identified as abnormal. By creating such a semantic barrier, they can inhibit and shape our 'genetic potential for diversification of thought and conduct' in the direction of their choice. We lose the necessary tools with which to discover the true origins of their pathology, and the true potentials within normal humanity. By denying the existence of an ordering principle of consciousness, they deny the existence of any potential order to which we can strive.
This is where we find the key to understand the corruption of science and thus, society and its understanding of the world. It seems that a new semantic construct has been in process since pathological individuals realized that science could be used to gain and hold power: full-spectrum dominance.
The moment that Darwin published his Origin of Species in the nineteenth century, an event that marked the culmination of a gradual shift in society from being dominated by religion to what was called 'rational thinking' and science, the Authoritarians knew they had their Theory of Everything: Random processes of matter, no consciousness needed.
So, it has been the steady application of materialistic evolutionary thinking that is behind the explanation of the order of the universe that prevails today. There are, undoubtedly, psychopaths in the woodpile here acting as the éminence grise behind science - the thing that controls most of our social constructs and institutions - because we certainly can't say that all scientists, or even most of them, are psychopathic. The profession itself excludes most psychopaths by virtue of the requirement for superior intellect. However, it can certainly include a great many members that are authoritarian in personality type.
Looking back at the history - more particularly, the archaeology - we notice how much like the Roman Empire our present civilization actually is. The Romans were certainly rational and scientific in many respects. They had factories that produced tableware that has been found at the farthest reaches of the empire even in peasant homes. They had factories that manufactured roof tiles that covered the heads of even the poorest workers and their livestock. A cache of letters was found in Northern Britain where soldiers wrote home to have socks sent to them which were, apparently, mass produced. The Roman army was superior because it had standardized equipment, produced in mass quantities at factories located in hubs of the empire. Grain, olives, oil, foodstuffs of all kinds, luxury goods, were mass produced and distributed throughout the Roman world. Literacy was obviously very widespread, even to the working classes. There were roads, sanitation systems, haut cuisine; in short, everything that we take for granted as essential to civilization. The only difference seems to be that we have harnessed sources of power that the Romans did not have which enables our civilization to aspire to globalization. But in almost every other way, we are exactly like them. It is only science that has made us bigger and badder, so to say. And, as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. That fall may be the extinction of the human race.
The end of the Roman Empire witnessed horrors and dislocation of a kind I sincerely hope never to have to live through; and it destroyed a complex civilization, throwing the inhabitants of the West back to a standard of living typical of prehistoric times. Romans before the fall were as certain as we are today that their world would continue forever, substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency. (Ward-Perkins, 2005)