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Eschatological Ideologies in Action

First, read this article from Take a moment and think about how often you hear statements like this being made recently. Take another moment to think about where statements like this appear historically. Try to understand the mindset that the statements Gingrich is making requires: the kind of orientation, ideology and reasoning involved.

Consider now the words "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Are you scared yet? You should be, and the reasons cut fairly deeply. Let me explain my thinking to you...

My experience has always led me to believe that the orientation of humanity is essentially optimistic. Not in the sense of humanity at large being a herd of mindless bliss-ninnies, but in the sense that we attempt to live and plan for our future. A fundamentally pessimistic orientation is, I believe, essentially suicidal, manifesting as such at all levels from the individual up to the culture. Either of these orientations achieves it's own success: the optimistic get to see tomorrow, the pessimistic don't finish today. The one view gets out of the way of the other, and both are free to achieve their ends.

At their extremes, these world-views are so mutually exclusive that they do not interfere with each other. As we do not live in a black and white world, the area in the middle of the optimist-pessimist scale provides us much more interesting material for discussion given that the middle ground holds at least two orientations which are in bitter conflict with each other and which are fundamentally irreconcilable.

Let us call the first possible world-view "positive realism". It represents the point of balance between optimistic and pessimistic viewpoints, and can be summed up in the bumper-stickerism "Shit Happens; get over it." If we imagine this on the spectrum of optimism-pessimism, it runs from the central axis in the direction of optimism, fading out up by the bliss-ninny end region. The positive realist possesses a more or less balanced view of the world, is willing to accept responsibility hir actions, and understands that even if things are looking pretty grim right now, they'll probably be getting better in the future. This is the area of the spectrum that we consider to cover the average psychologically healthy human. This is not to deny that we can have experiences which carry us to one end or the other, certainly, we do. Yet people with a positive realist orientation tend to return to that optimistic middle-region of the spectrum for most of their lives.

Such a person will acknowledge and prepare for bad things to happen to and around them - they will buy insurance, for example. But they will also buy a house, and have children, fully in the expectancy that they will find a way to make it through any difficulties that arise. Their locus-of-control remains within the self, by and large, and this shapes the kinds of ideology that the positive realist will hold.

Since ideology is everything in this discussion, I will briefly catalog a few that I feel are representative:

  • Peaceful Activism
  • Redemptive Christianity (Good-Works Christians)
  • Secular Humanism
  • Moderate New-Age
  • Buddhism

This is not by any means a complete list, so don't be offended if your group didn't make it. Generally, these ideologies are characterize by a belief in the essential goodness of human nature, egalitarianism, a belief in essential liberties, and the general value of life for its own sake.

The other orientation leans toward the pessimist end of the spectrum. It is characterized by a progressively externalized locus-of-control, and a value system based not on intrinsic value, but rather an external source of value by means of which moral and material value are conferred.

The externalization of control mechanisms and the acceptance of external authority has two effects: the relief from personal responsibility, and the ability to write off harm to the non-self as non-meaningful. A classic example of this, on a small scale, is the Milgrim experiment. On the larger scale, the examples are far too many and easy to identify for yourself. In philosophy, this manifests as the master-slave dialectic.

In many ways, it can be a comfortable psychological space: the lack of personal responsibility conferred by subservience allows one to become passively accepting of all manner of situation which would be rejected by the positive realist as untenable.

However, the prolonged loss of personal responsibility degrades a human, and eventually manifests in some form of negative behavior. We see this in many models- For Nietzsche, it is the corrupt will to power of the priest class, for Leary it manifests as the hostile weakness quadrant of the personality matrix, in contemporary psychology generally, as the passive-agressive suite of behaviors.

In the case of individuals with this orientation, the damage that they can do is confined to their immediate environment. When is manifests on a cultural level, the damage potential becomes truly profound.

Here again, is a brief catalog of some of the ideologies which express this orientation (please be offended if your group made this list):

  • Fascism
  • Fundamentalist/Militant Christianity
  • American Neo-Conservatism
  • Stalinism
  • Fundamentalist/Militant Islam

A whole new level of destructive potential arises out of this when, as we see in Gingrich and the the Neo-Cons, an overlap of two of these ideologies- Neo-Conservatism, which is neither new nor conservative, but in fact fascism in an American-suit. Likewise, Fundamentalist Christianity is, oddly enough, the least Christian of the various sects, particularly as concerns the teachings of Jesus.

Fundamentalist Christianity is essentially based on three elements of that volume: The Old Testament, the Corpus Paulinum, and the Book of Revelation - the three parts that have the least to do with Jesus himself. What these three elements have in common is that they take up an eschatological orientation.

In much of the Old Testament, the language is mystical in orientation, and as those who read well and think well have recognized for thousands of years, highly metaphorical. There's a huge discussion of this aspect to be avoided in this writing; suffice it for now to say that these texts were written by, and intended to be read by, scholars of a particular kind of philosophy who were equipped with the keys to unlock the metaphorical Ark of the symbolism used.

The typical portrayal of the god of the Old Testament is variously as a war deity, in the manner of Mars, and as a harsh master in the manner of Saturn. He is a selfish, vengeful deity, and makes no bones about it. Given his behavior overall, he would best be classified as either an abusive parent, or a psychotic dictator.

In the Corpus Paulinum, from which much of the Christian doctrine descends, his divergence from the four gospels, and his various moral pre- and proscriptions descent from Old Covenant morality is readily apparent. It seems clear to me that his reliance on Old Covenant morality and prophecy outweighs his reliance on the four Gospels, and he uses it as a means of pushing onto the early church a slave mentality rooted in guilt and the impossibility of moral worthiness in the eyes of his god, except within the boundaries he describes. When the sin which ultimately damns you is the sin is having been born, then what escape is possible for you?

Paul also sets up the basis for the doctrine of delayed reward - slavery to the church in exchange for rewards after death. This is a typical gambit of Nietzsche's priestly class, and makes good sense for any slave-based economy, be it an economy of material wealth, or an economy of souls.

Lastly, we come to the the Apocalypse of John. This is a mystical visionary text, and is among the most beautiful and terrible pieces of writing I have ever encountered. It is also, I believe, one of the most misunderstood. For the purposes of this writing, I will not even begin to interpret the text in depth, but concern myself primarily with the text as it has been used since its writing.

First, it sets up and reinforces the notions of the wrathful, judgmental deity. Secondly, it contains the notion of the elite "saved" - the few, the proud, the Priestly! - third, it contains the idea of the salvation of the morally unperfected -but blindly Faithful- after a great and horrible tribulation, suffered by the faithful as a punishment/test of faith/purgation of sin. This eschatonic orientation of the text, in conjunction with the doctrine of delayed gratification, sets up an ideal tool for controlling a society through fear of eternal punishment. When it becomes the basis of a social system, the priestly class ascends and victimizes those who allow themselves to see themselves as inferior. This is, in fact, the core of Nietzche's critique of the priestly class and the slave class. The Nietzschean Ubermensch is merely one who recognizes and acts upon the premise of the sovereignty and ascendency of the individual, instead of allowing himself to be a victim of the priests.

When a society, or a significant portion of a society becomes indoctrinated with the slave morality, and an eschatonic religious orientation, we see the convergence of the priestly class with the government. But moreover, it breeds a situation in which the priests - who by necessity drink their own kool-aid - are able to act out their unenlightened self-interest and vengeance fantasies with little or no resistance. The populace is controlled by fear: fear of the enemies of the priests, fear of punishment here in life, fear of damnation because they did not, in life, conform adequately to the prescripts of the priests.

In the case of the current administration, in this society, at this level of technological advancement, this confluence manifests as a desire and capacity to bring about the apocalyptic scenario in the belief that it ensures the salvation of the faithful portion of humanity, and more importantly: to secure the damnation and punishment of those who oppose them. This is the danger of the eschatonically oriented theocracy that is currently rising to power here in the United States. This is a group whose ultimate goal is the immanentization of the eschaton: The salvation of the like, and the damnation of the enemy.

This is a faction for whom total war, havoc and destruction are the keys to the Kingdom of God on Earth, and only by passing through their prophesied tribulation can they secure their own place in the City of God. Only by forcing conformity to the slave morality with which they have been indoctrinated can they ensure the punishment of the different.

Salvation through destruction is not a viable option. Humanity has the capacity to transcend its animal nature, and to live with liberty and the responsibility that comes with the free will. I, for one, will not entrust my salvation or damnation to another human being.