The Wild Mind – part VII

Philosophy

Scientology 1.0.0 – part 13

“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” — Sir Francis Bacon


Okay, so to continue with the ladder of untamed thinking, there are so far: awe, art, early religion, magic, myth, mysticism, psychology, and religion. Next rung: philosophy.

Again, the disclaimer: I’m no academic and this will not be a scholarly or erudite disquisition on philosophy, but rather a specific view of the subject itself in aid of possibly shedding some light on the phenomena of Scientology that appeared, not out of nowhere, but inevitably (my opinion), in the first half of the 20th century.


Civilisation

Definition: an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been reached. Okay, fair enough, sounds good. From French civilisation; see civilise.

Civilise: to bring out of a savage, uneducated, or rude state; make civil; elevate in social and private life; enlighten; refine. Mm-hmm, sure, right you are. From French civiliser; see civil.

Civil: of, relating to, or consisting of citizens. Yes, so? From Middle English< Latin cīvīlis, equivalent to cīv(is) citizen. See citizen.

Citizen:an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises. Ah ha, oh ho, now we’re getting somewhere. From Middle English citisein<Anglo-French citesein<Old French citeain, equivalent to cite, city.

City: a large or important town. And, town: any urban area, as contrasted with its surrounding countryside (emphasis mine). There!

Alright, okay, what’s this all about? This is some extremely obvious stuff! Everybody knows these things, so why make such a point of it?

Because, today, I believe, extrapolating from many thousands of conversations, articles and legacy media commentaries, there seems to be a massive disconnect with how we got to the current era, the Imagination Age,1 (or whatever designation you’d like; “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) works, or “Industry 4.0,” that’s a good one).

I know I keep banging on about these vast lacunae in our shared narratives of experience and history, but they are there, all over the place, in all aspects, or otherwise, many of the outrages against humanity that have been tolerated in society, especially these past hundred-odd years (WWI to now), by the citizens of the West at least, could never, ever, have come to pass. For such collective amnesia, it seems one must have either taken all of history for granted or forgotten the majority of it. I think, given my own experience and what I have personally seen of education in the West at any rate, that there’s a third factor: it’s just not being taught. That is serious enough and I’m not even taking into account today’s fashionable practice of teaching false histories (such as the so-called “1619 Project”2) or emotional irrelevancies (such as asking little kids, “how would you feel if a bunch of naughty Europeans conquered and took your lands…”3)

Frequently, though, these gaps occur just as often as a result of a dangerous phenomenon my father referred to as “everybody knows,” which results in teachers not addressing basic, basic questions or providing critical background information. They appear to be preoccupied instead with who conquered whom and who was king of what (zzz…), failing to explain why and how there was anything to be stolen or ruled over in the first place. This particular oversight, in my view, results in whole generations not knowing, really, where all their stuff comes from, magically appearing in overstocked cornucopias as it does.

So, saying that, one such gap in our education seems to be, where does all this stuff come from? To answer that, one would need to understand how and why one would even want a town. (And then a city. And then civilisation.) How do these things even come to happen in the first place?

Through specialisation of production.

This is what happens when enough of the basic, basic work of food production, which is always done in the surrounding countryside, can be accomplished by fewer members of a group, or, at least, in less time, so that other members can spend more time in a close-knit, interconnected, and cooperative community of craftspeople and artisans, specialising and focusing on other forms of work, all in a concentrated place that came to be called a town. Then, when there is enough good food and shining wares, is when the thieving, rent-seeking asses come a-conquering and a-kinging (except in those cases wherein the land itself is desirable – still theft though). And so it ever was, through all history everywhere, the whole darned time. History 101: regular people build interesting stuff and sociopaths tear it all down. That last bit is a massive oversimplification, I know, I know, but you have got to laugh, or you will cry.

Anyway, as people spend more time specialising and perfecting their crafts, another thing appears, if it hadn’t already been apparent. (I know I’m still in seriously obvious, “everybody knows” territory, but I promise I’m working up to something.)


Genius

Genius: an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc. 

It’s this sort of specialisation that builds real civilisations, and it’s this that gets suppressed, or dispersed, or over-taxed, or over-regulated, usually by the same conquerors and kings (unless it’s a democracy and then people vote all the production away), whether from without or from within, and then civilisations die. Same as it ever was, as I said, and it’s the same basic reason why we’re possibly on the verge of collapsing again right now.

But before I get to that, as people specialised in various forms of art, crafts, and construction, as well as inventing new technology and social networks, a few people came to specialise in thinking.

Whatever kinds of thinking were being done before the age of Ancient Greece began was formidable, certainly, especially in the Indus Valley region. But it wasn’t really until the 7th century B.C. that we have any clear record, as far as I know, of Western man beginning to think seriously about thinking. So much so that it becomes plain that there is a new kind of profession coming into play: the philosopher.


Philosophy – how to think (and, by extension, how to live the good life)

Scientology 1.0.0 is described as an applied philosophy. This would imply, I’d guess, that there are inapplicable philosophies. Without doubt, there are philosophies that seem wholly theoretical as well as others that are just plain baffling. That’s for sure.

I first became aware of philosophy as a boy in school. There, we were taught a little about the Greeks and maybe a Roman or two. I didn’t get to go farther because I left, but in the years following, I began to hear disparaging things about the subject. The idea was something on the order of, “what does a philosophy major do after graduation?” Answer: “Wash dishes!” The point being, philosophy is so useless that studying it renders a person incapable of doing anything but the meanest work, which is doubly puzzling. Why would anyone denigrate dish washers? It’s a strange world.

It wasn’t really until I was an old man in my twenties (philosophy should be taught to children) that I made a point of looking into it, and it was then I realised why Scientology was termed an applied philosophy and that, now residing in the U.S., I also realised I was living in possibly one of the greatest thought deserts of all time; hence the “washes dishes!” joke. Hardy har har (groan).

How, by all the Georges, did that happen? The citizens of the present-day U.S. are the inheritors of absolutely the single greatest social experiment ever performed, and now all too many of them are seemingly (“seemingly,” I say, I’ll explain), wilfully ignorant of their own priceless heritage and busy, by all appearances, gleefully and energetically tossing the whole package to the wind.


Okay, enough of that.

What I learned, though, was that long before, originally, philosophers in the West were mainly working on things like, “What’s reality?” and so on. Then along came Socrates (c. 470–399 B.C.). He gets right down to brass tacks: the purpose of philosophy is to figure out how to live (he uses the word “arete,” which means “virtue” and “moral excellence,” demonstrating that religion is also, in part, philosophic). All the while, before, during, and after, there was a lot of theorising, some of it opening doors to applicable philosophy, such as atomism, resulting in better living through ethics, technology, and, eventually, modern science. While the other stuff, like “is there free will?”, is mostly, well, just very interesting. So it appears that there is philosophy that one can actually use and philosophy that is primarily descriptions of fascinating notions, with no immediately discernible utility. This is similar to the distinction between applied mathematics (engineering) and “pure” mathematics; it may bear fruit eventually.4

This article, though, will deal instead with the contrasts between applicable philosophy and confused philosophy, rather than the theoretical form, and how over-complicating things, as well as spewing utter rubbish (but in a very authoritative way), can help wreck people’s ability to think and thus assist in pitching civilisation into the drink.


An arc

Philosophy, the “love of wisdom” (phílo, loving and sophós, wise).

Seems to me, based on all my reading, that although man has been thinking, obviously, since there ever was a “man,” it wasn’t until some point about 2,600 years ago that we got a record of people, specifically Western people, thinking about thinking, and in a unique way that you don’t see anywhere else in the world at any earlier time.

In the far East, going back who knows how long, 10,000 years or more, some say, man’s thinking has been superb, but you don’t see a technology of thinking coming into existence until the early years of classical antiquity.

So, it looks like there has been a kind of distinctive arc in this thinking about how to think since about the seventh century B.C.

In the beginning, there’s a lot of thought about the world from a point of view that will come to be seen as, in a nascent sort of way, objective, but it is still thoroughly shot through with subjective ideation. (Subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. Objective: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.)

The arc seems to go: man begins to observe nature, concentrating on this as an activity in and of itself. He gets better and better at it, with less and less confused overlapping, or conflation, of objective knowledge with subjective views, and, eventually, with a few bumps and bothers, gets them pretty well sorted out and appropriately separated and delineated, more or less (still much work to be done on this). Until about the 18th century A.D., that is.


The briefest of sketches

Broadly, a few of the milestone thinkers and epochs were: Thales of Miletus (c. 624/623 – c. 548/545 B.C.), one of the seven sages of Greece, is considered the first of the Pre-Socratics. Then there is a sort of direct and connected progression from him through to Socrates (the master dialectician), Plato (ca. 428/427 or 424/423–348/347 B.C., the master theoretician), and, finally, Aristotle (384–322 B.C., the master logician and proto-scientist). After them, there’s the era of post-Aristotelian Greek and Roman philosophy, leading eventually to the thinkers of the mediaeval and late mediaeval (scholasticism) periods, where many philosophers were fervently combining religious doctrine (subjective) with observations of nature (objective) as inspired by Aristotle. This was an attempt, I think, to reconcile them, but not a very successful one, hence the need to bash people like Galileo Galilei. I mean, why not have reality just the way you want it to be rather than (uh-oh) what it actually is? (Growl, growl.)

On the other hand, during this exact same period comes the next batch of thinkers that will change the game considerably. Averroes (1126–1198), who really shook things up; Roger Bacon (1214–1294); and Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). (He didn’t live long, but the work this man did was amazing–but they didn’t have TV, pot, video games, or social media back then, so…5)

Then there was the Renaissance period, with fellows such as Erasmus (1466–1536), and after that (cue something triumphant in a major key), the first of the modern philosophers came along, Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626). This is around the time when attempts at disentangling facts from feelings truly began to succeed the older paradigms. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), the political philosopher, and René Descartes (1596–1650), who was, I think, along with Francis Bacon, the first of these new Enlightenment philosophes. (I hope no one is taking notes. I could be way off; one has just got to do their own research at the end of the day.)

The Enlightenment thinkers were true radicals. What distinguished modern thinkers from pre-modern thinkers was their starting premises. The pre-moderns started with the supernatural, while the moderns started with nature. Stephen Hicks explains: “The earlier Medieval worldview and the modern Enlightenment worldview were coherent, comprehensive—and entirely opposed—accounts of reality and the place of human beings within it. Medievalism had dominated the West for 1000 years, from roughly 400 CE to 1400 CE. In a centuries-long transition period, the thinkers of the Renaissance, with some unintended help from the major Reformation figures, undermined the Medieval worldview and paved the way for the revolutionaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By the eighteenth century, the pre-modern philosophy of the Medieval era had been routed intellectually, and the philosophes were moving quickly to transform society on the basis of the new, modern philosophy.”6

“Revolutionary” is the exact right appellation, to be sure. Things really began to ratchet up with John Locke (1632–1704), because of his ideas about individualism. It is he who really gets the ball rolling as to what happens next in the 18th century, resulting in a completely novel assessment regarding individual liberty. From this came the workable philosophies of government and social organisation, effecting the experiment previously referred to; as well as, and here’s my main point, the exposure and happy exploitation of some remarkable factors concerning the freeing of genius.

You see, genius is randomly distributed among all people everywhere, and it never stops to consider where to land. Neither colour nor creed, sex nor culture, caste nor station, robust or ailing, is ever a factor, for genius is wholly without discrimination and prejudice. What could not be accomplished if a society simply allowed anyone who exhibited these mighty traits to be free to participate fully in said society? Well, something, more or less, though imperfectly to be sure, was designed, drafted, and implemented in the United States of America to achieve just that. As a result, there was an absolute flurry of empirical observations, experimentation, invention, and implementation resulting in the greatest bounty of technologies and goods production probably since the Neolithic Revolution.7

To be fair, many other western nations were also experiencing an increasing number of geniuses and growing amounts of production. But quite often, they were allowed to work only under very specific conditions and with far more regulation by inferior minds than what was occurring in the former British colonies. By removing much of this arbitrary suppression, the U.S. was able to achieve a level of production and affluence (thriving) such as the world had never before seen.8

However, also in the 18th century, things kind of get weird (cue something lugubrious in a minor key), especially with our old pal Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), who writes like a high-IQ, extremely well-educated six-year-old, although some of his observations regarding authority are accurate (admirers of Rousseau will object to this opinion, but I find him far too involved in idealism, like some of the pre-Socratics of old, to be a true philosopher in the modern sense). Some aspects of philosophy, in my mind, really started to go sideways after that, finally getting us to the present day lunacies resulting in the rise of authoritarian governments everywhere and a potential shut-down of that whole 17th and 18th century experiment with personal liberty and freedom (cue Chopin’s Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op35 – the Funeral March).


Before the next article, I’d like to comment on that amazingly fortuitous paradigm shift between the mediaeval and modern eras:

The subjective and objective worlds

As previously mentioned, “subjective” means based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. This includes things like tradition, faith, original sin, worship, mysticism, and the supernatural. And “objective” means not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. This is reason, empiricism, corroboration of perception (science), individual character, and nature.

A baby isn’t looking around wondering, “What in blazes is that made of?” Is it made of water? (Thales’ idea). Is it made of the “unbounded”? (Anaximander’s idea). Air? (Anaximenes). Fire? (Heraclitus). No, a baby is thinking, “that feels good and that doesn’t.” Their whole universe is experiencing pure personal survival in the most profound way. (Because they are so wholly dependent upon others to get these good things and avoid the bad ones, it is enormously fortuitous for those children born with good parents. More on this later.)

As they grow up, they begin to see the world around them more objectively (if not exposed to modern education), but in only the most rudimentary way. This is what our ancestors were most probably like. Although clearly developing and using advanced technologies for survival, as we know they were, they nevertheless saw the whole universe in these exquisitely personal terms. This is an informed guess by those observers, anthropologists, who have had the fortune, and enormous courage, in many cases, of spending time with Stone Age people who have been living the same way, more or less, for thousands of years.9

Take the Sun, for instance. Subjective view: The Sun is a bright, hot, sometimes dangerous, yet benevolent entity, bringing light, warmth, and life to the world. Objective view: The sun is a star of a type known as a G2 dwarf, a sphere of hydrogen and helium 1.4 million km in diameter that obtains its energy from nuclear fusion reactions deep within its interior, where the temperature is about 15 million degrees, with the surface being a little under 6,000°C. The subjective view is what the Sun means, and the objective view is what the Sun is. Both views are correct, of course.

Subjectivity as a paramount paradigm does not produce a fast and rapid development of material technologies, but it’s how people navigate the world by way of observing what things mean in terms of thriving when handled one way or another. The most basic tools in this navigation are pain and pleasure, joy and misery, and untimely death.10 Managing the subjective realm correctly, using technologies of the mind and spirit (which is the main activity in Eastern thought, by the way) may potentially, and usually does if applied correctly, result in an optimum experience of life regardless of a plethora of physical technologies.11

The objective view prioritises what things are and produces new tools with which to engineer the environment. Starting with sharp and blunt sticks and stones, fire, etc., developing the PCCA, “portable climate control apparatus” (clothing), which allows him to occupy almost all parts of the world regardless of season, and medicine, then husbandry, urban development, and, eventually, cities. Although the technologies of the physical realm can and do result in improved survival for man, they do not necessarily produce a better quality of life without the correct application of subjective (wisdom) technologies.

Subjective and objective, marry the two up and you’ve got the best view of reality. Eliminate the second view and you’ve got the pre-modern world, more or less. Eliminate the first and you’ve got, uh-oh, materialism.


Next: Philosophy continued; materialism and the Counter-Enlightenment, etc.

1 Coined by Charlie Magee in 1993 from his essay, “The Age of Imagination: Coming Soon to a Civilization Near You”.

2 The “1619 project” proposed that the United States was originally founded on slavery. The 17th century was a time when literally everybody bought and sold people. In fact, societies for the abolition of slavery were formed in the United States in 1784, before any such existed in England or elsewhere.

3 Anyone familiar with Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States can readily see that the hand-wringing of a “bottom-up” narrative is no better or useful in any way than the cold aloofness of a “top-down” one.

4 Theoretical anything, such as theoretical physics, are themselves vital specialisations as they help pose the questions that advanced civilisations are built by answering. (And truly good answers will often give birth to more questions).

5 Not that I’m particularly against these things, just how, when, and how often they’re used. All those that know me know that my argument has never been against drugs or screens (as in iPhones, TVs, etc.), but rather the deadly dangers of “self-medicating.” Get yourself properly, actually, cleaned up, and fully grown up then do all the screens and drugs you can handle, is what I say.

6 Hicks, Stephen R. C.. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Expanded Edition). 

7 On the dark side, exercising my inner Debbie Downer, just think of all the millions of amazing, wonderful, talented people societies have wasted just because they weren’t born into the right class or body. Wow. It just astounds one to think of it!

8 To my point, Rosie the Riveter won the war. It is arguable that both WWI and WWII were concluded not so much by better strategies and soldiering but by means of production. The U.S. simply out-produced its opponents by several orders of magnitude.

9 Back in 1500, at the beginning of the Age of Discovery, there were many, many such people all over the world, so the record of who they were, and in some cases still are, is rich indeed.

10 “Untimely” death, as in “How did that happen?!” death, like from disease, famine or being struck by lightning, not death because of danger, or old age; that was just life. It’s only very recently, in the past century or less, that all death has come to be viewed as undesirable and, even, unnatural. Seeing as death is not only vital to survival but also the only inevitable thing that ever happens in life (not birth, not anything, is inevitable), this is a foolish sentiment indeed. It is sad, of course, especially when it is personal.

11 Stoicism. This school has much to say on this subject.

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