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Climate, religion, and scale
I am thinking that we need radically more griping and engaging thought. The managers can’t mange the globe without a believeable global perspectuve. Searching around, especially since The Dawn of Everything,, Toynbees The Study of History (civilizations) has absorbed hours of reading and rereading. In the following passage he is discussing the way religions absorbed in the minds and hearts of the people comprising a civilian shift pressed by historicall forces of genertion and decline of their civilization. The issue is how do peple becomc organized together in their thnking?
Tonbee writes: (an example of his more complex argument.)
In our study of the relations between the military guardians of the frontier of a disintegrating civilization and the barbarian warlords beyond it, we have seen how, in the first chapter, the two parties approximate towards one another to a point of virtual indis-tinguishability; and how, in the second chapter, they meet and mingle on a dead level of barbarism. In the parallel story of the rapprochement between the philosophers of the dominant minority and the devotees of a proletarian religion, the approximation, on a lofty plane, between Seneca and Saint Paul marks the conclusion of thefirst chapter. In the second chapter, philosophy, succumbing to less edifying religious influences, descends from devoutness into superstition.
Such is the miserable end of the philosophies of the dominant minority, and this even when they have striven with all their might to win their way on to that kindlier proletarian spiritual soil that is the seed-bed of the higher religions. It profits these philosophies nothing that they, too, have at last broken into flower, when this tardy and reluctant flowering revenges itself upon them by degenerating into an unwholesome luxuriance. In the last act of the dissolution of a civilization the philosophies die while the higher religions live on and stake out their claims upon the future.
Christianity survived, crowding out the Neoplatonic philosophy, which found no elixir of life in its discarding of rationality. In fact, when philosophies and religions meet, the religions must increase while the philosophies must decrease; and we cannot turn away from our study of the encounter between them without pausing to look into the question why it is that this defeat of the philosophies is a foregone conclusion.
What, then, are the weaknesses that doom philosophy to discomfiture when it enters theLists as the rival of religion? the fatal and fundamental weaknesses, from which all the rest, is a lack of spiritual vitality. This lack of elan lambs philosophy in two ways. It diminishes is attractiveness for the masses and discourages those who feel is attractions from throwing themselves into missionary work on his behalf. Indeed, philosophy affects a preference for an intellectual elite, they “set the view“, like the highbrow poet, who regards the smallness of his circulation as evidence of the excellence of his verse.
… it is a far cry, from the show, the parable of Jesus: “go ye out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
Thus philosophy could never emulate the strength of religion at its best; it could only imitate, and parody, the weaknesses of its inferior devotees. The breath of religion which had momentarily animated the clear-cut marble of the Hellenic intellect in the generation of Seneca and Epictetus rapidly staled, after the generation of Marcus Aurelius, into a stuffy religiosity, and the heirs of the philosophic tradition fell between two stools. They discarded the appeal to the intellect without finding a way to the heart. In ceasing to be sages they became, not saints but cranks. The Emperor Julian turned from Socrates to Diogenes for his model of philosophy—the legendary Diogenes from whom, rather than from Christ, the ‘Christian’ asceticism of St. Simeon Stylites and his fellow-ascetics is derived. Indeed, in this tragi-comic last act, the epigoni of Plato and Zeno confessed the inadequacy of their own great masters and ensamples by abandoning themselves to an imitation of the internal proletariat which was in very truth the sincerest flattery of the profanum vulgus that Horace had excluded from his audience. The last Neoplatonists, Iamblichus and Proclus, are not so much philosophers as priests of an imaginary and non-existent religion. Julian, with his zeal for priestcraft and ritual, was the would-be executor of their schemes, and the immediate collapse, on the news of his death, of his state-supported ecclesiastical establishment proves the truth of the judgement of the founder of a school of modern psychology:
‘Great innovations never come from above; they invariably come from below . . . [from] the much-derided silent folk of the land— those who are less infected with academic prejudices than great celebrities are wont to be.’
End of the above excerpt
I have found Toynbee very helpful with the question: What will move people as things get more broadly terrible? The physicists ask the question why is it like this, but they do not explore the question very far.t\ The proletariat will continue asking.
I am just feeling my way through this but I m convinced that only larger questions in a mythic, not scientific rationalism, are capable of moving populations and the actions necessary to engage with what is emerging as a bitter battle with climate. If we read together Joseph Tainter’s Collapse of Com[lex Societies with Toynbees’s Study of History of the psychological and political collapses of many of them, we will actually be able to engage and not leave the scene (truants) nor wax promiscuous (align with one hope after another.) These are Toynbee’s categories that describe many in this time.