“I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river/ Is a strong brown god –”
T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages
New Years Eve 2013
Do you believe in God, simply and instinctively? Or are you a materialist, by nature scientific? So, where others commune with a vibrant overflowing, you sense only tense emptiness. Can you at least tell love when you feel it?
Of course, both camps are aware no possible rational proof of God exists. However, if not of God per se, at least His love for Man does seem to be clearly and irrefutably demonstrated by one of your sciences, the science of Man: Anthropology.
Spare us a sonorous roll-call of Nineveh and Tyre and all the other great fallen civilizations of antiquity. Simply allow Anthropology 101 to state its standard observation: these epics of human progress grew up under strange gods and lasted as long as the population held with those gods, and finally the great cities, the glittering empires, collapsed and dispersed when their old gods died.
Now the conventional materialist riposte is that all gods are either superstition — crude fabrications of frightened peoples swept together by the darkness of poverty, ignorance and death — or else their gods are the pseudo-religious mask for a totalitarian system of political and economic control such as William S. Burroughs conceived the Mayan Calender to be.
The trouble is, far from dismissing religion, these weary sneers simply falsify human nature and all normal group behavior. Be we close students of history or merely adult observers of the passing scene, we clearly see how over and over again even the subtlest of lies deflate, how gangs do not prosper for long because, inevitably, thieves fall out, that fads peak and pass away, and even the most determined and carefully-laid cults rarely survive their second generation.
The challenge to materialists is, if ancient religions were reducible to one of these four categories, why then did the gods of these mighty civilizations not fail within the usual short period of time? Instead, the tribes who most prospered were inevitably in liege to a present divinity, however multi-headed. These divinities were not trivial or made-up. Even in our own recent centuries, from Shakers, to Beatlemania, to the Soviet Union, neither ethical cults, giddy fads nor ruthless political control systems endured. Thus, the elder gods were none of these.
If such splendid civilizations rose up by godly inspiration, if this is indeed “historical realism,” then why did they ever fall?
Anthropology 101 teaches, above all, we are weak. When the sky cracks and actual divinity inspires men to come together, humanity in general advances, but, being mortal and fallible and unable to sustain any sacred revelation, however glorious and vital, sooner or later we lose our faith, all of us together, and our instinct for success decays, and then our works and days turn to ashes in our hands.
No, I did not say science proves there is a God. Just the opposite! The entire human project — our world history — is grounded in the absolute necessity for God to be unknowable. Because, if the tiniest crumb of proof did appear, temples to it would blacken the sky while, in their shadows, a stagnant human race must perish of an impossible historical completion of consciousness.
It would be best to know God, directly. Satori, and such. Second-best — but at least better than materialism — is fully appreciating how much our science infers God’s effective existence by the simple test of comparing birth- and death-dates of various ancient civilizations.
So, let me ask you again. Are you rational? Does logic compel you, or not? Can you at least tell love when you feel it? Because, you and I speak a strictly scientific truth when we say together… He, whose very first proof of love is by hiding from us, is as evident in human history as wind writing on the water.
Happy New Year!