Volatility

October 9, 2017

Christopher Columbus

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(This post uses Columbus as an example of broad themes. Many other widely revered persons can be substituted for some or all of these themes, and we’ll be getting around to discussions of some of them.)
 
On the holiday which honors this explorer there will be a huge bout of unexamined celebration as well as familiar denunciation of his role in imperial aggression. (Certainly his role here was significant and enthusiastic.) In this message I’m going to give a few words about a different aspect of the Columbus image of modern times. This image depicts Christopher Columbus as a hero of scientific exploration whose intrepid journey is a pole star for all scientific endeavor, with the most literal parallel being the Holy Grail of the technologically empowered Ubermenschen departing from Earth, the despised “rock”, once and for all.
 
 
 
 
This Columbus image plays a role in the modern false separation of religion and science (a pivotal example of the more general belief that an organic whole can be split artificially into parts which are more important than the whole they comprise in the real world; this itself is a religious tenet promulgated by the scientism religion; the question of which parts are “most” important is then answered tendentiously; but in reality the organic whole is always most important); the myth/lie that historically there’s been a “war” of religion vs. science; and the fact that this false separation and systematic lying are performed in order to exalt a new religion, scientism*, above all other religions, and to seek the eradication of all other religions. This campaign has been in the name of “science”, but in reality science has been one of the most trampled casualties of this campaign. All integrity in scientific thought and practice has been purged, and whatever existed of Popperian scientific method has been veritably sacrificed on the altars of the scientistic religion and the corporate control of all scientific and engineering practice.
 
[*Scientism is the religious worship of the idea of science in principle, and of the idea of technology in practice. Actual technological performance, facts such as that GMOs increase pesticide use and yield less and have never been tested for safety because they’re believed by their own creators to be unsafe, or that computers cannot think, or that space colonization is physically impossible because the necessary resources are not available, is not considered important. The only thing important is the idea of what these technologies can accomplish, an idea exalted in the religious imagination. As for science, almost everyone today who exalts the word “science” is ignorant and contemptuous of the actual state of current science as well as how science actually works.]
 
A good introduction to the real Columbus is found in David Noble’s indispensable theological history, The Religion of Technology. The book traces the history of the cult within Christianity which has exalted technology and technological endeavor as such (with the cult always lumping in science as the waterboy of engineering) as holy and as imitations of God. The book goes on the describe how in modern times cultists of this mistake within Christianity have sought to establish it as a completely new and separate religion, mostly in a veiled “secular” form, though the overlap with overt Christian rhetoric remains strong.
 
Noble places Columbus within this history. First and most importantly, the book documents the extreme Christian devotion Columbus brought to his career and how devoutly he conceived all his goals and discoveries. (Page numbers refer to the second edition.)
 
In the first entry of his journal of the 1492 expedition Columbus hailed Ferdinand and Isabella: “Your highnesses…who love and promote the Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me…to India [to learn] the proper method of converting them to our holy faith.” (p. 31)
 
By the standards of the times Columbus was extreme in his devotion. According to his son Columbus was so devout and ascetic in his daily life as to “have been taken for a member of a religious order”, and indeed many of his closest friends, with whom he closely associated in their monasteries when he was home in Spain, were Franciscan monks. “After his second voyage, he walked the streets of Seville and Cadiz dressed in the sackcloth of a penitent and appeared indistinguishable from his Franciscan friends. On his deathbed he took the habit of a Franciscan tertiary and was buried in a Carthusian monastery.” (32)
 
Following from his spiritual guide Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly, a prolific writer on scientific discovery and the religious meaning thereof, Columbus believed himself a “divinely inspired fulfiller of prophecy.” As Noble puts it, Columbus saw himself as “chosen to carry the Christ child across the waters.” The expeditions were, in Columbus’s words, “the enterprise of Jerusalem.” He called for a new crusade to the Holy Land to accompany what he saw as his crusade. He assured the monarchs, “Who would doubt this light, which comforted me with its rays of marvelous clarity..and urged me onward.” He believed he was fulfilling a recent prophecy, “he who will restore the ark of Zion will come from Spain.” (32-3)
 
Columbus worked on his own Book of Prophecies wherein he expounded his own inner visions, depicting them as continuing and confirming the visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. For him the New World was the fulfillment on Earth of the promise of Revelation 21.
 
Columbus’s most profound error and crime was that in his benightment he believed he was bringing new preparation for this holy vision to a degraded land and people when the truth was the opposite: The New World as Columbus found it was already better prepared than the world he knew. The voyagers should have learned from the higher civilization rather than pontificated and attacked to drag it down to the lower. (Not that the indigenous societies of the Western hemisphere were holy. The were very imperfect. But they were more advanced than Europe.) Thus, instead of helping to uplift as Columbus believed he was doing, he was continuing to perpetrate the fall. This has been the usual performance of the religion of technology.
 
Today we new travelers in the West, amid Babylon, verily do contemplate terra nullius, empty space, no-man’s-land. All around us we see a land debased to the extreme rock bottom and ground zero by the depredation and poisoning of Mammon and its corporations. We who exhort our neighbors to reclaim the land in trust and stewardship to prepare it for the necessary future do bring a version of the word of the New Jerusalem to an exhausted and darkened land and show the way to work and fight to prepare for this consummation. This is the true enterprise of Jerusalem.
 
To say again, this does not apply to Babylon’s continued imperial aggression across the global South, which only continues the exact same delusion and crime under which Columbus labored, trying to bring spirit and civilization to people who know far more of these than the barbarian Sodom and Babylon could ever dream.
 
Noble also describes how Columbus exalted his technical knowledge and achievements as sacred manifestations of his relationship with God.
 

“This sailor’s art predisposes one who follows it towards the desire to know the secrets of the world,” Columbus explained, which led him in his life to seek and gain an understanding of prophecy and his appointed role in it. “Reason, mathematics, and mappaemundi were of no use to me in the execution of the enterprise of the Indies,” he insisted, without such divine inspiration and guidance. His achievement was, in reality, “a very evident miracle.” (p. 31)

 
This, along with the broad “exploration” theme as such, is the mindset which the scientism cultists wrench from its overtly Christian context and fraudulently try to claim for their faith. But Columbus would have rejected with extreme vehemence any suggestion that science and technology can be separated from God, and would have regarded as blasphemous the notion that these can have “their own” will, set their own goals, and finally that these should be placed in the service of newly conjured demons called “corporate persons”.
 
Thus we see how Columbus Day is in truth a religious holiday celebrating a religious crusade. In the same way, today’s dominant religions of Mammon and scientism seek to hijack the name Columbus for their own purposes. Of course the holiday is seen mostly in secular terms, which serves the purpose of the latter religious hijacking.
 
 
Technology isn’t good or bad in itself**. It is a tool, not a sacrament. Thus the religion of technology is intrinsically misguided. The early Christian church, like all primal societies as well as most civilizations, had a better idea. To the primal church technology, like the use of our minds and hands as such, is a blessing from God. But these tools and tool-making are not inherently holy, any more than secular philosophy. Nor is science holy.
 
But today they who take up the name of Columbus as an evangelist, not of the Christian word supplemented by the religion of technology, which was the way he saw himself, but as an emblem of secular scientism, and are trying to flip him as exemplar from one religion to a different and opposed religion. They also are continuing the same colonial onslaught in which Columbus himself was implicated. This includes many who are loudest in denouncing the imperial racist Columbus. This is only the most vile hypocrisy coming from those who support Bill Gates today.
 
Thus: It is false to see Columbus as a modernist, for good or bad. It is false to see him as a pioneer of “science” as that term is used by the scientism cult. It is false to believe it’s possible to be any kind of passionate pioneer, especially a proselytizing one, other than as driven by religious compulsion.
 
It is true to understand Columbus as a spiritual explorer of both religion and technology. It is correct to understand that he saw these as inextricably combined, though he seems to have had mistaken notions about the inherent sanctity of technology itself. It is true that he regarded science and engineering as consecrated to Christianity, and in particular to the proselytizing mission, which he saw as an essential part of the imminent end times.
 
Thus Columbus was a pioneer in the material world who carried a timeless sense of spiritual unity within him, however much some of his concepts were wrong-headed. So if one truly wanted to make him an exemplar, this is his example.
 
 
We too are such travelers, and our spirit, in the broad sense, is the same: We seek the holism, the unity, and are driven by spirit and toward spiritual goals, helped by all the tools of intellect and science. (We can add, money, temporal power, etc. insofar as these are used only as tools.) Pathology and evil come when people mistake the tools for the spirit itself, when they believe it’s the tool itself which drives us, and worst of all when they turn the tool into the spiritual end in itself. But the only worthy, righteous, and possible goal is the ecological sustenance of God, Humanity, Earth.
 
So that aspect of Columbus deserves respect, but not his confusion of a temporal empire with God’s will, church, and end. This confusion was the source of the worst of his colonial aggression, and this colonial aggression must be denounced in him and in everyone who shares this confusion.
 
But we must also reject and denounce the Columbus image of those who, out of malignity or stupidity, claim to be able to separate religion and science. Their real goal is to make scientism the one true faith and to eradicate all others, de jure religions as well as all secular values. In other words, their agenda overlaps with that of corporate totalitarianism.
 
Thus the deniers of religion are themselves among the most fanatical of religious fundamentalists, since they’re not even atheists (though they lie about this) but substitute one religion for another and then seek to exalt it to the exclusion of all others, using every weapon and mode of aggression of which they’re capable.
 
 
 
 
**This doesn’t mean technology is “neutral” relative to its political and economic context, the way the lies of modern bourgeois ideology would have it. On the contrary, science and technology are chosen predominantly by a particular power system in line with the power goals of that system. A capitalist system chooses pro-capitalist science and technology, a truly socialist system would choose different technologies and be more honest about science.
 
The fact that most of today’s self-alleged “radicals”, including those who still call themselves “Marxists”, parrot the quintessential bourgeois line that science or technology can be neutral (it is, of course, Historical Materialism 101 that these never can be neutral), is itself an excellent gauge of the fact that almost all self-defined “political” groups are just so many hobby clubs within bourgeois ideology and conformity to bourgeois ways of life. In other words, they’re all Mammonists.
 
And this in turn was one of the main factors forcing me to the conclusion that Politics is Dead: There simply is no way forward for humanity within the framework of “politics” as we’ve known it in modern times.
 
 
 
 
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5 Comments

  1. “Buddhism is on the side of science, reason, and the scientific method. We believe in reason and evidence. This is an aspect of Buddhism itself. Even should our own teachings be proven false, we must accept reality. An attack on the core aspects of science is literally an attack on Buddhism itself. It’s an attack on reason. An attack on evidence. An attack on the very process of seeking honest truths about the nature of life and of ourselves.”

    “In Buddhism, all life is precious. It is a religion that encourages the practitioner to spend as much time as possible in the act of intentionally focusing on the development of compassion. For most of us, that compassion almost uncontrollably extends out into the world of non-human animals. In Buddhism humans are considered part of nature, another animal in the animal kingdom. Other animals are no less worthy of empathy and concern than human beings. As an example, while not all Buddhists are vegetarians, a large, disproportionate number of us are. We care, and are strongly encouraged to care, about every living being. Even the well-being of bugs doesn’t escape our notice.”

    “Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism – (based on the Lotus Sutra) represents the identity of what some now refer to as the ‘unified field of all consciousnesses’ (this is called the unified field theory in physics). In other words, it’s the essence behind all existence and non-existence, the ultimate creative force behind planets, stars, nebulae, people, animals, trees, fish, birds and all phenomena, manifest or latent. All matter and intelligence is simply waves or ripples manifesting to and from this core source. Consciousness (enlightenment) is itself the true creator of everything that is, ever was and ever will be, right down to the minutest particles of dust, each being an individual ripple or wave.”

    http://nichirenbuddhist.org/Science/index.html

    see also :

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_science

    Comment by Anonymous — October 9, 2017 @ 4:54 pm

    • Sounds like it aspires to a reclamation of science as knowledge-seeking, for the benefit of all life. Thus the radical opposite of today’s corporate science paradigm, “science” as the development of power-seeking technologies, in order to subjugate all life.

      Comment by Russ — October 10, 2017 @ 1:21 pm

  2. When we talk about Columbus, or anything else from the pre industrial past, we are only talking about the very beginnings, the very origins of our system today. It is useful but it doesn’t address the issue plaguing the modern world, which is the debt based banking/corporate model.

    In this model, the system must in fact commodify the entire planet, and produce everything to the point of exhaustion. Thereby condemning every single human generation to follow, something that the pre industrial explorers would never have imagined, seeing how they actually believed in the creation of a new utopia.

    Our world today is the opposite, it is full and dystopian. We are all living in the end times. It is doubtful humans 100 years from now, if they even exist, will have the tools, knowledge, or ability to even write our history.

    Comment by dolph — October 10, 2017 @ 12:56 pm

    • That outcome is possible, and often seems likely. But I’ll do my best to help bring agroecological science and practical knowledge through the flames, and I hope others will do the same for other tools and knowledge which can survive the end of the extreme energy era and serve as building blocks for a more ecological and human culture.

      Comment by Russ — October 10, 2017 @ 1:24 pm

  3. The Lotus Sutra was written more than 750 years ago too. The recent writings I quoted above are only paraphrasing..

    I was also going to say it’s corporate ‘science’ that’s the problem, and go further and say when Anglo-Saxons started burning coal during the enclosure campaign, that point in time, was the beginning of the end (fossil fuel era which is now causing the 6’th mass extinction)

    That Native Americans lived for thousands of generations in balance with Nature, and regarded petroleum (coal/oil/gas) as evil and to be left in the ground.

    “Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”

    – Cree Indian Prophecy

    Comment by Anonymous — October 10, 2017 @ 2:37 pm


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