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H . Finally: Progress Towards A Sapient Society

It stifles my creativity to force myself to write in sequence. I feel that inspiration should be indulged in, not channeled. I have personally found that it helps me block out a writing project if I write the beginning and the ending at the earliest stages. I can then see fairly easily what pieces are missing from the middle.
When the first draft of this book was still less than half finished, but when I was about two-thirds of the way through Book V, Section G, a flash of inspiration came to me in the form of the phrase "Sapient Society." After looking the word "sapient" up in my dictionary, I decided that this phrase was the penultimate compact expression of that which I felt mankind should strive for in the near term in order to reach the next stage of our development as a species. That led, of course, to the title of THIS Section.
In Book V, Section G, I stated that mankind was more-or-less at the point of an American teenager of age 18. Having completed the universal general education of high school, a choice must now be made as to the pursuit of laziness, work, vocational training, or more general education by entry into college. The only one of these objectives which would make any sense to us as a species would be to pursue more knowledge.
In Book V, Section E, I derived the concept that the only fundamental rule of conduct which both made sense and seemed to be adaptable to all peoples and all situations was the so-called "Golden Rule." I also, somewhat unexpectedly, came to the conclusion that the Golden Rule was basically equivalent to the moral or ethical rules of Utility. The measuring stick for Utility is a rule of increasing happiness, which may be expressed as: "when there is a moral or ethical choice to be made, the course of conduct which is of the highest morality is the course of conduct which provides the greatest happiness to the greatest number, or avoids the greatest harm to the greatest number."
This gives mankind two things to focus on over the next few centuries or millennia of our existence. And of course, whenever we are stuck in a position where we must answer to not one, but two masters, we need to balance the demands of each to ensure that we do not satisfy one to the displeasure of the other. This leads to our third rule of conduct: we must balance our search for knowledge and providing happiness to the many so that conduct helpful to one goal does not significantly impair attainment of the other.
With our rules of conduct selected, we need only reestablish our connection with the universal life-force which prompts the formation of Cultures for us to have virtually everything which mankind will need for at least several centuries. As Spengler noted, it is when intellect dissects the primitive religious beliefs which motivate the Culture, and finds nothing of substance therein, that the Cultural "soul" dies and congeals into a newly declining Civilization. Whether that sentiment is right or wrong, there is virtually no hope of again attaining a rural-agricultural base of humanity from whence to form the soul of a new Culture without relinquishing most of what we now know about the power of technology. Every one of Spengler's Cultures had formed out of a rural-agrarian people. Would not the population of the world need to experience a significant calamity for such a people to exist again in our world?
This all begs the question: "Is the mind-set of the city the antithesis of the soul?" In other words, is a non-rural, non-agrarian people incapable of connecting with the basic soul-force which leads to the formation of a Culture? I refuse to believe that for one moment. Instead, I believe what is required is a new type of Cultural soul which will, rather obviously, form a new type of Culture: a Culture of the educated city dweller.
The traditional concept of a Cultural soul is all bound up with a mystical relationship between mankind and the universe as a whole. The mythic legends which form (or represent) the Cultural soul cannot stand up to rational analysis performed by city dwellers because they are the myth-concepts of a primitive rural-agrarian people. Thus, in the final stage of each Culture known to date, the rational analysis of the city dwellers ends up destroying the myths upon which the Culture was founded, and in their absence, the Culture loses its contact with any sustaining life-force and hardens into Civilization, which is always the province of the city dweller.
The primitive peoples who have been associated with the formation of Cultures have always used fantastic myths of one sort or another to explain away the unexplainable occurrences which affected their lives. This is all bound up with questions which are of the utmost importance to survivors of any calamity, like: "Why did one person die and the other person live?" Sometimes, we know the immediate answer (i. e., that person was wantonly killed by a criminal for no apparent reason at all), but we find that answer to be unsatisfying, and we search for some deeper truth. The availability of a satisfying and acceptable myth answer (i. e., "God has willed it, for what reason, we do not know") prevents our wasting too much time on trying to deal with unanswerable questions. In a sense, then, an elaborate set of myths for dealing with unexplainable occurrences is an indication of a group of people concerned with "getting on with life" after a calamity.
The early myths, however, almost invariably cannot stand up to any sort of rational analysis because they are all inventions of primitive peoples who were "under the gun," so to speak. Those who study myths frequently find that one myth in one Culture was borrowed from that Culture and adapted to another, with modifications appropriate to the soul of the recipient Culture. Nothing in this process bears any relationship at all to scientific inquiry. So, this provides yet another reason why the Late-Culture rationality destroys the soul of the primitive myths which keep the Culture alive.
So, the question becomes: "Must it always happen just this way?" Of course, I do not believe it must. I do believe there is an alternative out there somewhere, if we would just seek it.
Spengler studied the whole life-cycle of the Culture in excruciating detail. The essential element which destroys the Cultural soul is the inability of the myths to stand up to logic and Truth. So, once again, the question transmutes itself, this time to: "can we have a Cultural soul based upon myths which cannot be destroyed by logic and Truth?" Once again, I assert that this must be possible.
If there is one art form which our Civilization has developed which finds itself still flourishing long after the death of our Cultural soul, it is the art of story-telling. In a way, I believe this is a function of universal education (instituted to support the Industrial Revolution) and advances in technology (both for the writers and for those who would package49 and market the written word).
Basic Truth is served if we simply commit ourselves to responding to any and all unanswerable questions with the only possible truth: "I don't know;" or: "we may not know for longer than you might care to wait for an answer;" or perhaps even: "that is one of the great unanswerable questions with which mankind has grappled down through the ages." It surely seems to me that, with all of the story-telling ability we have at our disposal, we ought to be able to come up with some sort of satisfying way to convey the Truth to those who must ask unanswerable questions. We simply have not tried.
Furthermore, an acknowledgment that "I don't know" is the proper response to any unanswerable questions should lead us to the conclusion that only an agnostic50 religion would be "in form" for a Culture based upon this principle.
Ultimately, the path to a mature Culture, fired by an equivalently mature Cultural soul, lies in recognizing the primacy of Truth in our dealings with each other. So many of the problems which we see today in our society will trace back to the fact that far too many of the people who make up our cities are convinced, either openly or inside of themselves, that the available religions are essentially frauds, which have been proselytized into existence at some point in the past for some sinister or selfish reason(s).
If the death penalty cannot convince people not to commit murder, then the concept of Hell will not convince people not to sin. Religion has traditionally been used as a vehicle to assist the rulers in controlling the masses. With uneducated masses, it is a virtual necessity. But a large portion of the most educated (including myself) have rejected all of the "traditional" religions because they see the hypocrisy with which they operate; or perhaps they see the hand of the ruler manipulating the priest on the pulpit.
What is necessary is not religion, but morality. The two are not at all necessary to each other; in other words, there do not need to be religious sanctions for us to have a moral code. The proof of this is clear in the history of the last ten millennia. Atheists are not necessarily more nor less law abiding than allegedly devout believers.
Sketching the broad outlines for a future Culture is about as far as I feel that I should go in a single book. This must be the creation of a process which will last for generations. It is now up to the population at large to respond, or not respond, with their feelings about the position of this book in the overall marketplace of ideas. If you are intrigued with this book, and would like to see more, then please write to my publisher and ask for the next book in the series. I promise that, if the demand is there, another book will be forthcoming. That next book will be a book of Philosophy, distilling great wisdom gleaned from numerous wise men and women who have lived in various Cultures down through the history of mankind.
Any statement of Philosophy is a product of pure mental power, which is the one thing that distinguishes mankind from the animals. As the ancients defined it, Philosophy encompasses the whole breadth and depth of human understanding. All of science is just individual branches of Philosophy. And the essence of Philosophy is a recognition of the supremacy of Truth, which we found earlier to be essential to any search for knowledge, and the use of our powers of Logic to sift through facts to discern where the Truth lies. The only area of inquiry not open to Philosophy is Religion, because religious thinking is based upon Faith, as opposed to Truth. In other words, religious thinkers begin with certain facts based upon their unsupported Faith in their truth, while philosophers always begin with those facts which can be discerned from scientific observation.
Modern education rarely deals with Philosophy because this system of education was created for the specific purpose of producing great quantities of workers to staff our factories, and Philosophy will do more harm than good to factory workers.51 Also, since Philosophy is the "Great Enemy" of Religion,52 and since neither the secular nor the spiritual leaders have any real desire to destroy religion, there is virtually no support for the teaching of Philosophy outside of the academic establishment. So, in the end, our schools establish their curriculum with an eye on producing the required numbers of workers with certain specific skills, and avoiding the teaching of the very foundations of our entire system of knowledge, because to teach any true Philosophy would anger our religious authorities, and that kind of anger is never in the interests of any secular government.53 This results in our children knowing a lot about certain specific parts of the "tree of human knowledge," but having total ignorance about how those parts connect to one another and comprise the whole of human understanding. It is no wonder to me that our children exit this process with a feeling of being cast adrift in a sea without either an anchor or a sail, and perhaps even without a boat.54 If any of them do find Philosophy at some point, like I did, it is usually later in life, when it can do far less damage to our system of turning out good little worker bees. And in any case, it is only the rare and intelligent individual who can even discern what his or her education has failed to provide so that it might be sought for the purposes of intellectual fulfillment. And lastly, we find that the failure to teach Philosophy has also denied us any great modern philosophers.
Is there any universal Truth upon which we can construct a Philosophy? Of course there is. That has been the subject of this book, and the resulting Philosophy will be the subject of the next book. But for those who seek a summary of the Truth, the remainder of this Section will set forth the basic elements of Truth which each person should know and adhere to as we strive to build a new Culture for mankind.

As a basic human value, we must never forget that Truth should reign supreme in any system of thought. Isn't it the height of human folly to cast away the Truth in order to pursue some untruth? Many dramatic pieces are predicated upon just this sort of folly by some protagonist, and in drama, we jeer at such foolishness. Why should we tolerate it in ourselves?
The answer lies in the fact that our leaders seek to control us with Faith, and just as Philosophy and Religion are "Great Enemies" of each other, so too are Logic and Faith. Logic is the foundation of Philosophy; the latter could not exist without the former. So too is Faith the foundation of Religion; again, the latter could not exist without the former.
There is a certain insidious quality to Faith because so much of science is based upon our taking on faith the scientific Truth derived by our predecessors. But here is the one key distinction: there is always room in science to challenge any Truth, no matter how basic, so long as the challenge is supported with an appropriate scientific inquiry and sufficient Logic. Thus, Einstein's Theory of Relativity creates an exception to Newton's Laws, or at least a different way of viewing how those laws really operate.
Religious Faith, on the other hand, is not open to question. Any fact established by religious Faith is an Axiom, which must be taken as Truth or else the particular religion in question must be abandoned. Thus, you either believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or you do not; in the former case, you are a Christian, and in the latter case, you are not. The fact of who was the actual father of Jesus is simply not open to question by any sort of scientific inquiry or by any processes of Logic. Thus, those who take on Faith that mankind was "created" by God simply will not accept that God may well have performed that feat through a process which science now calls "evolution." This is the essence of the still ongoing debate between creationists and evolutionists within our schools.
Is it no wonder, then, that we do not teach Philosophy in our schools? To do so would be to arm our children with the basic understanding of this essential question and how to answer it: "Which is supreme in our lives, Truth or Faith?" The moment that you admit that Truth reigns supreme, you cast Faith into the dustbin, because there is nothing supporting Faith except the discipline instilled in our young by their parents.

49 By the use of the term "package" here, I mean to imply something more than merely turning some writing into a book. It also might include filming a movie (from a written script) or producing a play (also from a written script). All of these are methods by which we "package" the written word.

50 The word "agnostic" was coined by Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895), who used it to distinguish himself from those of a Gnostic persuasion, who claimed to know "everything."

51 By this statement, I mean to imply that an understanding of Philosophy would tend to produce individuals who are naturally independent, and thus not good followers. Religious beliefs are used to oppress the uneducated masses and to force them to follow their leaders. An in-depth study of Philosophy will almost always result in the individual renouncing the common religion because the hand of the ruler (secular or religious) manipulating the priest in the pulpit becomes all too obvious.

52 The idea that Religion is the "Great Enemy" of Philosophy comes from at least Will Durant, who wrote that phrase on page 21 of "The Mansions of Philosophy" (1929).

53 If you challenge me on this point, just consider the long running battle over the teaching of the concept of evolution in Biology classes. Many school districts are requiring that at least some lip service be paid to teaching creationism as an alternative theory to evolution.

54 I often wonder how much of mental illness is a result of our failure to anchor the intellects of our young people before we start filling their minds with vast arrays of technical knowledge.

Copyright 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

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