Some Poor Student’s Notes
I made this poor synopsis of my layman-laborer-cum-freelance-scholar’s take on these three subjects, and their relation to our contemporary America. It is to be a distillation of what I have found in my on-line (and bookish) studies, as I have looked for a “moral-compass” for my own life, and that of my country (America). Print it out, if you like, or post it on the web. This may turn-out more like a freshman’s “cheat-sheet”, than any else. I may take the time to go-back later, and rectify the typos and grammatical mistakes, but I probably won’t. 😉
Life evolved on earth, after the “big bang”, and man and apes co-evolved from a common ape-like ancestor, as yet un-discovered in the fossil record (“missing link”?)
Homo-Sapiens (us) develops more efficient brains (somewhat) than the other hominids. He then gradually takes-over from them, by a kind of combination of out-competing them for sometimes scarce food and other resources, and primitive war.
Homo-Sapiens becomes, quite literally, the “last man standing”. This happens sometime after the last of the several “ice-ages”, which we had some 30,000 years ago.
Man was a stone-age hunter-gatherer, and war as we know it was perhaps infrequent, because people lived in small bands, and the expanse of land was vast compared to their numbers.
Tribal society developed, based initially on clan-relationships. One can glimpse remnants of this in Highlander, where Duncan MacLeod is often referred-to as “Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod”. Or in Romeo and Juliet.
People lived like this for a very long time, a lot longer than we have had “civilization”.
People were often lean and hungry, yet free in a way that later people would not be. And their limited food supply of hunter-gathering checked their population growth, though it may yet have continued to slowly creep-upward.
Then people began to return with some regularity to the especially fertile mountain valleys where the wild wheat and barley grew more plentifully. This was the beginning of private property. The “crop” was probably cut-down with the primitive stone sickles of the type found in stone-age grave-sites, implements sometimes buried with prominent individuals of a society (tribe), in order to magically propitiate their journey to the happy-hunting-grounds, which sometimes appear to have been a primitive conception of the “afterlife”, as anthropology has deduced from the archaeological record. Bread had probably not been invented yet—or the women of the tribe were just experimenting with it, in order to quiet the hungry cries of their swaddling infants. Even to-day, we observe that mothers will sometimes give an infant a small piece of soft, white bread to chew-on, as a way to quiet the cries of hunger, when the bottle of formula has not yet reached its proper temperature, or the breasts have not yet produced sufficient milk, or the child has merely reached the stage of teething.
This would have most often probably been a mashed grain-paste, perhaps chewed in the mother’s mouth first, or ground between two stones, with some of the mother’s spittle as a binding-agent. In whatever case, it was gradually not iced that it often quieted infants, and did not end-up poisoning them.
These handfuls of wild wheat may not have always been allowed to the women as a chivalrous consideration: they may have been the men’s left-overs, because, as we have said, bread was not yet invented; the men were having the tribe return more regularly to the mountain valleys where the wild wheat grew particularly rich for another reason.
This was probably because they first learned to ferment the wild grain with rain water, to make soma, or some equivalent intoxicating primitive “beer”, which of course caused drunkenness, if only temporarily.
This “beer” was used by the tribal shaman, or “medicine-man”, and the braves being initiated into warrior-manhood. They used it in ritual “magic” ceremonies, which became more elaborate over time. This is man’s way: everything he does he makes more elaborate with the passage of time.
The medicine-man had magical visions in these drunkennesses, and believed he had received special knowledge from the spirit-world, where the souls of departed relatives, war-heroes, and animals dwelt.
As return to these same particularly rich mountain valleys became ensconced in tribal tradition as the centuries passed, the men and women began to learn (by accident and trial-and-error) to domesticate the wild wheat, and make it more productive. Then the medicine-man and the chiefs began to learn that if they castrated the bull-calves of the wild oxen, they became more docile as adult animals, but were still stronger than a man, and could be made to well draw a plow—just like the men who now drew them—for in the very beginning of semi-organized agriculture, there probably were no farm animals, and the first plow-horses were men and women. They may have taken turns, or began to kidnap people from neighboring tribes, as Eurasia and the other continents grew more populous.
This may be how slavery started, because there was a “need”, hence a “necessary evil” may have developed. It is also true that linguistic scholars have been able to deduce, with a kind of “over-arching” relative certainty, that nearly all primitive clan-based tribes chose names like “the people”, or “the men”. The Cheyanne Indians of America, as newly discovered by the Europeans of the sixteenth century, had their tribal name roughly translated from their native language as “the (tribe of the) Human-Beings”. This sort of parochialism may have started innocently enough, as a manifestation of the dearth of words in the tribal language of primitive man—how few words he had for things.
But human language, as we know, can condition reality. Just look at what the feminist movement has made of “political-correctness”.
And so the members of particular tribes may have taken too much cue from their own language, and begun to see the members of other tribes as “sub-human”, “non-human”, or “not-men”.
And if you see the “other” as somehow less than like yourself, it’s easier to exploit him, isn’t it?
The castration techniques employed to begin the domestication of livestock (and eventually perhaps to be involved some way in breeding the war-horse, as well as the plow-horse) were probably originally discovered accidentally, from the kind of pain-rituals that the young men of the tribe had to undergo to be initiated into manhood. This is where male circumcision probably has its origins. The reason is simple: the two major places the human animal (or most any large land animal) most guards and fears to be hurt are 1) the head, and 2) the genitals. And a warrior-brave that has been “brave” enough to survive serious head injuries inflicted by the slightly older and already initiated generation of the tribe’s men, such a one will probably have residual brain-damage, and be less good to the community in the hunting-season.
And there was no “clean-shift” from hunter-gathering to agriculture. Tribes only gradually adopted the growing of crops and cattle, goats, and sheep as a sole means of food production. Human societies practiced both for a long time.
BUT EVENTUALLY THE INCREASING PERFECTION OF AGRICULTURE LED TO LARGER TRIBES OF EXTENDED CLANS, FIGHTING-OVER THE RICHEST VALLEY LAND, (what we call “bottom-land”), AND BUILDING SETTLEMENTS NEARBY TO HOLD-ONTO IT.
This did not happen over-night.
But it did constitute a general trend. And settlements grew into towns, and towns into cities. And cities began to have defensive walls to surround them—like huge forts—because until the gun-powder-using cannon was enough perfected in the fifteenth century, there was no modern, manouvre-based warfare. Napoleon’s musketeers and fusileers did not yet exist, and the way you fought war was to besiege a city, cutting-off its food supply by surrounding it, and trying to find ingenious ways to circumvent its defensive walls—a’ la’ tunneling, the Trojan horse, spies, catapults, and siege “engines”—primitive but increasingly sophisticated mobile sheds (sometimes on wheels), with a big log for a battering-ram inside them, swinging from their heavy wooden frames by ropes. Think Homer’s Illiad, or the fall of Jericho depicted in the Bible.
NOW THAT MAN HAD FOUND TO CREATE CITY-LIFE, he was better-fed by his agriculture. Elites even began to have leisure-time, to compose poetry that could now no longer just have to serve the interests of the tribal chiefs, and tribal “patriotism”. The word “patriotism” itself may have a primordial-root, in that it may be related to the word patriarchy; and this, of course, is related to the word pater, which means father, as in “Pater Familius”: quite literally, “father of the family”. Which may tell us something about the seeming increasing male-dominated nature of human societies, particularly after the switch to agriculture. BUT LET US BE UTMOST-CAREFUL, WHERE IT COMES TO PLAYING WITH WORDS.
Societal elites began to have the time to cultivate other interests as well. Gazing at the stars of night, and the nights then were so much more dark, even amid a large neo-lithic metropolis, like Mohenjo Daro in the Indus river valley, or the biblical city of Ur, out of which the “patriarch” Joseph is said to have led the ancient Hebrews to go and pursue better-hoped fortunes in nearby Egypt, where eventually the Egyptians—growing tired of a “stranger people”, and casting a greedy eye—decided to decree them no longer guest-workers in their desert-bounded country, but rather slaves. And then it took them probably 300 years—until the time of Moses’ leadership—to engineer an escape. With the help of one of their most prominent gods—Jehovah—who was then the chief deity among the Hebrew gods, and who, like the god Mars (the “Martial”—as in “martial-arts”) of the Greeks and Romans, was said to safe-guard the Hebrew warriors in battle.
THE MOVE TO BIG- CITIES HAS MADE PEOPLE BETTER-FED, BUT CROPS SOMETIMES FAIL ANYWAY, AND NOW IT IS TOO DIFFICULT TO JUST GO OUT AND FIND A WHOLE HERD OF BUFFALOES OR REIGN-DEERS TO SLAUGHTER EN-MASSE, BY, SAY, STAMPEDING THEM OFF OF A CLIFF—WHICH IS HOW THE DAKOTA SIOUX USED TO GET ENOUGH FOOD TO MAKE IT THROUGH A HARD WINTER, AND EURASIA IS A PRETTY-FLAT PLACE, WITH FEW SUITABLE CLIFFS, AND EURASIAN PEOPLE NEVER SEEMED TO HAVE LEARNT THE INDIAN-ART OF “JERKING” FRESH MEAT, TO PRESERVE IT AS JERKY, PERHAPS BECAUSE THERE AREN’T MANY SUITABLE CLIFFS IN EURASIA. OR PERHAPS THEY HAD FORGOTTEN HOW.
And so OCCASIONAL FAMINE was still a perennial problem.
ON THE WHOLE THE FOOD-SUPPLY WAS MORE STABLE, BUT NOW BIG-CITY LIFE BEGAN TO SPAWN NEW PROBLEMS OF ITS OWN FOR THE HUMAN RACE.
ELITES IN BIG-CITIES ALSO now began to use their new-found leisure to do other, not directly-productive pursuits. Like Temple-building, which you want to look impressive. And not like “A bunch of retards live in this city, who cannot make a building with regular and straight walls and pediments.”AND SO THE TRIBAL PRIESTS ADAPTED THEIR SECRET-SCIENCE OF MATHEMATICS THAT THEY HAD USED AS A PRIMITIVE FORM OF LAND SURVEYING, BECAUSE CITY WALLS MUST SOMETIMES BE BUILT AROUND NATURAL OBSTACLES, AND DRAINAGE-DITCHES WHICH WATER AND AT-ONCE SEPARATE THE AGRICULTURAL LANDS OF ONE FAMILY FROM ANOTHER OUTSIDE THE CITY, MUST BE MATHEMATICALLY VERIFIABLE SO THAT FARMERS DON’T “CHEAT”, AND RE-DIGG A DITCH AT NIGHT, IN ORDER TO STEAL SOME OF THEIR NEIGHBOR’S LAND.
Now, the building of a fine city Temple—where the rulers can force the commoners to come and sacrifice the occasional goat to the city’s official gods of A.) good-harvest (Artemis, Oshiris), and B.) protection in case of a siege by the nasty people who live over the hill, in the next city-empire—in case of a war. Or in case the city’s King—who in tribal times was the chief—decides that “that #!a%$! of a king who rules neighboring ~ (whatever city) seems like a pussy.” “ He might even be gay. My troops can whip his.”
A city’s temple, in very ancient times, was also where you paid your taxes. Which to the city’s king, made the proper construction of it kind of an important undertaking.
And so the secret maths once only used to measure the land, got covertly adapted to temple-making, which, as you wanted it to look impressive, soon began to involve a lot of high walls, and also impressive combinations of “geometric shapes”—like circles, pillars (representative of trees, which are naturally impressive), and squares, rectangles, and triangle-shaped pediments.
The result of this shit was that it strengthened and made more elaborate the ancient religious systems of polytheism, which is what everybody had after nomadic tribal shamanism/totemism/animism. And then this very proto-science—this geometry—which helped-out ancient polytheism (the worship of many gods at once, with one or two chief gods at the head of them)—this very Geometry led to something else: It destroyed polytheism.
That’s right. The very maths that enabled the people to build magnificent temples—like the Parthenon, or the Solomon’s Temple of the Hebrews/Jews, who now lived in the country of rich harvests they had taken-away from the Canaanites (Palestinians)—though they did not kill them all, and some stubbornly refused to convert to Judaism (go figure….)—this very Builder’s Math, though the priests and scribes tried to keep it away from the craftsmen and laymen, leaked-out anyway, with the result that now semi-educated men (like myself) learnt enough that they, over the space of only a few generations, began to question the gods and everything, because the increasingly advanced geometry they used to build the magnificent temple buildings for the priests and the king, had the unintended consequence of making their minds more scientific.
As this took place, even common men began to learn that there may not be any gods, and things like theodicy and man’s ego began to shatter.
The social fabric began to rip, and a new breed of guru began to rise-up: in Greece, these gurus were called the Sophists. In India they were called gurus. Don’t ask me why this is. Probably because they are retarded in India, and they talk funny over there.
Now these “Sophists”—or gurus—were the kind of men which Jesus of Nazareth would rail against as “hypocrites” (this itself a Greek word—“hypo”=under, beneath, + “krinein”=credibility, as related to “to sift, or to decide”: and here we have some more proof that ancient peoples had some significant level of contact with one another, though not enough to produce a contemporary-America style cultural mish-mash, with a few notable exceptions.) And Jesus of Nazareth was only a couple centuries or so later than Plato, Socrates, and Buddha, who preached against the Sophisms that were endangering the societies in their own countries, and at once sought to rectify the morally ambiguous vestiges of totemism in the polytheisms of their day. Socrates characterized the Homeric myths as a “noble lie”, and said that the few fables in the cannon that actually taught the youth to do wrong, must be carefully removed. Buddha decried sati—the religious practice under Vedic Hinduism of placing the wife who outlived her husband alive onto her husband’s funeral pyre, to be burnt-up with his body, and thence “faithfully follow him into the afterlife”.
And both Buddha and Socrates saw the logical and humane flaws in the polytheistic religious systems of India and Greece, respectively. Confucius and Lao Tzu saw how similar problems with polytheistic religion in their own country (China) would tear the social fabric to pieces—in their case quite literally—as ancient China was then in the throes of what historians refer-to as the “warring states period”—a time in which the large territorial provinces of that country were more-or-less evenly matched, and hell-bent each on conquering all the others. This period of ancient Chinese civil war dragged-on for decades, with no end in sight.
None of these great religious-thinkers/philosophers knew one-another, for though there was some contact between cultures, mostly through trade, travel was difficult, and people are more open-minded about foreign ideas, now than in any foregoing period of history. As to the former point I just advanced, some historians of Chinese philosophy think it is possible that Lao Tzu and Confucius actually may have met briefly. But the remainder almost certainly were not alive at exactly the same time, and it’s a longer trip from northern India to Jerusalem, than from Henan province, where Lao Tzu lived, to where Confucius was.
As to the latter point—that people are more open-minded as to “foreign” religious ideas now, than in any past “golden age”—this is illustrated nicely in the fact that, for a time after Buddhism had begun to come to what is today Afghanistan, Alexander the Great conquered it for Greece, and the syncretic religion of Graeco-Buddhism got started-up, and even produced beautiful artwork, statuary, and scripture. But it then dissolved with the remnants of the Bactrian Empire. Unlike Christianity, or Buddhism-proper, or for that matter Persian Zoroastrianism or Chinese Confucianism, Graeco-buddhism did not endure as empire fell, or create one that would last, or convert the barbarians of the Asian steppes who clung to the old nomadic-horseman way of life and liked to loot Eurasian civilizations (and betimes push ‘em-over); Graeco-Buddhism seems to have had no staying-power, and the fact that it came out of cultures that were so inexorably foreign to each other, may have made it a synthesis that was just too difficult. And the ancient peoples just weren’t as open-minded—or rather they were even more closed-minded, than people are today. If there is any saving-grace to the post-modern era, it’s probably that people just aren’t as “stuck to their own blood”, as they seem ever to have been before.
Plato and Socrates were both Pythagoreans. This is why Plato sought to perfect his “doctrine of the forms”—or holy, heavenly, mystical geometric polygons (a’ la’ the cube, the sphere, the tetrahedron, &tc.—the five regular solids of Empedocles, which persist unto today)—which was to be a way of having the moral self-restraint of religious absolutes in a scientific nation.
One can see the want for this in examining post-modern (and late-modern) society in America. Been sued lately? Or scared of it?
The “Sophism” that an increasingly scientific society fosters allows you to have wonderful scientific medicine, the benefits of which often trickle-down even to the poor—even in a hell-bent libertarian, “free-market”-society like our own. (Though there seems to be a dearth of libertarian consistency in the financial crisis: not one banker seems to have said “I didn’t earn this T.A.R.P. money; I and my financial firm refuse it: we are standing on Capitalist, Libertarian Principle.”)
But with that inevitably comes the other kind of sophistication. Like how to be a “rain-maker” lawyer, and get O. J. and a bunch of others off the hook, even the hedge-fund managers who live in big houses and are lovely to their children, but spend their days selling-out the currencies of hard-working nations, including our own.
Yeah, they are smarter than the rest of us: they can rip-us-off, and get-away with it like the pack of legal beagles they are.
His nation means little to a Sophist: it is only really a tool to make himself rich. That this may be had at other’s expense—even betimes to the cost of their very-own lives—does not concern him, in his heart-of-hearts.
And as goes the health of a nation’s currency, so tends to go that Nation.
“Sophism”, it goes without saying, is not the only bane of great empires, and of Nations; other historical factors intervene in the lives of States and men. There are epidemics of disease, and foreign invasions, to be sure. But these are more easily seen as inevitable, and from without.