Myth and Authority
August 19, 2016
Possibly the most solid brick wall a mind faces having to break through is the brick wall of unconsidered and semi-conscious assent to authority and it standing over above a person.
Firstly, and importantly, when the question is laid bare to a person, as to why s/he believes in the authority of such and such; and why does s/he accept uncritically that authority working over and upon the persona and the mind, it is often a case that the anticipation of such a person of what might lie beyond having dismissed such authority, and so beginning to venture into thoughts and concerns which might be literally anything, this is for such persons deeply frightening to contemplate.
So there is a safety and a security in the acceptance of authority; and the less critically an authority is accepted; then the more sense of safety and security is generally felt by persons. And often even a sense of gratitude to the authority accompanies.
Too many of us carry so little ballast to ground us in our lives and in our thinking; and so consequently we hold virtually nothing of which we are able to invest a sense of surety or faith in; so as to help us over the crossing of the mighty river of fear and danger which separates us from those few of us who attempt to examine and to criticise authority; and where appropriate endorse it and where appropriate dismiss it as bogus.
In this sense there is a certain cravenness in us which seeks to hide our apprehensions of and for the world and of our thoughts about life; behind the phoney statues and empty statutes which the people we look to as our protectors erect over us; and who are the people generally accepted as being in authority over us. For us to take this ‘easy route’ this saves us facing the onus, the personal responsibility of examining ourselves, our lives and our social and natural situations; and this dash for safety and to comfortableness in fact deters us from and deprives us of taking the fatal step necessary into a greater world; and into a greater awareness in us, which seeks for an endowment of inner strength.
This evening on the radio the subject of a show was ‘fairies’ – the topic discussed the possibility of such things as fairies being actual. The panel were people from the scientific professions. Thus, a pretty loaded proposition.
One of the scientists made a general statement about ‘such things as fairies’; and he said, in so many words, that ‘everything in doing science is tested; research is put through the wringer of double-blind analyses, so that what results from a test is not what people wished to have resulted, but the result is an objective answer to an experimental question’
This person then was claiming for science and for the scientific method a status, an authority, which is based on a proposed ability of science to be able to determine what is actually the case from what is not the case. This person then was in fact placing into question all thoughts, acts, ideas, and actions observed which are not able scientifically to be validated via testing and experiment and under the conditions of scientific method.
Thus one ought to see this statement made by the scientist person neither as a statement of reason nor as a matter of fact; it ought to be viewed for what it foremost is – a statement which aim to consolidate power to that speaker and to the class of persons whom the speaker repersents. It was a land-grab on minds which heedlessly acquiesce in its terms.
You might think me jaundiced or a sceptic; and you might ask why you should see this statement this way. Let’s take a look at the history of authority.
It is a generally agreed and consensual opinion of historians and ideas (this assertion itself presents authority for its support; but its an authority is very-well dispersed over centuries of time and across a complete spectrum of that group of persons during those centuries who have interested themselves in such matters) that Aristotle the Ancient Greek philosopher had been accepted for over a millennium as a final authority on many of the great range of topics he discussed in his written works.
His investigations went into geography, physics, metaphysics, art, biology, drama, and so on, and were considered by many, maybe most, of the scholars who came after him for over a thousand years, to be the final statement of fact on these topics.
The same greatly dispersed consensus of historians who saw Aristotle in this way also inferred from their belief about Aristotle that the authority Aristotle held among so many scholars for so long a time was in effect largely responsible for ‘putting a brake’ on an advancement of learning during the times known in Western history as ‘The Dark Ages’.
This belief that a blind faith in the truth of Aristotle’s works stopped the advancement of learning was a chief reason by which our dispersed consensus of historians explained the occurrence, at the times and palces it happened, of that historical phenomenon we now call 'The Renaissance'. At the same time that Aristotle’s works began to lose their once almost absolute authority amongst scholars; life and society began to change much more rapidly and in ways not seen before; opening, literally, new worlds to the people and especially to scholars. This was A Rebirth of Learning: The Renaissance.
A parallel analogue to this sudden Rebirth of Learning in the West is to be observed today in the wake of the Iraq wars. Libya, Iraq, Syria, and nations in the Arabian Peninsula; have all suffered great social upheavals and internal wars and insurgencies during the early years of our century. Each had had a fierce and callous dictator ruling the nation before these wars broke out. Saddam was first to fall; toppled by the US and the UK armies, and to the great jubilation of his people – at the time. Gaddafi went; as have much of Assad’s Syrian territories; and all because the lids came off these societies. The force and fear exercised by these dictators ontheir peoples, and which held their societies for years in thrall was suddenly abated; the lid was off and the sparks began to fly upwards. Old scores and old sores were re-opened; and Sunni fought/fights Shia, and interlopers snatch footholds and wedge their ways in.
Once Aristotle’s aura began to fade, likewise the lid of authority came off scholarship and new freedoms became available suddenly to scholars. Much speculation suddenly arose and has been sifting during the passing of time into a refined item; a body of new knowledge.
The key concept which unites The Renaissance with the end of Saddam and others is ‘freedom’. Once Saddam, etc and Aristotle became yesterday’s news freedom became a thing to be grabbed and indulged. In one instance new worlds of intellectual endeavour opened up; in the other, a potential was there for good to blossom, and hope was there for freedom to bloom, and release the peoples, but we know what happened.
Freedom can give a feeling like the guy on a tightrope crossing Niagara. Sudden doses of freedom are able to spin us off the rails into the grass verge. The rock idols who have fallen prey to their sudden rise to riches and to fame comprise a long list of eminent and gifted tragic ends. When suddenly, overnight, the world becomes one’s oyster, then the pearl-diving with the same swiftness can become lethal.
And so, I hope I can say to you on the strength of what I have written so far; that there appears to be an inverse correlation between a person’s access to freedom and the same person’s willingness to submit to and so buckle under an authority and that authorities’ claims upon them. (But we shall see there is The Exception which proves the rule)
As I opened with, I think that many of us would rather be under a Saddam than face an insurrection. But as I also said it could have been otherwise. There is The Renaissance as the paradigm also.
I want to say a few words now about the claims for science and for scientific method which the radio show guy made. The claim to, the land grab at, an authority which claims for scientific endeavour it to be sole arbiter of objective validity.
Now science as a whole rests primarily on logical induction. Induction is a form of logical procedure which assumes that an action or effect previously observed to be a result of certain conditions will exactly repeat itself whenever and wherever those same conditions are again present. An instance often used is the belief which we all have that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. We know, or we ought to understand, that the sun may not rise tomorrow morning; but we feel quite safe with the likelihood of that to be so small as to be not worth entertaining.
So much of science is about probabilities; rather than it being about certainties. Logically-speaking inductive logic is not watertight; whereas deductive logic is watertight.
Any chemist will say to you that a gas in a bell jar has a potential to rush into one corner of the jar and to congregate there; but that the probability remains that it will diffuse itself fairly uniformly throughout the volume of the bell jar.
So, strictly-speaking, whenever things are only probable, no matter to what degree probable; chance remains with a role to play.
This is one instance of a chink in the authority of science, scientists, and scientific method.
A greater chink, a gaping hole, appears in the field of Quantum Mechanics. Things which rely on Quantum Theory to work do actually work, by far the most part. But as for the theory, as opposed to practice, certain extrapolated theoretical conclusions, or foregone conclusions, are hardly credible. These arise out of the same science which we harness to make our PCs and our mobile phones which do so much for us; they arise out of theoretical Quantum Mechanics.
Certain extrapolations tell us that a single thing can be in two places at once. Others tell us that our presence is necessary for objects in general to exist – that in effect, when our back is turned, those things we saw behind us are no longer in existence. Another tells us that quantum events predict parallel universes in infinite numbers in which infinite versions of history go on. Certain experiments have been interpreted to mean that utterly random events are always predicted in the quantum field before they happen, no matter what. (This last sounds to me like a blatant contradiction!)
We might safely conclude that at the present frontiers of science, the status quo, is in no way ‘objective’, ‘authoritative’ or ‘certain’.
If these ideas in Quantum Theory make you uneasy to contemplate then maybe nestling-in under some candidate’s authority is the life for you? But by nature people’s blood rebels against the idea – of someone telling them what to do and how to think
But this rebellion is too often, nearly all the time, come out of a false pride; a sense of being belittled or made light of by someone; especially when for that someone there is no respect. False pride is not a basis to learn liberty upon. No-one is sufficient to himself; no mater how strong and autonomous they might think they are. Often, like George Orwell said about Hitler and his Storm troopers; if they were not so fearfully dangerous people, people would laugh at them. Take away their authority, and their high sense of themselves, which is what instils fears into you; and you can see plainly how ridiculous they look strutting and fretting all over the place.
Now as I have mentioned a few times The Lord Jesus was noted several times in The Gospels as being ‘no respecter of persons’. I will clarify again what this means – it does not mean he had no respect for others – that is palpably and obviously untrue. It means that Jesus ‘took each person as he found them’; that he did not kowtow to the rich and powerful; or scorn the poor and weak; or pay lip service to his cultured friends and to his commonplace friends talk down to them. All persons he met with he met with at the one level; the level of their essential humanity; and at this level all persons are able to be assessed by way of the same criteria; the criteria which The Lord Jesus came into the world to preach, teach and propagate.
Nearly all of the parables that The Lord Jesus is recorded preaching go straight to the heart of this common humanity in all of us; and by our very reading of these parables we are sorted by our own responses to them into sheep and goats. We ourselves segregate ourselves either to the one side or to the other. We either accept the authority of The Lord Jesus or we pass by on the other side. It is we who choose and we who judge ourselves by our choosing, because we are up against the kernel of things, the heart of being, the essence of life, and the standard by which all things are measured.
When a person walks away from a lottery win of say £60m and ignores it completely with full knowledge of its availability to them; we ordinary people are taken aback and find it amazing and unbelievable. We might laugh at the person or make fun of him, say he’s not right in the head, and generally despise him for his stupidity and idiocy. But that is because we value highly money. By our laughter and our scorn and our disbelief at this guy walking away from, turning his back on, a large fortune, we are proclaiming that we value money very highly and that we value the life and lifestyle that much money is able to provide to us. By our laughter and our scorn we have discovered ourselves to the general audience around us, and by our scorn and derision we have stated who we are and have stuck our colours in the ground which we posses.
Thus when we are confronted by The Lord Jesus we discover ourselves, reveal ourselves and stick our flag saying whom we are in the ground before his person: And at the level of our essential humanity and common selfhood.
In short, there is one Authority only – any other legitimate authority is an authority delegated from this one authentic Authority; and this one authentic Authority is The Lord Jesus. It is The Lord Jesus who is there at the other side of the River of Adventure – that shore upon which a person is able to be landed once he has taken a resolution to brave his fears and reject the craven safety of diurnal tinpot authorities, of fabricated and newspaper authorities; their tinsel and fireworks shows; smokes and mirrors; winds and water.
The Lord Jesus promised us; and he does not disappoint us; he said:
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.__Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Deny The Lord Jesus and you have only the alternative to be the servant of far lesser and by comparison useless masters; your option were you to deny The Lord Jesus is to accept the authority of fallible persons and of persons unable to lead you ‘into all truth’; unable to set you free from the doubts, the fears that underlie all your days, the sense of lostness and the life of background anxiety which like a tinnitus never lets you off the hook.
Jesus meets everyone at the one level; at the level at which one may disclose one’s inmost thoughts and bedrock nature objectively to oneself, and also necessarily to The Lord Jesus:
‘Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.’
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