Survival Theology 101
“Be careful of the pseudo-prophets…you’ll know then by the fruit they bear…” (From Mathew 7, 16, using the Andy Gaus translation)
All ideologies, theologies and philosophies can be measured by one functional test:
After all is said and done, do they affirm life? If not, be wary…be very, very wary….
The Demons Inhabiting G-d’s Universes
Jay B. Gaskill
Anyone who has been immersed in the human condition and has paid careful attention long enough eventually encounters real, existential bone chilling Evil. Some of us are inclined to deny or dismiss the encounter, often by substituting a medical term for a primary moral category. But real Evil can’t be medicalized.
For more than two decades, I was enmeshed in the criminal subpopulation, having confidential legal conversations with thousand of criminals (I do not exaggerate) of all ages, genders and gender preferences and in the process I saturated myself with the criminal subculture. I observed the criminal personality in all its manifold variations, emerging somehow undamaged. Most of the criminals I saw up close were broken, screwed up human beings, but they were not Evil in the extreme sense I now use the term.
Ordinary scoundrels are potentially loveable even when they are beyond reasonable hope of rehabilitation. But the Evil ones? Not so much. Forgive me, but I was charmed by the occasional epithet, usually shouted, “You sick f..k!” I’m still charmed because the miscreant who shouts it to another miscreant is revealing a sudden, unbidden moral epiphany. In street usage, “You sick f..k!”, translates to “You are one evil f..k!”, and it is not meant as a compliment. It is no accident that child molesters do poorly in the general prison population. As a group, they are the “sick f..ks”.
Real Evil always, always takes personal form. It is most chillingly recognized after one’s encounter with an evil saturated person has generated an unbidden and unwanted epiphany – “What the f..k was that?” Often the evil nature of the personality is well hidden; this makes the eventual discovery all the more unnerving.
Uncountable personal encounters over three decades of “field research” have demonstrated to my satisfaction that Evil is all too real, especially in its cold hearted, calculating form. Its continuing existence as a fact of the human condition should not be in doubt. Which means that, in some sense (and I write this from the perspective of a non-superstitious, scientifically educated mind), that demons are real.
Of course, the entire “demonic set” of questions presents troubling issues, especially to any 21st century scientifically trained mind. This is why, when the modern mind is confronted with an instance of committed intelligent malevolence in-person, medical terms are used. It is as if you discovered that a fatal malignancy was intelligent and trying to communicate with you. Naturally we moderns recoil in denial. But the issues that Evil in this sense presents to us are as old as the human experience of existential and ontological evil; and they are as ancient as the very first human encounters with a loving and redemptive Creator Being.
Let me explain the “demonic question” that most concerns me in the context of what I understand as the deep reality of our ultimate circumstances. There are two core conditions of being-in-and-of the world, as I now see them, and they both bear equally on the question of demonic evil. Over the years, they have emerged on a deep gut level as the closest approach to the authentic truth of things as I will ever achieve. Here they are:
(1) That Evil is real and active in the human experience, presenting as a pathogenic incarnation or possession, or influence that is consciously and intelligently opposed to the Divine, however we choose to name the Divine Being or Beingness (that Being, for me, represents the Supreme Creative Agency, the author of all life, beauty and goodness;
(2) That the Supreme Creative agency (the name is not the important thing) is real and active in human experience as a theogenic presence (‘theo’ for want of a better term). The sense here is the presence in the real world of the original, ongoing ameliorative, benign, creative presence and tendency, that presence whose influences and potential incarnations in the world are creatively, consciously, intelligently, morally and implacably opposed to Evil.
At first blush this seems to describe a Manichaean dualism, that ancient Persian vision of a created world eternally split by irreconcilable normative agents, equal in power, one moral and one anti-moral. Now, I am a conventional monotheist; more accurately, my unconventional theology has a conventional monotheistic core: There is but one Creator, one Deity, however named or unnamed. So this places me in the camp that holds that all the creative activities in the world and the accompanying good-evil tensions that are generated, originate in the One Ultimate Source, the Holy One.
If you are drawn to physical analogies, the Divine and its worldly opponent are like matter and anti-matter. Most of the anti-matter (it is believed) was annihilated at the beginning of the universe, but some of it remains and it is extraordinarily dangerous if encountered.
Monotheism is of a piece with the scientific faith that Reality is ultimately integrated and whole. You don’t have to be a traditional religious “believer” to understand, appreciate and believe in the ultimate unity and wholeness of Reality, even though – truth be told – that view (which really does animate the scientific enterprise) is it itself an article of faith. I once participated in a Jewish-Christian study session in which one of the participants, a scientifically trained woman, said, “I don’t know if there is a God, but if there is, I’m sure there is only one. I believe I should study the moral law (for her this meant the Torah) to be a good person.”
This was a new category for me, an ethically centered agnostic who was a contingent monotheist. I certainly agree with her main point: We do not live in a realm populated by more than one deity.
But when we buy-into the model of one Ultimate Being, the same holy supreme entity that many of us call G-d (I omit the full spelling in deference to the ancient tradition), the very existence of the demonic leers at us out of the dark. It hisses at us, “You fools! Don’t you see the contradiction?” The demon has a point. Given ultimate unity, why/how would/could animated, self-directed, intelligent Evil even exist, especially as an ongoing tendency? Put another way: Why would active personified evil (which is demon by another description) even be permitted to exist? Given the palpable existence of Evil-in-the world, how could this have come about under the watchful attention of Ultimate Creator Being?
My theologian friends will have noticed that I used the term incarnation in the disjunctive above as one of the possible descriptions of the relationship between evil and a human personality (as in possession, incarnation or influence).
Incarnation is one of those tricky theological ideas, but the metaphor that is captured in the very term, “spirit made flesh”, is fairly self explanatory. Great art gives us insight into the matter. Imagine an inspiring work (I think of a piece of great and powerfully moving music) that is merely committed to a sheet of symbols. That is not incarnation. Now imagine someone without inspiration or understanding who woodenly recites the work. That falls short, too. But imagine something you may have actually been privileged to witness: A performer or ensemble actually brings the work to life, essentially recreating the very inspiration that was first given to the work and does this to the degree that we feel that the very spirit of the work has been incarnated in the relationship between the performer and our reception of it. We sometimes speak of the magic of performance art. That approaches what we mean by incarnation.
A DENOMINATIONAL DISCLAIMER:
As a Christian (Judeo Christian), I am persuaded that the Divine Spirit was incarnated in a certain First Century Palestinian rabbi; or more accurately, I am a Christian because I am persuaded that the referenced incarnation took place and worked a benign change in the human condition. But you shouldn’t take this disclosure as an attempt to convert you to my particular spiritual path or any other. The gravamen of this discussion is not changed by which religious or secular narrative speaks to you with the greatest meaning or appeal. G-d is too big to be captured or fully described or apprehended by or though any religion, or even accurately named by any of us.
THE MONOTHEISTIC BIND:
Theologians are the group of philosophers who have organized their moral and metaphysical thinking around the existence of the One Supreme Being. If, as they/I believe, the Holy One is opposed to evil; and if, as they/I believe, all that is, is created; then how can the Holy One be the mother of all good and be…well…the father of all evil? Or that is how the question is typically posed.
This is how I prefer to pose it:
What is the Reality and Relevance of the Demonic in a Natural Universe Produced by the Will/Design of a Divine Agency that is Morally Engaged in Creation?
You will detect a number of assumptions in my question, which is to be expected; my assumptions flow from the two core conditions of reality (as I see it) as set out a few paragraphs ago. For me they are the Ground Zero of any theological or philosophical discussion about “the problem of Evil”. In general, I much prefer bottom-up thinking to theoretical top-down thinking. Let me restate those “facts on the ground”, as they appear to me:
Active evil is real and ongoing, a recurrent threat to the world. For anyone who has been steeped in the bloody history of Hitler’s grotesque deeds and the other large and small scale malevolence of the last 80 year, that statement should be almost undeniable. It is equally evident, at least to me, that a powerful, morally engaged divine agency is active in the world, generating the ongoing, realistic hope for progress provided we who recognize Evil for what it is are willing to do the necessary heavy lifting.
THEOLOGY CATCHING UP WITH REALITY
The fact that theology is always seems to playing catch up, should not be discouraging. After all, science is in the same place. [If you doubt me, just do a cursory review of the fundamental disagreements among cosmologies.] Two theological/philosophical positions have staked out the outer fringes of the problem of Evil.
The first holds that because “all is of G-d, therefore there is no Evil because G-d is not Evil”. This world view is monistic in the sense that it denies that UNITARY reality can contain antagonistic powers. Pantheism is the general class of theologies that hold Nature and G-d as one and indivisible. Taken seriously, this idea leads us to the place where G-d cannot be moral in any human sense.
The second position (often associated with Manichaeism, from the third century Persian Gnostic prophet, Mani), pits G-d against Evil as a separate power in its own right. This is hardly consistent with classic monotheism because the good power and evil power were both seen by Mani and his followers as fundamentals of creation. This view has the virtue (from my point of view) of recognizing Evil as a powerful threat. But it has the flaw (from my point of view) that it diminishes both the unity of creation and the power and ultimate moral authority of G-d.
The prevailing Roman Catholic view holds that evil is a disease or perversion of the good. But it should be remembered that Jesus, a devout Palestinian Jew, performed exorcisms. The medical analogy breaks down when the disease behaves with volitional, malevolent intelligence.
Okay, that’s more than enough formal theology. As a bottom-up thinker, I suggest that our various theologies need to reflect the reality that Evil has been and continues to be incarnated in human form. That describes an existential and ontological threat to humanity. We need to deal with it, not deny it.
A “NOVEL” THEOLOGY
Years ago I formed a close friendship with “M”, a well traveled man with scientific training who is an authentic Christian Celtic mystic (this is a personal description, not a denomination). After we got to know each other, M (a Brit) recommended that I read the novels of the American fantasist, Terry Brooks. Most of Brooks’ novels (as of 2007 he had sold about 23 million copies) take place in a fictional world familiar to the readers of J R Tolkien.
But my attention was particularly drawn to a recent, stand-alone trilogy (“Running with Demon”, “Knight of the Word” and “Angel Fire East”). I finally got around to reading all three and was immediately drawn into a compelling narrative that takes place in the contemporary American Midwest. In these novels, demons appear as real creatures but they aren’t recognized by most of us. Appearing in various guises, they urge ordinary people to do terrible things at critical junctions that greatly amplify the scope of the damage. Over time, these shocking, inexplicable acts of evil begin to degrade the very fabric of the civil order that holds up moral civilization. Step by step, the demons bring us ever closer to a truly dreadful period of chaos and depravity for which Dark Age would be a euphemism. These stark images torment the dreams of the character who will become a “Knight of the Word”.
If one just subtracts the neo-Tolkienesque supernatural elements from these three novels, the malevolent quality of the terrible acts and the sinister urgings by the demon figures almost exactly mirror of day-to-day reality in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the real world, Evil acts as a toxin propagating through in the culture, where it is sometimes incarnated. History provides a horror catalogue of charismatic, Evil leaders who engineer horrendous results. Mr. Brooks’ three novels are describing the sinister undercurrents in the modern, postmodern culture.
MALOGENS, A FOOTNOTE
The urgings of the demons in the Terry Brooks trilogy echo the cultural influences I have called “malogens”. This is a term I coined when reporting about the demonic murder of the wife of a lawyer acquaintance of mine, a crime that was, in many ways, the perfect exemplar of a demonic killing where no one actually sees the creature. Here is what I wrote then:
The mark carved into Pamela Vitale’s body by her killer has been variously described as an “H” or as a “double T”, but both descriptions could easily depict the same thing. One correspondent has asked me whether the killer carved the “Cross of Lorraine” onto Ms. Vitale’s back. That emblem represents two crosses sharing the same center pole; and seen on edge, the symbol makes a credible “H”.
Only the killer knows what symbolism was actually intended. But it is clear enough that some symbolic meaning was meant – this mark was not the random gibberish of a drooling idiot, but the calculated sign of someone who was visiting the dark side.
Ancient alchemists used this symbol to denote a powerful poison.
In Medieval France, certain conspirators against the regime used the symbol, as the “Cross of Lorraine”, a heraldic motif that depicted both the “arms of Christ” and the “arms of Satan”. Hence the “Satanic” overtones.
Since it was the killer (and not some innocent bystander) who inscribed this symbol, we can readily and reasonably conclude that its intended meaning was malevolent. Just what specific malevolent meaning did it hold for the fevered mind of Pam’s killer? We can only speculate at this point. But given the macabre nature of the whole event, it is hardly out of the ballpark to use the word “Satanic” at least in the metaphoric sense.
Given the signature nature of the killing, it should hardly come as a surprise that, at some point, the killer had adopted the dress code of the “Goth” subculture. Of course, most teenagers who dress like a character in an Anne Rice vampire novel are not killers. And, yes, there is a lot of understandable defensiveness about the topic, driven by the prevailing multicultural ethos taught in school and the general observation that teens have been dressing and acting out in rebellious ways ever since we adults started keeping track of such things.
But there are extreme and very disturbing examples, such as the 1996 murders committed by a “Goth” teenage male in Kentucky who played Dungeons and Dragons, was upset by his mother’s divorces, walked cemeteries at night pretending to be a 500 year old vampire. This eventually led him to found to a vampire cult, commit two senseless murders and receive a death sentence handed down by a New Orleans Judge.
I have no reason to suspect that Pam’s killer was acting under the influence of some shadowy cult figure. But I do believe that the dark imagery and symbolism of some anti-life subculture (however it ends up being described) were operating in the web of this killer’s homicidal motivation.
This event illuminates something much more serious than one more Charlie Mason cult. In this early 21st century cyber-culture, susceptible young men and women no longer have to fall into some sinister cult, or join some criminal cohort to become infected with evil. All sorts of bizarre and ultimately malevolent ideation, fantasies and dark power-ideologies are floating through our culture, just below of the radar of most adults.
These ideas act like an odorless and colorless toxic gas that primarily affects the emotionally, morally and intellectually vulnerable among us. Regrettably, that vulnerable population includes a disproportionate number of teenagers. And this presents the grave and growing problem for modern parents: In the current culture, those whose moral compasses have been damaged by the disempowerment of religious and other robust ethical traditions include more young people than ever before. This social problem will not soon go away.
Children and young “adults” are subjected to a seductive torrent of bizarre, unfiltered material, both emotionally and morally disturbing; it seethes through the culture and the adolescent sub-cultures like a computer virus. This toxic material is relatively harmless to those who are well rooted in the deep ethical traditions that have upheld humanity, but it is highly contagious to New Age addled juvenile minds. These are the malogens, the information-carried toxins (really they are moral pathogens); they saturate the internet; they are carried by computers, cell phones and personal contact wherever “modern” juveniles congregate.
The term malogens has been picked up, with attribution and my agreement, by a political scientist, Maria H Chang. Professor Chang is author of “Falun Gong: The End of Days” – Yale 2004. She has written about malogens in The New Oxford Review (Nov. 2008, “Looking into the Abyss”, May 2009 “Imperfect Possession”, among other pieces).
I concluded by analysis of the referenced Dyleski murder case with this:
From all accounts we also learned that Scott Dyleski was effectively disconnected from the great moral/ethical traditions that have sustained civil society, yet was strongly connected to an amoral and anti-moral subculture — on the web and in elements of his surrounding self-chosen community.
Goth as superficial dress and style, aping the dark side like a group of teens on Halloween is not the issue. Dyleski’s version was the real thing, and that is why we must all now pay attention to the free floating malogens in our culture.
Evil is alive and well in the 21st Century…
FANTASY THEOLOGY OR…SOMETHING MORE
Back to the Terry Brooks’ trilogy, Knight of the Word with Demons, et al: It was fairly easy to discern the underlying theology hinted in the story-line but I was surprised and pleased to discover several scenes in which this schema was explicitly set out in dialog form.
In the first of these, we are in a special park near the Midwest home of the girl named Nest. For generations, Nest’s maternal ancestors have been in a special relationship with a small, ancient creature, a Sylvan, who lives in the park and tends to its spiritual health. His name is Pick.
From “Running with Demon”, by Terry Brooks
They stood without speaking for a time, studying the big oak, as if by doing so they might heal it by strength of will alone. …
“Do you think the Word made this tree?” she asked Pick suddenly.
The sylvan shrugged. “I suppose so.”
“Because the Word made everything, right?” She paused. “What does the Word look like?”
Pick looked at her.
“Is the Word the same as God, do you think?”
Pick looked at her some more.
“Well, you don’t think there’s more than one God, do you?” Nest began to rush her words. “I mean, you don’t think that the Word and God and Mother Nature are all different beings? You don’t think they’re all running around making different things-like God makes humans and the Word makes forest creatures and Mother Nature makes trees? Or that Allah is responsible for one race and one part of the world and Buddha is responsible for some others? You don’t think that, do you?”
“Because all these different countries and all these different races have their own version of God. Their religions teach them who their God is and what He believes. Sometimes the different versions even hold similar beliefs. But no one can agree on whose God is the real God. Everyone insists that everyone else is wrong. But unless there is more than one God, what difference does it make? If there’s only one God and He made everything, then what is the point of arguing over whether to call Him God or the Word or whatever? It’s like arguing over who owns the park. The park is for everyone.”
“Are you having some sort of identity crisis?” Pick asked solemnly.
“No. I just want to know what you believe.”
He gave an elaborate sigh, tugged momentarily on his mossy beard, and fixed her with his fierce gaze. “I don’t like these kinds of conversations, so let’s dispense with the niceties. You pay attention to me. You asked if I believe God and the Word are the same. I do. You can call the Word by any name you choose-God, Mohammed, Buddha, Mother Nature, or Daniel the Owl; it doesn’t change anything. They’re all one, and that one made everything, you included. …. I don’t know why you turned out the way you did, but I’m pretty sure it was done for a reason and that you were made all of a piece.”
His brows knit “If you want to worry about something, I don’t think it should be about whether you owe your existence to God or the Word or whoever. I think you should worry about what’s expected of you now that you’re here and how you’re going to keep from being a major disappointment”
She shook her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Just this. Everything that exists has a counterpart. The Word is only half of the equation, Nest. The Void is the other half. The Word and the Void – one a creator, one a destroyer, one good, one evil. They’re engaged in a war and they’e been fighting it since the beginning of time. One seeks to maintain life’ balance; the other seeks to upset it. We’re all a part of that struggle because what’s at risk is our own lives. The balance isn’t just out there in the world around us; it’s inside us as well. And the good that’s the Word and the evil that’s the Void is inside us, too. Inside us, each working to gain the upper hand over the other, each working to find a way to overcome the other.”
A Later Passage:
In the distance, the baseball games were winding down.
In the shadows of the trees that bracketed the cliff edge, feeders were gathering, their squat, dark bodies shifting soundlessly, their yellow eyes winking like fireflies. As John Ross and Nest passed down the roadway, their numbers grew. And grew still more. Nest glanced left and right nervously, finding eyes everywhere, watching intently, implacably. Why were there so many? The chilling possibility crossed her mind that they intended to attack, all of them, too many to defend against. …
“Don’t let them bother you,” John Ross told her quietly, his voice soft and calm. “They’re not here because of you. They’re here because of me.” He said it so matter-of-factly that for a moment the words didn’t register. Then she looked at him in surprise and whispered,
“You can see them?”
He nodded without looking at her, without appearing to look at anything. “As clearly as you can. It’s why I’m here. It’s why I’ve come. To help, if I can. (p 170)
“I am a Knight of the Word,” he said. …. (page 171)
A Still Later Passage
The setting shifted. John Ross stood within the camps in which the survivors of the holocaust were penned, imprisoned to live out their lives in servitude to those who had been like them, but had embraced the madness that had destroyed their world. Both showed themselves, victors and victims, born of the same flesh and blood; both had been transformed into something barely recognizable and impossibly sad.
There was more, scene after scene of the destruction, of its aftermath, of the madness that had consumed everything. Ross felt something shift inside him, a lurching recognition, and even before she spoke the words that came next, he knew what they would be.
“It is the future,” she said softly, her words as delicate as flower petals. “It approaches.”
The vision disappeared. The black hole closed. Ross stood again before her, surrounded by the fairies and the night. Once more, he found his voice. “No,” he said. “No, it will never be like that. We would never allow ourselves to become like that. Never.”
She floated on the surface of the stream now, balanced on the night air. “Would you change the future, John Ross? Would you be one of those who would forbid it? Then do as Owain Glyndwr once did, as all the others did who entered into my service. Embrace me.”
She approached him slowly, a wraith in the starlight, advancing without apparent motion.
“This is what is required of you. You must become one of my champions, my paladins, my knights-errant. You must go forth into the world and do battle with those who champion the Void. The war between us is as old as time and as endless. You know of it, for it is revealed by every tongue and written in every language. It is the confrontation between good and evil, between creation and destruction, between life and death. There are warriors that serve each of us, but only a handful like you…. (page 185)
ECHOES OF FIRST CENTURY JUDEA
The Terry Brooks’ trilogy echoes the theology of the Gospel of John, the fourth one, which is generally accepted as the most theologically sophisticated of the canonical accounts. John’s is the Gospel that begins with a famous passage that contains resonances of Plato’s vision of reality, though in a form that accommodates and integrates the deity of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Moses.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and God was what the word was. …. Within it there was Life; the Life was the light of the world.” (From John 1, using my preferred translation by Andy Gaus because its colloquial Greek-English rendering emphasizes clarity over poetry)
The account of Jesus’ last Seder dinner with his students in John 17 concludes with a prayer, from which these excerpts are taken (again using the Andy Gaus translation):
[He] “lifted his eyes skyward, saying, ‘Father my time has come…. I have manifested Your name to the persons whom you gave me out of the world. … I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the Evil One.”
My emphasis….. This translation is unambiguous. Jesus and his contemporaries held the same view of Evil that I have observed in the world and that the author Terry Brooks has so vividly portrayed in the referenced trilogy and the quoted passages.
The Evil One is real. The Evil One is the enemy of all that is good.
A MODERN THEOLOGICAL RECONCILIATION
Why are there Demons in G-d’s universes?
I used the cosmological plural here advisedly. Not only is our “God too small” (paraphrasing J. P. Phillips), our Evil One is too small and our Universe is too small as well, because this is likely not the only universe that will ever exist.
Physicists and cosmologists have inferred this state of affairs from the initial conditions of the Big Bang – or so far as scientific speculation can take us there. Nothing yet discovered by science can rule out a repeat Big Bang Event or even an earlier Big Bang. The Judeo-Christian theologies tend to converge here, as well. Eschatology is the theology of so called “end of days” in which the large scale event train we call the Universe (or “the World”) reaches its end. Whether the resurrection of the universe is seen as prefigured by that signal Event is first Century Palestine is a much narrower theological question than I am presenting here. I believe that the drama of one or many universes struggling towards moral perfection, driven by a creative agency that contains the seeds of moral consciousness, transcends theology itself, let alone the sectarian divisions within it
This leads me to the view (which I hold as the natural outcome of any ‘bottom-up’ theology) that: Unless Evil trumps over that ever persistent Creative Agency, there will always be a new universe. I also hold to related article of reasonable faith, one shared by a plurality of scientists (whether secular, spiritual or religious), that nothing in the universe is ever absolutely lost…even in a black hole. In effect (and this is my iteration of the same insight): The information content of reality, including all event trains, histories and personal narratives, can never be absolutely erased. The Logos holds it all.
That mythic, but real, struggle between Word (Logos) and Void is best described as a vast, unfolding developmental process that plays out in each universe, pitting an ongoing creative tendency against stasis and the downward tug. To my mind, this is the drama of emerging creation that becomes emerging life that becomes emerging consciousness that becomes emerging moral consciousness, the personal signature of which I called a “theogenic” presence at the beginning of this essay. It is the theogenic tendency of nature. For me, as an article of faith, it is the theogenic imperative.
Of course, this is but one view among many, all of which are united by the injunction to hold to the good, reject the evil and proceed as if the very architect of reality is on our side.
In the developing moral universe framework, the existential and ontological demonic becomes a developmental side effect, an opportunistic pathogen of the mind and spirit that is necessarily allowed in any universe wherein the processes of creation can operate freely. As a matter of deep personal conviction, I believe that on the ultimate scale of things, creation trumps all.
WHY WE ARE CALLED TO ACTION
But ultimate optimism needs to be tempered with a sobering corrective: In this world, at this time, the risk that Evil can actually prevail cannot be eliminated, ignored or denied.
The technologies of ultra-large scale destruction have become linked with ultra-wide band information malogen portholes. More than any other time in our species brief history on the planet earth, malogens can reach and capture the receptive minds of intelligent people who in turn are able to amplify malevolence to heretofore unimaginable scales.
When the history of this brave new century is written, I believe that one of its earliest prophets will be the cyber-scientist, Bill Joy, who invented Java script, the computer language that knits our web communications together. His prophesies were first set out in powerful article written in early 2000 for WIRED. “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” has never gone off-line or out of print. Here is the LINK: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html . This is a wide ranging discussion about the future of cyber and nano-technologies, their promise and dangers, but there is a sobering takeaway point for those of us who see the relevance and extreme danger represented by meta-Evil in its 21st century incarnations:
“Thus we have the possibility not just of weapons of mass destruction but of knowledge-enabled mass destruction (KMD), this destructiveness hugely amplified by the power of self-replication.
“I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.”
The potential link-up of the demonic mindset with KMD’s is a transcendent threat to humanity. We face the ongoing prospect of emerging negative charismatic leaders who in turn can command the resources to ignite a series of catastrophic events that collectively could reduce civilization to something resembling the Terry Brooks nightmares I’ve just referenced.
Existential Evil must be resolutely, courageously and effectively opposed with practical, real world measures. The entire world sat by idly during the first holocausts of the 20th century. Never again…is more than a slogan. It is a survival imperative. The moral and physiological damage from a passive, pacific and ineffective response to the looming new holocausts in this century will empower ontological evil, possibly beyond our power to contain it. I do not exaggerate that the tendency to deny or dismiss existential and ontological Evil opens the doors wide to a local version of the End times.
Our personal “demon” inoculation lies in the maximum incarnation of the life affirming Creative Agency in each of us. The task before us is to take the life affirming, creation-affirming, theogenic ethos out of all sectarian limitations, well beyond the religious-secular boundary into the world at large. All morally aware men and women, secular and religious, need to accept the charge. If we are to get through the present century intact, people of good will everywhere need to enlist.
We all need to become “Knights of the Word”.
As two revered first Century rabbis, Hillel the Elder and Jesus of Nazareth, after the core animating principle is identified, “all the rest is commentary”….