Sunday, 28 September 2014

The intellectual's delusion (to which I am prone)

That by means of language (the right words in the right order), he can get a grip on the nature of things, and find the balance point at which exactly the correct phrase can be inserted at the correct moment - and flip reality over to the way he wants it. (Like a judo expert throwing a much larger opponent.)

Stated thus, it is clear that we are talking about magic - and the archetypal intellectual was and is the magician, the sorcerer, the scientist of the super-natural.

...In itself a hazardous thing to be - highly vulnerable to corruption by Faustian pacts (e.g. 99.99 % of modern 'research' into whatever).

But there is the possibility of becoming instead a wizard. A wizard could be defined as a religious magician - one who subordinates magic to god.

Thus, the truly secular intellectual is almost certainly evil in effect (and often in intent); but the religious intellectual may do some good; not least in battling the enemy's sorcerers.



William Zeitler said...

Something like the difference between ‘thaumaturgy’ – to “flip (outer) reality the way one wants” vs. theurgy – to change ONESELF to be more Christ-like. In regard to theurgy, it’s not always clear where ‘magic’ leaves off and ‘religion’ begins, e.g. rituals and incantations (e.g. Mass and the Lord’s Prayer)? Another word for a practitioner of theurgy might be ‘mage’ – after all, it was only the magi who figured out that the Christ Child was coming – everyone else required a divine intervention (e.g. chorus of angels in the sky)!

Anonymous said...

"...the magician, the sorcerer…"

Also the theologian, the Madison Avenue marketer, the lobbyist, the politician, the lawyer, and the judge.

In modern society the theologian lacks the power he once might have had, but the others will try to use the One Ring of new rhetoric (shall we say Newspeak?) to rule all. Reality, however, might not cooperate. Think of this in the context of the redefinition of marriage and how it will play out over time.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon - Thanks for the comment, but please use a pseudonym.

Adam G. said...

Been thinking about this. Three points.

1. It's easier for the intellectual or rhetorician to destroy than to build up. Subversion and mockery is easier. So when you set out to be a white magician, you will probably fail. Natural human psychology will tempt you to become a black magician w/ some vague notion that the good things you are tearing down are standing in the way of something even better and some vague idea of what the even better thing is, which you will surely get around to some time in the indefinite future, once you've finished tearing things down. The process catalyzes itself, because of course the techniques you use to tear down consist of arguing that the thing being torn down is evil, which tends to persuade the magician also. The deep wisdom of fairy stories is that the magic user is always affected by the magic. As always, Tolkien provides some powerful archetypes here: Grima Wormtongue, Saruman, and the One Ring, powerful for destruction, which continually tempts the elite to use it for good but which inherently cannot be so used.

2. The progressive strident moralist who claims there is no such thing as morality is the very type of the materialist magician.

3. Another attraction of tearing down--you can partly disclaim responsibility. Because what people do *after* their institutions are down is their fault, not yours. As long as you confine yourself to subversion and to post-subversion platitudes, you can feel like your soul has not burden to bear.
Building up is frightening. To succeed, you need the understand the good and the practical world. It takes judgment. It takes wisdom. Subverting is a skill that can be mastered, but building up is an art.