Change in Society and Change in Consciousness

    What does it mean to say that society has changed because consciousness has evolved?  It means that societal changes have come about because of an internal change, a change in how human beings think, feel, and understand.  

    Most discussions about changes in society refer to external forces such as changes in laws, technology, forms of government, etc.  But although changes in consciousness are more subtle, they are also influential in societal change.  A good example where we have to consider both internal and external changes is the case of monarchy.  Monarchy has been eliminated from most countries in the modern West and in many of those where it still exists, it is drastically weakened.  This has come about from changes in the structure of government, but we also have to consider changes in consciousness.  

    The Mad Monarchist blog writes in the section "Legitimacy": 

    "First and foremost, it is the official position here at The Mad Monarchist that the legitimacy of the remaining monarchs of the world is not to be called into question.  Monarchies, in this day and age, are an endangered species and monarchies must remain ever vigilant to preserve those which remain.  If any were to fall they would most certainly not be replaced by another dynasty or alternative member of the Royal Familly but whould be replaced by a republic.  That cannot be allowed to happen.  Now is not the time to argue over centuries-old conflicts or obscure genealogical charts. 

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The Duke of Bavaria, for example, has no wish or desire to replace HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom even if it were possible for him to do so.  

In most cases, so much time has passed that the basis of these arguments have absolutely no meaning in the modern world.  In other words, for their arguments to even be considered, the entire mindset and way of thinking of society as a whole would have to change.  Being a reactionary sort, the Mad Monarchist believes this would be much for the better, but it is certainly not about to happen and would not be magically brought about by changing the person on the throne in London or Madrid.  In most cases there would have to be the most fundamental and far-reaching religious revival in human history for these issues to even be considered by the public of today."

    The last paragraph is crucial.  It is not just a matter of changing laws or changing rulers, but changing people's "entire mindset and way of thinking", i.e., consciousness.  Even if a monarch were able to be installed by some means they would be either a powerless figurehead or a dictator with a crown.  

    The Mad Monarchist another post, "A Monarchist Hero for Today" which provides an example of what the consciousness of people was like in the days of monarchy: 

    "Picture in your mind (I doubt it will require much imagination) this scenario which I certainly see.  You have a European country, a monarchy, which seems to be as often as not taking the side of the invaders, your monarch does not seem to be much of a monarch, inspires no one and seems more intent on simply securing a comfortable life than saving the country.  The populace is divided and many people seem to simply be looking out for their own selfish interests and not for their society, their nation, as a whole.  If you see things that I see, you might think I am talking about any number of countries today.  The Kingdom of Sweden might be a good guess.  However, I have no doubt that some of you already know that I am actually describing the Kingdom of France in or about 1429 AD.  It certainly seems highly reminiscent of the present in a number of ways, though just as certainly radically dissimiliar in more.

    France was in a state of crisis and a great and ardently monarchist, pious champion stepped forward to save it.  That person was, of course, an illiterate, teenage peasant girl from Domremy in northeastern France.  

...

    All of this is clearly impressive but why does it make Joan a model hero for monarchists today?  It seems to me, there are a number of reasons.  For one, Joan revived the French national spirit, giving them back their proper sense of themselves as French, identifying with their nation and not simply their village, town or provine which might just as easily belong to the English king as the French king or the Duke of Burgundy.  She made the French proud to be French again, made them believe in their identity and purpose.  This is something, it seems to me, everyone needs more of today in practically every country.  That goes for traaditionalists, conservatives and right-wingers just as much as those of the liberal, leftist or revolutionary varieties.  The left hates their countries for what they were, which is fine as they wish to destroy them anyway.  However, the right tends to hate their countries for what they are and this is deliberate for you will hardly have much zeal to fight for the salvation of your country if you do not love it.  Joan lived in what was possibly the darkest period in the history of France, she could have easily been discourged, but she fought for the France that could be, that should be and looked beyond the divided, dispirited country that was.  

Also, very much like today, Joan had to confront traditional institutions that were less than ideal.  However, she had a quality that made her immune to the damage this could cause.  Joan of Arc possessed a type of loyalty that seems exceedingly rare in this day and age, even among many who call themselves monarchists or royalists.  

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She never faltered in her own loyalty, she fought the battles that made it possible for the king to do what he needed to do and she urged him toward the proper course of action but her loyalty did not depend on the King acting as she saw fit or of him reciprocating her commitment. "   

    Another example comes from Andrew Lang's writes in his book The Story of Joan of Arc

    "The Dauphin had no money to pay his troops, but men-at-arms came in, hundreds of them, saying that they would fight for the love of the Maid and of chivalry.  Not doubt they would have been very glad to crown her, in place of the stupid Dauphin, but the French law did not allow it; and Joan wanted nothing for herself, only to make France free, and go back to her mother, as she said."

    In other words, people in those days really believed in idea of legitimacy through descent; the idea that she could have started a revolution and become a queen would have been unthinkable to Joan of Arc.  Furthermore, the underlying motivation of the citizens of monarchies was strong enough that willingly risked their lives for their king.   

    All of this has changed drastically in the present time.  But, examining this change this through the perspective of the evolution of consciousness helps us to understand it better.  Things have changed not just because of revolutions or propaganda, but because people's underlying way of thinking has evolved.  A modern person cannot make themself think like someone from the 1400s.  

    This change in consciousness does not mean that monarchy can never come again, just that the old form of monarchy is no longer possible.  It may well be that if the world survives, then some new type of monarchy based on a different form of consciousness will arise.  In fact, something like this has already happened.  The form of government of the early United States, though inspired by the Roman Republic and Athenian democracy, was not an exact continuation of either of them but a new thing because (in addition to the geographic differences and other external circumstances) the consciousness of an 18th century American was very different from that of either an ancient Roman or Athenian.

    Monarchy is one example, but there are many others which show that we should take into account the development in consciousness as well as external factors when trying to understand changes in society.  

Three lost christian writings

    Three lost Christian writings which would be interesting to read are the books of Hegesippus and Papias, as well the Acts of Pilate.  The Acts of Pilate was an account that Pilate wrote of the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus and sent to the emperor Tiberius.  There is an apocryphal document with that title, but there is evidence that a real Acts of Pilate existed.  One example is that the early Christin Philosopher Justin Martyr writes refers to them his First Apology

    "How it was prophesied that our Christ would heal all diseases and raise the dead, hear what was spoken, as follows: 'At his coming the lame will leap like a hart, and the stammering tongue will be clear; blind will see and lepers be cleansed, and the dead will arise and walk.'  That he did these things, you can learn from the Acts of what took place under Pontius Pilate."

    No doubt Pilate's view of the miracles of Jesus was different than that of the Christians.  However, although some Romans were skeptical of the existence of the supernatural, many, even those who disbelieved in Christianity had no difficulty in accepting the miraculous healings of Jesus.  Indeed, pagan writer Eunapius writes of the philosopher Porphyry (who wrote a book against Christianity which only survives in quotation from other authors because all copies were burned): 

    "And he says too that he cast out and expelled some sort of daemon from a certain bath; the inhabitants called this daemon Kusatha."

    In other words, many Romans admitted the possibility of, and actually believed in, miraculous healings and other supernatural events, but their understanding of their significance was different than that of the Christians.  

    More evidence for the existence of the Acts of Pilate comes from Eusebius in his History of the Church: 

    "Our Saviour's marvellous resurrection and ascension into heaven were by now everywhere famous, and it had long been customary for provincial governors to report to the holder of the imperial office any change in the local situation, so that he might be aware of all that was going on.  The story of the resurrection from the dead of our Saviour Jesus, already the subject of general discussion all over Palestine, was accordingly communicated  by Pilate to the emperor Tiberius.  For Pilate knew all about Christ's supernatural deeds, and especially how after death He had risen from the dead nd was now generally believed to be a god.  

    It is said that Tiberius referred the report to the senate, which rejected it.  The apparent reason was that they had not gone into the matter before, for the old law still held good that no one could be regarded by the Romans as a god unless by vote and decree of the senate; the real reason was that no human decision or commendation was required for the saving teaching of the divine messge.  In this way the Roman council rejected the report sent to it about our Saviour, but Tiberius made no change in his attitude and formed no evil designs against the teachings of Christ."

    As with Justin Martyr's reference, it is not likely that Pilate believed in the resurrection of Jesus; he probably viewed people's discussion of the resurrection as the emergence of a new religious sect.  Nonetheless, this document would be worth reading because it would give us a description of Jesus and the emergence of Christianity from a Roman perspective.  

    Hegesippus's writings have been lost, but he lived in the 100s AD and wrote five books that described events that happened in the early Church, many after the Acts of the Apostles.  For example, Eusebius quotes Hegesippus's description of the martyrdom of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, who was killed by the Scribes and Pharisees.  This James was not James the Apostle, but a relative of Jesus who was a Nazirite (like Samson) and was widely respected because of his upright manner of living.

    Papias wrote five books called The Sayings of the Lord Explained.  Eusebius writes: 

    "Pre-eminent at that time in Asia was a companion of the Apostles, Polycarp, on whom the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Lord had conferred the episcopate of the church at Smyrna.  Famous contemporaries of his were Papias, bishop of the see of Hierapolis, and one who to this day is universally remembered - Ignatius, the second to be appointed to the bishopric of Antioch in succession to Peter."

    Papias did not know the Apostles personally, but he spoke with those who had known them.  Eusebius quotes Papias as writing: 

    "And whenever anyone came who had been a follower of the presbyters, I inquired into the words of the Presbyters, what Andrew or Peter had said, or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other disciple of the Lord, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord, were still saying.  For I did not imagine that things out of books would help me as much as the utterances of a living and abiding voice."

    Since Papias spoke with people for whom the age of the Apostles was still a living memory, his books would have much of historical interest.  

    Unfortunately, all of these books are long gone.  But then again, it is not unprecedented that long-lost Christian writings be recovered.  The Infogalactic page on Hegesippus says: 

    "Zahn has shown that the work of Hegesippus may still have been extant in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in three Eastern libraries, saying: 'We must lament the loss of other portions of the Memoirs which were known to exist in the seventeenth century.' "

    Furthermore, the Didache, an early document of Christian teaching, which had been referred to by other writings, but lost was rediscovered.  The Penguin Classics Early Christian Writings gives the following account: 

    "Towards the end of 1883, Philotheos Bryennios, then Metropolitan of Nicomedia, astonished the world by publishing a text of The Didache which he had discovered ten years earlier in a small eleventh-century codex of 120 pages in the library in Constantinople belonging to the Patriarch of Jerusalem (it has since been transferred to Jerusalem) - a manuscript we have already encountered as it contains the only complete Greek texts we know of the epistles of Clement and Barnabas.

    Another example of a lost and found again text is the Epistle to Diognetus.  The introduction to Early Christian Writings says: 

    "In about 1435 in Constantinople, where he had gone to study Greek, a young Italian student, Thomas of Arezzo, discovered amonst a pile of packing paper in a fish market a rather tattered volume of ecclesiastical writings in Greek.  The first five treatises in this manuscript volume were spurious works acribed to Justin Martyr, i.e., the second century apologist the fifth of them headed 'By the same [i.e. Justin], to Diognetus.  ... It was a work previously unknown - neither Eusebius nor any of the Fathers refers to it - and this sole manuscript was the basis of many editions, from that of H. Estienne in 1592 onwards, until the manuscript was destroyed in the flames of Strasbourg in 1870, a victim of the Franco-Prussian War.

... 

it is the sole - though fleeting - evidence of a work that has fascinated since its discovery.  It is written in Greek of a conscious elegance rare among early Christian writings, even though at times, because of illegibility, it becomes barely comprehensible."  

Lessons from the Roman martyrs

    One of the greatest problems in the modern world is the absence of virtue.  This is more subtle than the obvious abundance of vice.  One reason is because it is an absence rather than a presence.  It is apparent if something happens that should not, but what if something that should happen does not?  That is much more difficult to perceive, in particular if we do not know what we should be looking for.  What tends to happen is that people have a general sense that something is not as it should be; but do not know what.  

    Two of the largest are the lack of courage and the lack of loyalty.  The story of early Christian martyrs provides an example of a time when both of these virtues were far stronger than they are now.  The courage of the martyrs is proverbial, but their story also shows the virtues of the Romans.  Although individual Roman emperors were depraved and wicked, many of the individual Romans were far superior to most moderns in honesty and courage.  For instance, when the Christians were asked to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar and be released or refuse and die, the Romans weren't lying.  They really did release those Christians who apostasized.  Compare this to the dishonest show trials of the twentieth and twenty-first century where those taken to trial are already marked for persecution and there is nothing they can do about it.  

    Despite their cruelty, the Romans were honest; they followed their own rules.  When Pontius Pilate released Barbbas, Barabbas really was released.  Paul was beheaded because he was a Roman citizen and Roman citizens could not be crucified.  The account of the martyrdom of Felicity and Perpetua states that Felicity was pregnant at the time of her condemnation, so she was not executed until she had given birth.  This is because the Romans considered it unjust to kill an unborn and innocent child along with the mother when the mother had been condemned to death.  

    By contrast, the dishonest anti-Christian governments of the 21st century do not follow their own rules.  Rules are applied selectively to Christians for the purpose of harming them.  Another contrast is that in many of the Christian perseuctions of the 20th century, the goal was either the elimination of groups that were Christian or the utter destruction of Christian belief along with demoralization of Chrisitans.  By contrast, genocide was not the goal of the Roman persecution.  Although pagan mobs sometimes did attack Christians indiscriminately at the time of the perecutions, the goal of the Roman officials was not to kill all Christians.  Their plan was to force the Christians into submission to the empire.  Indeed, the Romans were not concerned with the otherworldly beliefs of the Christians but only their refusal to honor the emperor as a god, which was seen as disloyalty to the state.

    Further, the Romans greatly respected courage.  Executions were public, so pagan Romans had seen many criminals killed.  But these criminals had no choice in the matter.  Once found guilty of a crime, they were condemned to be executed and outside of escaping from prison, there was no way to stop it.  One the other hand, up until the point they were sentenced to death the Christians really could have walked away at any time by honoring the pagan gods and so they were choosing to undergo torture and death.  This must have been astounding to the Romans.  Among Roman soldiers in particular courage must have been greatly honored.  Eusebius in his History of the Church relates an account of a soldier who became converted in seeing a Christian undergo torment and death: 

    "Seventh among them must be reckoned Basilides who led the renowned Potamiaena to execution.  The praises of this woman are even today loudly sung by her own people. ...  She had hardly spoken when she heard sentence pronounced, and Basilides, a member of the armed forces, seized her arm and led her away to execution.  As the crowd tried to plauge her and insult her with obscene jests, Basilides thrust them back and drove them away, showing the utmost pity and kindness towards her.  Potamiaena accepted his sympathy for her and gave him encouragement: when she had gone away she would ask the Lord for him, and it would not be long before she repaid him for all he had done for her.  This said, she faced her end with noble courage - slowly, drop by drop, boiling pitch was poured over different parts of her body, from her toes to the crown of her head.  Such was the battle won by this splendid girl. 

    Not long afterwards Basilides was for some reason asked by his fellow-soldiers to take an oath, but he insisted that he was unable to swear in any circumstances as he was a Christian and made no secret of the fact.  At first they thought he was joking, but when he stuck doggedly to his assertion he was brought before the magistrate, who, as he made no attempt to hide his convictions, committed him to prison.  When his brothers in God visited him and asked the reason for this amazing impulse and determination, he is said to have declared that three days after her martyrdom Potamiaena stood before him in the night, put a wreath about his head, and said that she had prayed for him to the Lord, had obtained her request, and before long would place him by her side.  At this the brethren bestowed on him the seal of the Lord [baptism], and the next day, nobly witnessing for his Lord, he was beheaded.  The records sate that at this period many other citizens of Alexandria accepted the teaching of Christ in a body, as Potamiaena appeared to them in dreams and called them."  

    Other Roman soldiers who died for their faith are the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, condemned to freeze to death.  In general, Romans were far more courageous than modern Westerners and soldiers even more so.  So it is no surprise that many soldiers became Christians.  

  In addition to their courage, the early Christians were extraordinarily tight-knit.  An egregious misunderstanding in the modern days is that it is somehow above tribalism to hate one's own family and one's own culture.  By contrast, the early Christians took the love and devotion of the family and extended it to the other members of their communities.  They moved above tribalism, while modern liberal Christianity falls below it.  In particular, there was no magic word beginning with "R" that caused early Christians to throw each other to the pagan mob.  

    The early Christians also helped each other in times of trouble.  If Christians in one city were suffering, Christians from other cities would bring food or money.  And in those days, this meant personally travelling across many miles with the possibility of encountering bandits.  Felicity and Perpetua both had young children and yet they knew that after they died their children would be cared for by the Christian community.  Indeed, a frequent exhortation used by Roman magistrates to convince Christian parents to apostasize was to consider their duty for family; who would take care of them if they died?  But the Christian parents were willing to die because they knew their children would be cared for.  But not only that, the martyrs were willing to accept the death of their entire family because they did not view it as the end; they had faith in life after death to an extent that is astounding.  

    This is shown by the fact that the feast day of martyrs was the day they died; viewed as the day they were born to eternal life.  

    So, in general, people in Roman times were far more courageous and loyal than people now and Christians most of all.  Furthermore, loyaly and faith strengthen courage.  In these days, reading about the Roman martyrs is informative because it shows us the significance of these three virtues: loyalty, faith, and courage.

Sodom and Gomorrah

     JMSmith's recent post at the Orthosphere "The Luxurious Road to Lot's Door" discusses the danger of luxury in regards to the sinful city of Sodom:  

    "Idleness is luxuriant rest, and it has fell consequences, just like every other luxury.  This is because idleness permits the pursuit of pleasure, pleasures pale, and the pursuit of plesure is therefore an endless chase after new and increasingly piquant pleasures.  This is what St. Augustine meant when he said that the overgrown power and wealth of Rome caused the Romans to fall into the trap of luxury and chase an 'infinite variety of pleasures.' "

    The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is also interesting for other reasons.  In addition to striking details, such as Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt and Abraham watching smoke rise over the plain in the morning, it is one of the three big times in the Bible that overwhelming supernatural force is used against the wicked.  The other two are the tower of Babel and the Deluge.   

    These three punishments use archetypal forms of destruction: fire, water, and the breaking up of human society.  The people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the people before the Flood were proverbially evil.  Geneis 18:20 says: 

    "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great."  

    while Genesis 6:5 says about the people before the Flood: 

    "The the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was altogether evil all the time."  

    But even despite that, their ends were fairly merciful.  Being burned alive by fire and brimstone is not a pleasant way to die, but it is much better than what the Sodomites would have visited upon the people of any city that they had conquered.       

    One reason might have something to do with the statement expressed by the Neo-Pythagorean Iamblichus

    "As it is better for a part of the body that contains purulent decacy to be burned than to continue as it is, thus also is it better for a depraved man to die than to continue to live."

    In other words, once someone goes wrong enough, it is more merciful for their soul that they die than live because otherwise they would continue to get worse and worse.  Furthermore, the thought of imminent death may lead to repentance. 

    This also relates to what Francis Berger writes about in his post: "The Misguided Yearning for a Vengeful God Part I" which discusses Berdyaev's ideas about how Jesus offered salvation, but also a new dispensation for creative freedom.  It may be that after the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is better for sinners to live and repent and continue to learn than to die.  

     I find these questions worth thinking about, but these are deep waters, which involve knowledge of times long past, so an answer will probably always remain elusive.

The Hall of Mirrors Effect

      When people read or hear something from different sources, they are inclined to take more notice.  In particular, if a particular idea...