Progressive Revelation: Historiography and Civilization Dynamics
The endowment which distinguishes the human race from all other life forms is summed up in the reality known as the human spirit, or the rational soul. Of this soul, the diverse faculties of the mind constitute its most brilliant feature. The reality of man is his thought. Through the agency of this power humankind has been enabled to invent technologies, and rear social structures with intricate governance relations and sophisticated administrative capacities. Social order allowed economic prosperity and fulfillment for the human body. Accomplishments of this plane alone, however, must always fail to satisfy the human spirit, the mysterious nature of which draws imperceptibly and irresistibly towards the attainment of transcendence. As if by a magnet we are drawn heart-first toward a realm above or within – a realm that is harder, firmer, and more ultimate than anything that we have experienced. This transcendent, eternally-attractive, essentially unknowable Entity, we know by the ever-inadequate term: God.
Religion, as a phenomenon, is a set of ethico-social rejuvenations initiated cyclically in the life of mankind by a series of great spiritual Teachers, who historically have served as the sole-successful self-claiming manifestation of the Word and Will of the Divine. Each in His own way, culture, and time has revolutionized and elevated humankind’s powers for attaining new moral and material heights of achievement.
Religion remains the only force capable of uniting mankind into a peaceful global society. World peace, for example, will require a reinterpretation of human nature in light of mankind’s progressive religious history before it can hope to achieve global acceptance. It is the position of this forum, that the interaction of the human conscience with religion has largely constituted the substance of history.
Before man knew fire, he buried his dead. To bury a corpse is to assume that life continues beyond the mortal frame. Ritualistic bones found in ancient graves of deceased ancestral humans predate the existence of society. Ritual itself stands for belief in meaning and significance that transcends the material symbols used to convey them. Religion therefore is a faculty within human nature, as deep and immutable as the homo sapien form itself. Homo sapien can alternatively be described as “Homo relgiosus” as the unique trademark our species.
Religion does not enjoy such a noble reputation in public perception currently, in large part because of the confusion in society due to the violent and inhumane conflicts fought in the name of religion in the 20th century. But the problem began long before that. Religion was losing its relevance to the struggles and questions of the human condition early in the 19th century. People may have been willing to tolerate the rare and radical extremists harming society in recent decades had religion maintained some of its positive contributions to human life, answering life’s challenging questions. Ethical dilemmas discussed in ancient scripture, however, are so alien to modern predicaments that it is difficult to see how one could derive inspiration or solutions from these Writings in a sincere way. Ultimately, however, it would also be incorrect for a fair-minded observer to discount the expansive influence organized religion has exerted on energizing, legislating, moralizing, and engendering the vital expressions of civilization.
Religion’s indispensability to social order has been grudgingly recognized in recent decades due to its irreproducible effect on human morality and law. Intrinsic to its force, religion remains the greatest means for the establishment of order in the world and for the attainment of inner peace. Without an inner restraint on the conscience of a human, what is to prevent him from causing harm through tendencies towards selfishness? According to modern economic dogma, we are rationally self-interested actors on a free market stage calculating cost-benefit analyses for each decision. A society formed by social contract for the betterment of all requires a police force to maintain internal order. But who will police the police? Order cannot be maintained purely by external coercion. Moral obedience to the conscience of faith has always been and will always remain necessary. Civilization and religion have always depended upon each other.
Eclipsing the light of religion, corrupting its tenets, structures, and intentions, evidence shows, leads to a persistent, progressive degeneration of spiritual faculties and qualities. As the lamp of religion has been obscured, under duress from its own incompetence or misuse, increasing normalization has been seen with regard to levels of chaos and confusion. Actions motivated by a personal sense of fairness, justice, tranquillity and peace have ceased to be common modus operandi. Taking account of the effects, we see the perversion of the human drive towards transcendence misused and misguided in the corruption and dissolution and loss of respect for human institutions. Character has become a thing of the nostalgic past, though unbeknownst to most, no reversion to the past will succeed in reversing these unwanted effects, nor is such a reversion possible. Moral conservatism is as untenable as a world conceived without change. The question is not recreation of nostalgic bygone virtues, but rather the creation de novo of a new prosperous order, suited to the needs and unique opportunities of the age we enter.
Survey of social landscape: human character is normalized as debased in comparison with the noble virtues of which humanity is capable; confidence is shaken individually and universally; the nerves of discipline are relaxed and unprepared for sacrifice; the voice of human conscience is dulled by the intoxicants of social narcotics and preoccupation with entertainment; the sense of decency and shame is obscured behind a veil of anomie; conceptions of duty, solidarity, reciprocity and loyalty are twisted to suit exploitative and self-centered interests; overtime, though material comforts have accrued, the increasing agitation in people’s minds tells us: the important feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of hope has gradually been extinguished.