Re: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (New Kadampa Tradition)
Date: November 17, 2011 05:40AM
Dear Stoic, you nailed it. And, here is a morsel from Professor Dodds. On page 242 he wrote of the process of assigning divine status to rulers, even to athletes and writes
So far as they have religious meaning for the individual, ruler-cult and its analogues, ancient or modern are primarily, I take it, expressions of helpless dependence; he who treats another human being as divine thereby assigns to himself the relative status of a child or an animal
(Corboy)And that includes gurus, tulkus, rinpoches, anyone considered infallible or the source of every desperate hope.
Dodds wrote that during and shortly after the conquests of Alexander, Greek science and culture reached a height that would not be reached again until the sixteenth century. For in the second century, this almost open society a society on the verge of creating a scientific method, pulled back. There was too great a gap in culture and education and social contact between the intellectual elite and the vast majority of persons.
"We have noticed evidence that in third century Athens a skepticism once confined to the intellectuals had begun to infect the general popluation; the same thing was later to happen at Rome. But after the third century a different kind of interaction shows itself: with the appearance of a pseudo scientific literature, mostly pseudonymous and often claiming to be based on divine revelation, which took up the ancient superstitions of the East or the more recent phantasies of the Hellenistic masses, dressed them in trappings borrowed from Greek science or Greek philosophy, and won for them the acceptance of a large part of the educated class. Assimilation henceforth works both ways; while rationalism of a limited and negative kind (eg today its the fad for deconstruction, relativism and post modernism in the form of reality is what you agree it is or what you think it to be or feel it to be-Corboy) continues to spread from the above and ddownwards, anti rationalism spreads from below and upwards and eventually wins the day. (Corboy interjection BNP gaining seats in the European Parliament. Parents refusing to get their kids immunized despite Wakefield being unmasked as an utter fraud and millions of dollars of rearch finding no statistically significant link between autism and vaccines. Presidents of the US witholding research monies from stem cell research and refusing to recognize global warming, crying in the night about the sanctity of stem cells while sending hundreds and thousands of young persons to be maimed in body and soul in search for non existant weapons of mass destruction WMD).
Dodds tells us more:
"Astrology is the most familiar example. It has been said that it "fell upon the Hellenistic mind as a new disease falls upon some remote island people." But the comparison does nto quite fit the facts, so far as they are known. Invented in Babylonia, it spread to Egypt, where Herodotus appears to have met with it. In the Fourth Century BCE Eudoxus reported its existence in Babylonia, along with the achievements of Babylonian astronomy but he viewed it with skepticism. and there is no evidence that it (astrology) was taken up, although in the Phaedrus myth, Plato amused himself by playing his own variation on an astrological theme.
(Corboy Note that Eudoxus can see astrology as different from astronomy. This distinction was not made again until Johannes Kepler stated to Giordano Bruno that he, Kepler was using mathematics for the purposes of astronomy, not astrology, when presenting his theory of elliptical planetary orbits. Kepler did cast horoscopes, but, like Eudoxus could make a distinction between mathematics used for scientific astronomy vs when used for astrology-see Francis Yates Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition)
Dodds then notes a change
About 280 BCE more detailed information on astrology was made available to Greek readers by the writings of the Babylonian priest, Barossus without (it would seeem) causing any great excitement. The real vogue for astrology seems to start in the second century BCE, when a number of popular manuals, especially one composed in the name of an imaginary Pharaoh, the Revealations of Nechepso and Petosiris begin to circulate widely, and practicing astrologers appear as far afield as Rome. Why did (astrology) occur then and not sooner? The idea was by then no novelty, and the intellectual ground for its reception had long been prepared by the astral theology which was taught alike by Platonists, Aristotelians and Stoics, though Epicurus warned the world of its dangers.
One may guess that astrology's spread was favored by political conditons. In the troubled half century that preceded the Roman conquest of Greece, it was particularly important to know what was going to happen. One may guess also that the Babylonian Greek who occuppied the Chair of Zeno encouraged a sort of 'trahison de clercs' (the Stoa had already used its influence to kill the heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus which, if accepted, would have upset the foundations of both astrology and the Stoic religion)
"But behind such immediate causes we may suspect something deeper and less conscious; for a century or more, the individual had been face to face with his own intellectual freedom and now he turned tail and bolted from the horrid prospect--better the rigid determinism of astrological Fate than the terrifying burden of daily responsibility.
Rational men like Panaetius and Cicero tried to check this retreat by argument, as Plotinus was to do later, but without perceptible effect; certain motives are beyond the reach of argument.
Dodds then tells us another development from this time.
"Besides astrology, the second century BCE saw the development of another irrational doctrine which deeply influenced the thought of later antiquity and of the whole Middle Ages--the theory of occult properties or forces immanent in animals, plants, and precious stones. Though its beginnings areprobably much older, this was first systematically set forth by one Bolus of Mendes, called 'the Democritian' who appears to have written about 200 BCE. His system was closely linked to magical medicine and with alchemy; it was soon combined with astrology to which it formed a convenient supplement. The awkward thing about the stars had always been their inaccessibility alike to prayer and to magic. But if each planet had its representative in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, linked to it by an occult sympathy, as was now asserted, one could get at them magically by manipulating these earthly counterparts.,,,from the first century BCE onwards, Bolus begins to be quoted as a scientific authority comparable in status with Aristotle and Theophrastus, and his doctrines became incorporated into the generally accepted world view.
In his introduction to The Greeks and the Irrational, Dodds tells his readers how he was at the British Museum, in the gallery housing the Parthenon sculptures.
It appears that Professor Dodds had a quality that made him approachable. Because he described how, in that gallery, he was approached.
"..a young man came up to me and said, with a worried air, "I know it's an awful thing to confess, but this Greek stuff does not move me one bit"
Dodds tells the reader, 'I said that was very interesting: could he define at all the reasons for his lack of response?
The younger man reflected for awhile, and said, "Well, its all so terribly rational, if you know what I mean."
Dodds continued in the introduction, 'I thought I did know. The young man was only saying what has been said more articulately by Roger Fry and others. To a generation whose sensibilities have been trained on African and Aztec art, and on the work of such man as Modigliani and Henry Moore, the art of the Greeks, and Greek culture in general, is apt to appear lacking in the awareness of mystery and in the ability to penetrate to the deeper, less conscious levels of human experience."
Dodds went on to demonstrate the extent to which Greek literature and art and culture was actually permeated with an awareness of mystery and of forces far beyond what could be accounted for by logic and introspection--and how the Greek atttitude changed over time.
But what worried Dodds most deeply was that by the end of the 4th century BCE, the Greeks had come close to creating an open society (in Popper's sense) had come close to a full on experimental-scientific method--but society lost its nerve and pulled back.
The Stoics in Athens arranged for the theory of Aristarchus to be condemned--the Stoics taught that the Sun was the visible image of divinity, not one among many stars.
Heresy trials in which subversive thinkers were exiled or made to recant appeared following the defeat of Athens. Socrates, teacher of enlightened self interest, stood his own teaching on its head by staying put, and choosing suicide despite many arrangements made by friends by which he, like others could have fled.
And Dodds tells us how suddenly, following the defeat of Athens, we find archeological evidence of an upsurge in magic--large quantities of curse tablets are found in Attica in tombs dated to this post war period.
"(With the foundation of the Lyceum(Aristotle) in 335 BCE, down to the end of the second century BCE this period witnessed the transformation of Greek science from an untidy jumble of isolated observations mixed with a priori guesses into a system of methodical disciplines.In the more abstract sciences, mathematics and astronomy, it reached a level that was not to be attained again before the 16th Century and it made the first organized attempt at research in many other fields, botany, zoology, geography, the history of language, literature, and many human insitutions. Nor was it only in science that the time was adventurous and creative. It is as if the sudden widening of spatial horizon that followed Alexander's conquests had widened at the same time, all the horizons of the mind. Despite the lack of political freedom, the society of the third century BCE was in many ways the nearest approach to an "open" society the world had yet seen. ..for the first time in Greek history, it did not matter where a man had come from or what his ancestry was...along with this levelling out of local determinants, this freedom of movement in space, there went an analogous levelling out of temporal determinents, a new freedom for the mind to (self consciously)
choose to travel backwards in time, and choose at will from the past experience of men those elements which it could best assimilate and expoit. The individual began consciously to use the tradition instead of being used by it. This is most obvious in the Hellenistic poets whose position in this respect was like poets and artists today. ..the rationalized psychology of Aristotle was matched by a rationalized religion.
(Dodds Greeks and the Irrational, page 236-40.
Ponder this. One could choose whether a particular tradition or literary style was appealing for a particular purpose. One could choose a method that was 'modern' or 'antique' or 'archaic', the way we can self consciously assert agency in relation to language and subject matter today. The poets who wrote Homeric material were inmates of thier method. Hundreds of years later, one could choose whether to imitiate thier style or go for something more modern. One had the ablity to look at ones subject matter objectively.
And that meant that in this age, Greeks who had a certain educational level were faced with a staggering number of new choices. And, in a few decades, had fled from them back into the child's world of magical thought.