​Why the finest fruits of human progress are STILL beyond the reach of the modern man


‘Nothing in ancient alchemy,’ said Lecky, ‘was more irrational than the notion that increased ignorance in the elective body will be converted into increased capacity for good government in the representative body; that the best way to improve the world and secure rational progress is to place government more and more under the control of the least enlightened classes.’

The hostility of Homo sapiens to all Exact Knowledge, even when its effect is to work him benefits, is not hard to understand. He is against it because it is complex, and, to his dark mind, occult – because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas, and thus propels him into the realm of the Unknowable and Alarming. His search is always for short cuts, simple formulae, revelation. All superstitions are such short cuts, whether they issue out of the African jungle or out of Little Bethel. So are all political platitudes and shibboleths. Their one aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious. No man who has not had a long and arduous education in the physical sciences can understand even the most elementary concepts of, say, enlightenment—that would require of him to first put aside all his ‘acquired’ prejudices and biases, which as difficult as forcing a bull to produce milk. He would have to detach from all his half-rationalities and half-truth quackeries if he is to attain something of greater essence than what he already is in possession of. These borrowed half-truths are sometimes idiotic, like the tales displayed in the movies, but, again like the tales displayed in the movies, they are simple – and every man, high or low, prefers what he can understand to what puzzles and dismays him.

The cosmogonies that Awakened men toy with are all inordinately complex. To comprehend their veriest outlines requires an immense stock of exact knowledge, meditative contemplation and a special habit of thought, quite different in kind from the habit of thought which suffices for listening to the radio or watching CNN. It would be as vain to try to teach these cosmogonies to the ignorant (and, predictably, arrogant) as it would be to try to teach them to parrots who can master the wording perfectly without the slightest understanding of the intended meaning. But the cosmogony set forth in the first chapter of Genesis is so simple that a yokel, even somewhere deep here in the Heart of Africa (Kenya) and without much foreknowledge or meditation, can grasp it instantly. It collides ludicrously with many of the known facts, but he doesn’t know the known facts. It is logically nonsensical, but to him the nonsensical, in the sciences as in politics, has an irresistible fascination. So he accepts the Word with loud hosannas, and has one more excuse for hating his betters.

Turn to any other field of knowledge, and the story remains the same. It is a tragic but inescapable fact that most of the finest fruits of human progress, like all of the nobler virtues of man, are the exclusive possession of small minorities, chiefly unpopular and disreputable. Of the sciences, as of the fine arts, the average human being, even in the most literate and civilized of modern societies, is as ignorant as ignorant can possibly be. What he knows of histology, say, or zoology, or philology, or paleontology, or nuclear energy, or finance, and so forth is precisely nothing. Such things lie beyond his capacity for learning, and he has no curiosity about them. The man who has any acquaintance with them seems to him to be a ridiculous figure, with a touch of the sinister. Even those applied sciences which enter intimately into his everyday existence remain outside his comprehension and interest. Consider, for example, chemistry and biology. The whole life of the ordinary man, including especially his so-called thinking, is purely a biochemical process, and exactly comparable to what goes on in a barrel of cider; yet he knows no more about chemistry than a cow and no more about biology than its calf. The new physics, in the form of the social media and the television, saves him from the appalling boredom of his hours of leisure, but physics itself remains as dark to him as theosophy. He is more ignorant of elementary anatomy and physiology than the Egyptian quacks of 4000 B.C. His knowledge of astronomy is confined to a few marvels, most of which he secretly doubts. He has never so much as heard of ethnology, pathology or embryology. Greek, to him, is only a jargon spoken by bootblacks, and Wagner is a retired baseball player. He has never heard of Euripides, of Hippocrates, of Aristotle, or of Plato. Or of Vesalius, Newton and Roger Bacon, The fine arts are complete blanks to him, He doesn’t know what a Doric column is, or an etching, or a fugue. He is as ignorant of sonnets and the Gothic style as he is of ecclesiastical politics in Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia). Homer, Virgil, Cervantes, Bach, Raphael, Rubens, Beethoven – all such colossal names are empty sounds to him, blowing idly down the wind. So far as he is concerned these great and noble men might as well have perished in the cradle. The stupendous beauties that they conjured into being are nothing to him: he sticks to the newspapers and the movies, with Hot Dog or its like for Sunday afternoon. A politician by instinct and a statesman by divine right, he has never heard of ‘The Republic’ or ‘Leviathan’. A Gourmet of pornography that has distinguishing characteristic of majority of modern media, art, music, and TV, he is unaware of Sigmund Freud.

Learning survives among us largely because the mob has not got news of it. In all this there is a great deal less of yearning for moral perfection than there is of mere hatred of beauty. The common man, as a matter of fact, has no yearning for moral perfection. What ails him in that department is simply fear of punishment, which is to say, fear of his neighbors. He has, in safe privacy, the morals of a variety actor.

Beauty fevers and enrages him for another and quite different reason. He cannot comprehend it, and yet it somehow challenges and disturbs him. If he could snore through good music he would not object to it; the trouble with it is that it keeps him awake. So he believes that it ought to be put down, just as he believes that political and economic ideas [for instance, the concepts of Federal Reserve banking and other suchlike superstitions] which disturb him and yet elude him ought to be put down. The finest liberative art is safe from him simply because he has no contact with it, and is thus perpetually unaware of it. If, by some abominable magic, Jesus or Buddha or Vishnu or Zoroaster would return and rewrite the scriptures, the Work could be brought within range it would at once arouse hostility. Its complexity would puzzle and dismay; its lack of utilitarian purpose would affright. Soon there would be a movement to proscribe it, and esteemed clergymen would rove the land denouncing it, as they once denounced the Jesus, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Socrates, Pythagoras, Galileo Galilei, and many other supremely enlightened men. 

Such is man on the nether levels. Such is the pet and glory of democratic states. Human progress passes him by. Its aims are unintelligible to him and its finest fruits are beyond his reach: what reaches him is what falls from the tree, and is shared with his four-footed brothers. He has changed but little since the earliest recorded time, and that change is for the worse quite as often as it is for the better. He is still a slave to priests, and trembles before their preposterous magic. He is lazy (in seeking enlightenment), improvident and unclean at heart. All the durable values of the world, though his labor has entered into them, have been created against his opposition. He can imagine nothing beautiful and he can grasp nothing true. Whenever he is confronted by a choice between two ideas, the one sound and the other not, he chooses almost infallibly, and by a sort of pathological compulsion, the one that is not. Behind all the great tyrants and butchers of history he has marched with loud hosannas, but his hand is eternally against those who seek to liberate the spirit of the race. He was in favor of Nero and Torquemada by instinct, and he was against Galileo and Savonarola by the same instinct.

The world gets nothing from him save his brute labor, and even that he tries to evade. It owes nothing to him that has any solid dignity or worth, not even democracy. In two thousand years he has moved an inch. What is worth knowing he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know; what he knows is not true. The cardinal articles of his credo are the inventions of mountebanks; his heroes are mainly scoundrels.

[HAHA! This rant shall be continued in a separate article. For now I take a rest.]

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