Appendix II -
The Gods Remain book cover

The Enlightenment and the End of the Classic Age-Second Version

During the classic age and before, Truth was perceived and then brought into form. In order to be known again, it had to be perceived again and then brought into form again, normally not in exactly the same form as before. Truth could never be exactly defined or considered as an object to be used for anyone’s purposes. It could never be owned, it could never be seized as with the hand. Truth could be directly known by perceiving it and it could be known in no other way.

After the classic age passed and with the advent of philosophy, Truth was perceived, brought into form and then that form was pointed to as Truth. The act of perceiving, although it was performed, could not be comprehended, and Truth itself could only be understood as the form that had been the result of the no longer comprehensible perception. The point was that people refused to regard Truth as something one did not yet definitively know or control. Truth now had to be the known, and it had to be something that could be grasped as with the hand.

Later the act of perception disappeared altogether, and it was either declared impossible or it was declared illegal and evil. Truth became form handed down by authority. With the Renaissance, Truth became less handed down and more the result of the creative interaction of forms. "Thought" was possible, but it had to be entirely about thought. Perception was still unthinkable, and Truth remained something that was known and something that could be grasped as with the hand. With the Enlightenment Truth remained abstract, but the idea that Truth was something not yet known and not yet grasped became established, and forms supposedly reflecting that Truth were constantly subject to revision. People still could not comprehend that they were perceiving, since they still could only think in abstract terms, but they comprehended that the real world was something that you could only keep trying to define and control. As a result, people have acquired immense knowledge, but there is a problem.

For the previous thirteen centuries, the Church had been murdering anyone who didn't obey it and at times this rose to the level of genocide. There was a definite point to not holding perceptions as absolute Truth, but rather to consider Truth as definitely defined abstract forms, and that point had always been to invest forms with absolute importance, to establish that there is nothing more than those forms, to establish that there is nothing more significant than objects that can be captured as with the hands, owned, stuck in the pocket and used for whatever purpose one wished. And mostly the way in which these forms have gotten used is to establish one’s identity, one’s superiority and one’s dominance over other people, hence the murder and genocide towards anyone who is not consistent with these forms. The sum of all the forms that anyone has ever used for their own purposes would be the abstraction called "God," and whenever anyone decides that they own "God" murder is likely to follow. The same sort of people who did this in the past are still around today. The Muslim world is full of such people, in the United States they are called the "Christian Right," and they will start murdering again the moment they have the power.

"God" is not the problem, the problem is treating forms as if they are ultimately Real. Plato never talked in terms of "God," but he advocated the same sort of murder—though he never got the power to carry it out. When you understand that the world you perceive is real, this does not happen. That world cannot be grasped as with the hands, owned, or stuck in the pocket and used for any self-indulgent motives one might have. One can only be humble before that world.

But because of all these centuries of murder, the only knowledge that was able to expand and develop was that knowledge that was farthest from being in any way spiritual, farthest from having anything to do with the Church. That is exactly why we have become so secular, no other development was allowed. Because we have developed in this way, our understanding of the "physical" and the non-human world no longer consists of objects that are designed to gratify us, but in that which has reality before those objects were formed. So our understanding never reaches an end, and biology and physics are never "finished" and never will be. They will always be just beginning, and we have accomplished and will continue to accomplish a great deal in those spheres.

Our understanding of the human world is still pre-Enlightenment and in modern times has not approached the level it reached during the fifth century BC. It is still defined in terms of finished and unchangeable forms and not in terms of the place from whence those forms arose, and we still find that place tentative and untrustworthy and frightening. In the non-human world we accept that biology and physics must be continually discovered and come from a place eternally beyond our control, but we cannot accept knowledge of the human soul in any form but that of objects that we can know and control. We don’t feel we have knowledge of the human world at all until such knowledge has been reduced to a form that can be stuck in the pocket and used for any pretentious nonsense one wishes, mostly to establish one’s identity and one’s superiority over other people. If we are to begin to know our own souls as well as we have begun to know biology and physics, we must accept that this knowledge comes from a place that cannot be defined, directly spoken of, believed in, believed, joined, sided with, submitted to, claimed, owned or grasped. This knowledge comes from a place that can only be perceived, expressed and lived in, and towards that which we perceive, there is room for nothing but humility. The ancients understood that, we do not. And that is why our knowledge of the non-human world has advanced so far, whereas our knowledge of the human world remains on the level of superstition.

This "short" version is in fact about the same length as the version in the book; it has turned out to be a different essay on the same subject. I also recommend "Truth in the Iliad, Truth in the Aristotelian Tradition and Truth in the Enlightenment" in the "Essays" part of this web site. This is much more developed than either of these and deals with the subject of perception, etc. really well.

Read "Truth in the Iliad, Truth in the Aristotelian Tradition and Truth in the Enlightenment"