( Originally written and posted on MySpace on February 18, 2009 )
Caesar's Greatest Ambition
Plutarch's life of Julius Caesar concludes with a vivid account of his assassination. Most memorable, though, in Plutarch's account is this outline of what was probably Caesar's greatest ambition:
" Caesar was born to do great things, and had a passion after honor, and the many noble exploits he had done did not now serve as an inducement to him to sit still and reap the fruit of his past labors, but were incentives and encouragments to go on, and raised in him ideas of still greater actions, and a desire of new glory, as if the present were all spent. It was in fact a sort of emulous struggle with himself, as it had been with another, how he might outdo his past actions by his future. In pursuit of these thoughts, he resolved to make war upon the Parthians, and when he had subdued them, to pass through Hyrcania; thence to march along by the Caspian Sea to Mount Caucasus, and so on about Pontus, till he came into Scythia; then to overrun all the countries bordering upon Germany, and Germany itself; and so to return through Gaul into Italy, after completing the whole circle of his intended empire, and bounding it on every side by the ocean. "
Undoubtedly, Caesar had no realistic concept of the population of the Scythians and Teutons. His expedition would have most probably become bogged down and sunk into disaster long before he reached the Schwarzwald. One thinks of Napoleon's debacle in Russia or the similar defeat suffered by his emulator Hitler. (Even when a child I wondered what people could mean when they said that Hitler wanted to conquer the world. On the globe, Germany looked much too small to do any such thing.)
Demographics is destiny. Edward Gibbon in the concluding chapter to his history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire states that the Romans quite obviously underestimated the numbers of the barbarians. Gibbon finds " the principal and immediate cause of the fall of the Western empire of Rome " to be the admittance into the empire, south of the Danube, of over a million Goths, on the condition that they would swear an oath of loyalty to the emperor. Only a generation later, of course, the Goths rose up and sacked the city of Rome itself. That was the beginning of the end.
One of [ my ] motives in reading through all of Gibbon's lengthy work, which took several decades, was having heard again and again that the cause of the fall of the Empire was taxation. This was a favorite claim made by Ronald Reagan. After reading all of Gibbon, I found little or nothing about taxation, but much about the demographic factor. The barbarians simply began to outnumber the Romans and had no desire to assimilate and become Romans. That reminds me of the fact that President Reagan, in 1986, approved an amnesty for three million illegal aliens then in the U.S.A. That was the beginning of the end of any effective conservative or Republican resistance to mass immigration, whether legal or illegal. It will prove also to have been the end of the historic nation of America. Most conservatives do not know what it is that they should conserve. For lack of that knowledge, they will lose it all.
( Originally written and posted on MySpace on February 8, 2009 )
Some Thoughts Occasioned by the Gospel According to John
For the past several years, I have read through the New Testament once during the year, either in the King James Version or the New Revised Standard Version. Last night I finished reading again the Gospel According to John. This has always been the most moving of the gospels for me. It is a gateway to the rest of the New Testament, especially to the books of Jude and Revelation, and also has its own interesting characteristics.
It begins with an abstraction, unlike the other gospels: " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. " According to the gloss in the Scofield edition -- an edition which, by the way, I do not recommend for a number of reasons -- "the Word" is Logos in Greek and means either "a thought or concept" or "the expression or utterance of that thought."
John may begin with an abstraction, but it has many vividly concrete images. One thinks particularly of the details of the interrogation and crucifixion of Christ, and also of Doubting Thomas wanting to verify to himself what he sees by inspecting the wounds of Christ. Dramatically and vividly at the center of this gospel stands Christ's diametrical opposition to the Pharisees, the defining moment expressed in John 8:44. The Pharisees and the Sadducees we still have with us.
John ends with a concrete image, but one that we cannot visualize: " And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. " The gloss in the Scofield edition tells us that here "the world" means the earth, not the cosmos. Even the earth alone covered over with books telling of all that Christ did is something that we cannot visualize.
Those books taken together would comprise an unparalleled library. At this point. one recalls a story by Jorge Luis Borges: "The Library of Babel." In the posters one finds in libraries, Borges is often quoted as having written that "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." (At this point, I think of the personnel in libraries and Jean Paul Sartre's famous observation "Hell is other people.") Still trying to visualize that world of books, one is reminded of the akashic records, the records to which Rudolf Steiner turned when he made the great leap from Nietzsche to Theosophy and wrote the work known in English as Cosmic Memory.
( Originally written and posted on MySpace on January 4, 2009 )
Vindication for Ignatius Donnelly ?
Ignatius Donnelly, to the extent that he is remembered at all, is frequently dismissed as a "crank" because of his authorship of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882), although his Caesar's Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century (1891) has won some recognition among literary historians as an early example of the dystopian novel. Another of Donnelly's works may, however, be well worth reading again; i.e., Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883). According to Ragnarok, the earth was struck by a comet at some 10,000 years B.C. , the time when the lost continent of Atlantis, according to Plato's account in his Critias, sank under the Atlantic Ocean. This impact of the earth by a comet also brought about a minor ice age, according to Donnelly, causing the loss of advanced civilization. Memories of the great cataclysm linger in the guise of various myths.
All of this has been dismissed as unsubstantiated speculation, total nonsense, but it may prove to be not as nonsensical as commonly supposed if verification is found for an hypothesis offered by University of Oregon anthropologist Douglas Kennett and others in a January 2009 issue of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Kennett and others investigating the phenomenon of heavy deposits on earth of "nanodiamonds," microscopic particles present in comets, hypothesize that the earth was struck by a comet, or suffered the impact of a comet exploding near the earth, approximately 13,000 years ago. This would account for the 1,300 year-long ice age which followed, a sudden climate shift which was the cause of the extinction of the mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers as well as the decline of the Clovis culture.
Anyone reading this who is an Ohioan will likely be familiar with the Serpent Mound site. A giant earthworks produced by the Mound Builders, the site seems to represent a sinuous snake with jaws open in an attempt to devour an egg. A reading of Ragnarok would suggest that this earthworks reflects a distant memory of the cometary impact in which the comet represents the snake and the egg about to be devoured is the earth. The tradition of a spherical earth might have been handed down as oral tradition to the Mound Builders. The earthen "egg" itself is round, not oblong.