Monday, April 30, 2018

The Fatal Mistake of Understanding Technology as Neutral and not Olympian

Christopher Columbus, sailing under the Spanish flag, led three ships to a renewed European discovery of the Americas in 1492. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (ca 1460s-1524) led the first European ships to India in 1498. With these two fifteenth-century voyages of discovery, Western Civilization became the most expansive one ever. This distinction received dramatic confirmation in 1522 when Juan Sebastian Elcano and his Spanish crew completed the first circumnavigation of the globe after three years at sea. Francis Drake and his English crew repeated the same feat in 1580.

1. 1490: Civilizations of Olympia
In his book, An Historian’s Approach to Religion (1956), English historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) notes the similarity in type between Western Civilization and others at that time:

In the fifteenth century of the Christian Era, when the Western Civilization…set out on its world-wide career of expansion, it was still a civilization of the same type as its contemporaries in other parts of the Old World: an Eastern Orthodox Christendom in South-East Europe and Anatolia; a branch of this same Eastern Orthodox Christendom in Russia; a Turco-Persian Islamic Civilization stretching from South-East Europe to India; [and] an Arabic Islamic Civilization stretching from Morocco to Indonesia…(149).

We have referred to Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa as our fabled land of Olympia. The cultural distinctions we have identified within this land correspond reasonably well with those of Toynbee. For the year 1490, we also divide Christendom into Western and Orthodox regions (see “Geography” above). We too divide the Orthodox region into two provinces: one, in South-East Europe (Hellas); the other, in Muscovy. Likewise, within Islamic Civilization, our separation of the cultural province of Anatolia from the provinces of Africa, Egypt, and the East corresponds with Toynbee’s separation of Turco-Persian Islamic Civilization from Arabic Islamic Civilization.

2. Their Most Important Similarity

This common characteristic of being set in the framework of a higher religion made fifteenth-century and sixteenth-century Western Christendom familiar to its contemporaries in the Old World and at the same time repulsive to them. It was familiar because of its traditional religious setting. It was repulsive be-[149]cause Western Christianity was a different religion …to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Islam, [etc.], which were the religious frameworks of the other living civilizations of the Old World (149-150).

We use religion as our primary criterion for distinguishing one civilization from another. Maybe Toynbee agrees. Here, though, he states that Western Christianity is a religion and “religious framework” distinct from Eastern Orthodox Christianity. I would call Latin Christianity and Greek Christianity two distinct cultural regions within one Christian Civilization.

We may agree with Toynbee, however, when he states that Christendom (Christian Civilization) was structured in terms of a traditional religious framework and that Islamic Civilization was so as well.

3. 1648: Accurately Diagnosing the Big Difference

In the seventeenth century of the Christian Era, however, when the West’s mastery of the Ocean was now firmly established, and when consequently the West had already become the potential master of the World, the West went through a revolution that had been by far the greatest of its history down to A.D. 1956. In the seventeenth century the Western Civilization broke out of its traditional Western Christian chrysalis and abstracted from it a new secular version of itself, in which Religion was replaced by Technology as Western Man’s paramount interest and pursuit (150).

We have spoken of the year 1648 as marking the beginning of a new age in Olympia (and the world): The Age of Exuberant Olympianity (1648-2008). This is the year that the warring Protestant and Catholic regions of Western Christendom collapsed exhausted into the Peace of Westphalia. We may conveniently use this date to analyze what Toynbee says about the times.

One, Toynbee notes that, by 1648, Western Christian states controlled shipping on the world’s oceans.

Two, because of this, Western Christian states, though still structured in terms of a traditional religious framework, stood poised to take control of all other states which were structured in terms of different but still traditional religious frameworks. In terms of our fabled land of Olympia, Western Christian states stood poised to control both Eastern Christian and Muslim states within it.

Three, we may use 1648 as a convenient date for marking the beginning of what Toynbee calls the greatest revolution in Western history. He characterizes this revolution as the replacement of religion by technology as Western Man’s paramount interest and pursuit (150).

Here Toynbee makes a mistake. In sociological terms, we may define as god whatever serves a society as its paramount interest and pursuit. In 1648, Toynbee rightly sees technology as the object of this enthusiasm. We more accurately understand this enthusiasm, however, as renewed devotion to Vulcan, god of technology. What Toynbee refers to as a revolution, we may more accurately call a dramatic and exuberant return to worship of the six gods of Olympianity: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.

Toynbee refers to Technology as secular but there was nothing neutral, or non-religious, about it. After almost 150 years of civil war, Western Christians had completely discredited Christianity. Christianity, while the dominant religion in the West for over 1,000 years, had never been the only one. Romans, and the people they referred to as barbarians, had been Olympians for millennia before Christianity became the sole official religion of the Roman Empire in AD 380. Even then, Olympianity didn’t disappear. It just took second place. The gods, however, never rested and did their best to bully, bribe, and deceive the Church into abandoning Jesus and his path of freedom in favor of their own path of power. By 1648, they had succeeded. Olympianity enjoyed a dramatic return to primacy—in Western Christendom, no less. An ignoble defeat for Western Christians.

4. The Fatal Misdiagnosis Made by the Rest of the World

…the effect of the seventeenth-century secularization of the Western Civilization on the attitude of the non-Western civilizations was to remove the previous obstacle to a reception of the Western Civilization by them. In consequence, the whole of the non-Western World had become deeply committed to the Late Modern secularized version of the Western Civilization by the middle of the twentieth century…(150).

Here Toynbee reveals the fatal mistake made by traditional religions in Olympia (and the world). Like Toynbee, they wrongly understood the technological phenomenon occurring in the West as religiously neutral. They should have seen it for what it was: devotion to Vulcan and the other Olympian gods. Had they done so, then these religions, and the civilizations structured in terms of them, would not have become so deeply committed to alien and destructive gods. Had they understood and resisted, then societies, cultures, and personalities across the globe would not now suffer from a parasitic, collapsing, and meaningless Global Technological System with no place to go.

Copyright © 2018 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.