Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Reading: The “properly human spiritual ideal, true to the highest potentiality of our species,” is freedom & individualism

_Quote It is not easy for Westerners to realize that the ideas recently developed in the West of the individual, his self-hood, his rights, and his freedom, have no meaning whatsoever in the Orient. They had no meaning for primitive man. They would have meant nothing to the peoples of the early Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Chinese, or Indian civilizations. They are, in fact, repugnant to the ideals, the aims and orders of life, of most of the peoples of this earth. And yet — and here is my second point — they are the truly great ‘new thing’ that we do indeed represent to the world and that constitutes our Occidental revelation of a properly human spiritual ideal, true to the highest potentiality of our species…
    [Consider the importance of individuality in Western art] Consider the works of Rembrandt or Titian: the attention given in these to the representation of what we call character, personality, the uniqueness, at once physical and spiritual, of an individual presence. [In contrast, we can note] the absence in the Oriental traditions of anything like significant portraiture…
    Consider too the difference between the pagan Greeks and the Hebrews of the same time.]  The Greeks … are on man’s side, both in sympathy and in loyalty; the Hebrews, on the contrary, on [their] god’s.  Never would we have heard from a Greek such words as those of the sorely beaten ‘blameless and upright’ Job, addressed to the god that had ‘destroyed him without cause’ and who then came at him in the whirlwind, boasting of his power.
    ‘Behold,’ pleaded Job, ‘I am of no small account … I know that thou canst do all things … I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’
    Repent! Repent for what?!
    In contrast, the great contemporary Greek playwright Aeschylus, of about the same fifth-century date as the anonymous author of the Book of Job, puts into the mouth of his Prometheus—who was also being tormented by a god that could ‘draw Leviathan out with a fishhook, play with him as a bird, and fill his skin with harpoons’—the following stunning words: ‘He is a monster … I care less than nothing for Zeus.  Let him do as he likes.’
    And so say [all we Westerners] today in our hearts, even though our tongues may have been taught to babble with Job.
        - Joseph Campbell, in his 1971 book Myths to Live By



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7 Comments:

Blogger Blair said...

That's one of the most flippant passages of nonsense I have ever read. It makes no sense from start to finish. The Book of Job has no relevance to the ideas of individualism. The author has taken a premise that one needs to be godless to be an individualist, and spouted forth garbage as a consequence. Good for him, but the passage presents no compelling argument and means nothing. At best it is romantic fluff.

7/18/2010 04:03:00 pm  
Blogger Lucia Maria said...

There is a major difference between the Greek gods and the Hebrew's God; the Greek gods are man's idea of what a god could be like and therefore not based on truth, while as the Hebrew's God is real. Therefore, to reject the Greek gods is to reject false gods, but it does not then follow that God should also be rejected.

As unpalatable as the idea that a man such as Job should repent, it shows us that a man who does everything that God requires of him is still nothing in the great scheme of things. Yet this same God, to whom we could be considered nothing, became one of us permanently and offers us His love and salvation.

If we say we do not need that or Him, then we follow the fallen angels into destruction.

7/18/2010 05:28:00 pm  
Blogger Andrei said...

One of the most obvious problems with this hypothesis is of course the author fails to recognize that the Christian Faith owes much Hellenic thought.

The language of the Gospels as they have come down to us is Greek.

The Epistles and the Gospel of Luke at least were composed in Greek.

St Paul and St Luke were well versed in Hellenic thought of course and indeed the whole notion of the individual and individual rights is Christian in origin.

7/18/2010 06:26:00 pm  
Blogger Dave Mann said...

Oh Purrrleeeezzz, Lucia!

I suppose one should not expect anything different from a godbothering twit such as this, but all the same, to claim that the Hebrew 'god' is 'real' is, frankly, as ridiculous as claiming that L Ron Hubbard is infallible.

It doesn't help you (or Andrei) to point this out of course, but the idea that the primary creative and motive force which underpins the cosmos has a gender, and a human-like personality and formed a special emnotional soft spot for a nomadic tribe of primitive warring savages thousands of years ago in the middle east is desperately deluded thinking.

7/18/2010 09:07:00 pm  
Anonymous James said...

"There is a major difference between the Greek gods and the Hebrew's God; the Greek gods are man's idea of what a god could be like and therefore not based on truth, while as the Hebrew's God is real."

I can't believe anyone could say that with a straight face.The Christian God,like all others, is created by Man in HIS image.

"Therefore, to reject the Greek gods is to reject false gods, but it does not then follow that God should also be rejected."

Bullshit should always be rejected for ingestion regardless of flavour.

7/19/2010 01:26:00 pm  
Anonymous Greg said...

St Paul and St Luke were well versed in Hellenic thought of course and indeed the whole notion of the individual and individual rights is Christian in origin.

A occurs. Almost 1000 years later, B occurs. Therefore A began with B. What is it with religious nutters and logic?

[FWIW, PC: Aeschylus isn't believed to be the author of the Prometheus plays...]

7/19/2010 03:40:00 pm  
Blogger Dave Mann said...

Or, to quote Spike Milligan on this very same subject...

"My father was a great man; he told me so himself. He said "I am a great man!"

And you can't argue with facts like that, folks!!!"

This exact quote has stuck in my mind verbatim for around 50 years - ever since I heard him saying it live on the balck & white radio.

You can try it yourself at home...

"God exists. It says so in the Bible, and the Bible is the word of God, so it must be true."

For a bit of fun, make up your own variation to drop into dicussions with Christians, Jews and Muslims and spot whether or not they get the irony. Hardly any of them will, I can almost guarantee it... :-)

7/19/2010 05:41:00 pm  

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