From the Ruling Classes to the Power Complex

First, some definitions. Human societies usually became stratified, with some groups in them ending up with more than other groups. These groups controlled the others. They had more prestige and usually more wealth. They dominated the other groups. In a word, these ruling classes had more power.

The people in these classes were often related to each other, and comprised powerful families. Needless to say, there were often conflicts between these groups, and this is what history has been mainly about – struggles for power.

But on a different level there has also been the struggle between different kinds of societies – societies with different values and different ways of being organized.

I am now listening to a course about the Reformation – which was about one of those long, drawn-out conflicts. The one which produced the modern world, and a fundamentally different culture. And centuries later, in our time, a fundamentally different kind of power. One in which people are controlled by it.

The forty-dollar question, of course, is what is this it? Whatever it is, it has showed up and taken over without our being aware of it – almost as though we have been occupied by a force from another planet. Except that this force, whatever it is, must be been one of our own creations. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

So far in my struggles this morning I haven’t gotten very far, but I have re-defined the question to this “What have we done to ourselves?” The answer, which is certainly an unpleasant one, seems to be: we have destroyed ourselves.

I am certain this is the correct answer, but I could also have said: we have created a power complex – and given our power to it. This power complex is what I referred to earlier as simply it – for lack of a better term. Whatever it is, it is clearly in control. Now I want to say more about it.

Since the middle of the 19th Century, two things have happened: an increased understanding of ourselves (the social sciences) and high-technology. The first gave those in power, mainly the large corporations, the ability to control us, via the Media, which was created by the second: high-technology – which also (via the computer and the Internet) gave them the ability to create ever larger organizations – which eventually included everything – the Power Complex.

Previously, the ruling classes chose who would represent them in the power structure. Now, the power complex choses those who will serve it best, and gives power to them temporarily. There is only one rule they must follow: it must have all the power.

We have been forgotten, and it has taken over.


Luther on the Divine Right of Kings

This is a follow up to my posting The Spirit of the Reformation was Profoundly Medieval, where I mention that Lutheranism did not become the main branch of Protestantism, as is commonly supposed, Calvinism has been the clear winner, and the source of many of our problems.

On page 182 of The Making of the Modern Mind I saw this quote, and I had to copy it:

“The princes of this world are gods,” wrote Luther, “the common people are Satan.” “It is in no wise proper for any Christian to set himself up against his government, whether it acts justly or unjustly.”

Shocking, huh?

He then goes on to show that the doctrine of the divine right of kings was an intermediate step between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age. Interesting stuff.

Luther and Calvin

This is a continuation of my previous entry The Spirit of the Reformation was Profoundly Medieval. I doubt if anyone read it – but no matter, as Luther would have said: this is a matter between me and God – via the Internet.

I wish you could see me now: I went for a long ride on my bicycle in some lovely scenery, with my old body barely able to navigate the steeper parts, came back to Orosi and headed for the Swiss panaderia (bakery), where I am one of her favorite customers, because I spent so much there. I bought a bottle of raspberry wine (vino de mora), a slice of quiche, and some chocolate brownies (very sinful). Brought them home, got smashed – but had to do something even more sinful (write on my blog). Therefore this posting.

My source is the same: The Making of the Modern Mind, page 115, where he speaks of the Spirit of Reform in the Middle Ages. I quote:

From the thirteenth century and earlier there had existed these same tendencies within the church towards simplification, individualism, and salvation without external sacraments. The three main groups who in their several ways were this undermining the authority of the church were the mystics, the Augustinian Catholic reformers, and the humanists. The break come with Luther because non-religious and social conditions were ready for his revolt…

The great German mystics, Master Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and the author of the Theologia Germanica that so powerfully influenced Luther, emphasized personal salvation to the exclusion of everything else.They sought to effect a direct union with the Divine Being, which was brought about by meditating and prayer without the intermediary of any priest or sacrament…In this wise they must renounce and forsake all things..Therefore we must suffer these things to be what there are, and enter into union with God.

My thoughts exactly.

We have forgotten what the Reformation was all about – my own background in particular (Mormonism) but everyone else too. Martin Luther King, for example, knew next to nothing about his namesake; he just knew a good name when he saw it, and latched onto it. But let me go on.

The Reformation soon split into two branches: Lutheranism and Calvinism. The first was confined to Germany and Scandinavia. But the second spread from Geneva to South Germany, Holland, France, Scotland, and England. This is what we ordinarily refer to as Protestantism. He describes the differences, which were fundamental, but have since been forgotten:

Luther was not a humanist, and was not touched by the intellectual and rationalizing influences of his day. he was a man of intense personal religious experience, and around the practical religious life his interests centered. Calvin was a humanist reformer and a lawyer; he sought to build a rationally consistent system upon the authority of the Scriptures.

Where Lutheranism was personal and mystical, Calvin was systematic and rational; where Lutheranism flowered in individual piety and a spontaneous moral life, Calvinism was corporate and sought by theocratic control of the State to regulate human life to regulate to the last detail. Lutheranism was aristocratic, conservative socially, and tended to keep all of the old to which it did not object. [Luther did not intervene in the revolt of the peasants, where hundred of thousands of them were slaughtered, for example.] Calvinism was democratic – though indirectly – radical, in that it opposed kings and princes in the name of God, and rejected all for which it could not find scriptural authorization.

I hope you are reading this, because it shows how ridiculous the various Bible Churches are.  They don’t understand the historical background for their faith – and don’t want to.

He goes on to explain something that has baffled me: salvation by faith alone. Basically, this is simple: God can save us – if he chooses. Any good works that we can perform are immaterial, compared with God’s works. This is Lutheranism – which has been largely forgotten – as was his attitude toward the Bible, which he did not regard as infallible. He thought highly of the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul, but little of James, and thought the Book of Revelations useless.

Calvinism, by contrast, produced the Protestant Ethic, which eventually approved of the accumulation of wealth as a mark of God’s approval – and therefore: Capitalism.

The Spirit of the Reformation was Profoundly Medieval

I am taking the following from The Making of the Modern Mind, a huge textbook that has been a success since 1926. I was under the impression that the Renaissance and  Reformation were part of coming of the modern era, but it is not that simple. As he says on page 143:

But as far as we can disentangle the millions of threads binding great tendencies to each other, we can say that the Renaissance, as we have used the world, was not primarily the cause of the great revolt against the medieval church that shortly followed it in time. That was rather an independent expression of many of the same tendencies – above all the fundamental economic growth of European society and its rising middle class. In different forms we may find at work the same individualism, the same capitalism, the same nationalism…

Speaking of the Reformation, he says:

The expanding world had broken the bonds of every one of the old forms of life. Men were not ready to give up the old, however, and in diverse ways sought to effect some compromise, some remodeling of the old fragments. Such a compromise that could not but be overgrown in turn was the Reformation. Thoroughly medieval in belief, it was of the modern age in its ideals and its practices, and it contained within it the seeds both of dissolution and rebirth.

He then goes on to note:

The Age of the Reformation was not a particularly religious age, and its anti-clericalism was inspired by a multitude of motives with which the intensity of faith and the elevation of morals had little to do.

On other words, the German princes who protected Luther, did so because they wanted to be independent of Rome, and Luther provided a convenient theological cover for their political and economic motives.

He then defines what the Reformation consisted of, in religious terms:

  1. A simplification of the body of Christian belief and an emphasis on the doctrine of salvation and its means as the essentials.
  2. An individualistic emphasis upon salvation as a direct and immediate relation between the soul and God, as religion as inner and intensely personal.
  3. The consequent dropping away of the sacramental system of the medieval church and its attendant hierarchy of priests.

The Reformation rejected the Church as an institution, but not the basic Christian beliefs:

The drama of the destiny of man. The corruption and depravity of man’s nature; of God’s wrath, and the store of eternal punishment. Man’s intense need for salvation. The whole supernatural scheme of redemption through Christ’s sacrifice.

This was absolutely opposed to the spirit of the Renaissance, whose cardinal doctrine was the dignity and worth of the natural man.