priests and prophets

talking to jim about ex-kurt in the machine.  he’d been thinking about it, and saw a resemblance to kurtz in heart of darkness.

He starts out, years before the novella begins, as an imperialist in the best tradition of the “white man’s burden“. The reader is introduced to a painting of Kurtz’s, depicting a blindfolded woman bearing a torch against a nearly black background, and clearly symbolic of his former views. Kurtz is also the author of a “pamphlet” regarding the civilization of the natives. However, over the course of his stay in Africa, he becomes corrupted. He takes his pamphlet and scribbles in, at the very end, the words “Exterminate all the brutes!” He induces the natives to worship him, setting up rituals and venerations worthy of a tyrant. By the time Marlow, the protagonist, sees Kurtz, he is ill with “jungle fever” and almost dead. Marlow seizes Kurtz and endeavors to take him back down the river in his steamboat. Kurtz dies on the boat with the last words, “The horror! The horror!”

and while i didn’t name my character after marlon brando, the similarity is kind of cool.

kurtz starts out idealistic, but becomes corrupted by his power and grows bloated and sick, looking forward to being defeated so he can end his misery.  and ex-kurt is really very tired of being god of the machine and spends a lot of his time figuring out a way to be relieved of his burden.

at first, when jim was describing kurtz’s character, i thought that this characterization really must belong to the boy, who is on the wrong side for most of the story.  but the boy is never world weary, never longs for death, never really sees how ridiculous his posturing is until he sees it in the eyes of the girl.  but ex-kurt has no such mirror, no peers, no companion, only adulation and worship from those he considers inferior.  so maybe we can inform kurt’s character with marlon brando.

i can see it.

***

and how did that get to priests and prophets?  something else jim said.

institutionalized religion exists to hide the knowledge of the christ consciousness within you.  priests exist to enforce rules, and prophets exist to break them and remind people of the ultimate existence of consciousness thru love. 22:36

prophets are in touch with the spirit of god.  they’re wild, they don’t listen to human admonishments, they’re driven by their personal experience with god.  as such, they’re dangerous to an orderly society; loners – unpredictable, intransigent, fanatical.  priests, on the other hand, gather and maintain flocks of believers, educate them in doctrine, enforce laws and traditions that promote the organized religion that has grown up around the prophet’s energy and probable flame-out.

The priest is a formal role in a formal system which is engaged in a more-or-less permanent and regular set of rituals. Because of this, the priest’s claim to legitimate authority rests with his or her adherence to traditional or legal requirements for the role.

The magician, on the other hand, may be similarly involved with influencing sprits and gods, but this effort is individual (rather than part of an organized system) and occasional (rather than as part of an ongoing effort or set of rituals). Magicians might be thought of as being specialized in an unorganized and even informal religious system. A magician or sorcerer’s claim to legitimacy rests almost entirely with his or her effectiveness. Tradition certainly plays a role, but due to the largely informal nature of the role, a magician who is unable to “produce” what is promised is one whose authority simply won’t be acknowledged for long.

Finally, the prophet was for Weber an idealized religious figure who is motivated by a “calling” of a higher power which places him or her outside traditional or legal religious structures. If people recognize this person as having any legitimate authority, it is on the basis of his or her personal charisma and the belief that claims to divine revelation are correct. Should enough followers join the following, a social and/or religious revolution may result. Such leaders also typically posses extraordinary powers,

One type of religious specialist which later researchers have focused upon, but which Weber didn’t address, is that of shaman. A typical shaman shares certain characteristics which can be found in all three of the others discussed thus far. Like a charismatic prophet, the shaman derives his legitimacy through personal contact with the divine rather than through standardized religious education or structures, as with the priest.

Like the priest, however, the shaman is engaged in regular and organized religious rituals, very different from the magician. On the other hand, like the magician, the shaman’s legitimacy is also in part dependent upon effectiveness — a shaman who doesn’t “produce” will end up being replaced. Shamans are not separated from the people in the way that priests usually are; instead, they are very much a part of the community’s life.

***

3. Managing the causes of social unrest is vastly more effective than managing unrest. A lot of people – the old and the young – have lost their chosen futures. Pensions have evaporated, and graduating into a recession is a horrible experience. People need to see real accountability from those who skimmed the cream off the good times, and continue to skim it off the bad times. Yes, I understand the argument that paying reasonable salaries to top brass in banks will cause talent flight. Yes, I understand that the Duke of Westminster really does need all that land. But you are not explaining this to me: you are explaining it to bankrupt store managers who slotted themselves into a machine that promised a stable life and future, and then fired them out the back end when the economy turned. You’re explaining it to kids who did four years in university to graduate into a world they cannot practice their profession in. People are angry and they are going to force change. The question is in what areas can ground be given – in what areas can people be made accountable for their behavior on the way up the curve – which is not simply beheading people who are standing in the wrong crowd? The rich are not by their nature villains, and those who profiteered on lax regulation and more fundamentally, on unrealistic expectations are hard to pick out of the crowd in a manner which will satisfy people who have witnessed their pensions evaporate. People, in general, do not want blood, but they want to feel that the hardship is shared in at least a somewhat equitable manner. Irrational things like seeing the ultra-rich abandon their sixth home sooth people at a level which has little to do with reason. Strategic management of public outrage to produce positive change where possible (national transformation) without it turning into, ahem, class war requires real political innovation in government. Very serious thought should be given to designing those pressure valves before Summer 2009. Remember: creating positive ways for people to manage their outrage is vastly cheaper than policing. Destructive rage can be turned into constructive measures if there is a public perception of integrity and shared sacrifice in the process. In 2009, however, a public perception of integrity means actual integrity must be present and the same is true of shared sacrifice. Welcome to the panopticon.
4. How the young are to shape their lives when deprived of hope of progress through stable career paths. The vast majority of young people today will be poorer than their parents, often far poorer, and there are few if any cultural reserves to tell people that money is not the goal of life at that stage. Unrealistic expectations not backed by real productivity have built up most people’s understandings of their rational entitlements to implausible levels, and yet there is no clear path to puncturing those expectations in a manner which does not make a mockery of the investments that people have made in education, in simple work, and in career. The social contract between the individual, the state and the market has been violated, and there is no way to repair that damage in the short term, although sincere apologies help. The way out is offered by education, particularly liberal education and broad-based vocational training (plumbers who do roofs,) the arts, sports, musical culture – any area where a person can define themselves as successful, as worthy, even as great – without requiring massive access to money through a healthy, functioning economy. The “brass ring” is gone for perhaps an entire generation, but creative and productive use of talent should not have been artificially restricted to market success in the first place: money was how, not why, and it is by examining this fundamental identity again that we can find the creative freedom to offer cultural roles to people who might have wished to be rich, but find that path blocked.

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About jeanne

artist, grandma, alien

Posted on January 8, 2012, in occupy, quantum, research. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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