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The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant: Summation 6
VI. Morals and History
In perhaps their best entry, the authors go directly to the point:
“Morals are the rules by which society exhorts (as laws are the rules by which it seeks to compel) its members and associations to behave consistent with its order, security and growth.”
Such are the taboos that comprise the ever-expansive doctrine of political correctness, which Dick was targeted with by Le Guinn near his end, bringing the penalties of alienation, ostracism and decreased community association and economic welcome from the ancient and universal tabooing tradition into our day. The return of morals in this leftist form, just as the growth of witch burnings and Christian congregationalism in early modern times, heralds the end of a moral age. As the Church faltered in the Reformation, its rebellious child, the secularized West falters now.
The authors continue to ignore the domestication of animals, beginning with the wolf in deep antiquity, as an impact on human civilization, when domestic animals, from the Andean Lama to the Mexican eating dog, to the beasts kept by other civilizations predated or accompanied their rise. The authors are well aware that primal masculine virtues such as aggression, risk taking and sexual dominance, while enabling survival on one level may encouraging suffering when placed in civilized context, with perhaps the best quote of the book, “Man’s sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.”
The focus on 15 centuries of the sublimation and domestication of man’s nature in the Christian code of toil, “divorceless monogamy and multiple maternity” is cited as the pillar of the modern West, from which the keystone of family has been removed, even in the dawning of moral dearth that was the 1960s. It is noted that “sin has flourished in every age” and that homosexuality failed to fell earlier civilizations but that cynic late Hellas in the shadow of its dysgenic cousin wars lingered for centuries in much the fashion as the cynical West in the wake of two world wars. With Dick being the most accomplished writer of dystopian near future science fiction to date, it is of some interest to this science fiction author of near future dystopian stories, that or history teachers [being the Durants] reminded us that dying civilizations linger long and in the long shadows of their own moral ruins. Of specific interest is the fact that Dick forms his strongest dream attachment to a Hellenic Christian of Late Antiquity, when not only Greek culture but Roman was on the wane, much as the West’s, fallen Catholicism yet lingers and prays for reanimation as its bastard child the secularized West moans.
The Durants’ vision of Civilization is one of cyclic ennui and resurgent war, which these non-combative academics, in 1968, pined for as a forge to hammer out a new Western soul in the gripes of slaughter which, in the end, in its turmoil, creates discipline among its pawns.
Did Dick think—did it occur—that he might have been a dreaming pawn in a different kind of war?
If he did or not, he certainly, through historical reading and inclination, understood that the long shadows of system control would continue lengthening after he was gone.
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C8Aug 25, 2020

Dick, writing about VALIS, certainly grappled with the concept of the universe as information system. Whether he explicitly studied or tried to comprehend quantum mechanics is unknown to me. In mid-20th c. Cali he would have had access to all the writings of Planck, Heisenberg etc, who had already written books on the relationship of quantum theory to Free Will. I have to imagine that Dick was aware of the "hard problem of consciousness," the question of whether the mind is merely a construct of the electrochemical soup of neurons, synapses, or is it something above that level, more like a hologram or a fantastically complex system of interleaving fields which used the brain merely as antenna or convenient temporary dwelling.

If, as currently understood, matter is non-existent, and all is composed of interactive fields of electromagnetism, gravity, and bosons, if everything is indeed information, if the background "emptiness" of the universe is actually a fantastically energetic quantum gravity vacuum (as the physicists now tell us), if the energy contained in one cubic centimeter of this "emptiness" may in fact be greater than that contained in all the stars in the universe, then where does that leave our poor benighted Conan, forever having to defend Cimmerian honor from the raids of the Scythian Horse Lords? Is it all the fault of impaired understanding of what the universe if trying to communicate? Is the urge to dominate the fault, literally, of fallen demiurges, who, having contaminated our DNA and our pre-history with falsehoods, goads the hapless manbeast into endless war and collapse?

Who can say? Is there a better accounting? Even the Durants, at their end of the pedantic lives, noted that it was "all meaningless." All those books, all that scribbling, and Attila staring into the campfire had more wisdom and left a greater legacy. Socrates showed us that the flickerings of shadows on the cave wall were not real, and the quantum physicists, like Hindu sages, have shown us that this world is illusion.
responds: Aug 25, 2020



Will post as an article.
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