Pythagorean backlash

While reading a book about Pythagoras, I came across a surprise. It seems that the Pythagoreans were the victims of a smear campaign that ended in the mobilization of violent citizens. This resulted in many deaths and also the diaspora of the Pythagoreans.

“Pythagoras and his associates were long held in such admiration in Italy that many cities invited them to undertake their administration. At last, however, they incurred envy, and a conspiracy was form against them …”

– The Life of Pythagoras, by Porphyry, trans. Guthrie.

What’s more interesting is that this all appears to have been due to the rejection of a powerful individual by Pythagoras himself. Further, this individual was able to play upon the fears and prejudices of the citizens. Those fears and prejudices revolved around the Pythagoreans being insular, exclusive mixed with that they were also often times politically, becoming the writers of law and becoming the politicians also.

This seems like a pattern I’ve heard about before. Primarily this made me remember some things I’d learned about the anti-masonic movements, and that Freemasonry not only resembled the descriptions of the Pythagoreans in my mind, but also that there are similar events in the history of Freemasonry in my country.

This link bewteen an exclusive, mystic tradition with active political clout very closly mirrors the position and character of Freemasonry during the the late 1800’s in the US. One source, a video program I remember, discussed how the orderly and debate oriented culture in the Masonic lodge became a training ground for political duty, and in fact that much of the polictical power in the early US was in the hands of men involved with Freemasonry.

An address by Fred P. Corson, President of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., was printed in the Congressional Record on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution. President Corson was talking about the stability of our government. He said: “America owes its governmental stability and her success as a democracy to her spiritual foundation. Prior to 1787 the work of laying this foundation was by the Church and by the Masonic Fraternity. It was no coincidence that of the six men who produced the Constitution, at least half were members of the craft.”
Whys & Wherefores by George Peter MPS

The link to the wave of anti-masonic feeling in the late 1800’s revolved around a flashpoint, the William Morris affair. This triggered, or was the fulcrum for the rise of one of the only effective third political parties in the history of the US, the Anti-Masonic Party. (See also “Whys & Wherefores” ibid.)

So, this pattern then, of an exclusive, private group which is founded on the ideas of an elite improving and bettering the world, sounds like a constant refrain. While both the Freemasons and the Pythagoreans, depending on whom you ask, are focused on creating more good in the world, other examples of this pattern might even be broadened to include disasterously evil things like the Fascist movements and splinter religious groups like the Branch Davidians, whom we all know from the siege in Waco, TX. Both of these latter groups were the targets of massive, violent backlashes.

Perhaps, this even relates to the severe backlash against groups like the Wobblies during the golden era of militant labor.

Obviously, there a gut level reaction to being an outsider, that creates resentment and fear. I wonder how much of this is the cause of the backlashes as opposed to the more likely scenario where the backlash was created using that resentment and fear as a way to mobilize the violent, to the agenda of a more machiavellian purpose.

Clearly a much repeated pattern reflects some core lessons for any such movement as these. Lessons about exclusion and elitism being the source for violent opposition should be clear enough, but what other lessons might there be?

Perhaps it is not so easy to tell the difference between the truly beneficial and the diabolical when secrecy provides such a blank slate on which to write one’s fears and prejudices, but that’s almost too easy. There’s something more fundimental here or at least more interesting.

There’s a fundimental resistance to change in the character of history. Revolutions seldom bring about such serious changes, after the dust settles, that you can tell the difference between the new and previous regimes. So, this mechanism is a way for history to push back against the revolutionaries, and the more revolutionary the more push back there is.

So the secret society is probably both a defense mechanism against this push back, an attempt to fly under the radar, and also a cause of the push back.

Clearly, a Sisyphean task this social evolutionary work …

homepage and the dialectic between honesty vs truth

Last night, I watched “homepage” which is an interesting documentary about the early culture that surrounded the web, the revolutionary fanaticism, and a bit about its demise.

However, there was a part that had me thinking about some stuff from my own past, actually previous to all the events of the movie.

honesty vs. truthfulness is an interesting topic. If one accepts that they are not identical, one wonders how much truth is necessary for complete honesty, and if it’s possible to have truth without honesty. Is truth communicated by the non-present presenter still honesty, when not professed? As the better part of valour is restraint, is that also the better part of honesty in regards to the truth?

I’ve suspected that moderation in all things is a guiding principle. Not that it means moderation in _all_ things, but rather _moderation_ in all things. The difference being that it’s not necessary to partake of everything in moderation, but rather to be moderate in all things in which one partakes.

I had written a bit on this topic.

Strong Drink, 1993 (c) j g bell

it is a strong drink
to drown adultery in drunkenness
it is a stronger drink
to face my lover’s face with honesty
stronger than fidelity
it is an even stronger drink
to drink to my own weakness

it is a great grief to me
to weakly write myself
into my father part
it is a greater grief to me
to strongly write my lover
into my mother part
it is the greatest grief to me
to wholly write my past
into my future past

there is no art in drink
there is no salvation in sorrow
there is no love in lies
there is no love in lies
there is no love in lies

I’ve learned my sorrow from my father
I’ve learned myself from my sorrow
I’ve learned to lie from myself
I’ve learned myself from my lie

there is no love in lies
but honesty ruins love with revealed lies
there is no love in lies
but justice ruins love with concealed lies
there is no love in lies

there is no salvation in sorrow
but somehow sorrow saves lovers from future pain
there is no salvation in sorrow
but somehow suffering saves me from future pain
there is no salvation in sorrow

there is no art to drink
but drink can remind me to forget
there is no art to drink
but drink can force me to sleep
there is no art to drink

it is a strong drink
to drown adultery in drunkenness
it is a stronger drink
to face my lover’s face with honesty
stronger than fidelity
it is an even stronger drink
to drink to my own weakness
my honesty stronger than the lie
will ruin my love and with this in mind
I will tell the truth in time

the militant labor movement and personal history

I’ve started to read a book about the IWW because I got interested in the idea that WA was once a center of militant labor, through hearing some spoken word by Utah Philips.

Anyhow, we have a bit of history in mining probably between then 1880’s and 1920’s, which is around the time that all this was happening. Then I remembered something about Great Grandfather getting away from the mines, in the midwest, back around that time because of the violence. I guess I never made the connection.

So, Great Grandfather was part of the _establishment_ as a guard for the mining companies right? Interesting. So, did he leave it as the violence started or after some big event, I wonder?

Turns out there’s quite a bit more history than just the WTO locally here in Seattle, and the state.

The museum of labor & industry has, at least, a nice searchable photographic database which has a good number of pictures from the era. Some of these pictures relate to the Great Strike of 1919 and some others.

There was also a big display in 1999 …

The University of Washington also has a department of labor studies. Further, at least one of the staff has thier own page about the labor movement.

You may find more than I did, but at least you’ve got a place to start.

The Sense of Pleasure

In this age we have created a senseless pleasure with no quality other than a one dimensional quanity. We’ve created an age that has no sense of a quality in pleasure other than dissatisfaction with intensity. This dissatisfaction is gained from the ever increasing need for more from a one dimensional pleasure that is a scalar of intensity. There’s no aesthetic of pleasure, rather merely a quantity.

A simple transposition of quality for quantity will not be enough to return an aesthetic to pleasure. This culture needs to touch the texture of a new aestheic pleasure. As a culture we need to re-connect with the taste, smell, sound and sight of pleasures. Rather than a focus on the greater pleasures, we can focus on the moderation of pleasure with the purpose of maximal experience of qualities.

Pleasure should be an art, not a commodity. Rather than a shallow pleasureless pursuit, we would have a rich pursuit of pleasures.