Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Defence of Religion

A Defence of Religion

(click link above to read)

Certain western thinkers use rationality as a ground for the superiority of western civilisation, a ground that gives them the moral authority to look down upon, and manipulate, the "irrational". It may come as a shock to them to learn that we are all irrational, equally human.


Hermes Trismegistos was believed to be Moses' contemporary: his writings gave an alternative account of creation, one in which man played a more central role. God, according to Hermes, had made man fully in his own image – not just as a rational animal, but as a creator in his own right. Man can imitate God, and he can create like the Creator, through alchemical applications – doing away with disease, want and old age. "It was a heady vision, and it gave rise to the notion that, through science and technology, man could bend nature to his wishes. This is essentially the modern view of science, and it should be emphasized that it occurs only in Western civilization. It is probably this attitude that permitted the West to surpass the East, after centuries of inferiority, in the exploitation of the physical world. ("science, history of." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, document.write(new Date().getFullYear()); 2008.) "

Retracing our steps a little, we shall recall the heliocentric preoccupations of Copernicus: these were directly influenced by Hermeticism. Inspired by Platonic mysticism, Hermeticism emphasized the source of light, the sun. The 15th century Florentine translator of both Plato and Hermetic writing, Marsilio Ficino, composed a work that very nearly idolized the sun: the young Copernicus was heavily influenced and went back to his native Poland to work on the problems of the Ptolemaic astronomy.

Therefore, the leading minds of Europe – Paracelsus, John Dee, Comenius, J.V.Andreae, Fludd and Newton – sought in alchemy "the perfection of man by a new method of knowledge" (Eliade, Volume three, p. 261 ).

It would appear, therefore, that modern science would have been quite impossible without religion as a source of inspiration; pace Bertrand Russell, religion contributed more than the calendar to civilisation.

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