Secular believers mistakenly mix religion and politics. They say ridiculous things like: “Democracy is the only system built on respect for the infinite dignity of each individual man and woman, on each person’s moral striving for freedom, justice and truth.”
It’s cunning falsehoods like that that have turned so many people against democracy. Speaking of my country, we now have mob rule precisely because the ideals of democracy have for decades been used by ruling elites to camouflage the truth of who and what actually rule America—money and power.
When the ideal and aspiration are regurgitated by reality year after year and decade after decade, the people become completely cynical about government, and revert to their basest instincts and conditioning.
Then the regressive mob sees the world in xenophobic terms of ‘us vs. them,’ even when the descendents of hated and scapegoated ‘them’ were brought to this country on slave ships, or were born in the USA to immigrant parents from Latin America or the Middle East.
As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Therefore it isn’t just wrongheaded to say, as Thomas Mann did, “Democracy is a spiritual and moral possession;” it is destructive of the very thing it purports to uphold.
Such a mentality makes a religion of democracy, and undermines the human capacity for both the religious mind without belief systems, and government that is, to a reasonable and practical degree, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
There is another, subtler issue. Ideals are false things, inherently dualistic and divisive. Ideals cannot bring about a better society, and never could. One has to face oneself and the world as they are, without creating an ideal, while still caring passionately about humanity and one’s country (in that order).
The paradox is that to begin to realize and actualize the yearnings of human flourishing we have to end the fabrication and followership of ideals.
The lofty image and stirring ideal have become tremendous impediments to understanding and transcending what is, and building a global society and humanity in imperfect, non-idealistic harmony with nature and between peoples.
In times of crisis and transition, second-rate minds scour the past for ideas that will, they believe, light the way forward in the present. First-rate minds remain in the present, question ‘received wisdom,’ and awaken insight. When they consider the past, they view it through the light of insight, which is always of the present.
The novelist Thomas Mann, amongst many other false prophets, said, “Man is made in God’s image.” That is the most wrongheaded and pernicious idea ever to take root in the human mind.
Getting it completely backasswards, Mann ludicrously added, “Man is nature’s fall from grace, only it is not a fall, but just as positively an elevation, as conscience is higher than innocence.”
That’s deeply erroneous. Man is the creature that fell from nature’s grace. “Having eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” humans stepped out of the natural order. Even a high school student understands that’s what the Bible’s Genesis story means.
Our still misapprehended separation from the unconscious and preconscious web of nature, while accumulating knowledge (scientifically, as well as of good and evil) has led in our age to an untenable fragmentation of the earth and humanity. That is man’s original and ongoing ‘sin,’ mistake.
So man’s fall from grace is a metaphor for Homo sapiens separation from the nature through the evolution of ‘higher thought.’ We cannot go back, only forward in understanding thought’s inherent limitation.
Mann mistakenly said, “Democracy is thought; but it is thought related to life and action.” That is an expression of dualism, and a failure to understand thought. And the dualistic mind has become completely nonviable in our age.
It’s a dangerous half-truth to say, authoritarians and demagogues promote the “release of stupidity and evil from the discipline of reason and intelligence.” The “discipline of reason” has barely kept man’s stupidity and evil in check, while allowing stupidity and evil to grow unchecked through lack of examination and right observation.
Intelligence is not born of reason; reason is born of intelligence. Democracy is not a religion, but a form of government that depends on the education (in the root meaning of the word, which is ‘to lead forth’) of the people.