The Age of Early Divinity

If you’re the sort of person who reads this blog, you’re probably the sort of person who wastes time wondering what we should name the age we are living in, instead of being out there doering things. Is it the Information Age? Digital Age? Eternal Millennial September? Avocado Toast Age? Anthropocene? Terminal Hobbesian Age? Post-industrial? Post-capitalist? Post-authentic? Post-reality? Post-post-modernist?

Are there quality long-arc candidates, good for at least a couple of centuries, that are not a depressingly negatively defined, backward looking post-something, with reasonable supporting logic? Allow me to offer a new candidate: Early Divinity. Here’s a table illustrating the logic of the name, which I’m fairly confident (p < 0.05), is a good one.

The name is inspired by the line Stewart Brand stole from anthropologist Edward Leach for the inaugural Whole Earth Catalog: We are as gods, and might as well get good at it.

Early divinity, simply defined, is an age, or more technically, aeon (a period presided over by a particular incarnation of Aion, the eternalist personification of time in Greek mythology), when we are as gods but aren’t yet good at it. In fact we suck at it. It is an aeon marked by the taking-on of civilizational challenges worthy of gods, and getting really mediocre or failing grades at it. One day, we might get good at this god game, but it’s going to be a while. So settle in and enjoy the Mediocre Civilizational Universe of Early Divinity, MCU-ED.

Periodization, of course, is something of a parlor game for amateur historians like you and me. Real historians are going to hate this anyway, so we might as well have fun with it. Here’s my meta-theory of Aionic periodization that yielded this label for our age, and a preview of what godly things are in our near future.

3D History

We tend to understand history with a three-dimensional logic even if we are not aware of it.

The first dimension is chronological, objective time, presided over by Chronos, he of the hood, scythe and bony finger. That gives us a history of notable calendar dates, a present of calendar appointments, and a future of election forecasts. A grim accumulation of all-the-data-so-far, statistically extended into the near future by Nate Silver, Philip Tetlock, and Nassim Taleb.

The second dimension is subjective, narrative time, a sense of the history as an coherently event-full container presided over by Kairos, our carpe diem! friend with the pair of scales and questioning eyebrows, constantly challenging us to seek luck and challenge fate with every moment. This dimension is a story of risk and reward, daring and timidity, seizing the day, or failing to. A story with a discernible plot that passes through the bottleneck of present situation awareness and diverges into a multiverse of possible scenarios in the future.

The third dimension is a sort of out-of-time eternalist sense of the texture of a period. Its warp and woof, its patterns and cycles. Aionic time, which I wrote about in my last post. It is less a kind of time per se, and more a collection of atemporal narrative tropes; the tactical gestalt of a storytelling style.

This third dimension is the one we are interested in. This third dimension is the one from which the logic of historical periodization naturally emerges. It gives us the chapters boundaries of our story, marked by epic transitions.

Aionic time is best understood as the essence of a sort of civilizational mission, when the collective story of humanity seems, especially in hindsight, to be epitomized by a particular sort of striving. It is not a mission in the sense of an explicitly coordinated mass activity (though it could be, in specific places and times). It is more a sort of loose magnetic alignment of individual élan vital streams.

Chronological history is a matter of consensus about the facts — dates, names, documented actions and consequences. There is ultimately only one correct way to understand it. You have a right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. Things either happened or didn’t.

Kairos history is a matter of ideology and values, and there is room for opinion there. You can tell the story from various points of view: rulers versus ruled, men versus women, economics versus culture, technology versus politics, western chauvinist versus post-colonial, whig versus communist, cultural-marxist versus neoreactionary. Kairos history is a dissensus, an inefficient marketplace of competing stories in a slowly evolving equilibrium, rather than a consensus. It is a dialectical war over what chronological history means.

Aionic history though, is a matter of texture and aesthetics. It is under the fray rather than above it. It is the canvas rather than painting. It is neither about consensus regarding facts, nor about dissensus over meanings. It is almost entirely a matter of imaginative invention and perspective taking, with the design objective being to maximize freedom for the living in relation to the dead and the unborn. A way of feeling the plot of the story that generates the most energy for you in particular. The right Aionic periodization is the one that unleashes the most missionary energy for you.

Douglas Adams, for example, had an excellent three-age Aionic periodization of history (note the interrogative focus on the quality of agency):

“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?”

The one I have in mind is not as funny, but has the advantage of being somewhat more fine-grained and easier to map to terrestrial Chronos/Kairos histories.

The Mechanism of History

My logic derives from a speculative theory of how history works. Or rather, an extension of McLuhan’s theory of how history works (which seems to have originated with Churchill). If you take his line, first we make our tools, then our tools make us, and add the clause, and then we make our gods, you get a nice organizing scheme. Let’s break it down:

  1. First we make our tools: this gives us the material character of an age, based on the basic world-eating technology or technologies that reshape the civilizational stack. Stone, bronze, iron, money, writing, sailing ships, coal, oil, electricity, software, CRISPR and so on.
  2. Then our tools make us: this gives us the human character of an age, based on how human nature changes in response to the the altered patterns of material agency and coordination offered by a technological age.
  3. Then we make our gods: once we start to feel comfortable in our new skins, we start to remake our gods in a way that makes sense for our newfound sense of our place in, and relationship to, the material universe.

These three map quite nicely to Chronos, Kairos, and Aeon. Chronos is the personification of temporal materiality. Kairos is the personification of temporal subjectivity. Aion is the personification of extra-temporal divinity-architecting.

There’s a lot of material on the first dynamic, such as my own Breaking Smart series for the most recent round of making our tools. There’s not as much on the second dynamic, about our tools making us. One good example is Virginia Woolf’s Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brownwhich arguably is about how first we made clocks, and then clocks made us.

We’ll get to the third dynamic in a bit, but first, some general remarks on the general arc of the history of our god-making.

Since the power of our tools has generally been steadily increasing with every age, every successive renegotiation of our relationship with our sense of the divine has been in our favor. It’s been the story of the ascent of humans intersecting with the story of the descent of the gods, sometime in the 19th century.

The conceptualization of the divine, of course, is a whole other big and hairy topic, and one that is approached very differently by theists and atheists. But for our purposes here, all we need to acknowledge is that every age is marked by a particular species of god-concepts, and a particular pattern of relationships with it.

As an atheist, I’ll just run with my approach to the matter. The gods of an age are personifications (often highly abstract and noumenonal rather than phenomenal, but still personifications) of the most powerful forces in our environment to which we can attribute agency, and against whom we can test our own agency.

More generally, gods are finite-game idealizations of imagined dialectical counter-parties in our own human striving.

Traditional god-concepts were sourced from nature, powerful humans, and institutions. With the advent of modernity, and the beginnings of the suspicion that perhaps we — each of us individually — are the most powerful agents in our immediate environment, god as a shared object reality becomes doomed, but god as an individual subjective identification becomes generally possible. And here I mean a more literal-minded identification based on material agency, rather than a mystical one (ie “I am god because I can command a giant robot from my laptop” rather than tat tvam asi).

Given that crude, rude, and distinctly unspiritual characterization of the divine, here is a quick, speculative, thumbnail sketch of how our Aionic history might have unfolded.

Aionic History

We can’t be entirely sure what the Paleolithic and Neolithic conceptions of the divine were. Perhaps Julian Jaynes is right, and the gods were voices in our bicameral heads.  What I think we can safely say though, is that given our very low agency (stone tools) and extreme vulnerability to the forces of nature, our relationship with the gods was highly asymmetric.

I speculate that the relationship to the gods is one of evasion in the Paleolithic, where humans simply try to avoid the wrath of nature. So we start by evading the gods. By hiding in a cave during a thunderstorm for example.

With the advent of the Neolithic and more settled patterns of life, you can’t entirely evade the gods since you have good reasons to stay put in one place, so you have to appease them instead. Sacrifices and such.

The Bronze Age is when the saying “you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you” becomes true. The divine is no longer a distant, capricious natural force that can be trusted to simply ignore you much of the time. With the Bronze Age, we get states large enough to support kings, and personified kinds of attentive divinity that are always interested in you (and your surplus grains and daughters), and therefore must be ceaselessly feared rather than occasionally appeased. There is no evasion or appeasement possible beyond a point. The divine — embodied by monarchs supported by some local muscle — is an active presence in your life, and you have to exist in a relationship of fear in relation to it.

With the Iron Age, and the disruption of bronze by iron, strong centralized states give way to a dynamic tension between civilizational cores and barbarian periphery, and it becomes possible to occasionally challenge the gods (ie, the Bronze-age kings and the riparian elites they protected). I suspect mythologies like those of Icarus and Prometheus belong to this age. Challenging, but ultimately failing, to displace the gods, due to being either punished or co-opted by them.

With the Axial Age — and here history proper begins, and we must ignore the turned-up noses of professional historians — the gods become too powerful to directly challenge. But they also start to acquire a degree of impersonal benevolence, so they need not entirely be objects of fear.

A great deal of Straussian romanticism attaches to the intellectual output of the Axial Age. This was the age when men were Real Men, women were Real Women, and small furry creatures from Ancient Greece were real small furry creatures from Ancient Greece. It was all very antifragile and Actually Good, and all good ideas were discovered during this period.

The gods of the Axial age, for the first time, are entanglements of individuals and institutions. God in China is not just a powerful emperor. It is a powerful emperor, an idea of imperial divinity, and a squabbling bureaucracy of Confucians and Legalists trying to figure out what exactly that means. Plus some standardized testing, lots of entitled ancestors, and eunuch secret agents are in there somewhere. This is not your simply Hammurabi-class manifesto-declaring god. Nor is it the so-it-shall-be-written-so-it-shall-be-done declarative programmer Pharaoh-god. This is a deus-ex-machina type technologically animated god. A Gemeinschaft egregore haunting Gesellschaft institutions. The beginnings of the Leviathan proper.

This is a god you obey without challenging, and can learn to like rather than just fear.

So by 300 BC, we’re sort of in the black, rather than in the red, in our relationship with the gods. There’s net more benefit to being inside civilization than outside of it. You don’t just obey your god, you do so out of some real fandom and enthusiasm. If you are a blogger type, you compose epics about them and they go viral. You are also so stoked on your gods you’re ready to start spreading them.

Between 300 BC and 400 AD, humanity learns to spread its gods with real evangelical fervor. And that of course, means war.

So the Middle Ages — another periodization that will have the professional historians sniffing at us — are best understood as a war the gods phase. My god can beat up your god. That sort of thing. Crusades and stuff.

This goes on for a while. We’ve got a Hobbesian stack of sincere religious warring around the globe. Christians fighting Christians, Buddhists fighting (well, mostly debating) Hindus, Islam fighting everybody else from the middle, and Mongols fighting everybody from the periphery. And all the while, everywhere is getting more crowded, and disease-ridden. It’s not fun.

Somewhere in there is the worst year in history — 536 AD, when a major volcano incident triggered a real annus horribilis for everybody.

Anyhow, by 1400, everybody is kinda sick of warring the gods, and is ready for a sort of detente, at least when it comes to colliding ideas of the divine. The crusades end, Islam and Christendom broker an uneasy peace in the West, Buddhism cedes its space in South Asia to Islam, and China absorbs the Mongols.

There will still be wars, including the bloodiest religious wars, in the future, but they won’t really be about the gods. In the thirty years war for instance, god is more a convenient excuse rather than real reason to fight. The Protestant god is even understood to be the same as the Catholic god, just with different priests, and different ideas about what happens when you eat certain pieces of bread.

So though it was a bloody period, I feel comfortable calling 1400-1800 a curb the gods age (insert dog joke here).

By 1800, our relationship to the divine is ready to be turned upside down. We’re in the middle of the scientific revolution, and on the cusp of the technological revolution. Spinoza has kinda hinted that god is dead, or at least, has nothing useful to do. Leibniz, in a particularly embarrassing baroque attempt to find a new job for god, has invented the multiverse, with god being given the bullshit job of picking the best universe. It’s not pretty. Darwin hasn’t even been born yet, and it is already not looking good for this god guy.

Between 1800-1950, we gradually kill god almost everywhere that matters, with Darwin doing the final honors, and the formal declaration coming from Nietzsche around 1882. Rather appropriately, the god of this age is known today as the dead white male. The gods who were curbed at the end of the Middle Ages were entanglements of monarchs and monarchial institutions, but the gods who were killed in the 19th century were personified by a class of esteemed humans a couple of rungs down from the top of the pyramid.

But 1882 is not quite a terminal moment for the god idea. It is more a sort of god-is-dead-long-live-god moment, since god, freed of the responsibility of being the ultimate objective source of reality, becomes a possible ultimate subjective identity for humans to adopt for themselves. It is perhaps not an identity equally accessible to all, but the ontological wall between the divine and the human has collapsed (there was a strain of mythology in the Axial Age about humans sort of getting promoted to god-status and admitted to the heavens, but what happened in the 19th century happened on earth, on the Mexican side of the wall, rather than in the heavens).

Stewart Brand’s 1968 line sits in the middle of the transitional period of 65 years that we spent mucking around trying to avoid the inescapable conclusion that we were gods and had to get good at it. For some, it was an exhilarating realization. For others it was a sense of dreadful responsibility. And for still others, it was something to sneak away from and avoid thinking about.

And for a few, it was the beginning of the suspicion that perhaps the idea of human was actually more interesting than the idea of god.

Getting Good at Godding Games

The year 2015 forced the issue and we were forced to admit: we are as gods, and we royally suck at it.

As best as I can trace the origin, the phrase mediocre white guy first appeared in a 2015 tweet by Sarah Hagi (she used dude rather than guy, which became the ISO standard later), and appears to have replaced the previously popular critical-theory phrase, dead white male, as the slur of choice for the incumbent top goddog. This is a significant shift.

The critical difference between the Dead White Male and Mediocre White Guy is that the former has a monopolistic claim on the last couple of aeons, while the Mediocre White Guy is merely first among equals in the current aeon. For the Dead White Male, the rest of the world was a burden. The Mediocre White Guy, on the other hand, is a burden like everybody else. The first among equal burdens.

Unlike the DWM, the MWG represents an achievable aspirational human condition: a kind of god you can reasonably hope to be, given mediocre abilities.

There is a whole serialized intersectional matrix of identities queued up right behind Mediocre White Guy, each awaiting their turn. From Cis-White-Woman (marvelous mediocre goddesses with names like Permit Patty and Barbecue Betty) all the way down to trans-black-Syrian-refugee-woman-with cancer from Mexico.

We are at the start of a great, democratized age of Mediocre Intersectional Gods, every frozen identity an essentialized premium mediocre divinity. Human, but with just a touch of burdensome, dead divinity. Each as dead as the last, and all as dead as the deadest white male ever was. And every one of them, not just Mediocre White Guy, sucking at the godly job at hand: getting along without trashing the planet.

But maybe we’ll get better at it.

If not, we are as gods, and we might as well get dead at it.

The relationship among mediocrity, divinity, and technological post-modernity is not coincidental. To live in 2018 is to live in an environment that is potentially highly benevolent, strength-amplifying, weakness-mitigating, and superpower-granting. The mediocre can move mountains.

Of course, you have to be in the right place for the world to conspire to make you a winner despite your mediocrity, elevating you to godhood via blessed storms of serendipity.

If you’re outside that charmed zone of civilization, in the externalized wildernesses of our cyber-paleo entangled planet, you still have to be twice as good to be half as dead.

But the good news is, all of us still have half a shot at being something better than a god: a human. It’s just that very few of us are going to choose that option. The Age of Humans will have to wait. For now, we are still in a subhuman age: the Age of Early Divinity.

Those of us who try to skip ahead are going to be the ultimate minority: rare humans walking among the throngs of mediocre, puny gods.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Big Pharmakon says:

    “I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance- aye, chance, free will, and necessity- wise incompatible- all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course- its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.”

    • Big Pharmakon says:

      Recognizing the gods as anthropomorphized characterizations of environmental and psychological forces is tantamount to approaching actual humanity. Once you have an explicit understanding that the possession of divine causal efficacy doesn’t actually elevate you above the petty squabbling of the good as dead pantheons but instead just brings all their infantile interpersonal shittiness right down to the dinner table before spreading it evenly over the entire globe, you’re at least halfway prepared to behave like a decent human being instead of a mediocre divine asshole.

  2. Try rewriting this using only words that fall within the standard high school educated readers vocabulary. If your ideas are solid this should be fairly easy and will help guide you towards a coherent narrative. The impression you are often giving is you’ve fallen in love with certain words not that you have something to add as far as an actual useful construct. Reading this I was at times intrigued but was quickly shut down by your failure to develop any of your thoughts in a coherent manner.

    Of course this only matters if you want to share your ideas with people who may not think like you. If the joy of this is writing in this dense meandering style to connect with others who enjoy this sot of writing (and I know those folks are out there) ignore this and carry on.

    • Big Pharmakon says:

      I like your advice, Buster, and so I’ve tried applying it to my last post:

      The stories in mythology depict the various natural and psychological forces that early human civilizations encountered as different gods whose powers far exceeded their own. As our modern scientific understanding of nature and our ability to change it using technology have improved upon our own powers significantly, mythology’s description of natural forces has been seen through as a falsehood. It’s now a matter of common sense that gods are a superstition, and anything mythology had to say about them was the product of ignorance regarding how the world really worked. We now understand and are capable of changing the world on an almost divine scale. However, we’ve been doing a really bad job of it. The current state of the world tells a very humbling story about what divine agency looks like when it’s in the hands of amateurs. The fact that we’re just as capricious, petty and ill-tempered as even the best gods suggests that while mythology gave a totally inaccurate picture of nature, what it did describe quite well was us. With that in mind, we should appreciate that mythology still has something important to teach us about human behaviour. It might be just the thing that allows us to move from being really bad gods to more or less decent human beings.

    • Heh you just tagged a new god for the Early Divinity age, “standard high school educated reader” 😆

      • Who has not, and won’t read Moby Dick, alas.

        Sounds to me that the ‘becoming fully human’ business may be tantamount to a return to the Paleolithic. Which I doubt we can actually achieve, but we sure seem to be trying our best to eliminate all the other possibilities.

        Hence I still favor ‘Post-Future’

  3. Of course, you have to be in the right place for the world to conspire to make you a winner despite your mediocrity, elevating you to godhood via blessed storms of serendipity.

    Blessed by whom?

    Anyway, you are overstating mediocrity in an attempt to avoid Dunning/Krueger. There can, be definition, only be as much mediocrity as allowed by some statistical measure.

    My sense of your more recent writing is that you gave up on “breaking smart” or the idea of “divergence” or getting lost, in favor for the totality of the mediocre and of democracy and I wonder why? Maybe as everyone is into some kind of populism these days, you need your own brand of it, Venkat’s populism, the eulogy of mediocrity. Mediocrity plus some compassion for “epic” refugees [1]. Personally I hope we are getting over it soon but we could certainly drift into some kind of inner North Korea, into a giant red spot as a climatic phenomenon, which just won’t dissolve.

    [1] Haven’t we had this just a century ago with artists and intellectuals who deeply admired workers and gone full communist because they hated the narrow-minded and arrogant bourgeoisie? In the end it didn’t stick and the western culture of the 20th century decided for a completely different character at the center of the epic tale, not the worker hero but the dissident who survived various regimes, which were created by those who had the best in mind for either their own people or the whole of mankind. In a sense they tried to escape the regimes of mediocrity but not in a process of divination, as the likes of Ron Hubbard or Bhagwan.

    • Interesting, I’ve actually been thinking of it as a convergence of all those themes:

      Breaking Smart is actually a celebration of mediocrity (“worse is better”, perpetual beta etc) as an ethos, just played straight and without the satirical overtones I feel free to indulge in on this blog. The *process* of making good software actually enshrines mediocrity as a design principle, because the process is so close to evolutionary optimization over an infinite horizon.

      Divergence/variety is actually a central theme here: that is why we are heading towards a polytheistic early divinity over a single monotheistic dead-white-male divinity. Many gods, many finite games, plurality of right answers.

      I wouldn’t say I’m leaning populist. It’s more like contempt for mass delusions has converged with contempt for elite delusions. They are the same thing. The elites have their replication crises and identity constructionism on the one hand, and enlightenment-fetishization and naturalist fallacies on the other. Both are pastoral breaking-bad in a different direction. The masses have their superstitions, crackpot science, and fetishization of past mass cultures, aka MAGA, and various leftist utopian imaginings that are currently in recession in most places.

      The common theme in what I’m rejecting, I guess, is the notion of excellence, whether it comes from elitism or populism, left or right, and whether the justifications are pseudoscientific or ephemeral cultural elan vital.

      I can’t decide which is the worse threat: Straussian conceit and Noble Lie thinking, or Dunning Kruger and the false confidence of ignorance. In a complex technological world, both seem equally set up for failure, and the only thing that retains human aliveness is mind-melds with machines and muddling through with eyes open and not taking yourself too seriously. I suppose, ironically, that makes me a nostalgic pastoralist of the 1980s with a Douglas Adams sensibility.

      What I’m trying to capture is the essence of generativity and real life-energy in all its guises. Whatever keeps the infinite game going, so to speak. The enemy, so to speak, is the exclusively-finite-game mindset, which is where uncritical excellencism comes from.

      • Hmm, this exchange has made me realize something. Mediocrity is half the story. It is the rejection of excellence without the embrace of interestingness.

        Breaking smart = both. If you stop at mediocrity, you may survive better than excellence cargo-cultists, but you won’t enjoy it.

      • Sometimes interesting cognitive effects come from slowing down and cultivating it. Mathematics has created a culture of its own for slowing down thought in order to avoid jumping prematurely to false conclusions.

        I also remember the funny and ambitious but failed “toaster project” by a British design student who wanted to build a cheap, contemporary industrial product from scratch, i.e. from basic materials. Maybe the slow down went a little too far. There might be a minimum number of catalytic cycles one has to go through in a bootstrapping process, but just how many of those, seems to be an open problem.

        I wouldn’t characterize the student as “mediocre” although he was certainly no “expert” either. He just dived into a huge void, which is the effect of an edgy techno-capitalism. I understand that wanting to be a part of it and “follow the hype” ( I guess that’s what you meant by ‘cargo cults’ ? ) is seductive and fun but haven’t we done this already to some exhaustion? In the examples I presented above there is a hint on something deeper in thinking / engineering than itself. We don’t have to tie that to a metaphysical idea, to the Gods as the projected subjects of the thought and craft of the metaphysical world. But I haven’t much against that either, as it seems something which crosscuts the worlds, including our own material one.

        Hmm … I just noticed that Christianity is the rejection of the idea that God can’t epic. Christians were seeking the bond through divine suffering and dedication by faith. It is a very strange thing to cultivate, but it happened.

  4. neolithic people went further into caves the stronger their lamp was. it was to meet with the gods not escape them. sharing and exchanging essence with the Gods. Do we really have more agency now?

  5. Big Pharmakon says: “As our modern scientific understanding of nature and our ability to change it using technology have improved upon our own powers significantly, mythology’s description of natural forces has been seen through as a falsehood. It’s now a matter of common sense that gods are a superstition, and anything mythology had to say about them was the product of ignorance regarding how the world really worked.”

    How interesting. The myth of progress seems to have run amok in somebody’s thought processes. While we do understand a lot more about natural phenomena, we still don’t understand a thing about if we should care about understanding natural phenomena. I’m reminded of Nietzsche’s distinction between “good and bad” and “good and evil.” In a closed universe it’s all, by necessity, “good and bad” because the “good and evil” require a measure of the gods — meaning something the gods posses with which to measure AND the process of measuring they seem to fond of doing. In either case though, the universe must be open for evil to exist.. and that necessitates mythology as savior of values. Which brings me to the next point of this reply.
    Venkatesh Rao says:

    “Divergence/variety is actually a central theme here: that is why we are heading towards a polytheistic early divinity over a single monotheistic dead-white-male divinity. Many gods, many finite games, plurality of right answers.”

    I’m reminded of the definition of insanity I heard many, many years ago. It’s insane to call yourself God unless you call everyone God. In any case, the real challenge in the above statement is the cliche’ that “God” is conceived of, or has been conceived of as “a single monotheistic dead-white-male divinity.” I’ve been searching for some images of this “dead-white-male divinity” and while I can find a few Medieval representations almost nobody is ever serious about claiming “He” is even male, let alone white or dead. Even Nietzsche wasn’t claiming god was dead so much as belief in gods was dead. Of course, I’m not surprised he would think this as he too reacted to a caricature and it’s always easy to destroy such a thinly painted picture than to engage in a serious discussion of an “unknown gender – unknown race — maybe dead or maybe not” god, being singular or one of many up for debate.

    In the end it is not the concept of the gods we have abandoned but the belief anything about them can be known. And thus, because we need them, it may be we invent them. But having said that, it may also be true they are revealed and can only be seen by us because we can only see ourselves. The gods have faces because we need to face them.


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