(Published in Grail World 63/2011)
Religious fanaticism, skepticism towards science, financial and economic crises: A look at the changing models shows where the roots of today's problems lie and why a rethink is urgently required.
If we look back on European history, the relevant images of the world and people were determined by authorities from various elite groups. Their points of view were quite different.
In our historical consciousness, the centuries of the early Middle Ages apply - the time after the 4th century[i] - in Central Europe as a "dark age". The highly developed Greco-Roman civilization collapsed in the storms of the Great Migration, the Roman Empire broke up into many smaller rulers. The technical and civilizational level of Europe fell back centuries.
In all areas - from architecture to shipbuilding, from agriculture to warfare - one fell short of what had already been achieved in Roman times. The standard of living and the security of the population, which had shrunk significantly as a result of wars and epidemics, were far below the previous level.
Rome - once the center of one of the largest and longest-lived empires in history - was just a small town with sheep grazing on the Capitol. The former “capital of the world” (Goethe) retained some importance as the seat of a bishop who, as “successor of Peter”, claimed the leadership of the church.
With the victory of Christianity over the diverse, often frozen religious cults of antiquity, a new ethic, a new social paradigm, took hold. Medieval man suffered from the harsh, depressing living conditions. In inner emigration he sought a life in harmony with a higher purpose; in the final analysis after the surrender to God, in whose service the helpless little person should place himself. In order to get closer to the spiritual goal of redeeming one's soul, one had to renounce pagan customs and renounce many comforts. Everything "earthly" was devalued and the deeper meaning of being was sought.
Accordingly, so-called medieval man was less interested in external, technical and civilizational progress. Instead, asceticism, mysticism, religion, theology should give him access to truth and a happy afterlife in paradise. In the Middle Ages, hermits, monks, priests and visionaries, the “specialists for the spiritual and the transcendent”, set the tone.
The causes of persistent tension
It took almost a millennium before philosophers, lawyers and economists pressed for spiritual guidance again. The names humanism and Renaissance embossed. From the end of the 17th century to the 19th century, natural scientists were increasingly able to set the models and, together with the philosophers, that the Age of Enlightenment shape.
The transition from one leadership elite to the next (theologians - philosophers - lawyers - natural scientists - economists) did not go smoothly, rather the respective ruling opinion leaders tried to preserve their traditional status.
Nor have the more modern world and human images replaced the older ones, but rather the older world view remained - at least in part - retained. Since older and newer worldviews - for example astronomy with astrology, philosophy with theology, evolutionary biology with biblical creation, scientific worldviews with the traditional religious worldview - are not compatible, social, political and religious tensions arose.
Today in Europe we are experiencing, for example, the intensive encounter between a religion that stood still in the Middle Ages - Islam - with the modern basic principles of secular states. Future historians are likely to write extensive studies on the struggle between modern, scientific-technical thinking and traditional ideas found in all religions.
But let's take a look at the history of ideas in a big overview:
Religions, especially monotheistic confessions, are usually based on founders who either receive new spiritual insights through revelations or become a role model for their followers through exemplary personal behavior. Then it is the task of every religious community to pass on the founder's wisdom teachings to the following generations in an unadulterated form.
Hence religions are conservative. They want to receive doctrines, traditions, liturgies. Changes - including further developments - meet with resistance. One can get the impression that religions, especially monotheistic ones, stand in the way of the search for truth. For which person can presume to question the wisdom of a founder personality or even to question revelations from the highest heights - the foundations of the revealed religions?
That the traditions might be unreliable and their interpretations doubtful is admitted only very reluctantly.
This religiously based conservatism has an impact on the believers, their lives and their social structures. This can be clearly seen in the consciousness of medieval man. This was "guided by tradition". He wanted to do everything as it had done in the past, and he clung to the "good old law". Innovations were viewed with skepticism or hostility. Structures of rule such as monarchy were considered God-given, and “God-given” was the strongest authoritative argument. For example, the traditional craft guilds blocked technical innovations. Economic and social developments could only progress with difficulty.
During the Crusades, people in Central Europe learned of forgotten ancient writings that were preserved in the Arab world. Another transfer of knowledge took place at the turn of antiquity to modern times[ii] by scientists who fled west before or after the conquest of Constantinople (1453) and brought their knowledge and writings with them.
Then the great seafarers discovered previously unknown continents and opened new trade routes to Asia. A wealth of new knowledge flooded the West, the view became wider, and the consciousness of the elites changed. The Church's weaknesses were denounced, and reforms long overdue could no longer be suppressed; not even with force. In the sciences, theology lost its leading position, which - in humanism and the Renaissance - was now taken over by philosophy.
Logic, critical thinking, and verifiable evidence were given the same meaning they had in pre-Christian antiquity. Reason was asked again, as the most important means of knowledge. Miracles could no longer replace arguments. The established religions and their truthfulness were fundamentally called into question. The opponents of the church now became martyrs - not, as in the first centuries, their believers.
On this basis, the Philosophy of enlightenment. The logical thought structures she represented opened up a new approach to understanding nature in a long, arduous process. Paths became open to the “new science”, which was initially called natural philosophy and later natural science.
The ideas of philosophers from the Enlightenment period determine our legal systems to this day: from the American Declaration of Independence to the commitment to democracy, the human rights declarations of the French Revolution and the UN, the UN Charter, to the constitutions of modern states.
Christian religious communities sometimes refer to these foundations for shaping our lives, which are taken for granted today, as "basic Christian values. They do not like to be reminded that it was precisely the churches that bitterly fought these ideas - which they would like to appropriate today - for centuries. Much like Christian churches once did, fundamentalist Islam today rejects modern conceptions of law and insists on Islamic law, the sharia, as the God-given basis for earthly living. But even Islam will not be able to permanently avoid an "oriental enlightenment" that suits it.
A few centuries of systematic, logical research brought unimagined advances. Astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, medicine, physics allow deep insights into the universe, the structure of matter, the weaving of nature. The development and structure of our universe are largely known. Even the ascent of life, the emergence of the most complex structures that our world has produced, seems to have been deciphered from a Darwinian point of view.
Thus, through observations, measurements and calculations, a coherent view of the world was created, directed towards the materially verifiable, whose persuasive power surpasses all comparable ideas in human history. In universities on every continent, students of all denominations are taught the same exact sciences; an unprecedented global standardization.
But this does not remove the reservations that religious communities, whose theologies are often far from one another, have against modern, scientific teachings. For example, the theory of evolution cannot be reconciled with literal interpretations of holy books, the absolute validity of which religious fundamentalists still insist. Many religious people of different denominations are not happy about the dominance of the materialistic, scientific worldview and miss ethical values and spirituality in it. -
Revelation religions tend to cling to their traditions unconditionally. The priests of almost all religions - not only the monotheistic ones - find it difficult to come to terms with new knowledge and developments; with scientific progress, which often cannot be integrated into traditional thought structures. Many priests are also too little aware that spirituality, religious experience, cannot be squeezed into an old, perhaps long-outdated, at least inanimate, dogmatic concept.
Rigid adherence to dogmatic prejudices contributed to the decline of Christian churches that wanted to prevent the breakthrough of the natural sciences. Religious dogmatism still blocks the way to an open society in some countries. The religious leaders of various denominations often do not want to be true that no tradition, however valuable, is safe from misunderstandings or even abuse!
The insight conveyed in the Grail Message "In the Light of Truth" by Abd-ru-shin that revelations also change their form and must take account of time-related human understanding is unfortunately not yet common knowledge. Quite apart from the fact that any religious tradition is handed down by erring people, interpreted by believers with limited insight and put into practice. Anyone who speaks of (religious) "truth" should know that what is truthful must prove itself without contradiction on all levels of human insight.
The modern economy also claims to be scientific and is based on ideas from the Enlightenment. Whether it is about the “free economy”, “free trade” or the socialist planned economy, the materialistic guidelines for this were given in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Today, some economists advocate these ideas just as dogmatically as beliefs. This includes the conviction that modern economies with free trade and unhindered capital movements are able to guarantee ideal conditions on our planet.
The repeatedly made experience that such promises of salvation - whether religious, political or economic - never created a paradise, but regularly created a hell on earth, is suppressed. Even if overpopulation, environmental destruction, globalization losses, financial crises, uprisings, civil wars, wars and other instabilities show so clearly that we are not on a survival-friendly, rational, ethically justifiable path.
During the Cold War, the current financial and economic excesses in the West were curbed by political considerations. The aim was to prove to the world in competition with international communism that the capitalist, free economy all brings sustainable prosperity to its citizens, not just capital owners.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist economic awakening of China, India, Russia and many other countries, social considerations have disappeared and the notorious “predatory capitalism” has a free run[iii]. Ethics - regardless of religion - could nowhere effectively counteract it.
Serious resistance to the spreading social neglect, such as uprisings or even revolutions, does not seem to fear the exponents of pure capitalism despite the financial and economic crisis and despite a billion starving people (for the time being?).
Are developments from the Middle Ages repeated?
As incontestable as the current scientific worldview may seem, it has not been able to displace the other, the older worldviews. Because too much in the so-called scientific worldview is simply excluded. And the clear, correct, but value-free, cold statements of the sciences do not offer many people any assistance in making decisions that affect the human. Scientific knowledge does not address people's sense of responsibility enough. They do not inspire him to contribute to a better world. With the results of series of measurements alone, the human inner life, which seeks to give meaning, is not addressed.
That is why the religious, mystical, transcendent strivings that seek higher insight do not disappear. Today they are gaining new popularity, also outside the traditional churches and religions; for example in what we call esotericism. Both fundamentalist Christianity and new religions are gaining popularity, not only in the Anglo-Saxon language area[iv], quite apart from fundamentalist Islam.
It does not seem to be ruled out that after a severe crisis - as once in the Middle Ages - a turning away from this worldly, from purely scientific thinking can celebrate a resurrection when one feels overwhelmed by disastrous economic and political developments for which materialistic, scientific thinking is responsible is made.
One can see a repetition in this development. With the Greeks and Romans, logical thinking was well on its way to suppressing mythical worldviews, frozen religious doctrines, superstitions and unfounded prejudices. Then the ancient states broke up and much knowledge was lost. In the suffering and great need associated with these upheavals, people turned inward. Christianity caught those who were disappointed in the cruel, earthly world by promising them a better being in the hereafter.
A millennium had to pass before a return to the thinking of antiquity opened the way to the “new science”, natural science.
But recently the reputation of the sciences could be damaged again. There is already widespread distrust of technocrats, bureaucrats, economists, bankers and politicians in industrialized countries. In addition, there is a pronounced skepticism towards the undifferentiated use of technology. Their applications, which are not always sensible, are held responsible for population explosion, destruction of nature, climate catastrophe, extinction of species, environmental damage, etc. The construction of technical systems and the introduction of new technologies are viewed with suspicion and are often massively hindered[v]. The ostensible blessings of modern economics are thrown into twilight by the sins of the big banks and large corporations. The overwhelming influence of finance capital is seen as one of the reasons for the rigorous policies of the nation states, which accept or even instigate wars and civil wars. The belief in a prosperous future has faltered for many people.
Can we see a parallel to the turning away from this world in the Middle Ages in the technology fatigue of our time, in the turn to ecology, to nature-friendly agriculture, to "green" economy, to natural medicine, to religions or to esotericism?
This comparison goes too far. The mystical medieval way of thinking with its turn to the Christian way of life emerged from chaotic conditions after the catastrophic collapse of ancient structures. Our capitalist economy, on the other hand, still functions to some extent, at least in the industrialized countries. Many believe that after overcoming the financial crash of 2008, it will thrive again. Hopefully it will then also be possible to overcome the threatening division of society into rich and poor in many places, even in rich industrial countries such as the USA, which no national economy is allowed to accept[vi].
The conditions for healthy competition
When we are dissatisfied with the performance of our rulers today, or are alarmed by financial and economic crises that are, on closer inspection, a moral bankruptcy on the part of those responsible, it may be useful to look back and ask how the initiators of the social market economy envisioned it. We would be well advised not to dismiss their ideas as outdated, childish notions that do not fit our modern times:
Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Röpke (1899-1966), Ludwig Erhard's teacher and one of the three intellectual fathers of the social market economy, wrote in his 1958 book "Jenseits von Angebot und Nachfrage" (Beyond Supply and Demand):
"No textbook of national economics can substitute for the conditions on which the ethos of the market economy must rest. Self-discipline, a sense of justice, honesty, fairness, chivalry, moderation, public spirit, respect for the human dignity of others, firm moral standards - these are all the things that people must already bring with them when they enter the market and compete with each other. They are the indispensable supports that guard against degeneracy. Family, church, genuine communities and tradition must equip them with them. People must grow up in conditions that favor such moral convictions.."
(from: Ehrhardt Bödecker, "Prussia and the roots of success", Olzog, Munich, 2005, page 116)
The egoism of the rich threatens the poor
In the 21st century, the consequences of double exponential growth must become increasingly evident: humanity is growing exponentially and consumption per capita is growing exponentially. The earth's resources are no longer sufficient for this wasteful overload, and the end of this mismanagement is inevitable.
Serious warning signals are the increase in the hungry in many developing countries, rising refugee flows and the rise in energy, raw material and food prices. At the moment these prices have collapsed somewhat due to the economic crisis. But one should not conclude from this that the shortage will end.
"Bad governance" plays an essential role, by no means only in underdeveloped nations[vii]: Incapable, corrupt governments that - sometimes assisted by misdirected development aid - drive their countries to ruin. In developing countries in particular, the gap between rich and poor is widening more and more. Solutions that could benefit the entire population - not just a corrupt upper class - are often not even sought, let alone addressed.
Some developing countries have already collapsed, and other countries - even in Europe - are nearing bankruptcy or ungovernability. Hardly anyone believes it is possible at the moment that the USA, the current leading power in the western world, could collapse in the 21st century just as the British empire and the Soviet Union did in the 20th century.
“An outrage happened that nobody had expected: A world labor market has emerged that is expanding every day and noticeably changing the lives and work of billions of people. People who do not know each other and in some cases do not even know about the existence of the other country are connected to one another via an invisible system of pipes: Asia; America and the two halves of Europe moved together, now forming a world market for everything that can be traded. The financial experts pump capital through the economic cycle, the merchants send their goods around and for the first time billions of ordinary people face each other on the world labor market. This is what distinguishes today's globalization from the early trading nations, the colonial empires and industrial capitalism in the middle of the 19th century: For the first time in history, a largely uniform economic system has emerged that includes all factors of production without exception: capital, raw materials and human Workers are traded today like silver and silk used to be. "
Gabor Steingart (from "World War for Prosperity", Piper, Munich, 2007, page 174)
Determined action is required!
Many facts show that better insight is needed:
• Our current one Economy fails because it leads the world economy into a dead end. More humane economic models are urgently needed.
• The ones from the Religions The moral principles taught are not being applied adequately or are considered obsolete. There is a lack of minimum ethical standards, for example for governments, for working conditions, for social security, for money or in the economy.
• The ideas of the Philosophers and Lawyers , for example the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, became the basis of the UN. In practice, however, this cannot prevail against national egoism, religious or racist prejudices, rigorous or even criminal rulers of tyranny.
• Scientists recognize the ecological consequences of economic and population dynamic undesirable developments, but they can have little effect.
• Economists and Financial experts hold for the most part to questionable hypotheses that only benefit a minority. Even after the global financial crisis, there is still great resistance to stricter capital market controls and minimum ethical standards for money. Modern globalization is considered to be irreversible and without alternatives, although there has never been a human measure or decision that could not have been carried out in any other way.
• The politics Above all, wants good election results, exhausts itself in political party bickering and often gives in to pressure from lobby groups. Not to mention the corruption that is widespread around the world. Democratic politicians who want to be re-elected every four years hardly have the strength to make a big hit, to implement long-term reforms that cannot be communicated to the population immediately. External pressure is even against the clear majority will (abolition of the D-Mark) and against economic reason (inclusion of the PIIGS states[viii] in the euro area). The people, the “sovereign”, have to watch this goings-on helplessly and foot the bill.
"We were all so distracted by the daily problems that we never had the opportunity to examine the entire situation and work out a policy, but instead lived from one excitement to the next."
James Ramsay Macdonald (1866-1937), British Prime Minister from 1931 to 1935. (Quoted from: Gabor Steingart, "World War for Prosperity", Piper, Munich, 2007, page 287)
Hardly anyone has the courage to say all of this. Because anyone who describes the problem must be asked for suggested solutions. Effective measures against population explosion, environmental destruction, species extinction, lack of raw materials, an economy that has gone wild, irresponsible financial speculation, overindebted states, lobbyists exerting influence on state rules, corrupt governments and escalating organized crime[ix] call for decisive action. The necessary measures are known in principle, but cannot be implemented for the time being.
But more and more people are realizing that we cannot muddle any further in the 21st century as in the catastrophic 20th century. Hopefully even governments will not be able to permanently refuse this insight.
[i] As a rule, one sees the beginning of the Middle Ages in the division of the Roman Empire into East and West Rome (395). At about the same time (384) Christianity became the state religion in the Roman Empire.
[ii] Various dates are given for the beginning of the modern age: the conquest of Constantinople (1453), the discovery of America (1492) or Luther's 95 theses (1517).
[iii] See the box "Monetarism or Human Rights?" In "The start of the 21st “century"Under" Economy and Social Affairs ".
[iv] See “Der Spiegel” No. 18/2008, page 38.
[v] This technology skepticism is found above all in developed countries, while in underdeveloped countries a naive belief in the possibilities of modern technology and economy still prevails.[vi] See “Der Spiegel”, No. 15 of April 12, 2010, page 84 f.
[vii] Bad governance = bad governance. The failure of the control and regulation systems of a state or a municipality.
[viii] PIIGS = Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain. The economically weak southern European countries, which cannot keep up with the economic growth of the northern European countries and in the past had to continually devalue their national currency.
[ix] "Organized crime is spreading around the world and has developed into one of the leading economic and armed powers." According to Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office for the Fight against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, on the publication of the UN report "Globalization of crime ”on June 17, 2010.