Monday, August 23, 2010

The Perennial Philosophy

Orwell and Huxley are two of my favorites. Both had the knack for fantastic fiction and the balls to confront the fascist cultures of their time in blistering non-fiction essays and treatises. Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy is not only an encyclopedia of religious knowledge but a timeless critique of the forms of government which have brought us to the near extinction of life on planet earth. I yield the remainder of my time to the master...Aldous Huxley:

Of all social moral and spiritual problems that of power is the most chronically
urgent and the most difficult of solution. Craving for power is not a vice of
the body, consequently knows none of the limitations imposed by a tired or
satiated physiology upon gluttony, intemperance and lust. Growing with every
successive satisfaction, the appetite for power can manifest itself
indefinitely, without interruption by bodily fatigue or sickness. Moreover the
nature of society is such that the higher a man climbs in the political economic
or religious hierarchy, the greater are his opportunities and resources for
exercising power...

That is why in Acton's words 'all great men are bad.' Can we therefore be
surprised if political action, undertaken, in all too many cases, not for the
public good, but solely or at least primarily to gratify the power lusts of bad
men, should prove so often either self-stultifying or downright disastrous?

"L'etat c'est moi ," says the tyrant;
and this is true, of course, not only of the autocrat at the apex of the
pyramid, but of all the members of the ruling minority through whom he governs
and who are, in fact, the real rulers of the nation. Moreover, so long as the
policy which gratifies the power lusts of the ruling class is successful, and so
long as the price of success is not too high, even the masses of the ruled will
feel that the state is themselves--a vast and splendid projection of the
individual's insignificant ego. The little man can satisfy his lust for power
vicariously through the activities of the imperialistic state, just as the big
man does; the difference between them is one of degree not kind.

No infallible method for controlling the political manifestations of the lust
for power has ever been devised. Since power is of its very essence
indefinitely expansive , it cannot be checked except by colliding with another
power. Hence, any society that values liberty, in the sense of government by
law rather than by class interest or personal decree must see to it that the
power interests of its rulers is divided. National unity means national
servitude to a single man and his supporting oligarchy. Organized and balanced
disunity is the necessary condition of liberty.

--Aldous Huxley
--The Perennial Philosophy
pp. 121-122

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