John Milton was one of the foremost poetic geniuses of the English language—Milton and Shakespeare. What Milton was trying to understand is—what is the nature of evil? And his representation, gathered up in dream-like theories of evil that had been collected around all of Western Civilization for thousands of years, and his hypothesis was this: evil is the force that believes that its knowledge is complete and that it can do without the transcendent, and as soon as it makes that claim, it instantly exists in a place that’s indistinguishable from hell.
And it could get out merely by admitting its error—and it will never do that.
– Jordan Peterson
A history lesson for political radicals
Friedrich Nietzsche predicted that secular people, losing touch with transcendence, would eventually lose a reference point from which to look down and judge themselves. In the end they would lose even the capacity to despise themselves. Thus, because of the ‘death of God’, they would confuse heaven with happiness, and happiness with health.
An ancient Hebrew songwriter coined a phrase: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
I think he was on to something.
We need something higher. A vantage point. Something above. Something that transcends us.
In a world where equality reigns, where everyone is in the same boat, on the same level, in the same mess, we are left without a clear reference point. We have no guiding star to show the way. We are without a North Pole to make our moral compass work. No clear guidelines. Just sameness.
We need a Rock that is higher.
If we develop and choose our own values, then what we put in with one hand, we are taking out with the other. We end up building on something no better, no higher than ourselves. Not a promising foundation.
Equality informs us that no one has the right to judge. We are all in the same soup. No one is qualified to say something is wrong or evil, or to suggest their opinion is the best. All ideas are equal—except, of course, the idea that one might be better than another.
If that’s the case, Mother Teresa and Hitler end up on the same level. Heaven and hell would no longer exist. If no one has the right to “judge,” then the Holocaust and hospitals are both equally valid. We have no solid basis to discriminate between killers and caregivers. We are left only with different options, opinions, and personal preferences. We have leveled the playing field, and now it’s all up for grabs.
We have become confused about gender. We don’t know how to differentiate between men and women, or how many variations there are in between. Everyone is free to make their choice from the gender smorgasbord. We don’t know which bathroom to use, or if we should say Mr, Mrs, Ms, or something else. We are at sea without a rudder.
How did we get into this mess?
We need something rocklike—something solid that doesn’t shift or quake with each passing fad. A strong foundation that is resilient and resistant to the changing winds that blow. Something fixed and unmovable.
We need something higher.
Maybe . . . it’s Someone higher that we need.
Someone to define which direction is up and which is down, how things are to work, how life is to be lived. That would sure help.
Maybe there is Someone.
Perhaps we lost our way because we lost sight of Him.
Maybe we need to join the Hebrew poet and said: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
—J. O. Schulz
I see myself immersed in the depths of human existence and standing in the face of the ineffable mystery of the world and of all that is. And in that situation, I am made poignantly and burningly aware that the world cannot be self-sufficient, that there is hidden in some still greater depth a mysterious, transcendent meaning. This meaning is called God. Men have not been able to find a loftier name, although they have abused it to the extent of making it almost unutterable. God can be denied only on the surface; but he cannot be denied where human experience reaches down beneath the surface of flat, vapid, commonplace existence.
Russian religious and political philosopher
I will say that the cross of materialism is that it never quite succeeds in believing what it preaches, in thinking its own thought. This may sound complicated, but is in fact simple: the materialist says, for example, that we are not free, though he is convinced, of course, that he asserts this freely, that no one is forcing him to state this view of the matter — neither parents, not social milieu, nor biological inheritance. He says that we are wholly determined by our history, but he never stops urging us to free ourselves, to change our destiny, to revolt where possible! He says that we must love the world as it is, turning our backs on past and future so as to live in the present, but he never stops trying, like you or me, when the present weighs upon us, to change it in hope of a better world. In brief, the materialist sets forth philosophical these that are profound, but always for you and me, never for himself. Always, he reintroduces transcendence — liberty, a vision for society, the ideal — because in truth he cannot not believe himself to be free, and therefore answerable to values higher than nature and history.
― Luc Ferry,
A Brief History of Thought:
A Philosophical Guide to Living