Grand Councillor Li Ssu

 LI SSU

GRAND COUNCILLOR LI SSU

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Although Chao Cheng of Ch’in, who became Shih Huang Ti, the First Sovereign Emperor of China, is the majestic subject of our ancient success story, we must not ignore his Grand Councillor Li Ssu, for Li Ssu was the prime minister who rationalized the power of the throne. Indeed, some say the Legalist Grand Councillor is the primary means by which the Taoist-leaning Emperor got everything done by doing nothing.

Li Ssu was a native of Ch’u. He managed to associate himself with King Cheng of Ch’in around 247 B.C., a year or two after the thirteen-year old boy-king took the throne that he would hold for twenty-seven years prior to becoming the First Sovereign Emperor of all China for another eleven years.

Li Ssu was from humble circumstances, yet he had a mind to get ahead in life and he believed there was scant future in serving the King of Ch’u. According to the Shih Chi (Historical Records) of Ssu-ma (145-86 B.C), when Li Ssu was a petty district clerk in Ch’u, he observed that the rats eating filth in the toilet room were afraid of man and dog; but the rats living in the side-galleries ate wholesome grain from the granary and were not afraid of dog or man; whereupon Li remarked, “A man’s ability or non-ability is similar to these rats. It merely depends upon where he places himself.”

Therefore Li Ssu took up the study of high politics, particularly the study of authority (shih), law (fa) and administrative method (shu) favored by the school of legal scholars who became know as the Legalists. Their primary affection was for authoritarian government in the interest of ruler and state, in contradistinction to government in the people’s interest according to the principles of humanity espoused by various Confucians, Taoists and Mohists. As early as the seventh century B.C., impersonal law had gradually begun to take precedence over ritual morality as the feudal system crumbled and power became more concentrated in the hands of absolute monarchs. Confucius (551-479 B.C.) himself complained that laws were being written on tripods (three-legged ceremonial cauldrons) while the feudal rules of moral propriety, which specified that each person should keep his place according to his relations, were being abandoned: “When those rules are abandoned, and tripods with the penal laws on them are cast instead, the people will study the tripods. How will they then honor the men of rank, and what will the nobles do? When there is no distinction of noble and mean, how can a state continue to exist?”

One of Li Ssu’s fellow law students was Han Fei, a prince of Han whose Legalist essays were soon to be greatly admired by the rising King of Ch’in. Han Fei had abandoned his Confucian studies and taken up Legalism because it was simply more practical and germane to the times: the end of the ‘Warring States’ period. But his advice was not much appreciated by the Han ruler – perhaps Han Fei’s speech impediment detracted from his presentation. In any event, Han Fei resorted to writing his ideas down, and to this day they are an invaluable aid to the understanding of the Legalist doctrine expounded not only by him but by his schoolmate Li Ssu. They are an aid as well to those of our contemporaries who want to succeed in life and who know history is an indispensable lesson to that end.

The Legalist doctrine of Han Fei and Li Ssu is in marked contrast to that of their mutual Confucian teacher, Hsun Tzu, who has been mistakenly identified as the “father of Legalism”, an absurd identification in terms of overall doctrine: if anything, Hsun Tzu was the father of his stiffest opposition. Indeed, after Li Ssu became powerful, he respected him as if he were his father, offering the venerable teacher a nominal post in Ch’in; but Hsun Tzu, by then in his nineties, declined the offer. And no doubt the proceedings of the Ch’in would have been distasteful to him. Yes, Hsun Tzu did diverge from Confucius in a few respects, especially in his belief that men are originally evil, yet he was nevertheless a staunch Confucian in his view that men can be bent straight and true not by reward and punishment but by benevolence, rituals and moral education.

“Lead the people by magnifying the sound of virtue, guide them by making clear ritual principles, love them with the utmost loyalty and good faith, give them a place in the government by honoring the worthy and employing the able, and elevate them in rank by bestowing titles and rewards. Demand labor of them only at the proper season, lighten their burdens, unify them in harmony, nourish them and care for them as you would little children. Then, when the commands of government have been fixed and the customs of the people unified, if there should be those who depart from the customary ways and refuse to obey their superiors, the common people will as one man turn upon them with hatred, and regard them with loathing, like an evil force that must be exorcised. Then and only then should you think of applying penalties.” (translated by Burton Watson, Basic Writings of Hsun Tzu)

Moreover, Hsun Tzu believed power must be tempered by justice, and wars should only be fought to end violence, and not for profit. Good people base their conduct on morality, while depraved people are motivated by profit alone: Confucius considered those profits mere passing clouds while he rested in the pillow of the crook of his arm after eating his meager dinner of rice and water. Again, Hsun Tzu believed, contrary to Confucius’ opinion, men are originally evil; and we can hardly blame him given the warring circumstances of his time. But people can be trained to be good; to that end they should study a limited curriculum, namely, the Classics, including the ones Li Ssu eventually had burned. And there is Hsun Tzu’s link to Legalism; he too advocated an authoritarian response to the troubled times, but by means of education: the central government would have a state monopoly on education. When that monopoly was perfected, there would be no further dialectic or argument presently due to a lack of respect for the ruler’s ‘shih’ (power, authority); of course the ruler would be a model of Confucian virtue. Hence Hsun Tzu despised the military methods and the reward and punishment system of the Ch’in state, and advocated Confucian virtue. His school of thought was eventually represented by the “bookish” Confucian bureaucrats of the Han Dynasty which succeeded the Ch’in Dynasty: they took part in reconstructing the cultural tradition the Legalist approach of Li Ssu and Han Fei had worked so hard to destroy; during the reconstruction, more records were lost than were burned by their predecessors, and the beloved old literature was edited into the authoritative canon handed down to us – in other words, just how Classical the Chinese Classics are is a scholarly bone of contention.

The Legalism of Han Fei and Li Ssu is an altogether different approach to government than the traditional method taught by their teacher. Legalism is a totalitarian form of positive law. Although it is “positive” in the sense it is written down for all to see and obey, it not to be confused with the positive law of a mixed government, such as a constitutional monarchy or a democratic republic, for Legalism ultimately espouses the authoritarian methods of absolute dictatorship.

Legalism does not cater to past precedent but to the needs of the present, particularly the need of the sovereign to rule absolutely, without argument. It rejects the Confucian and Mohist worship and citation of the legendary sage-emperors Yao and Shun; what really happened two thousand years ago simply cannot be known. Han Fei wrote, “To be sure of anything without corroborating evidence is stupidity, and to base one’s argument on anything about which one cannot be sure is perjury. Therefore those who openly base their argument on the authority of ancient kings and who are dogmatically certain of Yao and Shun are men of either stupidity or perjury.”

Legalism denounces moral platitudes and vain talk and demands concrete results. Legalism demands precisely formulated, officially promulgated, and rigorously enforced laws. “A law is that which is enacted into the statute books, kept in government offices, and proclaimed to the people… Therefore for law there is nothing better than publicity.” On the other hand, “secrecy” is the prescription for “statecraft”, for the internal affairs of state, not only for its tactical value in breaking up intrigues, but also to enhance the cult of flawless Royal Power; ‘shih’ is the cornerstone of Legalism, prior to ‘fa’ (law) and ‘shu’ (statecraft).

Ample rewards and severe punishments are the means of enforcement to be directly addressed to the “two handles” of the humans to be handled: pleasure and pain. The prime objective: to prevent disobedience to the ruler’s will and interest; the ruler is an uncommanded commander whose law is beyond dialectical criticism. “To execute is called punishment and to offer congratulations or rewards is called kindness. Ministers are afraid of execution and punishment but look upon congratulations and rewards as advantages,” propounded Han Fei.

Indeed, morality is irrelevant: for instance, people do not steal food because they are evil but because they are hungry; a coffin carpenter does not build coffins to be good to people but because he wants to profit from his work. The ruler’s objective is not to make people good but to restrain them from taking action contrary to the positive law of sovereign authority. Institutions should not be judged by their morality but by their adaptation to change and to the needs of the time. Han Fei writes: “People are submissive to power and few of them can be influenced by doctrines of righteousness. Confucius was a sage known throughout the empire. He cultivated his own character and elucidated his doctrines and traveled extensively within the four seas (China). And yet only seventy people became his devoted pupils. The reason is that few people value humanity and it is difficult to practice righteousness.” And we note that the number of disciples known are half of the ever popular number (seventy) stated.

The ruler must realize that his interests are contrary to those of his subordinates and his own family; he should have no confidence in them: he must hold the supreme, absolute power in his hands alone. If he has confidence in someone, that person will oppose him or will be used by others to subvert his rule. But if he selects his ministers well, on merit alone; if he retains and rewards those who do well, while getting rid of hypocrites and severely punishing mistakes, his government will succeed, even if he is an average or immoral man: society cannot afford to wait around for a hundred or a thousand years for a sage-king or morally superior man to appear on the scene, hence positive law must be the sole guide.

Of primary importance is Equality under law, the equal application of law regardless of the status of the person judged. “If rewards are bestowed according to mere reputation, and punishments are inflicted according to mere defamation, the men who love rewards and hate punishments will discard public law and practice self-seeking tricks and associate for rebellious purposes…” wrote Han Fei.

Of course the ruler will craftily use statecraft to foil plots and intrigues. Rising above all differences to the Equality or “emptiness” of Perfection, he is the inscrutable Power behind the scenes, the Natural Law uniting Heaven and Earth. He is the Pole Star to whom all must turn. He is the Sun, the Central Inspector on tour. He allows everything to fall into place, the assumers to show their hands, the hypocrites to display the disjunction between word and deed, and then….

Mysticism may seem unfitting to the Legalist context of positive law and amoral social science, but we must not be fooled by logical appearances of propriety. Students of Taoism will certainly want to study Han Fei’s comments on the Tao in the context of the relation between the First Sovereign Emperor and his prime minister Li Ssu to see the practical, Legalist application of the occult teaching. Han Fei was fond of Taoism and incorporated it into his Legalist doctrine: “By virtue of resting empty and reposed, (the ruler) waits for the course of nature to enforce itself so that all names will be defined of themselves and all affairs will be settled of themselves. Himself empty, he knows the essence of fullness; himself reposed, he becomes the corrector of motion. Who utters a word creates himself a name; who has an affair creates himself a form. Compare forms and names and see if they are identical. The the ruler will find nothing to regret, since everything is reduced to its reality…” indited Han Fei.

Last, but certainly not least, the economy: the economic strength of the Legalist state depends on its military might. The ruler will encourage productive enterprises such as farming, and discourage unproductive occupations such as that plied by the hordes of scholars who sow the seeds of dissension disguised as benevolent humanism… Giving to the poor what has been earned by the rich is both unfair and unwise.

Now, then, after Li Ssu had completed his studies of the foregoing doctrine, he decided to go to the state of Ch’in to take advantage of the ongoing wars which he perceived as a golden opportunity for politically minded commoners to rise in their careers; while losers, of course, remain passive in mean circumstances. Before departing for Ch’in, he remarked that the King of Ch’in “desires to swallow up the world and to rule with the title of Emperor… One who, abiding in a mean position, decides to remain passive, is like a bird or deer that will merely look at meat… But one who possesses a human countenance can act vigorously. Hence there is no greater shame than meanness of position, nor deeper grief than poverty. To remain long in a mean position or in a condition of privation, criticizing the world, despising profit, and committing oneself to the principle of Non-activity (principle of Taoism) – such is not the nature of a gentleman. Therefore I intend to go westward to give counsel to the King of Ch’in.” (The Shih Chi, Historical Record, quoted here and hereafter)

And the proactive counselor did just that. Li Ssu obtained a position at Ch’in Councillor Lu Pu Wei’s office, and he soon had a chance to speak to the King about the golden opportunity to exercise power over the entire country: “The small man,” said Li Ssu to the King, “is one who throws away his opportunities, whereas great deeds are accomplished through utilizing the mistakes (of others), and inflexibly following them up… The feudal lords at the present time are paying allegiance to Ch’in, as if they were it commanderies and prefectures. With Ch’in’s might and the King’s great ability, (the conquest of the other states would be) like sweeping (the dust) from the top of a kitchen stove. (Ch’in’s power) is sufficient to obliterate the feudal lords, bring to reality the imperial heritage, and make of the world a single unity. This is the one time of ten thousand generations.”

King Cheng, pleased with this advice, made Li Ssu Senior Scribe and “listened to his plans, and had him secretly commission plotters, bearing gold and precious stones, to travel about and advise the feudal lords.” Those who took heed were rewarded; those who did not were “stabbed with sharp swords.”

Li Ssu became Alien Minister. Shortly thereafter, a plot by an alien in Ch’in was exposed: upon the urging of his ministers, the King order aliens including Li Ssu expelled from Ch’in. As the former Alien Minister approached the border to leave the state, he sent back a memorial to the King, setting forth an extended argument in favor of employing aliens. In short, since the state of Ch’in owed its prosperity to sound advice given by alien advisors to former Ch’in rulers, as well as to the importation of the good things in life such as treasure, music, dancing, and beautiful women, it would be extremely unwise to expel aliens from the country. “Now there are many articles not produced in Ch’in and yet valuable, and numerous gentlemen who have not been reared in Ch’in and are yet desirous of being loyal. If at present you expel aliens so as to give increment to opposing states, and decrease your people so as to make addition to the enemy, then you will find yourself depopulated at home and will have established (sowers of) enmity against you among the feudal lords abroad. Should you then wish to have the country without danger, you could not obtain it.”

The King rescinded the order to expel aliens and Li Ssu was recalled to office. Another alien, Li Ssu’s old schoolmate Han Fei, was forced to commit suicide by an apparently jealous Li Ssu – the very sort of thing Han Fei had expressly warned rulers about.

No doubt the ancient School of Five Elements powered by Yin and Yang would be amused by our maxim, “What goes around comes around.” Li Ssu had an occasion to write yet another, even more critical “memorial” in prison, just prior to his execution after more than thirty-five years of distinguished and mostly loyal service to the First Sovereign Emperor. Just two years after the Emperor’s death, Hu-hai, his youngest son and illegitimate successor, had Li Ssu convicted on trumped-up charges of sedition, and punished by being cut in half at the waist in the market-place of the capital.

Unfortunately for Li Ssu and the future of the empire, Li Ssu had reluctantly participated with Hu-hai and the evil eunuch Chao Kao in the conspiracy to prevent the eldest royal son Fu Su from taking the throne. Li Ssu knew too much; he had to be disposed of. He falsely confessed to sedition under torture of one-thousand floggings. Yet in an attempt to escape the death penalty, he submitted a “memorial” or confession of his “crimes”, which were really his accomplishments. The list includes many achievements I shall with all due respect, in yet another chapter of this ancient, success story, attribute to the majestic First Sovereign Emperor of China. After all, His Majesty has the Power to get everything done by doing nothing himself, and He may have his Grand Councillor executed at any time. But it would be unfair to conclude without citing Li Ssu’s memorial, rejected by Chao Kao on the grounds that it is inappropriate for prisoners to submit memorials.

“Your servant has become Grand Councillor, and has administered the people for more than thirty years. When he arrived within Ch’in’s narrow confines, during the time of the former King, Ch’in’s territory did not exceed one thousand li, and its soldiers did not number more than a hundred thousand. Your servant used his meager talents to the utmost, carefully establishing laws, secretly sending out plotters, giving them gold and precious stones, and causing them to travel about and advise the feudal lords, and secretly to prepare armor and weapons. He spread the teachings of (imperial) government, gave position to men of arms, honored meritorious officials, and enriched their ranks and revenues. In this was it was possible to seize Han, weaken Wei, destroy Yen and Chao, raze Ch’i and Ch’u, and so finally annex the Six States, make captives of their kings, and establishing (the King of) Ch’in to be Son of Heaven. This is his crime number one.

“(Although thus Ch’in’s) territory was certainly not lacking in extent, he also expelled the Hu and Ho (barbarians) along the north, and imposed rule upon the various Yueh in the south, thus manifesting Ch’in’s power. This is his crime number two.

“He honored the great ministers and enriched their ranks and position, so as to strengthen their attachment. This is his crime number three.

“He established the altars of the soil and grain, and repaired the ancestral temple, in order to make his ruler’s merit illustrious. This is his crime number four.

“He reformed harmful policies, equalized the tou (10.35 litres) and hu ( 5 tous) measures, the measures of weight and size, and the written characters, and made these universal throughout the empire, thus establishing Ch’in’s fame. This is his crime number five.

“He laid out imperial highways and inaugurated (imperial) tours of inspection, in order to show (to the people) that their ruler had attained to his every desire. This is crime number six.

“He relaxed the punishments and reduced the collection of taxes in order to further his ruler’s (efforts to) win the hearts of the masses, so that the people might honor their ruler and not forget him after death. This is his crime number seven.

“The crimes of one who, as a minister, behaved as (Li) Ssu had done, would certainly have merited death already long ago; yet the Emperor has been gracious enough to make use of his ability to the utmost even unto the present time. May it please your majesty to look into the matter.”

Li Ssu was executed along with his alleged co-conspirator, his second son, Yu. As they were being led from the prison, they reminisced about hunting hares with their old yellow dog, then wept. Their kin were exterminated to the third degree – parents, wives, brothers, children.

Quoted Sources:

All quotes of Ch’ien Ssu-ma’s (145-86 B.C.) Shih Chi (Historical Record) are taken from Derk Bodde’s translation set forth in his book, China’s First Unifier, published by Hong Kong University Press in 1967. Derk Bodde’s works are an indispensable standard Western reference for the student of ancient China.

All but the last two quotes of Han Fei are taken from Wing-Tsit Chan’s translation in his book, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, published by Princeton University Press in 1963.

The last two quotes of Han Fei are from E.R. Hughes’ translation of Han Fei in his book, Chinese Philosophy in Classical Times, published by E.P. Dutton, New York, in 1954.

Arthur Probsthain of London has published W.K. Liao’s translation, The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu, to which the serious student is recommended.

 

First Sovereign Emperor Index

Advertisements

Goddess Kali in The Good Old Days

KALI Dice Ace

KALI IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Much has already been said about the long history of crimes against humanity perpetuated by the noble aristocrats sometimes referred to as ‘Aryans’. Still the nobles or “knowns” refuse to be convicted: they offer in their own defense the argument that the depredations of the barbaric oppression of mankind is of relatively recent origin.

In the Good Old Days, they say, the good old gods fought dark clouds, not dark people. Yes, they battled with primitive viciousness, not skin color. We are informed that ‘varna’ (caste) simply means distinction, not merely the distinctive colors, and that the original sources or authors did not discriminate in favor of any particular distinction of color, facial characteristic, and such, but merely explained, objectively, real differences by means of creation myths. We are rather amazed by the lack of prejudice in those Good Old Days even in comparison to our own, and in comparison to other parts of the primitive worlds where mother and child were eradicated if the newborn had some alien distinction.

Never mind that. In the Good Old Days, many races were Aryan, for the Aryan company was an equal opportunity employer. ‘Aryan’, we are informed, means ethically upright; it denotes the virtuous nobility, namely people known for their goodness, not for their slaughter of anyone who gets in the way. The term ‘Aryan’ may appertain to a language group, but it has nothing to do with race. Therefore the classical aristocratic conclusion follows any proposition that their conduct be regulated by civilized authority: oppressed peoples and races do not need better conditions or laws, they need better morals, they need family values, and so on.

As for the generally oppressed class, women, they were relatively free and certainly beloved in the Good Old Days. They had prolonged cataclysmic climaxes. Noble women, at least, had the benefit of leisure for education; they inherited property; they fought valiantly in battle with bows and arrows and they drove war chariots–one remarkable lady was provided with an iron leg after one of hers was severed in combat. Some women were even generals. Moreover, according to the ancient texts as interpreted, women were seers, poets, and priests; they chose their own husbands on the basis of love rather than wealth; and so forth.

The great black goddess Kali, wherever she appeared, was literally smeared with the bloody guilt projections of her aristocratic enemies. Although cosmic Kali shall not lose the war, she has lost many battles. For instance, her adherents were impressed by the Aryans into a caste (varna: color, distinction) that served to preserve the racial purity of the upper classes: “One occupation only the Lord prescribed for the Sudra, to meekly serve the other three castes.” (Code of Many) And, outcasts on the fringes, who had not been incorporated into the four castes yet, were the ‘Untouchables’ occupied with such duties as dung handling. Of course, the Aryan apologists proclaim their ancient respect for dung handling, noting their deep appreciation for its several virtues. For instance, they practiced scatomancy, or divination by dung: the smoke of dried dung as well as the steam from fresh dung was used to predict the weather; dung-smoke was also used to fumigate sacred precincts. But there is a dark side to scatology, as disgusting as it might seem, usually reserved to the lower classes: liquid fertilizer for the soul, the liquid strained from dung, was used as a sacred medicinal beverage; the eating of a yogi’s dung was particularly auspicious for his disciples; Krishna employed a mountain of dung called Govardhana, or Cow Prosperity, to shield people from from Indra’s wrath–Indra was angry because Krishna told them to worship the dung heaven instead of Indra.

The Good Old Days were not as golden as the Aryan apologists make them out to be as they pore over their Vedas. They have taken, for their own sake, the cosmic order out of order. The Golden Age does not precede the Dark Age; quite to the contrary: Kali Yuga precedes the Golden Age, which winds down again to another Kali Yuga. It appears to us that, following the horrible mistakes and misdeeds of the Aryan forefathers, in a count down from four legs of Truth to one (kali) leg, Divine Mother’s cyclical avenging aspect is now in effect. This is the Kali Yuga, or Black Age of manifold horrors, an age of holocausts and world wars, of ruthless competition and organized greed, culminating eventually in the virtual annihilation of the human race as we know it.

The alleged Good Old Days were actually days of Kali Yuga, thereafter continued unto our own day. Just as the lords of our fatherlands and the capitalists of our companies gamble with our lives and fortunes, so did the ancient Aryan gods play their awesome dice game for their domains, losing and winning entire kingdoms in the process, along with their friends, relatives, and their own personal freedoms. The unlucky die for the losers of the dice game was the ace in those days: the dead ‘one’, or ‘kali’, a black dot, or, depending on how the game was played, the unfortunate one left after the booty was evenly divided–the odd man out, or woman.

Alas for the hapless social person degraded to the status of a naked individual stripped of predicates; in our times, a mere statistical unit. A unit standing alone without companions in time and space is really a physical impossibility, for identity always requires relation. Personality needs a variety of relations. Personal relations during Kali Yuga are horrible, they are dissolving; therefore ‘kala’ (death) is sure to follow, A man during this age is as good as dead, reclining on the ground–in contemporary terms: a couch potato watching TV, a nerd surfacing the Internet, a corporate employees shuffling through his work like a zombie, a worm-like producer-consumer who does not know who he is, and so on.

Therefore the ‘Brahmanas’ say of the outcast ace, the unlucky die of the dice game, “Kali he becometh who lieth.” Yet all is not completely lost, for Kali has a positive face for the winner: Kali is the origin of time as well as its devourer, a mass compacted to an undifferentiated point ready to be manifested. So the Kali Yuga man, compacted by dissolving relations of the countdown of ages from four to one, can do his best to preserve his integrity during Kali Yuga by trying to reverse the cosmic order, which is a declining order. He is urged to arise on the count of two, stand on three, and get going on four, for “Evil is he who stayeth among men. Indra is the comrade of the wanderer.” In other words, “The fortune of him who sitteth also sitteth; but that of him who standeth standeth erect; that of him who reclineth lieth down; the fortune of him that moveth shall move indeed.”

Yes, perhaps conditions elsewhere might favor the person, or his chances might improve along the way, or even where he presently resides, if he can only get going. By way of example, consider the Roms, whose origin is India, often called “gypsies” because they convinced Europeans they had escaped the persecution of Christians in Egypt. They know that travel heals, and, if they are unable to travel when ill, they might sit in their parked cars for symptomatic relief. As it is today in Kali Yuga, so was it when the ‘Brahmanas’ were written: “All his sins disappear, slain by the toil of his journeying.”

Nonetheless, as much as we might accomplish in our attempt to reverse the cosmic order, it shall, in the end, prevail. For instance, where did 400,000 descendants of the true Aryan travelers, the Roms, wind up in our Kali Yuga, in our Iron Age? In Hitler’s ovens. Today only the vestiges of the wanderers’ culture survives the monstrous mechanical roller we call civilization.

Such collective misfortunes can cause an individual to curse the day he was born, to yearn for the womb, to worship death, to call upon his Divine Mother, Kali, the Black One, for eternal Peace.

-K-

Kali Yuga in The United States

Kali Wall Street Arrogance

 

KALI YUGA

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

We live in the Kali Yuga or Dark Age where Truth has only one leg to stand on. Such has been mankind’s fate for thousands of years and, according to bona fide spiritual masters, it will not end anytime soon in man-year terms. The classic conservative complaints voiced many centuries ago in India sound awfully familiar to our post-modern ears. Many of them were voiced during the Forest Exile as recorded in the MAHABHARATA.

Unfortunately, during our era of the Kali Yuga, we do not have the advantage of the forest as a viable alternative, especially now that the Central Park Service plans to prohibit hiking to save the endangered mosquito. Nevertheless, setting our own era aside for a moment, we shall paraphrase the ancient complaints.

First of all, since ladies come first in matters of courtesy if not in fact, it seems that wives no longer considered their husband to be gods, which is hardly surprising given the deplorable behavior of most husbands at the time. Indeed, women felt a definite aversion towards their husbands, whom they preferred to choose for themselves. Wives refused to obey their husbands’ commands, and verbally abused them with sharp tongues. The best of husbands were abandoned for the worst of men, even for menial servants. It appears that relations back then were based soley on sexual passion–oral sex was reportedly a favorite pastime, sex with juveniles was commonplace, and even bestiality was engaged in. Hordes of juvenile delinquents were therefore produced as a matter of promiscuous course.

Incidentally, Kali Yuga women resorted to sulking and weeping to get their way–how can men resist when severe sulking might result in the loss of wives by suicide? More generally speaking, it appears that women were addicted to lying to achieve their deviant ends. But perjury was not limited to the fair sex, nor were the dominant men to be outdone in any immoral domain. Patriarchs were addicted to lying and to illicit sex as well.

Furthermore, litigants were addicted to perjurY; perjury is most likely to succeed in Kali Yuga, so how can we moderns blame the old liars for the habit? Tax evasion ran rampant then; of course, taxes were exorbitant, so liars justified lying. Moreover, educators hid the truth under elaborate fabrications in order to maintain their false qualifications, citing ‘reason’ as their authority; nobody listened to them anyway, except to get a set of spurious credentials themselves.

In sum, Kali Yuga is an age where the right hand deceives the left and the left hand mirrors the right accordingly.

Now then, that might badly be, as vulgarity usually is, but what of the highest class of men, the holy men whose code of ethical conduct requires them to renounce ignorance and forswear addictive substances both physical and metaphysical? Well, they were too busy making a living to comply with the professed standards of their ilk, too busy pursuing wealth for themselves and their cults to attend to their essential duties. They had abandoned Truth, and Wisdom fled from them. They even neglected the required sacrifices to the Highest Good. They turned their universities of liberty into business schools. They served the most contemptible of interests under the badge of religious authority. In fact, the holy men began to serve their former servants and even to call them ‘sir’ (Arya)! Due to the degradation of the priestly class, religion become a synonym for hypocrisy.

Even worse, the lower classes were corrupted by bad example; for example, “Renouncing the gods (during Kali Yuga), men will worship bones and other relics deposited within walls.” And those dead things were replaced by other dead things such as ivory and gold. Yes, thing-worship, rather than worshipping the god represented by the thing, was the order of the day. Such a practice suits the Kali Yuga economics of unrestrained, unfair free trade. It embraces the all-consuming competition, the deceptive trade practices, the big-fish-eat-little-fish operations in the Sea of Terrors.

From the chaos of fear and greed, from growing animosity and mutual contempt, arises the organized greed of monopolies and other ghoulish corporations administered by zombies gorging themselves on the living dead. These outfits are horrible domains of violated and broken trusts, of rapaciousness responsible for the “destruction of gardens”, domains of cowardice, ignorance, unwitting slavery, and general viciousness led by gangs of Thugs.

Furthermore, according to our revered sources, in Kali Yuga people who thrive on bribery live long lives, having the best of care while honest people suffer and die for want of it. Even Soma, the nectar of the immortal Aryan gods, cannot relieve the silent suffering and quiet desperation of the dehumanized zombies. Of course, informed ‘Aryans’ insist that Soma was non-alcoholic in the good old days; however, Kali Yuga is an age of addiction to intoxicating substances. we suspect that, whatever Soma was, it better not show up today in a locker or urinalysis.

What we have thus far observed, the foregoing being merely paraphrases of the ancient texts, are symptoms of a general dissolution of society wherein moral authority is practically non-existent. Note well that friends and relatives are abused and neglected; the population is constantly shifting due to immigration and internal immobility; homelessness is widespread. Yet there is a global order to the dissolution, there is “one common order without distinctions.” Today we refer to Globalism.

Since the Kali Yuga still endures, the ancient texts serve as an indictment of our own deplorable state of bare existence devoid of spiritual inspiration. Many people are benumbed in the same bewitching Sea of Terrors. Most do their best to “adapt” and “adjust” to the “inevitable,” while the big shots throw the dice, just as their ancient Aryan precursors threw the dice, betting their kingdoms, relatives, and friends on the outcome. The small-fry gambling addicts are thrilled too, but the stakes must mount if they are to get a good fix.

A few men in positions of power, although they may not gamble much themselves, rather enjoy the view of the grand casino from their advantaged perches in the wings. For instance, on April 13, 2000, United States Senator Phil Gramm, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, testified rhapsodically that, as he strolled by Wall Street one day, he was awestruck by the sudden revelation that Wall Street is a “holy place.” He said Wall Street evoked in him a feeling of great reverence for the political-economic leadership of the United States. So let us bow our heads in humble adoration of our Great Nation as it rushes the New Economy into the New World Order, into, namely, Paradise. Indeed! Gamblers are certainly addicted to the constantly accelerating change of Kali Yuga: “change passeth over all things, and even over those who live through many yugas must change also,” declares the MAHABHARATA. Undoubtedly the good Republican senator from Texas sincerely adores the Wall Street casino where conservatives would invest the social security of their less fortunate constituents.

The Wall Street casino is a colossal amusement park with a debit-credit teeter-totter for everyone, not to mention that exhilarating roller-coaster rides. In this monstrous gambling hall everything swings grandly about the great central free-market deity who classically controls destiny with His Invisible Hand. There should be only a bare minimum of human regulation, just enough to maintain the ritual worship of the Lord’s majestic Invisible Dice-Hand, for anything more would result in “moral hazard”, the financial immorality caused by bad boys who think Big Daddy will bail them out of their losing positions.

Thus do we hysterically sail the economic Sea of Terrors. The Invisible Hand of the captains belongs to their Patriarch, the god of Chance. Unrestrained, all boats seem to rise with the mounting praise of the mammoth deity; each navigator has lost his true compass, however, and has gone stark raving mad on the ocean of false enthusiasm. Sooner or later the market bursts; the poor sailor realizes his boat is a capsized illusion as he drowns in a worthless sea of digits–the captain was the first to abandon ship. Only the house of mirrors remains standing for a while longer, yet it too is sailing into oblivion. When things are going well, the high priests will take full credit; but when fortunes fall precipitously, a fateful woman must blamed. Hail Kali!

Instead of wanting to invest the public fortune, our social security, in a ship destined to sink along with its most precious cargo, we might be better off placing our bets on Kali, Divine Mother of gods and heroes. For the paradise promised by the secular authorities is another version of Hell on Earth not only to professional pessimists, but to the masses who in quiet desperation constantly suffer under the yoke of Kali Yuga.

Honolulu 2000

 

Smoking and Drinking – A True Confession

ALton Leaning Towers 

 

SMOKING AND DRINKING
A TRUE CONFESSION
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

Crack open a beer and light up!

Go ahead, crack open a cold beer and light up a smoke. As long as you don’t leer in my face or blow smoke in it, I shall be at least indifferent to your escape from reality; at most, I can appreciate from my own personal experience how much fun a slow suicide can be.

No, I have no intention of preaching to you about my former bad habits. In fact, if I were offered a smoke and a drink before facing the firing squad, I would decline the smoke and ask for a six-pack. Those who say nicotine addiction is as bad as heroin addiction are probably right, but I do not have the slightest inclination to take a drag or two no matter how bad things get. However, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ is my favorite movie, and, after all these years of abstinence, my favorite reading is happy-hour signs.

I started smoking and drinking to be a Big Man. Both drugs made me sick at first: being a Big Man has its price; a price I would not pay for heroin, incidentally, because I got deathly ill and refused to try it again even though the pusher said the second time sends one to heaven. A feeling of power is what I craved and received from drugs. And alcohol really did the trick for me; it dissolved my inhibitions. Defying authority, I became an almighty authority, so I certainly understand why so many authors love to drink. I was almost omnipotent: I survived automobile accidents and crashed relationships; I was beaten up, kicked down a flight of stairs, left unconscious in a snow drift, and so on. The list of my exploits is too long for this occasion; in brief, I was a living accident.

Yes, Power! That is the ticket to everything. It is no wonder religion has tried to put a handle on drinking lest it get out of hand. Religion is the worship of power, preferably the Highest Power, the Holy Spirit; not to be confused with the Fire Water discovered by the ancient cooks while the warriors were out fighting those outlaws who refused to observe the sacred campfire rituals. Nevertheless, it is amazing what fermentation can do, how it puts one in touch with the spirit world. Hence it is no wonder that the drunken cooks kept their secret well and became the fire priests who were, at first, the only ones allowed to drink the sacred intoxicating beverage. But the secret got out soon enough: when priests saw how wasted everyone was getting around the sacred Fire, they swore off and dried out. And to save face, to this very day many of their descendants swear on stacks of sacred scriptures that the famous soma was not really an intoxicating beverage. Uh-huh.

The Greeks had their power-drinking problem too, which Alexander the Great allegedly proved when he drank himself to death—some say his mother had him poisoned. The power-center of the Greek world was Apollo’s temple at Delphi in Phocis. Mead was the god’s beverage of choice until the more popular Dionysus moved in with wine. Much has been said about the priestess called the Pythia getting stoned on non-alcoholic substances such as gas, spring water, and bay leaves before hysterically shrieking out an oracular utterance to be rationally interpreted by the male priests. Pythias were nuns of a Cretan religious order. We might wonder just how intoxicated they really became on the substance, especially the water and bay leaves. Recent archeological studies indicate there may very well have been a noxious gas coming from the fissure in the rock over which the pythia allegedly perched on her tripod. Whether hysterical women are intoxicated or not, we have them to blame for our predicaments and distractions, for every person is born of woman; even so, better the gas than the wine, for we know women run wild on wine.

As I mentioned, I gave up the spirits; or rather, they gave me up. Since my life revolved around the anticipation of having a few beers in the evening, my practice of abstinence (practice does make perfect) eventually extended to nearly all activities. Devoid of spirits, I have come to Nothing, to the practice or worship of Nothing by means of virtual suicide. If I had religion I would be an ascetic living in a cave in the Himalayas; a sole disciple would bring me a bowl of rice which I would eat one grain at a time; in exchange, I would say something profound about the difference between a snake and a rope.

Drugs such as alcohol certainly do cloud our minds with delusion concerning the ultimate Power. A passionate Christian I know is drinking an ocean of beer. That is fine with me; seeing him inebriated rids me of my lingering fantasies about power-drinking. The subject of blasphemy came up the other day while he was sober—he never drinks on the job. I had remarked that blasphemy was, technically speaking, the use of God’s power against God; for instance, using the Word against the Cause of the Word. He replied that the worst blasphemy was misusing the things of God, and he pulled out his dog-eared, heavily underlined Bible to prove it. While he was thumbing through it, I remarked, “If that is true, then the body is God’s thing, and to misuse it with drugs is blasphemy.”

I am not a Christian or a godly person, but I had to say something because he has, metaphorically speaking, a heart of gold well worth saving although he is literally smoking and drinking himself to death. I realize many Christians who do not believe in the resurrection of their present body do not live for this world, but for the next, and thus consider the body of small consequence except for its corruption. Many Christians, nevertheless, wanted to save their bodies from the pogroms against Muslims, and did so by affirming, when accosted, “I am a Christian. I smoke, drink and curse.” No doubt Islamist terrorists would say the same thing to avoid detections when questioned at borders.

The one thing my acquaintance does not do is curse. Of course, he proceeded to justify his smoking and drinking with rationalizations supported by scripture. He admitted that anything can be justified by scripture.

With that in mind, as Chance or God would have it, I was walking in Waikiki thereafter, and I stopped in front of the Christian Science building to see what section of the Bible, exhibited in the front window, was marked for reading (I Corinthians, 6:18-20). I transliterated it perversely in the context of my thoughts on power-drinking, as follows:

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of Budweiser, King of Beers, which is in you, which you have received from the Anheuser Busch company? You are not your own; you were bought for a price. Therefore honor Anheuser Busch.”

Cheers! By the way, no blasphemy was intended above.

XYXNote:

Budweiser is the registered trademark of the Anheuser-Busch Company.

Honolulu 2003

The Delphian Know Thyself

KNOW THYSELF

 

THE DELPHIAN KNOW THYSELF

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

Wise men aver that man’s highest calling has not changed since the day it was inscribed as a maxim on the temple of Apollo at Delphi:

KNOW THYSELF

Socrates was duly informed by the oracle that he was the wisest man of all. He was skeptical about that, but having due regard for the prestigious oracle, he sought someone wiser than he. His search for a wiser man failed, for every argument he heard he defeated with another argument. That proved his consummate skill and his native intelligence, but it did not prove his wisdom. It was his discovery that he was the only one who knew he did not know himself that made him wise.

Indeed, it appears that Socrates’ primary mission was to rid men of their wisdom-conceit, for only the knowledge of one’s own ignorance is wisdom when the arguments of the professors of wisdom are proved defeasible when put to the question. As we know so well from the trial and execution of Socrates under the restored democracy, asking embarrassing questions was not appreciated by the traditionalists. We get a sense of his good humor and character when we hear how he accepted the death penalty, insisting on a fee for examining and arguing against the opinions of the Athenians prosecuting him, instead of proposing a legal alternative to the death penalty.

Having found no purpose or ultimate meaning of human life in external nature, Socrates had turned his gaze within. His aim was to know the self or soul of man. He believed man was the microcosm of the universe, hence to know all things one must first Know Thyself.  Whereas most sophists of the day espoused free expression of subjective passions and impulses, Socrates sought freedom from them, to be achieved by self-control based upon insight. To that end Socrates engaged his fellows in philosophical discourse, the “speaking between” of dialectics, the art of logical argument. The sophists of the day, like the Brahmins of a much earlier date, were greatly amused by riddles and logic-juggling games. Those games were undoubtedly of enormous service to man’s intellectual development. However, that such a game can be won by a clever juggler does not prove him wise, at least not as far as the greatest teacher of them all was concerned. Indeed, we do find the Socratic dialogues inconclusive on the most crucial and critical point. Know Thyself is a process, then, instead of a final conclusion.

We have learned the Socratic lesson well. Everybody knows he does not really know himself, or he at least he has the good manners to say so. Such a profession of self-ignorance would be platitudinous today. Not that there is anything wrong with platitudes; after all, we do live by them; what is unforgivable is a poorly dressed platitude, for which there is no excuse given the handiness of Roget’s Thesaurus, the Oxford Dictionary, and a lively imagination.

Notwithstanding our good education or good manners in the case of the imperative ‘Know Thyself’, all too often we profess humble ignorance while our proud actions belie our profession.  Instead of inquiring into the nature of our selves, we in fact and in faith and as a matter of habit take our individual selves for granted as if we knew them too well to inquire any further. That is, we say we do not know ourselves, but, in order to act confidently and virtuously, we must have faith and then belief in ourselves. Yet we have only blind faith, and not the perfection of belief that is truth.

Since in regards to self-knowledge there is a contradiction between our profession of humble ignorance and our proud acts, we might be called hypocrites by those arrogant fools who do not understand the crisis beneath the actor’s mask and the stage upon which the great drama is performed. Yes, the saying that the world is a stage is a hackneyed phrase called a “hackneyed phrase” by hacks who do not know “hackneyed phrase” is itself a hackneyed phrase, or that the sword they wield in their insecurity as an insult has two sharp edges. Nonetheless, despite the hackneyed phrases and editorial nit-witticisms, the world remains a stage, and as the ancients said of their theatre millennia before Shakespeare’s birth, theatre is a mirror by which one can Know Thyself.

Actors were called hypocrites by the ancient Greeks. Hypocrites wore personas or masks. And here we neoterics are on our darkened stage as hypocrites wearing masks, persons divided against ourselves within, hence divided without as well. Indeed, hypocrites are “divided underneath.” They suffer the diremption, the original wound: The Ideal One overflowed into the Moving Many; by indefinite dyadic operation subjects were divided from their objects; now Sophia longs for redemption. Indeed, any person who does not know that all persons including Yours Truly are hypocrites is an imbecile who, instead of hurling “You hypocrite!” as a Judeo-Christian curse, should trace the term to its Greek origin and paste the command Know Thyself on his mirror.

No doubt fear is at the root of the crisis upon which we place the personal mask. Thus it is said, To Know Thyself, look at the tombs. The human personality is a reaction to fear, not only to the fear of suffering but, since we know we are to die, the fear of non-existence or death. Conversely, it is a reaction to the fear of self-conscious existence, the fear of human life, for life implicates death: life is feared as much and at the same time as the absolute void of non-existence is feared.

When fear is present and the unknown or nothing specific is feared, the term “anxiety” is usually employed, but I prefer the general term. The fact of death is obvious; only non-existence is unimaginable. A personal response to Know Thyself may be to consider, first of all, the ultimate limit of life on this heavenly body named Earth; to wit, death.

When Know Thyself was first taken up as a maxim, identification with the tribe for survival’s sake naturally took precedence over individual liberty. Christians did not invent the so-called “sin of pride” for which the Fathers adopted the term “hypocrisy.” Know Thyself was originally construed to mean that one must know one’s natural and social limits in order not to overstep them and be destroyed by pride. In other words, a person was defined then more by his conditions than by his individual will.

But today, as a result of the reputed historical progress of individual liberty, thanks to Socrates and like-minded thinkers, many more people, despite their presently dwindling proportion to the whole population, do not identify with their limits, at least not in principle: they push the envelopes as far as they can go in all walks of life. Limits are challenges to them. Some like objective challenges, while others like the subjective challenges. Again, maybe some of us would prefer to come to immediate terms with the most general limit of all, death, in order to more fully understand the meaning of life in general. I am fonder of the subjects than I am of their objects.

Alas that objectivism is the order of the day: subjectivists are an endangered species. Knowing things like technological artifacts, for example, and knowing the self as just another thing to be technically manipulated after it is defined by objectivist scientists, is the fascist fashion today. Thus while objectivists fondle the same bundles of things over and over, subjectivists are charged with repeating themselves, especially when they defensively propound on the nugatory nescience of objectivism. As a consequence they are confronted with its perverse numbskulleries; for instance:

“How dare you criticize this company you when you can go to another company. Read our TOS or Agreement-With-Ourself, which states, in part, ‘Thou shalt not criticize this company. Violators will be terminated without pay.'”

But there are no viable alternatives, for all places even churches are strictly commercial, wholly devoted to all-consuming consumption, operating under the same Agreement-With-Ourself.”

As for me, if I (excuse me for referring to the I-Thing) were to believe the comments I receive about my labor of love, I have no right to live and work in this objectivist society. As if insight has no rightful objective in this world. Be that as it may, it is my destiny to continue with my meditation on Know Myself from time to time. Although I often vehemently protest the smothering of the subjective self in objective sand, I do not mean to destroy the world: I merely object to the ostrich hiding his head in it.

I do recognize both subject and object and their relation. I realize that I am a bird flying through the air over a worm. But I object to having my wings amputated after thousands of years of struggle to Know Thyself. I am willing to strike an uplifting balance; I am unwilling to participate in a degrading descent. I do not deny the right of objectivists to breath, provided they stop strangling me. For if each self is similar and is in that similarity essentially the same, and if that Subject of subjects can also be derived from the study of objects as well as insight into the self, perhaps I shall meet my objective counterparts in the Grand Synthesis.

 

XYX