Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

THE HALLS OF PENTHEUS -- PART FIVE

THE SOULFORGE

It is nigh on forty years since Duncanian made his wager with Pascalus, and not many years less since, shortly after that wager, he got into... a bit of trouble for grumbling discontentedly about Caesar being a "mad, megalomaniac, murderous bastard who could use a dagger or fifty-two in the back." Duncanian was lucky to have patrons in the Senate named Mercifulus and Progressivian, given that many have been put to death for less; rather than joining Spartacus and Yeshuah on their crosses, he was simply posted to a remote corner of the Empire -- Caledonia, a cold and miserable place in the grim north (so grim, in fact, that many of his comrades refer to it as the "Land of the Dead"), constantly under invasion from naked, hairy-assed, sheep-stealing barbarians who paint themselves blue for battle and come swarming over the wall erected to try and keep these "pirates", these Scotii, at bay. Duncanian, who by then was feeling mighty fed up with the whole concept of the Empire, took one look at these blue-assed barbarian baboons on the day of his arrival, and thought, bugger this for a game of sodjies. That night he leapt over the wall and went native.

What he did not realise was just how wild these "pirates" were, roaming free in time as well as space. Wherever he travels with them it is still actually 70 AD, according to one (possibly mad, possibly inspired) wodeworker known simply as Peekaydee, who insists that "the Empire never ended," but a simple left turn can lead one to all manner of anachronistic environments, which is rather fortunate (or, *ahem*, expedient) in expanding the range of metaphors one can use.

So...

We are in a tavern, somewhere in this timespace, frequented by the "pirates" of many eras, serving alcohol and coffee, hashish and oxygen -- a tavern known as The Soulforge because it was once a smithy and, before that, a temple. In many ways, one could argue, it has not really changed its purpose. Duncanian -- as is not unusual -- is sitting in his favourite corner, blathering on at length about this wager he once had with a centurion named Pascalus. Those who have heard him before are sure the story grows more elaborate with each telling, changing to incorporate the interjections of listeners, with Duncanian sometimes maintaining but sometimes modifying his original position. Duncanian admits this freely. Consistency, he is wont to say, is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

One of the listeners is a traveller named Benjamin (whose background I'll not be so bold as to fictionalise), who listens as Duncanian finishes up his rant with a sweeping expansion of the wager which rather glibly categorises religious views as polytheism, monotheism and atheism, portraying the first as something of a free-for-all, the second as an endless series of coin-tosses between X One True God and Y One True God, and the third as a canny suspicion of all these dodgy doctrines and dogmas. Benjamin waits for him to finish then, quite rightly, pokes a large hole in this model.

It's worth noting, he says, that you keep using the word "monotheism" to mean "religions which assert that unbelievers are eternally damned", which is a little sketchy... Note that if you choose Jewish, you get to believe that the goyim are getting into heaven easier than you are (613/7 times easier).

Ah, says Duncanian. True. The whole wager does rather go up in flames if you reverse the polarities, doesn't it? Perhaps I should clarify that I mean this... cost/benefit analysis only for those who are approaching the question on Pascalus's terms -- religion as proselytising, salvation in faith, damnation for doubt. That this is aimed at "individuals looking to make a bet", that it's not so much about "whether you believe in your own god but whether you believe in someone else's, the god of the person trying to persuade you that this is the real winner." Which is to say, it's really about putting your money up against Pascalus's -- which means accepting that the "two horse race" is even a race in the first place. I mean, it assumes the monotheisms are looking to recruit you -- which Judaism doesn't -- and that they are doing so on the same basis, with an offer of salvation. Maybe this is more about Christianity in particular.

Benjamin challenges this though: even as a view of Christianity, he says, this is pretty 17th century.

Again, true, says Duncanian, but then I would argue that the 17th century view will persist even into, say, the 21st, that it permeates Christianity, is engrained in it. The Empire never ended, as they say. And I think that's because there's something integral to these systems, foundational to them, which inevitably leads to the emergence of Empire within them. That said, now that you mention it, Christianity is also a bit awkward within that model, with its Holy Trinity and Virgin Mary and saints based on the old gods. Some of it *is* iconoclastic in that monotheistic way, but there's an element of polytheism perhaps in the multiplicity of quasi-divine powers.

The mention of polytheism leads Benjamin to make a further point about the violence done to Hinduism and Buddhism in this model, if one labels them polytheist or monotheist. He goes on to lay out a distinction between the latter example of Buddhism and the monotheism Duncanian is portraying, as a morphology with something at its centre that is most distinctly not a Deus Irae.

It doesn't really admit of the merry chaos of "everyone for themself, go figure it out", says Benjamin; rather, the claim being made is that there is a Right Way. But it isn't a question of the Meanie Buddha pointing the finger at you and saying "it's the Right Way because I say it is, and you better do what I say Or Else!" It's more a matter of a sort of proto-scientist Buddha saying, given my investigations, this seems to be the Right Way.

In raising children, there's a difference between punishment -- coercive imposition of authority from above -- and natural consequences. Leave my tools in the rain and get sent to bed without supper: punishment. Leave your toys in the rain and have soggy toys: natural consequence.

If the Buddha advances, as a logical proposition, that only through nonattachment can a soul attain release from suffering, and you say "oh yeah? well, fuck you, you can't make me!"... you're not really having the same conversation as he is, are you?

Because here the non-attainment of nirvana is not a punishment -- it's a natural consequence. Stay attached, keep suffering. Duh.

Duncanian nods. He notes again that the wager collapses, as he argued against Pascalus, in the case of Buddhism. This is actually what he was trying to get at in asking Pascalus what happens if the "prize" is Nirvana rather than Heaven, and if dispensation of the "prize" is not a consequence of simple faith? Ben's example of "natural consequences" is not dissimilar to what he had in mind as a "Right Way" that doesn't require local, divine revelation, in fact. Yes, he focuses in on a specific Categorical Moral Imperative but that's just his own supposition. The real idea is simply that the "right path" would be one that anyone, anywhere, anywhen would be able to navigate. You could ver much look at it is about being ready, willing and able to look at soggy toys in the rain and think it through to the "duh", to learn from that, to apply that empathically to the toys of others too... rather than just following a set of rules about what can and can't be left out in the rain. The problem with that is that there'll always come a point where the child (or immature adult) can turn around and say, well, you didn't tell me that was wrong. How was I supposed to know you don't let people leave your tools out in the rain?

Indeed, Duncanian wonders, where would one fit Buddhism into that model of theisms, if one can at all? There are Buddhist traditions which admit of what is, to all intents and purposes, a polytheist pantheon of gods and demons. There is the singularity of true divinity in the Buddha himself, or the Buddha Nature, which gives it a monotheist flavour. And yet, at the same time, there's the Buddha's own denial of godhood, the tradition in which he says he is not to be worshipped, a tradition which verges on the atheistic as far as Duncanian is concerned.

I think, he says, I need new terms here entirely because, yes, not all monotheism is universalist and predicated on the faith/doubt, win/lose scenario of Pascalus's Christianity (as your example of Judaism illustrates), not all polytheism is of that Graeco-Roman nature (as your example of Hinduism points out), and the atheism I'm talking about really includes antitheist and agnostic outlooks in its focus on doubt. It's not so much about one god, many gods or no gods as it is about the focus on universal submission to one doctrine, local choice between multiple doctrines, and personal doubt in all doctrines.

But you were going to say something else?

Benjamin then brings to the table the core of his argument, that Duncanian's focus on atheism is an extreme of individualism. He begins to talk of the forging of souls, of autonomy and independence, rejecting Duncanian's attempt to sweep away all the grand projects of religion as illegitimate. This follows on quite logically from the notion of Buddha as proto-scientist, as an explorer of potential "Right Paths" which are a matter of natural consequences rather than imperative dictates.

Can't souls A and B collaborate on their ethical development, their ethical investigations? he asks. And if so, and if it seems to be working out, can they tell C and D what they've gleaned? And if they want to go further and tell E through ZZZ about them, and thus they package them up into a provisional morphology -- if they want to zip them up into a class library and let people download them -- why not? And if they want to declare protocols and standards, so as to say "well this is OurPath 3.4, and if you do something substantially different please have the courtesy to fork and relabel so we don't get confused in our investigations of what works..."Why not?And in fact if you look at the vast majority of religious people, tribal shamans, Unitarians and Anglicans, mellow Malaysian Muslim housewives, Taoists and neo-pagans and Buddhists and liberal Jews and partially lapsed Catholics, this in fact is what they are doing -- as are Existentialists and Marxists and Stoics and Epicureans and followers of the New Age philosophical life-changing seminar of the month.

They are muddling along, figuring out things as best they can, drawing on communally authored, collaborative traditions to do so, thinking for themselves when necessary or desired, relaxing into ritual when necessary or desired, and -- collectively -- wrapping their thinking in morphologies for easier communication and posting the latest build thereof to their corner of soulforge.net.

Now, among the projects on soulforge.net, there are those who are dicky. They flame outsiders, try to suppress forks, they tell everyone that using other systems will crash your soulware and that unspeakable things will occur to you if you don't use the Only Authorized Version of their Super Special Download. They engage in monopolistic business practices.

But does the employment of such dicky practices, at various times, by a minority of the projects there ensconced, invalidate the entire enterprise in which soulforge.net is engaged?

Why does Duncanian, with and in his ethics, have to be so all alone?

Does he scorn only the projects that threaten him if he doesn't download their code?

Or does he scorn all code reuse at all -- all the busy projects on soulforge.net working at developing a Way?

Or does he scorn the idea of a Way at all?

I think he scorns all three; and, to be sure, he may be right to.

No, says Duncanian, no, actually I agree with you here to a large extent. Remember that my wager with Pascalus came out of an idea that, if some grand God existed, what he'd really expect of us is to act ethically, to exercise our ethical abilities to the best of our abilities. To reject a good idea because it isn't one's own is less wise than to not think of it in the first place. To discard a path simply because someone in authority says, "this is the Way", is simply being obtuse. I support all of the code reuse you describe, because if you don't allow for the fact that others have wisdom and expertise you lack, then you're hardly exercising judgement to the best of your abilities.

I think of autonomy and independence as interchangeable, I must admit, with both being potentially at an extreme of outright existentialist isolation, so I'm not sure which word you mean which way, to be honest. I would use autonomy and independence to mean self-rule and non-subjugation respectively (i.e. as different ways of looking at the same thing), with the focus not on a negative rejection of the propositions of others, but on a positive affirmation of those as one's own. My existentialism is about always, always seeing it as one's own choice at the end of the day.

But to use your metaphor, I think there is a problem that has been replicated throughout many of the projects on soulforge.net, based in one of the core modules that is used most widely. It's sneakier than the monopolistic practices you describe because it's in the code itself. See, all of these projects are designed to function as judgement systems, sometimes separated into pragmatics, aesthetics, ethics and politics modules, sometimes integrated, sometimes working by look-up tables of rules, sometimes working by heuristic algorithms. What they all have in common is that, when you implement them, the key test of how well they're working is the IntegrityCheck module.

This is itself an open source project, forked and branched into many forms: some types of IntegrityCheck measure personal comfort; some weigh that against empathic discomfort; some use pride/shame indexes; some construct abstract standards of ideal persona and apply these to actions. But however these work, they all return positive/negative values as a sense of integrity. If we're in the red, we need to tinker with the software to get it working properly. If we're in the black, everything is cool... as far as we know.

What I think the Deus Irae, the Empire, does is fuck-up the IntegrityCheck module's capacity to make a valid analysis by setting up a feedback loop between the idea of the social order and the pride/shame index. It's grounded in that sense that importance is important, that authority is an end in and of itself, emblematised, encoded in the reverence for supremacy itself in the form of a Supreme Being. That codes to a sense that (social) order is important as an end in and of itself. To act so as to maintain and propagate the social order -- which is to say simply by enforcing or establishing a rule, no matter what that rule might be -- nudges the pride/shame index in the direction of pride. So when we run an IntegrityCheck what we get is positive reinforcement, not for acting morally ourselves but for exercising moral judgement on others or ensuring they subscribe to our beliefs. That feedback loop can become a runaway process leading to obvious fundamentalism, but even if it runs slowly, quietly, less noticeably, what it's doing is viral replication of authority for the sake of authority.

Now, I do think that sense of reverence-for-supremacy is an inextricable aspect of the God symbol where it's an entirely monotheist "God of Kings", but that's not to say it's not just as present in the polytheist "King of Gods". In fact, you can find it in atheism too, I think, in the scientistic reverence for the absolute truth of a "Grand Equation". I think many forms of "monotheism" or "polytheism" seek to deconstruct the feedback loop (with Buddhism or Taoism being good examples -- and I'm sure you could make a case for how Judaism does this) but I think that loop is so deeply coded into the "God" class that what we've got is a dangerously malfunctional module at the heart of way too many projects on soulforge.net. That's what I'm really arguing against. But...

Duncanian strokes his chin.

I'm thinking that we need to go deeper than the religious terms, that maybe the notion of heterodoxy could use corresponding notions of "homodoxy" and "antidoxy", he says. These ideas aren't truly formulated yet, I confess, so they need some thrashing out, definition and redefinition in the use of them, and in the end they may be no more relevant than the superficial taxonomy of one-god-ism, many-god-ism and no-god-ism, but I think there's an idea in here which I've been struggling to put into words.

Let's imagine three cities, New Jerusalem, New Sodom, and Nihil, one where every temple is to the same god, one where every temple is to a different god, and one where every temple is to nothing. It's not the cities I want to critique but the temples, and while I'm fond of New Sodom and Nihil, and have issues with New Jerusalem, I do recognise that, in all of these cities, not all temples have the same doctrines and practices. In fact, there is much I respect in some of those temples in New Jerusalem, as much as there are temples in New Sodom and Nihil whose doctrines and practices I would challenge.

So what do I mean by "homodoxy" and "antidoxy"? How, for instance, would homodoxy be any different from orthodoxy? Well, I think the distinction I want to make pivots on the difference of focus in the roots, homo meaning "same" and ortho meaning "right". An orthodoxy which asserts its own correctness does not necessarily seek to replicate itself beyond its own culture, to expunge difference, make everything the same. Hence in the Temples of Judaism in New Jerusalem, they do not subscribe to homodoxy. For all that they believe in a One True God, the goyim are simply not his Chosen. They're not encouraged to convert; as often as not they are discouraged (so I've heard). Was there a time in the far past, when the city was being built, when these temples did practice homodoxy, when the Holy Land was being claimed from the Philistines, the city being built, idols smashed and foreskins gathered? Maybe, but that was then; wouldn't it be more acurate to say that they now practice heterodoxy -- that as much as they believe there is only one truth, the goyim are left to believe and practice whatever they damn well please? Is that fair to say? Is there a homodoxy / heterodoxy argument between Orthodox and Reformed temples, where the former doesn't extend its homodoxy beyond the ethnic/religious group, but does still seek to assert itself over the group as a whole, while the latter is essentially accepting of difference? Is there an inherent heterodoxy in the focus on rabbinical argumentation as a method?

Actually, what was it you were saying about God being always and never personified? Being exactly the Greatest Cocksucker I suggest he must be.

Of course God has a penis, says Benjamin; of course God is the Greatest Cocksucker (your depiction of Him as such is a marvelous poem of religious devotion); of course God has a vagina, and wings, and an animal head, and no features at all but a howling voice, and is the still small voice at the center of the whirlwind, and NEVER appears personified and ALWAYS appears personified, and is an incomprehensible emptiness about which nothing can be said and who can only be contemplated through negatives. Of course God should be revered, worshipped, defied, killed when you meet him on the road, made love to with a strap-on and cuffs, and (for the Discordians out there) used as toothpaste.

Right, says Duncanian, that's about as good a statement of heterodoxic monotheism as I can imagine. And that's not what I'm arguing against... or at least what I mean to be arguing against. I do think we need to be wary of these as the Anthropic Fallacy, though.

Benjamin looks dubious.

It's a very good point, he says, to point out, as I have endeavored to do many times myself, that Will, Law, Creation, etc., are just as much anthropomorphizations as the lingam of Shiva and the helmet of Athena. It's silly to assert that they are therefore fallacies. What they are is imaginative pictures, ways of talking about something that actually doesn't resemble them much at all. The literalism of saying "but does God REALLY have a will?! That's like saying 'He' REALLY has a penis!" is akin to the literalism of saying "but are electrons REALLY particles or REALLY waves?" They're not either. They're electrons. We just made them up.

Sure, says Duncanian, and as art those sorts of imaginative pictures are all we have to describe the divine. But it's from art that I get the term "fallacy"; the meaning I'm trying to get across with that term is... something on a par with the "Pathetic Fallacy" of Romanticism. It is a conventional projection we use in a certain aesthetic form, a projection of our own natures into the divine, just as the Pathetic Fallacy in fiction is the projection of a character's emotional state into the natural world around them. It's the literalism of the religious view in which God is seen as an Agency rather than as something like but not actually an Agency that I'm challenging.

Isn't that, to some extent, not unlike the Judaic opposition to the literalism of idolatry? Or maybe not.

Anyway, elsewhere in New Jerusalem, it seems to me, in the myriad Temples of Christ, we can see a similar division between homodoxy and heterodoxy. There are, in fact, great arguments right now between homodoxic temples in argument with each other, homodoxic temples in argument with a loose coalition of heterodoxic temples, even arguments within temples between homodoxic and heterodoxic priests -- such as that in the Temple of the Anglicans -- as to the nature of the church. It seems to me that there is an inherent homodoxy in these temples due to the evangelical imperative, and a centuries-long tradition of eradicating "heresy", but that the same evangelical imperative has led to such diversity, simply from an evolutionary process of isolation and adaptation, that many temples have not just come to terms with heterodoxy but fully committed to it. Much the same might be said of the Temples of Islam.
Similarly, as much as I might extol the libertine liberalism of New Sodom, maybe there's homodoxy hidden within the heterodoxies of its temples. After all, there may be temples of Apollo and Dionysus and Athena and Ares and Krishna and Ganesh and Shiva and Kali and so on, with a diversity of doctrines and practices ranging from the sort of gods-of-the-hearth systems I characterised polytheism by through to the far more subtle, philosophical and mystical beliefs which approach monotheism in their assertions of an underlying or overarching Unity, immanent or transcendant (or both). The Temples of Brahma and Atman might not seem entirely out of place in New Jerusalem rather than New Sodom in some respects, enough so that monks from one city may be hard to distinguish from monks from the other when you listen to them speak.

But that's not where the homodoxy lies, because while these temples of Grand Unified Divinity believe in a singularity of truth, they don't seek to impose that belief. But there is the Temple of Zeus Irae, and the Temple of Marduk, and the Temple of En Ilil, Lord God of Gods. These are in disrepair, but in the past have been mighty powers within the city, demanding tribute from all temples at the points when they held hegemony. Back before New Sodom was New Sodom, before it was even Sodom, when it was Babel, it invented homodoxy... back when all the tribes and nations "to Enlil in one tongue gave praise". The message was, yes, you can have a little heterodoxy, freedom to follow your god, but you must also subscribe to our homodoxy, also follow our God of Gods, God of Kings and King of Gods.

As the story goes, New Jerusalem was founded by fugitives from this Empire, and for millenia there were great struggles between them. One might see any homodoxy in the early era of New Jerusalem in terms of the old axiom that to fight the Empire is to become it. In celebrating Abraham's smashing of Nimrod's idols, damning the fallen Babel rebuilt as Sodom, cursing the Sidonian, Byblian and Tyrean Quarters, the Temples of Judaism in New Jerusalem took on some of the features of the very homodoxy it was fighting. But from the ashes of Sodom rose first Babylon and then Rome, where the Empire truly came into its own, where that homodoxy within the heterodoxy of polytheism held inordinate power.

And then...

It took a long time after the Temples of Jesus started rising in New Jerusalem but eventually this new proselytising monotheism came to the attention of the Emperor himself, Constantine, and he moved the Empire to a Jerusalem by now called Byzantium, fusing the hierarchic homodoxy of his old culture with the not-truly-heterodoxic monotheism of his new faith. That's the point, as I see it, where what I glibly and wrongly referred to as "monotheism" really takes root in New Jerusalem, when it becomes the seat of Empire.

Did that Empire really never end? While the city abandoned by Constantine languished in nameless decline, the city of New Jerusalem, for all its power, has been schismed into East and West, riven into Christendom and Caliphate, torn apart by failed crusades, undergone Renaissance and Enlightenment. During the latter periods, the Grand Tours of Romanticists and Rationalists brought them back to that abandoned city, and some stayed, I think, to rebuild. The Temple of Prometheus was restored first, there has been much rebuilding since, and New Sodom has arisen to a strength that rivals New Jerusalem. Though there's no worship in the temples in the old ways, there are still priests -- poets and artists, philosophers and curators -- who, I think, in their travels back and forth between the two cities, have played a large part in undermining the homodoxy of Empire in New Jerusalem to the point that the most homodoxic temples there lament their loss of power, decry a new Republic newborn or in the process of being born, saying that it's truly run from this New Sodom.

And in many ways it was only the Western Quarter of that polytheist city that was abandoned in the first place, only the Western Quarter where this story really has any meaning at all; those in the quarters where the temples of Shiva and Krishna and Kali and Ganesh stand -- they have their own story, in which the Buddha plays a large part. While the West was waging its wars of Empire, the East was founding the city of Nihil.

See, in all these temples, I think, there have also been priests whose very faith led them to antidoxy. What's "antidoxy" when it's at home? In some ways, I think, a product of homodoxy and heterodoxy, a homodoxic rejection of homodoxy, like a One True Law which states only, "There is only One True Law", and at the same time a heterodoxic reversal of heterodoxy, a turning of it upon itself: if everything is "true", then it is as "true" to say, "Nothing is true." Maybe this is as much a method as a belief. One might imagine the antidoxic priests not just as apostate critics foreswearing the temples, but as actually serving a function within them, as devil's advocates, doubters whose role is to reject, subvert, revise. They're the shaitan seen as an integral part of religion as a dialectical process, a antithesis. They end up splintering sects, building new temples, feeding into the heterodoxy and often, sadly, establishing new homodoxies. The role of antithesis is an important one, but its function is more to stand against the thesis, to force the synthesis, than to stand as thesis in its own right. But as often as not that's exactly what happens, and you end up with a new dogmatism, Calvinist, Stalinist or whatever. Many of the most homodoxic Temples of Christ started out as antidoxic oppositions to other temples.

Atheism might seem an inherently antidoxic system, but I'm not so sure. We might think of Nihil, the young upstart of these cities, with its temples of atheism espousing (largely but by no means universally) the antidoxy of the scientific method, as being constructed by those Enlightenment travellers who, after visiting New Sodom maybe, set out to get away from it all completely, but I think its history goes further back. I think we can trace the temples of atheism back to the Buddha, because the "atheism" of this city is not always a denial of the spiritual, the metaphysical; it may simply be a denial of the theistic. Your own characterisation of the Buddha as proto-scientific is in line with this, I think, so focused on praxis that it's commonplace to describe Buddhism as a "way of life" rather than a "religion", an informal distinction that, I think, is trying to put this idea into words.

I'd argue that the Temples of the Buddha were the foundations of the city of Nihil -- that though we can find some Temples of the Buddha in New Jerusalem and others in New Sodom, we can also find many in Nihil, because they are very much at home here. They are, perhaps, outnumbered by the new atheistic Temples of Darwin and Marx and so on, many of which have become fervently homodoxic, but in denying a God without denying the notion of the "divine", they offer a more complex picture of "atheism" than an outsider might expect of this most modern city.

It's also possible to note, I think, that in recent centuries this city has risen to a level of power that rivals that of New Jerusalem and New Sodom. It has sought Empire just as much as those other cities -- with the Temples of Stalin and Mao particularly brutal and expansionist in their homodoxy. When the homodoxic temples in New Jerusalem are not pointing to New Sodom as the evil puppetmaster, it is Nihil that is painted as villain. The truth is maybe that "the Empire" is currently riven between the three cities, with none of them having true hegemony.

The homodoxies of each city are at war with each other, cannot co-exist peacefully because they are homodoxic. I respect the heterodoxies of all three cities which defend the rights of other temples to their own practices and doctrines, and in truth I hope they win the day in all three cities; the result would be a federation of city-states, a Republic. But I guess I'm an antidoxic priest in one of the Temples of Humanism based in Nihil. I'm not sure exactly what temple that is, but I know it's opposed to Empire. I'm still looking for the best language to articulate that opposition, to challenge the Deus Irae at the root of monotheist or polytheist homodoxies, but with an ultimate aim of establishing heterodoxy rather than simply engendering a new atheistic homodoxy. It's the homodoxic aspects of all three types of temples in all three cities that I'm really fighting.

Duncanian picks up his beer and takes a swig, lights up a cigarette.

But I understand why you're arguing against this, he says. I mean, it sounds like I'm arguing against all morphologies with a unifying principle, right? And this sounds glib.

Benjamin nods.

It's actually perfectly possible, he says, to have what I think you'd call a morphological system of understanding the universe -- a model, indeed with something at its center, which is not ethically bankrupt.

And, in truth, I agree, says Duncanian. The distinction I'm trying to make is between centrality and primacy, the sort of unification you get in the idea of an implicate order, Buddha Nature, the Tao, the shekkinah, even the Holy Spirit, as opposed to the unification you get in the idea of a Supreme Power, a Being with supremacy to which all that can be is subordinate. My argument is that this is where the "bad code" resides. This is where you get a feedback loop established which renders the IntegrityCheck module's functioning faulty. It's that core component of the various projects on soulforge.net that I'm trying to unpack, to rip apart with, OK, a somewhat stridently antidoxic approach. Cause, well, that's my own "path".

God forbid, says Benjamin, I don't want you to stop being a nihilistic, existentialist, atheistic fuck-crazy gadfly firebomb. Far from it. I think that is precisely the religious story you have to tell, and, damn, you tell it well, and Vellum -- as religious art -- is a fine start on your divinely ordained mission.

But I do want you to stop claiming you've discredited monotheism and banished any right-thinking person's belief in God, just because what you've just said would have sent your old Sunday School teacher into apoplexy.

OK, says Duncanian, my rhetoric tends towards a superficial equation of monotheism and homodoxy which I hope this explication has countermanded to some extent. What I'm really seeking to discredit is a specific component of homodoxy exhibited most notably in monotheism but just as present in polytheist and atheist homodoxies.

As for God... well, I don't really think the term "God" is salvageable because it's too much a development from that component; it's gone through so many developments while keeping that component at its heart -- God 0.1, God 1.1... God 2007.1 -- that I think we'd be better off ripping it out completely and redesigning a new class entirely (based on TheDivine 0.1, maybe?) so as to be sure we're rid of the Empire virus. But I guess that's a pragmatic judgement, as much as anything, about how difficult I think it is to get a new heterodoxic version of "God" to catch on where the homodoxic version is so widely used and regarded as entirely valid. I have no argument with those who're working with a... "God Pro" that has expunged that aspect. I'm just not convinced their versioning approach foregrounds the problem with the legacy code enough. I think you end up with "developers" who've migrated but "users" who continue to see the old version as a workable solution because, well, it's still basically the same software, this "God" class, as far as they're concerned.

I suppose you might say that what concerns me is where the projects on soulforge.net are using a component that doesn't actually help them "forge a soul" but rather is, well, a forgery which, once installed, actually works against the whole goal of all those quite worthy projects.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know, Mr. Duncan, what you're writing write is some of the most fascinating stuff I've ever had the pleasure to read. And I was wondering, do you have any intention of one day collecting all the entries you write on this blog and publishing it as Hal's Massive Book of Philosophy and Other Fun Things?

9:15 pm  
Blogger Benjamin Rosenbaum said...

Hal, this is an excellent answer, and clearly I am being punished by the Deus Ironiae in not finding time to respond after nagging you to finish it! :-)

I have lots of responses, and I will try to gradually chip away at them in small drive-by engagements.

In general, I feel like I have a much better sense of what you are fighting, and from over here in my occasionally antidoxic gazebo in a small heterodoxic garden amidst the sprawl of the Jewish Quarter of New Jerusalem, I agree with a lot of what you say.

I will try to identify the individual quibbles...

8:34 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Wonderful Stuff. Send copies to Kirk and the Pope, they may not enjoy. If they read them they may choke on their morning breakfast.

10:38 pm  

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