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More adventurous than the average bear

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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Democracy and an age of genius

Democracy and an age of genius | Podcast | History Extra

"Suppose a Greek were to come back in a time machine and see us in operation, he would look at us in astonishment and say that is not democracy. That is a form of oligarchy.

So Democracy the word, the ancient Greek word means people power. And as always there's am ambiguity about the word people. Which people?...

Christianity has in mind its founding texts, the works of St Paul, and among the various commentaries and discussions that go on in the early Church, there is a radical separation between the things of God, one God. And the things of men. So ultimately, Christians were of the view, whatever they differed on, that ultimately the ruler of the world was God. A superhuman entity. And majesty received on earth, power magisterium in the hands of one Emperor was the mirror image, as it was, of the sole rule, the unique rule of God in Heaven. So the two went together.

Post-pagan Christianity, early Christianity linking up between monarchy on Earth and the notion of God in Heaven. That put a cap, shall we say, on any resistance, any serious attempt to restore something like ordinary human beings in a secular way controlling their own destiny and therefore instituting something like the old, now discredited democracy. And that went on for about a thousand years...

The dominant tendency is to view... Ancient Greek Democracy as peculiar, that is of its time. not to be replicated. In fact, a bit frightening.

And then when you get the French Revolution going over into the Terror, well that of course was a further argument for those Conservatives or even Reactionaries who said: look, that's what happens if you give the masses any power whatsoever. They must be kept out of the political process. But as it happened in France, Napoleon and so on turned the wheel back the other way. People said well maybe we don't want a dictator either. And maybe we should go back to some more popular notion of government...

Newton, he spent much more time engaged in occult studies than he did in physics. And indeed there's a very deep inconsistency between what he writes about scientific method which is very very sensible indeed and the fact that he thought the Book of Revelations contained secrets about the nature of the universe. And he tried to crack the code. He thought there was a numerological code"
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