Coming out of the age of symbolism will be difficult. Our minds have been befuddled by centuries of finding ways to rationalize our desires so that others will support us, which means that we are knee-deep into manipulation and a duality of meaning between public “truth” and private “need.”
The Age of Symbolism rules whenever societies grow too fast. They add too many people, keep too many that they should not, and then find themselves in the business of mass manipulation in order to keep unity and function.
Symbolism motivates masses and therefore serves as a useful tool for those in power, but it depends on the assent of the herd, which means that it is inherently untrustworthy. The herd pursues illusions, so the power must manage and create those illusions, forming an echo chamber of lies.
Ever notice that just about nothing works well lately? The herd chased trends and imposed marginal costs through unions, lawsuits, regulations, affirmative action, and high taxes for free stuff from government. That forced corner-cutting. This is a consequence of chasing symbols.
Perhaps the worst symbol we have is the idea of external evil, or some shadowy force like Satan, the Illuminati, the WEF/UN, the Jews,™ the Rich, or solar flares manipulating us. The reality is that people in groups, including leadership groups like committees, consistently make bad decisions.
We like blaming Satan for our stupid choices. “Satan made me do it” or “I was possessed by demons” serve as handy excuses for poor decisions made because we were drunk, hungry, idiotic, or in the grips of greed and other pathologies that follow gambling and obesity in their religious mania.
It is psychologically far easier for us to assign agency to some mythological demon — or something that in our minds behaves like one, like all the people blaming “capitalism” for problems created by government at the behest of voters — than to accept that we made a bad choice.
Accepting that we made a bad choice requires us to ferret out where the illusion was. Somewhere, we had a mistaken notion about how reality works and we acted on it. Something caused us to think the world was different from how it is.
To find that, we have to walk back up the tree of our assumptions to find the failure point. That requires that we reject mysticism and instead believe in our world as good and functional, called a “transcendent” view, so that we can find how things function and emulate it.
It is much easier to blame Satan, and that enables us to continue in our error instead of doing what is most difficult for humans, namely to reprogram our brains with what is real instead of what is comforting.
We are addicts of dangerous drugs, and those drugs are the warm feelings in our brains generated by simple answers. In the long calculus, any externalization of evil is a drug, since it allows us to evade the need for becoming realistic and controlling our own thoughts and behavior.
If you look over the last few centuries, any time “Satan” (or some analogue thereof, like the Illuminati) has come up, it has served as a handy excuse and rationalization for inaction on vital tasks so that we can chase symbols instead.
During the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, people dodged the real question, which was why high taxes made it necessary to have two working parents who were therefore dependent on welfare, and instead looked for a scapegoat that was associated with the Dark Lord.
Even now, conservatives everywhere prepare themselves for glorious failure by talking about Satan. This convinces anyone intelligent that conservatives are insane, and stops us from looking at the real-world decisions that were made poorly because they appealed to lots of people at a symbolic level.
What went wrong in America, or in every previous human civilization? It was not Satan; it was unrealistic thinking. It was us catering to the need for mental comfort instead of being willing to adapt, change, and understand our reality.
Symbolism serves as a reality substitute. Instead of living in the world, we live in our heads, manipulating symbols and categories so that we feel alright. Like the mythical Satan, however, this leads us to our own destruction despite feeling that we are heading toward the light.
Tags: external evil, satan, symbolism