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Προφητεία (106)

René Girard: he was a typical modern man—that is to say, as someone born into 20th-century France, he was an atheistic materialist; but, for whatever reason, he had an attachment to Christianity—perhaps sentimental, perhaps he felt, as many men who think about it do, that society just can’t hold together without some religion to taper the worst elements…

Perhaps he just liked the smug feeling Christianity confers that you are “saved” whereas others are “damned”—Tertullian, an early Church father, spoke of the pleasure those in heaven would have as they watched those in hell being burned in oil and so on (ironically, he borrows this psychological idea from Lucretius, the great atheist of centuries before, who observed that there is a certain warm pleasure if you stand on the cliffs and watch a boat sink, watch other people drown, while you are entirely safe—and this is not the only similarity between atheism and Christianity…).

Girard’s ideas are modern, post-war—from the post-war establishment—and so should be distrusted. He does what many men do and creates a metaphorical save for Christianity—it’s mainly moral, not factual, in line with the idea, an idea even Voltaire understood, that “without religion the servants would slit our throats”.

So Girard takes an old observation by Aristotle—“man is the imitative animal”—and spins it out. His idea: man loves to copy, to copy engenders envy—engenders the desire to obliterate the object we copy and so desire; hence we developed the scapegoat, the sacrifice—the place we could put all our envy and then kill it; and the greatest such sacrifice, of all the literal goats and low-born men sacrificed, was Jesus Christ. He came to put an end to the “memetic contagion”—full stop.

Girard uses words like “mimesis” because if you just say “copy” it doesn’t sound so authoritative and novel. It sounds banal. “People copy each other, like women copy fashions, and this causes envy—we need a person to copy our envy and then be sacrificed to end the cycle of envy.”

It’s very French, by the way. French philosophers love ideas like, “The woman sits in front of the mirror—the ‘I’ in the mirror is the negation of the ‘not-I’ in her mind, the not-I is crystallised in I-ness of the mirror…”. The French like fashion, like copying—perhaps it’s because they’re a dandified race, perhaps Girard’s memetic theory, a theory of fashion, found its advent in a feminised society that loves…fashion.

Jesus Christ wasn’t a fashion icon. The thing with Girard—like his fellow Quebecois, Jonathan Pageau—is that he doesn’t think it’s real. He thinks it would be “good” if Christianity were real (although, deep down, no European thinks that—we just think we should think it to be “good” people); however, he’s a modern man—he doesn’t think the miracles literally happened. He’s not an idiot.

So he comes up with a metaphor—the death of Christ is a metaphor for an empirical psychological process, his “message” stops this psychological phenomenon. For Pageau, God is emergent behaviour—he thinks Santa Claus exists as the sum of all the parents who buy gifts for children every year, “Jesus is a cybernetic entity in our minds” (i.e. a meme).

Sorry guys, Father Christmas is real—all these convoluted attempts to “save” religion by making it about “memetic contagion” or “the Jesus meme is the sum of our emergent behaviour” just constitute atheism. You are modern men who use scientific ideas to try and save religion—to turn it into a metaphor for a material process.

But Father Christmas is a literal reality (men like Pageau and Girard will say “of course he’s literally real”—but they mean as the sum of the behaviour of individual parents, whereas I mean there’s an actual entity in another dimension called “Father Christmas”).

I’d draw another comparison, recall that there was this nutcase German in the 19th century called Schliemann who was determined that the city of Troy was literally real—not just a myth (as academics and ordinary people said). Well, he made his fortune and then he set about looking for it and, sure enough, he found Troy.

And that’s not all. In the The Odyssey a solar eclipse is reported just about when Odysseus goes to slay the suitors—astronomers reverse computed the possibility of an eclipse over Ithaca and came up with the date 1180 BC (which gives us a plausible date for when Odysseus was alive and coincides with Schliemann’s dates for Troy).

Homer was said to have lived four centuries after that—and people say “how could the knowledge of an eclipse be passed down for so long?”. I would observe that oral traditions are actually very stable and reliable; and, besides, perhaps Homer (who was obviously a real man, not a collective of men as our socialist scholars hold) just lived four centuries earlier than we thought.

My point, as with my observation about the historical reality of Jesus, is that these things held to be “myths” are often real. It’s modernity—academia, media, science—that is filled with lies, whereas folk tales and legends are often the literal truth.

People like Girard because he’s frightfully moral and also sounds scientific—and we love to moralise in our democracy. But it’s metaphor—Girard didn’t think that a literal blood sacrifice did anything, no more than he thought Mithras spilling the blood of the cosmic bull did anything. He didn’t think blood is a vehicle of magical actuation.

He thought there was a psychological process that could be interrupted (even though, far from decreasing envy, Christianity seems to have intensified, per the wars of religion, fratricidal loathing—because Jesus died for the Jews, not the Europeans; and when we drink his blood and eat his body we take the sins of the Jews upon us). Anyway, Girard is just another modern man—dull academic, practical atheist. Troy is real.


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