The fate of our times is characterised by rationalisation and intellectualisation and, above all, by the “disenchantment of the world”.
I’m on a bit of a Max Weber kick. I intended to write about the monopoly of force on Andala, and when you use the man’s own phrase, he isn’t far. Turns out he’s the great thinker behind many a thread I’ve been pawing. The mind behind a great deal of how we came to comprehend the last century, in fact. A philosopher I can understand at last!
I’ve only studied Weber’s work for a few days, so be wary. But, from what I can figure, the common thread is one of uncovering the disparate roots of progress. Like Jared Diamond a century later, Weber tracked social evolution. To understand the present, he took to the past. In particular: its motives.
Every man has his reasons. I’ve always taken this to be sage warning about jumping to conclusions on who is right and wrong in the heat of confrontation. What army ever fought as the bad guys? This principle is the credo of good villains everywhere! But it works on history, too. Its pioneers the Sumerians and their urban ancestors had no way to tell where the city would take them, just as we don’t know the ultimate consequences of our inventions and decisions. Instead, we dream in science fiction, while Sumer dreamed with the gods.
Weber was intrigued by the long term influence of religion. Religions have been crucial in forming our reasons all along. I say several because the faiths of the world have differed greatly in place and time. A mistake made by modern day critics of belief goes back to their founding father, Weber’s German contemporary Karl Marx. Religion, it is said, is one and the same thing for all time: the opiate of the masses, an instrument of oppression, and ultimately just a fraud. Marx based his theories on the cool, objective economy. Religion was society’s product. Weber, just as nonreligious himself, suggested the truth may be the other way round.
Sometime I must really write about Göbekli Tepe. An ancient site in Turkey that truly alters our story of the origin of man. We long supposed that town came first, and then religion. Like Marx, we saw the instrument from the hand of its leaders: a technique to bind a population of strangers together, to form a tribe, a city and nation. It only makes sense! Yet at Göbekli, in the heart of the ancient Near Eastern world which would be the very cradle of civilisation, we found the opposite. Hunters, tribesfolk, before the Neolithic Revolution that would create us all; they were the ones who gathered to make a ritual complex! Gods and myth brought the harmless people together before they learned a whole new way to live. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if the archaeology weren’t as adamant.
Religion came first. Then farming and the city. What a world!
To his credit, Weber saw it coming. By spotting later trends he anticipated something so fundamental to our history as to lie right at its start. Gods made man after all. Albeit in our mind.
And yet that very creation, civilisation itself, would ultimately discard gods and spirits and every kind of inexplicable magic. We lost our enchantment. We made ourselves the objective instead, and set down no small part of our humanity along the way. This was the story of our double edged Enlightenment. Individual faith and philosophy is irrelevant in the world’s material evolution into disenchantment.
In social science, disenchantment (German: Entzauberung) is the cultural rationalization and devaluation of mysticism apparent in modern society. The concept was borrowed from Friedrich Schiller by Max Weber to describe the character of modernized, bureaucratic, secularized Western society, where scientific understanding is more highly valued than belief, and where processes are oriented toward rational goals, as opposed to traditional society where for Weber “the world remains a great enchanted garden”.
And so we seek our symbols elsewhere: in our stories, in our legends, in our dreams about the stars. Just like Sumer and its goddesses and gods, just like our prehistoric peers, just like every human being who has ever lived or will: we have to find a meaning beyond ourselves. We have to share a story. Only, while they shared in potent ritual passions, we pretend to pretend, for modern life is more sensible than all of that. Surely!
This has a world of impact for my world. Andala is a story, made on purpose, rich with symbols. And Andala has a story, made on purpose, rich with symbols of its own. I happen to have devised a tale within a tale, as is my habit! And the more I understand of our own legends, faiths and philosophies – the more I understand our reasons – the better chance I’ll have of cooking somehing good of my own. I think it’s more than worth it. I feel the peoples of Andala would be without a purpose and a soul, if I haven’t bothered to discover for myself what our old way was all about.
Every inveterate procrastnator has his reasons, too, you know.