Who Were The Gods?

At the university I sat in philosophy classes with Professor Dennis Schmidt. He told us about studying with Gadamer in the German countryside and how each morning he paddled a small canoe upriver for fresh milk. He told people at cocktail parties that he was a fireman, not a philosopher. We were that semester reading the Oedipean trilogy of Sophocles and Schmidt asked us: Who were the gods? It was a question for which Schmidt had no answer. 

8. Surplus drove the gods away. The God of agriculture is only a crude caricature of older, more elegant godsthe first gods, those who united earth and man and animals, that set the world in motion.

11. The gods are the motion of the world, its movement.

12. One must step into the river, as Heraclitus did, for all moves as a river. No man would deny the river's movement, but of the great mountain he will say it had been there always, unchanging.

13. But the mountain is the river's mirror. The river cuts and shapes it. The river deepens the gorge and makes the mountain rise ever taller. Because the movement of the mountain is grander, upon a larger scale, does not mean it moves slower or less than the river.

24. Modern men, the scientists and statists, arrest the world's movement with theory. Through naming and calculation they strip the world of its gods and its motion. With their laws both natural and social, they build stable dependable truths, tiny eternities, and wager their lives and systems upon them.

25. But the world moves in spite of them. Much of its motion is hidden, much made secret by man's ignorance. It sometimes expresses itself in great movements: the earthquakes that topple cities and the tsunamis that wash them away. It is a divine reminder, that at any moment man's truths can be turned to flotsam washed up on a distant shore.

29. Man vs. nature is often spoken. What is natural and wild is considered an adversary. The God of Genesis commanded men to go and domesticate the wild, to make of it into farms and herding grounds, to tame it: the wild was dark and foreboding, even evil, and men were conscripted by their God to subdue it.

38. In a world tamed and domesticated by men into farms and cities, the gods are displaced. With the heretic Martin Luther's rejection of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation even the Biblical God was sent away, the world taken from Him, the body of his son to no longer appear weekly in the sacramental bread and wine. (Luther's argument that only prayernot the physical church and community of believerswas necessary for a relationship with God provided the foundation for the solitary individual, trapped in subjectivity, egotism and selfishness: the "economic man".)

44. The Biblical God was a farmer's deity. But there is no deity present or permitted in the cities of men.

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