Thursday, 21 June 2018

Those Whom The Gods Would Destroy They First Drive Mad

This phrase came to my mind recently as a perfect summing up of our present time. We have gone mad. There really can be no other description of what is going on today. In the Western world particularly but everywhere else is not far behind. We started off by denying God and now we are denying Nature. The deconstruction of sexual differences is just the latest step on this path of insanity. And everywhere we are rejecting the idea of some things being qualitatively better than others in the name of an all-purpose egalitarianism, of people, of cultures, of more or less everything. We no longer aspire to truth or real goodness or beauty or to a higher reality that gives meaning to this one.

I looked up the origin of this saying. I thought it came from the ancient Greek world and it seems it does but with various modifications along the way to the present. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it.

"The phrase "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad" is spoken by Prometheus in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem "The Masque of Pandora" (1875).

But the first version of this phrase appears in Antigone by Sophocles as "evil appears as good in the minds of those whom gods lead to destruction". Even this appears to be a borrowing from an earlier, lost play.

Subsequently the phrase was used in Latin, "Quem Iuppiter vult perdere, dementat prius" (Whom Jupiter would ruin, he first makes mad).

Another version ("Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad") is quoted as a "heathen proverb" in Daniel, a Model for Young Men (1854) by William Anderson Scott (1813–1885).

A Latin version is "Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat" (Life of Samuel Johnson 1791) in which the gods become God."

What struck me from this is how the first known version, that of Sophocles, describes precisely the contemporary inversion of true values. This is obviously a phenomenon that has happened before (though I would doubt on such a massive scale) and something well-known to the wise. But one of the signs of our present madness is that we have dismissed the wisdom of the past as ignorance. In fact, not only do we dismiss it, we no longer seriously study it. For many children today history is primarily the 20th century with, it seems, only a small amount of time devoted to the several millennia before that. It's as though we are being separated from our past in order to be remade according to the leftist ideology of recent times. If people no longer know the past they will think that it was just a time of ignorance and they will be unable to compare current attitudes with anything else. 

The phrase prompts the question, are the gods trying to destroy us and, if so, why? I actually think it puts things the wrong way round. When humanity starts to deny the gods then it becomes mad and that leads to destruction. So it's not that the gods want to destroy us but when we turn our backs on them we start to evict ourselves from reality and from then on it's a downward path. There is not some implacable fate driving us to destruction for obscure reasons of its own but it is all the result of decisions we have taken by ourselves.

Madness means losing touch with reality. This is what we are doing. We have replaced our natural contact with reality with twisted ideas of how reality should be according to our materialistic ideology. But when the very ground of truth is rejected then everything else falls out of place. And then, as it has been said, from the one who has not, even what he does have will be taken away from him. This is the path we have set ourselves on. It is why our madness will lead to our destruction unless we repent. The gods are not destroying us. We are destroying ourselves.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Yes indeed!

To blame God or the gods is just projecting our own defects onto God/s. We are not being 'driven' mad because most people actively embrace insanity, do not seek a cure and and resist any attempts to alleviate them.

The situation is sustained by the deletion of structuring and objective concepts such as reality, truth, the natural - so that (in effect) persisting madness is defended by asserting that there is no such thing as sanity.

And these have gone because God has gone from our public life. *Everything* was, ultimately, held-together by God - when God is denied, then nothing holds things together, coherence is impossible.

William Wildblood said...

Very true. God is like the centre and when the centre is lost everything flies apart.

edwin said...

If insanity is losing one's grip on reality, and God is the central reality, then it is inevitable that those who deny God should fall into their own fantasies and no longer be able to function in the real world. The terrible mess most people make of their lives is the result of their acting without reference to reality, i.e. as creatures whose existence must be understood in reference to their Creator. Reality is not like democracy: we don't vote on it or decide what it is by consensus. Yet, incredibly, the idea is growing that we do precisely that. It's a mad world and their is only one direction that can return us to sanity.

Eric - said...

I imagine the Gods are nature gods, so perhaps they are guarding the creation of the Most High. When the creation is adjusting itself, or getting rid of dead-weight, the laws of nature/or the Gods of nature must destroy some thigs to keep the whole in order. Certainly, we are not pleasing the Gods in our current stage, so they might be destroying our illusions. But We are not entirely separated from them, indeed these nature Gods might be reflections of our higher selves. The nature Gods are powerful forces and it's dangerous ground to challenge their natural authority with our own little egos.