Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rede or Revelation?

To have a developed body of authoritative discussion on important social matters is a blessing, so long as that body of discussion is divided into genres that give appropriate weight to its different aspects. A discussion on etiquette should not carry the same weight as a discussion on ethics or on criminal law. That which is a matter of custom and that which is a matter of moral obligation, similarly ought to receive different weight. A problem develops when these discussions become a matter of revelation rather than rede. Rede is deep, contemplative thought that is open to inspiration. It's the kind of attention you would bring to someone's dream if you were trying to help them interpret it. It is meditative and filled with both thought and feeling, and aspires to attain wisdom. In the sense that it is open to inspiration, it is in a sense, revelatory, but it neither has need to proclaim divine authority, being content with its own wisdom, nor will its strong and confident humility permit the arrogance of making such a claim. Anyone, of course, at any time, can enter into deep rede about a subject, and people's deep, inspiring contemplations derived in part by inspiration will differ according to time and place, and will develop as time goes on. Having "God" give a once and for all directive about matters of social dispute that are always subject to dialectic and evolution seems to simply be an institutional mistake. The Gods would be concerned with values, such as equity, mutual respect, and dignity of the human person, but the idea that they would intervene in social matters by dictating a particular and cultural and historically specific form of achieving equity or mutual respect or human dignity is absurd, to say the least, and is to confuse a form for achieving a value with the value itself. The Gods being well aware of evolution and the ability of the human mind to progress, know that human beings are going to move through many different forms of trying to achieve these values, and that it is a process over time of perfection. It might be very useful in order to win an argument to trump someone else's argument by pointing to a direct revelation from God, but this is really dishonest argumentation. Having a body of informed opinion, collected from wise men and women of various stripes, who took the time to deeply contemplate various social questions and dilemmas is of immense value, because it gives us some voices to consult when we have some question, so we can make up our own minds based on considering the wisest voices in the community. These are human questions, they ought remain human questions, explored through humanistic means and values, and stay separate from the divine realm, except inasmuch as they concern values which the Gods themselves stand for, but even then, the question of the application of those divine values to specific social circumstances is something that again must be delegated to the human realm. This is why religions of revelation that dictate human customs must always fall short from a heathen standpoint. Good rede provides the path its own rettarbot. Rights may be bettered, by deepening and understanding them more thoroughly and comprehensively. This comes through the capacity of wisdom that is given by the Gods (and for which they earn rightful gratitude), but the wisdom itself is human and ever-subject to renewal. We are willing to see your scriptures as rede. Do not insult our wisdom, however, by foolish claims of God wielding quill. We are not such fools.


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