Thursday, February 19, 2015

Impietas V: Omnis

[Artaxerxes] therefore gave orders that Mithridates should be put to death by the torture of the boats (σκάφη, skáphe).   Now, this torture of the boats is as follows. Two boats are taken, which are so made as to fit over one another closely; in one of these the victim is laid, flat upon his back; then the other is laid over the first and carefully adjusted, so that the victim's head, hands, and feet are left projecting, while the rest of his body is completely covered up. Then they give him food to eat, and if he refuse it, they force him to take it by pricking his eyes. After he has eaten, they give him a mixture of milk and honey to drink, pouring it into his mouth, and also deluge his face with it.  Then they keep his eyes always turned towards the sun, and a swarm of flies settles down upon his face and hides it completely. And since inside the boats he does what must needs be done when men eat and drink, worms and maggots seethe up from the corruption and rottenness of the excrement, devouring his body, and eating their way into his vitals. For when at last the man is clearly dead and the upper boat has been removed, his flesh is seen to have been consumed away, while about his entrails swarms of such animals as I have mentioned are clinging fast and eating. In this way Mithridates was slowly consumed for seventeen days, and at last died.
Even today scaphism is considered the apex of human cruelty. The idea of binding a man in his own wastes while vermin devour him alive fills us with horror.  But if this is a grievous crime against humanity, how much greater is the wrong we have done the Gods?

Like Artaxerxes we have bound the Divine fast. All the multitudinous Deities, all the Powers of Fire and Ice, all the spirits of sparkling stream and rushing river, of storm and sunshine, mountain and plain -- we have shoved them into a single boat and labeled it "One God."  We have buried Their holy places under cathedrals and churches: we have declared Them mere masks, empty images to decorate the Truth we torture.

We have gorged our captive with sweet praise. We declared him Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnibenevolent. Where have claimed our captive God mighty beyond all comprehension, beyond all measures, beyond all limits.  And yet even as we declared his might we tightened the bonds, leaving Him and His Church an ever shrinking arena while claiming more and more for a god-free society.  And given this treatment it is not surprising our captive has rotted.

An all-benevolent God could not stand by and allow suffering; an all-powerful God could accomplish any goal without causing suffering; an all-knowing God would be aware that this is an imperfect and unjust Universe.  A Creator possessede of all these powers who threw us into this world would be a bloodthirsty sadist, the Demiurge of the Gnostics with a particularly nasty imagination. He certainly would be nobody worthy of worship -- and it is such a short and easy step between One God and none at all.  And so it is that today we find people seeking to understand Deity through these lies, then turning away in disgust when they find only a fly-blown corpse.

If we are to move beyond this we must understand that our Gods are as bound to this World and this Wyrd as we are. Like us They must fight tooth and nail to carve out a place for Themselves and Their loved ones. Like us They err, like us They struggle, like us They create meaning where no meaning existed before.  Let us call Them powerful beyond our understanding and declare Them worthy of honor and respect (what the Anglo-Saxons called weorðscipe).  Let us give Them the veneration They deserve and honor that which They achieved through heroic effort.  But let us understand that we can only know Them by acknowledging both Their strengths and Their flaws; let us know that we do Them no kindness by poisoning Them with absurdity.