Updated: Oct 31, 2022
"I am the Truth"
“I Am God”
- Al-Hallaj, 992
Creation of gods
It is the year 1812 and a man of reasonably small stature takes out his watch from his snow covered coat to see how long the Russian weather has tarnished his dream of concerning Europe against which he declared a war after being crowned as the ruler of France. His name is Napoléon Bonaparte. He has come a long way since his days as a Corsican soldier, and is now seen as a god-like figure by many, but even he can’t save those who worship him from frostbites, Pneumonia, cannibalism and many other diseases that have stricken his army during their endeavours in this strange land.
A couple hundred years ago, in the same land of France, there is a trial being conducted in the city of Loudun during the Christian year of 1634 by the church against a priest by the name of Urbain Grandier who is accused of witchcraft, seducing an entire convent of Ursuline nuns and of being in league with the devil. It is being led by the enmity of the powerful Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of France. One of the documents introduced as evidence during Grandier's trial is a document signed by Grandier that carries many strange symbols, and was signed by several demons including Satan himself. Most modern commentators have concluded that Grandier was the victim of a politically motivated prosecution led by the powerful Cardinal Richelieu because he was seen as the sole ruler of Loudun and had more power than Louis XIII and an obstacle that needed to be removed. This obsessive cult, that he has built around himself as a priest, needs to be dealt with as there is only one God and only one ruler that he has chosen for this land and the middleman of God’s word- also known as the church, can’t let anyone else take the place of King Louis XIII.
There are some obsessions bigger than sexual or primal instincts that dictate a man. One of them is beauty, not just physical beauty, but a kind of self-love that can be expressed in other forms.
Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th-century started the construction of a castle called Neuschwanstein Castle on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany, as a retreat and in honour of Composer Richard Wagner. Something no one had seen before like a symphony composed by Wagner himself, a mixture of elegance and power for which Ludwig chose to pay for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. Construction began in 1869, but was never fully completed.
Freud had once put forward the concept of death wish which is present in human beings; certain suicidal tendencies, for example, playing Russian roulette with a reporter on his yacht to getting high on cocaine and drinking incessantly, not paying taxes because he said it’s against his principles; in turn, running for president with a campaign tagline that said “For those who are crazy like me”.
Was it John McAfee’s troubled past that he was trying to escape, a father who was a hangman and an alcoholic who regularly beat him and his mother, and committed suicide when McAfee was 15; to his fraud schemes that he put out to pay college fees by conning people and being kicked out from college while pursuing his PhD in Mathematics because of having sex with a minor? One would think these are all acts of a depraved mind. On the other hand, psychologists would call it an act to prove one’s masculinity. Whatever the opinions might be, a billionaire who was once the pioneer of computer security in the end was scared of the internet, saying it is invading privacy and being paranoid about everything around him is an example of a Greek irony about someone who was destroyed by the same tools he created to get to the top.
This is true in all of these cases. Napoleon died in the Longwood house of France due to stomach cancer never being able to concern Russia. Urbain Grandier was burnt on a stake after being proven guilty of witchcraft in the city he once ruled. Ludwig II died while taking a walk in his lush gardens striped away from his vices and dreams of building a beautiful monument and John McAfee died in his dark prison cell at the Brians 2 Penitentiary Center near Barcelona, hours after the Spanish National Court ordered his extradition to the United States on criminal charges filed in Tennessee by the United States Department of Justice Tax Division. The Catalan Justice Department said "everything indicates" he killed himself by hanging. An official autopsy confirmed his suicide.
All men reach and fall and all these men are an example of that. Were they as great as the world makes them out to be? Of course not, but it is the nature of humanity to make one seem greater than they are. The quote that l mentioned at the start of this article was given by a man who had reached a state of serenity which is seen as divine by many and when Al-Hallaj was executed for this statement that “l am God,” he did not refute his comment, but took pride in it as he was the first true Sufi. But the people mentioned above too would have said the same comment, not because they were in any peaceful state, but the traits they usually acquire like paranoia, vanity, startling selfishness, egotism and resentment make them say or think such things.
This reminds me of what Kierkegaard once said about what is the difference
between divine beings and megalomaniacs like these.
“Christ was crucified because he would have nothing to do with the crowd (even though he addressed himself to all). He did not want to form a party, an interest group or a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual”.
In the film Aguirre, the Wrath of God about Don Lope de Aguirre, a ruthless Spanish conquistador, who vies for power while part of an expedition in Peru to find El Dorado, the mythical Seven Cities of Gold, but loses his mind and in the end gives a speech about how, with his thoughts, he can make a flying bird drop dead and he is the wrath of God, but dies a miserable death alone because his illusion didn’t leave space for anyone around him.
l am not not sure but it is said that this is a quote on death written by Manu
“ l can never simply define it or become ever that capable; masquerading of the black opera gives me the call, defining liquid like the rising ashes from the burnt wood.” That is all there is left and it is important for us to understand these kinds of figures before either of us become part of this never ending dance of death.
History on trail
Hegel once said that all events and personalities of great importance occur as it was twice, Marx later added to that by saying, “first as tragedy and second as a farce.” In the year 399 B.C, an Athenian dikasteria, consisting of a panel of 500 citizens, sentenced to death an aged compatriot named Socrates because he had a problem with the model of democracy being practiced in this state. For a Marxist, this trial showed how there was no involvement of the proletariat and that’s why Lenin called Democracy a “Bourgeois contrivance.”
On the other hand the conservative “Great man theory'' which sees the power of the individual superior to this Marxist belief of class struggle, saw this as a man who stood up to fix and create Modern democracy and would be seen as a Martyr. I, for one, am someone who doesn’t believe in any of these ideas and has grown up believing in the idea of Bhraman, the eternal truth, that no matter who you are, the Cosmic Principles underlying all that exist will keep on functioning. Change and the wheel of time will keep spinning and the Universe expanding with all of us as a part of this process. So, for me, Socrates was neither a martyr or a part of the class struggle; he, like many others, is a branch of an ideal that binds the western tree of knowledge.
Similarly a ruler who turns into a God-like figure too is inevitable because no matter if it’s monarchy or democracy, no system is permanent and these personalities are not new. We have all read about the God-like status of Samudragupta and how the Mughals who were said to be touched by God, all try to achieve a perfection that Lohia in his essay of ‘Three gods’ which said “India’s three great dreams of perfection- Ram is the perfection of the limited personality, Krishna of the exuberant personality and Shiva of the non-dimensional personality.” So one never knows when a good soldier of limited personality can turn into an exuberant leader and dies as a pale shadow of that image.
The non-dimensional shadow of that aurora is hard to say, but these traits are intrinsic to the Gods of men and their personality cults. But as mentioned before, they can fail miserably though not for the lack of trying.
Material and immaterial existence
Shakuntala, a character in Mahabharat was the daughter of Vishwamitra who grew up on the trees and used barks of branches as clothes until she was married to Dushyanta and became the mother of Emperor Bharata. Fighting all evil while showing virtue and grace at each and every step.
In a way this country too has seen many rules and people ripping off it’s wealth and beauty, some embracing her all together facing poverty and plenty at different stages of its evolution and a constant drive of moving forward and caring for its legacy with dignity. Now is witnessing the splendors of democracy. As the new parliament is being built, one of the aims that it is set to achieve is that by its new design, it will help people to connect with their Capital Houses and look at them with joy and pride as they look less alien to this land and not carry with them a sense of colonial horror and intimidation to enter such a huge palace. To clear the edifice complex of our colonisers.
This way of creating a structure to sell an idea or popular opinion to masses is not new, Napoleon issued coins with pictures of Ceaser and Hercules killing Hydra. Later, Mussolini revived that in his reign as you always need a story or myths to bind a nation. Also, the immaterial things like ideas, philosophy and folklore are all things that come into use as it is said in the upanishad that the self is something that is indescribable, immovable, unattainable to the senses, but is still there. What Spinoza saw as a whole too saying that the spiritual world and natural world are not on a different level, but one in the same. In a similar way, a society finds its character in its leadership and to use and be used by all these fallible Gods; as it was not Hitler that put the idea of holocaust in the mind of ordinary Germans, but understood and became the mouthpiece of their dark desires.
One moment you are the eternal ruler and the next you are butchered and your limbs hang on shops as a sign of resistance by the people who once adored you like in the case of Gaddafi. History has restored many Gaddafi’s in its womb just to laugh at a similar example later at their expense.
Besides that all of these figures have seen a religious cult around them, many people including myself believe that religion and science goes hand in hand when the earliest vedas have stories of people being born when they wished, some see it as a metaphor for independence and self existence but if we look at the earliest formation of human genomes as cells we can see this kind of chain reaction or Amoeba breaking up itself for self sustaining, like many of these figures and movement which self sustain and regrow out of a sense of fear towards an uncertain present.
And usage of all forms of studies to heighten that tension.
These figures too used and misused science for their own benefit, From Stalin’s Marxist Wheat biology causing millions to die to Hitler’s water cellar in which hundreds of Jews stood in their own feces and water as an experiment to change the colour of their eyes in turn to change their race. All these are the examples that show the lengths they go to not just because it suits their propaganda but a need to construct and create a believable world from the fantasy in their minds. Brecht said that it doesn’t matter if you die as a good person but if you die in a good society but even he in the end was bitten by this make-belief fantasy as he died in a totalitarian Soviet East Germany.
Vast sea of births can be crossed
By those who clasp God’s feet.
After all that is said, the answer to the question asked of me is quite simply that we, as human beings, need to show empathy to these tormented souls because after their bodies turn to ashes and dust, a part of the cold celestial maybe then we might find some kind of poetry and meaning in their existence and our relationship to figures like these. There is always very little difference between Revolutionaries, Prophets and Madman.
And what Thirukkural said about god is the status many times they tried and desperately failed to achieve. The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli - Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak and ethologist J. M.Cullen. Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmission in the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution.
Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior, So this god complex too like any other behaviour is neither unique or jaded.
They say that “l am God” and we see a ray of hope when we have fallen and take a leap of faith with them and what happens next might be the most beautiful or ugly thing imaginable, but we become only a part of that process after all.
This reminded me of what Kazantzakis wrote in The Last Temptation of Christ, that it was not god that created Jesus but it was Christ through his striving who was creating god. Indra who was captured in chains after losing the battle to meghnath realised that those chains were creation of his own mind’s fears, Similarly Each one of them asks for change, but we are the ones who ask for them to be created.
BY VISHESH CHAUDHARY