“No one has any objection to smashing idols. At the same time, there is no one who rejects being idolized. Moreover, it is nevertheless not possible for anyone to maintain perfect composure while letting himself be set up as an idol. Of course, there are exceptions ordained by fate.”
– Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
It is unnecessary to repeat now that the destruction of idols is often indispensable for the progress of life. The flow of life can only be maintained in this way, that is, by conscious iconoclasm. The idols we are constantly building up in our unconsciousness must be destroyed constantly, with careful and consistent effort. But these idols are not created without meaning. They have an indispensable function in life: to give unified strength to the flow of life, and to guide its development towards fullness and beauty. Without it, man must remain atrophied between the chaos of consciousness and the division of desire. Even emptiness can become an idol if man is to live any kind of positive life.
The idol must be destroyed, then, because it loses its symbolic utility and eventually calcifies, becoming no more than a lifeless millstone. Or it is reduced to nothing more than a fixed idea, a stereotype. This calcification is not a phenomenon that occurs in the idol itself, but rather in the mind of the idol-bearer. For them, the idol must be destroyed. But the idol itself does not lose its symbolic life. What is harmful to one individual can be beneficial to another who understands its true utility. This is why the revival of idols is significant for life.
We must always move on our own from within our own hearts, and not be drawn back from other, external things. This is a permanent truth. The value of ethical action must emerge from the feeling of personal responsibility. Where there is no motive at all, where there is no responsibility at all, there can be no ethical evaluation of value. And responsibility can only exist where one has consciously set out on one’s own. There can be no responsibility where one is forced, or else where one is blindly dragged along. If there is, it is only because of one’s own weakness. It is not an ethical responsibility. It is a responsibility directly towards the self or the divine.
Ethical responsibility always comes from the work of the free will. And if there is anyone who does not bear that responsibility, if there is anyone who is constantly exempted from such responsibility, he is nothing but a mental slave, a slave who cannot walk by himself. And that, of course, means ethical death. If anything, not having responsibility for one’s own intentions is one thing, but not having responsibility for one’s own good must be utterly fatal.
To escape from this ethical death, we must return to the workings of the free will. This is not a return to instinct, but to freedom. It is not a return to blindness, but to wisdom. It is a return to realization and conviction. It is to free the mind from its prison and to lay bare the soul. In every age and in every place, there are always many prisons and shells that try to hold people prisoner. These are what I call idols. We must first destroy these specific idols in order to live. It can be good to make new idols, and it can be good to give new life to old idols. But we must first destroy the idols that are not useful.
There are always those who are dragged cunningly behind idols. It is not the fault of the idols. It is the fault of the one being dragged along. In such cases it is wrong not to destroy them, because whether the direction is good or bad, people are corrupted. It is not necessarily wrong to make idols, it is wrong to be trapped by them.
“I am the science,” proclaimed Dr. Anthony Fauci. Obviously, this resonated with his audience, for this man was quickly and unceremoniously elevated to the rank of deity. There is a Shintō term, ikegami, or “living Kami,” a god incarnated as man. The veneration of Fauci seems comparable to this. Man has always sought objects of worship, and this is an indispensable aspect of human psychology. In the modern era, the very concept of science, especially as embodied by Anthony Fauci and his cult of life, has become such an object. I use the term “object” deliberately, for in raising himself to the status of idol, beyond icon, he has become a concept, rather than a man. Candles, figurines, and various paraphernalia bearing his image can still, three years after his de jure enthronement, be purchased. Of course, some of these are purchased as novelty items, but many of them give the impression of religious talismans. In the absence of religion, this man has, whether intentionally or unconsciously, filled a void in the modern psyche. The two years of government lockdowns were, in essence, a religious crusade. In the absence of a holy war, one was manufactured in the name of public health, if such a thing can be said to exist. The crusades of the medieval era were waged to save those who were considered heretics, and argue as one may about the results, many deaths resulted. The participants, however, returned home covered in glory. As a practitioner of Shintō, I have few opinions on this other than what I have read in history books, and indeed, the period is a fascinating one. However, I never could have predicted that I would bear witness to a crude, modern version of a crusade. This seems to be a testament to man’s innate need for some sort of deeper meaning in life, something ephemeral and transcendent. Man needs something beyond the self.
The psychology of idolatry is much the same as the psychology of the creation of art. Human beings imbue them with their own feelings, with their own irrepressible outpouring of emotions. They materialize mental images, as it were. They sculpt their subjectivity. However, the idol must always be in direct contact with the life of its creator. It must be filled with the breath of life. When it is toyed with, the idol dies. In other words, idols are embodied intuition. There must be no gap between the idol and the person who worships it.
The abstract man’s intuition, that is, his subjectivity, is constantly developing and progressing. But the development of an idol, which is made concrete, is extremely difficult. There is a gap between the idol and the person; in order to eliminate this gap and preserve its own life, the idol forcibly holds the person back towards itself. Therein lies the great danger. To be ruled by idols is the most dangerous thing. If anything, the responsibility for one’s actions comes directly back to the person. Those who have read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment can feel this in the protagonist Raskolnikov. Of course, the main problem lies elsewhere. And Raskolnikov is saved at the end, or at least it seems that he is saved, because he breaks this idol in his heart, finding deeper meaning in life.
In the modern era, this deeper meaning has been replaced with science. Science has been idolized, as it were. Early in the lockdowns, doctors and, especially, nurses, were hailed as “healthcare heroes,” as if they were crusaders, soldiers setting off for battle. And so a holy war was fought under the triumphal banner of life. Much like the distant tolling of church bells, reports of “cases” rang out. To further extend this perhaps tired battle metaphor, “cases” became synonymous with “casualties.” One cannot help but note the constant alliteration used in this campaign. “Slow the spread” metastasized into “stop the spread” amidst orders to “shelter in place,” “stay home,” and “stay safe.” Lest we forget “surge” and “spike.” It is, frankly, sinister. Such wording was obviously a tactic of manipulation, but the language soon became liturgical. “Good day” was replaced with “stay safe” as a greeting or send-off. “Stay safe” – safe from what? Anyone with a modicum of learning and intelligence would know, it was implied.
This new religion came with the requisite garb, and even today one can see the holdouts dutifully wearing their surgical masks and gloves as they purchase groceries or sit alone in their cars. It is a terrible irony that many of these people would find it absurd that religious Jews wear yarmulkes, or that Shintō believers or Orthodox Christians have altars in their homes. Many of the members of this cult of science are avowed atheists, materialists who scorn religion and detest mysticism. And yet they recite their doctrine as if it were a perverse religious incantation. It would not be an exaggeration to describe their vaccines as their sacraments.
This is the prevailing trend in the new age. All the idols of the underground have risen and been set up again under the sun. The reaction of the fanatical few has added a color to the multitude. But the revived idols are no longer gods to be worshipped. No one wants to slaughter and offer animals and light incense before them. No man would entrust his fate into their hands. Religion is typically a beautiful thing, something transcendent, a bridge between man and the divine. It was not a heretical god that made people tremble, but beauty and divinity. Man has presently eschewed such divinity in favor of science, an unbeautiful deity that is within their control; a relatable deity, if you will. Religion was once a source of beauty, but, stripped of all that makes it transcendent, it becomes a tool of oppression. Some would describe the revival of the idols as a rebellion against a thousand years of ecclesiastical oppression. In the eyes of the idol-revivalists, religion itself was merely an idol to be destroyed. At last the revival of the old idols was overshadowed by the destruction of the new ones. Materialism, which had revived strongly with the old idols, became the motive force of the natural scientific movement of the new age, but was hidden behind the development of its flourishing new world of vision. But within the hands of a despot, religion becomes a whip. Moreover, it seems that these modern adherents of the cult of science practice their faith not out of any reverence for the divine, but out of fear of damnation. I cannot say in what reverence they hold their sovereign, but it is readily apparent that they fear it. Perhaps there is a genuine love felt by some of them, but this love seems to be the love of a prisoner towards the merciful warden who decides against his execution. It is the love of the conquered, rather than a love that is freely given or willingly offered.
As I have mentioned, it is human nature to desire to serve a cause that is greater than oneself. In this, many see visions of immortality. And for those who remain steadfast, fervent in their worship of science, “immortality” seems to be a very literal concept. With their ablutions and sacraments, they seem to defy death, enduring whatever ritual humiliations may be foisted upon them. Once again, this seems to be practiced out of fear rather than love. They fear death as much as they relentlessly cling to life, however miserable and pathetic such an existence may be. Shame is nothing if not a foreign concept within this ideology. They fundamentally do not understand the concept. Throughout history, and especially in devoutly religious societies, shame has always been an intense motivating factor in human discourse. It is the source of innumerable works of art and literature. And yet it remains strangely absent from the modern cult of science. Why is this? At heart, the cult of science is a very feminine religion.
Within this religion exists the concept of “shaming,” rather than shame. Adherents continue to taunt those who do not honor their idol, but, at least from my own impressions, they feel no shame themselves. This is the most notably feminine characteristic of this religion. It is the faith of the scold, and wrath is substituted for anything resembling majesty or dignity. Like the transcendent, however, man has an innate desire for dignity, although this has diminished in the modern era. Whether this is the result of internal or external forces, no one can say. But in the concept of science, modern man attempts to find dignity. The word “science” is of course associated with intelligence and learning, both of which are associated with dignity. Discussions of IQ, however, are taboo in this era, and learning has been replaced with “education.” A college diploma is now considered by many to be a basic human right, with the result being that anyone who espouses the correct platitudes can obtain a bachelor’s degree. Thanks to this, many of unremarkable intellect can now claim backgrounds in that vaunted field of science. There are countless initiatives supporting women in the sciences. We worship knowledge as an idol, and forget that knowledge can only grasp the higher truths of wisdom when it is in union with the the intellect. A clean and untainted mind is clearer than a microscope. As religion has been made relatable, so too has science.
As I see it, every marvellous scientific discovery is something that has long been known to the human mind before it is made. In other words, science has always come late, after people have been aware of it.
Firstly, there are men like Socrates, who have insightful eyes, lofty thoughts, pure minds, and intimate contact with spiritual wisdom. Then, like Plato, he takes what existed in the mind of his teacher and puts it into the language of eloquence and solemnity. Then there is another like Aristotle, who arranges in a formal way what his predecessors have realized and spoken of as they felt and sensed. If Aristotle, like Socrates, is faithful to follow spiritual wisdom, or if he is like Plato in sympathizing with the mind of his teacher, there is nothing in his scientific philosophy to reproach him. But if he is scientific at the expense of sensitivity, if he is philosophical at the expense of spiritual reflection, then he is the greatest product of humanism – humanism in its fullest sense. If this is the greatest product of humanism, then we must be extremely skeptical of this.
There is no denying that humanity has made great strides in the field of science, and we cannot deny the enormity of this product. The amount of success of this new education system is also undeniable. However, today’s education has made us instruments and deprived us of a strict character and love of justice. In a word, this is the highest aim of education, which our ancestors set as the highest aim of education, and which has been taken away from us. The triumph of wisdom, the lightness and manipulation of logic, the minutiae and subtleties of philosophy, and the infinite probing of science, if these only serve to change us and make us instruments of thought, after all, what good are they? What good are education or science if they are merely the equivalent of spectacles in our eyes and not instruments of life?
Those employed in the field of science comprise the modern priestly class. And like the priestly class, they are regarded as being above criticism. The phrase “science denier” has replaced the word “blasphemer.” From this results the very feminine phenomenon of “shaming.” These priests are not so much to be revered as they are feared; alternately, to their supporters, they are seen as the source of salvation. They have replaced the concept of hell with a mild respiratory virus. Hell is not a concept to which I am especially partial, but there is perhaps a more accurate comparison to be found in the Shintō concept of ritual impurity. One who is ritually impure is barred from entering shrines or other ritual spaces. Naturally, this mirrors the policies of the Cult of Anthony Fauci that those who have not received “the vaccine” – as if it were the only one – are shunned and remain barred from entering certain locations. Ritual impurity, at least, is a temporary state in Shintō.
Science seems to annihilate beauty. This can be seen as a modern form of iconoclasm; the new religion seeks to vanquish the old, which it views as archaic and dangerous. Such actions create a year zero, a tabula rasa, as it were, and adherents of this faith are left without a past. This can be seen not only in the followers of Anthony Fauci, but also in the words that leftists use for race, “black” and “white,” which are sterile and, moreover, deprive individuals of their ancestry. The links that have always existed between the past and the present are severed, and an imagined past is thus created. On this blank canvas, they paint what they see fit, that is, whatever suits their purposes. This becomes the new truth. A past steeped in myth and legend is nothing if not glorious. But this is not what the modern societal elites are creating. Rather than myths, we are left with tall tales. Rather than legends, we are left with grievances from less than a century ago, many of which are heavily embellished. In the past, legends were embellished, of course, but the intention was to lend grandeur and beauty to these beloved stories. These visions were created to evoke a sense of reverence. Meanwhile, it is difficult to discern what, precisely, these modern legends are intended to evoke. Indeed, they seem designed to provoke, rather than evoke. No sense of longing is created, only a sense of antipathy towards an imagined enemy. There is no beauty in these images. They are icons stripped of beauty and any deeper meaning beyond the eternal “now.” The fact that an idol to be destroyed has the right to be reestablished is hardly ever taken into account in the moment of iconoclasm. The destroyer only focuses on the hard shell of the object, forgetting the beauty of the essence that is encased within it. But those who want to develop life in its entirety must not rest on this kind of narrow-mindedness. This is the first warning against the danger of the idolaters. And when we look for the character of these people, what we see in our eyes first of all is either petty, shallow, or only the wreckage of a painful past.
In lieu of a sacrifice, a scapegoat is necessary for these modern cults. For the cult of the “woke,” this scapegoat is found in those of the wrong gender or ethnicity, and for the cult of science, it is “the unvaxxed.” Unlike traditional religions, these cults offer little resembling salvation. For the woke, there is metaphorical self-flagellation, but even this is deemed insufficient by some of the more extreme adherents. Race is original sin, the proverbial mark of Cain. Obviously for Anthony Fauci’s adherents, salvation is found in their vaccines and religious garb, but presently, they are calling for more lockdowns and government-mandated restrictions, and like the woke, it seems that their religious fury will never be satisfied. Like a flame, it burns all to nothingness, and society is the burnt offering. But have they thought beyond the sacrifice? And to what, precisely, is this sacrifice being offered? Once again, their terms are vaguely defined, obscured by jargon. There is no end in sight, another sign of the eternal and indefinable “now.” Perhaps it is the past, itself, that is the sacrifice.
Materialism, which cannot accept the existence of the divine, is now the common sense of mankind. The belief in the the divine is nothing more than a metaphysical fantasy, even in a symbolic sense. The declaration “God is dead” is no longer a stimulus for common sense. For the moderns, God never existed in the first place. So man lives with the satisfaction of his worldly desires as his sole goal. Nothing binds him but the utilitarian moderation for this satisfaction.
But can man be at ease in this material world without wanting for anything? When he is in the rapture of love, does he not desire the eternity of that happiness? After the pleasures of sensuality, can he not be tormented by their transience? When he endures pain, can he delight in the idea that this life is nothing more than a physiological accident? I know that many people will answer “no” to this question. But it is undeniable that there are also many who answer “yes.” So the question is renewed. Can one not seek deeper mysteries in nature than this common sense? Can one not try to grasp the mysteries of love, the secrets of sensuality, the unfathomable depths of life? Perhaps all of us have at one time or another had these demands in our hearts. Some men finally let these demands occupy their whole hearts. In the path of science he cannot help but be struck by the unknown forces that marvel at the subtle laws of nature and life. As a philosopher, he is amazed by the infinite creative power of life, and he recognizes a wide world beyond the reach of human knowledge. Thus, idols will be sought after again.
And their existence is entirely in our hands. We can kill them, or let them live. When it becomes necessary, we can make many idols and breathe life into them. When they are no longer needed, we can destroy them.