Friday, December 23, 2016

Mystical Imperialism: Afghanistan’s Ancient Role

“Those who dream by night . . . wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”
- Lawrence of Arabia from Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Mystical imperialism is a term used to describe 19th century British efforts to colonize the world by bringing Judeo-Christian ethics, morals and philosophies  and applying them to the pagan world.  In effect what Mystical imperialism became was a philosophy that rationalized the expansion of empire by infusing a sense of the divine into the raw politics of empire building. Today’s version of mystical imperialism applies to a hardened core of ideological defense intellectuals who combine their own esoteric and religious beliefs with Washington policy making.   This revelation came to us as we moved further into the motivations behind the secret war against the Soviet Union.

It was at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when we were working on the film version of our Afghanistan experience under contract to Oliver Stone, that we  started to piece together the mythic implications of the story. During the research for the screenplay many of the documents preceding the Afghan crisis were declassified. One such document, the Report of Team B, contained language and religious allusions that were surprising for a government publication. Completely overruling any chance for the peaceful cooperation promised by SALT, Team B claimed the Soviets were engaging in a Nazi-like build-up of forces and were preparing for a third world war as if it were inevitable. But it was in the Team B’s charge that the Soviet Union’s world view was “Manichean” that we found reason to wonder. Manicheanism, once one of the major Gnostic religions which, spread from the third to the seventh century from the region of Afghanistan to the east and west. Originating with the prophet Mani in the late 3rd century, the dualist Manichean philosophy divided the world between the two main forces of good and evil, with good equated with heavenly light and evil equated with the dark and material world. In 382 A.D. Roman Emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity to be the only legitimate religion in the empire, deeming Manicheanism a heresy and declaring that Manicheans be put to death. From then on, Manicheanism came to be used as a veiled metaphor for the enemy of any officially approved truth, defined in stark pseudo-religious terms of good versus evil. But what was such a quasi-religious metaphor doing in the Team B Report?  (more...)

I can affirm that this mindset pervaded the British elitist worldview of my alma mater. You could not turn in any direction without it hitting you in the face. Want an education in science and engineering? You'll only get alchemical indoctrination.

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