Thursday, June 29, 2017
Julian: Of Empires and Inflection Points
The novelized biography of Julian by Gore Vidal provides a sobering snapshot of human civilization in the 4th Century CE. The book chronicles the cathartic transition of an empire and of a man. The story which albeit nearly two millennia old holds surprising context for our global civilization today.
Julian's journey takes him from blue-blood orphan to reluctant leader and then from Caesar Augustus to military KIA. Often labeled Julian the Apostate, this impassioned man sought to take the Roman Empire back to its historic roots of Hellenism. Ironically, his uncle Constantine famously converted Rome spiritually to rally the troops and citizenry under a the then rising populist religion of Christianity.
Julian's apostasy refers to one who has rejected a religion to which they were devoted. Indeed Julian, schooled in Christian myth, rejects Christianity as a misguided death cult and embraces Hellenism in what he sees as a more poetic and philosophical world view. As Augustus he implements policies that are tolerant to worshipers of all religion while more strongly backing the gods that he finds most worthy, Helios in particular.
More than religion, the Roman Empire seems to thrive on the power struggle of militaristic expansionism and with more overt fervor than even our modern world. Julian was no different in that he secured his power as Caesar by shoring up Gaul with military might and then as Augustus he attempted to conquer Persia. Military strength appears to be as worshiped as much then as it is today in the American Empire.
The modern American Empire built its foundation on secular government for The People, by The People at the direction of The People, rather than at the direction of some illusory god. At its heart, our modern democratic system encourages peaceful, meaningful living with religious freedom for all beneath secular oversight. However, it seems to me that today a mix of Christian myth and militaristic industrialism are driving a movement to recast secular rule in favor of an archaic, power-hungry cabal.
Julian's vision seems to me to be of similar conservative form; it sought solace in the perceived stability of past beliefs, rather than truly moving forward. Our future civilization holds its greatest potential in the implementation of science-informed policy where its people "worship" reality and upkeep the "heaven" here on Earth.
The time of gods and prophets (by any name, Helios, Ares, Jehovah, Jesus, or Mohammed, et al) is over. Secular governing policies divorced from religious hawks and based on evidence-based ethics are the logical next iteration in a better, global civilization.
Unfortunately, the conservative belief that wants to retain its power by selling the past seems to mimic Julian's historic lesson: fight to the death.