I am prepared now to go forward with the Jim Jones series, starting with his early life. That will come tomorrow or the day after. What has happened so far is good, lots of input which I have not and will not read until my own work, such as it is, is done.
This is, however, a diversion. While in Europe I ran out of reading material, and when we got home found nothing of interest. But while in college I was introduced to two volumes, The American Intellectual Tradition, edited by David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper. They have sat on my bookshelf for years.
My intent was to go back and reread a selection from Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class wherein he introduces for the first time the concept of “conspicuous consumption.” When in college (and I told the professor this) the man’s words simply did not penetrate my thick cranium*. I kept losing focus. The professor, a wise man, simply smiled and said don’t worry. My intent yesterday was to read it again to see if the cranium had lost some of its bone mass.
But I stumbled and never got there, instead reading a portion of William James’ The Will to Believe. I am a great admirer of this man and his pristine and probing intellect, first having read about him in Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club, and then reading his (very accessible) series of lectures that came to be known as The Varieties of Religious Experience (available as a free download at Gutenberg).
Reading again The Will to Believe brought me back to Miles W. Mathis and something that has troubled me since we published our series of articles on him. By those articles I am convinced that MM is a front for a committee, but that is not my issue. I am left to ponder the question “So what?” As James says at the outset, “…the deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the individual thinker.” In other words, aside from the nature of the man himself, what is the importance of “his” output?
As I thought back, I realized that the Mathis compendium had set me free, that is, when I learned first that John Lennon had faked his death, and then JFK, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted on me. I was a free man, able to float above it all. I don’t care now that no one died on 9/11 or that Las Vegas was a hoax – along with so many other psyops that penetrate even down to local communities. The people who do these numbers on us are a shade of evil, but not murderers. They are simply governing us, keeping us in a suspended state of anxiety that shuts down normal thinking and sends us immediately to our amygdalae whenever we turn on the “news.” Thus are we governable sheep.
Of course I was disappointed to learn, via Kevin, that Miles has hidden his true background, and that, of course, opened up all aspects of his character to speculation, which is where Bob Z chimed in. I supported the publication of both pieces, the accurate genealogy and the admitted speculation, and still do. People (or entities) who used to comment here left in droves, and now reside at Cutting Through the Fog, which I have to label now as an MM Tribute Band, nothing more. I am OK with where this exodus has left us, as it told us much about the nature of those who followed our blog. They were fair weather friends, at best, plants at worst.
What is there to know in certainty about Miles Mathis? There is Kevin’s work. But what of it? What if the MMC (Miles Mathis Committee, or cult) is an outlier group that is given permission to operate within boundaries? What if the work (specious genealogy and antisemitism aside) is allowed through the barriers as a treat to those of us too smart of be fooled by daily life as presented us by regular sources? Shall we then accept it, stop dogging the sources, remove the chaff and accept the wheat as a gift? That is where I sit.
James talks at length about Pascal’s Wager, and in the end accepts it as a useful proposition, though not as a believer. After all, we are all imperfect, absolutists and empiricists alike, and cannot know truth as a certainty ever except in matters of abstract (2+2=4) that tell us nothing by themselves. We are never going to know with certainty the truth of the nature of the MMC, and will always have to accept its output as questionable, leaving only our own brains as the final arbiter.
But I am OK with that. After all, why is this different from in any other aspect of life from religion and science to the true nature of our “commenters”? Enough has come down from that source that I regard as true and useful that I choose to forget about the source, evaluate the outcome, and simply fail to march with CTTF in idealization of this imperfect human being. Says James, “Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?”
I have long said that I am capable of mistakes, big and small, but that I do not let that stop me. Generally I learn more from mistakes anyway. If it is a mistake to parse through the output of the MMC, I choose to make that mistake. To paraphrase James, it is not better to risk loss of truth due to fear of chance of error.
I close with a passage from James Fitzjames Stephen, and only because William James chose to close with it as well.
“What do you think of yourself? What do you think of the world? … These are questions with which all must deal as it seems good to them. They are riddles of the Sphinx, and in some way or other we must deal with them. … In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark. … If we decide to leave the riddles unanswered that is a choice; if we waver in our answer that too is a choice: but whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril. If a man chooses to turn his back altogether on God and the future, no one can prevent him; no one can show beyond reasonable doubt that he is mistaken. If a man thinks otherwise and acts as he thinks, I do not see that any one can prove that he is mistaken. Each must act as he thinks best; and if he is wrong so much the worse for him. We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death, If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not know certainly whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. … If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.”
*The cranium is as thick as ever, and I still can’t read the guy. I did pick up on his social Darwinism, which I regard as self-serving nonsense among self-imagined selected survivors (Steve Forbes, for example). In the natural world survival often entails not standing next to a volcano or being around when a comet passes.** In the world of human affairs we deal mostly with preselection and choice of birth canal as determinants of success. Forbes, for example (along with, say, George W. Bush or Donald Trump), would be selling used cars or real estate, with limited success, were they set adrift from their family fortunes. Thus can I safely ignore Veblen. Maybe my college instricts were right. Maybe not.
**Reminds me … my wife followed the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction, 1995 forward. What I learned just sitting with her and peering through telescopes is that the scientists have constructed an elaborate fantasy of wolf pack structure, with “alpha” males and females and expulsion rituals. What I learned for real is that the alpha male might imagine he is the only one mating with the females, and that all the males are copulating with willing females without his knowledge. Far from having any formal (alpha) structure, wolf packs are merely territorial families with mom and pop and kids who eventually strike out on their own. I had a good laugh one day when Rick MacIntyre, a PR specialist and lifelong wolf devotee who is always seen around Yellowstone roads, described how in one pack a female had gone off and gotten knocked up, lost her mate and so returned to her original family to live, as Rick said, “in the room above the garage.”