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Comte Henri de Saint-Simon – His concern for the poor shines above everything else

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon

Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) or, more commonly, Saint-Simon is one of those figures who comes up regularly in sociology courses, especially so-called “classical” or “classical theory” courses.¹

Until writing this entry, I knew little about him. But I felt he was important because so many books and professors (the better ones, anyhow) mention him in passing.

Looking over Wikipedia this morning to update my 2009 entry, Saint-Simon turns out to be quite interesting.

Born in Paris as a French Aristocrat, he spent some time in America, fighting under George Washington in the siege of Yorktown. Back in Europe, he took up the cause of the poor, which lead his being called the founder of French socialism.

He supported the French Revolution but was put in jail during the Reign of Terror because of unwarranted suspicions that he was a counter-revolutionary. Luckily for him, he was released from prison in 1794 before literally losing his head. By this time French currency was devalued, which left him rich. But he was cheated out of his fortune by his business partner.

After an unhappy marriage that ended in a year, he wrote and tried to recover his lost fortune without success. He then spent time in a sanatorium. Ten years later, discouraged by his lack of influence on the world, he attempted suicide. According to the story, shooting himself six times in the head didn’t kill him, although he did become blind in one eye.

Nederlands: Portret van Claude Henri de Rouvro...

Portrait of Claude Henri de Rouvroy from the first quarter of the 19th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relatives helped him out but Saint-Simon lived his final years in abject poverty. Perhaps this had something to do with his earlier concern for the poor.²

Saint-Simon reacted against the brutality of the French Revolution and envisioned a society where science and technology would guide the workings of religion and politics. He disliked government intervention in the economy, making his approach differ from how we usually understand “socialism.”

Concerning religion, he believed in a divine power but wanted to strip away the dogmas and routines of both Protestant and Catholic Christianity to get to the core of Jesus’ message as he saw it. For him, theory wasn’t done for mere pleasure or, as a twisted professor I had allegedly once said, for a “paycheck.” For Saint-Simon, theory and practice should go hand in hand to alleviate suffering and elevate all peoples to the highest possible good.

Saint-Simon’s writings remain influential in sociology. He had particular impact on the political views of Auguste Comte (17981857), especially with regard to the concept of progress. Comte in turn influenced Emile Durkheim, now hailed as one of the founding fathers of sociology.

Tumba de Saint Simon by Cosmovisión / Juan Luis Sotillo

Tumba de Saint Simon by Cosmovisión / Juan Luis Sotillo

¹ Sociologists tend to join the dots for us, telling us what is important according to how they see things today. The word “classical” should be taken critically too. It’s full of connotations about legitimacy and importance.

² If the soul is beyond space and time, as some mystics tell us, quite possibly Saint-Simon’s future state influenced his younger concerns. You won’t find this idea among the rank and file of psychologists and psychiatrists in the 21st century, but I think it’s quite possible and hopefully an idea that future theorists will pursue.

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Parsees (or Parsis)

Embed from Getty Images

To go with AFP story ‘Pakistan-unrest-religion-minorities-Parsi’, FEATURE by Issam AHMED This photograph taken on February 25, 2015, shows Pakistani Parsi (Zoroastrian) priests Jehangir Noshik (L) and Jal Dinshaw (R) sitting at their prayer place in Karachi. For more than 1,000 years, Parsis have thrived in South Asia but an ageing population and emigration to the West driven by instability in Pakistan means the tiny community of ‘fire worshippers’ could could soon be consigned to the country’s history books. AFP PHOTO / Rizwan TABASSUM

The Parsees (Parsis) are descendants of the Zoroastrians who fled from Persia (now Iran) for about 200 years between the 8th to 10th centuries CE to avoid persecution by the Arab Muslim invaders of Persia¹; they settled around Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.

According to Wikipedia:²

The word پارسیان, pronounced “Parsian”, i.e. “Parsi” in the Persian language literally means Persian.[14] Persian is the official language of modern Iran, which was formerly known as Persia, and the Persian language‘s endonym is Farsi, an arabization of the word Parsi

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsi

² Op. cit.

Related » Adherents of all Religions, Ahriman, Avesta, Gabars, Zarathustra, Zoroastrianism


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Sargon

Image via memory-alpha.wikia.com

In the original Star Trek TV series Sargon is a forceful, intelligent mind residing in a glowing orb. Sargon abducts Captain Kirk and plans to inhabit his body.¹

This fictional Sargon is named after two ancient Sargons who walked this Earth. Sargon I was a Akkadian king (2400 BCE) said to have built Babylon. Sargon II was an Assyrian king (around 700 BCE). Both were successful militarists.

More and more people are saying that the Star Trek franchise has created something of a modern myth. One of the ingredients for Star Trek‘s lasting success is the recasting of elements from history, myth and legend within an optimistic, socially progressive future.

King Sargon II and a Dignatary by Sharon Mollerus

King Sargon II and a Dignatary by Sharon Mollerus via Flickr

Depth psychologists and cultural theorists say that the use of history in storytelling sets off a subconscious resonance, giving a story charm, fascination and, as religious studies scholars would put it, numinous allure.

The use of Sargon in this episode is a good example of calling up the past, injecting it into the present while imagining the future.

¹ Excellent outline of the story » http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Return_to_Tomorrow_%28episode%29


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Sophists

 

Early Athenian Coin, an "owl"

Early Athenian Coin, an “owl” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sophists were independent Greek public speakers of the 5th century BCE, teaching for a fee about politics, philosophy and rhetoric.

Protagoras is usually regarded as the first with Gorgias being another prominent sophist. Wikipedia also lists Prodicus, Hippias, Thrasymachus, Lycophron, Callicles, Antiphon, and Cratylus.

Plato portrays them in his dialogues as foils for the sober, sound argumentation of Socrates.

In the most general sense sophists are usually depicted as denying the existence of ultimate reality and morality in favor of worldly pleasures derived from the senses.

Likewise, they’re often said to reject the Greek gods and advocate the perfection of humanity.

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In actual fact, there is no single school of Sophist thought. Plato’s response to the leading Sophists is as complex as their various positions.

Generally slighted by Plato, the sophists were quick and intelligent, contributing to knowledge about linguistics, drama and a prototypical form of applied sociology. And they were instrumental in helping young men to “better” themselves in terms of learning how to win arguments—a skill set essential to upward mobility and entrance into political life not only in ancient Greece but also for men and women today.¹

¹ See, for instance, the excellent introductory discussion about ancient Greek philosophy in this DVD set: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/history-of-the-ancient-world-a-global-perspective.html

On the Web:

  • Video touching on some of the topics that the ancient Greeks debated, topics that continued through the Middle Ages, right up to contemporary debates.

Related Posts » Jean A. Baudrillard


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Tokugawa

Tokugawa Ieyasu by jpellgen

Tokugawa Ieyasu – The great commander of the Tokugawa forces and the first shogun of the Tokugawa period, Ieyasu (jpellgen via Flickr)

The Tokugawa were a powerful military family in medieval Japan whose members held power and ruled as Shoguns from 1603-1867.

The origins of the clan remain unclear. But under Tokugawa rule society was legitimized with Confucian hierarchical ideals. Social classes were ranked by status with warriors holding the highest position, followed by farmers, then workers and, last, merchants.

This is an interesting variant to the Hindu caste system, where the castes originated from a ritually dismembered Primal Cosmic Man, emerging in a different status order than in medieval Japan.

The highest, fair-skinned Brahman caste (priests, thinkers) emanated from the head, the lower and darker Kshatriya caste (rajas, warriors, persons of action) from the arms, while the next lower and darker Vaisna caste (merchants) originated from the thighs.

Later, the additional fourth, lowest and darkest Sudra caste (servants) was added, believed to be the “feet” of the purusa.¹

In recent times, the Shoguns and Samurai have taken a whole new mythic life with movies, TV, anime, and gaming.

¹ https://earthpages.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/caste/

Related Posts » Confucius, Confucianism

On the Web:

  • This documentary of Tokugawa Ieyasu was made using real pictures of the actual Samurai involved, and their Crests, set to The Lonely Shepard. There was one factual error in the movie, that of course beeing that Oda Nobunaga was not from peasant stock as implied, but that subtitle had been meant Hideyoshi, Toyotomi. Enjoy” (StaggerLeee)

 


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Michael Wood

MICHAEL WOOD

MICHAEL WOOD (Photo credit: RubyGoes)

Michael Wood (1948- ) is a British filmmaker and historian whose innovative, on-site productions are enjoyed by thinking persons around the world. Not quite as sensational as more recent productions by other UK notables, what makes Wood’s docs different is his sophisticated levity.

Other UK doc stars like Simon Schama have been criticized for oversimplifying. But Schama makes no apologies for this. To anyone who thinks it’s easy to make a documentary, he says “try it.” And I suppose that kind of challenge could be given to cynical critics everywhere. However, one doesn’t have to be an expert at creating in order to be an expert at comparing and critiquing something.

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Barbara G. Walker

Diana the huntress

Diana the huntress (Photo credit: katmary)

Barbara G. Walker (1930- ) is an American expert on knitting and a feminist writer on mythology, religion and spirituality.

Her Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, although of questionable accuracy at times, offers a compensatory perspective to not only chauvinist religious teachings but also to thinkers who ignore or gloss over Christianity’s ugly past.

From the standpoint of psycho-history, past atrocities tend to reemerge in novel, equally frightening forms if their underlying psychological dynamics remain unexamined and therefore unconscious.

By way of contrast, some researchers emphasize visible – instead of unconscious – motivational factors in their study of mankind. But to this, Thomas A Kohut says:

Because it is not possible to comprehend people without dealing with the psychological, historians, including those critical of psychohistory, have always written about it, even if they have rarely acknowledged the fact.¹

In the 1970’s Walker worked on a telephone hotline for battered women and pregnant teenagers. This sparked her interest in feminism and possibly contributed to her unique perspective on myth, religion and spirituality.

To this Rose White adds:

[Walker made] enormous contributions to female intellectual empowerment through her many collections of knitted stitch patterns. Of course her work benefited all knitters, not just women, but at the time she was writing, nearly all knitters were women.

The point of view which guided her to collect and produce her anthologies of stitch patterns was this: Crafters should not be beholden to crappy commercial garment designs, but should have the means to create their own original works. She has been an inspiration to multiple generations of knitters, and these books are still in print 40 years later. » See in context

And Mary Treherne comments about sex-role stereotypes and religion in general:

A change in the psycho-sexual paradigm of human nature, and the whole ‘chemistry’ of human relationship is taking place with a wholly new interpretation of the moral teachings of Christ, one that threatens to bring down the whole of ‘christian’ history and tradition and a lot more besides. To be truly free is to be free for an ignorance within human nature itself.

Anyone able to free themselves of their prejudices, who is interested in real progress that history has thus far denied us, should check out: http://www.energon.org.uk » See in context

¹ Thomas A. Kohut, “Psychohistory as History,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Apr., 1986: 336-354), p. 352.

Related Posts » Diana, Goddess vs. goddess, Neo-Paganism, Persephone, Torture, Witch, Witches Hammer, Inquisitions