Historical Judaic Messiah

What is the prophecy that Harold says “no man can fulfill?”  If Jesus in His person is not Messiah enough, then what else is needed?  For me, this is where THE SHINING STRANGER really started to get interesting.  Harold says:

Jesus appears to have realized that the Logos in man is man’s understanding of who and what he is, the “truth that I am” [not “the truth that I have”], and that the truth of man’s being is the truth that governs men; He appears to have understood also that if Messiah is to bear the truth of man’s being to humankind and dwell in a body among men, then words of truth must take a form of their own: Messiah could come only in the advent of a Book. By insisting that His words would not pass away, (Matt. 24:35) Jesus prepared the ground for His return in the advent of the book written of Him.  

This can certainly be a challenging statement.  Not impossible, but challenging!  Harold goes on to explain his point…

If one sees His second coming in the advent of the Gospels, the mystery of His statement, that the disciple, John, was to survive until He “came back,” (John 21:20-22) is reconciled… Jesus lived until his record was set forth – that is, John’s understanding of Jesus lived until Jesus came back and spoke again in The Gospel According to Saint John.

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Well, THAT is certainly an interpretation I’ve never heard before; and I LIKE it!  What else does our insightful author have to say about the Bible?  

The Bible, as Messiah, possesses glory, grace, and reality – not as THE only expression of the Logos in man, but as an only or one whole expression of it.  The Bible was centuries in the writing, product of authors widely separated in time, but it has a marvelous unity of thought although it has also many contradictions – as many as man himself.  It continues to be the most controversial book in the Western world because, like man, it is a supreme paradox. Image In sum, it contains the expression of humanity: it is Homo sapiens’ complete picture of himself, from Genesis to Revelation.  Beginning with the advent of man’s realization of God-consciousness, symbolized in Adam, it reaches it’s climax in man’s realization of God incarnate in his being, symbolized in Jesus as Son of man, Lord, with which one’s consciousness may have but brief encounter – and then it bears witness to the transformation in consciousness this encounter evokes.

What a beautiful description of the world’s most popular book!  And an effective vaccine against fundamentalism of all stripes!  

Oh yes, what about that prophecy?!  Here it is:

Thou hast no desire for sacrifice or offering;

it is a body thou hast prepared for me – 

in holocausts and sin-offerings thou takest no delight, 

So I said, “Here I come – in the roll of a book

this is written of me – 

I come to do thy will, O God.

(Psalm 40:6-8 and Hebrews 10:5-7)

We’ll finish today’s post with Harold’s understanding…

In Jesus’ time, a book was a roll – a scroll… Jesus gave this command:

“Go and learn the meaning of this word, I care for mercy, not for sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13)

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Thus, one must seek to understand His mission through the prophecy quoted above, for in the face of this command, He cannot be viewed as seeing Himself in terms of a sacrifice or sin-offering.  …if Messiah is to fulfill this Scripture, the one who filled the Messiah role could not be an atoning Lamb to ransom man, a sacrifice for man’s sin.  

Viewed in another light, the poetic words of this prophecy also say that Messiah’s advent is in the “roll of the book” written of the one who comes, a prophecy no man could fulfill.  If Messiah is to “tell us all things,” only a book encompassing the words spoken by countless truth-bearers to span the last reach of human consciousness could be Messiah to all men.

The “body…prepared for me,” for the one whose work would bring forth the book, is to be seen in the Scriptures into which Jesus wove His life and words, but it is in the volume of the book “written of me” – God, Son in man – that Messiah, the Bible, comes, comes as a roll, as a wave that surges upon the shores of the world through fulfillment of the missionary task Jesus imposed.  Through the Bible, He came back.  Through it, historical Messiah comes, fulfilling the Judaic promise to bear the whole body of truth to man: the truth embodied in man’s sacred writings in every language, in legends, for all these speak the same word and the Bible enfolds their like.

And there we have it.

At this point on our journey I’d like to step aside a bit and look further into the concept of a “book.”  We’ll do that in the next couple of posts.  Before that happens, though, I’m taking a week off for Holy Week/Spring Break.  Have a blessed Easter, and I will see you in April.  Until then, peace…

Seeking the Inner Kingdom

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For Jesus to accomplish His mission, he had to let Messianic expectations converge around him, while simultaneously revealing the Christ to be completely opposite from the concept held by His followers.  Talk about walking a fine line!  Let’s look at Matthew 22:41-46:

“Tell me,” [Jesus] said, “what do you think about the Christ.  Whose son is he?”  They said to him, “David’s.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David is inspired to call him Lord?

The Lord said to my Lord,

Sit at my right hand,

till I put your enemies

under your feet.

If David calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”  No one could make any answer to him.

Can’t you just see them all with their mouths gaping open, staring blankly into the distance?  Harold explains:

In this passage, Jesus presents the issue that the Lord, the Christ, is not the Son of David, which is to say, is not as the Judaic concept holds the Christ to be, but is something other and more deeply interfused in man, something that David, too, knew within himself: MY Lord.  Thus, the Christ must be Lord addressing Lord, Son addressing Son, man speaking to man.

Jesus understood that “the Lord” of which the prophets spoke reflected not an outside power, but an unknown power within, a power and authority apart from their personalities – and thus, He spoke not of “himself” as a personality:

“Were I to glorify myself, my glory would be nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me; you say ‘He is our God,’ but you do not understand him.”  John 8:54

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Man is looking for Messiah to come from without to save him.  And Jesus tells us we do not understand God.  No wonder mouths gape open when Jesus speaks!  The title of Messiah was not sufficient for Jesus…

William Neil says that Jesus avoided this title because “It had too many ambiguous associations.  To the crowd it meant the purveyor of peace and plenty, to the anti-Roman it meant political and military leadership, to the devout it meant a supernatural judge,” but Jesus saw himself as servant, calling Himself “Son of Man,” which Neil sees as the “deepest mystery of all.”

Jesus clarified the nature and equipresence of the Christ in clarifying the Reign of God which was held to be the earthly reign of Christ, Messiah.  He says, “The Reign of God is not coming as you hope to catch sight of it; no one will say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is,’ for the Reign of God is now in your midst.”  Thereby, He severed His message completely from Judaic Messianic eschatology, saying in effect: the Christ is now reigning in your midst, in the kingdom of God within you.  At another time He says:

And no man hath ascended up to heaven,

but he that came down from heaven,

even the Son of man

which is in heaven.

ImageHere speaks the poet, perfectly combining the truth in one word, implied, which is equally right in any of the word’s meanings: even means “to divide perfectly in equal portions,” as well as meaning “just now present.”  Each man must accept for himself that of God which is represented by the name Jesus called Himself.  Jesus… presents Son of man as an inward power presently operative within man, “in heaven,” the kingdom “within you.”

But Judaic Messianic hope remains.  Modern day Judaism is still looking for their Messiah.  Christians await the second coming of Jesus.  Even though Jesus brought the truth that the kingdom of God is within, THE SHINING STRANGER concludes that Jesus was not historical Messiah, that there was one prophecy concerning Messiah that Jesus did not and could not fulfill in its every aspect, a prophecy that no man can fulfill.  We will look at this prophecy, which reveals what Judaic Messiah is and how it is to come, in my next post.  Until then, peace…

Beginning to Break the Messianic Mold

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Continuing with Chapter 2, how does a human being become free?  How does one realize the divine order within him/herself?  What steps must be taken?

According to Harold, Jesus understood that as long as mankind looked for the advent of some one or a series of Messiahs to solve his problems, he could not realize his own potential.  So how was Jesus to destroy this idea of the Messiah that mankind longed after and hoped for?  Here is Harold’s view…

Jesus seized the opportunity to complete the Judaic Scriptures.  This was his mission – and in fulfilling it He also lead men toward a high moral ethic vested in love.  Why did he do it?  In completing the Scriptures, He could destroy the Messianic tradition… Jesus broke it.  This study concludes that He knew what He was doing, knew that He was breaking the Messianic mold, and that to break it through completing the Scriptures, thus freeing mankind from the curse of Messianic expectation and Messianic delusion, was His mission.

Among the prevailing Messianic concepts and even the Greek intellectualism of Jesus’ day, unfortunately nothing could destroy humankind’s innate compulsion to search beyond their own consciousness for saving grace…

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[Jesus] saw that because Messianic hope was universal, springing eternally in man’s heart, it must be a valid hope, but misdirected when man holds the concept that governing-truth or God’s Messiah is foreign to his own individual being.  Jesus discovered its residence in man, found the key to unlock His own unconscious, and said that man must seek this inner kingdom if he hopes to find God’s saving grace and the sufficiency in life he craves; He then made Himself a symbol of the Authority within it, the Christ of God in man. His own words support this concept…

…And it is these words we will look at in our next post. Until then, peace…

The Education of Jesus

We now move into Chapter 2, titled “The Messianic Mission of Jesus.”  The chapter begins with an exploration of the cultural and world context from which Jesus’ thought and ethic grew…

Schweitzer says, “The ideal would be that Jesus should have preached religious truth in a form independent of any connection with any particular period and such that it could be taken over simply and easily by each succeeding generation of man. That, however, He did not do, and there is no doubt a reason for it.”

A look at the world in the time of Jesus may reveal the reason, for more assuredly  He did not ignore its thought patterns.  The question is – how much of the world and of its prevailing beliefs did he know?

One must pause here to consider the multi-cultural influences that permeated the Middle East at the time of Jesus.  The trade route of the Silk Road was the conduit for ideas in all realms of human experience, and the Middle East sat right at it’s crossroads.

Image From the Asia Society’s website: “The religious beliefs of people along the Silk Road at the beginning of the 1st century BCE were very different from what they would later become. The peoples of the Silk Road in its early decades followed many different religions. In the Middle East, many people worshiped the gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman pagan pantheon. Others were followers of the old religion of Egypt, especially the cult of Isis and Osiris. Jewish merchants and other settlers had spread beyond the borders of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judea and had established their own places of worship in towns and cities throughout the region. Elsewherein the Middle East, and especially in Persia and Central Asia, many people were adherents of Zoroastrianism, a religion founded by the Persian sage Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE. It posited a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness; its use of fire as the symbol of the purifying power of good was probably borrowed from the Brahmanic religion of ancient India. The Greek colonies of Central Asia that had been left behind after the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great had, by the 1st century BCE, largely converted from Greco-Roman paganism to Buddhism, a religion that would soon use the Silk Road to spread far and wide. In India, on side routes of the Silk Road that crossed the passes to the Indus Valley and beyond, the older religion of Brahmanism had given way to Hinduism and Buddhism; the former never spread far beyond India and Southeast Asia, while the latter eventually became worldwide in extent.”

Preston Harold sees the possibilities here:

In truth there is no way to define the type and limits of Jesus’ education.  After the report of his visit to the temple at twelve years of age, with His parents, it is said, “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them…”  Here the record breaks off and takes up again with the ministry of John the Baptist.  Within the years lost to the record, Jesus coud have traveled to the ends of civilization and back; studying along the way – or in neighboring cities He coud have studied the cultures and philosophies of East and West.  In the Gospels there is a statement that could be interpreted as an indication that Jesus was away for Imagemany years: when he goes to His native place to teach and heal, people do not seem to know for sure who He is – which is to say, they ask, “Is this not the son of the joiner?”  Strange question to ask, even to express incredulity, had Jesus lived there since childhood and been away but a short time.  Because the townspeople know His family so well, they are offended at His brilliance even though they are astounded at His teaching.

He goes on to say:

There is a similarity, however, between (Jesus’) words and those of other philosophers.  Renan attributes this to “secret channels and…that kind of sympathy which exists among the various portions of humanity…conformable to the instincts and wants of the heart in a given age.”  Is this indicated, considering all that surrounded Jesus and His inquisitive, discerning mind?… In many ways His approach resembles that of Socrates, who, as Robert de Ropp describes him, followed the bidding of his “inner voice” endeavoring at all times “to lead men to truth by Imagequestioning.  And the truth he valued most highly related not to externals but to the laws that govern man’s inner being.”  In discussing ancient Greece, Edith Hamilton points to Plato’s philosophy: “Freedom is no matter of laws and constitutions; only he is free who realizes the divine order within himself, the true standard by which a man can steer and measure himself.” (emphasis mine)

And here we have the impetus to jump into how Jesus saw his Messianic role, which we will explore more in depth beginning with the next post.  Until then, peace…

THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 3

It’s time for the last of our 3 foci, “the objective.”

To understand the objective of THE SHINING STRANGER, we will all have to become poets.  But what exactly is a poet?  Of all the definitions I’ve heard, I enjoy Dr. Cornel West’s the most:

The great (Percy) Shelly used to say that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ What did he mean by that?  He wasn’t talking about versifying.  To be a poet in the most profound sense is to have the courage to release your imagination and your empathy…

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True poetry is full of contradictions, paradox, mystery, conundrums, and riddles.  Many people say the Bible cannot be trusted because it contains many contradictions.  Others say “if the Bible says it, it must be so,” and can’t see any meaning beyond the plain sense of the text.  Both sides are barking up the wrong tree.  Harold says…

Dr. Henry A Murray writes that an “important fact not generally acknowledged is…the Bible is poetry, in its best parts, magnificent and edifying poetry….Some devout Christians overlook the fact that the stirring and sustaining power of the Book they live by depends on the wondrous emotive language, the vivid imagery and figures of speech, with which its wisdom is transmitted….If the New Testament…had been written by a modern social scientist in the jargon of his profession, it would have died at birth.”

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As does (George) Santayana, Dr. Murray sees that the playing down of the “crucial import of the Bible’s poetry,” hand in hand with the playing up of its historicity, is the greatest fallacy of Christianity, for thereby the scope of its traffic with and judgement of reality is severely limited.  Poetry does not obscure fact – it presents it in words that act as leaven in the mind to make room for it to house there.  Poetry is dazzling in its completely open and full use of words that have, as John Ciardi puts it: “…far more meanings than anyone thinks about in reading factual prose.  A word is not a meaning but a complex of meanings consisting of all its possibilities: its ability to identify something, the image it releases in making that identification, its sound, its history, its associations-in-context…” (emphases mine)

Plato equated poetry with creation: “All creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making.”  Poetry comes from the subconscious, and Harold sees in Jesus the universe’s Poet Laureate…

Jesus spoke poetically, but if His words are true they must be a correct, albeit poetical, description of reality.

Until a man has grasped the full implication of Jesus’ words, “the kingdom of God is within you,” he cannot begin to understand Him.  His every word is predicated upon this revelation.  It is the woking of the inner kingdom He reveals.  If the kingdom of heaven is within, there is no heavenly place of the abode for the “redeemed” to go – the realm of heaven is now an individual state of being, a potential mankind shall in time realize.  It is inward reality as opposed to the outward illusiveness of life (and of matter, which Jesus proclaimed long before the physicists discovered it).

Jesus saw life to be infinite, saw that man’s religions form one-to-one correspondences of truth, and that each man is a one-to-one correspondence with God, truth, life, and with each other man.

Jesus saw the Ten Commandments as classical psychic law.  He realized, however, that quantum psychic law underlies the classical law, and this secondary law governs the inner, real life of the individual – this is the law he enunciated.

In saying that the kingdom of God, an unknown realm, is within each person, Jesus proclaimed the existence of that psychic reality now called the unconscious – revealed its working and power.  He made of Himself a symbol of the Authority within this psychic realm: the vital Self-of-selves abstracted from consciousness for which man yearns – which is unto each his own, “the Lord, your God.”

Jesus strove to heal the breach in man’s thinking upon reality, strove to rejoin the divided physical and spiritual realms, saying, poetically, that the energy which gives life to man is, potentially, in a “stone.”  Identifying Himself and mankind with primordial energy, light, He dramatized and phrased in poetic terms the most important of the secondary laws of physics, enfolding His answer to the question of the universe in the sign positive (+)….whether by design or because he knew how to tap the fount of truth in His unconscious, He presented in drama, symbol, and poetry the underlying physical and psychic laws that are today being revealed.

From these observations Harold derives the objective of THE SHINING STRANGER:

The objective, then,  is not to present one or several new aspects, but rather a whole new concept of Jesus, for, as Albert Schweitzer points out, “What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.”

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One here is reminded of GK Chesterton’s quote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Although THE SHINING STRANGER is a difficult work, we will not leave it untried.  I hope we are up to the challenge ahead of us.  Until next time, peace…

THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 2

Now for the second of our three foci, “the crucial questions.”

Harold acknowledges the decline of religion.  One must remember that THE SHINING STRANGER was first published in 1967 when the free love/anti war/ hippie movement really began to take off and question everything concerning institutional authority, especially government and religion.  The situation is just as relevant today as ever, as numbers of “The Nones,” those who don’t affiliate themselves with any religion, continue to rise.  Here is a Gallop Poll chart:

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In October, 2012, the Pew Research Center released a study, ‘Nones on the Rise.’ According to Pew, one fifth (46 million) of American adults have no religious affiliation.

Harold says…

Whenever one searches the religious question he finds that among the educated element traditional faiths are declining and as yet there is no stated doctrine to take their place.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that civilizations invariably collapse when man’s power outruns his religion – as man’s power appears to be doing today.  It is not the decline of a particular religion, but of all religions that presages catastrophe – for despite the evil that has been done in the name of religion, so much that gives meaning and purpose to life rests upon it that sanity itself may rest upon it.

(J.B.) Priestly suggests the answer as to what life would be without religion – man is dehumanized.  When this happens, ethics follow suit.  The universal collapsing of religions poses this threat that is glacial and moves at glacial pace.  Who can stop this inching chill?  What ideology can lead man out of its grinding path?

Very important questions concerning a very real situation.  Anyone who has really thought about the state of the world and the challenges that confront humanity should be asking themselves these sort of monumental questions.  Economic instability, lack of clean water, energy crises, new strains of super-viruses, natural disasters, hunger, cyber-espionage, terrorism, GMOs, climate issues, human trafficking; the list goes on and on.  So where do we begin?  Harold continues…

(Russell) Davenport sees that the question goes far beyond any particular religion: ‘it is a question of our concept of man.’ Western man cannot answer the question – who and what am I? – without first answering another – who and what was Jesus? – for upon this man the whole culture leans so heavily one merely begs the question if he will not face it.

The crucial question to be settled is the nature and meaning of Jesus’ Messianic role – upon this all else depends.  His own words settle this question, and from them may be enunciated a concept of man that restores meaning and purpose in life whatever the path he treads.  But Jesus’ revelation is by no means unprecedented.  As Radhakrishnan points out:

“There is no development in religious truth, though there is a development in the expression of truth.”

This study approaches the works and words of Jesus in this light: they are a development in the expression of truth, and insofar as men with a Western background are concerned, His message, held apart from the theologies clustering around it, offers still the greatest hope of true religion.  Why?  Because Jesus’ message can be grasped more readily – His words are familiar.  He is familiar as a symbol representing more of paradoxal truth than man can as yet express, and when men appear to be losing their humanity, his image appears out of the darkness to begin again to lead them onward toward light…

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Just as we always joke in church that the answer to every question is “Jesus,” so it is with Preston Harold.  But this Jesus will take us far beyond the walls and theologies of our churches, and attempt to answer the Psalmists question, “What are humans that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than the angels, and crowned them with glory and honor.” We will head into this territory in my next post as we explore the objective of THE SHINING STRANGER.  Until then, peace…

THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 1

The title of Chapter 1 gives us three foci, of which we will explore in order of importance.  Today’s post will focus on “the problem:”

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The decline of Christianity, religion of the West, bespeaks the decline of faith in the Pauline interpretation of Jesus’ meaning to mankind…

Jawaharal Nehru states: “Essentially, our problems are those of civilization itself.  Religion gave a certain moral and spiritual discipline; it also tried to perpetuate superstition and social usages.  Indeed, those superstitions and social usages enmeshed and overwhelmed the real spirit of religion.  Disillusionment followed.”

The pace of Christianity’s decline, in terms of declining beliefs in its tenets, accelerates.  J.B. Priestly writes: “…if we all joined a Christian Church tomorrow the fundamental situation would be unchanged, because no church existing today has the power – and we could not give it this power by joining it – to undo what has been done…the symbols no longer work, and they cannot be made to work by effort on a conscious level…No matter what is willed by consciousness, that which belongs to the depths can only be restored in the depths.” (emphasis mine)

The depths, huh?  Well then, can psychology help?

Today, psychologists explore and interpret the depths of man, but thus far psychology serves only to present again in professional terms the notion of original sin…man is victim of primordial sex drives incorporated in his being when he is expelled from the paradise of the womb.

(Psychology) cannot defend man against the dehumanizing collectives, or restore in his depths the hope that declines as religion declines – indeed, the human problem is compounded by psychologists theories, and man must seek defense against them.

But…

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Freud and those who followed in this field opened Pandora’s box, but they also presented humanity with vital knowledge, which must be dealt with now, just as nuclear power must be dealt with now – and just as the vacuum created by the decline of religion must be dealt with now, for in Priestly’s words, “it is doubtful if our society can last much longer without religion…”

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Harold believes that for Christianity to thrive, it must look past the Pauline interpretation which has dominated the past 2000 years, and try to make sense of Jesus’ words in the light of today’s knowledge and understanding. As a fan of Paul rightly understood I have a bit of a problem with this, but let’s let Harold have his say…

In orthodox theology, St. Paul’s compelling interpretation of Jesus is highlighted against the background of the disciples messages, obscuring much of their content.  The pre-eminence of Pauline doctrine precludes the idea that there could be another valid concept of Jesus and His mission.  But in the four Gospels another view of Him is precisely drawn, a view as natural and different from the Pauline concept as non-Euclidian geometry is natural and different from Euclid’s.  Since the advent of the Bible, which drew together fragments of His picture, this answer to the question of Jesus has lain before men’s eyes.  It is an answer St. Paul could not give.  In the early days of Christianity only a hint of it could be discerned, and was discerned by Saul of Tarsus – his mighty work is not to be decried.  Nor could this answer been given by those who followed and through the ages developed the Christian religion.  Indeed, not until the twentieth century, when the writings of Darwin, Freud, Einstein and many other scientists had been circulated throughout the world, and science had suffered it’s great revolution, and mathematicians had been freed of the limitations of Greek thought, could the concepts of Jesus to be offered in this study evolve as His own words, works, and drama are measured against the data now available.

After reading the book, it is my understanding that Harold’s problem with Paul doesn’t rest so much on Paul’s actual doctrine, but rather what the Church teaches regarding Paul and it’s understanding of his message.  But Harold will still take us into uncharted, ripe territory, and if he had to bypass his understanding of Paul in order to do so, I am certainly willing to forgive him.  The fruit is delicious!

Harold leaves us on a positive note concerning our present problem:

The problems confronting man in the twentieth century are colossal, but opportunity looms equally large: “…the present situation is a new one, in which new facts and new knowledge are available over new fields to an unprecedented extent, and could be distilled to provide us with the truth that alone can set us free.” – Julian Huxley

In the next post we will explore the crucial questions, and then move on to the objective of the book.  Until then, peace…