I listened to a Manly P. Hall lecture recently where he went into why Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism failed in Ancient Rome, and why their contemporary, Christianity, succeeded with the masses. And it all boiled down to pro wrestling, as far as I’m concerned.
The masses, who were in a perpetual state of crisis—many of them poor, downtrodden, and caught in brutish, violent times—sought solace. They sought solace in narratives of unambiguously benevolent patriarchs/messiahs, and their unambiguously evil enemies. They didn’t have time for hair-spitting.
Now, compare to our contemporary times.
When I was a child I used to watch professional wrestling. You’d root for the good guy and boo the bad guy. Sometimes, booing for the bad guy was even more exciting than rooting for the good guy (sometimes, the good guy could be downright wooden and unappealing). You’d get deeply caught up in the drama of it all. You’d have the bad guy even threatening the owner of the wrestling company.
The trick was, they were all receiving paychecks from the same place.
I’m not saying that the publishers of the new muckraking new Trump book, Fire And Fury are “in” on the action as the in the case of professional wrestling (Trump himself participated in actual pro wrestling antics in the ring for the then-WWF). And I’m not saying that it is “wrong” to publish this book, or that the public doesn’t have the right to know all those things about their President. I’m not going to say this is a great president by any stretch of the imagination.
And I am not going to say that I am not clothed in mortal, human garb and that I don’t get little shots of schadenfreudian pleasure when hearing one dirty scandalous detail or another; or that it doesn’t take me considerable willpower to stay off the news sites and out of the internet social media rabbit holes concerning this situation.
But very few people stop and look at all this and realize: this is all sort of a “loop.” Very few people stop and look at the mechanics behind all this: building the hero up (in the case of Trump: his 1980s/90s career as a celebrity) & making money off of him or her (see: Trump’s The Art Of The Deal); then tearing him or her down and making money off of that. The wrestling analogy unfortunately writ large in reality, the fate of our own country in the grip; once this drama endeth, another will begin with some other combination of factors.
But who really wants to hear all that? That’s not how the public operates; they have not operated in that way, as far as I can tell, ever in human history.
There are “good guys” and there are “bad guys.” There are patriarchs & messiahs, and there are comic book villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker. And you get someone like Trump who is simultaneously patriarch/messiah to some, and Lex Luthor/Joker to others. You can sell a lot of buttons and ancillary merch when you have a wrestler with such dual appeal; the “popular heel.”
Going back to the Ancient Rome analogy, while the three aforementioned minority religions had some really good aspects in them, in terms of really getting to the heart of things and transcending this loop of suffering—they were toast. They were considered egghead BS. More than that—they were then demonized and often stamped out completely as to not infect the populace with their annoying ambiguousness and esoteric ramblings. And they were also demonized and stamped out because they made convenient “villains”—non-believers—heretics—that was just a bonus.
And if you go on social media with that sort of ambiguous, “egghead BS”…if you don’t fall into that neat good guys/bad guys dichotomy…you may often get the same reaction as those heretics of yore did.
Author Philip K. Dick believed that we are all actually still living in the Ancient Roman era…and that we were under the “illusion” that time had progressed. If we don’t take what he said literally…it feels like he was right.