Plato built up Socrates as a super-man, to use him as the spokesperson for his own arguments. Around the same time the followers of the teachings of Buddha and Mahavira did the same. Marx gave his own idealogical wish-list the authority of history when he fabricated the myth of a historical determinism which had Socialism as its ‘end’. Moses claimed to speak with his god’s authority. Moses and Hitler are identical historical figures, having chosen a people for themselves, and claiming a unique historical destiny for them. This destiny ‘legitimated’ their holocausts. Mein Kampf and the Torah are identical documents with the same historical products; mass-scale theft, rape, murder, and genocide.
The new testament writers built up a mythical Jesus, recycling the then-current gods and the myths associated with them. The ‘disciples’ had Jesus speak their words, with a god’s authority. Mohamed claimed to speak for the angel Gabriel, and hence with a god’s authority. John Smith claimed to read from golden plates he had found, which recorded a god’s words, and therefore to speak with a god’s authority. More ancient shamans claimed a connection with the spirit world, and hence to speak with the authority of their ancestors. The tradition of appealing to tradition in general as an authority is, well, traditional.
The intentions of all these prophets may well have been good. They felt their ends justified their means. Plato’s ‘noble lies’ are perhaps the first documented instance of what became a common practise. Lie to the people to motivate them to do what you think is in their interests, or less nobly, what is in your interests.
Buddha is perhaps the first to adopt the strategy of compelling argument and to reject dogma and ‘transferred’ authority. For him the argument must be the authority in and of itself. If it is not compelling, then it should not be granted any authority.
Every prophet is bound to feel the seductive lure of ‘transferred authority’. Perhaps the historical Buddha, Jesus, and Socrates were strong enough to reject it, seeing that it they employed that strategy there was no stopping everyone else doing so. If the authority of arguments came to be based on the authority of the speaker, or who they claimed to speak for, then the substance of the argument would become less important. Any charlottan with an ideaology or desire for power might employ the strategy once they, in their own employment of it, had legitimated it.
However the followers of prophets including Mahavira, Buddha, and Jesus, frustrated with the lack of acceptance of their prophet’s teachings, and in many cases seduced by the desire for power, built up myths for their prophets. These myths conferred the authority of gods, super-powers, or historical destiny upon their prophets. Naturally this conferred a transferred authority upon themselves, as the present-day representatives of that prophet, that authority. Mohamed imitated them with the same motive.
©Copyright 2009Markus Heinrich Rehbach All Rights Reserved