Saturday, 14 December 2013

Reason And Destruction

I think that the missing member of the Endless is first named when Despair says, " Lord of Destruction..." on p. 22 of Chapter 1 of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Volume 7, Brief Lives (New York, 1994).

Later, Destruction tells Dream, "Times are changing...They are using reason as a tool...It is no more reliable a tool than instinct, myth or dream. But it has the potential to be far more dangerous..." (Chapter 4, pp. 18-19).

To stay with instinct would have been to stay with animality. Destruction, an anthropomorphic personification of an aspect of consciousness, thinks that we need tools only for living, dying and, in his case, destroying. However, reason is a better tool than myth or dream for learning. At least some of us value knowledge of the planet Mars while still appreciating myths of the god Mars.

I did speak to someone who did not see knowledge of modern scientific cosmology as preferable to continued belief in Buddhist cosmology as literally true. We can demonstrate practical applications of science and unexpected outcomes of research but I also see pure knowledge as a value in itself. When Sherlock Holmes said that he did not care whether the Earth went round the Sun or vice versa, I disagreed with him. (In fact, I was appalled.)

Dream says that reason will not affect his domain and will do little to Destruction's but Destruction does not relish scientific warfare because he has seen it before. Although the Endless are cosmic principles, they for some reason base themselves in one world at a time and are currently on Earth.

Dream comments:

"...they are cutting up apes?...Do they think that they can impale the soul of it on their knives? That if they cut deep enough they can extract its dreams, naked and writhing and screaming, from its head? Reason is a flawed tool at best..." (Chapter 4, p. 20)

We need to observe and experiment to find out what we can find out. Reason is not an all purposes tool but that does not make it flawed.

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