William Desmond on Leviathan’s cowing of “the plurality of competing wills to power.”  From God and the Between:

“What of the danger of totalitarianism?  It is wrong to think in terms of ‘totality’ here because in a polytheistic milieu the world has neither been demythologized nor remythologized by ‘totality.’  The question is anachronistic in so far as totalitarianism is a modern phenomenon, born in the wake of Christendom’s triumph over paganism, then of the secularization of Christianity, then of the divinization of secular politics wedded to the stupendous powers readied for exploitation by modern technology.  The politics of ancient paganism were never secular.  Though the character of those politics was often imperial, and in that sense potentially ‘totalizing,’ their sacral character contained many chastising rejoinders to the worldly will to power of the human lord.  A sacred king is not a tyrant.  Hubris there might be, but nemesis there also was.  Every lord of the world forgot this at his own peril.

Modern totalitarianism is the outcrop of enlightenment reason turned away from the divine as instituting human power, turned towards systematic, secular will to power that would have philosophy on its side, and if necessary to justify its degradations.  The Leviathan, as Hobbes reminds us, must be a mortal god, monstrous enough to cow the plurality of competing wills to power.  Leviathan makes us drink the wine of an old wisdom in new, very different bottles: fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  But there is no divine lord, only humans lording it over creation and each other. In these bottles the wine of the old wisdom must become bitter gall” (189).

Advertisements