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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 08/08/2005
Vol. 2, #171

Every society, advanced or so-called primitive, is held together by a common system of beliefs. In the scientific paradigm of our own contemporary society, there are certain things that were once said to exist which members of our society do not see or experience or believe. This is the hypnosis effect of all social systems and structures. More precisely, we know that someone can be hypnotized to see persons who are actually not there, and conversely, people can be hypnotized not to see persons and things that are clearly present to onlookers.

In various earlier, prescientific societies, people frequently reported seeing creatures like elves, faeries, demons, witches and spirits. Such beings are mostly not visible to members of our scientifically oriented modern societies. In short, just as the ruling beliefs of earlier eras decreed what existed and did not, so does our own scientific one. Which means, rather simply, that for the most part populations only see what the basic paradigm of belief of any society allows.

The current scientific paradigm has proven vastly successful in changing the world in ways that seem to add both to our ease and convenience while, at the same time increasing the menace and threat to mankind all around the world. "The livin" is easy" in some places, but not in most. And anywhere, an atomic weapon can destroy our civilizations. War technology has certainly been upgraded. Disease has been contained in some forms and worsened in others. And we have doctors but not healers. The former keep discovering diseases, the latter keep curing people. But not so effectively once their closed societies and systems of hypnosis have been penetrated by outsiders and skeptics.

In our own cradle of so-called civilization, this has become the age of the superhero. More powerfully than the great religious figures of the past, our superheroes have seized the imagination of a population desperate for rescue and, if not that, at least, with soothing stories of good being rescued from endless threats old and new.

I will dare to say here that rescue from the horrors that the scientific paradigm has helped create in the form of new "defensive" weapons not only failed to raise our comfort level but in too many instances made matters worse. There was once a comfort in believing in protective creatures with super powers. We know our modern super heroes are not real but merely provide the balm of a wish emptied of the reality they offered under earlier paradigms.. So to think of science as a kind of human progress is a rather dubious enterprise. Too much is missing. Not better in many ways, improved in others, and far more menacing overall. And then there's global warming.

The problem is with the hypnotism. A science that stands outside reality and objectively examines it leaves out the warming sides of the paranormal, the clairvoyant, the clairaudient and above all the transcendence of death. Our science is stunning. But it doesn't know how to deal with death and the afterworld. Other earlier societies did and effectively made their peace with mortality by opening doorways beyond it. We know all this. We know something's missing. And a lot of scientists are also becoming more aware that we've taken a wrong turn somewhere. Still, the science that's out there now can't deal with mortality. They can stretch out our time, at a price. I can assure you, advanced old age is no picnic. And it doesn't answer the fundamental question, presumably because it's not a scientific question, why are we here? And what is the meaning of mortality? But as science stumbles ahead, cracks are appearing. Experiments with remote viewing are taking place. Even the notion of death as a passageway is beginning to pique its curiosity. The old paradigm that once looked so successful is beginning to shift its ground.

As I suggested at the beginning of this piece, we've all been hypnotized to see wonders. And at the same time, we've been shut out of other wonders, perhaps less spectacular but more human. Maybe that's why the superheroes, harking back to an earlier time, have so seized the popular imagination.

--Alvin

<< 08/01/2005 | 08/08/2005 | 08/15/2005 >>

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