And now, after the hand-wringing, the nail-biting, the promises and platitudes of the autumn election, we are in the winter of hubris.
This month, not only in Washington, but across America, right hands will be held high, left hands placed on the Bible, or the Quran, or the Bhagavad Gita, or the Constitution, or maybe even – in celebration of the new militant secularism – a volume by Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, or, in the tradition of John Quincy Adams – who wanted to emphasize the separation of church and state – a book containing U.S. laws. The newly elected (or re-elected), from precinct captain to President, will then make auspicious statements and grand speeches about the new world arising with their ascendancy to office.
Hubris is the embrace of the seducer’s line first uttered in Eden as the adversary tempted Eve to chomp down on the forbidden fruit. “You shall be as gods,” the serpent hissed. Eons later the ancient Greeks recognized the spiritual core of hubris, and, in their tragedies depicted the disasters crushing people inflicted with the presumption they could lift themselves to the level of the gods.
Lucifer was slithering on his belly in the first place because, as Isaiah 14 puts it, he tried to exalt himself above the heavenly host, and make himself equal – if not superior to –God. In that act of dizzying hubris evil was born, and collided with the world, smashing Paradise, and spreading chaos into the finely crafted cosmos.
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