A Madman Acts Out

Book Review: R.C. Zaehner OUR SAVAGE GOD

by Ted Willi

Our Savage God

R.C. Zaehner kicks some azz in this book. Zaehner during the 2nd World War served in British Intelligence in Iran, using his wits and his multi-language skills to survive many spy missions. A man of action, then -- and a brilliant thinker, as this book demonstrates. This is Zaehner doing "applied philosophy": taking a person of interest, Charles Manson, and showing what cultural and philosophical influences helped create him.

In a nutshell, you could say that the era was immersed in gurus of the East, as well as the West's own deconstructionists -- especially Friedrich Nietzsche (although Zaehner doesn't have to name him because his influence is so pervasive) -- an era "beyond good and evil." In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna instructs Arjuna in the midst of a battle about to occur: "A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life." Nietzsche himself wrote: "God as the beyond and above of the wretched loafers' morality of 'good and evil'." Moreover, the Bhagavad-gita states: "Neither he who thinks the living entity the slayer nor he who thinks it slain is in knowledge, for the self slays not nor is slain."

A normal person reading such texts might make a good mental exercise out of them, but a criminal or insane mind might interpret them literally and apply them in a morally-ambivalent way. Zaehner postulates that is what Charles Manson did.

Zaehner suggests that the "Clockwork Orange" culture of no moral boundaries -- beyond good and evil -- can only be corrected by a concept such as provided by the Jews: "O ye that love Jehovah, hate evil: He preserveth the souls of his saints; He delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked." -- Psalms 97:10

Zaehner works through many lines of argument. A real eye-opener. Clockwork Orange seems to be our era still.

Our Savage God: The Perverse Use of Eastern Thought, by R.C. Zaehner (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1974).