Part 1: The Spiritual Interpretation:

I begin this exploration of thought with the belief of the prospector, who, sensing gold’s presence somewhere in the earth’s bosom, begins his dig on faith, not knowing where he will at last end his expedition.  Perhaps it is the formation of ideas into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into arguments that most concerns the exploration to follow.  Word brought into existence all that we see, and Word will determine its course through Time.  Word galvanizes movements and shapes peoples.  Finally, Word, Logos, brings order and establishes a common narrative, if the eyes and ears of men’s hearts are willing to listen and receive it.  

While Word exists as a structure, a structure that imbues everything with life, meaning, and breath-taking Beauty, It also allows for imitation, in the words of thousands of men throughout history, who attempted to create a structure through which the chief questions of Being might be answered.  To varying degrees, the structures these men created fit with Word, or defied reality, attempting to create a mockery of the Original; for, there is nothing new under the sun.

Men, if they possess curiosity and a hunger for that which some have called truth and righteousness, eventually consider forming a structure of their own, hopefully in keeping with Logos, which they may use to address the questions of their specific time in history or  their cultural environment.  These structures bear certain similarities. Yet, few ever emblazon the canvas of Man’s collective memory with such force as the writings of the philosophers studied in our group up till the present.

What gives a structure that transcendence that supersedes time and place? I can only guess that the words, the combinations of the words, or perhaps the spirit of the words give certain structures their timeless capacity.  What if our words were not merely sounds, but individual pieces of music: music to imbue things dead with life; music to raise spirits from stasis to activity; music to ring clearly for all, wherever they might be in their place of life.  On an anecdotal level, one merely looks at one’s past to see the truth of words striking that same clever interplay between consonance and dissonance, in keeping with the striking method of music: harsh words stir up strife, while a gentle word quells anger; hateful words bring sorrow to the soul, while loving words stir affection; then that power of sacred silence, when used by God Himself, causes longing in the human soul, drawing men out of the great notated rest of Being, into the Dance with Divinity.

But for Men, in their place on Earth, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,” or so says the Proverb.

But what does all of this mean?  Words possess creative force, and the will behind the words influences the direction of this creative force.  This idea is a Christian spin on the Nietszchean thought.  Force creates while Will to Power acts in keeping with the force.  What is a man’s Will?  Perhaps this is the rub of the matter? One’s will begets the word, and similarly, the action. Men, regardless of driving force, possessing an abundance of diversity in will, divide into dualistic groups with only grotesque ease.  Granted, the force driving an individual determines their trajectory and their will, but the will chiefly plays a part in leaving one either justified or condemned.  What is our Will?  What forces do we submit to?

What if one was to only will good to all? Must this all include one’s self? If so, is willing good to all possible?  Perhaps for Man it is not possible, yet we possess a concept of such, something many have called perfection.  Yet all of this analyzation could be seen as an exercise in comical digression, for should not the main question be, “How do Words affect a man’s Will?”

As noted by some already, the arguments of Nietzsche may not fall with the weight of truth, but the words attract, with a siren song that lured many off of their ships, ships safe in the harbors of Church and nation,  and into the waves of listless individualism.  This allurement could best be described as a quality.  Perhaps this quality is the main thing that gives words that powerful force of impact on Man’s Will?  

Is this quality merely rhetoric?  No, that answer seems to not plumb deep enough.   Why?  I present to you the case of Julius Caesar, one who spoke with great rhetoric and force, but ended up bloodied by daggers on the floor of Rome’s senate.  He spoke the right thing, to the right people, at the right time, with rhetorical ardor, yet his words were not enough to sway the hearts of the city of Rome.  The words of Mark Antony, however, did stir the masses at the funeral service for this same Caesar, but even he could not stir the will of the Roman people away from his nemesis, Augustus, with merely the use of his rhetoric.  While some may disagree on these points, in regards to their words,  neither Julius Caesar nor Mark Antony qualify as “Great Men,” if one uses words as the measuring stick for such judgements.  Why? Both ended up dead in tragic and dishonorable fashion, while their influence echoes across time like a  mythological memory.

Is it that words stir emotion?  Could this be the most significant effect of one’s words?  No, this also seems to not strike the mark dead-center.   One feels anger at unjust words, but may not choose to shoulder a rifle and go into battle.  One can feel a sense of patriotism imbued in a political speech, but not feel the need to sign up for the National Guard.

The common note between these examples is simply that some words fall with force on a man’s will, while others merely engage his intellect or his emotions.  Did Brutus not feel great sorrow at the need for Caesar’s death? Yes.  Could he have quite easily been stirred in his heart on hearing a speech delivered by that same Caesar? Yes, of course.  Nevertheless, his indefatigable will to maintain what he called the dignity of the Roman People remained untarnished.  From his Will, he acted.  From his Will, he spoke.

Throughout history, examples stand apart where men and women felt themselves galvanized towards a common ideal, through the use of words — not only a few isolated souls, but crowds of people  en masse.  These words, above all others, hold that quality of allurement, similar to that allurement towards the Christian flag which the peoples of Jerusalem felt in the days following Pentecost.  Men of Christian honor never dare to say that the force of Peter’s rhetoric alone swayed the hearts of Jerusalem, he standing as the Rock upon which the Church was built notwithstanding. Rather, we look upon that Sacred Flame, those tongues of fire in little candles, resting upon the heads of the disciples, and there it is that we see the Spark that lit a fire to cover every corner of this globe, from the jungles of the East to the forests of the West.

But there are other, darker spirits.  Spirits that spoke in the Halls of Heaven before Time began, seeking to lure away a third of the host of Heaven, their allurement resulting in their precipitous fall into the Pit.   Since the Fall, the Great War of the Lamb has waged, and the Lamb has struck the death blow, his victory complete.  We find His victory to be already with us and not yet with us.  Thus, the enemies who fell from Bliss still work in the World for a time, those same spirits of the powers of the air, who work in the children of wrath to turn them away from the Triune God.  

If the children of light have their Gospel, would it not be logical to conclude that there is an anti-gospel, formed in the pits of hell, preached to natural men everywhere?  Logos and its daughter Reason stand as Ideals of Order and Light; Logos became flesh and dwelt among us; His glory was seen, that glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  Now, we must cast our eyes East of Eden, to the darker hills on the fringes of word, where we will see the remnants of that Evil Serpent, with Death, his dearest love.  

Part 2: The Systematic Interpretation:

“...throughout   centuries   men  have   been   yearning   for the solution of a definite problem, because they have been suffering under an unendurable order of affairs, without seeing on the far horizon the coming fulfilment of the universal longing…”

So wrote Hitler from prison in Landsberg in 1923.  Out of context, such a statement seems to include all of humanity, and seems to strike at the heart of Man’s need for a salvific experience.  Those familiar with the context of history, along with Hitler’s place in it, understand that this statement fits perfectly in the perceived slights of the German people, beginning as far back as the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, where the Holy Roman Empire was rendered impotent, and its real or perceived hegemony replaced with a system of petty, squabbling states run by princes.  Germany’s perception of itself as an embattled, fenced-in nation was the problem Hitler sought to address, with all of his talk of purification, Lebensraum, and the like.

Yet, hidden in his quotation, deeper even than the historical context, there is the ghost of a system, the kind of system that lies near the heart of everything.  It seems to manifest itself as the following: 1) the statement of a problem, 2)  the proposal of a solution, and 3) the stirring up of Man’s longing for a final fulfillment.  Wherever this system appears in writing, people seem to listen with hungry hearts, because it appeals to something in the innate make-up of Humanity, the make-up to which Logos lends a narrative.  The annulment of this system could be called Nihilism, from a Nietzschean perspective.  Some have said that if one devalues the system that produces a narrative (meaning) for life, one devalues life. As a negating contrafact, Nietzsche revolts against narratives giving life meaning, but in the process, creates a new sub-narrative in keeping with the system already in existence, that same master-system thereby defying destruction due to its existence as the code of Being itself.   After we’ve broken down the ideologies of these men to their simplest variables, we may see similarities.  Or we might not; I leave you to judge.

First, consider:

  • Nietzsche:

Problem Stated: Humanity’s need to go beyond its weakness and decadence.

Solution Proposed: Becoming what one is.

Final Fulfillment Forecasted: The Over-Man, a pinnacle of evolution.

After reading Nietzsche, and after reading a quote from one who received Nietzsche’s influence, I hope we begin to see the contours of this systematic coding.  Wherever a man speaks with power, this system seems to appeal most readily to Man’s Will, resonating with his most primal urges and needs.  Wherever a political or religious movement substitutes this system for another, it tends to lose the breadth of its impact.  

To understand this, the problem in the equation must be thoroughly defined.  What kind of problem must it be to be seen as inherently significant to a large group of people?  If the problem is deep, and not merely a matter of superficial material comfort or political success, the solution will appeal to a breath-takingly wide selection of the population, resulting in a necessary Final Fulfillment of cataclysmic drama and aesthetic resonance.  If a supposed “Great Man” merely seeks to stamp out poverty in the lower classes, distribute wealth appropriately, or maintain a presence in the geo-political sphere, his ideas possess less appeal and citizens everywhere lose interest. Why?  Because the system such a man uses, if in any way similar to the one proposed here, plugs in variables that fall short of a)inherent application and b) depth of impact. I define the former of these terms as a problem that the majority of people acknowledge; I define the latter as the extent to which the problem affects society.  Perhaps this amount of definition is sufficient and no more examples are necessary.  

In contrast, if a politician fits his words to the system of problem-solution-final fulfillment, the necessity of his access to power becomes not merely morally right or historically convenient, but of the utmost need for survival and thriving.  Not only must he use the system in question, but his problem, along with the rhetoric he uses to establish it, must adequately found the notion of inherency and impact.

Is the use of this system what grants Great Men their power and lasting significance?  Could this truly be the lynch-pin, aside from the use of rhetoric, the appeals to ethos, or the appeals to pathos?  If this is true, its implications could be far reaching.  The adequate use of the means of persuasion (rhetoric) would only be effective if the problem-solution-final fulfillment system is properly driven home.  Taken as a narrative, this system gives the means of persuasion their purpose.  So, if a person possesses rhetorical skill and the appropriate narrative, they would be formidable.  

Let’s analyze a few semi-successful men of the present to see if they use this system.

Next, consider:

  • Jordan Peterson:

Problem Stated: Suffering, and especially unnecessary suffering, caused directly or indirectly by Man.

Solution Proposed: The assumption of responsibility for one’s self improvement

Final Fulfillment Forecasted: A continuous improvement of life and the human species, evidenced in Peterson’s continual emphasis on Darwinian biology.  

  • Joel Osteen:

Problem Stated: Suffering, felt most intensely in the physical domain.

Solution Proposed: Faith that God is for one’s success without any reservations, evidenced in the “name it and claim it” system

Final Fulfillment Forecasted: A life of blessing.

  • John Piper:

Problem Stated: Christians inadequately desiring a God that is beautiful and lovely, thus proving to be unregenerate in Piperian thought.

Solution Proposed: Praying for the eyes of the heart to be enlightened.

Final Fulfillment Forecasted: Seeing God for Who He is, and thus becoming regenerate, from the Piperian perspective.  

  • John Bray, my pastor from growing up:

Problem stated: The wickedness of Man, evidenced in his breaking of God’s righteous Law, along with the effects of such law-breaking.

Solution proposed: The inward placing of faith in the propitiatory Death,  Resurrection, and vicarious Intercession of Christ before the Throne of God, evidenced in the profession, a  crying out to God for salvation.

Final Fulfillment Forecasted: A life of Sanctification culminating in glorification at the last Day and forevermore.

These examples were selected for their ready ease of reference.  Each of these men galvanize movements to some degree or another, and some possess legions of devoted followers.  Many of them utilize the means of persuasion, i.e. rhetoric to varying degrees of success or failure, but still maintain a huge following.  Perhaps their skilled plugging in of the variables to this three-fold system is what gives their movements such success?  They have found something baked into the human condition, a primal need.

But let’s tie up some loose ends.  What was Hitler’s use of the system?

Finally, consider:

  • Adolf Hitler:

Problem Stated: The weakness of the best races, due to the presence of pathogenic peoples, such as Jews or Slavs, and also because of humanity’s inherent failings.

Solution Proposed: The purification of the best races, sought by scientific precision at home, and the natural selection of the battlefield abroad.

Final Fulfillment Forecasted: A union of the best races in a one-thousand year Reich, with the Germanic race as its head.

You may notice that each of these systems, when utilized to bring whole countries or audiences into the fold, bare ingrained Utopian or Savior narratives.  Perhaps this also is baked into the system that most effectively captures hearts?

Part 3: The Historical Interpretation:

Some argue that the formation of Great Men owes little to their words, for their words are nothing in the scope of the vast maelstrom of history, a history whose events cast some down and lift others up with uncaring whims.   Of all perspectives, this seems most contrary to the idea of Man’s Words commanding power.  For, if one’s course is determined fatalistically by historical events far beyond one’s control, what matter the tiny words of Man?  

The iron wall imposed upon one’s choices from the beginning of life seems too thick and impenetrable to destroy.  Suffice it to say that all humans sense the presence of some barrier keeping them from the utmost hinterlands of possibility, whether it be stupendous oil wealth or meteoric stardom.  Some things seem entirely out of reach to the majority of humanity.  Thus, as a rule the historical perspective acts as a great impediment to any high-flying hopes of great success for any would-be Great Men.  However, there seems to be no negating variable to certain portions of the systematic perspective.

To make sense of this, consider the idea of the nihilistic man, who believes no far-reaching problems exist, and therefore no general final fulfillment necessary: He would find no need to open his mouth to preach what he called “truth.”  When this man speaks of truth, he would speak of it in ironic terms.  On a higher level, if his problem is merely individualistic, his narrative might sound something like, “Dear God, my wifi keeps on going out”, or “how do I successfully bench press 200 pounds.”

In spite of the humor of these examples, my argument is clear:  I argue that any man who combines rhetorical skill with the proper use of the system will be a powerful man, if he in fact uses his skills at the right opportunity.  

In closing, please note that I purposefully have shied away from moralizing in this exploration of thought.  I simply dig to find the structures that men have used to attain power and influence. Men may not be great of themselves, but their words, proceeding from the systems they follow, make them so.  If what I have stated in these few words is true, men do well to never underestimate themselves, for such may cause more harm than good.  

Critical Thought:  

  • How might words, and secondarily the structure of words, combat nihilism?
  • If your words were grains of sand set in jars along the seashore, what jar would have the most sand?