What then, is the use of studying any history? If the truth is so obscurely buried, is history only a vehicle for a frivolous and superficial curiosity about the lives and scandals of men and events which have preceded? In fact, a knowledge of history, right or wrong, make a vital contribution to all civilized life. Upon it depend all the loyalties, ideals, taboos and moralities which any society needs for coherence and the regulation of the lives of the men within its jurisdiction. History is thus deeply involved in education. If anyone wishes to change a society he must first amend its conception of history by having his new version accepted by the people he desires to redirect, for redirection depends upon modifying the view of the past so that the values of the present can be changed for the sake of future ends. By “Common Sense” and “The Rights of Man,” Thomas Paine obtained the popular acceptance of a revised attitude towards civil authority, knocking the props from under the established view of it, and his argument stretched back as far as William the Conqueror. Despite the relativity of good and evil in the appearances of human affairs, a knowledge of history is necessary to the teaching of doctrines about good and truth, evil and falsity, so that these things can be recognized when they appear in the light of the doctrine of the society which rests upon them. Nor, just because these ideas contain an element of prejudice and are so far in error, can we condemn them out of hand. Without them men could not have any ideas of justice, civil and moral good and evil, or- proceed to carry out any undertaking requiring orderly progression. There would be universal anarchy. Obviously, it is better for men to have some kind of orderly state in which to dwell with known limits of security, than to be abandoned without precedents to govern his behavior and provide for his protection—unless it is ideal that each man should live alone on a desert island, which in time would destroy the human race.
The Function of the Imagination and Its Limitations
In this article we will consider the legend of the Great Transformer, who came after the flood to re-establish order in the world. This will be followed by a postscript—an attempt to place this legend inside the generalized historical scheme outlined in the doctrine of the four churches.