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ANSWER TO VIRGINIA CHARLES A. REED* Puzzled you sat in class for half a year Dutifully returning answers and rearing flies, The knit brows of worry well concealed, until finally In outburst mid-lecture poured the problem As old as man is old, not yours alone but Expressed now in different terms, tho thought the same As of all who have seen new light muddling old faith. "I've always been taught it's God, but you say it's genes." Dilemma of the ages a puzzle in your young eyes, Virginia; Is new learning right that old faith destroys? Friar Bacon from prison cell speaks yes across the years, And I, lesser light, echo yes to him and any otìiers Who believe all knowledge good and truth truly freedom. AU men being men have sought the eternal answers; From the squatting places of the Neandertals derive we our lore. Old Man Coyote, Quetzalcoatl, Ishtar, Isis, and Loki, Each a survivor for but a time of a cultural selection Winnowing the multiple sprites and spirits, choosing a few And leading by natural process inexorable to one Atop his Pantheon: Zeus or Brahma or Unannounceable Heaven. The One Supreme, made in the image of man, should then destroy All others, to emerge as the One Alone, but thus it was not. You think it strange that one man, fleeing The multiple gods and tithings of Ur's theocracy, Should take his household god for self and flock and family? Nay, that was natural; the strangeness is history, diat Terah And son were together father and grandfather to three of this world's faiths. One minor divinity, no different from hundreds of others In diat city alone save in the thought of he who sacrificed afore it, Taken from wall-niche in house abandoned, came to be worshiped By hundreds of millions. Of such is mind and culture capable. ?Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Box 4348, Chicago, Illinois 60680. Permission to reprint may be obtained only from die audior. Perspectives in Biology and Mediane, 26, 1 · Autumn 1982 | 39 But always too He who emerges in monotheistic entity remains not alone, For ever the prophet is confused with the pattern of evil In animal man and insentient universe, has ever to let live One other, Lord of Underworld, Fallen Angel, Pluto surviving, Iblis, or In more fanciful sophistication, creates cycle on cycle of life Where recurring universes can spin out multiple existences, While the individual sprite born of australopithecine dreams Wages its own war of Karma on its own balances. As from many tribes but few nations come, so of their Multiple gods most shall die. He who was or is a god can have But one fate—no more. Yesteryear's gods are today's Superstitions and tomorrow but playthings for children's parties, As at Hallowe'en the proud princes of Valhalla and their Celtic rivals Emerge unrecognized and unrecognizable in puppetry. How many dead gods people how many forgot Olympus-tops? We can climb Olympus today, probe Hell's former domain With seismic shock. They are not diere, nor any room In all this multidimensional universe for all The dead gods to dwell. They died when their people died; A god lives only in the imagery of man. Born at die squatting places of the Neandertals, selected By chance fact of human battle or cultural quirk, Purified, changed with changing time, creating Great literature, music, art, ecstasy, sacrifice, Reason for being of whole peoples, and horrid bestiality, Ruled by animals who imagine themselves to be subject, Each god dies when its people dies, and is gone. Sacred high mass, ju-ju injungle shadow, naked heart beating on temple-top: All facets of one fallacy, feeding a dream-world never there. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus otfier than of our own making. Emergent in understanding, we can shed the fears of Karma, Original Sin, Predestination, and all guilt of all prior. But, I have known an earnest and brilliant mind, Surviving through the awesome carnage of a six-year war Wherein millions died and millions maimed and were maimed By other millions, disturbed and...


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