Lincoln’s War: Three Perspectives

Sunday, February 16, 2020

4:35 a.m. Hard getting started, today. Were we going to look at incidents from Lincoln’s life from a different viewpoint? Or do you want to do something else?

The critical thing is that you see the world differently. What specific thing wakes you up to it matters little. And then, once it has happened that you are seeing differently, the important thing is not that you have acquired a new viewpoint, but that you use that viewpoint to bring you somewhere. That is, a viewpoint is leverage, it is not a destination.

I think that unpacks as: Any new way of seeing things helps us get out of previous boxes, not because it is a better box to be in, but so that we may remember that it is only a box, only the finger pointing to the moon, not the moon.

And of course that means it is an unending project, a journey without a fixed destination.

I think I added “fixed” – or was that you, reconsidering?

There is less difference than you might think. This is a cooperative process, remember. And there is less difference, too, than you might think, between “without a fixed destination” and “without a destination.” There is a nuance, yes, but only that. The point remains: You never get to the end of the journey (nor do we, nor does anybody, nor do all of us together) in the sense of arriving at a fixed point beyond which there is nothing new to be learned. You – even we, though it may surprise you until you remember that we are partly 3D like yourselves – you and we may pause at any time, in any point of view, and nothing wrong with that. But the potential for further journeying always remains. It is not a limited or static or boring universe; there is always more. Neither is it a driven, inexorable universe; there is always rest. And which you experience at any given time is up to you.

I realize you are speaking of our choice as to how to be, at any given time. You are not saying, You get whatever you think you want.

That could be a long discussion, centering as always upon the question, “Which you?” But in the sense you mean it, yes.

Our current point is to show how there is and is not reality to the common perception that the world is split between subjective and objective. We are explaining shared subjectivity merely to allow you to see how it can be that everything is alive; that all is one; that you are “3D you” and you are “extension-of-non-3D-into-3D you” and you are “background-for-other-people’s-world you.”

I think I do see it. And of course after we get there, as always it isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before, it’s merely new clothes on the dress dummy.

A less static analogy would be, it is new scaffolding for new times, to replace old scaffolding that for whatever reason no longer does the job.

All right.

So as an example, consider Lincoln and the railroads.

The example surprises me. I can guess where you are going with it. Let’s see.

As usual, we are using things you already know. It is not the detail nor the building-blocks that are new, but the combination, the perspective.

Now, you know that it was only the growth of the railroads in the ten years after the Compromise of 1850 that allowed the Union to overcome the rebellion.

I do. Conquering and holding such a vast amount of territory in a thinly-populated country was about as much as the Union could do in the years 1861-1865. If the crisis had come in 1850, even if everything else had been the same, the physical resources were inadequate. And in that 10 years, the forces of slavery build very few railroads; their capital was tied up in slaves. The rest of the country, though, received tremendous returns from using machinery rather than human muscle, and every year made the disparity greater.

Now, Lincoln was not responsible for any of that. At the time of the compromise of 1850, he had retired from politics. He is not one of those who helped secure the extra decade for railroad-building. Neither was he involved in building railroads. He was a lawyer living as a townsman. After he returned to politics, roused by the attempts to expand slavery, he acted as a politician, a stirrer-up of men’s hearts, a rallyer of resistance to the perceived threat of the nationalization of slavery.

A little at sea as to where you’re going with this. The facts are accurate, but –?

Lincoln the lawyer, the politician, the townsman, lived among the “external” events of his time even when he made no attempt to steer them.

  • From inside his personal subjectivity, he was observing, not participating, just as is true for most people most of the time.
  • Lincoln the projection from his larger being had of course a broader view, a wider knowledge, even though the source of the view and the knowledge was hidden from 3D-Lincoln. The career (in the largest sense) of 3D Lincoln was no surprise to the son of the larger being: He had been born to play a role in the loose plot behind the improv performance. That is, how he (and of course all others) played his part would determine how things went. That’s the free-will aspect of it. But he and others had been fashioned to interact at that time and place, so their roles were loosely and sometimes not so loosely bounded around them; that’s the predestination part.
  • And the thing that reconciles and explains free will and predestination is the third element, the shared subjectivity Lincoln was also part of. For everybody and everything in the drama was equally 3D and non-3D, equally only their 3D awareness and also essentially a projection from a larger being, equally players on a chessboard they had found themselves on, rather than designers of the game.

And the railroads are part of his, how? You can’t call railroads people, though of course they can only come into existence through people. So how do they relate to our three ways of looking at life?

Everyone who operates in life operates in those three ways, because everyone necessarily has those three elements in its nature: 3D mover and shaker; extension of its larger being; part of the shared subjectivity. So, some build railroads, some resist them, some invest in steamboats or toll roads, etc. Some foster slavery, some resist it, some experience it. Some foster Union above all things, some come to hate it as “a covenant with hell” or as interference from outside, some accept it in its good and bad points and concentrate their attention on other things.

I think the implication is that all things that happen – the development of industries, the cultural life that develops, people’s religious impulses, everything – is not “objective” and just there, but is itself the creation of the shared subjectivity in a larger sense than we can commonly experience or understand.

Not more than you can consciously experience as such, or understand, but, let’s say, other than the way you do usually understand and experience it.

So the conspirators who plotted for a dozen years to create the political crisis that they expected to destroy the Union and create the conditions for a vastly expanded slave-dependent confederacy were doing so – at another level – knowing that they were going to destroy slavery.

And the abolitionists who sought exactly that result, so long as they themselves were no longer complicit in preserving slavery, similarly were pursuing (unbeknown to their 3D selves) a somewhat different agenda.

And the railroad-builders?

Of course.

Now, to bring this back to Mr. Lincoln?

The point is made. He needed the railroads and the telegraph and the steamships; he needed the people’s long and finally boiled-over exasperation with being bossed second- and third-hand by the forces of slavery. He had not called any of it into existence; he used what he found to hand. But he was the precision instrument that wielded the forces. He was the one who resisted emancipation until it would help rather than destroy the Union cause. 3D-Lincoln, acting on faith, working in the dark, conscious of the feebleness of his abilities and resources as opposed to the vastness of “external” emergency, kept himself on course by listening to his own non-3D self’s guidance, for of course the larger being knew more about what was going on than 3D, newspaper-reading Mr. Lincoln ever did.

And here we may pause.

It has been 65 minutes, but did you finish the point here?

Yes. Call it Three interactions.

Three views of interaction, maybe?

Well, maybe Lincoln’s War: Three Perspectives. That isn’t quite right, but it may do.

And next time?

We shall see. It will emerge.

Okay. Thanks as always.


3 thoughts on “Lincoln’s War: Three Perspectives

  1. Your reflections on Lincoln made me notice a passage I just read yesterday in a book called “Jesus Before the Gospels” by Bart D. Ehrman.
    Elon and I talked about how orally transferred history was not to be trusted and so I looked into this book dealing with exactly that, how memory and times shape our concepts. Lincoln was one example and I was surprised to read the following quote from Barry Schwartz: Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory.

    The quote is from Lincoln’s fourth debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858:
    “I am not, nor have I ever been, in favour of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races….and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and the black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

    I’m just a European with not much knowledge of US history, but I, too, see Lincoln as the great statesman bringing Emancipation etc.
    Was he actually for slavery in the 50s and I and many with me have been given a picture of this complex man that reflects only a fragment of his complex personality?
    It may have no bearing at all on what you’re writing about, but I mention it still, because it came to mind and I often speak my mind when I should prudently remain silent 😉

    1. Lincoln was never for slavery, and was consistent in that stand throughout his life. The quote you refer to addresses a different question, a difficult one for any racist society, such as America surely was (and remains). The science of Lincoln’s day “proved” that blacks were genetically inferior to whites. The history of his day “proved” that blacks had never built a civilization. The theology of the day “proved” from scripture that the plight of blacks stemmed from God’s punishment for something that had happened in the time of Noah! Etc., etc. So it was a long process of education for Lincoln to come to realize that the science and history theology was wrong.

      However, even before that, Lincoln believed that “all men were created equal” if not in characteristics, certainly in the right to eat the bread their hands had produced. He said this throughout his career, as well. He always said his personal wish was that slavery not exist, but that legally it was protected by the Constitution (as it was).
      Tactically, early in the war he prevented his generals from freeing slaves for fear of losing Kentucky (which, though a slave state, remained in the Union), as well as unknown thousands of Union soldiers, sailors, and officers, not to mention politicians, who were willing to fight for the Union but would not be willing to fight for emancipation. When circumstances changed to make it possible, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation and said he was never surer in his life of doing the right thing.
      If you are wondering if Lincoln was a good man as well as a great one, don’t worry. He was.

  2. Thank you for the clarification, Frank. It takes a lot of reading to get an impression that covers all issues and contexts, and since also the bias of the authors referencing his life should be taken into consideration, I don’t feel bad about not having this knowledge. It’s good to know somebody that has 🙂

    I trust the spoken words and observed behaviour to reflect a man’s character, when I come across them. This is what have given me a good foundation for assessing the character of the present president. I wish more of your countrymen had access to reflect on that character based on a more varied news feed, but it seems that a sort of self-imposed censorship reigns. As you’ve observed before, we are all inclined to read and hear what reflects our own opininons or prejudices.

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