The Golden Calf

Audacity. That was the only word I could muster as I stood in front of the crackling fireplace and stared into the gilded framed picture of Napoleon crossing the Alps that hung over the mantle. There he was… bold, dignified, even majestic, astride his white horse and pointing to a summit, while looking back at his inspired men, his cape billowing in the convenient breeze. Fortune favors the bold… and here was pure boldness. As I sipped on my Lagavulin, I thought about the other picture of Emperor Napoleon that hung in the club in the “Africa” room, as it was called. Napoleon is standing pensively next to the pyramids in Egypt, with a camel in the background. In that picture there was less audacity, and more… I don’t know… concern? We are all at different places at different times in our lives.


“Admiring the artwork again I see, Captain?”


I glanced over my shoulder and saw the LTC heading towards me, his drink in hand.


“Always looking for inspiration, Colonel.”


“Well, join me, Captain, let’s smoke some cigars in front of the Emperor together and get inspired!”


“A splendid plan, Colonel.”


We both settled into our high-backed leather chairs and the LTC handed me a cigar he retrieved from his breast pocket. We performed the ceremonial ritual of lighting our cigars, then leaning back and savoring the first full drag.


“Thank you for this, my friend.”


“Don’t mention it, Captain. By the way, isn’t it Passover tonight?”


“It is, but standing on Jewish ceremony has never been my strong suit. The story of Exodus will survive me hiding out here at the club.”


“Ah!” said the LTC with a twinkle in his eye…”Six thousand years of Jewish history dies with you!”


I chuckled. “Yeah, I never said I was a good Jew, as my daughter says, I’m more Jew ‘ish’.”


“Well, I understand. Israel means one who struggles with God… I think I need the same philosophical moniker in Catholicism.”


“You’re Italian, Colonel; you struggle enough.”


“Touche, Captain.”


“Yet, there is something disquieting going on as we compartmentalize our religions, is there not?”


“What do you mean, Colonel?”


“Why do you think that Moses was given the admonition on Sinai that there shall be no other gods before me?”


“From a religious perspective or a political one?”


“Take your pick, Captain. I’m not your rabbi.”


“Well, this was the initiation of the Decalogue, and, in a sense, was a revolutionary document, or tablets as the case may be, that purposely moved people away from polytheism towards monotheism. A monotheistic deity was an essential component to ultimately establishing some predictability in the universe, and, by definition, organizational structures that would allow societal developments within a predictable social construct. Polytheism was, and is, messy. The gods are irrational and often temperamental, and, by definition, unpredictable. When the gods have been transmogrified into a single being, the chaos of the universe is more easily explained.”


“Yes, and yet the Israelites could not completely comprehend the presence of God, could they? Even with an unexplainable pillar of fire guiding them through the desert, they still chose to make a golden calf.”


“Yeah, old habits die hard, or perhaps they were hedging their bets?”


The LTC chuckled. “Yes, perhaps… or perhaps there is more to this?”


“Do tell, Colonel.”


“What does the First Commandment say?”


“You shall have no other gods before me.”


“Correct. Here is a question: Why does it not say something more like ‘there are not other gods than me?’”


“I don’t follow you.”


“In the commandment, God does not reject the notion that He is alone in the universe with omniscient powers; he simply places himself on a hierarchy. He is the one true God, but he never expressly states there might be other celestial beings out there that have god-like powers. He wants it known, though, that we should not be worshiping them.”


“Okay, interesting, and to be candid with you, I’ve never really explored that, but is that a distinction without a difference?”


“I don’t know, but it may explain some serious social decay that we have seen made manifest around us.”


“Walk me through that one, Colonel.”


“What if the pagan gods never really went away. What if the angels and archangels still police the celestial heavens? What if the demons still claw away seeking their opportunity to replace God as the central universal power… and what if we have purposely been acting as agents on their behalf?”


“You are suggesting that we, you and me, are in league with the devil?!”


“Oh no, nothing so dramatic, but our society may very well be returning to paganism, and perhaps that is part of the methodology of Lucifer. Science has, for many, replaced God. Environmentalism for some, and collectivism for others, have replaced the faith-based societal constructs of religion. Yet a desire… a deep desire… for cosmological meaning still exists within all of us. That is, by definition, the very reason why we watch movies or read books we know are fiction. Secretly we all yearn for the realization of a deeper religious meaning to existence. For some, they have found it through faith; for others, it is still a work of fiction. Yet, we all are drawn to the same desire for relevancy.”


“Okay, I follow you there, but where does Old Scratch and paganism come in?”


“On Sinai God gave us a structured universe, and dispatched the pagan gods to obscurity. Now those gods have begun to reemerge. We have turned away from the authority of God and have begun to seek authority from other celestial sources. The gods have begun to reassert themselves in our daily lives, and those gods are not benign. They are not malevolent either, they are at best indifferent. Yet, we see people giving burnt offerings to them daily, do we not? When these gods ultimately are not able to provide the predictability that we need for our lives and our societies to function, then a power vacuum will present itself.”


“And power abhors a vacuum.”


“Yes, and even a fallen angel can end up being worshipped as a savior.”


I glanced up at Napoleon on his horse again.


“Or an emperor.”




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Comments (4)

  • Jack Reply

    Fascinating. I am reminded too of Brave New World and the debasement of everything sacred. Life, death, all has little meaning other than what the State gives it.

    04/05/2023 at 08:59
  • Chris Telarico Reply

    Wow! Are you or the Colonel implying Trump or some other politician has become our new “savior”? It does seem a little fanatical the way the ultra right have rallied behind Trump.

    04/06/2023 at 09:49
  • 2A Follower Reply

    You and the Colonel are on point, again!

    04/08/2023 at 20:11
  • Norm Ellis Reply

    Ok, who is drinking the Kool-Aid! Religion has done more to destroy mankind than all the wars…

    04/12/2023 at 15:51

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