By Lewis Mumford
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Extra resources for The Myth of the Machine. The Pentagon of Power
C . ) when pyramids of increasing size were actually built. I use it rather as a brief way of referring to the changes that took place during the Fourth Millennium b . , both in Egypt and Meso potamia, marked by a typical constellation of institutions and cultural in ventions: the cult of Divine Kingship, astronomical time measurement, the written record, the division and specialization of labor, organized conquest 30 RETURN OF THE SUN GOD by war, and the building of imposing monumental structures, temples, palaces, walled cities, canal and irrigation systems: not least the assemblage of the once-invisible Megamachine.
By contrast, science, which had made this shattering discovery by the mere exercise of common human faculties, not divine revelation, became the only trust worthy source of authentic and reputable knowledge. But such conclusions, however obvious they may seem now, were not immediately made by those who were most deeply captivated by the new religion. For three centuries Western man tried to make the best of both worlds without transcending in thought their self-imposed limitations. The immediate effect of the new theology was quite different: it helped to bring back to life, or to rejuvenate, the old components of the power system deriving ultimately from the Pyramid Age in both Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Murray has given this skyward orientation a name, Ascensionism: he associates it not only with the practices of astronomy, but with a general psychal orientation toward brightness, levitation, flying, climbing, upward pointing and moving, perhaps even with hierarchic order in which the highest unit or the highest person represents the utmost in power, intelligence, or numinous authority. But Murray has also pointed SOLAR T H E O L O G Y AND S C I E N C E 35 out that the actual environment becomes more empty of living organisms as one ascends toward the symbolic mountaintop, and the air likewise becomes rarer and harder to breathe: less capable both physically and figuratively of supporting human life.